Games Workshop sent us an early review copy of the new Fyreslayer battletome. Below I’ll be going over what’s changed, what hasn’t, and what it largely means for the army. Fyreslayers are my first AoS army of choice and have played them each edition so far, during Vulkite spam, Lords of the Lodge Hearthguard Berzerker spam, and into 3rd when it was just a bit all over the place. As before we will be working on and putting up a separate review for the Path to Glory section of the book while this focuses around the Matched Play rules.
Who Are Fyreslayers?
During the Age of Myth, the duardin god Grimnir clashed with the Magmadroth god-beast Vulcatrix which ended in mutual destruction. When Grimnir died his form shattered into fragments which were scattered across the mortal realms and laid rest in veins of gold, infusing the spirit of the dead god with the raw material called ur-gold. The Runemasters of the Fyreslayers are able to craft this special gold into powerful runes which are then hammered into the bodies of the Fyreslayers, giving them power from their dead god. The first of the Fyreslayers made their home in Aqshy, realm of fire, in the depths of volcanoes, carving out their Magmaholds where they live and craft runes to be as close to their god as possible. Over time though many lodges have formed in different realms, taking on different appearances but all still with the same goal in mind. They believe that if they can gather up all of the pieces of Grimnir’s spirit in ur-gold then their god will be reborn. Unfortunately, to most ur-gold is just gold, and has been mined and used by many races in the mortal realms without knowing what it was and because of this the Fyreslayers often act as axes-for-hire for payment for large sums of gold, in hopes that any of what they receive is ur-gold. Much like the dwarfs and slayers of the Old World the Fyreslayers are sticklers for oaths taken, never breaking them and always fulfilling them so they can receive payment.
Why Play Fyreslayers?
If you want very angry, half naked dwarfs as an army that sometimes ride on the backs of giant salamanders then these are the guys for you. They hit hard in combat and most of their units can take a decent beating as well, with some being incredibly hard to remove. They might be slow but you get powerful ur-gold runes to activate in your turns which can make up for this or make them hit even harder when they do get into combat. This is a hero-hammer army for the most part, you only really have 3 different units to choose from and then a whole slew of heroes which buff them or just like to run off and do their own killing instead. You can build them to be a more elite army full of Magmadroths or if you want you can go for more of a horde feel, taking upwards of 110 Vulkite Berzerkers alongside an Auric Runefather, if you really wanted to. Most players will opt for something in-between, taking a monster or two and then some of the more elite units for the army giving a decent variety for a range that’s so limiting.
This book has changed. A lot. It’s not all going to look good at first, I sure didn’t think so and still have reservations. While many mechanics haven’t changed a whole lot many others have, significantly, and it’ll take some adjusting to get used to.
What’s probably most confusing is that the changes we got in Fury of the Deep box set were temporary as well. The Warscrolls of these units are the same but the points costs very much are not, which is just strange. I’m not sure why they changed them in that box set only to be changed again a month later, probably has to do with printing time scales and I’ll be interested to see which is “correct” but at this time to answer is the book, since it’s the latest printing, and that’s unfortunate. More on that later though.
What’s in the Book?
- Lore and background for the Fyreslayers, where they come from, what they’re up to now in the current setting, how lodges are formed etc
- Allegiance Abilities to play with a Fyreslayer army, including 4 different sub-factions to choose from which can wildly change how you put together an army and play.
- Path to Glory rules for your narrative campaigns (review coming in a separate article) which are incredibly thematic.
- Artefacts, Command Traits, and Prayers for your heroes to know and use in battles.
- Battle Tactics and Grand Strategies which we’ve come to expect from 3rd edition battletomes.
- All 19 Warscrolls for the units you can choose to take from, an impressive number considering only 3 of those are multi-model units (4, counting the Chosen Axes warband).
In the last book the only allegiance ability the army had was Ur-Gold Runes, which still exist and work in the same way in this book. In your own hero phase you choose a rune to activate, you roll a dice and if you get a 6 then you apply the normal effect and the enhanced effect, otherwise it’s just the normal effect. A lot of these are the same as the last book and you can only activate each once per game as well, so you’ll want to plan ahead when activating them.
Warhammer Community showed one off previously alongside a new Heroic Action which lets a Hero automatically apply the Enhanced effect to themselves even if you didn’t roll a 6 but each Hero can only use it once per game. It’s fantastic though for sure being able to make your Hero extra-killy or extra-survivable in place of maybe getting a command point or healing a wound or two is not bad at all.
