Review: Grand Alliance – Chaos

GW have just released their latest tome for Age of Sigmar, Grand Alliance: Chaos – and a bit different it is from the rest too!

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I am not going to go into a blow-by-blow account of every page and section because, if you are playing Age of Sigmar already, you have already seen 96% of what this book has to offer. So, I will just give the highlights.

You first need to be aware that this is a budget book. You are getting 304 full colour pages, but it is a softback, much of the information inside is available elsewhere (for free, legitimately!), and there is a lot of re-used art inside.

But it only costs £20 straight from GW, and I have already seen it offered for £18 from independents. You get what you pay for.

For my part… I would have preferred this as a hardback, and would have happily paid £30 or even (gulp) £40 for it. I do have concerns about durability, and I think if you like to keep your books pristine, that will be a pipe dream if you also use this book to regularly look up stats during games. In that case, I might suggest you cut your losses early; separate the pages, hole punch them, and set them in a folder.

Then again, it is only £20 for all this material. You might think about buying a new one every year or two anyway (wouldn’t it be interesting if that was GW’s idea all along, and these Grand Alliance books become the tomes that are reprinted/updated every 2-3 years to include new models – just four books would give you every unit in the entire game, and would mean you just buy one £20 book every year, hardly a burden…).

Oh, and I mentioned recycled art. Yes, that is a thing though, again, for £20 you cannot really complain. Now, there are pieces in this book that you have not seen before, like this rather funky one of a Liberator facing off against a Bullgor (that is what Minotaurs are called now):

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However, I am willing to bet a doughnut that we see those pieces in the next handful of books, perhaps starting with Balance of Power, released next week…

Anyway, enough of that – the book is £20 and you get what you pay for. Fair do there.

What about content?

Well, as I said, I’ll just give the highlights, as you have seen most of this before. The book is divided into factions within the Chaos Grand Alliance – in the past these would have been separate armies but, with Age of Sigmar, you can mix and match to get some funky combinations, or remain ‘pure’ for some very interesting forces…

Everchosen: Basically all the rules, including one of the Battalions, from Battletome: Everchosen!

Slaves to Darkness: These are the original unaligned Chaos Warriors (and Marauders), though every unit in this faction can be given the Khorne, Nurgle, Tzeentch or Slaanesh keywords, meaning the four powers can dip into this section as they see fit, and make each unit truly their own, no fudging. There is a bit of background that shows how Chaos Warbands are created and organised, and this leads directly into three Battalions – not too big and not too small, if you followed just one of these Battalions, you would have yourself a fully functioning Chaos army.

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Khorne Bloodbound: There is really nothing new here – you have seen everything before. Even the Goreblade Battalion will seem familiar.

Daemons of Khorne: A little update/revision here – Heralds are no longer just on foot or on a Juggernaut. If they are on foot, they are Bloodmaster Heralds, if they are on the Juggernaut, they Skullmasters. Still get the option for the Blood Throne, but no new title there…

Tzeentch Arcanites: Possibly the shortest faction with just Tzeentch Lords on Discs, Sorcerer Lords (but still no Sorcerer on Disc -see my downloads for a different Warscroll!), and a Curseling. Not the Curseling, a Curseling. HOwever, bear in mind that you can just dip into Slaves to Darkness, and you will be well away for a pure Tzeentch warband.

Daemons of Tzeentch: The same, and Kairos still gets his Oracle ability. Nice variant painting on the Flamers though…

Nurgle Rotbringers: All three Maggot Lords get proper pretty Warscrolls now, and the Nurgle Chaos Sorcerer is now the Rotbringers Sorcerer – fulfils the same role.

Daemons of Nurgle: Fairly predictable, though the Beasts of Nurgle get two pages to themselves, so perhaps that model is not going anywhere soon…

Hosts of Slaanesh: Ah, now, this is where things start getting interesting… There is a short background piece about the effect Slaaneshi’s absence has had, but of particular note is what the god’s followers have decided to do about it. There are basically three factions within Slaanesh now. The Pretenders rally around a Keeper of Secrets or Daemon Prince, who thinks they are going to be the next Slannesh. The Seekers actually try to do something practical, and are looking for their god. However, by far the largest groups are the Invaders, those who just said %^*& it, our god has gone missing, I am going off to %^*& something!

I think there is probably something for everyone there…

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Another interesting note on Slaanesh – daemons and mortals are rolled into one faction, no separation for them while their god is gone.

Daemons of Chaos: Instead, there is this ‘general’ category for, well, miscellaneous daemons, I suppose. Includes the Furies, Daemon Prince, Soul Grinder, and Be’lakor. Very much not a faction in and of itself, but something to be dipped into for other forces.

Brayherds: Having faced these guys for the first time, it is good to seem them representing.

Warherds: Now these, apparently, are very much a thing – not just intended to be used by Brayherds for heavy support, you can rock up with a Doombull and use Bullgors for your main troops, adding a dash of Cygor for something really tough…

Monsters of Chaos: Another ‘dipping’ faction, includes Centigors, Razorgors, Warhounds, Harpies, the Jabberslythe (got one of those to paint up at the moment!), Chimera, Slaughterbrute (perhaps not going away to be replaced by a Khorgorath kit, as was rumoured at one point?), Vortex Beast and Cockatrice. Basically, everything except the Forge World stuff. Get your skates on, Forge World.

Chaos Gargants: I was a bit worried when I saw this, as I really like the idea of a bunch of drunken giants staggering across the battlefield, but to have them all turning to Chaos too? As it turns out, only some have, so you can still have non-corrupted beer-drinking giants if you like!

