The now-no-longer-final entry in the Arks of Omen series, Farsight, is coming soon, and as always, the Goonhammer team is here to tell you all about it.
Thanks once again to Games Workshop for providing us with a review copy of the book.
The constant problem with T’au in the fluff is that they always feel like a sideshow. It’s an issue of geography. They have to get a little warzone of their own, a Courtesy Invite to the party, that doesn’t much impact the broader scope of the narrative. The Fourth Sphere Expansion and the Startide Nexus tried to mitigate this, by giving the T’au a way to factor into the narrative that didn’t require every galactic conflict to, for some reason, take a detour to their little podunk corner of the Eastern Fringe. Call it the Tatooine Problem: if the universe is so big, why do we keep ending up in the same backwater? Fourth and Fifth Sphere sort of worked, but the image of the little spacemen in their little robots not being party to the main event, and needing everyone to set up Play Dates specifically for them, remains.
Fortunately, the overarching structure of Arks of Omen handles this problem better than Armageddon or a Black Crusade would have. Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Abbadon and his screw-up sidekick/IT creature, Vashtorr, have found another chunk of the Key, and sent a Balefleet out to grab it. This time, it happens to be in the Farsight Enclaves’ territory.
We begin with the title character, insane warlord Farsight, whose full name we don’t have the time to write out but you know what it is, probably. He’s got a sick new robot, which is apparently a girl now. The pair of them are, as you’d expect, busily chopping up Orks. Perhaps less expected is Farsight going on a Weirdboy-induced ayahuasca trip and seeing himself falling to Khorne. The vision is so overwhelmingly cool that the Weirdboy explodes immediately after delivering it. So far: this book owns.
The War Of Dakka isn’t going well for the Orks, and Nazdreg decides on a narrow course to victory: build giant teleporter guns and blow up the enclave’s home worlds. Being an Ork, he also doesn’t guard the plans well at all, so Farsight finds out, which leads to the Orks getting owned pretty hard. There is some intensely Ork Shit that happens in this passage, from incredible sentences like “a miles-wide swathe between Skrappa Heights and Grukkin’s Fungus Brewery” to a teleporting Battlewagon running people over, but it ends with Nazdreg liquified and one of the Eight incapacitated. And then, of course, some stupid crap from the Alpha Legion comes to fruition, and Chaos arrive, aboard the Ark of Omen Unhallowed.
Farsight has his own plan for desperate victory now: land on Arthas Moloch, the planet with no friends, and hope that the T’au’s battle with Chaos draws the Orks in to start scrapping with both sides, which seems better than trying to solo both of them at once. He goes so far as to request aid from the Septs, but his ultimate fallback plan is, uh, to summon some daemons. Not sure about that one! It works, sort of, because of the greatest strategic move that Farsight ever pulled: being lucky enough to have opponents that aren’t very smart.
Arthas Moloch, of course, is exactly where the Balefleet was headed in the first place, so really everyone wins: Farsight gets home-court advantage, Chaos don’t even have to detour, and the Orks get to show up and battle. The story from here is very typical Warhammer, full of last stands, war crimes, and daring feints, where almost every character that’s introduced proceeds to die in the next paragraph – you know the drill. It’s fun, in its own way, but not exceptional.
Throughout this, Farsight is edging closer to falling to Chaos, and when the Empire leaves him a voicemail telling him to pound sand, he loses it. It’s time to open the Hell Stargate. First, we get treated to some more Alpha Legion bullshit. Oh look they took over a Deathwatch ship, and want the Key for themselves. Great, love that for them. Interestingly, and as a thread attaching this book to the previous (Vashtorr, but functionally Azrael) and subsequent (The Lion) Arks of Omen, the Key Fragment isn’t actually the Hell Stargate: it’s a crashed Dark Talon, the coolest and most Dark Angels of jets. The ever-annoying Alpha Legion steal it. Cool.
Finally the gate opens, and there’s another huge fight, between the T’au, Chaos, Orks, and Daemons. Farsight dips out, the daemons all die, and Chaos leave, with the Orks holding the field. As Orks do, they sort of wander away, bored now that there isn’t anything to punch or explode. It is, again, perfectly replacement-level Warhammer taking place.