- Rune of Fury – Add 1 to all hit rolls for melee weapons by Fyreslayer units. Enhanced adds 1 to the attacks characteristic as well. This replaces the re-roll hits of 1 ability, and it’s still good.
- Rune of Farsight – Add 1 to hit rolls for throwing axes and if enhanced add 1 to wound rolls as well. This is a lot better simply because all throwing axes are now 4+ to hit and 4+ to wound with all the hero ones gaining rend -1 as well. You’re still saving it for later probably, but it feels more useful.
- Rune of Searing Heat – Unmodified wound rolls of 6 by Fyreslayer units deal 1 mortal wound in addition to normal damage. If you get the enhanced effect it still has the chance to deal a mortal wound to nearby enemies. Importantly this works on both melee weapons and ranged weapons. All those throwing axes are gonna do a bunch more damage as well as the new and improved(?) Magmadroth ranged attack.
- Rune of Awakened Steel – Improve the rend of Fyreslayer melee weapons by 1, or by 2 if enhanced instead. Always very good. Using this on a Magmadroth hero with the command ability will be fantastic for all those attacks to really make them stick.
- Rune of Fiery Determination – All friendly Fyreslayer units gain a 6+ ward. Enhanced gives Fyreslayer Heroes a 5+ Ward as well, which is really great and another great pick for a Hero with the heroic action.
- Rune of Relentless Zeal – Add 2” to the move of friendly Fyreslayers and if enhanced also add 2” to charge rolls. Usually a first-turn rune to activate to help your units cross the table, but there’s a lot to be said to for saving it until the late game for last-minute objective sprinting.
Fierce Counter-Attack is a new generic command ability that can be issued to a friendly unit of Vulkite Berzerkers, Auric Hearthguard, or Hearthguard Berzerkers a the start of the enemy combat phase. The unit receiving the order has to be within 3” of an enemy unit that made a charge move this turn and also not within 3” of an enemy unit which did not charge this turn. The unit gains the strike-first ability, so they get to hit first in most instances, but each unit can only receive this order once per battle. So good and bad here, this replaces what effectively was the Hermdar command ability but is usable by any subfaction now. It’s very limiting in how it can be used and once per game per unit is also an unfortunate stipulation but it’s what we’ve got. It’s not as good as the Hermdar command was but we still have a way of attacking before taking the brunt of charges, which is fantastic.
Grimwrath Oaths are now just a battle trait instead of being on the Warscroll, which is odd, but ok. These are largely the same as before, chosen at the start of the first battle round without being allowed to choose the same one more than once if you happen to have more than 1 Grimwrath in your army. What this means though is that if you’re allying in a Grimwrath Berzerker in a non-Fyreslayer army then you won’t get an Oath. Your choices are:
- If attacking a Priest, that is not a Fyreslayer, add 1 to all hit and wound rolls as well as damage inflicted. If you happen to be playing against a list with a few then it might be worth considering.
- The Grimwrath can be chosen to be a Runefather or Runeson’s retinue instead of a unit of Hearthguard (more on that below). A unit of Hearthguard Berzerkers will often just be much better for this role though.
- The Berzerker can run and charge in the same turn, and can re-roll either or both the run or charge roll. This is my favourite to take because it means you can actually get into combat with your Grimwrath, very reliably, and have a hero keeping pace with a unit of Hearthguard Berzerkers that have been given the run and charge prayer.
- Add 1 to all hit and wound rolls while within 12” of an allied unit. If you’re running any allies and have more than 1 Grimwrath this could be a good pick.
- The Grimwrath has a ward of 6+ which is improved to 5+ while within 3” of an enemy. With the various ways your heroes will have wards anyways now it’s less good than it used to be, and staying alive a little longer doesn’t mean much if you’re not getting into combat first!
- When attaching each unmodified hit of 6 deals 1 mortal wound in addition to normal damage. Even attacking twice in one round of combat you’re likely only getting 1 mortal wound out of this.
As we expected to see after the Stormcast and Orruk books sub-factions now only give 1 effect and don’t tie you down to a specific artefact and command trait. Hermdar was largely the favorite of the slayer subfactions during the 2nd edition book unless you were just running loads of Magmadroths or sprinting across as Vostarg. Funnily enough I think Hermdar just won’t be used any more and expect to see a lot of Greyfyrd and Lofnir lists.
Add 1 to all hit and wound rolls in the same turn that unit made a charge, if it happened to be a Vulkite Berzerker unit. Very straightforward and just a very good buff for an otherwise not-great unit. They’re slow, but combat is where they want to be and they get +1 to charge rolls as well so have an easier time getting there! Would be better for sure if it affected more units, but as it stands it’s not awful.