Thunderscorn: Dragon Ogors and Shaggoth, plus a little background about how they got really shafted by Chaos…

Masterclan: Back onto the interesting stuff! We have seen a fair bit of information about Pestilens in the Realmgate Wars – now we see the rest of the Skaven! First up is Masterclan, and we learn the Council of Thirteen is still a thing. Not the one that was in the World-That-Was though. Remember the other Council of Thirteen that popped up in the End Times? The one that was staffed by Verminlords? That is the one that survived.

However, Skaven are still Skaven, and even these guys are still trying to screw one another over, their Grey Seer minions helping out where they can.

Now, here is another interesting thing… We have seen some personalities from the World-That-Was disappear (normally because of tired, old models), some become regular heroes (such as the Seraphon Eternity Guard), while those that were transported to the Mortal Realms generally had really good reasons – Chaos preserved its most favoured, Alarielle was basically becoming a goddess anyway and survived the End Times… that sort of thing.

And now here, we have Thanquol and Boneripper.

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Now, being a fairly new plastic kit (not to mention a beloved character in Black Library fiction), I did not imagine for a moment that he was going to be going away. However, this is the first truly mortal character to make the leap to the Mortal Realms… and we still don’t know why!

Hopefully something that will be answered in a forthcoming Realmgate War book.

Clans Verminus: Slaves are gone, but that just means more Clanrats to fill the position, I suppose (model-wise, there was never a great difference unless you used really old models). However, it is quite apparent that Verminlord Warbringers are very much invested in the Clans Verminus.

Clans Skryre: Notice Clans Skryre. No longer just one, big, monolithic clan, Skryre is now spread throughout the Mortal Realms and from the background text, this can range from a small group of Warlock Engineers with their followers (a perfect small force for Age of Sigmar, if you just want the cool toys while avoiding painting up loads of Clan Rats – not cheesy and perfectly viable with these rules…) to million-strong hordes who create walking war-cities and giant warp lightning cannon capable of splitting mountains apart.

Cool.

Clans Moulder: Another clan that now works perfectly well on its own.

Clans Pestilens: You have seen this before in the Ghal Maraz book. Nothing new other than a different paint scheme on the Plague Priest and Censer Bearers that looks quite funky.

Clans Eshin: The last and my favourite – a bunch of Gutter Runners led by an Assassin is such a good force for Age of Sigmar!

The book finishes up with the four page rules.

 

Conclusions

So, should you buy Grand Alliance: Chaos?

If you are a regular user of the Age of Sigmar app then, frankly, no. You will be able to pick up the new Battalions (if you want them) fairly cheaply, and you already have everything else.

If you like reading every scrap of information on the Mortal Realms, well, who am I kidding? You already have this book in your hands, right?

For everyone else… I don’t see how you can really go wrong for £20. Yes, I have concerns about durability, but if these Grand Alliance books do indeed end up getting updated every few years (the more I think about it, the more sense that makes)… you know what? That would be fair enough. £20 every few years to keep your army updated (remembering all those free Warscrolls you will get anyway) is not too much. Even if you want to be updated on everything and it ended up being £20 every year for a Grand Alliance book, that is not too much after so many years of the Codex Treadmill.

So, for that alone, I might say go ahead and buy it, to show your support if nothing else.

Oh, and those ‘joke’ rules that were in the ‘legacy’ Warscrolls? Gone. Mostly. I found a little one with the Great Unclean One but, frankly, it is the sort of thing you might do anyway. You won’t be pushing Beastmen around while making bestial roars (well, not unless you want to).

Final Verdict: For £20, buy it. You cannot go wrong.

 

Battle Report – Spellbreakers

A new year and a new set of campaign battles to play through for Age of Sigmar! We were a little slow getting started on this as, instead of painting up the Beastmen we needed for the first battle, I got a little distracted by Seraphon. Still, everything is ready now and we are ready to embark on the Quest for Ghal-Maraz hardback!

We are going to be kicking off with the fight for the Realm of Life, before returning to the Realm of Metal and trying to get Sigmar his hammer back…

 

The Story So Far

When we left the Realm of Life before Christmas, the Stormcasts had won… sort of.

The Gates of Dawn, a strategically important Realmgate, had been captured but it turned out to have been utterly corrupted by Nurgle. A pitched battle outside the gate saw it destroyed by the Stormcasts but only at the cost of Lord-Celestant Gardus who leapt into the gate, the Great Unclean One Bolathrax hot on his heels.

Still, even after having lost a great hero, Sigmar’s soldiers still had work to do, namely locate Alarielle, Lady of Life, and bring her into an alliance against Chaos. And they still did not know where she was hiding.

Nurgle’s forces had not been idle either. Gutrot Spume and his Blightkings had moved into the area and commandeered the forces of Beastlord Gluhak, also known as the Crusted Blade, who had guardianship of an ancient artefact called the Dirgehorn. Gluhak had deployed his forces at the Hag Tree on Profane Tor, and the blasts of the Dirgehorn were now rolling over the Realm of Life, sowing discord and bleakness wherever it was heard. Such was the power of this artefact, all nearby Sylvaneth were crippled in agony and even Stormcasts were doing everything they could to get away from horn.

Before the Stormcasts could proceed in their search for Alarielle, the Dirgehorn would have to be silenced…

 

The Forces

The Stormcasts will be facing a brand new force for us this time, the Beastmen! We are going to be using the normal Time of War sheet for the Realm of Life, but the Beastmen themselves have limited access to the good stuff – they may worship Grandfather Nurgle but they do not get all the nice benefits. Gutrot Spume, of course, is favoured of Nurgle and gets all the goodies (can summon daemons, be saved by Nurgle if he should fall to an enemy, and so on).

