Well, the latest entry in the Realmgate Wars is out and… oh my. If you thought Age of Sigmar was high/epic/mythic (however you like to describe it) fantasy, you ain’t seen nothing yet! If Age of Sigmar turned fantasy up to 11 before, it has just gone to 12.
As with the Realmgate Wars books that have gone before, the point of this mighty (286 page) tome is to further the storyline that has been developing in Age of Sigmar. The basic premise is that Archaon, who showed up at the end of the last book, Balance of Power, is trying to awake the Godbeasts and turn them to his side. This is bad news for Sigmar, as the Godbeasts are big. As in, really big. They are way, way beyond the titans of 40k, even the likes of the Imperator. One, for example is a really huge dragon that the inhabitants who live below it think is their sun.
So, getting just one of these on side is going to be a really big coup for Archaon and his boys.
The book begins with a ‘why we fight’ introduction, plus a four page spread on the major players and events. If you are new to the storyline, this will give you everything you need to get caught up. If, like me, you have been playing through the storyline, this gives a nice feel of how far you/Age of Sigmar has come through all those major battles.
Immediately after that, there are the ‘paragraph battles’, brief descriptions of other events that have been happening off-scree, from the main storyline. Some things, like Archaon’s Call, have been covered in the novels, others like Clan Lektrik’s flying drill-engines, are brand new. Not sure if there are any sneak peeks of what is to come here – that always tends to be more apparent when the new thing arrives!
Then it is back into the storyline. War of the Flameworlds sees us return to the Realm of Fire, where the Stormcasts are still giving the Bloodbound a good kicking.
And here we have the first interesting bit. People have been wondering how all the locations fit into one another within the Mortal Realms, the feeling being everything is a bit disembodied. That now seems to be changing, if you look at the map above. The first hardback (and starter set) presented the Brimstone Peninsula – well, if you look carefully, you will see the peninsula near the middle of the map, and we now have the surrounding area.
You can also see the setting has been kicked up a gear. The Land of the Chained Sun, for example, does exactly what it says on the tin. You have a big floating island/mini-continent chained to a fiery ball (actually one of the Godbeasts, but people think it is a sun). On the top right, you can see the Orb Infernia which, we will learn later on, was actually a small world, but the ravages of Chaos have gnawed away at it, removing the seas and mantle, leaving only the part of the crust where the continents lie – so, it is kinda like a cracked egg with no innards.
The Lord-Relictor Ionus Cryptborn is leading his Stormcasts (Vandus still not back from his encounter with Archaon) against the Bloodbound who are, in turn, led by Valkia the Bloody – a welcome appearance for people’s favourite daemon princess.
The first Battleplan, Fury Overcomes, pitches the Stormcasts against the Bloodbound (including the Redblade Vanguard, a group of Khornate Skullcrushers, Knights and Chariots), but something a little odd is happening. Everyone seems to be succumbing to some strange malady that presides over the battlefield…
A few pages thereafter are then taken to detail the Royal Victrians, a Warrior Chamber of the Tempest Lords with a decidedly Italian twist on their names, and a painting guide for them (an actual painting guide this time, that explains how to paint them step-by-step rather than just showing broad variations, as we have seen in recent Battletomes).
Then, a step-by-step guide to painting a Realm of Battle board in the style of Aqshy. It ends up with a nice effect on the burning skulls, and I was starting to think that I may just have to pick one of these up – though there are some decent gaming mats that will be so much easier (and cheaper, it has to be said).
The next chapter, Of Plague and Fire, showcases the next stage of Archaon’s plan. He wants Ignax, that big ball of fire in the sky that is actually a Godbeast dragon, and needs the Bloodbound to… calm down a bit, so his machinations can move forward. To this end, he ‘convinces’ a Maggoth lord, Bloab Rotspawned, to get involved (which is where the strange malady of the last battle came from).
So, I know who my next Maggoth Lord will be now!
