Age of Sigmar Battletome Review: Kharadron Overlords

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Arkanaut Frigate & Company

Kharadron Overlords were one of the first Age of Sigmar factions to receive a battletome, and a lot of the faction’s design was a test-run of sorts for themes that would later be prevalent in later battle-tomes – including customisable allegiance abilities and sub-factions. Unfortunately, one of the side effects of this is that the faction felt somewhat unpolished and underpowered compared to those that came afterwards. The Duardins’ iconic Skyvessels were largely ignored as they were expensive and fragile, and their function as a transport was somewhat lacklustre as passengers were unable to fire from inside them, severely limiting their usefulness. The faction did have some powerful tricks, like the Aether-Khemist’s powerful attack buff and Endrinriggers being efficient beaters for their cost, but it was easy to see that fans of the faction were left uninspired by their choices.

I’m pleased to report that Kharadron Overlords (along with their rivals in the Aether-war boxset the Arcanites of Tzeentch) have received considerable attention as part of their new updated battletome, which Games Workshop have been kind enough to send us a preview copy of! There are some head-scratchers in this book, but a significant number of units received a boost and they now seem well positioned to play the objective game on the tabletop.

A small note before we proceed – in line with our recent changes to the reviews process, I won’t be going over things comprehensively in this review, merely going over the things I think are important and discussing what this means for the faction. Though I do not currently collect this faction, I will be building an army myself and hope to follow up this review with a further analysis piece a little further down the line with more of a deep dive into the faction. This review is also written with the assumption you are familiar with Kharadron Overlords as they existed from their original battletome, so some information may be lost on newcomers to the faction.

The Big Changes

Aether-Gold

Aether-Gold has already been outlined in the Warhammer Community preview article – each hero, skyvessel, or unit of 10+ models in your army starts with a share of aether-gold, which allows one unit per phase to get a one-time “triumph” effect. Kharadron Overlords previously had limited access to re-rolls, but that changes now – access to triumphs for heroes, skyvessels and large units is great when you consider the versatility you have. Reroll hits or wounds for a phase, reroll saves when said unit is exposed and in danger, or use a command ability without needing a command point. Several mechanics within this battletome also allow extra shares of Aether-gold to be doled out amongst your units, and while it’s not exactly an exciting allegiance ability it’s certainly a much-appreciated boost across the board for this faction, and it’s seemingly come at no real cost.

Gundstok Gunhauler

Gundstok Gunhauler. Credit: Tiger Millionaire

Skyvessels got better

The iconic Kharadron skyvessels have received significant improvements, as units contained within can now fire from a position of strength, receiving the benefit of cover (+1 save) and being harder to hit (-1) whilst riding Ironclads or Frigates. In addition, the main guns of these vessels saw widespread improvements to range, chance to hit (3+ for cannons) and in some cases damage – the Arkanaut Ironclad’s main gun is now flat 6 damage! The Sky Cannon in all its varieties now has access to a ‘shrapnel’ option, which allows you to trade the one big shot for d6 weaker shots, useful in a pinch. Duardin worldwide will also be pleased to hear they have received an improved armour save – an Ironclad is 3+, while the Frigate and Gunhauler are both 4+. As mentioned in the Community preview article they can also ‘fly-high’ to escape danger or re-position, and I’ve not even got into the minor changes these ships received. This has come with a trade-off as all three varieties of sky-vessel are now more expensive, but I would be shocked if they didn’t see a ton of play as a result of these changes.

More battleline options

No longer are you shackled to units of Arkanaut Company! Through various means you can now unlock alternative options.

UnitNote
Arkanaut CompanyAlways
Arkanaut FrigateBattleline if Barak-Zilfin
EndrinriggersBattleline if general is Endrinmaster with Dirigible Suit
SkywardensBattleline if general is Endrinmaster with Dirigible Suit
Grundstok GunhaulerBattleline if Barak-Urbaz
Grundstok ThunderersBattleline if Barak-Nar

Not being necessarily tied to Arkanaut Company is going to be huge for this faction, because suddenly all airborne armies or skyvessel spam is much more achievable in the right builds.

