So, Battletome: Everchosen landed on my desk and I spent the weekend going through it. Is it a worthy addition to the Age of Sigmar line?
There is one thing we need to get out of the way first. This is a 120 page book, which retails at £35. Under GW’s normal pricing line up, this would be, well, less. Not quite in the £20 range of 80-96 page hardbacks, such as Chaos Dreadholds or Codex: Skitarii, but not in the usual £35 range of Stormcasts or Bloodbound. However, with this book, you get a dust jacket and a transfer sheet for all your Everchosen models.
Being a publisher myself, I would say there is one of two things happening here.
A. Someone at GW has decided to give Everchosen the royal treatment. A nice dust jacket makes a book feel, well, a cut above the rest, and a transfer sheet is a nice little goodie to include as an extra. Both things worthy of the Everchosen.
B. This price point was decided before the book was finished being put together. A long time before it was being finished put together. Someone realised that the price point was perhaps a little too high for a 120 page book and, instead of creating a lot of admin (not to say less revenue), they looked for ways to enhance its value without increasing the cost too much. Dust jackets and transfers do not cost a lot when you are looking at an entire run of books. They really don’t.
I just raise Point B out of a sense of completeness. You make your own mind up.
But yes, I have seen similar things happen in publishing before.
Anyway, enough of that. If you are interested in Archaon, the Everchosen armies, or the storyline currently running through Age of Sigmar, £5 more or less may not be bothering you too much. The content is far more important (and, to look at it another way, you might be picking up the £25 ebook instead, in which case none of the above matters). This review will treat content as king.
The preview announcements from GW have made something of the first 8 pages, (predominantly) red and black full page artwork that tells the myth of Archaon. And… it is nice enough. I know that GW writers and artists are encouraged to look at different ways of presenting information (such as the ‘Inquisitorial reports’ you see in 40k), and this seems like a similar approach to me. Does it add anything though?
Well, in something like this, you tend to study it and look for the ‘hidden’ info, the little titbit that is buried inside that hints of something to come a little further down the line or explain something that has been brushed over earlier and this time… Well, perhaps I am not very bright, but I am not seeing it at the moment.
Total value in this part… I am not sold. Pretty enough and a big departure from the normal style you see in GW books. However, I am left asking what exactly was wrong with the (very nicely done) ‘traditional’ artwork of previous books?
Not that there is not plenty of that as well in this book and, as seen previously, the quality of artwork is very, very high, as seen in this piece…
The first background section is about Archaon himself, and these pages leave you in no doubt that Archaon is the Boss, the Big Man, the Head Cheese. He answers to no one but the actual Chaos gods themselves, and has been elevated beyond any mere daemon prince or greater daemon. He is not just the darling of the Chaos gods, he is their will made real in the Mortal Realms.
Archaon also has a serious problem with Sigmar, and welcomes the Stormcasts with open arms, seeing them as a chance to complete his war. From a certain point of view, the whole point of the Mortal Realms (and I mean from a story perspective, not a GW/business perspective) is Sigmar vs. Archaon. You could argue that this match up is why they exist, and there is a speculative piece of text in this book that suggests that Sigmar and Archaon are two sides of the same coin.
It is also made clear that Archaon is not all about hitting things in the face – he is a canny general who is adept at turning enemies upon themselves, as he did with Nagash and even the literal golden boy, Sigmar. The division in the Grand Alliance was started by Archaon and he did it expressly so the Mortal Realms could be conquered.
There is a section on Archaon’s fortress, the Varanspire, which can only be accessed via the Eightpoints, the new name for the Allpoints (and, it seems, the stage for the next major advance of the storyline, but I think we are waiting for the next campaign book for that). Some nice artwork here, half of which appeared in White Dwarf as a preview.
Nice picture of Orcs here, right in the centre of the ‘what Archaon was up to before the Mortal Realms’ section. As things stand, I am going to take this as an indication that Orcs are going to pretty much remain Orcs in Age of Sigmar (however, I would be willing to bet a bacon butty that the basic Orc is going to a 32mm base and will swell slightly in size to really give the effect of a burly, muscled-bound brute – not a bad thing in my view).
The next sections deal with the followers of Archaon, principally the Varanguard and Gaunt Summoners, the two sets of really hard guys who are just below Archaon in the Chaos pecking order. Who they are, how they get to serve Archaon, and so on – though if you are interested in finding out more on this, I would recommend reading the Call of Archaon novel, just about to be released.
There is less on the legions of Chaos who follow Arcahon (the beastmen, warriors, marauders – even the Pestilens Skaven), but there is a good piece on why they follow Archaon. Not just because he is the Big Bad, but how they look upon him as the epitome of their god, whichever one they worship. For Khorne followers, he is obviously the biggest and hardest, for example (Khorne guy are generally a simple bunch), while for Slaaneshi worshippers, he fills in the void their god has currently left. That kind of thing.
There are a variety of paint schemes depicted, not just for the Varanguard but also for followers of each of the Chaos gods. These get a plus point, because it is always good to have ideas for paint schemes beyond the box art of the actual miniatures, but a minus point because (like the Seraphon book) there is no mention of which paints to use. For those of us without any measurable talent when it comes to painting, this is a thing. However, I should mention there is a painting guide dedicated to the Everchosen which I will be looking at. It is £12 and if it is anything like the first Age of Sigmar painting guide (covering the models of the starter set) then it will likely be worthwhile.
