Games Workshop seem to be making their way through these Grand Alliance books pretty quickly and, last weekend, the one for Order appeared.
I am guessing Destruction will be with us pretty soon but an aside here; when reviewing the Death book, I postulated that GW might be looking to replace these books on something like a yearly or two-yearly basis, updated with everything that has been newly released. With these four books (presumably, with Destruction) appearing so close together, I am thinking that is now more likely than before…
Anyway, just some baseless speculation on my part. Onto Grand Alliance: Order. Is it any good?
I am going to approach this review a little differently from the norm, given the nature of the Grand Alliance books. If you are a fan of Age of Sigmar, chances are you have already seen 90% of this book and would be interested in it only to have all the Warscrolls in one place (and, with a price tag of £20 for a 280 page book, you have to think that is fair enough).
Instead, I’ll go through things section by section, but only highlight what new background is in this book (and there is a bit more than in the other Grand Alliance books thus far), mentioning the odd rules-based item where it is of particular note.
Now, as far as the Warscrolls themselves are concerned, I have not gone through them with a fine toothcomb as yet but, with a bit of spot checking, I have not yet seen any major differences between those printed in here and those that came before (aside from the obvious name changes here and there). I have no doubt that there will be changes here and there but I don’t think you will have to worry about massive alterations to the units you have become used to, especially if you are using newer units, such as the Seraphon and Fyreslayers.
So, on with the book.
Aside from the usual introduction at the beginning and core rules at the end, it is broken down into 22 main sections, each covering one of the factions of Order.
Perhaps obviously, we start with our old favourites, the Stormcasts. This book assumes no prior knowledge of Sigmar’s boys, so if you are an Age of Sigmar veteran, you are going to skip past this pretty quickly. Even the Battalion Warscrolls have been seen before (such as the Skyborne Slayers).
The Lord-Celestant on Dracoth has been updated with the weapon options from the new kit but, other than that, you have already seen all of this.
Picked up the Extremis Battletome last week, did you? Good for you, all the Warscrolls from that are repeated here.
Now, this section and the last may all seem like a cheap grab by GW but remember: This is a big book for £20, it is very convenient to have everything printed in one place, you can always just pick up the (free) app… and there is much better stuff to come, I promise…
The Seraphon have a big section, by virtue of their many different units and, again, nothing new here (even the background box texts are drawn from the Battletome) – except for the Battalions.
There are two new Starhosts. The first, the Bloodclaw Starhost, is likely to be a biggie, centred on 3-9 Saurus units (be they Warriors, Knights or Guard), led by three Heroes and an Oldblood (who can be on a Carnosaur). If you pull all that together, everyone gets an extra attack with their teeth (never the best attack in the game) and all Heroes get to use their Command Abilities.
The other, the Heavenswatch Starhost, is centred more on Skinks. Led by a Starseer, you have a couple of Heroes and then fill out with 3-6 units of Skink-related goodies, including the likes of the Stegadon and Bastiladon. Thios one allows you to pick on a specific enemy unit, but the thing everyone will latch onto is that all monsters in the Battalion heal every round.
On the one hand, this is nothing that immediately grabs me and says I just have to play Seraphon in the next game. On the other, I like to see Battalions that suggest a Slann Starmaster does not have to be present in every Seraphon game…
Sylvaneth players will perk up here. No, still no Durthu (I think he is an ex-Treelord), but there is a new Battalion, the Forest Spirit Wargrove. This requires a Branchwraith, a Treelord Ancient, two lesser Treelords (who always seem to do better in the game, but I digress), and three units of Dryads. If you picked up the big Sylvaneth box set last year, you will be all set to go, albeit with small Dryad units.
What does it give you? Well, all the normal teleporting tricks with the Wildwoods, and also table edges, which is par for the course with this faction. You also get a new spell, which both the Ancient and Branchwraith will know – casting level 5, 18″ range, and it heals D3 wounds on someone.
Anyone who has used Treelords to any great degree will know this is a Big Deal. Healing is rare enough in Age of Sigmar, but being able to apply this to Treelords means they are going to be able to stick around for a long, long time.