Beastmen of the Crusted Blade
Gutrot Spume
Blightkings x 10
Beastlord (Gluhak)
Wargor with Standard
Bray Shamans x 2
Ungors x 28 (eighteen with spears, ten with shields)
Gors x 40 (three units, some with two weapons, others with shields)
Bestigors x 10 (with Great Axes)
Minotaurs x 6 (with Great Axes)
Chaos Warhounds x 10

A nice, fluffy force for Beastmen with nothing immensely special, but the Bestigors and Minotaurs ensure they have it where it counts – those two units are capable of dishing out a lot of damage. We don’t have any monster models for the Bray Shaman to summon (maybe next time, I have just won a Jabberslythe on eBay!), so they will be supporting their herds with arcane bolts and mystic shields. However, Gutrot Spume and his Blightkings provide some seriously heavy crunch.

Stormcast Eternals
Lord-Castellant
Gryph-hound
Lord-Relictor
Knight-Azyros
Liberators x 20 (four units of 5)
Retributors x 10 (two units of 5)
Judicators x 10 (two units of 5)
Prosecutors x 9 (three units of 3)

The Stormcasts also have a nice, solid force, with nothing too awesome. The Prosecutors, led by the Knight-Azyros, should be able to lead the Ungors a merry dance, while the Retributors… well, the Retributors are always good if they can get to where they are needed, and they’ll be making a beeline for the Dirgehorn. They’ll just need to avoid the attentions of the Minotaurs.

 

Deployment

 

For this battle, players alternate units on deployment, leading to a sort of cat-and-mouse strategy. In the end though, the Beastman line looked fairly daunting, stretching from one side of the battlefield to the other. The Stormcasts looked… well, outnumbered! However, the Retributors and Liberators were near the centre, hoping to break through, while the Prosecutors took station on the flanks, looking to slip past any weak units.

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Battle Round One

The Stormcasts halted their initial advance, allowing the Beastmen to come to them. However, under the watchful eyes (and lash) of Gutrot Spume, they refused to budge, holding the line. The Bray-Shamans muttered curses and boons under their breaths, but the rest of the Beastmen waited patiently for the Stormcasts to make their move.

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Sensing the right moment to attack was upon them, the Stormcasts advanced across their entire line, while the Judicators and Prosecutors pelted key targets with missile fire. The cheers of the Judicators could be heard across the forest when their arrows brought down a Minotaur, while the Chaos Warhounds suffered badly from the tridents and hammers of the Prosecutors.

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Battle Round Two

The Stormcasts’ swift advanced left the Beastmen on the backfoot, and they were slow to react to the assault. The Prosecutors managed to slay a Blightking with a trident, while the Judicators brought down yet another Minotaur.

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The Knight-Azyros swept forward, sensing his Prosecutors might become vulnerable to a sudden rush from the nearby Chaos Warhounds and Ungors.

Then, with a harsh cry from Gutrot Spume, the Chaos line surged forward to meet Sigmar’s warriors.

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The Chaos Warhounds charged the Knight-Azyros, wounding him slightly but the bigger clash was in the centre as two herds of Gors and a group of Minotaurs smashed into the Liberator line. The Liberators managed to slay one Gor before they were trampled under foot, the Liberator-Prime deciding his best option was retreat. Unfortunately, this left the Judicators, Lord-Castellant and Lord-Relictor wide open.

On the right flank, the Blightkings could not motivate themselves to charge the approaching Retributors, though their noxious gasses did force the Bestigors to take the long way around a wood to reach the Stormcasts.

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Despite the battle developing quickly, the leaders of the Beastman horde stayed close to the Dirgehorn, watching for their own turn to strike while lesser beasts died first.

 

Battle Round Three

On the right flank, both units of Retributors, joined by Liberators, charged into the Blightkings, hoping to knock this strong unit out quickly before the Bestigors could make it into combat.

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The two heavyweights, Retributors and Blightkings, faced off against one another, with casualties on both sides but both lines held form.

However, the battle was rapidly splitting up into a series of running battles across the forest. The Retributors continued to fight on the right flank, Prosecutors were pushing through on the left, while the Stormcast leadership and a unit of Judicators were doing their best to hold the centre. The Lord-Relictor called upon Sigmar’s power to deliver a lightning bolt to the Minotaurs and while none were slain, crackling lightning started to distract them from the business of fighting.

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The Lord-Castellant’s Gryph-hound saw an opportunity and left his master, bounding past the Beastman  line to directly threaten the Bray-Shamans and the Dirgehorn. The faithful mutt would have difficulty against the guardians of the Dirgehorn, but it would certainly give them something to think about!

On the far left, the Judicators managed to down the last Minotaur on the flank, giving the Prosecutors an almost clear run to the Dirgehorn. They in turn charged the Ungors before them, and ran the Beastmen down while the Knight-Azyros calmly dispatched the last of the Chaos Warhounds.

The Minotaurs in the centre decided they might like to run down the Gryph-hound but were quickly distracted by the nearby Liberators helping out the Retributors. Fortunately for the Stormcasts, the Lord-Relictor’s lightning was still playing about the Minotaur’s horns, and they failed to land a single solid blow on hound or Liberator alike!

However, this distraction was all the Bestigors needed and, led by the Beastlord, they rounded a thick set of woods and charged into the back of the Retributors.