We then have a fair few pages covered with photos of very nicely painted miniatures. You can look at these pages as a catalogue or an advertisement if you wish, and I know some people will, but I think that is a bit po-faced. There is something inspiring about seeing pictures of big armies and games being played – that was, after all, kinda the whole point of me starting this blog in the first place…
Just prepare yourself for many, many pictures of Archaon, the Varanguard and Gaunt Summoners surrounded by lots of other Chaos dudes, and you’ll be fine.
The next section has, like other Battletomes, three Battleplans. These sections I generally like because they are a) all about how you play Age of Sigmar and b) they give little hints about the direction of the overall storyline.
The first, Extermination, sees Archaon lead his force into the Spider Empire beneath the Howling Cities of Ghur, to claim a Realmgate. Basically, it is Archaon and the Varanguard, with a huge mob of Chaos Warriors, beating up a bunch of Goblins and their Spiders. Not immensely fair, one might think, but Archaon does not do fair. Still, there is a time limit and it looks interesting enough! It will be a while before I take a serious look at this one, as I do not fancy building up a bunch of Gobbos just yet…
The next, Clash of Titans, is a biggie – basically, Archaon vs. Nagash, and rather than just rolling your attacks, you actually decide whether your big guy is going to do an All-Out Attack, Mighty Blow, Defend and Counter-attack, or Step Back and Unleash Ranged Attack. If you remember the old, old combat system for Adeptus Titanicus that appeared long ago in White Dwarf, you will know what to expect here (and I would be willing to bet another bacon butty that Jervis wrote this Battleplan!).
The presence of this Battleplan kinda seals the deal on me getting Nagash (I was putting off getting that model).
The final Battleplan, Sorcerous Duel, is basically a Gaunt Summoner versus a Slann Starmaster, with their minions generally getting in the way. Because of my miniatures collection (and the fact that my Christmas Project is to, among other things, paint an entire Seraphon army), this is likely the first of the Battleplans I will try out – check back here in the future to see how it goes!
The last real section of the book covers Warscrolls and for the units, you have seen these in White Dwarf already – Archaon himself, the Varanguard, and the Gaunt Summoner. As always, nice to have them in one place. However, it is the Battalion Warscrolls that contain something new, and there is a fair choice here.
Overlords of Chaos: Archaon, a Summoner and the Varanguard, they can manipulate turns and mark powerful enemies for death.
Bloodmarked Warband: Pick a Khorne Hero and 8 other Khorne units, lots of extra attacks to go round.
Plaguetouched Warband: The Nurgle version, dishes out mortal wounds and is harder to be hit.
Fatesworn Warband: For Tzeentch, they can use fate to ignore wounds, lots of Arcane Bolts and all weapons have Rend.
Pleasurebound Warband: And Slaanesh brings up the rear, lots of Bravery and can pile-in further.
And if you have a truly massive army, you can combine the above into Archaon’s Grand Host, have daemons popping out everywhere and can generate a mass pile-in once per battle (which will be nasty if it is done at the right time).
After this section, you have the four page rules sheets – I won’t argue about their inclusion, even though for the past dozen games of Age of Sigmar I have not even glanced at the rules sheets. They are going to be present in every Age of Sigmar book so every book can act as a jumping off point for new gamers, and I have no issues with that. It is a good thing.
Less good are the five pages right at the end which basically advertise Age of Sigmar (2 pages), the Realmgate Wars campaign, Battletomes, and Black Library Fiction. I feel you can get away with this in a 256 page campaign book, but for a 120 page book that is priced at £35… That is a bit of a stretch and really feels like filler (these books need to have page counts in multiples of 8, due to the printing process, and I think they came up short when the time came to go to print – again, in publishing, I have seen this myself).
There is also the question of the transfer sheet. They have put quite a few transfers on here and they will last a while, but what happens when you run out? At the moment, the only way to get this sheet is to buy this book, and I am not sure people will want to do that.
This last objection gets voided the moment the sheet appears on GW’s mail order site, and it is entirely possible they want it released via the book first, and then on sale by itself later – lots of good reasons for it being done that way. So long as they do appear.
So, is it any good?
Well, it is expensive for the page count. You cannot get round that. Whether it is worth the money is not something I should answer, as that comes down to the individual gamer – hopefully I have given you enough depth in this review for you to make an initial decision at least. There is nothing in here that is vital to the game but, if you liked what you have read so far, it might well be a price worth paying. Your choice.
But is it any good? Divorced from price, that is a question I can answer.
In terms of gameplay, nothing in this book is essential. The Warscrolls you can download for free (and are included in the box sets of the models anyway), and the Battalions are not necessary by any stretch – indeed, if you have enough models to field these battalions, you probably won’t baulk too much at a £35 book anyway. That is no judgement on you, Sir, I am in the same boat as you!
The Battleplans are interesting and showcase what is possible in Age of Sigmar nicely but, obviously, these are not essential either. They also do not advance the storyline at all, and form more of a sideways looking view at what has happened in areas outside of the main storyline.
And that is where I think the value of this book lies. It seems like the next campaign book that actually advances the storyline will be covering the Allpoints War, and what Everchosen does is provide context for some of the personalities and forces that will be involved.
In that sense, I will give this book a thumbs up if the Everchosen forces are/could be your thing and if you are following the storyline closely and want to know more.
If you just like pushing models round the table with your mates (and why not, eh?) then, like every other Age of Sigmar book, you can safely pass this one.