Review – Battletome: Kharadron Overlords

Okay, we have a big one today… The new Battletome covering the Kharadron Overlords has arrived, on the back of a new miniatures line that has got a great many people taking another look at Age of Sigmar. This book has all the makings of being the best Battletome so far. So, does it live up to the hype?

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If you have been spending your time under a rock of late, you will not know that the Kharadron Overlords are a new race of Dwarfs (Duardin) that have been added to Age of Sigmar. They spend their time floating in clouds and sky cities, have some seriously advanced technology for a fantasy setting… oh, and they have flying ships, three versions of which Games Workshop have done miniatures for.

They made quite an impact when they were first revealed.

This is the book that properly introduces them to the game and, to begin with, just deal with this artwork for a moment…

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And this…

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Those are just on the first few pages, and there is much, much, much more throughout the book. GW have really spared no expense on making this book pretty and introducing the Kharadron Overlords as a new power in the game.

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Though they are Duardin, and we all know what a Dwarf is, there is a lot of new ground to cover as they are very different to what has come before. Still Warhammer Dwarfs you understand, but with a huge dollop of X factor that will separate them from your Pappy’s Dwarfs, if you take my meaning.

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In a nutshell, the Kharadron Overlords break down like this:

The Duardin were getting smacked around during the Age of Chaos. Some, like the Fyreslayers, doubled down and fortified their holds, with mixed results. The Kharadron Overlords already had ‘sky ship’ technology, and they escaped upwards, living in Sky-ports that were effectively cloaked even from the gods. When Sigmar’s forces returned to give Chaos a right smacking, the Overlords watched and, at the end of the Realmgate Wars when it was clear that the Stormcasts were making progress, they decided it was time to return. After all, there was money to be made.

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There are six main Sky-ports (which effectively create six main armies for the Overlords, though there is plenty of room for you to make your own minor Sky-port), and all of them place the acquisition of wealth very high on their agenda. They are both militaristic and mercantile, sticking rigidly to the Code, which gives the the framework not only for their business dealings but their entire society. If it is not in the Code, it does not get done (though the Sky-port of Barak-Mhornar is none for seriously twisting the intent of the Code, and they are not best trusted).

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The Overlords are headed by the Geldraad, which is a kind of council that binds all the Sky-ports together under the Code, while each Sky-port itself is ruled by a Council of Admirals.

Beneath them, you get the Fleets (basically anything with the word Arkanaut in front of it), the Guilds (covering the Endrineers, Aether-khemists, and Aethric Navigators), and the Grundcorps – another guild, but a privately owned group of mercenaries who are hired out to various expeditions.

All of them work to locate, mine, horde and sell aether-gold, a type of gas that has many useful properties, not least enabling their ships to fly. It is called the Breath of Grugni but, unlike the Fyreslayers, there is no real religious aspect to this material – the Kharadron Overlords really are only interested in it for what it can do, and how much it is worth.

There, that is your two minute introduction to the Kharadron Overlords. There is a lot of background material for them in this book and while there are some very obvious hooks for future developments (advancing technology, other ships, etc), you are not going to be walking away from these sections feeling like you don’t know who these guys are or what they want.

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Fourteen pages have been given over to ‘atmospheric action shots’ of the miniatures range, with the Kharadron Overlords fighting a variety of enemies, and GW has really pushed the boat out on these to emphasise the flying units in this army.

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And, of course, there are plenty of pictures of stand alone pretty painted miniatures. Here is the biggest vessel the Overlords have as a miniature right now, the Ironclad. I want one.

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One brand new addition to this Battletome over the previous books is a proper modelling/painting section. It goes through each of the main Sky-ports and tells you exactly which colours to use. Granted, it uses the ‘do all basecoats, do all shading, do all layers’ method, which I do not really like (it goes against the Teachings of Duncan), but just listing all the colours will make a big difference for those of you who, like me, have definite Limits of Talent.

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There is even a guide showing you how to create scenic bases for a variety of battlefields.

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Here is something else that is new – a guide to making a (minor) conversion of one of the Heroes, the Arkanaut Admiral. Granted, it is just a (half) weapon swap, taking a standard from the Thunderers and giving the Admiral’s hammer a new head, but it is a nice enough way to make the Admiral look like he is carrying an artefact (Hammer of Aethermatic Might). A truly minor conversion, and one that will not stretch most hobbyists, but I’ll probably give it a swing in the near future.

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As always, I suspect many of you have skipped the previous parts of the review to get to this bit – the rules!

Each of the six Sky-ports has its own page of rules dedicated to it, which tells you what aspects of the Code they adhere most to, abilities certain units have, alterations they can make to the Battalion Warscrolls, and additional artefacts or command traits available to them.

For example, Barak-Zon (the guys who really like their fleets) have Heroes who re-roll hit and wound rolls of 1 against Monsters and other Heroes, have a ‘save’ against fleeing models and, once per game, can charge straight after disembarking from a Skyvessel. In addition, every unit can re-roll wound rolls of 1 after charging, and Heroes get access to the Aethersped Hammer, which lets them attack before anyone else. Finally, they can add Skywardens to their Frigate Squadrons.

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I think I will be going for Barak-Nar myself – as well as being the biggest and best of the Sky-ports, its Heroes have a sick amount of unbinding available to them (it almost seems they are built to take on Tzeentch!).

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On top of all that, you also get your normal Command Traits and Artefacts (The Kharadron Code is effectively the Battle Traits list for the Overlords). While there is a wide enough choice you won’t find any of the ‘special’ artefacts that have been popping up for the Stormcasts and Khorne, such as the banners or priestly prayers. Frankly, the Overlords will not need them.