If you were hoping for an updated datasheet for The Eight, there is some potential bad news: a bunch of them die. Not that that’s stopped GW before (Eldrad), but it’s not ideal. A list of The Eight that get owned:
- The AI battlesuit (busted up real bad)
- Brightsword (dead)
- Bravestorm (placed in a freezer bag)
The writing here, other than the parts that suck because they have Alpha Legion in them, is pretty good. A lot of big stuff happens, but unlike Vashtorr, the book remains resolutely focused on its title character, to its credit. Farsight’s internal struggle between his legendary iron will and whatever is trying to get him to cozy up to the skull throne is great – it very nearly works, but he’s not stupid, and eventually gets wise to what’s going on. It’s particularly enjoyable to see the conversations between Farsight and his advisors, full of descriptions of the weird gestures and idioms that are part of T’au protocol. It’s one of the first times we can remember a gaming book – that is, not Black Library – giving a good look at T’au from their own perspective, instead of an Imperial observer looking in, or an Ork on the receiving end of a railgun bemoaning their cruel fate.
If there’s a flaw to pick at here, it’s that it’s a shame that the narrative is of the One Massive Battle type – it talks about the Balefleet arriving with entire Chaos warbands, Daemon Princes, and even titan maniples, Ork Stompas and Gargants, and Tau Mantas – but then the only rules in the book are for small-scale Boarding Activities that don’t employ any of that fantastically huge war materiel. There’s room enough to Forge your own Narrative (a battle pile centered around a Noctilith Crown, with multiple enemy armies coming in and daemons pouring out would be a sick mission to play out), but the scale of the conflict is built up to be apocalyptic, and the included rules (which we’ll get to shortly) don’t line up with that. Which isn’t to say those rules are bad; they aren’t.
Finally, we have no idea why Snikrot’s new model is being released alongside this book. He’s not in it.
As with all the other Arks of Omen books we get a suite of enhancements and stratagems for the remaining factions. Inside we have rules for Tau, Craftworlds, Drukhari, Harlequins, and Sororitas.
The stars of this book are up first, with their new boarding actions rules and they’re…interesting. The T’au are in an odd spot here, since boarding actions sort of imply close range combat, the exact kind of combat most they prefer not to participate in. To counteract this, one third of the enhancements and stratagems are dedicated exclusively to Kroot. This is a bit of an odd choice at first glance:if the stratagems and upgrades aren’t enough to make Kroot a substantial threat, it’s a wasted group of things that could be used to make the army better at what they’re already good at.
Thankfully, it looks like they might manage to get there. Pick Up the Scent lets you pick a Kroot unit within 9” to be able to shoot and charge after advancing, while also re-rolling advance and charge rolls for the turn. And The Grisly Feast is back under a new name as The Bloody Gorging, but this time it keys off of models killed: for every model your Kroot unit kills, you roll a d6, and if any of them show a 4+ the unit ignores wounds on a 5+ for the rest of the game. These upgrades might be neat on a unit of Kroot Carnivores (especially since you can take a squad of 10 without splitting them), but they start to look even nastier on a unit of Krootox Riders, if you happen to own some for whatever reason.
Your standard T’au units aren’t left out though: Advanced Targeting System lets your Warlord choose a core unit an additional point of AP as long as they’re shooting at something within half range. And if that unit happens to have a pulse weapon, Pulsefire Drill makes unmodified hit rolls of 5+ automatically wound the target for 1CP. Add in Firing Line to Hold Steady on Overwatch and Point Blank Volley to unload on enemies in engagement range with Fire Warriors, Breachers, or Pathfinders, and you’ve got some pretty solid tools for your boarding patrol.
Put these together and you’ve got a pretty solid set of rules that let T’au players compete at any range, as long as they’ve got the right tools in their list. The T’au side of things still seems like the real stars of the show, given how powerful their weapons are and that they can still bring a unit of Crises Suit for some heavier firepower, but the boosts Kroot get access to could allow you to put out some surprisingly potent melee threats. All told, a great set of options for the headline faction in the book.
