Age of Sigmar Review: Seraphon

An article by and    Age of Sigmar Gaming Reviews        0

Seraphon have a long and sordid history, even by Age of Sigmar standards. Debuting in Warhammer Fantasy Battles 5th edition with their first army book back in 1997, they were a pretty original concept. Where Warhammer traced some pretty familiar tropes, Lizardmen were not your usual fantasy Lizard people. They had a mesoamerican flair which contrasted with the eurocentrism of the rest of the Warhammer world, even if it was still copying a real world culture to an almost embarrassing degree.

The lore goes as thus: The Old Ones, ancient beings who traveled the stars, created the Lizardmen as custodians and assistants in their transformation of the Old World. At some point in the distant past, Chaos showed up and drove The Old Ones off. The Lizardmen were left behind, still following the instructions given to them, though in a broken, incomprehensible form. So much time has passed that nobody remembers the Old Ones, and the Lizardmen are left interpreting prophecies nobody understands the purpose or meaning of anymore. Lore highlights include moving an entire continent because a Slann decided it was in the “wrong” position, since he had a map and didn’t know about tectonic drift, and accidentally destroying the old Dwarfen Empire in the process. 

During the End Times the Lizardmen got wrecked by Chaos, same as everyone else. In the Lizardmen’s case, the Slann, the high priests/thicc frogs of the Lizardmen revealed the true purpose of their pyramids: They were spaceships. Don’t go away, it gets weirder. The Skaven blew up the moon and as shards of Warpstone crashed to the ground, most Lizardmen died, with only a few Slann escaping.

Initially, Lizardmen were all dead, save for a few Slann. They were also now renamed to the SEO-friendly “Seraphon” – SEO-friendly if you ignore the bit where in 2015 the main results for that search were furry porn. Top stuff researching your new names, GW. The Seraphon were largely dreams. Or stars. Or something. It was all very weird and the look on people’s faces as you tried to explain it was very funny.

On the table, Seraphon were pretty lucky compared to many of their World-That-Was contemporaries. Their army pretty much translated over intact and they got one of the first Battletomes. Unfortunately, an early battletome means it quickly became obsolete. The Seraphon Battletome is from the very early days when it was merely a collection of warscrolls and a couple battalions, not even points. Seraphon sat kind of neglected for a long time, it seemed like they were never getting a new tome, although General’s Handbook 2019 finally gave them a bunch of allegiance abilities, spells, relics and warlord traits. While many other armies got “Get you by” rules as well, the Seraphon were comparatively fleshed out. They didn’t seem too upset by it though. They consistently performed quite well in the tournament scene, but the lack of a dedicated tome became more glaring as many armies were getting their second tomes to bring them up to date with the 2.0 ruleset. Finally, though, that’s all changed, and GW has blessed us with another prophecy from the Old Ones. The prophecy is “lizard people are good now.” It’s a real doozy of a tome. We got a lot to cover and already wasted a lot of time, so lets dive in!

 

The Big Stuff

  • Skinks lost Wary Fighter and got cheaper.
  • Saurus may be back in a big way between the buffs on their warscroll and some of the added synergies given to them in this new and improved battletome.
  • In general, summoning got harder, but the quality of the units got better.
  • Like command points? Prepare to be drowning in them.
  • Load up your Jurassic Park soundtrack as oops all dinosaurs might just get there!
  • Salamanders are cool and strong and our friends.

 

Saurus Knights. Credit: Rockfish

Allegiance Abilities

Remember that weird star-dream business? GW seemed to step off it in 2.0, as the core rulebook retconned them to be alive again but with blood enhanced by Slann magic. This book seems to split the difference and let you choose whichever lore you think is better. There’s 2 allegiances, The Coalesced, the “new” lore, and The Starborne, the “old” lore. Each allegiance shares its own artefacts, general traits, etc. The difference lies in the abilities each brings to the table, which subfactions they get access to, and battalions. I wouldn’t even say they favor a specific type of a unit either, not to the degree of other recent books.