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Sigmar’s elite warriors proved to be well-trained. Sensing the Bestigor ambush, they turned round and unleashed savage blasts of lightning from their hammers, leaving only the Beastlord standing (there were a lot of 6s in that roll!). Despite this, Gutrot Spume had now entered this clash and the Retributors were under serious pressure.

 

Battle Round Four

By now, the battlefield was looking a lot emptier than it had at the start of the fight!

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A flight of Prosecutors fled from a group of Gors who had managed to charge them, using their wings to gain distance and move much closer to the Dirgehorn – the tartget was in sight! The Knight-Azyros charged the Gors in an effort to give his Prosecutors enough room to manoeuvre.

In the centre, both sides were starting to feel the strain as the last Judicator there fell, leaving just the Lord-Relictor and the Lord-Castellant facing the remaining Gors.

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Then tragedy struck – the Blightkings and Beastlord finally managed to bring down the last of the Retributors, leaving the entire right flank free and open. The Minotaurs stomped back to the centre, charging the Lord-Castellant and the few Prosecutors who had escaped the carnage on the right.

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The Gryph-hound raced forward to tear the throat out of one of the Bray=Shaman but was torn apart by a nasty blast from the Dirgehorn.

 

Battle Round Five

With both sides rapidly weakening, the Bray-Shaman summoned their worst magicks and unleashed a hail of Arcane Bolts upon the Prosecutors closing in on them.

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This was the last straw for the Stormcasts and, seeing they could not reach the Dirgehorn, were forced to retreat in ignominy.

A Major Victory for the forces of Chaos!

 

Conclusion

Well, this was our first try with the Beastmen – and they certainly have it where it counts. The Ungors were predictably weak, and best used as speed bumps when not present in number (a unit of 30 or 40 could be interesting). The Gors were solid, though we never got to find out how nasty the Bestigors were after the Retributors gave them a good smacking – eight Bestigors charged in (the other two falling to Nurgle’s Rot whioch, as they do not have the Nurgle keyword, actually affects them too!), and the Retributors rolled four 6s on their attack, dishing out eight mortal wounds before the Beastmen could get going. Nicely done, but it meant those attacks did not go onto the Blightkings which, a turn later, gave Chaos that entire flank.

As for Minotaurs… yeah, you don’t want to mess with them!

At the end of the day, both sides ground each other into the dust, but the Stormcasts needed to reach the Dirgehorn and they were just robbed of momentum. They could have called upon Sigmar to send more reinforcements, but it would not have done any good from turn three onwards (no sense on calling for them any earlier, as you may well get nothing).

Still, this was a good, stand up fight, and a brilliant start to this year’s campaign!

 

The Story Continues…

Though the Dirgehorn is still active, the Stormcasts cannot dally as they must find Alarielle as soon as they can or the entire War of Life may be lost. So, Sigmar’s warriors push on further into the Jade Kingdoms, leaving the Beastmen to rule this region.

This will not make the Sylvaneth happy, as they have a simple choice now – suffer in agony, or leave their home.

We can only hope that a certain Verminlord does not take advantage of their pitiful situation…

 

The Realmgate Wars Continue

The name Lady Atia will be no stranger to those of you who follow the latest rumours from GW – to those of you who do not know her, she is our mole, our agent, the woman with the goodies on all the latest releases 2-3 weeks before they appear.

If you have not already been there, visit her site right now and bookmark it!

Anyway, amidst tales of hairy Space Wolves (are they not all hairy?), we have the first solid news of the next hardback in the Realmgate Wars series…

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Titled Balance of Power, this is going to be arriving just as we start our Quest for Ghal Maraz battles. So, we have some catching up to do, but at least it gives me a chance to start preparing the forces.

Thus, I scoured all the text on Lady Atia’s site, trying to glean exactly what models I should be looking at picking up, and desperately hoping that most of them can be covered by models I already have.

The first thing I noticed is that Torglug the Despised is going to be a thing, which is a little unfortunate as he got turned into a Chaos Spawn in our campaign (while defending the Rotfang against a Sylvaneth uprising). Still, Nurgle is known for his sense of humour, so perhaps he can come back.

Alarielle is about (good, painted her), and I have all the Stormcasts needed to wage pretty much any way, so I am good there too.

The Fyreslayers are going to be present (not painted yet, but I have a full force waiting to be done), as well as ‘Nagash’s scions’. Hmm… Now, you see, because of a Battleplan in the Bloodbound book, I did pick up a (cheap) Mannfred but it looks like Neferata is going to be active. Bum, have to get another Mortarch. And paint up those Skeletons I have been slowly accruing (there was no rush up to now, so I have been gradually picking up cheap lots of skellies on eBay, along with a handful of other Undead).

It seems Khorne is appearing big time in the Realm of Life, with Skarbrand at the head – great news, got Skarbrand done a while ago and have been eager to try him out!

The Sylvaneth are going to be a big factor – just in time to try my new Treekin out – the Seraphon are active (great, huge force of them ready to go), and the Celestant-Prime will be taking part (done him too).

Reading on, Skaven are going to be taking part… Got a small force of them done over Christmas, but they need a fair bit of reinforcement. However, I need a force of them for Ghal Maraz, so hopefully that should take care of most of what I will be needing.

And Archaon arrives. Hmm, okay. Got the model, will now have to paint it!