Asuryani and Ynnari
The Aeldari are here and they’re as much of a pain in the ass to deal with as you were expecting. Want to make your Warlord hard to kill? Look no further than Graceful Killer, which not only subtracts 1 from all hit rolls against them, but prevents your opponent from rerolling them. Looking to make sure your plans for the fight phase go off without a hitch? Masterful Guidance gives a unit within 9” of your Warlord the ability to not only fight first, but to reroll advance and charge rolls.
Meanwhile, Storm of Blades lets any unit score two hits with every unmodified 5+ to hit when firing shuriken weapons. If it’s a unit of Guardians, you can instead opt for Citizen Militia to allow those same rolls of 5+ automatically wound. Thankfully, the extra hits from Storm of Blades won’t trigger Citizen Militia, and the automatic wounds from Citizen Militia don’t count as 6s (and so won’t get the extra AP), but popping both of these on a single unit of Guardians could still result in a nasty little round of shooting. The other options you’re expecting, like Fire and Fade and Lightning-Fast Reactions make returns, although Fire and Fade now only lets you move 3”–definitely not as strong, but still enough to get behind a wall and hide yourself.
If you’re an Iyanden player, don’t worry: wraiths get an enhancement and stratagem all their own here: Spirit Link lets your Spiritseer hand out objective secured to any spirit host unit on the battlefield, and The Tears of Isha heals a Wraith Construct unit for d3 wounds, or a flat 3 if it was within 6” of a Spiritseer.
Taken together, there are some really cool tricks here that support any sort of Asuryani list you might want to bring into the Arks of Omen, though they definitely skew towards getting more mileage out of your shuriken-firing models. That said, however you choose to build your boarding patrol, you likely won’t be disappointed.
Drukhari get an interesting, if not particularly flashy set of tools here. The Helm of Spite gives your Warlord a pocket deny, handy in any situation with a psyker lined up on the opposite side of the board. Meanwhile, Breakneck Murderer lets you reroll advance and charge rolls for your Warlord and stops your opponent from firing overwatch at them. These are neat and all, but unfortunately probably don’t compete with Expert Breacher as far as opening up possibilities for a mobile melee-focused force.
For stratagems, the hits are The Bleeding Edge which turns off Blade Artists for a phase in exchange for just giving the extra AP on every successful wound, Hyperstimm Backlash which lets you double up on the effect of a wych drug, and tried and true Lightning-Fast Reactions to help keep your elves alive.
Unfortunately, the rest are sort of disappointing, like Feed on Their Fear, which gives you +1 to hit when firing against a unit at less than its starting strength. It sounds neat at first, but many games in the Arks of Omen don’t see a lot of shooting until the second round due to all the walls and hatchways you have to navigate, meaning this stratagem likely won’t even be relevant until the third round, and by that point it’s irrelevant to the fight phase thanks to Power From Pain’s army-wide +1 to WS. The narrative idea here is neat, but the effect falls flat.
That’s not to say Drukhari are in a bad spot here: most of their stratagems are solid and are at least worth considering, and none of this does anything to cut back on how terrifying a squad of Incubi running around with an Expert Breacher Archon are in the close confines of a boarding action. These tools just aren’t quite as transformative as those on offer to many of the other factions in the Arks of Omen series.
Harlequins gain access to a solid set of tools to help their limited model range. Fractal Storm returns, with an extra effect of -1 to hit to add a hateful little cherry on top of the shit sundae that is preventing all re-rolls on attacks against the model. And continuing the theme of “Elf Bullshit,” Constant Motion allows your Warlord to consolidate in any direction, even moving through enemy models if they want.
The troupe weapon stratagems are back, handing out various effects that will no doubt influence what weapons you choose for the squad. Standouts include Fighting the Wind, which gives models with a Harlequin’s blade the ability to ignore wounds on a 5+, and The Kiss of Death, which allows a unit with the Harlequin’s Kiss keyword to ignore rules that ignore wounds or reduce incoming damage. And just in case you thought Constant Motion wasn’t that great an enhancement, Deathleap is here to let a unit pile-in or consolidate an additional 3”. Good luck locking down that model.