Bloab is not the only personality to show up to this ruckus – Lord Khul is also back and he is, predictably, angry. To counter Valkia, Bloab and Khul, Sigmar sends in the Celestant-Prime, along with another familiar face – Tornus the Redeemed who we met at the end of Balance of Power, having found is salvation after being Torglug the Despised. Oh, and then Skarbrand shows up, so this is a high-powered confrontation all round!
Beneath Warring Storms is the next Battleplan, featuring, well, a clash of storms – one of fire (Chaos) and the other of lightning (Stormcasts). As the two armies fight, the storms lash down and hit their enemies, dealing out mortal wounds all round.
The next section is Orb Infernia, and this is where things get a little more complex.
The Orb I have already described, but there are four daemon princes living here, one for each of the Chaos powers, and they all hate each other. The Khorne prince had promised to help Lord Khul, but didn’t, so Khul travels to Infernia to teach him a lesson. However, the Tzeentch prince has convinced the other three to work with him so they can leave what has effectively become a prison for all of them. Which is when the Seraphon move in to stop them.
With things so far?
The next Battleplan is Against the Horde, which may be a familiar title to those of you with the Stormcast Battletome, as it is the name of a (different) Battleplan from that book. Intentional, or an accidentally re-used name? We may never know.
This features the Seraphon versus the combined hordes of the daemon princes, and it is suggested that the Chaos force has twice the strength (models, wounds however you judge your forces normally). However, everything is not against the Seraphon. First off, the daemon princes and their armies set up in their own zones, so no mixing and matching at the start. Second, if the Seraphon kills a daemon prince, you don’t just remove that model, you remove all his followers too!
Third, there is a Time of War sheet for Orb Infernia that brings magical storms, a Prismatic Flamestorm spell and the Blessings of Dracothion, which does nothing but help the Seraphon.
The forces of the daemon princes (the Infernal Tetrarchy) and the Seraphon are actually detailed in terms of units (as opposed to the numbers of models in each unit, so there is still some good leeway if you want to get things ‘right’) and, as always, it is nice to see Slaanesh make an appearance.
Things basically go well for the Seraphon until Lord Khul shows up and ruins everything by putting an axe through the skull of the Slann Starmaster. This is covered in the next Battleplan, Pincer Attack. The Chaos force has twice the strength again, and the Seraphon set up in the middle of what would be a gang of Bloodbound and a bunch of Khornate daemons. For victory, they just have to survive, which looks quite difficult!
This is a simple Battleplan in terms of set up and rules, but it looks no less effective for that.
Another ‘hobby section’ follows, with a painting guide for the Skullfiend Tribe, the latest boys to hang out with Lord Khul, and instructions on how to paint the Orb Infernia Realmgate – this last I particularly like, as it looks like no talent is required (if you follow the guide) to get pretty much the results you see in the picture above. Might just have to pick up another Realmgate myself to do this one…
Next chapter up is The Unreachable Mountain, and the Stormcasts had a problem. Skarbrand was still rampaging about, and Bloab’s disease was still spreading. At this point, much to the chagrin of the Tempest Lord, Ionus Cryptborn sort of, kind of makes a deal with Valkia the Bloody – there is an artefact in the area that magnifies emotion, and if they can get Skarbrand angry enough, he will literally burn away the plague.
Which just leaves Skarbrand to deal with, and that is the goal of the next Battleplan, Bringing Down the Mountain. And no, that is not a metaphor – the Retributors climb up the mountain, hammer away at it, and bring down a massive avalanche, hopefully sweeping away Skarbrand and plunging him into the artefact (the Crystal Henge). However, help is not far away…
The Candlemen are a little enclave of the Devoted to Sigmar, a bunch of Flagellants, Warrior Priests and even a War Altar. They come out of hiding to fight a (frankly terrifying) force of Bullgors and Ghorgons.