So, plan of action for Balance of Power:

Fyreslayers: Hopefully won’t need too many, got a nice little Lodge planned, not too much of a hassle.
Undead: Going to have to get my act together on these guys but, Mannfred and Neferata aside, they won’t cause too many issues to paint. Just hope that Nagash does not make an appearance as I really did not want to tackle that model anytime soon (still recovering from doing the Glottkin!).
Skaven: Going to be doing these anyway for the Ghal Maraz battles, so hopefully just a few additions here and there will see them right.
Archaon: Yeah, well, this was kind of inevitable, I guess. Was hoping to put him off for a while as the time it takes to do him is going to be equal to doing 50 or even 100 other models. Still, will be impressive.

All of this, of course, is alongside my grand plans of a (small) Ogor force and my tribe of Aleguzzler Gargants (got to love a bunch of drunk giants staggering across the battlefield!), plus the odd treat from Forge World. And I still want to do four Chaos Warshrines, one for each God…

Yeah, I think my painting time for the next 12 months is pretty much set!

 

Finishing the War of Life

Lots of little projects add up to one big one, and I finished off two units last night that mean everything, and I mean everything, for our campaign in the Realm of Life is now done and dusted, and is ready for play!

At least, until GW release the third campaign book (end of next week), and I am just betting there are more battles within the Realm of Life in that tome, especially given the title of the next Age of Sigmar novel from the Black Library (Wardens of the Everqueen)…

Anyway, for the first of the new units I went back to the Sylvaneth. I had not intended to add anything more to this little force (which was built using the Forest Spirit Host box set), but having something in-between Dryad and Treelord just seemed to work – so, I scored me some Treekin and got to work!

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As any Wood Elf player knows, Treekin are quite expensive, and you can spend fruitless hours chasing them on eBay – which is exactly what I did. After many, many moons, I finally grabbed these four guys for not a huge amount of money and, added bonus, the original owner had done some funky conversion work that (I think) makes them look nicer and more fitting for the army.

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Basically, he has used Dryad and Citadel Wood parts to enhance the original (Finecast) Treekin designs. And it just… works. Can’t argue with this conversion!

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They were by no means essential to the campaign forces, but we have a massive mash up scheduled in Alarielle’s secret glade (not a euphemism), and it will be good to have the Sylvaneth present in force.

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The other unit was a group of Liberators. Again, I was not desperate to add these guys but they were useful because a) the number of miniatures the Stormcasts are fighting seem to be steadily increasing and I was actually beginning to run out (!) and b) I had yet to put together Liberators armed with the Warblade/Shield combo. With these guys now done, I now have all the Stormcast unit variation with the exception of the Knight-Vexillor with banner – I will get around to him at some point, but there really is no rush!

With painting for the War of Life done (for now), it will be time to turn to the Realm of Metal and start the real work on the Tzeentch forces, including daemons (if you want to do it ‘properly’ you need a helluva lot of Tzeentch daemons for the final battle at the Crucible – and I am all about doing it properly in this campaign!).

However, while I have been putting together Horrors and Screamers (along with the odd Gorebeast Chariot), currently on my painting table are a couple of units of Skullcrushers, a Khorne Lord on a Juggernaut and a unit of soon-to-be Khorne Chaos Warriors – these are partly the flotsam of what I did not get around to finishing in my ‘Khorne phase’ but also necessary for a couple of one-off battles that take place in and around the main campaigns. Look out for some seriously cool battles very soon…

The Beastmen… Complete?

Well, you never really finish an army – at some point down the road, there is always a little something extra you can add. However, I wanted a reasonable force of Beastmen for the Realmsgate Wars campaigns and, well, I think I am just about there:

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I followed exactly the same painting scheme as before and, like before, it turned out quick to do – these chaps took just a couple of sessions to do (along with most of five Liberators, four Treekin and a veritable squadron of Khorne Skullcrushers, but those are for future posts!).

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As they will be facing Stormcasts in the campaign, I knew the Beastmen would need some hard hitting power, which I think will be admirably served by a couple of boxes of Minotaurs. I didn’t bother with standards or musicians with this group – they are just there to hit things, a process somewhat magnified by the Great Weapons they are all carrying.

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The Bestigors are probably my favourite unit. The Great Weapon pose may be a trifle samey across the band but there is still something quite evocative in that pose. There have been rumours about the Beastmen being discontinued by GW but, you know, I don’t buy it. First off, they are way to prevalent in the AoS fiction right now and second, you can make arguments about the Gors and Ungors, but there is just nothing wrong at all with the Minotaur and Bestigor kits. I think these will stick around for quite a while.

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Continuing down the scale, I grabbed a small unit of Gors off eBay, as I already had a spare command group done in the last batch I did for Beastmen. This gives the Beastmen a third ‘core’ unit, making them a perfectly respectable force on the battlefield.

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And finally a unit of Ungors. I am guessing these will be as useless as Skinks in a fight (!), but that is quite useful in Age of Sigmar – it means you can really pad out a force and make it look large (and epic) without altering the balance between two forces a great deal.

Oh, and one last piccie – for a bit of fun, I took a quick photo of the various ‘races’ of Beastmen in a sort of evolutionary progression…

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As I mentioned above, I already have some more units on my painting table, namely another unit of Liberators and some Treekin. When these are done, I will have truly gathered all the models necessary for us to play right through the Realm of Life campaign in the Ghal Maraz book, so expect regular battle reports very soon (though it has not escaped my notice that we are just getting moving on this at exactly the same time that GW is about to release another campaign book!).

Beyond that, I got all the base colours and shading done on the Juggernauts of six Skullcrushers and one Lord of Khorne. Got a different paint scheme going for these beasties, will be interesting to see how they turn out!