These rules are, for the most part, pretty darn good, and will go a long way toward making Harlequins as scary in close confines as you’d expect them to be. Their trademark ability to just selectively ignore rules that are not convenient for them at any given moment is back in full force, and they look to be as strong as ever in the close confines of the Arks.
Sisters of Battle
By and large, most of the Sisters’ rules here are returning options from their Codex. The standout enhancement here is Shield of the Righteous, which allows your Warlord to hand out the same bonus as the Litany of Enduring Faith hymn. What’s obnoxious here is that those effects stack, so be ready for Repentia to be running around with giant chainswords and a 4+ invulnerable save, especially given that Sisters players get to bring up to three characters. If that’s not your jam, Litanies of Faith is back to help ensure you get the Miracle dice you need when you need them.
Divine Intervention and Faith and Fury are both back, and they’re both as good as ever. Somewhat less inspiring is the new Cleansed By Fire, which loses its ability to max out shots on a unit of flamers and instead allows them to deal mortals on a 4+ to wound, but only to a max of 3. You’ve also got some strats to help with psykers, but the new addition here is probably our favorite: Brook No Defeat allows a unit to fall back and shoot. There’s no penalty to hit, but if you shoot at the unit you fell back from, you get to re-roll the hit and wound rolls. This can be devastating in the right context, but the set-up can be a bit difficult.
Sisters players are well-equipped entering into the Arks of Omen, with a strong set of options for any units they want to bring. We’ve just got one question: where the hell did Holy Trinity go? Sure, Retributors aren’t a legal option here, but both Dominions and Sisters squads could make great use of it, and it’s incredibly flavorful for the faction to boot. That said, the fact that that’s the worst of our complaints here is a good omen for the Adepta Sororitas.
Dark Depths is yet another way to play boarding actions, designed to add a bit more to your list building by making half the board’s layout part of your roster. This means you can build your army and insure a home field advantage on your side of the board. Want to start with a fast unit screaming down the table without having to worry about doors? Layout Zeta gives you a couple of corridors without obstructions to hit the midboard quickly. Want a lot of cover? Layout Gamma offers set zones near favorable sight lines while providing lots of initial cover. This format allows for some really interesting list building implications, allowing you to really map out those crucial first couple turns. These layouts also inform where the objective markers are going to end up, so you know a lot before the game even begins.
Dark Depths only has one mission to play on, creatively called Dark Depths. It’s a standard hold one/two/more mission with a couple of avenues for extra scoring. First up is Cut off the Head, which gives you 15 points if you slay your opponent’s warlord. Honestly not stoked to see this, as it really punishes you for having a combat warlord designed to trade up but still go down fighting. On the other hand, these sorts of characters are pretty strong in boarding actions when properly equipped, so it may just be a way to mitigate that strength. The other option is Symbol of Might, which has you tasked with destroying your opponent’s most powerful unit for another 15 points. This seems a bit more reasonable, as it will likely impact how both players play their most powerful units when moving them around the board.
Dark Depths is an idea that should be the highlight of this book–if not the Boarding Actions format in general–but ultimately stumbles due to what feels like a lack of imagination on the only mission available. The “choose your board half” gimmick is incredibly cool, and is exactly the sort of thing we’d like to see more of from things like Arks of Omen. Unfortunately, the mission doesn’t really deliver, offering what is probably the single least interesting design that the studio has put out throughout the entirety of 9th edition, let alone the otherwise-excellent Arks supplements.
Norman: To be fair, I think you can’t get too creative with the mission this format is going to revolve around. That said giving the player a short list of secondaries to pick instead of picking 2 for them probably would’ve been a more exciting move. It would also lean into the “player defined” theme that they have going here.
Multiplayer Boarding Actions
The book also includes rules for games with 3 or 4 players, including a set of missions with varying objectives and layouts. These run the gamut here, starting with more “standard” symmetric layouts akin to those from Abaddon, through to some more unusual layouts complete with patrol zones and more narratively asymmetric objectives like the ones in Angron and Vashtorr. The missions mostly seem pretty cool, and a few of them might even be worth giving a shot in a 1v1 situation, something that the rules happily accommodate.