First, there are 2 universal traits. The ability for Slann to swap a spell each turn has remained, with a rule now found in “Ways of the Seraphon” – Contemplations of the Ancient Ones. Secondly, and now army-wide instead of locked to a specific unit, each turn the Seraphon player can choose a constellation each turn with “Sacred Asterisms”. You can either give one hero +1 attack, a wizard +1 to casting/dispelling/unbinding or army-wide +1 to charge or advance. Nothing unusual but it’s free and there’s no limit or cost to changing them, and we expect the buffs to spellcasting and charges to be the constellations of choice most of the time.

The Coalesced have a number of traits that are all over the place but come together (you could say they coalesce) into a pretty nasty whole. Important bit of context here moving forward, remember how I said the lore had shifted to say Seraphon were not star dreams anymore? This is now reflected in the rules by removing the DAEMON keyword and adjusting their leadership accordingly. Units have leadership all over the place. Saurus have a respectable 8, while Skinks can go as low as 5. Coalesced cannot have their bravery modified, positively or negatively, so this isn’t so bad for Saurus but if you wanna run a lot of Skinks this is a problem. That said, one of the common sub themes of this book is the ability to generate extra command points, as many support heroes now generate an additional one each turn on a 4+/5+ dice roll, meaning you can offset this limitation somewhat using the auto-pass morale command ability.

The rest of the abilities jump around a bit. All Coalesced get a bonus attack on bites, and if you use the optional special terrain rules you get to ignore negative terrain in your territory, while only you benefit from the positives. The standout is probably the fact that all Coalesced get to reduce all damage taken by 1 (to a minimum of 1). While it won’t help you against D1 attacks, the plethora of D2 and D3 attacks in Age of Sigmar mean this will pay dividends. Notably, current meta darlings like Hearthguard Berserkers with Broadaxes and Orruk Warchanters are neutered when facing these scaly boys, as are multi damage spells.

This can be seen as a pretty radical departure from how the Seraphon played. Luckily, Starborne is here for those of you who loved the old faction. The faction abilities more or less mirror how Seraphon played as of General’s Handbook 2019. Seraphon under the Starborne get their bravery 10 back (but not the Daemon keyword, so they won’t get smitten by Stormcast!). The once a turn teleportation ability remains untouched. Summoning has remained the same mechanically but a lot of numbers have changed. In general, the point costs got more expensive. The rate points are gained have received some odd changes. A Slann General gives you D3 summoning points now instead of 1, but Skink Starpriests qualify now as well. Sacrificing a spell gives D3 points instead of a flat 3. In addition, each Slann or Starpriest can only give up 1 spell, rather than up to their max, making going all in on summoning substantially less rewarding. Presumably GW is a little gun shy with summoning after Slaanesh ran roughshod on the tourney scene for nearly a year and decided to scale this back.

RagnarokAngel: I like the two allegiances. They clearly wanted to try something very different here and they did with the Coalesced, but it won’t drive off the people who actually enjoyed how their army played. Even better, because of how the faction abilities work, you can flip between them and not have to rely on specific types of units to get by.

Ellarr: I think that it was always going to be challenging to convince old school Seraphon players to drop Starborne for Coalesced, though I think between the nerfs to summoning, the survivability buffs and the unique subfactions/battalions, I think there are going to be some builds that are definitely interested in trying out the new hotness. Good job GW.

 

Credit: Rockfish

Subfactions

Each allegiance gets access to 2 subfactions, for a total of 4. The make up of these is pretty standard at this point: A new allegiance ability and command ability in exchange for a mandatory command trait and artefact.

Credit: Games Workshop

The Starborne get access to the Fangs of Sotek and Dracothonian’s Tail, both are battalions from the General’s Handbook given a rebirth. Dracothonians allow you to place units in deep strike. For each Starborne unit you place on the battlefield, a starborne unit can be placed in reserves, to be brought on the board at the end of your movement phase, within 18” of a Slann and more than 9” from the enemy. That said, if it reaches turn 4 and any are in reserve, they are slain, in line with modern deep strike units in Age of Sigmar. Fangs of Sotek are your expected Skink subfaction. They let you move your Skinks faster on the first turn, and the command ability allows them to shoot at the end of your opponent’s charge phase and then (potentially) run. If you’re a veteran Seraphon player you might be thinking “But what about Wary Fighters?” – we regret to inform you that this rule has been removed from the Warscroll, your Skinks are going to have to stand and fight (or shoot and potentially run with this new command ability)  Perhaps a little less exciting than the Dracothonians but if you got all those Skinks and want to pretend it’s 2019 again you might want to opt for the Fangs of Sotek.