Maybe even long enough to see the Dryads do something useful.
As with the Stormcasts, if you have the Battletome, you’ll just skip this bit. If you haven’t, all the Warscrolls are here, along with a couple of pages telling you who the Fyreslayers are (they are Duardin/Dwarfs, they don’t wear much and they are looking for pieces of their broken god).
The Glory of Azyrheim
This is the start of the meat of the book, and the first introduction of something new in terms of background.
There is a description of the city of Azyrheim (where all the nice people live in the Realm of the Heavens), and a quick history of how it came about, what it has endured, and what the people who live there are doing. If you have been after stories of ‘mere’ mortals in Age of Sigmar, this is the place for you.
Following this are some ideas on how the various factions of Order can be combined into new and interesting armies, complete with pictures of appropriate miniatures assembled in force.
The Wings of Azyr, for example, masses together everyone who can fly, for a very fast-moving (and hard-hitting) force. Prosecutors flap along side Aelf Dragonmages, the Extremis Chambers bring their Stardrakes, the Freeguilds their Griffons, and so on.
The Stonebreaker Battalions call up a combination of Dispossessed Duardin and the Ironweld Arsenals (we’ll come to those in a bit), while the Azyrheim Lancehost is all about the cavalry. Mix up Dracothian Guards, Demigryph riders and Aelf Dragon Knights, and you will be well away (actually looks quite good, all massed together…).
Then there are the Legions of Reconquest, which seems to be a bit of everything all thrown together, led by the Stormcasts!
Devoted of Sigmar
I was a bit honked off with this faction. Basically, it comprises the old Flagellants, led by Warrior Priests, Witch Hunters and the War Altar of Sigmar, along with a moderately-sized Battalion (the sort of size you can take to an event, rather than some of the really huge ones, which is good to see).
My problem? I was going to do an army of these (have even started collecting the models), thinking I would be all retro and avant garde (not sure you can be both, actually) by using the legacy Warscrolls. Now, everyone will be doing this force!
That might not be a bad thing, actually,. Sure, the Flagellants will die in droves, but then that is what Flagellants do. The War Altar is still a nice model that has stood the test of time, and both Warrior Priests and Witch Hunters are kinda funky.
My prediction: You are going to see a few Devoted of Sigmar forces about.
You used to call these guys Empire and, I am a little disappointed, they are even painted much the same way. Not sure what I was expecting there, but it would have been nice to see them distance themselves a little further from the past. But that is just me – if you are a fan of the old Empire, you are going to fit right into this section.
The Freeguilds are basically each built around an old ‘tribe’ (interpret that as you will) and they are now ready to get back into the Mortal Realms and start reclaiming their lands. Some of these are small bands, some are vast armies. Vast. Pick the size you like and go with it.
Most of your old favourites will be here, including Demigryph Knights, Greatswords, Crossbowmen, Handgunners, Archers, Pistoliers, Outriders, and the Guard.
I have a feeling these chaps will feature quite heavily from Godbeasts onwards, so better get painting!
This is where all the magical guys from old Empire now sit. Living in the Sky Towers of Azyrheim, they are called upon to help Sigmar’s boys out (and the Freeguilds, of course). Think of this faction as an addition to others rather than a core unto itself (like the Tzeentch Arcanites in the Chaos book).
The Battlemages are the heart of the Collegiate, and they still have their specialisations (Bright, Gold, Amethyst, etc), each of which grants different spells. Jade Wizards have Lifesurge, for example, which heals units (yay!), and can stop them dying later on.
You also get Amber Battlemages ion Griffons (who get bonuses in the Realm of Beasts, the Luminark and the Hurricanum.
Yes, now, you might have already heard about this one.
It is true – the artillery dudes from the old Empire have got together with the machinery dudes from the old Dwarfs and set up a faction of their own. The Battalion Warscroll even gives you a Preliminary Bombardment rule.
It is possible that you might go a bit dippy and decide you suddenly need to go out and buy loads of artillery pieces, particularly if you tend to play with equal model or wound counts.
