The Ossiarch Bonereapers were a bit of a surprise to the Age of Sigmar community. Teased with some vague trailers about a General professing his admiration of Nagash and his mission to collect a “Tithe of Bones”, people weren’t sure what to expect. Was this a new character with a new army? Or we’re they updating Legions of Nagash? The answer was closer to the former with a bit of the latter. Ossiarch Bonereapers aren’t here to replace the Legions of Nagash or Nighthaunts, but it does fill a different niche that Death hadn’t really filled just yet.
Most Death armies lean more toward numbers on the Horde-Elite spectrum. With their cheap bodies and high bravery, you tend to play Legions of Nagash or Flesh Eater Courts by using overwhelming numbers. While Legions of Nagash has some expensive and powerful characters at its disposal, not least among them the titular Nagash himself, you still tend to put a lot of work in with maxed out squads of skeletons or Chainsrasp hordes. Ossiarch Bonereapers fall very much on the opposite side of the spectrum, their units are very expensive and while bravery isn’t an issue as it’s both 10 across the army and the army ignores battleshock tests, it’s rare you’ll be able to run too many max squads. Supplementing these powerful units are some very strong characters and even your basic battleline troops have access to command abilities, further pushing the “Every unit is a HERO” mentality of the army’s design.
Most of the units in this book are new, with 3 exceptions: Nagash and Arkhan are included in the book as options, and the Morghast Archai/Harbingers (which are older Age of Sigmar models but their aesthetic that looks like they were made for the army). Indeed, these must have been used as references for the army’s design because all of their wargear makes the look like these models belonged here all along. Arkhan and Nagash’s warscrolls also saw some minor changes that still change how they’re played in some big ways:
- Both Nagash and Arkhan know all the spell lores from this book when in a Bonereapers army but Nagash no longer simply knows every Death Wizard’s spells on the field.
- Both are now allowed to cast Mystic Shield and Arcane Bolt multiple times, which is a huge buff for Nagash who would often run out of useful spells to cast when at high health.
- Both Nagash and Arkhan’s healing ability now heal OSSIARCH BONEREAPERS abilities in addition to SUMMONABLE units, and heal a flat 3 wounds instead of rolling a D3.
- Arkhan’s Curse of Years has been changed – now 1s are always failures, so you can no longer hope for one die to pick up enough steam to deal infinite mortal wounds.
- Finally, Arkhan’s command ability has been changed so it can only be used once per model. So no more 27″ Hand of Dust I’m afraid.
Does the army hold up to its ambitions? I like to discuss these things as I dissect the book so let’s dive in.
Unlike recent books, Ossiarch Bonereapers is a bit of a “back-to-the-basics” look for the army design. Rather than a few disparate factions that determine which units and abilities you have access to, the entire thing is pretty much available to you from the start. You’ll get to decide if you want to take certain sub-factions to gain extra abilities at the cost of having to use certain traits and artefacts but this is not a mandatory decision like Cities of Sigmar. First, this is what all Ossiarch Bonereaper armies have access to:
- Lords of the Ossiarch Empire: This essentially let’s you include Nagash or Arkhan in your Ossiarch Bonereaper lists. They gain the OSSIARCH BONEREAPERS keyword, but you can’t use mercenaries. This comes with a few caveats you should be aware of. Both Nagash and Arkhan received a price hikes and their warscrolls were also changed to better fit in the new army, it is also not clear if they can benefit from subfactions, the book does not directly state that they can’t, but all named characters in the book already have subfactions. As of writing we would say go for it but keep your eyeballs peeled for the errata.
- Ossiarch Bonereaper Legions: Standard subfaction rules. You can optionally pick a subfaction to gain a trait and command ability but you have to take a specific Leader trait and Artefact before you’re allowed to take anything else. If a character has a subfaction already listed on their datasheet, you may still take them even if your army isn’t of that faction. It’s unclear if you’re allowed to use the faction trait or command ability for that faction, but probably not. All named characters except for Nagash and Arkhan are already under the Mortis Praetorians, which will be detailed below, and it’s unclear if Nagash or Arkhan can join a subfaction.
- Deathless Warriors: Standard DEATH 6+ feel no pain when within 12″ of a hero. This has a bit of a twist though, it also applies within 6″ of a HEKATOS unit, which is a keyword given to all of your non battleline infantry and the sergeant models of your battleline, so you will have that feel no pain in a lot more situations than other Death armies.