Many more options for Command Traits and Artifacts

Each hero type now has their own tables to choose from, and even Skyvessels get individual tables to choose from depending on their warscroll. While I would be remiss to say they’re all great, more options is always a good thing and there’s likely to be some depth to your choices going forward.

Nerf to existing combos

The Aether Khemist lost its +1 attack buff, meaning Endrinriggers and Light-skyhook spam is not as powerful as it once was. In addition, much like Grundstok Thunderers and Stormvermin before them, Arkanaut Company are now limited in weapon options to what comes in a box – e.g. one in every ten models can take a Light-Skyhook (rather than three in ten as previously). Astute players probably expected this change due to what has happened to similar units in the past, but the nerf to the Aether Khemist will be felt.

 

Other Changes

Arkanaut Admiral

Arkanaut Admiral. Credit: Tiger Millionaire

Allegiance Abilities

  • Sky-Ports: Sky-ports are back and have been refined to take into account to revisions since sub-factions were first added to the game. Sky-ports remain optional, but they no longer tweak what you can take as part of Battalions, and relics / command traits are now not just included as part of the sky-port, but required to be taken if applicable, rather than optional as they were before.
  • Aether-Gold: As discussed above, this new addition to Kharadron Overlords gives heroes, skyvessels and Kharadron Overlords units of 10 or more models a one-use share of Aether-Gold. Once per phase, a unit can spend their share of Aether-Gold to gain the benefit of a triumph. There are several ways to dole out extra Aether-Gold shares to units and gnerate Aether-Gold over the course of the game and it adds up to a nice boost, most likely used for alpha-striking with Skyvessels or attempts to assassinate support characters.
  • Stick to the Code: The “custom sub-faction” rule makes a welcome return with the same core system of Artycles, Amendments and Footnotes. However there are significantly fewer choices now (3 each) and put simply there isn’t a tremendous amount of reason to build your own Sky-Port because none of the options are terribly exciting. In reality, you’re probably skipping a Sky-port only to have free reign to choose your own relic and/or command trait, not because there’s powerful combinations in designing your own Code.
  • Command Traits: One of the big changes in this battletome is that each type of Hero (Admiral, Aether-Khemist, Endrinmaster & Aetheric-Navigator) now gets their own command trait table to pick from. There are 6 to choose from for each hero, and there’s some interesting choices here.  All heroes have access to the Wealthy command trait, which allows the hero to start with 2 shares of aether-gold rather than 1. Significantly more interesting is the Cunning Fleetmaster trait, an option for the Arkanaut Admiral that allows a pre-game normal move for 1 friendly skyvessel (it can even fly high if it isn’t an Arkanaut Ironclad) after set-up but before the first battle round. Grudgebearer is available for Admirals, Endrinmasters and Aether-Khemists and allows you to pick an enemy hero after army setup: double the damage inflicted by weapons used by said general that target that hero. While you won’t use this on an Aether-Khemist as they kinda suck as a combat hero, the new Endrinmaster in Dirigible Suit can kick some serious ass if you want to send him out on a mission to shoot the shit out of a problematic hero. Finally, if you opt to take an Aetheric Navigator as your general you can give him the Diviner trait, which has been improved and now provides battleshock immunity for units wholly within 12″ of the terrain feature you choose, rather than simply units in or on it.
  • Artefacts of Power: As with Command Traits, each hero type gets their own list to choose from. I’ll admit there’s some really cool options in here, with the Aetheric Navigator in particular having some fun and useful options. The Svaregg-Stein ‘Illuminator’ Flarepistol upgrades the Ranging Pistol, meaning the first time in a battle it scores a hit on an enemy unit, you can re-roll hit rolls for attacks made by other friendly KO units that target that enemy units in the same phase. Alternatively, you can give him the Voidstone Orb, which is a one-use artifact that allows the automatic dispelling or unbinding of a spell/endless spell without needing to roll. An Aether-Khemist can take Spell in a Bottle, which allows you to take an endless spell (ignoring all restrictions, provided you pay the points) and automatically cast it without possibility of it being unbound – you cannot recast it if it’s subsequently dismissed, but giving the skyfarers access to things like the Everblaze Comet and Soulsnare Shackles is quite exciting and I can see some value being mined here. Consider taking a battalion to get an extra, there’s plenty good here. Arkanaut Admirals can take the Rune of Mark, a particularly fun and thematic relic that allows you to pick an enemy hero after army setup, if you manage to slay that hero during the course of the game, you can give 1 share of aether-gold to each of the 3 closest friendly Kharadron Overlord units to said hero when it dies – to the victor go the spoils! One last relic because there’s tons of fun stuff to cover here, Endrinmasters in Dirigible Suits can opt to take Phosphorite Bomblets, an artefact of power that is potentially completely devastating. Once per battle in your shooting phase, you can pick 1 unit within 6″ of the Endrinmasters and roll a dice. On a 2+, that unit suffers 1 mortal wound and you may roll again, repeating the process until either the unit is slain or you roll a 1. Suffice to say, this is a very strong option on our new hero that I would be hard pressed not to take because it is potentially capable of killing any unit in the game provided you roll well enough.