There are some changes here to the rules to allow for more players on the map, though. First, turn order is determined by a rolloff, then goes clockwise around the board by where the players’ entry zones are located. And since there are more players, you might think you get more CP per round, but they’ve thought of that, too: you get 2CP at the start of the round, but nothing at the start of any player’s turn. FInally, the Fight phase: your units only get to fight during your own fight phase. You can still use rules that let them fight on death, and the Counter-Offensive stratagem still works, but you won’t get to fight back after someone charges you until your turn comes around, which could be a while depending on where you are in the current round and how the first-turn roll shakes out for the next one.
Condit: Not going to lie, I’m not the most excited about this. As far as I can tell, each player still gets 500 points to play with here, which means that in a 4 player game you’ve got 2000 points worth of models running around on a pair of Arks boards, which sounds pretty cramped to me. And the change to the Fight phase seems rough: you’re effectively losing an activation with every unit stuck in melee each round. While I agree with the underlying idea that letting a unit fight 3 or 4 times in a round is probably too much, I’m not convinced this was the way to handle this particular problem, and if anything will only add downtime into the game.
That said, I’m looking forward to trying this with some friends, as it’s not uncommon in my play group to find three of us standing around a table jockeying for who gets to play the first game. Having this option available for those situations definitely seems like a win.
Condit: If you were looking for a book in the Arks of Omen series to skip, this might be the one to take a pass on. Nothing in here is bad, but there’s not much that’s really a must-buy, either, unless, of course, you play one of the factions whose rules are in here. The multiplayer missions probably get the closest to fitting that bill, but 1000-point games can already feel crowded on boards this size in “regular” 40k, a problem that will likely only be exacerbated when you add in a bunch of walls and hatchways to navigate through. And while Dark Depths comes close to offering some much-needed open-ended replayability to the format, the mission doesn’t seem up to the task of delivering an experience players will want to come back to over and over.
That said, your playgroup will want at least one copy of this book, if only so that the local Aeldari player can’t complain about not having rules for their faction anymore. And it’s not like the Dark Depths or multiplayer formats seem actually terrible, they just don’t quite capture some of the same magic that earlier entries in the series do.
So is it worth it? That’s going to depend on you. If your faction appears in the book, you’ll probably want to pick it up. Similarly, if you’re the person in your group who winds up hosting Warhammer nights most often, having this on the shelf next to your box of boarding actions terrain will give you some more options when getting everything set up for your next set of daring raids. Otherwise, though, you’ll be fine with a copy of Abaddon and whatever book your faction’s rules show up in.
Norman: Greg mentioned in the beginning that Tau are often treated as a sideshow, this whole book, rules and all, feels like that. The lore may actually be the strongest part, what with actually moving the plot a little and killing off some people you recognize who aren’t daemons who can just come back. I think it would’ve been super cool if Farsight had just fallen to Khorne and decided to be a cool guy for once, but we’ll get him next time.
The faction rules are what you’d expect and probably the only reason 90% of folks will buy this book. That said, they’re almost all elf focused, the worst superfaction in warhammer. (if you wanna fight me on this, feel free to @ me on our discord after signing up to our patreon :)).
As for the boarding action rules, they both feel like things with great bones but don’t quite get there on their own. I think with some tweaking something really cool can come out of Dark Depths even if right now its a bit bland. Multiplayer games is getting turbo dunked into crusade campaigns, its just going to need a page one rewrite on that whole, “only activate once per fight phase” thing.
Greg: The narrative is actually solid, but I can’t recommend buying the book for 40 pages of fluff, probably 15 of which are just a laundry list of nobodies getting murdered by each other.
Here’s a fun thing, that you might have picked up on, reading this: Notice that we didn’t mention anything about Farsight’s new datasheet? That’s because it’s not here. There are, in fact, no datasheets in this book.
The good news is that if you just wanted the rules for Shin Musha Farsight, you can wait for GW to inevitably post them on WarCom instead of buying this. The bad news is that I wouldn’t, to be honest, buy this unless I wanted to play two new, flawed, types of Boarding Activity, or run the factions that have their rules here. It does jibe with GW’s initial statement that the Arks books wouldn’t have Matched Play rules in them, but then they went and put Azrael and Vashtorr in the last one, so who knows what to think now.