After that, I want to finally ‘finish’ off my Seraphon (Saurus Knights and Guard are all that really remain) but I am beginning to feel the call of the Fyreslayers I recently picked up…

One Way to Enjoy Age of Sigmar

There are some who do not like the new Warhammer – and that is just fine, there are plenty of games in the world, not everyone has to play the same one.

However, I have seen several posts on several forums where people have said things like ‘armies cannot be balanced because there are no points’, or ‘we tried playing, but everything just ends up in a big mosh pit in the middle of the table’, or sometimes ‘there is no background to this game, it seems very light and/or dull’.

It becomes apparent that there are some players who have expressed an interest in Age of Sigmar but, for some reason, it just has not ‘clicked’ with them. Now, there are lots of ways to play Age of Sigmar – some people favour a competitive/tournament-like approach with various comp systems, others are pursuing ideas of a dungeon crawl game (which is actually a very good idea, I have had similar thoughts myself). Age of Sigmar is, at its core, a simple foundation onto which can be layered many types of gaming through the use of Warscrolls, Battleplans and Time of War sheets.

You can approach the game in lots of different ways but I am going to go through, step by step, how I got into it. This may get something to click with you, it may be nothing more than an interesting read – hopefully you will at least not find it a complete waste of time.

 

Step One: Get the Starter Set

The starter set for Age of Sigmar really is a very good deal. For £75, you really do get two full forces (you will want to add to them, natch, but they will take you a long way into the game).

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Once you have the models, get them painted up, and then play through the starter scenarios at the back of the rulebook. These scenarios do not just teach you the game, they introduce you to the background setting as well, specifically the moment Sigmar unleashes his Stormcast Eternals upon the Mortal Realms.

By the end of these battles (which will take you perhaps a long afternoon to play through), you will not only know the rules but have a good idea of what the Stormcasts are about and just how nasty the Bloodbound are.

 

Step One A: Grab The Gates of Azyr

This is an optional step, but a cheap one and worthwhile to further sink into the background of the Age of Sigmar.

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Get yourself a copy of The Gates of Azyr from the Black Library. This was the first fiction release for Age of Sigmar and being just novella length it is both cheap (even cheaper on a Kindle) and quick to read. If you played through the starter set scenarios in an afternoon, you will get this read during the same evening.

What this book will do is put what happened on the tabletop into context. It will show you just how the Stormcasts arrive into battle and the types of people they are – it will also demonstrate just how vicious Khorne’s followers are!

Importantly, it covers exactly the same events as the scenarios in the starter set, showing how they link into a wider stage, setting you up for future exploration of the Mortal Realms.

Don’t be tempted to skip these battles if you are a ‘veteran’ gamer. You are not being introduced to just the rules here, and the events that take place during the ‘training’ scenarios do have an effect on the background behind Age of Sigmar.

 

Step Two: A Small Expansion

If you are a fairly rapid painter, consider expanding the starter set forces, but only slightly. The last battle of the starter set suggests you can add more units to both sides, and I would encourage you to take advantage of that – but do so in a slow, reasonable manner. Just add one unit to each side.

The key here is not to go mad and start reaching for the Bloodthirster and Celestant-Prime. They have not appeared in the storyline yet, and you have plenty of time to bring the big stuff in later!

Instead, go for smaller sets. One unit of Judicators would make for a good addition to the Stormcasts, giving them some ranged firepower without too many complicated rules or unbalancing weapons. For the Bloodbound, you have quite a choice. However, a unit of Bloodletters, Bloodcrushers, Blood Warriors or Bloodreavers would all be suitable choices and will keep the two starter set forces balanced against one another for most battles.

Play the last scenario in the starter set with these expanded forces and watch as Lord Khul and Vandus Hammerhand really go for each other!

 

Step Three: Pick up the Age of Sigmar Hardback

The next stage is to grab the Age of Sigmar hardback.

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This is quite pricey at £45, but you do get a big, heavy book for your money, and one with gorgeous artwork throughout at that. However, do not expect lots of rules and army lists – if you go down the path I am suggesting here, that is not what Age of Sigmar will be about!

Remember the storyline that began with the starter set and The Gates of Azyr novella? This is where it continues – in a nutshell, you will get to see what happens next.

The starter set/Gates of Azyr showcased what happened when the Stormcasts did their D-Day-like invasion of the Realm of Fire and captured a Realmgate in order to create a beach head. This book shows how their invasion spreads across the Brimstone Peninsula as they fight to defeat the Goretide, a Bloodbound force commanded by Lord Khul.

This is done through a series of Battleplans, which are the formalised way scenarios are handled beyond those in the starter set. The first represents the first battle the Stormcasts had after the Gates of Azyr had been secured and they started pushing into Khorne-held territory.

 

Step Four: Learning How to Balance Forces

It is at this point you will discover the training wheels have been taken off. After you leave the starter set, no Battleplan will have set forces – it will be up to you and your opponent to decide what to field!

There are two keys here that I have found useful when deciding which armies are going to be used in any given game.

First off, remember you are not trying to grind your opponent into the ground to earn a trophy – you are exploring a storyline defined by the Battleplan. Those few pages of ‘fluff’ before the Battleplan starts in the book are important! You can also use it to get an idea of what forces should appear.

For example, the first Battleplan, Hold or Die, showcases what happened when Lord-Celestant Goldenmane led his forces in a rather brash attempt to earn glory. So, you might want to think about picking up the model of the Lord-Celestant on foot. The story also mentions Liberators and Judicators, so they are in too.