- Ranks Unbroken by Dissent: This is the big one, the most army defining trait of them all. The ability to ignore battleshock tests is nice but between your 10 Bravery signature to all DEATH armies and the army’s small unit sizes you probably won’t care all that much. The big part of this feature is it turns the command point system on it’s head. You do not receive command points, not in the normal way anyway. Instead you receive Relentless Discipline points, which function like command points but they can only be used on warscroll abilities or abilities contained with the book, which essentially means ignoring the “Generic” abilities entirely. You get more of these than most armies see command points, every turn you generate 1 per hero, 1 per LIEGE (a keyword held by Katakros and the Liege-Kavalos, including his named variant, meaning you gain 2), 1 per battalion and 3 if Katakros is your general (on top of the 2 he gave you already). Finally you roll a D6 for each Bonereapers unit on the field and get another point for a 6. So you’ll be generating a lot of these. You will lose them at the end of each turn, so it encourages you not to hold back on using them. In most armies, only Heroes have command abilities, here even your infantry has them, you will have a lot of options to go around, which makes your elite troops even better. An interesting quirk of this system is because you can’t receive command points, there’s no point in setting aside an extra 50 pts for a command point, when in almost any other army it’s simply a given.
- Command Ability: Unstoppable Advance: The first of the Bonereapers Unique command abilities, this allows you to add 3″ to movement of a unit. You cannot use it on the same unit multiple times, but this is really useful since many of your infantry and foot heroes have some awful movement speeds so this gives them the extra movement they need.
I’m putting this here because Games Workshop felt the need to include a Developer’s note for the sake of clarity and to be fair it is slightly confusing. Usually, command abilities are measured 6″ from the Hero using them, it’s a bit different here. All command traits that aren’t locked to a single warscroll can be used either 12″ from a Hero, 6″ from a Mortek Hekatos (The leaders of Mortek Guard and Outriders) or has the Hekatos keyword (Most non battleline infantry). This is an upgrade because it means almost anyone can use a command trait, rather than having to rely on your Heroes. I’m including this here because otherwise the article would get redundant very quickly as I explain the different command abilities available.
Command traits here are broken up into 2 categories, LIEGE-KAVALOS, your horseback general and MORTISAN, a catchall for your wizard options, of which there are 3 not counting the named character who can’t take a trait anyway
Kavalos Commander Traits
- Ancient Knowledge: Gain 1 additional relentless discipline point per turn, in addition to the 2 you got for being a HERO and LIEGE. Solid, while the army generates a lot of points you also will be spending more, getting access to more is handy, especially if you feel you don’t have enough.
- Immortal Ruler: Feel No pain save is a 5+ instead of a 6+. The Liege Kavalos is a pretty formidable enemy, and given how powerful his command ability is, your opponent will try and kill him ASAP. A little extra insurance is a good idea.
- Dark Acolyte: Becomes a wizard, knows one spell from the discipline and can cast and unbind one spell per turn. If you don’t have many Mortisans (or Nagash or Arkhan) this isn’t bad. The bonereapers have a great spell list and being on horseback the Kavalos can get to places your Mortisans can’t.
- Peerless Warrior: Deal an additional mortal wound on a wound roll of 6. Won’t really happen often enough to not take a better command trait.
- Hatred of the Dead: Add 1 to hit rolls for melee weapons if the opponent isn’t a DEATH unit. While normally I’d recommend this, you’re already hitting on 3+s and the army has so many ways to gain bonuses to hit, I can’t see taking this over something else. It’s also wasted if your opponent is also DEATH which may not be an issue if you know who you’re fighting, but in a tournament setting, could leave you with nothing.
- Life Stealer: If any enemy models were slain by this general, regain D3 wounds. This is great, while the army has access to a lot of healing, the Kavalos will often be far from the rest of the army, either flanking or stealing objectives, so giving it some survivability on its own is great.
- Ancient Knowledge: Identical to the Kavalos version, gain 1 additional relentless discipline point.
- Immortal Ruler: Also identical to the Kavalos version.
- Dire Ultimatum: -2 Bravery to enemy units within 12″ of this general. Combined with similar traits, this can add up, though make sure to screen your general from harm, as 12″ is getting awfully close.