You still get 2 extra artefacts of power which can be given to non-mounted Heroes but all of your non-mounted Fyreslayer heroes also gain 1 additional wound. This is pretty big actually, all of these 5 or 6 wounds base so knocking them up to 6 or 7 wounds will actually go a pretty far way in helping against chip damage and keeping them alive just that much longer for better wards on your Hearthguard Berzerkers as much as anything else. Extra wounds are also really useful with all of the ways that they can gain Ward rolls now as well.
Oh how the mighty have fallen! Now your units wholly within 12” of an objective or wholly within enemy territory lose half the number of models from failing battleshock (rounding up). That’s it, that’s the whole trait. If you’re running huge blocks of Vulkite Berzerkers then maybe maybe you choose this. But you’re still probably leaning on Vostarg so that they hit harder instead. You do also unlock Auric Hearthguard as battleline, so if that’s your thing then you’ve got a subfaction for it but taking any Priest as your General does the same, and they have great traits to choose from so just do that.
The Magmadroth sub-faction continues to be so, giving +2 wounds to all of your droths (making them have 18 wounds instead of 16) and giving 3 of them a mount trait instead of just 1, each of which must be different. There are only 3 mount traits now so this isn’t nearly as limiting as it sounds, but is a strange distinction to have to add since there are only 3. Additionally you unlock Runesons on Magamdroths as Battleline. They go from being Leader and Behemoth to JUST Battleline as well, so become a Troops slot for your Core Battalions.
These are your command traits for your General and your Artefacts, of which there are a lot less of each. That’s not a terrible thing though overall since at least half of the ones previously just never saw play, but some that saw a lot of play are gone and replaced with different effects.
These are split between your Runefathers/Runesons and your Priests depending which is your general.
- Fury of the Fyreslayers – Friendly Fyreslayers wholly within 18” add 1 to charge rolls. Very simple but very effective, especially for Vulkites which also add 1 to charges from their horns. On a Magmadroth General this becomes a massive aura as well. Also very useful for your units coming in from reserve alongside Runesmiters, needing to roll an 8 (or a 7 for Vulkites) is far more likely than a 9 for their charge roll the turn they’re set up.
- Blood of the Berzerker – Once per battle only. During the combat phase after the general has fought you can say it’s “going berzerk”. If you do then it gains the strike-last ability but can be activated and fought with a second time that phase. This goes without needing to be said, but this is only really an option on a general on magamdroth, since it effects the whole unit. Attacking with an entire magmadroth twice is actually pretty big and can deal a lot damage in one turn.
- Spirit of Grimnir – When you activate your Ur-Gold Rune if your general is on the table then you gain the enhanced effect on a 5+ instead of just a 6. This increases your chances slightly and makes it likely that you’ll get at least 1 enhanced rune in a 5 turn game, but it’s a relatively small buff with all the chance in the world to just roll 1’s every turn instead
- Leader of the Duardrazhal – This is actually the most interesting to me, by far. While your general is on the table all Duardin allies are treated as having the Fyreslayer keyword for the purposes of the Ur-Gold Runes battle trait. This does not allow non-Fyreslayer heroes to use the new heroic action though, so keep that in mind. Allowing Hammerers, Irondraks, Longbeards, Runelords, and all of the Kharadron Overlords to benefit from the runes is actually huge. The best though is probably Irondrakes being able to deal mortal wounds on 6’s to wound with the Rune of Searing Heat but any of these units gaining the benefit of the other runes is fantastic. What this also means is that Gotrek Gurnisson will be benefiting from your runes, which is huge; extra move early game and extra rend/bonus to hit/mortal wounds later on is nuts on him.
- Ash-beard – Gives you a second prayer from the Zharrgrim Blessings list instead of just 1, but you can’t chant any more. It’s decent for Runesmiter’s that want to take Curse as well as a Fyreslayer prayer but Runemasters already know all of them now.
- Master Priest – You get to activate an Ur-Gold Rune that you’ve already activated once per game. This is incredible actually, it allows your units to have extra rend for longer, or another turn of mortal wound output, or if you really need it some extra movement late-game.
- Avatar of Vulcatrix – When the general dies you get to set up a Molten Infernoth on the table (that doesn’t cost you points) within 6” and apply its rule which means it will move 2D6” and cause mortal wounds to non-Fyreslayer units. If you already had one set up on the table though instead of setting up a second you just activate that one immediately, move it and dish out some mortals. This is fun but something that relies on your general dying to take effect is not something you want to be aiming for.