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The next section introduces new Battleplans and here, I can report on two things.

Good News: There are five of them, enough to link into your own mini-campaign (which is exactly what I am intending to do).

Bad News: They are still not putting the old-style stories alongside these Battleplans. Please, GW, go back to the way you used to present Battleplans, it added a great deal to the background and feel of an army!

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The Kharadron Overlords get their own Path to Glory tables, of course (and I really must set up a Path to Glory campaign sometime soon), and there does not appear to be anything too worrying here. Even if a player was to go heavy on the Skyvessel table, half of the time they will be receiving the smaller Gunhaulers, and I cannot think a Kharadron force will get out of hand too quickly.

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There is another section brand new to this Battletome – four pages dedicated to theming your Kharadron force and some suggested tactics. Now, there are no grand words of wisdom here, nothing that will win every battle for you – think of it more as a further insight into the army rather than actual tactics, and you won’t be disappointed.

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However, it does have a nice write up of specific ploys to try for four of the Sky-ports – again, nothing you might not have worked out for yourself after thumbing through the rules, but it might help point you in the direction of choosing which Sky-port you are going to tackle.

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I have to confess, this was one of the first Battletomes that had me going to the Warscroll Battalions almost immediately after opening the book – I wanted to know how many ships I would likely need for a decent force!

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It is worth pointing out that all of these Battalions are all eminently doable, even if you are not Lord Moneybags. If you were to collect:

1 Ironclad
3 Frigates (this is the only requirement that might get you thinking twice)
3 Gunhaulers
3 boxes of Arkanaut Companies
1 box of Arkanaut Thunderers
2 boxes of Skywardens/Endrinriggers
1 of each Hero

You would be able to do all the main Battalions, including the combined Grand Armada. And if you already have a decent force of Stormcasts, just adding another Gunhauler and a box of Skywardens will allow you to field the Aetherstrike Force (you probably already have the Stormcast component). Speaking of which…

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There is an interesting ‘combined’ Battalion, featuring a smattering of Kharadron (just one Gunhauler and three flying infantry units) who have joined up with three retinues of Prosecutors and a Knight-Venator. The Knight-Venator can guide the rest of the Battalion to fire upon an enemy (so, that will be useless – does everyone else have the same problem with Knight-Venators as I do?), while a unit that sticks close to others can shoot faster.

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I am not going to go into a complete break down of every Warscroll for these units – you can download them for free from GW’s website and make your own judgement. However, two things become very apparent when looking through them.

  1. The Kharadron Overlords are a very characterful army that you can have a lot of fun with.
  2. They absolutely suck in close combat!

A lot is made of the Overlords mobility on the battlefield, but I am not so sure. Ironclads have a Move of just 8″, with Gunhaulers topping out at 12″, and with Saves floating around the 4-5+ area, you are going to need the high Wounds scores (the smallest ship, the Gunhauler, has 10 wounds).

It seems clear that an effective Kharadron Overlord army will be one that takes advantage of all the synergies it has – which is just what you want in Age of Sigmar. It has been said that the Overlords are not ‘competitive’ and that they will not appear in tournaments. I am not so sure. There are some really funky things you can do with this force, you just have to be more… careful, I suppose.

There do not appear to be any game-busting units or combinations which, allegedly, is what will drive tournament players away from them. However, the really good players do not generally go looking for the game-breaking stuff and can perform well with most mid to high tier armies.

So, we shall see how they do in action with the next round of tournaments! I would just not write them off just yet…

 

Warscroll Cards

As with the last two Battletomes, GW has also released Warscroll Cards for the Kharadron Overlords.

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Also as before, these come with some thick cardstock counters (decently thick, you won’t be damaging these in a hurry) as game aids.

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Regular readers will will know of my issues with the last two sets of cards, that being extremely small font sizes used for the rules text. So, have GW fixed this problem?

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No!

You can see that the font size is necessary for rules-heavy units like the Ironclad, but for the basic troops?

Now, I could understand that the font size was a simple misjudgement on the Stormcast cards, and that the Khorne and Kharadron Overlords sets were already done, dusted and sent to print before the Stormcast cards went on release and we gamers saw them.

So, I am going to give GW a little bit of a pass on these. But get your act together, guys, if the next set of cards also have this issue, I am going to have to start deducting points.

 

Conclusion

I think I would go as far to say GW have knocked the ball out of the park on this one. In fact, if only they had included the story elements behind the Battleplans, as they did on many of the early Battletomes, I would have said that this is a near perfect gaming book.

As it stands, this is a Battletome you will go back to time and again, for the background, the rules, and the modelling aspects. The Kharadron Overlords themselves are a great and worthy addition to the high/mythic fantasy of Age of Sigmar, and are going to make an impact down your local store when you start popping ships into the table.

This book gets a definite A Rating from me.

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5 Responses to “Review – Battletome: Kharadron Overlords”

  1. Vicent Says:

    Matt, what are the monikers of Barak Urbaz and Thryng? We know Mhornar is the city of shadows and Zon is the city of sun, but these other two cities?

    • altsain Says:

      Barak-Urbaz: Profit anbove all else, will twist the Code to get more if they can.
      Barak-Thryng: Traditionialists, very stubborn – actually have some Fyreslayers in their iconography…

      • Vicent Says:

        No,no, you misundertsood: I was refering to the addiitonal name. My bad, tbh, I meant the sobriquet.
        If Barak Nar is called the city of the first sunrise, what are Urbaz and Thryng called? These are the only major ports that I haven’t heard the sobriquet from.

  2. altsain Says:

    Ah, sorry…

    Barak-Urbaz: The Market City
    Barak-Thryng: City of the Ancestors


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