The Death faction receives its first real Battletome this weekend, covering the ghoulish Flesh-eater Courts. Luckily, I managed to snag an early copy this week and have been paging through it.
Starting to page through it, your eyes are first drawn to the artwork. As we have come to expect from Age of Sigmar, this averages in at a very high level of quality, as this piece demonstrates.
The basic idea behind the Flesh-eater Courts is that you have a ghoulish vampire who thinks himself a great king. His followers are not actually undead (a welcome return for ghouls to be hideous mortals, rather than dead things), but are instead wildly delusional cannibals – they truly think they are noble Knights, squires, peasant soldiers, and so forth. When they drink the king’s blood, they actually think that are having wine from his table.
This, incidentally, is the reason no one wears any armour in this force – they think they already have it on…
So, everyone, from the king to the lowest Ghoul, is utterly mad, and they think they are defending their great kingdom when, in fact, they are sucking the marrow from your bones.
Nagash remains the god of the Flesh-eater Courts, though their views on him are divided – some worship the Great Necromancer, others are fearful and view him as a destroyer…
As with all other faction in Age of Sigmar, the background section of the book goes on to describe how the courts are actually organised, from the Ghoul King and his Royal Family, down to the lowly Ghouls – these organisations are all drawn from the Battalion Warscrolls at the back of the book, making it an easy job to ‘fill in the gaps’.
We are then treated to an exploration of each component of the court – in other words, each unit in the game.
We have seen most of these before and, even though they are now ‘alive’, a Ghoul remains a Ghoul. However, there are two new units (though they are based on existing kits).
First up are the Courtiers, which come in Crypt Ghast, Haunter, Infernal and Varghulf flavours. These are the ‘nobles’ of the court, either fighting at their king’s side or leading his forces when he is not present. The Varghulfs are the highest ranking members of the court below the king himself, and most likely to be ‘generals’ when he is not about.
Then there are the Crypt Flayers, basically Crypt Horrors with Vargheist wings. These are the airborne scouts of the court, sniffing their way to new hunting grounds – though, in their minds, they are actually more akin to Stormcast Prosecutors…
The ‘hobby’ section follows. While it has plenty of pretty pictures of ghoulish minis, there are relatively few ideas for paint schemes (take your pick of pale white or pale green skin). For the artistically challenged, such as myself, this is a shame, though I am guessing we will see a painting guide soon enough in one of the campaign books (we didn’t even get one in White Dwarf upon the launch of this force…).
Following the normal format for Battletomes, we next come to my favourite part of these books – the Battleplans. I like these sections as a) Battleplans drive Age of Sigmar, so new ones are always welcome, b) they are a great way to showcase a new force, and c) there are always little titbits of background lore that are worth reading.
The first was previewed in White Dwarf, and is Stirring the Nest, pitting the Stormcasts against a Flesh-eater Court. The Stormcasts have wandered into what looks like deserted territory but, before they can properly react, ghouls start springing from every nook and cranny, and the Stormcasts have to fight their way free! A simple enough Battleplan with few extra rules, but it will create a nice dynamic as fights break out all across the table.
On the Hunt pits a Flesh-eater Court against the Bloodbound – or, rather, Slaves to Darkness with a distinct Khornate leaning (so, more War Shrines and Chaos Knights, less Wrathmongers and Khorgoraths). In this one, the ghouls are weakened by hunger, but they soon get going when they start to feast on enemy units! This is balanced by them being able to recycle units as new forces catch the scent of flesh and dive into the battle.
Finally, there is Two Became Three, a three-way battle (for three players, natch) that kicks off with Fyreslayers fighting Skaven – and then the ghouls appear to eat both! The fight continues until one player has been wiped out and then victory is decided by the losses sustained by the survivors.
We have seen some pretty wild and wacky Battleplans for Age of Sigmar lately, and while these three are not in that category, they are perfectly serviceable and should lead to some different and interesting fights – which, of course, is exactly what a Battleplan should do.
Finally, we get to the Warscrolls. These feature all the units you have seen before, and add the Courtiers and Crypt Flayers (the latter having a nice Battle Cry ability that dishes out mortal wounds in the shooting phase – it is going to be punishing to any Hero with a low Bravery…).
The Battalion Warscrolls allow you to build up your Flesh-eater Court as detailed earlier in the book and, in keeping with recent Battletomes, most of these are ‘doable’ for the average collector – there is nothing that needs what might be seen as an excessive number of models (whatever that means, he said, looking at his Age of Sigmar collection…).
Royal Family: A Ghoul King on a Terrorgheist or Zombie Dragon, leading 2-6 more Ghoul Kings. If you are buying up Zombie Dragins and Terrorgheists for the Menagerie below, you will easily get this one together – otherwise, eBay will be your friend.
Attendants at Court: A Crypt Haunter Courtier and 2 units of Crypt Horrors. A minimum of 7 models in total, easy to collect and they double the Command Abilities your Ghoul King can dish out if they are close.
Deadwatch: 1 Crypt Infernal Couritier and 3 units of Crypt Flayers. A little more involved, but still not a biggie, and you get to pile in during the hero phase.
Abattoir: 1 Crypt Haunter Courtier (seeing a trend here?), 2 units of Crypt Horrors and 1 unit of Crypt Ghouls. These are good monster hunters and dish out mortal wounds to close by units.
Ghoul Patrol: 1 Crypt Ghast Courtier, and 3 units of Ghouls. Three box sets will sort you on this one, and make for a good starting Flesh-eater Court force. The nice thing with these guys is that every hero phase, every unit adds d6 Ghouls to its ranks.
King’s Ghouls: As above, but swap a unit of Ghouls for a unit of Crypt Horrors.
Royal Mordants: 1 unit each of Ghouls, Flayers and Horrors, led by a Varghulf, gets a nice bonus that makes them very mobile and will keep your opponent on his toes.
Royal Menagerie: The big guys, three Zombie Dragons or Terrorgheists that get boosted healing.
Finally, as with other Battletomes, there is the Flesh-eater Court that combines the other Battalions into a large army.
Overall, while this Battletome is not in the same class as Ironjawz or Pestilens (to my mind, the best Battletomes released this far), I would call Flesh-eater Courts ‘decidedly solid’.
If undead are your thing, you are probably going to pick this up anyway and if you like the idea of delusional cannibals who think they are noble knights, you definitely will. For everyone else… well, it is a solid book, and there really is not anything wrong with it. I would not call it remarkable, but coming after Ironjawz was always going to be a tough act to follow.
Certainly worth a look, if nothing else.