This is all covered by two Battleplans, Bringing Down the Mountain and A Twist of Fate, which can be linked. Interestingly, they can be played one after the other, with Bringing Down the Mountain affecting what happens in Twist of Fate… or the book describes how they can be played simultaneously, on two different tables. Now, that is an interesting idea and one I might just have to try out – though how you write a battle report for something like that is more of a mystery!
Still, if you have the models (and space!), hopping between two tables for what will likely be a fun-filled afternoon of gaming sounds like it is right up my street! Kudos to Games Workshop for continuing to find new and interesting ways to handle scenarios which, at the end of the day, are what lie at the core of Age of Sigmar.
Another painting guide follows, this time for the Bullgors of the Bloodscorch Bulltribe.
Finally, for the Realm of Fire, we get to Land of the Chained Sun, and the first finale. Skarbrand may have gone, but Archaon’s plan is unfolding and the Godbeast Ignax is within his grasp.
The Land of the Chained Sun is home to many Fyreslayers, and they have been keeping Ignax chained up. This is not conducive to Archaon’s policies, so he sends in the Varanguard (who, apparently, now number in the tens of thousands) to sort them out. As the battle escalates, Archaon himself gets involved, the Stormcasts appear and unleash a Chamber Extremis and, well, it ends up looking something like this:
The Battleplan covering this massive battle is Noble Sacrifice. The Fyreslayers are trying to winch the chains that hold Ignax fast, hoping to scour the lands clear with his solar flame. Fairly suicidal, and Archaon is trying to stop them – if he succeeds, he will have the Godbeast in his force!
There is a canon resolution to this battle but I won’t spoil it for you…
Now, we have already had a fair chunk thrown at us – seven Battleplans, two Time of War sheets, lots of background, new locations, mighty heroes and several painting guides, a fair percentage of what was in the entire Balance of Power book. However, we are only halfway through – now it is on to the Realm of Life and events taking place there!
Welcome to the Scabrous Sprawl.
The Stormcasts have arrived to liberate the area, only to find that not only has it been visited by Nurgle’s plagues, but plenty of Skaven have claimed the area too – and not just a few Pestilens bands but the full weight of the clans, spearheaded by massive walking cities built by the Clans Skryre, known as parasite engines.
So, not really a healthy place.
The first clash between Stormcast and Skaven takes place at night, using the Death in the Darkness Battleplan. All ranges except charges are limited to 6″, though wizards and priests can bring some light to the fight. This one is going to be close up and bloody…
Following this is another painting guide, this time for the Stormfiends of Clan Vrrtkin.
At some point, Archaon turns up and starts bossing round the Skaven, telling them to dig under the Sprawl to wake up Behemat, a massive World Titan/Star Gargant and another Godbeast.
Not that the Skaven knew that this was what they were doing, though it begins to dawn on them that they might be messing with something really big…
The next battle, The Shattering, is a biggie. Behemat is waking up, ripping apart the land as he goes. The Skaven have brought a Warbringer along. And Bloab Rotspawn, having fled from battle in the Realm of Fire, pops up – pursued by the Celestant-Prime and Tornus the Redeemed. As well as a table representing massive earthquakes and yawning chasms opening up, there is a further Time of War sheet that reflects the presence of the World Titan.
The story then leaps up to another floating island, the Great Green Torc, which is a representation of the cycle of life, seasons, and so on.
There is another double-Battleplan presented here, Stem the Tide and Fleeting Fealty, that can be played one after the other or simultaneously. The Stromcasts are facing massive waves of combined Rotbringers and Brayherds, though Grot Spider Riders (Sky-spider clans) are getting involved and, in Fleeting Fealty (and I like this one), there is a rogue group of Gargants (five are suggested) who wander about causing trouble during the battle but can be beseeched to fight for one side or the other. And, looking at the formation for these guys, you want them on your side!