- Gravesand Bones: Learn an additional spell from the Bonereapers discipline. Good for versatility, just note it doesn’t give an extra cast.
- Oathbreaker Curse: Whenever your opponent gains a command point, roll a die, on a 6 they lose it. Pretty damn good, while a 6 is a risky proposition, every time it works will hurt your opponent badly, and armies that generate a lot of CP like Gloomspite Gitz will be hurt more by this.
- Soul Energy: Reroll all casting, dispelling and unbinding rolls for this general, but suffer a mortal wound. This is awesome, healing is fairly easy to come by in this army, so the wound wont hurt you, and being just about guaranteed to get a spell of or deny your opponent is well worth the risk. Don’t forget you still get Deathless Warriors so you may not even get hurt.
Whereas command traits are divided into 2 lists, artefacts are divided into four. Kavalos gets access to 6, while each (non-named) Mortisan gets 3.
- Mindblade: Pick one of the wielder’s melee weapons, on an unmodified 6 to hit a HERO your opponent loses a command point and that HERO cannot use command abilities for the rest of the battle. This is a powerful start, combined with the Mortisan Oathbreaker trait and/or Katakros’s Aviarch Spymaster you can have decent odds of stopping your opponent from ever using command abilities which will cripple most armies.
- Lordly Phylactery: Once per battle gain d3 Relentless Discipline points. Not great since its once per battle. While more Relentless discipline points is great, you can only do this once per battle and the randomness means you may just replicate the Ancient Knowledge trait but worse.
- Scroll of Command: -2 bravery within 6″, the Kavalos will want to get into melee combat often so this is pretty good, especially if you can combine it with other bravery traits. If you can’t it’s only so-so.
- Grave-Sand Boneplate: At the end of combat, roll a die for each enemy unit within 3″ of the bearer, on a 4+ deal 1 mortal wound. A decent way to chip at HERO units if they need to just lose that last point but you won’t be in many situations where it’ll pay off.
- Marrowpact: Once per battle, roll a D6, on a 3+ deal D3 mortal wounds to a target within 6″ and heal that many. Not great, there’s too many barriers to it working well, especially when Kavalos have access to much better artefacts.
- Helm of the Ordained: Add 1 to hit for all Ossiarch Bonereaper units wholly within 12″. Good stuff, I don’t think I need to explain why this is good and it rounds out the list nicely.
- Artisan’s Key: Allows you to roll a die and on a 4+ use the Boneshaper’s ability twice. For reference, the boneshaper’s ability heals 3 wounds within 6″ or resurrect a model with 3 wounds or less within a unit. You can either use it on a second unit or the same unit. This is ridiculously good and helps keep units and heroes topped off.
- Lode of Saturation: Allows you turn a different unit’s Deathless Warrior’s save to a 5+. It’s OK, but it’s such stiff (heh) competition from the other artifacts you’ll probably skip this.
- The Crafter Gems: Basically a reservoir of 3 wounds you can use to heal the Boneshaper, once they’re used up, they’re gone. A more surefire way to heal your Boneshaper without wasting your Boneshaper’s ability, or holding for a 4+ on the Artisan’s key.
- Gothizzar Cartouche: Add 1 to wound rolls for attacks made with melee weapons for units wholly within 9″. Really good, bonuses to wound rolls are tough to come by in this army.
- Soul Reservoir: +2 to casting rolls, however if the bearer rolls an unmodified 10+ the bearer loses this artefact. Basically turns your Soulmason into a mini-Arkhan and the bonus is probably worth the risk, for reference it’s a little less than 20% chance you’ll roll an unmodified 10.
- Throne of Dzendt: +2 wounds to the bearer and +2 attacks to its mount. The soulmason become a decent combat engine with this but it’s probably too risky with its 5+ save.
- Luminscythe: -1 to hit rolls for attacks to target the bearer and +1 to casting rolls when casting any of the Book’s spell lores, the unit’s warscroll spell Soul-Blast and interestingly, the Shyish exclusive Pall of Doom. Both parts of this relic are great bonuses, with no conditions attached to it.