Sky-Ports (Notable Changes)

Barak-Nar, City of the First Sunrise: The poster child sky-port is now a little less all-in on anti magic, gaining the ability to generate extra command points for each Barak-nar hero at a 50% success rate at the beginning of the first battle round. In return, they’ve lost the ability to double up on unbind attempts. They also unlock Thunderers as battleline which is pretty cool as Thunderers themselves received a buff not mentioned in the Community Preview – they gained a wound!

Barak-Zilfin, the Windswept City: Frigates are now battleline for this sky-port, and their previous buffs are now Skyvessel only rather than everything. They’ve lost the 6++ shrug on mortal wounds but gained an extra Great Endrinwork. There’s some other changes here but the quick verdict is you’re going to be taking this city because you want to go heavy on Skyvessels which is a great deal more compelling now.

Barak-Zon, City of the Sun: Previously covered in the Community Preview, this sky-port is quite compelling largely because in addition to the nice buff to melee capability, they’ve seen a few other improvements. ‘Honour is Everything’ now allows re-rolls of 1 for both hits and wounds for Heroes against enemy Heroes or Monsters, a nice buff considering the new Endrinmaster in Dirigible Suit is pretty mean when you give him the Barak-Zon required relic, the Aethersped Hammer – said Hammer grants 2 extra attacks to one of the bearer’s melee weapons.

Barak-Urbaz, the Market City: Gained Gunhaulers as battleline, which I think is secretly very powerful as the new and improved Gunhauler packs a fair amount of ranged punch in a cheap frame. There is however a trade-off as the Aether-Khemist buff now is a command trait that buffs the general, rather than a baseline buff to all Aether-Khemists. They also start with D3 extra shares of Aether-Gold to divvy out and don’t take a Bravery penalty for using Aether-Gold.

Barak-Mhornar, the City of Shadow: Their footnote saw a change – it’s now been changed to a once per battle fight at the beginning of the combat phase for a unit, rather than the awkward charge or pile in an attack during the hero phase. Fearsome Raiders is now straight -1 bravery for enemy units within 6″ to bring it in line with modern bravery mechanics. I do have some bad news though friends, as Opportunistic Privateers as it existed before is gone – it now grants the ability to pick up the Skyvessel the General is garrisoned in and deep strike it immediately (said Skyvessel cannot move in the first battle round and models garrisoned inside cannot disembark).

