The latest Battletome for Age of Sigmar has just come out, covering the Sylvaneth. If you have a tree fetish, you will have already picked up this book, but what does it have for normal people?
Up to now, the Sylvaneth have been offshoots of the Wood Elves from the World That Was, centred around Dryads and Treelords (with the Treekin popping their heads over the hedge from time to time). This Battletome portrays the as separate and distinct, finally emerging properly as being their own thing.
A lot of the background revolves around the struggles of Alarielle in the War of Life against the forces of Nurgle. If you have been following the Realmgate Wars campaign books, you will find much that is familiar here, from the initial clashes and the invasion of the Athelwyrd where Alarielle had been hiding, to Torglug’s pursuit of her and her subsequent replanting.
Now Alarielle is back, and kicking bottom – and the Sylvaneth are rising up with her to reclaim not only the Realm of Life but all the other Places of Sylvaneth Power throughout the realms.
The Sylvaneth, with the new models that have also arrived, are now split into four sub-sub-factions. The Forest Folk are formed of the Dryads and Branchwraiths – you can think of them as the peasants, fairly peaceful and just wanting to mind their own business, but with the War of Life in full swing they have been forced to fight.
You then get the Noble Spirits, Tree Lords and Tree-Revenants. They are the leaders and guardians of Sylvaneth wisdom and knowledge. Together, they form the Sylvaneth clans.
The Free Spirits are warlike and are the hard fist of Alatrielle herself – the Kurnoth Hunters and Spirits of Durthu (Kurnoth being the God of the Hunt, and worshipped by the Free Spirits alongside Alarielle herself).
Finally, we come to the Outcasts, Sylvaneth who have become tainted with madness and are outside their society (but will still turn up when an enemy comes along to chop down the trees).
The history of the is summarised (it would be a long, long story otherwise) from Alarielle’s first planting of the soulpods that would create the Sylvaneth in the realms, to the latest war efforts portrayed in the All-Gates campaign book, released at the same time as this Battletome.
Several clans make up a Glade, of which there are ‘at least seven’. So, still scope for you to make up your own background to a Sylvaneth force if you want to go totally left-field. At the top of all the Sylvaneth, of course, stands Alarielle.
A Wargrove, on the other hand, is a Sylvaneth army, though its size can vary – it could be a huge coalition of several clans, or just the foremost warriors of one clan. Basically, you can tweak this to fit your collection, but an example is given in the book (and, seven Treelords aside, it would not be completely awful to paint the number of models shown).
You then get the usual paint guide, which does a good enough job of showing that Sylvaneth do not have to be just brown and green. However, I also have the new Sylvaneth Painting Guide and, to be honest (given how nice the new models look) if you are looking for inspiration, you will be better off using that book – it really does not cost very much and if it improves just one unit of models, you will find yourself ahead.
The Battletome then expands on the structure of the Sylvaneth dealt with previously, concentrating on each individual unit. Of particular interest to me was how GW was going to handle Durthu – after all, he is part of the current Treelord kit and I could not imagine they would simply ignore the option in that box set. As it turns out, they are the Sons or Spirits of Durthu (the name is interchangeable), and they act not only as Alarielle’s bodyguards but also speak with her authority among other Sylvaneth.
Plus they still kick out Damage 6 with their Guardian Sword when uninjured, so you will want to get on board with their new roles!
After a photo section where all the Sylvaneth units are featured (and very pretty they are too), we come to my favourite part of the Battletomes, the Battleplans, designed to reflect either a famous battle of the chosen faction or a specific style of fighting the faction engages in.
It starts off with a new Time of War sheet for the Sylvaneth that can be used whenever they are fighting close to one of their Places of Power – that pretty much suits every Battleplan in this book.
The Sylvaneth are able to gradually awaken the land they are fighting upon, healing wounds and building Bravery as life flourishes around them, though Chaos Wizards also get a spell to slow this down.
The first battle, The Sacred Glade, pits the Sylvaneth (Forest Folk and Noble Spirits) against Rotbringers with Pestilens allies. This is portrayed as how the Sylvaneth go about reclaiming lost lands taken by Chaos. The Sylvaneth start with a small force but can add to it as they take ground and start to reawaken the glade.
Awaken the Land pits them against Ironjawz, and the Sylvaneth have the option to throw the Orruks off the scent by engaging in a feint (in the narrative, this feint is led by Drycha and her Outcasts), while the main force tries to reclaim a specific relic/artefact/place of power. If they can achieve this, then it will start to aid them – if the Sylvameth can get their general or a wizard (they won’t be short of the latter with the new units available) within 1″ of the objective, they roll a dice for each unit within 5″. On a 4 or more, an enemy unit suffers D3 mortal wounds, while a Sylvaneth unit heals D3 wounds.
However, the range is doubled every subsequent time this power is unleashed – you can obviously cover a sizeable part of the battlefield by the end of the game if you are quick enough!