- Vial of Binding: Once per battle, pick an enemy model within 12″ and roll a die, if the roll meets or beats the model’s wound characteristic, it is slain. Might be good for killing a weak wizard or something similar, but anything you’d want to kill quickly probably won’t work anyway.
- Guardian Reavesoul: Turns Deathless Warriors to a 5+ and in addition, once per battle you can destroy the artefact to autopass a Deathless Minions roll. The 5+ is solid and being able to give yourself a last out if your hero would otherwise be killed.
A quick note about the spells, if you include Arkhan or Nagash they know all 6 of these spells automatically, which gives them a lot of versatility. Overall this is a good discipline and just about every spell is a winner.
- Arcane Command: Casting Value 5, gain D3 Relentless Command Points. If you worry you don’t gain enough each turn, this is a good take.
- Empower Nadirite Weapons: Casting Value 5, many bonereapers units have Nadirite weapons with a rule that they deal 2 hits on an unmodifed 6. This allows you to pick a unit within 24″, and turn those exploding 6s into exploding 5s (or 4s for Deathrider’s spears, as those are already 5s on the charge). A solid buff spell as it basically works on just about every unit you have and more hits is always good.
- Protection of Nagash: Casting Value 6, gives the caster a 5+ feel no pain and if they ever take a wound, you must teleport them anywhere on the field more than 9″ from enemy units. This is an interesting one for a few reasons. First, this does not modify Deathless Warriors, meaning you now have 2 FNP saves, a 5+ and a 6+. Second, unlike similar buff spells, it does not go away in your next hero phase, it sticks around until you teleport. This is great on someone like Arkhan or a Soulmason with the Throne relic. They’re both decent combatants and you can whisk them away from harm when things get hairy.
- Reinforce Battle-Shields: Casting Value 6, basically the first half of Protection of Nagash, it can be cast on any unit within 24″ that has Nadirite shields (Which is a decent chunk of your infantry). Again the 5+ is not a modification to Deathless Warriors but its own save, which means you get 2 saves.
- Drain Vitality: Casting Value 6, Pick an enemy unit within 18″ and force them to reroll all unmodified 6s to hit and save. This seems explicitly to pick out units with exploding 6s and there’s plenty of those around to make this worth it.
- Mortal Contract: Casting Value 7, select an enemy unit within 18″ and whenever it attacks and deals wounds to your units, roll a die, on a 3+ deal D3 mortal wounds. This is a good spell and a really strange one, it never goes away once cast and works for each phase of the game, so no matter what kind of attack wounds your army, you can get your retribution. Spread this one around judicially and your opponent won’t be able to attack with anything without some payback.
These are the subfactions of Ossiarch Bonereapers. As is usual with these, they add an additional trait and command ability, but in exchange require you to take a specific command trait and relic before you’re allowed to take anything else. These are optional.
- Legion Ability: The Dread Legion – -1 Bravery to units within 12″. Not so great on its own but combine it with other leadership reducing abilities or simply stack up a bunch of minimum sized units on the enemy and it’ll pay dividends.
- Command Ability: Counter-Strike – Affected units get to reroll all hits after a charge. This would be good in just about any scenario but especially for bonereapers, most of your units hit on 3+s with some rare exceptions so this is damn near guaranteeing all your hits will get in.
- Command Trait: Katakros’ Chosen – Once per battle gain D3 Relentless Discipline points. A bit of a downer, since its once per game and you could get garbage.
- Artefact: Artificer’s Blade – Change a bearer’s melee weapon to Rend -3. Very nice, put this on a Liege-Kavalos and watch it cut through every the toughest saves.
This is a powerful legion. Essentially it makes all your units even more hardy, which makes it good for lower model count armies who need every model to last. Once they’re on a point, they will be hard to remove.
- Legion Ability: Unstoppable Juggernauts – +1 to saves for all units. Bonereapers in general have good saves compared to equivalent models from other armies, this turns your basic Mortek Guard battlelines into a 3+ with rerollablle 1s, and something like the Immortis Guard into a daunting 2+. Just excellent all around
- Command Ability: Bludgeon – Pick a unit, improve its rend by 1. Even if you can’t stack it multiple times this is still insanely good. Just like how Unstoppable Juggernauts allows you to make every model survive a little bit longer, this allows every model to get that much more hits in.
- Command Trait: Mighty Archaeossian – Add 2 to the general’s wound characteristic. Boring, but combined with the +1 save it’s hard to say it’s not appreciated.