For the sake of Sigmar, try to resist that. If you take this faction, let your opponent have more wounds and models than you. A lot more.
You will probably still do well.
On the other hand, I could have used a decent artillery train when I last assaulted a Chaos Dreadhold, so I can definitely see some very interesting games involving these guys.
Just… use caution if you use them, okay? They have the potential to really ruin your opponent’s fun.
This is the core Duardin force and, contrary to my expectations, the original clan warriors are still present (I thought they would be phased out in favour of making the likes of Ironbreakers and Longbeards the core troops, so that just goes to show what you should think of my predictions!).
These guys live in vaults below Azyrheim, but their settlements have certainly been present throughout the Realms in the novels – Warbeast, for example, makes quite a bit of this.
In that respect, they are pretty much the Dwarfs as you remember them – whether these are actually the Steamheads that have been mentioned before, or whether something new is around the corner… I will lean towards the latter, I think, maybe with the Steamheads gradually phasing these guys out in the future.
The Eldritch Council is to aelfs what the Collegiate is to humans – put all your magical guys into one box and then dish them out to armies as you see fit.
The Archmage is the core of the force and, if you are used to the level 4 guys of Fantasy Battle, he may seem a little lacking. Which is probably a good thing, if your opponents have had to endure waves of Fiery Convocation. He comes on foot, on horse or on a dragon, and there is also a Drakeseer variant, the old Dragonmage.
The Swordmasters become bodyguards to the mages, led by the Loremaster as normal.
The Phoenix Guys are somewhat ‘removed’ from aelf society, a little more than they used to be in the Old World. In fact, aesthetics aside, it may not be particularly useful thinking of aelfs as High, Dark and Wood, as the divisions within those ‘races’ can split them up far more than the differences between High, Dark and Wood alone (see the Shadowblades below for another example).
The Phoenix Temple is basically dedicated to the great Ur-Phoenix, and they really hate Chaos. That is about all we know at the moment, but it does feel as if there is a lot more here. We are just not getting the full picture, which is as usual for the Grand Alliance books. However, if you are of an aelf-mind, you are going to be wanting a Battletome after reading this Grand Alliance book…
You get your two flavours of Phoenix, the Anointed (who can ride either Phoenix) and the Phoenix Guard. All fairly predictable but, as I say, I get the feeling there is more coming for these chaps, and the other aelf factions.
Then again, you gave already seen how my predictions went for the Duardin…
These are actually not a soccer team but a monastic order of the White Lions (the old Chrace guys) and their Lion Chariots. They left Azyrheim and instead roamed the wilderness of the Realm of Heavens as warrior-mystics. now, they fight alongside the forces of Order as they, too, really hate Chaos.
In the old Fantasy Battle, this faction would have been fairly sick – nobles on Dragons, nobles on horses, and Dragon Blades (the old Dragon Knights). They have a Battalion that basically allows them to charge twice in a round (if you can wipe out your first target), and you only need a Dragonlord and 10 Dragon Blades to fulfil its requirements.
If you want to unlock your inner dragon, take these guys, add a Drakeseer from the Eldritch Council, and then go and show Archaon and his boys who is really boss.
Whereas the other aelf factions seem to very much have their own identity, the Swifthawk Agents seem to be more of a supporting act (in terms of background – in terms of the game, they can hold their own).
They are made up of, well, fast aelf stuff – the Skywardens and Skycutters, along with horse-drawn chariots and Shadow Warriors.
I was wondering what the ‘cool factor’ of these guys are, as the background introduces them as messengers and harbingers. Fetch and carry, really. However, reading a little deeper, think Special Forces. Hit hard, hit fast, and then disappear.
I think you could have a lot of fun with a force like that, both on and off the table…
We move onto the old Dark Elves now, starting with the naval element, the Scourge Privateers.
While fighting for the forces of Order and while certainly hating Chaos, these are really not very nice guys. Think of pirates – and not of the Jack Sparrow kind, perhaps more Black Sails. They are not strictly evil, but you also don’t really want them anywhere near you after the battle is done.