Credit: Games Workshop

The Coalesced factions are probably the ones that will get a lot of attention. Koatl’s Claw gives probably the best faction bonus of the bunch, +1 to hit for all Saurus keyword units on the charge with a command ability to gain the hit bonus as if you had just charged, in case your guys are already stuck in combat. Their forced command trait for a Saurus general is a firm standout, giving you a refund for that Saurus’ command ability on a 4+ The Thunder Lizards have been hyped up by Games Workshop already, but to summarise it lets you focus on list building consisting of nothing but dinosaurs. Its unique command ability lets you get a second round of shooting from a Bastiladon or a second roll on the Engine of the Gods table – SPICY! If you like Jurassic Park you will like this subfaction.

 

 

Credit: Games Workshop

Spells

Seraphon casters come with a new mechanic, Bound Endless Spells. In the past Endless spells were controlled by both players, who took turns moving them. Seraphon’s grasp of magic is so great that nobody can take it away from them. Bound Endless Spells are only moved by the person who cast them, removing one of the major reasons we don’t see many predatory endless spells in play.

Spells were expanded from 6 in the GH 2019 to 12. One lore is for Slann and one for Skinks. 4 spells return from the GH 2019. Celestial Apotheosis, Walk Between Realms and Mystical Unforging remain as Slann spells, largely unchanged (Mystical Unforging is now a little easier to cast). Claws of Glory is now a Skink spell (although strangely now Hands of Glory. Seraphon have become more refined). Everything else is brand new.

To interplay with the new Bound endless spell mechanic, some of the new spells allow Skinks to bind Endless Spells already in play with the aptly named Bind Endless Spell, turning your opponent’s spells against them. Slann can dispel all endless spells within a 24” radius with Drain Magic, but leave Bound ones untouched. This really helps Seraphon double down on the endless spell mechanic and gives them a certain feel.

Aside from your standard mortal wound spells you expect to see everywhere, there’s some nice utility stuff here too. Extend Astromatrix grants the ability to ignore negative terrain (like the Coalesced ability but outside of their control area) and Celestial Harmony, which lets you ignore Battleshock tests for a unit (important for your Coalesced Skinks with their unmodifiable 5 Bravery)

Since Seraphon can change spells round to round, you can swap this spell out if it’s not needed. Seraphon will likely have a strong place in the magic phase, rivaling even Tzeentch.

 

Credit: Rockfish

Command Traits

Now we’ve reached the parts where things have been fleshed out somewhat – Slann, Saurus and Skinks each get their own tables to pick command traits from. Saurus and Slann can gain an extra command point per turn on a 4+ with the right trait, whereas Skinks can gain +1 to casting or +1 to saves/movement. There’s no real standouts here but at the same time these are solid if boring tables. It is worth noting that the old Great Rememberer is gone, so no longer do you have two teleports a turn.

 

Artefacts

As with Command Traits, each species has different tables to draw from. Slann have access to a single auto unbind or auto dispel artefact, alternatively they can take Itxi Grubs, a personal favorite of ours – this artefact lets the Slann heal 1 wound per turn, as well as reroll 1 casting or dispelling roll, AS WELL AS reroll 1 unbinding roll on your opponents turn. That’s a ton of value and will be a super popular choice.

Saurus have some crummy choices though the Blade of Realities has some use – improve the rend of a weapon of theirs by 1 and +1 damage for that weapon against heroes, which is of particular interest to Scar Veterans on Carnosaurs that have a 6 attack profile now.

To round out the trifecta, Skinks get three artifacts, one of which buffs their save by 1 and their damage output, whereas another buffs their movement and grants them -1 to be hit.