Barak-Thryng, City of the Ancestors: I won’t touch on these guys too much as they were covered in the Community Preview, but there are some other things in here worth noting. Their Grudge Mechanic is now just re-roll hit rolls of 1 rather than hits and wounds, but interestingly it does effect your Duardin drafted in from across the realms, meaning you could take a Fyreslayer on a Magmadroth and gain re-rolls for said Magmadroth’s attacks against those three units, potentially useful in allowing you to fish for Mortal Wounds. Honour the Gods, Just in Case now is a once per battle buff to a unit in the shooting or combat phase, allowing unmodified hit rolls of 6 for attacks made by that unit to score 2 hits rather than 1 which is a pretty nice little trick.

Warscroll Battalions

Grand Armada: This is the mega battalion, and it’s seen several nerfs, losing the hero phase movement ability and its Constitutional Experts ability simply allows a second use of a footnote, rather than once every battle round. You’ll never run this battalion anyway so not a big deal.

Iron Sky Command: The Trusted Bodyguard ability is now part of the admiral’s Warscroll and is gone from this battalion. What’s here now is the ability to ignore  battleshock tests if units are wholly within 18″ of the Arkanaut Ironclad in the battalion – useful if you want to skip an Admiral altogether, though interestingly you can now optionally add an Admiral or Brokk to this battalion.

Iron Sky Attack Squadron: Lost Opening Salvo (booooo!) and Bold Privateers has been changed to now allow the Arkanaut Company units garrisoned inside the Frigates to leave before or after the Frigate itself has moved, and said Companies roll 3d6 rather than 2d6 when making charges on the same turn they disembarked. The fact remains that Arkanaut Company units aren’t exactly combat monsters, and I’m not sure there’s going to be many game situations where you want to push your dwarfs into melee combat as soon as possible.

Grundstok Escort Wing: The organisation has been tweaked a little (only 1 Thunderer unit, Gunhaulers can be 2-3, an Ironclad can be swapped in for the Frigate) and the Focused Fire ability now grants re-rolls to hit of 1 against a chosen enemy unit declared at the beginning of the shooting phase, rather than simply adding 1 to hit rolls. In a faction that’s got precious few ways to provide re-rolls this is an interesting option as typically there’s going to be one big bad unit you want to delete a turn anyway.

Aetherstrike Force: It’s gone. RIP.

 

Warscrolls (Notable Changes)

We already touched on some of the big stuff like the Skyvessel changes, but I want to look at some other notable things adjusted in this Battletome.

A quick note on flying infantry: Brokk, the Endrinmaster in Dirigible Suit and Skywardens/Endrinriggers can no longer ride inside Skyvessels, and instead have a new rule, Hitcher. If the model or unit is wholly within 6″ of a friendly Skyvessel when it uses its Fly High ability, it can now hitch a ride instead of making a normal move (provided it has not already made a normal move in the same phase). You put down the unit after the Skyvessel has been moved, and it must remain within 6″ of the Skyvessel, more than 1″ from any terrain features or objectives and more than 9″ away from enemy models. No more than 7 models can hitch a lift from the same vessel in the same turn. I think this is an interesting rule that will encourage you to keep your flying dwarves near your Skyvessels, and this serves as a good way of bailing the unit out of combat if things look like they’re turning ugly.

Arkanaut Company: In addition to losing the ability to stack up their special weapon options mentioned earlier, they have also not only gotten cheaper (90 points) but now have a 4+ save! I think a more balanced approach of one of each special weapon and planting them on objectives is probably the best bet for these humble Duardin. The expanded battleline options also means you can completely skip over these guys if you want to, though their improved efficiency certainly makes a strong case for their inclusion.

Brokk Grungsson: Gained a point of rend on his Grungsson’s Boast weapon and doubled the number of shots from The Magnate’s Charter. The Endrinharness now no longer causes flat 3 damage, and instead causes D3 mortal wounds for hit rolls of 6 with his Aethermatic Saw (attack sequence ends). He’s still 240 points and is a pretty nice combat character, so still worth a look though he’s a little less mean in melee combat now due to the change to the Endrinharness special rule.