The next battle, Hammer and Anvil, sees the Stormcasts unite with the Sky-spider clans to crush the Rotbringers and Brayherds between them. They are not great friends, you understand, but neither wants Nurgle forces around…
The final battle is To Bind the Storm, which sees the (possible) final awakening of Behemat. The Stormcasts are bringing everything to bear, (including, I swear, the Great Bolts of Sigmar) to end this threat. The resolution of this fight will decide whether Archaon gets to add the World Titan to his forces which using the Allpoints, he could then bring to bear anywhere in the Realms and, well, win!
I won’t spoil what happens!
The book winds up with Warscrolls. There are a few for individual units, covering the likes of Archaon, the Celestant-Prime, Chambers Extremis, Bloab and the new Bloodbound character models. However, it is the Battalion Warscrolls which will hold the most interest.
Gone are the days of random collections of units into something that makes a rough sort of sense as a force – these are all tied heavily into the storyline of Godbeasts.
The Brotherhood of the Great Bolts made an appearance in the final battle of the book, and is basically what happens when Sigmar wants to turbo charge his Celestant-Prime. This Battalion hurls (lots) of lightning bolts down on their enemies but, more to the point increases the damage of Ghal Maraz from 3 to D3+3. You are going to do a lot of damage with that…
The Royal Victrians are an entire army unto themselves (22 Stormcast units, including 9 Liberator units!), which only the most dedicated may collect. Still, for a 6″ pile-in and re-rolling most to hit rolls (across every model in the Battalion), you may feel it is worth it.
The Hallowed Hunt is one I will be using – the Celestant-Prime backed up by Prosecutors and a Knight-Venator. These were the guys who were hunting Bloab Rotspawned, and you can see why he ran (you ain’t going to be missing any Nurgle target).
The Redblade Vanguard get their own Battalion, led by Valkia and with a fast-moving force (Skullcrushers and Knights) that can both run and charge, they are going to be reaping a tidal wave of blood for their god. The Infernal Tetrarchy, those four Daemon Princes working together, are also a Battalion, each boosting the others with more power (re-rolls and extra summoning).
Bloab gets a Battalion to lead, while the Seraphon get something unlikely to be fielded (I think), unless you happen to have two Scar-Veterans on Carnosaurs and an Oldblood, also on a Carnosaur. The three units of Knights are, at least, doable.
The Fyreslayers get something new but my favourite of the entire book is probably the Sons of Behemat – five drunken Gargants (note they are called Giants in the description…) who are going to be re-rolling most of their hit rolls and are led by a king who will be getting a truly sick amount of attacks.
I think I have found my new Warhammer World event army – 30 or 40 models, you say? Nah, I’ll just take 5!
The last Battalions feature the Devoted of Sigmar (and this is a reasonable looking force, with just one unit – or more, your choice – of Flagellants, plus War Altar and a smattering of Warrior Priests), and a Warherd. The latter, with three units of Minotaurs (not Bullgors, in the description!) and three Ghorgons may be a bit much for my tabletop.
That said, there is a good spread of Battalions between those that require just a few models and those designed for people who clearly love a particular force a great deal – so, both ends of the spectrum are covered.
The book ends with, as always, the four page rules sheet.
If you don’t like the more outlandish aspects of Age of Sigmar, if you prefer your fantasy to be lower key, you are not going to get on with this book to say the least! Big Things happen throughout and the landscapes have a distinctly dreamlike/mythic quality to them.
If that is your sort of thing, then this book contains literally world-shaking events.
It also puts some previously visited locations into a wider context, and it brings some of the more mortal inhabitants of the Realms into focus, be they human, Greenskin, Fyreslayer, or Gargant. In short, it has a healthy dose of what a lot of people on the various forums have been asking for.
There is also an awful lot to digest, and even having read the book once, I still have not got everything ‘fixed’ in my head. It will be some time more before I can place this book in order of preference with those that have come before, but I have a feeling it is going to score very well.
Ultimately though, if you have been following the unfolding storyline of Age of Sigmar, you won’t want to miss this one.