For the Bloodbound, there is no mention of Lord Khul, so leave him to one side (in fact, in our games, we left all the Khorne characters from the starter set to one side and had a newly purchased Exalted Deathbringer leading them – not mentioned in the storyline, but it fitted very well). The Bloodreavers and Blood Warriors, along with the Khorgorath, you already have in your collection work perfectly. But you may well have several new models at this point, so how do ensure the two armies will be well-matched?

The second key is this: Totalling up the number of Wounds that all models have on each side works, to an extent. You will find that you will need to adjust things for one side or the other, but due to the nature of Age of Sigmar, there is a lot of wiggle room.

For example, we have found that if you total up the number of Wounds in the Bloodbound army, reduce that figure by about a third for the Stormcasts. That alone pretty much balances Stormcasts and Bloodbound.

If one force has a significant number of monsters (and I am talking about the big stuff here, like Treelords, not the little Khorgorath!), then reduce that force’s Wounds count by about a third as well.

There is nothing too hard and fast about this but, and here is the big secret behind the Age of Sigmar, you don’t need anything set in stone. You will find there is so much that can happen in a typical Age of Sigmar battle, such as the Stormcasts gaining reinforcements, Chaos forces gaining daemonic support, other armies summoning new units, and so on, that things can balance up between fairly disparate forces and you will not feel you are completely outmatched.

Follow the (very loose) guidelines above, and you will very quickly develop an instinct of what will work and what won’t.

 

Step Five: Build Forces Alongside the Story

The next Battleplan is The Watchtower, and the story adds a couple of new things of interest. First off, it heavily suggests that the Bloodbound were aided by Khorne daemons. If you grab yourself a unit or three of these (Bloodletters and Bloodcrushers work best here), you will not only have forces representative of what actually took place in the Age of Sigmar ‘canon’ but your Khorne force expands a little without too much effort. It will also mean you have some daemons to call upon when using the Legions of Chaos rule in the Time of War sheet that you saw a couple of pages before this Battleplan (and I would wholeheartedly recommend you always use suitable Time of War sheets for the battles you are fighting – they always add an extra dimension to your fights).

You can use almost any piece of scenery as the Watchtower itself, but I would recommend you consider grabbing a Skull Keep – not only is it a good looking terrain piece but it will also be the start of a complete Dreadhold further down the road…

 

Step Six: Continue the Story

The fight for the Brimstone Peninsula ends with The Ritual, which should be a big fight – bring on every model you have painted up so far for both Stormcasts and the Bloodbound!

You might also want to consider picking up the War Storm novel.

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This tells the story behind all the Battleplans in the hardback you have, and starts getting into the nitty-gritty of the Mortal Realms. The Gates of Azyr will never win any great literary awards and is more of a taser, but War Storm is where things start getting very interesting. I would seriously recommend this one.

 

Step Seven: Make the Story Your Own

While following the story line and Battleplans of the hardback, you should not be afraid to make little alterations that reflect what has happened in your own battles.

For example, imagine a Hero in one of the forces was completely mobbed by an enemy unit and was removed as a casualty. What happens to him?

You can simply decide that he picks himself up, dusts himself off, and then strides confidently back into the next fight, perhaps with the intention of getting revenge on those who laid him low last time. This is perfectly acceptable, and probably the best thing to do with major characters such as Lord Khul, Vandus Hammerhand or Lord-Relictor Cryptborn.

You might instead, however, decide he is somewhat injured and ‘retire’ him for a battle or two.

Or, of course, you could decide he has met a more permanent end. While such things do not really happen for daemons and Stormcasts, you can certainly imagine even one of those might take too long to recover to take any further part in the current story line (maybe they will appear again later on).

When you start to get really comfortable with the game, you might even start creating your own Battleplans to play out events that cropped up because of things that happened in game, or to play out battles that are hinted at in the background but do not have their own Battleplans.

This is an important point – make the game your own!

 

Step Eight: Eternal War Across the Realms

At this point, you will not need any more help from me – you will know enough to be able to experiment and figure out what will be fun and what just plain will not work for yourself.

The Ritual is the last battle set within the Brimstone Peninsula (for the moment), but there are campaigns set in two other Realms in the hardback, and I would recommend playing through the Realm of Life – by the end of it you will have a Sylvaneth force to fight alongside the Stormcasts and a healthy (?) army of Nurgle Rotbringers. As before, don’t try to do everything for these forces all at once, just add a few units at a time (and remember that eBay can be your friend in acquiring armies at reasonable prices!).

You might also like to explore the Battletomes as they often have Battleplans that can link into the main storyline. For example, the Stormcasts Battletome has a Battleplan that basically replaces all the scenarios of the starter set with one, big, meaty fight. The Bloodbound book has a Battleplan set immediately after the starter set scenarios, before Hold or Die. They are not essential to the storyline, but they are fun to include.

You may, of course, decide you want to depart from the official storyline and create your own – and that would be brilliant! There is certainly enough room in the Mortal Realms for your own story, and you might find you want to explore not the huge city0smashing conflicts of Archaon and the Stormcasts. Perhaps you want to discover what happens when a small tribe of Goblins moves into territory claimed by a small warband of Skaven who have already been battered by everyone they meet!

As I said, at this point, you will have all the tools to fly by yourself in Age of Sigmar. This style of play is not for everyone, and it is heavily reliant on a deep liking of the background and stories within the worlds of Warhammer. However, if that sounds like something that would appeal to you, a lot of fun battles await…

Review: Battletome – Fyreslayers

This week has been all about Fyreslayers for me (well, when I haven’t been painting Beastmen!), reading the Legends of the Age of Sigmar novel, Fyreslayers, and now Battletome: Fyreslayers.