Finally, The Wild Hunt shows what happens when the Sylvaneth abandon the safety of their glades and pour through a Realmgate looking for trouble, hitting the enemy where they thought they were safe. This is portrayed as a large battle with the Sylvaneth at their height and led by Alarielle, hammering the combined forces of Bloodbound and Khornate Daemons.
I like this one a lot, as it forces the Sylvaneth to play as a terrible, unstoppable steamroller, tearing as fast as they can down the table to overwhelm their enemies – this one will be bloody!
While we are at it, take a look at this picture from the battle:
If you have not seen Alarielle in the flesh (so to speak), compare her to that Bloodthirster. Ignore the beetle for a moment and the height of the total model – Alarielle herself is Big.
And probably quite scary if you like Nurgle a bit too much.
This Battletome has been hailed as one of a new breed, one that adds new rules that are compatible with the new Matched Play system presented in the General’s Handbook. Instead of having an Allegiance to Order as a whole, if you go pure-tree, you can have Allegiance to Sylvaneth, and this unlocks a new range of abilities (Battle and Command Traits, along with Artefacts of Power).
A pure Sylvaneth army will now always have at least one Wyldwood on the table, and any Sylvaneth unit can use them to ‘teleport’ into battle or use them to bounce around the battlefield. The Command Traits are worth looking at too, with your general now possibly ignoring Rend -1, or automatically healing every round.
In addition, the Spell Lores are back, with Sylvaneth getting access to the Deepwood Spell Lore – these are spells any Sylvaneth Wizard can have one of (and they can have different spells or the same spell, as you choose). Those familiar with the Lore of Life in Fantasy Battle will find things very familiar here, with old favourites such as Throne of Vines and Regrowth making an appearance (though possibly not quite as sick as they could be in the old game – I speak from experience!).
All of this works very, very well for the Sylvaneth, and I think players of other factions will go a bit dippy when their favourite force gets the same treatment!
If you are new to Age of Sigmar/collecting miniatures in general, then GW has you covered with the next two pages. This lays out a complete Wargrove that you can start building a collection towards but, more than that, it explains the process of choosing an army, its colours, characters, and inspirations. All good stuff that fits in well with the central Age of Sigmar ethos.
Finally, we come to the Warscrolls and, in this book they have been reversed, with the Battalions coming first.
In common with recent Battletomes, there are few here that would seem daunting to someone actually looking to paint up the models required to use them.
The Free Spirits, for example, use a Son of Durthu and three units of Kurnoth Hunters – with their weapon options, you would probably do that without thinking, to be honest.
Better than that, if you picked up the Forest Spirit Host Box Set last year to get started on the Sylvaneth, you already have all the models you need for the Forest Folk (a Branchwraith leading three units of Dryads that can bounce all around the table – I can see this one getting used a lot), and possibly Lords of the Clan (if you made two of your Treelords into Ancients, which you probably didn’t, but still…).
And for the crazy collector, we still have a ‘mega’ battalion that combines all of the previous ones (you will need a lot of Dryads for this, as it needs three Forest Folk Battalions!). Will likely never be used by most gamers, but it is there if you want it and does not interfere with the other, smaller ones.
Then we come to something completely new – seven Wargrove Battalions, Warscroll Battalions that have compositions and special rules that reflect the nature of the glades covered earlier. What is interesting here is that some of these contain non-Sylvaneth units, thus encouraging even die-hard tree players to leave their comfort zones, however briefly. For example, the Gnarlroot Wargrove can take an Wizard of Order, while the Ironbark Wargrove can have units of Duardin.
I am not sure how often these will get used, but I certainly like having the option to make each Sylvaneth army a bit different. It is not hard to see how Battalions like this could be used to reflect the differences between different Stormhosts or Lodges…
There is also a narrative-based Warscroll called Guardians of Alarielle that represents the combined Stormcast and Sylvaneth refugees as they fled Torglug in Balance of Power. I found this a nice idea but, to be honest, if you are following that narrative you will already have seen the Battalions that the Balance of Power book featured for these battles, and I would say they were done better (you have a little more options with those, as this one basically combines them into one Warscroll).
Finally, we have a negative point to make – every Battletome thus far has featured the main Warscrolls of the force with pretty photographs of the relevant models, but look at this… just plain text crammed in, even for Alarielle. After the stunning visuals used throughout this book, this is… not so good, GW. Especially as the same Warscrolls are in All-Gates and are much more attractive.
If you have come this far in the review, you will know if you are after this book or not (if you are the slightest bit interested in the Sylvaneth, the answer is going to be yes). However, I will leave long term Sylvaneth/Wood Aelf players with two following notes:
- As with All-Gates, the Sylvaneth Wyldwood has a revised Warscroll, and now features 1-3 Citadel Woods rather than a set two.
- Treekin are no longer a thing, their role being very much taken by the Kurnoth Hunters. However, not all trees are the same, and their ‘legacy’ Warscroll is still about, meaning you can supplement your Sylvaneth with classic Treekin as much as you like!