There are considerably less artefacts to choose from now, going from 18 total to now only 10. The biggest loss here is the Salamander Cloak, no more 5+ ward on a Priest, and the only ward one now is once per game.
Heirlooms of the Lodge (Runefathers and Runesons only)
- Master Rune of the Unbreakable Resolve – Once per game at the beginning of any phase you can use this artefact to give the bearer a 3+ ward until the end of the phase. This is gonna be a little matchup dependent as to how good it is, but being able to charge headlong into a Mega-Gargant or similarly killy melee unit and use this to tank just about all of the incoming damage is fantastic.
- The Fiery Ring – Once per game pick an enemy within 6” and on a 2+ cause D6 mortal wounds. This is a little too swingy and specific for me to want to use up an artefact slot on really. Nice to be able to pluck to last few wounds off something but it’s very short ranged and could do nothing at all or only 1 wound.
- Magnetised Runes – Very simple, +2 to charge rolls. Just like the last book. This could be really fun on a Runefather or Runeson also benefiting from the +1 charge Command Ability for a +3 to charges being able to stomp across the table reliably.
- The Axe of Grimnir – Pick 1 melee weapon of the bearer and improve both the rend and damage by 1. This is incredible. On a Runeson that takes the Ancestral War Axe up to Rend -2 and Damage 3 with 5 attacks (also meaning more mortals against monsters) making him an actual beatstick that can clear through units.
Artefacts of the Forge-Temple (Priests)
- Ash-cloud Rune – Complete re-write from the last book. Instead of stopping 2 enemy spells now it gives a once-per-game 12” bubble wholly within the bearer to make your friendly units not-visible to enemy units attempting to cast spells. You use it the start of an enemy hero phase and it lasts for that phase only. This is situationally very good, a lot of spells do require line of sight to enemy units to cause negative effects or damage so having a section of your army that’s straight up immune could really save you.
- Volatile Brazier – If the bearer attempts to summon an invocation you can re-roll the result and also double the range of the prayer. This doesn’t double the range of the abilities on their warscrolls, but doubles the range that it can be set-up from the bearer, which is still really nice to see. Plopping a Fyrewall down further afield, and reliably, to hinder enemy movement can be actually very good.
- Droth-Helm – Add 1 to wound rolls for Claws and Horns of Magmadroths within 12”. If you’re running Lofnir with a bunch of droths then it’s a must take making all those damage 2 attacks wound on a 2+.
Relics of the Fyrd (any Fyreslayer Hero)
- Draught of Magmalt Ale – Once per game you can use this at the start of any combat phase to double the attacks made by the bearer. Importantly it’s only the bearer and not its mount, so it doesn’t straight up double the output of a Magmadroth hero. This could be really fun combined with the Blood of the Berzerker command trait above to have a Runefather put out 16 attacks total with his damage 3 axe in one turn.
- Nulsidian Icon – A fan-favourite that’s unchanged. Battlesmith only and each Fyreslayer unit wholly within 12” ignores the effect of spells and endless spells on a 4+. Pretty much a must-take.
- The Daemon Slayer – One of the bearer’s melee weapons ignores all Ward rolls. Could be great on a Grimwrath Berzerker or Runeson to just slice through any enemy, and funnily enough may be one of the best ways in the game to take out Gotrek (if you can attack first).
Each Runesmiter in your army gets to know one of these and Runemasters now just know all of them. Answer values for each in brackets.
- Prayer of Ash (4) – Instead of giving a unit within 18” +1 to save it makes all attacks targeting the unit suffer a -1 to wound rolls. It still makes one of your units much tougher to take out since there are very few ways to gain positive modifiers on wound rolls, but does mean that save stacking has gone by the wayside.
- Ember Storm (3) – Unchanged from the last book. Vulkite or Hearthguard Berzerker unit within 18” can run and still charge this turn.
- Prayer of Grimnir’s Fury (3) – Also unchanged, pick a non-mounted Fyreslayer hero within 12” to fight immediately in the hero phase if within 3” of an enemy unit. It’s one of very few ways this book has of dealing wounds in the Hero phase so is worth considering if you have Runesons (on foot) or Grimwrath Berzerkers to make good use of it. Having it in your back pocket with a Runemaster is great though since it’s so situational.
- Wrath of Vulcatrix (3) – Pick a Magmadroth within 12” and until your next hero phase you use its top profile when attacking. Probably best on a Runesmiter on droth since it can just choose itself making sure it’s hitting as hard as possible. Combined with the command you can use from the General’s Handbook you could have 2 wounded droths fighting at top profile come combat phase.