- Artefact: Godbone Armor – Ignore the first wound allocated each phase. This is really good, especially combined with the improved save and bonus to wounds.
The legion if you want to run a lot of cavalry, everything here is tailor built to make mounted units better
- Legion Ability: Equumortoi – Units can run and charge in the same turn, although this applies to all units it definitely is meant to appeal most to cavalry. Combine it with the Unstoppable Advance ability all ossiarch get and there’s nowhere you can’t reach.
- Command Ability: Rally Back – Applies only to models with a mount, allows them to fall back and charge in the same turn. This is mostly meant to combo with the deathriders who can deal mortal wounds on the charge, and who’s nandrite spears explode on 5s instead of 6s on the charge.
- Command Trait: Twisted Challenge – At the beginning of a combat phase, choose an enemy HERO within 3″, your general gets +1 to hit against that Hero, but -1 to hit anything else. Makes them a good Hero killer, be sure to equip them for the job.
- Artefact: Nadir-Bound Mount – Adds D3 dice to the Kavalos’s Unstoppable Charge ability, which for reference lets you roll a die for each number you rolled on a die when you made the charge. For each 6, deal a mortal wound. This is OK, but kind of underwhelming given how finicky it can be.
Ivory host is an interesting legion that doesn’t play toward any particular units. Instead it encourages a very aggressive playstyle as everything encourages you to charge into the fight with little self regard for your army’s safety.
- Legion Ability: Shimmering Rage – At the start of the combat phase all units within 6″ of a unit with wounds allocated to it become enraged, which gives +1 to hit and -1 to save. This seems to encouraging clumping your units together because if a unit has lost models but has no wounds allocated, it doesn’t benefit, it also means Mortek guard can never benefit from their own wounds. But if they remain next to a partner, it increases the chances both will become enraged.
- Command Ability: Temper Fury – Lets you ignore the -1 save while keeping the +1 to hit. Good for units that might not survive if it takes too many more hits.
- Command Trait: Scrimshawed Savage – Every Hero phase roll a die, on a 5+ the general gains +1 attack for the rest of the battle. Not bad, on average you’ll gain 2 attacks over the course of a game, but the question is will those come turn 1, or turn 6?
- Artefact: Beastbone Blade – Simple +1 to attack for one of the bearer’s melee weapons. Good stuff.
The anti-magic legion. Everything about this legion is dedicated to giving the finger to Enemy wizards. While it may not do a ton outside of that, magic is such a huge part of Age of Sigmar that it’s rare you won’t go up against a list that doesn’t use some magic.
- Legion Ability: Eldritch Nulls – Ignore a spell on a 5+, pretty standard across many armies right now, this is an optional roll so you don’t have to ignore your own buffs.
- Command Ability: Holdfast – Oh man this is the good stuff, before you roll for Eldritch Nulls you can use this ability to make it a 2+ instead of a 5+, virtually guaranteeing you resist the spell. Cities of Sigmar Hallowheart lists or Nagash heavy lists will be brought to their knees.
- Command Trait: Unsettling and Sinister – Subtract -1 from melee hits against this general and give -1 bravery to enemy units within 3″. Good both as a defensive and offensive tool.
- Artefact: Baleful Blade – An extremely good relic, when an opponent is struck by this weapon, they cannot make a save and cannot make a feel no pain check. Put this on a Kavalos and watch them cleave through enemy Heroes, saves be damned.
The final legion is another interesting gimmick legion. It essentially makes your units explode when killed, potentially dealing mortal wounds to the enemy. This means you likely want to lean toward as many disposable mortek guard as you can to get the most out of it.
- Legion Ability: Immolation – Whenever a model dies in melee, roll a die, on a 5+ deal 1 mortal wound to an enemy unit within 3″, 4+ if the slain model is a Hero. This requires you to play a bit different than you might otherwise, since the mortal wound only works to a unit within 3″ of the model,removing backline models might not get you that mortal wound, so you want to remove from the front, or possibly the second line back. As stated above, you likely want to spam a lot of cheap models to get the most out of this.
- Command Ability: Levellers of Cities – Lets you ignore cover saves for units in melee. Good for routing out those pesky entrenched enemies.