Overall, you’re probably opting for upgrades to your frogs, though there’s enough power in the other artefacts here that you might choose one of these over say the realm artefacts. 

 

Battalions

The format of the battalions is interesting here. There’s 4 battalions for each allegiance, but they share the same name, save for Coalesced having “Temple-Hosts” and Starborne having “Starhosts”. For example Coalesced have the Firelance Temple-Host while Starborne have the Firelance Starhost. Both battalions share the same unit requirements but grant different bonuses depending on which allegiance you have.

Using the above example, both versions of the battalion use 1 Scar-Veteran and 3 Sauron Knights but if you’re Coalesced the bonus is +3 to run and charge rolls for Knights within 18” of the Scar-Veteran, and Starborne get an additional mortal wound on a 6 with Celestite Weapons.

This isn’t a bad idea but to me it feels a bit light on content, you functionally only have 4 battalions to pick from and the flexibility within them is pretty limited. 2 Battalions help Saurus units (One for Warriors, one for Knights), one is for Skinks and one is for monsters. Nothing here for Slann but for what it’s worth you’re probably going to take one regardless.

If you’re wondering, there are two super Battalions, the Eternal Temple-host/Star-host, which operate on the same logic of “same units, different ability”. Like any super battalion these are wildly expensive to a point you’d never get to field them, and don’t give that great a bonus to justify their cost. They’re here for the spectacle and nothing more.

 

Credit: Rockfish

Major Warscroll Changes

Normally I don’t go too in-depth on Warscrolls. They’re available publicly as of this reading so you can skip my analysis and go check them out yourself on www.games-workshop.com or the Azyr app. In this case though, there’s just so much to cover. Seraphon Warscrolls are old, dating back as far as 2016 when AoS launched and not really updated since. We wanted to take some time to look at what big changes stuck out to us.

The Winners:

Slann Starmaster

Truly embracing the grumpy old man on chair role, the Slann got a new name and some changes to their warscroll – for starters they swapped out their crummy battleshock spell for Comet’s Call, previously a Kroak spell. They also roll 2 dice at the start of your hero phase and gain a command point for each 4+. They have a native +1 to cast, dispel and unbind and can dispel/unbind with unlimited range. Most importantly they retained the same points cost which means we’ve seen a strong unit get stronger!

Lord Kroak

Same buffs as above, but they roll 3 dice for gaining Command Points instead of 2. Kroak lost his previous ‘dead’ special rule and he now just has a 4+ Feel No Pain save. Celestial Deliverance was tweaked to be more consistent (constant 10” range, flat 3 against daemons rather than d6). He also dropped 110 points – holy Sigmar!

Saurus in many flavours

Saurus are now base 4+ save and lost their ignore rend -1 rule, which on its own is pretty damn good. They gain +1 to their attacks when there’s 15 or more of them, and the clubs gained a point of rend, whereas the spears now wound on a 3+. These are needed buffs, as the 32mm base size means they’ve been a horde army that punch below their size. With the new Starborne battalion Sunclaw Starhost, Seraphon have access to rend 2 on their battleline! Many factions lack good access to rend 2 full stop so this is a huge feather in the cap of Starborne Seraphon players.

Saurus Guard are now 2 wounds each and remain a 4+ save, and a slight points increase means they’re almost twice as durable as before, though they don’t go in any usable battalions which limits your access to low drops if you want to run these guys. The Saurus Sunblood and Oldblood, two previously forgotten foot dorks, have now both gained command abilities that grant +1 to hit and +1 to wound, though in different ways. The +1 to hit is to a Saurus unit wholly within 18”, while the +1 to wound is to ALL Saurus units against a unit within 12” of the Sunblood. Scar Veterans’ changed command ability now grants exploding 6s to a single Saurus keyword unit wholly within 18”. The Astrolith Bearer can also give Saurus a 6+ Feel No Pain save, which is a nice buff to durability.

What this all means is that there’s a great set of tools here for Saurus focused lists, using Starseers and Slann to generate extra command points, which in turn let them stack many buffs onto a single death star Saurus unit similar to what happens currently with Chaos Marauders.