All three of these have not changed an ounce since the update on the Warhammer Community FAQ when 3rd edition started. However they are more appropriately costed finally at 70 points for the Infernoth (maybe still a bit much) and 55 for the other 2. The Fyrewall handing out wards to your units is handy and being able to block off some movement on the table is nice to have as well, but the Flamespitter adding some much-needed ranged damage is probably the better pick.
As mentioned above under Lofnir there are now only 3 traits to choose from and you cannot take the same one multiple times.
- Flame-scale Youngblood – When this Magamdroth uses the Stomp monstrous action the unit on the receiving end suffers 3 additional mortal wounds, if it suffered any. Dealing 4-6 mortal wounds reliably before attacking is fantastic and can really clear through both hordes and tougher elite units.
- Lava-tongue Adult – When using the Roaring Fyrestream ranged attack any unit that’s less than 5 models counts as 5 models. Means you can use it a little more against single-model units and still get some wounds through, but you’re not really choosing this one unless you’re taking Lofnir and getting every trait.
- Coal-heart Ancient – Instead of worsening incoming rend on attacks it subtracts 1 from the damage of all melee weapons targeting the mount. I’m not sure if this is better or worse than worsening rend, against high volume 1 damage attacks it is clearly worse but against monsters and elite units of damage 2+ weapons it makes your magmadroth much more survivable considering you’ll likely often have a ward to take after as well.
Other Matched Play Rules
As with the other books so far this gives players a few Grand Strategies and Battle Tactics to choose from instead of the ones from the General’s Handbook. Notably the only thing really missing here are any core battalions for the army to use. There just aren’t any, maybe because generally the others are easy to make use of? Who’s to say.
At the end of the battle if there is 1 Auric Runefather (mounted or not) and also 1 or more Auric Runesons (mounted or not) on the battlefield then you score it. Strangely due to the wording it doesn’t work if you have 2 Auric Runefathers on the table? I don’t think you’re really running to take more than 1 anyways, but amusing for sure.
Defend the Lodge
At the end of the battle you complete it if there are no enemy units wholly within your territory. This one is actually really tricky, just about every army is a lot faster and many have ways of teleporting as well. If you were able to choose these at each game maybe it’d see some use, but since it’s part of list writing it’s a little too tricky to really settle on.
Oath-takers and Skull-breakers
At the end of the battle you score this if you completed at least 4 battle tactics and each of the battle tactics you completed were from the “Oaths of Battle” list (see below). The Fyreslayer battle-tactics are actually really solid and not difficult to score, compared to what we’ve seen so far with faction matched play rules. This is cool, I like this. Is it good? Still no, the core battle tactics are still just easier to score.
Masters of the Forge
At the end of the battle you complete this if you have any Invocations under your control on the battlefield. This is actually really solid and would be a lot better if they the invocations didn’t just disappear by accident if you happen to roll really well with them. Combined with the Priest trait to spit out a free Molten Infernoth could be amusing though.
These are called Oaths of Battle which is frankly just very cool. They’re also quite good overall, which I’m hoping doesn’t set a dangerous precedent for future books to have easier and better battle tactics as well. Important to note though is that none will score you more than 2 points.#
Settle a Grudge
This is by far the coolest. Each time a friendly unit is destroyed by wounds caused by an attack you can take note of which enemy unit destroyed it. When you pick this battle tactic choose one of those enemy units on the battlefield and kill it. The only funny thing about wording here is that the enemy unit as to kill your unit with an “attack” not from a spell, invocation, ability, etc so being stomped to death by an enemy monster won’t count.
Pick an enemy monster and pick a friendly Hero (doesn’t have to be a Fyreslayer Hero, just any friendly Hero, so like Gotrek for example). You score this if that chosen Hero is what lays the killing blow on that enemy Monster this turn with any attack (so, as above, not via abilities etc). Pretty easy to do in a lot of cases of weakened monsters and a nice way to score more points by killing monsters in a currently monster-heavy meta.
An Honourable Death
Pick a friendly hero (again, doesn’t have to be a Fyreslayer). You complete the tactic if that Hero is dead but if it also killed any enemy models in the same turn. So, kill a goblin with your Runesmiter that’s on one wound left and surrounded and then die. Very thematic for the army.
Seize by Force
When you choose this one you have to currently control less objectives than your opponent. To score it you need to control more objectives than them. In games where there are only 3 objectives (or even 2 in the late game) this can be pretty easy to score depending on how everything is set up. Definitely good to keep in mind!
