The latest book(let) for Age of Sigmar has just arrived, covering skirmish/warband level battles in the Mortal Realms (specifically, the Realm of Death). I have a feeling this book and whole style of play is going to get overshadowed by the new 40k which starts popping up next week, but I will forge ahead with a review regardless!
First things first. This is not Mordheim, nor even an Age of Sigmar version of Necromunda. So, get that out of your head.
What this book is, is a £6 way of playing with Age of Sigmar models in a different manner.
So, is it any good?
Well, things kick off with a four page overview of the Mortal Realms and what has been happening in them up to date – nothing you have not already seen if you have bought an Age of Sigmar book, and it may seem a little odd, given the Age of Sigmar rules (which are fully used in Skirmish) are not included. Then again, they are still available for free download, so someone could conceivably to this book ‘raw’.
We then crack on with the setting for Skirmish (no reason you cannot skirmish in any region of the Mortal Realms, but this is the default provided with the book). This is Shadespire, a ruined city deep in the Realm of Death. Once great, the rulers (the Katophranes) managed to honk Nagash off by crafting items from Shadeglass, which gave them ability to live beyond their mortal bodies.
And Nagash is never going to be down with that.
The end result is that the city has been purged of its original inhabitants and the ruins are gradually getting swamped by the surrounding (and frankly lethal) desert. However, there are great treasures lying around (albeit guarded with some vicious traps), so it is worth the while of every power, from the lowliest tribe of Grots to the Stormcast Eternals, to brave the desert, accept the casualties it deals out, and get to the city where they will have to fight off other warbands looking for goodies themselves.
The hook (as far as the wider realms are concerned) is that the treasures found in Shadespire could have a major effect on the wars elsewhere.
So, what about the rules?
You play Skirmish pretty much the same way as you do Age of Sigmar. In fact, the rules changes (tweaks would be a better word) can be more or less summarised as:
- Every model is its own unit and does not have to stay within 1″ of its friends.
- Yiou need a General, and he must be a Hero.
- Inspiring Presence is not allowed, but all other command abilities are.
- When a warband as a whole takes casualties, a single Battleshock test is taken for everyone, using the general’s Bravery.
- No summoning, adding of models, or anything that even remotely smells like either. So no, Flesh-Eater Courts will not be constantly revitalising units.
- The Three Rules of One are in effect.
And that really is about it.
Grand Allegiance abilities can be used, not faction specific ones, though there are new command abilities and artefacts of power unique to Skirmish as well. There is also a new Mysterious Terrain table to reflect the terrain of Shadespire.
There are campaign rules and, in fact, a complete 6-part campaign of linked Battleplans that tells the story of a couple of warbands entering Shadespire in an effort to locate a great artefact. However, you can use just about any Battleplan yet published for Age of Sigmar with little or no extra effort.
Warbands are built with Renown points (25 is the recommended start), and more Renown points are acquired throughout the campaign (you earn 6 for losing, for example, and 10 for a major victory. After each battle, you also get to roll on the Rewards of Battle table (victors effectively get to roll twice), which grants you more Renown, magic items, or relics that allow Wizards to learn new spells (such as Soul Siphon, which dishes out a mortal wound while healing the caster).
Tournament rules (Matched Play) are also included – warbands are bumped up to 50 Renown (a suggestion is made to escalate the number of Renown used throughout a day of play), Battleplans are a little more regulated, and there is a scoring system.
Other than that, Matched Play is the same as the campaign, and any Age of Sigmar player will get to grips with both very quickly.
There are six Battleplans dedicated to Skirmish; Clash at Dawn, Treasure Hunt, Fragile Cargo, Vortex of Power, Assassinate, and Seize the Relic. These are the Battleplans assembled into the ‘default’ campaign (come back here soon for a full campaign report!) though, as mentioned earlier, you can use any Battleplans to create your own unique campaign.
Finally, we get to the warband lists…
It was kinda hinted in the run up to this book’s release that you would be able to use almost any Age of Sigmar model as they do, of course, use the same Warscrolls. The great behemoths and war engines would be taken out, of course, and we could all accept that. However, looking through the lists, there are some odd omissions.
For example, if you are a dedicated Wood Elf or Dwarf player, you will find yourself well covered here with decent lists for the Dispossessed and Wanderers. However, if you are a Beastclaw Raiders player, you may be glad to see the Mournfang Riders… but no Icebrow Hunter (who might have fitted in quite well) or Frost Sabres. For the Seraphon, you might well be be able to get past the fact that there is no Slann Starmaster – but there is no Skink Priest either (you get the Starpriest or Oldblood as a choice of general).
A further complication (and this will not be a factor for Matched Play) is that 25 Renown points are suggested to begin a campaign. However, a Megaboss costs 28 points. An Oldblood is 24 points.
You are going to be starting your campaign with minor leaders – which is fair enough, but someone is going to be trying to save points for a Big Bad on their side. So, what, the Megaboss got lost in the desert, and has now turned up to find the Warchanter has been leading the warband and is now the general?
Not a massive mis-step, more of an oddity.
Overall, I am looking to get my teeth into this. Games are going to be fast and furious, and getting through the entire campaign in a single day will be no great effort. The chances are you already have a complete warband in your collection and, for £6… well, I cannot see any reason for anyone not to give this a whirl.