Skink Starseers

On a 4+ each hero phase you gain a command point, and they gained a special rule that lets a friendly Seraphon unit wholly within 12” of the model charge 3d6 and declare charges up to 18” away. Their unique spell now lets them increase or decrease a friendly/enemy units save by 1, which altogether gives this unit a real purpose in any Seraphon list. They generate command points, they have a great utility spell and they make charges much more reliable for your crunchy combat units – a fantastic reworking of an underused warscroll.

Salamander Hunting Packs

Okay so handlers are now part of the Warscroll itself, with three handlers for every Salamander. You can take a maximum of three Salamanders in a unit, meaning if you max them out you have 9 ablative wounds with a 4+ save before the meaningful stuff in the unit even starts taking damage. Speaking of damage, they are now D3 damage but fire FOUR times instead of once, which has improved their consistency and doubled their average damage output. Oh and their melee is now D3 damage and -2 rend. Oh and they went down 10 points. Welcome to Salamander meta.

Credit: Rockfish

Losers:

Skinks

Lost Wary Fighters. RIP.

…Okay I should probably elaborate. They’re cheaper now and gain an extra attack when taken in units of 15 or more, but you were never taking these units to do any appreciable damage and losing access to the retreat is a huge blow to their utility. They’re still Seraphon’s cheapest battleline and there’s still a fair argument to be made for including them, but they are no longer the auto-include they once were.

Saurus Knights

They gained an attack each and their lances were changed to be 2 damage on the charge, though they have no rend whatsoever and quite frankly their warscroll still seems rather uninspired compared to some of the other buffs here.

Ripperdactyl Riders

They lost swooping dive, and the beaks now always attack 3 times each instead of 1 buffed to 3 with toad – said toad is a once per game buff to reroll hits on just the beak. They’re now cheaper but the change is a net negative and results in a unit far less punchy than it used to be. All of this is compounded by the huge change to their old battalion, which is now split into two separate battalions which are each nerfed. The big change though is that they’re no longer able to deep strike outside of 3” of enemy units under any circumstances, making getting into combat out of reserves much harder.

Carnosaurs

Carnosaurs aren’t bad like some of the other stuff here. I’d say they’re still adequate in a lot of ways, but they took a hit to their abilities. Blazing Sunbolts is now only a +1 to wound instead of 2. Pinned down was simplified a lot but ultimately is weaker: it now is a flat +1 to hit with the jaws instead of needing to set it up with 2 attacks from the claws first. They also got 10 points more expensive. For me the loss here is that I find it extremely odd that they didn’t get mount traits like many other books in AoS but I suppose they figured Seraphon got enough.
Ellarr’s alternative take: Koatl’s claw is a spicy ingredient to add to this discussion though, as an extra 5 damage jaw attack is a big deal for a relatively cheap combat monster, and reducing multi damage attacks by 1 makes this beasty surprisingly tanky. In my initial lists I put together I found myself drawn to a scar veteran on Carnosaur as for 210 points its quite a lot of punch.

 

Closing Thoughts

Telling you whether or not you should get a battletome is often challenging. Frequently, it’s not a decision you get to make. If you like the army and want to play it, you have to get the book. It doesn’t matter if you like the rule changes or not, if you play the army you have to get it if you want to keep playing it.

The question of whether an army book is good or not is also difficult. “Competitive” armies are a fickle thing. Metas are often determined by the work of many people working together to squeeze the most out of a book. A few authors with only a couple days to look over a book are in a more difficult position to assess these things.

What I can say is how fun it looks to me personally. I think the book does look powerful, the Seraphon have the benefit of access to a very wide range of units, thanks to their legacy from Warhammer Fantasy Battles, and many are powerful on their own. You can then buff them to absurd levels on top of that. The army grants a lot of flexibility in playstyle, from Saurus hordes to sneaky Skinks to Oops, All Dinosaurs! Lists. While I think the Coalesced will probably see more playtime, Games Workshop made the right call by preserving the old playstyle for those who wanted it while also introducing something different. 

What I’m saying is if you like Dinosaurs, buy this book.

 

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.