An Ignominious Death
Pick an enemy hero and kill it with throwing axes. That’s it and it’s hilarious. Considering throwing axes can deal mortal wounds one turn of the game and are actually not terrible any more either this could actually work on a Hero with only a wound or two left. More situational than the rest but could come up when you have nothing else to choose.
The strangest thing here is that the units that saw revisions and points changes in the Fury of the Deep box set didn’t even stay the same. Their new warscrolls are identical at least, but their points have changed again. I’m assuming this will be down to print times and when they were sent off, if things were delayed at all and minds were changed. The points in this book are the ones to use though unless they do an FAQ saying that the Fury of the Deep were actually right. Weird. There also aren’t any other new units either, disappointingly to Fyreslayer fans everywhere, just the Flamekeeper which was added recently to the army.
All throwing axes are now 4+ to hit and 4+ to wound, which is great to see because these attacks will actually do a little now and all of the ones thrown by Heroes are Rend -1 as well. At 8” range they’re mostly only being used once they’re in combat, but extra attacks are nice, especially during the Rune of Searing Heat to trigger some extra mortal wounds.
All Magmadroths have gotten +2 wounds and +2 attacks with their Blazing Maw profile. Their melee weapons have otherwise not changed though. Their ranged attack was recently shown off by Warhammer Community and instead of maybe doing some mortal wounds to an enemy it’s now a real ranged attack which hits on 3+ and wounds on 3+ at rend -1 and damage 1. The number of attacks it makes is dependent on the unit it’s attacking, equal to the number of models in the enemy unit up to 10. It’s hoard clearance basically, and that’s fine, it’s a solid profile. At 9” range it’s not being used too often early on but that’s actually ok because if a Magmadroth does not use its attack in a turn then the next time it does use it it becomes Rend -3 instead, which is suddenly actually melting hoard units even with better saves like Mortek Guard. Once you’ve used the ranged attack at the improved Rend then it goes back to the normal Rend -1, so if you want it at Rend -3 again you have to forgo using it for a turn. They still bleed when wounded, dealing a mortal wound back to the unit that wounded them via melee weapons on a 4+ and their lashing tail saw a very minor buff in that it no longer degrades on the table and you just have to roll equal to or under the amount of models in enemy units within 3” to cause D3 mortal wounds. They also all still have a 4+ save and the same movement as before which degrades with wounds suffered.
Unfortunately they’ve all gotten a lot more expensive to field. The Runefather variant runs you 360 points while the Runesmiter is hardly cheaper at 340 and the Runeson at 320 meaning an all-droth Lofnir list will be 6 Magmadroths at most, with nothing else in your army.
The Runefather no longer has the weapon-breaker rule, which frankly was rarely remembered and when it was it rarely had an effect either, so that’s fine. Also gone is the Stare ability which decreased an enemy unit’s Bravery. What he has gotten now though is a new ability, along with the Runefather on foot, that once per game you can “unleash the wrath of Grimnir” and give off a 12” wholly-within aura for Fyreslayers to gain +1 attack with all melee weapons until the end of the combat phase. That’s actually really good. As it’s worded it doesn’t matter how many Runefathers you have, you can only use this ability once NOT once per Runefather. Still, giving himself +1 attack with all attacks (including his mount) and buffing Hearthguard Berzerkers up to 3 attacks a piece is huge. Use early on for maximum attacks before your units have taken losses. He does also have 4 attacks with his 3 damage axe, which is nice to see.
Moving on to the Priest variant, the Runesmiter mounted is pretty different now as well. Gone is the once-per-game +1 save aura (there really is no save stacking in this book any more) and has gained nothing new actually. The Runic Iron isn’t a melee weapon any more but instead gives a re-roll when chanting his warscroll prayer Runic Empowerment, which hasn’t changed either giving a nearby unit +1 to wound rolls. The key still extends the range of it from 12” to 18” though so now it’s a question if you want increased range or re-roll to reliably get the prayer happening. Annoyingly the Runic Iron doesn’t give a re-roll for any other prayers or for Invocation rolls either, just this one prayer.
Lastly we have the Runeson. What was previously a terribly sad excuse for a hero in melee has seen a stark improvement. While losing the Battering Ram command ability you no longer have to take multiple Runesons to make them work. Vying for Glory now triggers off of 6’s to hit against Monster units, causing a number of mortal wounds equal to the damage of the weapon attacking and the attack sequence ending. This works for the entire Magmadroth too though. The Runeson’s Ancestral War Axe is now 5 attacks hitting and wounding on 3+ with Rend -1 and flat damage 2 making him much more dangerous and the javelin profile is still 1 ranged attack but now 3 attacks as a melee weapon. With the war axe in hand one of these mounted makes 11 damage 2 attacks and 3 damage D3 attacks, all with rend, and with a good chance of getting some mortals off instead against monsters.