Led by the Fleetmaster, these guys comprise Black Ark Corsairs, Scourgerunner Chariots and the Kharibdyss (always have an issue pronouncing that).
Daughters of Khaine
These girls are still Witch Elves (Aelves), and they are still sick when stacked up with the Cauldron and Death Hag. At least Hellebron is not about now.
The Blodwrack Shrine and Medusa are both still a thing for this force, though you do not really get a sense of why they hang together. As I said before, there is a hell of a lot that needs fleshing out here, but you get the impression it has been thought out and they are just waiting for the appropriate Battletome to reveal everything.
You get a better sense of why the Doomfire Warlocks are about – they may be within the ‘sisterhood’ but you rather get the feeling theirs is not a happy life…
Now, this one I quite like.
The humans and ‘other’ aelfs get their wizards together to form a cohesive force and centre of learning. Sorceresses don’t do that at all.
You get one Sorceress (she may have lesser girls beneath her, the faction allows for that), but she does not want to work with anyone or share her power. One girl at the top, and everyone else is her, well, slave is not putting it too heavily (some have free will, others are simply dominated by her magic).
As well as lesser sorceresses, she gathers all the old Dark Elf warriors (spears, swords, crossbows), the Black Guard and Executioners. Basically just bodies that the sorceress can put between herself and any enemies that get too close.
I think there is some potential there for a fun, callous force!
These are the old Assassins and Dark Riders from the original Dark Elves… but I think these guys do a good job about distancing themselves away from the old mould.
They hate Chaos in all its forms, which is pretty standard for people in this book. However, it was (probably) these chaps who purged Azyrheim of Chaos worshippers when the city was becoming corrupted.
I cannot say they did it in nice ways (bodies swinging over streets with a list of their crimes pinned to them) but there is certainly a sense here of the Shadowblades working for the greater good, just in a manner that is a little less than noble.
Again, just a taste of things here, but I think this is one faction that can stand to be greatly expanded.
The Order Serpentis is the ‘dark’ equivalent of the Order Draconis, but whereas you can imagine the latter being bright, noble, and in the forefront of battle, the Serpentis warriors are more like raiders. You know, picking on weak targets.
They include anything dark elfy with scales – so, the Dreadlords on Dragons, Drakespawn Knights (they are no longer Cold Ones, distancing themselves from the Seraphon, which would have been a bit weird), the Chariots and the War Hydra.
If you are a fan of things Wood Elfen, you will have waited this long.. and received just one faction.
Well, being a Bumpkin Elf, what do you expect (yes, I was a High Elf player in Fantasy Battle…)?
The big news in the background section… The Sylvaneth don’t really like you any more! And the reason for it? Alarielle told all the Dryads that you are a coward and generally not very nice.
Seems Alarielle has forgotten her elfness and is embracing the goddess thing more these days…
Most of your favourites are still here (well, if they were plastic – you can say goodbye to Orion, for a start), but I guarantee that you will zero in on the Battalion Warscroll like a Waywatcher lining up on a Doombull. PIck a target near your leader (the Nomad Prince). Everyone in this Battalion gets to shoot at it in your Hero Phase.
This book is going to leave you with a lot more questions than answers. A lot more, especially about anything aelf related.
That is fairly normal for a Grand Alliance book – they don’t seem to be about actually telling you things, serving more as a primer for each faction (and, of course, providing you with every Warscroll in the current range). This, the book does perfectly and, to be fair, it does give you enough to go on. No, you don’t know all the ins and outs of, say , the Swifthawk Agents. But you have a bunch of fast-moving aelfs who act like special forces. You can get behind that idea, right? The Shadowblades are another good example – assassins who use any means necessary to destroy the enemies of Order with a single thrust of a poisoned dagger.
As always with the Grand Alliance books, there is nothing essential here, not even the Battalions. What you are paying (a measly £20 for a 280 page book, remember) for is the convenience of all the Warscrolls in one place, the encouragement to ‘mix things up’ with the forces of Order, and a tantalising glimpse of what may be coming in terms of background for these factions.