So, what’s up with these orange-haired dwarfs then, eh?

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The first thing to bear in mind, if you are a Warhammer Longbeard… these ain’t your daddy’s dwarfs. They are not even his Trollslayers. While sharing a few aesthetics with slayers (orange hair-dos), there the similarity ends.

In manner, they are more your ‘typical’ dwarf – staunch, brave, honourable. They do hire themselves out as mercenaries (in fact, the novel shows an instance of how they can end up fighting for Chaos) but they are not just two-dimensional dwarfs that can be thrown into any army. There are reasons they do what they do…

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This is covered in the first section of the book which looks at the Fyreslayers, their history (myth), society and organisation. In a nutshell, they believe (and they are probably right) that their god, Grimnir, was split into lots of pieces of ur-gold when fighting the Mother of Salamanders, Vulcatrix. Thus, by scouring the Realms for ur-gold, they prove devotion to their god – however, it is more than that, as they make runes out of ur-gold and then hammer it into their flesh, gaining a part of his divine power. This is what makes them so hard in battle…

So, if a Chaos Lord comes along with a problem and a big chest of ur-gold, Fyreslayers may do some nasty things. But they have their reasons. They are not greedy mercenaries, though other races certainly think so. The gathering of ur-gold is a religious act.

One thing that becomes clear, however, reading both this book and (especially) the novel. The Magmaholds of the Fyreslayers (where they all live) are big and they contain a lot of Fyreslayers. When the lodge marches to war, it can have thousands of Fyreslayers in its force – they are not tiny little mercenary bands, these guys are a major force in whatever part of the Mortal Realms they reside in.

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It is also clear that the Fyreslayers are pretty much everywhere – you can set your lodge in any of the Mortal Realms and it will slide right in (a benefit to having such vast areas to play in). For example, they are present in the Jade Kingdoms (Realm of Life), where the Paleslayers of Winter (as they are known) rub tree sap into their hair, and are feared by Nurgle minion and Sylvaneth alike.

As I have said with other Battletomes, the artwork in this book is second to none and, in fact, it might just be the best Age of Sigmar book yet in this regard. Check out this spread, which precedes the ‘unit’ section.

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There are twelve lodges (armies, if you like) of Fyreslayers that have write-ups in this book, covering just about all the Realms. You are going to find something in here to latch onto with your own force, even if it is just inspiration for something new.

This is followed by the by-now-usual painting guide. This covers a handful of lodges, plus Magmadroths;

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This is then followed by the ‘hobby section’ that features lots of photos of pretty painted miniatures – orange is very much a theme that runs through this part (and the rest of the book, for that matter).

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All very interesting thus far, but the next section is rapidly becoming my favourite in the Battletomes – the Battleplans. As well as providing new ways to play Age of Sigmar, they also add little chapters to the ongoing storyline, and our group is looking to incorporate, well, all of them into our campaigns!

The first, At the Threshold, depicts a Khorne horde in the Realm of Fire attacking a Fyreslayer Magmahold – just from the miniatures needed for this fight I can see we will be tackling this one fairly soon! Might need some more Fyreslayers though, I only picked up enough for a little band…

The next, The Fiend’s Lair, puts the boot on the other foot and has the Fyreslayers entering a shadowy cavern to root out a vampire. As always, this has a narrative lead-in, accompanied by one of the maps that are becoming a hallmark of Age of Sigmar.

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The final Battleplan, The Putrid Bog, pits the Fyreslayers against Pestilens, trying to topple a Warpstone Shard before the Skaven can enact their plans.

All of these fights are much more than just stand-up pitched battles, and all have their own little unique angle. When they try to root out the vampire, for example, zombies start tumbling from the roof of the cavern!

Finally, the Warscrolls. I won’t go into much detail on these as they have been well-documented in White Dwarf and the various ‘rumours’ sites. Aside from some of the heroes on foot, you have seen them already.

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The Battalions, however, are worth a peek as, after some of the immense forces that have appeared in previous books (looking at you, Stormcasts!), these seem almost… doable.

The first, the Lords of the Lodge, has three characters (one of whom must be on a Magmadroth) and a single unit of Hearthguard Berzerkers. Simples.

The Warrior Kinband steps things up a bit with one leader on a Magmadroth but, even then, you just need three units of Vulkite Berzerkers to round it off. You have to figure that if you are just half-serious about Fyreslayers, you would have picked up two anyway, so this battalion might be just what you need to push you into a slightly bigger force. The Forge Brethren does pretty much the same, but with Auric Hearthguard instead (you may have less of these units but, to be honest, you probably need this many to field some effective missile fire).

And, of course, you have the silly battalion, the Grand Fyrd which requires all of the above, with two Warrior Kinbands.

As mega-battalions go, it is actually not the largest that has been published!

 

Conclusion

If you can get over the idea that, despite hair-dos, these are not the Slayers of old, then I think you might well get along with this book (assuming you have bought into the concept of Battletomes in the first place, not a given or even a necessity with Age of Sigmar). The artwork is first class, the Fyreslayers are an interesting development of what Trollslayers could/might become after a few thousand years of myth and social evolution, and there is nothing that strikes me as ‘silly’ or half-cocked about their background.

I would give this book an overall thumbs up. There is nothing truly negative about it, and I think the Fyreslayers are going to become a strong part of the Age of Sigmar setting.