As mentioned before now the Runemaster has seen a significant buff and I can now seem him being taken more often, even at 125 points. If he’s within 3” of your General in your own hero phase you get an extra command point; if he is your general then he’ll always get this. He also knows every single Zharrgrim Blessing prayer so he can know Heal or Curse (or Guidance, but who uses that?) as well as all the relevant slayer prayers making him very flexible and making some of the more niche prayers useable, on occasion. It’d have been nice if he was able to chant more than 1 prayer per turn but sadly does not. His own Warscroll Prayer goes unchanged but with his runic iron at least you can re-roll to see if that prayer is answered, which you’re not really ever using.
Runesmiters thankfully kept their Magmic Tunneling ability and it works exactly as before. The hero and up to one unit can go underground and pop up together in the ended of any of your own movement phases. Also boosted to a 4+ save now which is nice to see. The Latch-axe got an extra attack, so, that’s something? It’s still a solid hero and you’re taking him for the reserve rule really as well as prayers anyways. At 135 points he’s more expensive but still worth it.
New from the Fury of the Deep box, the Flamekeeper works exactly as he did from that box set. You count up dead Fyreslayers near him and then give living units pretty significant buffs. Strangely he went up 10 points and now costs you 90, which is strange. I can see uses for this hero but with everything getting more expensive he’s also much harder to slot into lists.
The leaders of the lodge, the Runefather and Runeson are similar to their mounted counterparts. The former has the same ability for a once per game +1 attack aura and the latter deals mortal wounds to monsters with his much improved melee stats though has lost his aura command ability for +1 wound which is why you were taking him before. What they both gain though is a new rule for a Royal Retinue. At the start of the first battle round each one of these gets to pick a different unit of Auric Hearthguard or Hearthguard Berzerkers to be their retinue (or a Grimwrath with that Oath, as above). The retinue can tank wounds for their hero on a 3+ AND get to make Ward rolls after they take that wound. That means that if a Runefather with Hearthguard Berzerker retinue is attacked he gets to attempt his armour save first, if that fails then instead of attempting a ward on the hero on a 3+ that wound is transferred to its retinue within 3” and then the Hearthguard Berzerker unit can attempt their 4+ ward. That’s huge and will stop these heroes from being so easily shot off the board. ALSO after the Runefatehr/Runeson has fought if their retinue is within 3” of an enemy and within 12” of the guy they’re guarding then they get to fight immediately instead of needing to wait around for another activation. At 125 and 80 points respectively I can see Runesons going into lists at their cheap, low cost.
Battlesmitshs see a complete rewrite on their Warscroll. Gone is the aura of +1 save and the ability to guard the banner when he dies and instead gives all friendly Fyreslayers wholly within 12” a 6+ ward. Once per game this can be improved in your own hero phase to be an aura of 5+ ward instead, but from the wording it’s once per game if you have any Battlesmiths, not once per game per Battlesmith. Taking multiple will mean increased survival of your units with more 6+ wards across the board, as well as 2 auras for 18″ commands. Vulkites with constant Wards is going to be nice to have but even better is giving wards to all of your weak foot heroes who too often get shot off the table with ease. It’s not huge but it is nice. Even better though, when a Battlesmith issues the Rally order to any friendly unit you return 1 slain model on a 4+ instead of a 6. That’s not just Fyreslayers. That 20-strong block of Irondrakes you allied in so they could benefit from Ur-Gold? Yep. A unit of Stormdrake Guard? Yep. Anything. Might make this little hero a very common ally unit as well. Even worth the points bump up to 150, maybe. For the ward and the Rally I can see at least one in just about every list, maybe even two.
Grimwraths and Doomseekers, the two non-Leader Heroes of the book remain that way and basically haven’t changed at all either. In fact, they straight up just haven’t changed. At all. Even their points costs are the same still. Was hoping to see a buff of some kind on the Doomseeker but wasn’t in the cards. At 105 points per Grimwrath they’re cheap enough and still as hard as before so taking multiple could be in the cards depending what else you’re taking.
Fjul Grimnir and the Chosen Axes
I guess I should also cover these guys. They’re still Vostarg, which actually is fine now, and the Chosen Axes unit must be Fjul Grimnir’s retinue. Weirdly Fjul Grimnir is a Runefather in every way, same wounds, save, bravery, weapon (but no throwing axe) etc but doesn’t have the once per game ability for +1 attacks. The Chosen Axes get extra attacks on the charge, can once per game fight on death, and just kind of exist. It’s cool that they made rules for the warbands but this is one you can skip. Great models though that I’ve just used in different units in my army instead, which I recommend.