Aether-Khemist: I bet you’re wondering what they gave the Khemist in return for the significant nerf I mentioned earlier. Khemists are now 90 points and their Autheric Augmentation now grants re-roll wound rolls of 1 for attacks made by that unit until your next hero phase. Can’t be used while inside a garrison or on a unit inside a garrison either. Atmospheric Isolation now causes enemy units to subtract 1 from hit rolls for attacks made by enemy models while they are within 3″ of the Khemist which is fine I guess? This unit is no longer the auto-take it once was but it’s still relevant, especially because some of the artefacts you can give it are quite nice.

Grundstok Thunderers: In addition to what’s been covered in the Community Preview, they also gained a wound each which is huge in terms of survivability. Decksweepers and Aetheric Fumigators are now fixed shots (4 and 3 respectively) and their weird pile of special rules for the Decksweeper, Aethercannon and Grundstok Mortar have been consolidated down into one rule. If you have at least one of each in your unit, add 1 to hit rolls for each attack made by those weapons (doesn’t work inside a Garrison though). They’re now more expensive (120 points) but overall I think they’re a much stronger option as they’re effectively twice as tough and just as killy.

Endrinrigger

Endrinrigger. Credit: Richyp

Endrinriggers & Skywardens: First let’s talk about their special weapons. Grapnel Launchers now disable enemy unit retreats if within 3″ of the model armed with the Grapnel Launcher and they now have the same ranged profile as a Skyhook! Said Skyhooks now add 1 to charge rolls for the unit if you have one rather than their original rule. Drill launchers saw a nerf and are now D3 damage with 6s to hit causing 3 mortal wounds instead.

Endrinriggers got slightly cheaper and their repair ability has been changed – you pick an Skyvessel within 1″ and now roll a dice for each model on the unit, each 4+ heals a wound on the Skyvessel. This means on average you’re going to be healing more from each unit, and the Endrinmaster’s new command ability allows you to re-roll any of the failed dice.

Skywardens now have double the number of shots from their pistols which is a welcome buff to their ranged potency to bring them in line with Endrinriggers. Another nice change has been made to Timed charges, you simply roll a dice for each unit within 3″ when the unit retreats and on a 4+ you may deal D3 mortal wounds to that unit.

Thundrik's Profiteers

Thundrik’s Profiteers. Credit: Raf Cordero

Final Thoughts

Overall I think that players will be very pleased with many of the changes made to Kharadron Overlords, and they seem well suited to playing the objective game in a way that few other factions can match. The ability for Skyvessels to pick themselves up and deep strike over and over again is great for the purposes of board control, and opponents may regret spreading out their forces to screen the board to prevent this, as this gives players ample opportunity to isolate and pick off threats as necessary.

A consequence of Skyvessels getting better but more expensive is that we will likely see fewer heroes in Kharadron Overlords forces to make up for the shortfall. While this is somewhat a pity as I love Herohammer, the reality is there aren’t that many compelling command abilities in this book that would encourage you to take a top heavy approach. One big boost in terms of heroes is the new Endrinmaster in Dirigible Suit, which is a great addition to the faction as it excels both in a support role as well as assisting with alpha strikes.

I think the two main requests Kharadron Overlords players had have been granted – there’s now a compelling reason for Skyvessels to exist, and players have many more battleline options to diversify the way they approach list building. These two things have come at the price of losing a few popular options before – skyhook spam and the Aether Khemist’s ability – but overall, I think the updated version will give Kharadron players more interesting armies to play which use more of the faction’s iconic units.

Huge thanks to Games Workshop for sending us a book to review, and if you have any comments or feedback then let us know in the comments, via email at contact@goonhammer.com or via our Facebook page.

 

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