- Command Trait: Wrathful Avenger – If the general dies, Immolation triggers on a 3+ instead of a 4+, and deals D3 Mortal wounds. Given the legion centers around this gimmick this is hardly bad but you probably don’t want your general to die in the first place.
- Artefact: Searing Blade – +1 to damage. Simple but effective.
The book contains 7 battalions which are universal and not locked to any legion. In general they’re pretty solid, they give benefits to units you’d be taking anyway, with little in the way of “Tax” units.
- Ossiarch Cohort – The book’s “super battalion” it requires at least 1 of each of the other battalions. I haven’t calculated how big of a list you’d need to fit all of this in but I can definitely say it is not practical, in return you get…D3 relentless discipline points per turn. Hardly seems like a worthy prize for such a task and more like bragging rights.
- Mortek Shield-Corps – 1 Mortisan and 3 Mortek Guard, Once per turn you can use the Mortek’s command ability for free. This is a good command ability you will likely use constantly so this is a good investment, using units you probably were using anyway.
- Mortisan Trident – 1 of each non-named Mortisan and a Harvester – Each Mortisan can cast an extra spell while within 18″ of the Harvester. They don’t learn any new spells mind you but this does help squeeze a bit extra out of them, which is great given how good the spell options you have are.
- Katakrosian Deathglaive – 2 Necropolis Stalker units and 1 Morghast Harbinger Unit – Basically gives all the units within the battalion scout, giving them a free 6″ of movement at the start of the game. Good for getting those units into melee faster, which is exactly what you want from them.
- Aegis Immortal – 2 Immortis Guard units, 1 Morghast Archai unit – Immortis Guard exist to block wounds from hitting heroes, with their Soulbound Protectors being a 2+ Look Out Sir!. This Battalion not only gives it to the Morghast but also makes it so on a 5+ the wound or mortal wound is negated instead of allocated to the Immortis or Morghast. Ultimately this makes your heroes nigh untouchable with the only downside being the sheer cost of all these units, almost 700 all told.
- Kavalos Lance – 1 Liege- Kavalos (or his character) and 2 Kavalos Deathriders – Lets all units fall back and charge again, letting the death riders hopefully proc more mortal wounds using deathrider wedge, which also can be used once per turn for free.
- Mortek Ballistari – 1 Mortisan Boneshaper, 1 Mortek Guard and 2 Mortek Crawlers – Essentially gives Crawlers a 4+ Look Out Sir! from the Mortek Guard, a 2+ if the Boneshaper is nearby. A weird mish-mash of units but combined exists to give the Crawlers a bit more staying power. The crawlers are powerful ranged units, but are useless if the enemy gets too close. This will hopefully keep them alive both from your enemy’s ranged attacks and also the melee unit that manages to get past the barrage
Overall the Bonereapers are a very strong new force. Like many new Age of Sigmar armies the unit selection is pretty limited, and its unlikely there will be too much support beyond this initial wave, but the limited model selection belies an underlying complexity to the army. To be frank, it plays unlike any other army before it. It turns the command point system completely on its head, turning every unit into a HERO, which opens up a very wide variety of tactical options. The relics, artefacts and spells are generally very powerful across the board, further supplementing these forces. Properly supported it’s going to be very hard to table this army, or even take down some of the sturdier Heroes like Katakros himself.
The downside is the army is very expensive, it lacks much in the way of “cheap” units, even the basic troops are 130 pts for 10. While they tend to pay for themselves it does mean this is an extremely model light army. While opponents might struggle to kill off much of the army when properly supported, it will be much easier to outmaneuver them and win by objective. Players of the Bonereapers will need to keep this in mind as even their faster units like the Deathriders are expensive, making them expensive to waste haphazardly. Further compounding this problem is that the Bonereapers have no allies, they can’t even ally with Legions of Nagash, Nighthaunts or Flesh Eater Courts (I guess they figured including Nagash and Arkhan was enough?), so you don’t even really have the option of throwing in some dire wolves or chainrasp hordes to supplement the force with something cheaper. Bonereapers stand alone.
If you’re looking to get into a new Death Army or already play Legions of Nagash, this is a great army. In particular, as a Legions of Nagash player I enjoy having a new army to play with as I wait for the army to be updated. The models are gorgeous and it all goes together well, highly recommended.