Your multi-model units that will make up the bulk of your army, these are identical to the warscroll updates from the Fury of the Deep box set a few weeks back, but make a little more sense now in the grand scheme of the battletome.
The same as happened in Fury of the Deep there are now 2 different warscrolls for Vulkites: one with shields and one with dual hand axes. The former Have a 4+ save base instead of 5+ and only 1 attack on their melee weapons (either hand axe or pick) but can do mortal wounds when they charge into combat. The latter have 2 attacks base and a 3rd on the turn they make a charge move. Both variations can once-per-game trigger an ability to fight on death in combat. The horn which you can take 1 per 5 models gives you +1 to charge rolls if you have any in the unit too, making getting them slightly easier. The axes have no rend however on either warscroll, and the war picks need a 4+ to wound with rend -1 but only 1 attack per model, which means they won’t really be doing a whole lot sadly.
So which do you want to build and take? Both, probably, depending. At 160 points with shields and 170 with dual axes these are still expensive 2 wound units. The 4+ save from the shields does better at sitting on an objective and dying a little slower. The dual axes could be really fun emerging from reserve with a Runesmiter and making easier charges into back-line unsuspecting enemy units if your opponent didn’t screen off well enough. The best play for the dual handaxes could be coming up with a Runesmiter on the turn you have activated extra rend to give their weapons some staying power, alongside a General with the +1 to charge trait so they’re looking for an easier 7” charge roll and making 3 attacks each, or 4 if you use a Runefather’s once per game ability nearby. In Vostarg those are then hitting on 2+ and wounding on 2+ as well. Is it amazing? No. They won’t have the staying power to stick around for very long after that initial hit so you’ll need to place it well and hit something they can actually deal damage to.
This is a bit of a head scratcher. These now cost you 160 points per 5 models. They were 125 in the last book, and raised to 135 in Fury of the Deep and now see an even large points hike. Potentially this is because of their ability to tank and then shrug off wounds for Runefathers and Runesons on foot, but with their 4+ ward now needing to be much closer to a Hero they’ll have a harder time charging off into combat, where they really want to be. They’re still 2 wounds a piece with a 5+ save and without any save stacking any more they’re really relying on that ward to stay alive.
Units of 15 running around acting as retinue to Runefathers or Runesons on foot will be pretty big, being able to tank wounds for them while still getting their 4+ ward and then being rallied on a 4+ from a battlesmith is solid.
These lived a short life of tabletop play while they were Damage 2 against Monsters in a very Monster-heavy environment but having lost that as well as losing their in-built bodyguard ability I don’t see them being taken often any more. They do make 2 shots per model at 18” range but needing 4’s to hit hurts them a little too much, especially at their high cost of 125 per 5 models (an increase since Fury of the Deep as well). They are able to slow down any enemy unit with each 6 to hit subtracting 1” from their move, down to half of their original move at most, so maybe they’ll still be taken but with how much everything else costs I haven’t been able to slot any into a list and not felt that something else would just be better in their place. As a buff though, they do hit and wound on 3+ with their magmapikes in melee now and have -1 Rend built in, so if/when they get stuck in combat they can at least do a little punching. It is still only 1 attack each at damage 1, but it’s better than it was.
I was expecting to see some kind of change to the terrain piece but there isn’t one. You get +1 to chanting rolls to Priests within 18” so long as there’s 1 within 6” of it and once per game you can use all of its power to give army-wide 6+ ward but then lose the bonus to chanting for the rest of the game. With battlesmiths out and about you’re probably less likely to actually use the ward ability, and if it’s come to that then you’re probably in too much trouble for it to save you anyways.
It’s going to take some time, and a lot of gaming, to really find what makes this book “click” now. At the surface level it feels like a lot has been stripped away from the army, and there’s no doubt that the army has changed in how it looks, which is amazing for an army with only 3 units plus heroes! If you were around for first edition you remember the 90-120 Vulkite spam, and then the Hearthguard Berzerker spam that we saw predominantly with the last book. It looks like there’s going to be a mix of the two now and there will probably be some really esoteric builds popping up with various allied Duardin units too with that cool new command trait.
If you want an army that’s immediately and obviously competitive to take to the top tables of events this is not going to be that book, if you want excessively angry, mostly-naked dwarfs, then it definitely is.
If you’re more of an elf or fish type, the Idoneth Review will be along very shortly later today!