This Review was completed using a copy of Battletome: Ossiarch Bonereapers provided to us for free by Games Workshop.
Ossiarch Bonereapers have arguably been one of the most battered armies in their short history. Debuting in the fall of 2019 the general consensus was that they were very strong, but wouldn’t really get much of a chance to show that off as COVID lockdowns put an end to in-person tournaments for nearly 2 years. By that time, third edition had come out and their very janky ruleset did not transfer over well at all and they tended to suffer at the bottom of the meta rankings.
Now they are finally getting a proper tome to bring them into third edition and it’s a big deal. Few can argue they need it more than most, so let’s see if it was worth the wait.
Why Play Ossiarch Bonereapers?
Most Death armies are hordes. Sure, there are some big monster-heavy lists in FEC and Soulblight Gravelords, but those books are designed with running hordes in mind. Ossiarch Bonereapers are the Elite Stormcast of Death. A grinder army that can take a punch right on the jaw and then push back, regenerating faster than the enemy can put them down.
Ossiarch Bonereapers let you truly feel like a General issuing orders to troops across the battlefield, marching in formation to crush their foes under unrelenting might. You’ve got a real “combined arms” approach here that’s sometimes lacking in Death, with units feeling like they work together, not just at the command of a single angry vampire.
Narratively, Bonereapers are the most… human? of the Death armies. They are calm, controlled, and trying to expand their empire out in the name of Nagash, overcoming many of the same obstacles as the armies of Order. Sure, they may flay down their enemies to use them to build cities and new soldiers if you don’t pay your taxes, but they’re a lot more civilised than many other armies, from any faction. If you want to use an army of sculpted, perfect warriors, obedient and endless, to build your forever empire (and we do mean forever), then Ossiarch Bonereapers may be the army for you.
What’s in the Book?
- Lore surrounding the Ossiarch Bonereapers and what they’ve been up to during the Age of Beasts.
- Army Rules for the Ossiarch Bonereapers, including the massively revamped Relentless Discipline.
- Path to Glory rules to allow you to collect the Bone Tithe in your own campaigns.
- Warscrolls for all of the Ossiarch Bonereapers, and a newly redesigned warscroll for Nagash!
- Brand new battle tactics and grand strategies for matched play to let you to be the tactical supremacist on the field.
5 Best Things About The Book
- Combined arms – Unlike other, sadder undead armies, the Ossiarch Bonereapers can build a force that really feels like an army, blending infantry, cavalry, war machines, monsters and magic to feel like a cohesive whole, rather than having to lean too heavily into one. You’ve got some real power behind those bones, but can also play a horde to be a real pain for your opponent. Options!
- New Relentless Discipline – The #1 thing on everyone’s mind, Relentless Discipline is gone! You get command points and generic command abilities like everyone else, and you get a lot of points.
- Nadirite Weapons – Massively simplified, this ability is army wide now and that makes your melee stuff even better.
- Immortis Guard and Stalkers – Previously Stalkers were like the best option out of a bad book. Now the chains have been removed and these blender boys are even more terrifying than before.
- Endless Spells – The previously pretty garbage endless spells are all pretty awesome now, letting you put fear into the enemy.
Ranks Unbroken by Dissent
Ignore Battleshock tests, same as before. Like the rest of Death, everything in your army is Bravery 10, but this is even better. Not only does it making running Mortek in larger blobs more practical, it spares you from using a command point on Inspiring Presence or having it blocked by abilities.
6+ Ward on every unit. In practical terms, same as before since it applied to all units within 12″ of a Hero or with the Hekatos keyword (Which was mostly everything). This streamlines the ability so it works how it basically did anyway.
Big change, rather than only affecting weapons with “Nadirite” in their name (A seemingly arbitrary decision from unit to unit) all non-mount melee attacks explode 6s to hit into 2 6s. This not only speeds up gameplay to not need to stop to differentiate weapon profiles, but makes several combat units like Stalkers even better.
The biggest mystery of how this book was going to hash out was how Relentless Discipline would be changed. For those of you unfamiliar with Ossiarch Bonereapers, it was their “big thing” that made them very different from other armies. Ossiarch Bonereapers did not get command points, but Relentless Discipline (RDP) which could be spent only on their own unique command abilities. They generally had way more RDP than other armies got CP, and their command abilities could be stacked on top of each other, but they all went away at the end of the turn (this was a bigger deal in 2nd ed when CP didn’t go away at the end of the turn, unlike now), so you were encouraged to spend them like crazy. This generally was an upside. Generic command abilities were not very good, and many of the Ossiarch’s unique command abilities more than made up for that.
Fast forward to third edition where CP became much more like RDP. You got more command points (that also went away at the end of the turn) and generic command abilities became invaluable to the game experience. Games Workshop didn’t see to know how to deal with this problem and tried multiple approaches to hotfix it and none of them really worked. Being denied access to abilities like Redeploy and All Out Defense were absolutely crippling to the army.
History Lesson over, what did they go with? Well the answer was to give the army Command Points like everyone else but they get an absolute ton of them
Since these are cumulative, you can very easily get 9-10 Command Points in a turn (counting the ones you get normally. That is…so many command points to work with, and theres ways to squeeze a few more out of there. I’m not sure this is the solution I was expecting and it seems a bit out there. Especially because you still have access to…
That’s right, you didn’t lose access to your old Command abilities. Basically all of them returned intact and unlike other command abilities you can still use them multiple times in a turn. The issuer and receiver must be different each time, but you can still, say issue Unstoppable Advance onto several units for that +3″ of movement.
Fan-favorite Bludgeon returns intact, granting -1 rend, but is no longer locked in behind Petrifix Elite. Similarly the Stalliarch Lords Rally Back returns as Reform Ranks, allowing a unit to retreat and charge so it’s not caught in the lurch of a combat situation it really doesn’t want to be in. Counter-Strike from Mortis Praetorians returns, but as a +1 to wound instead of rerolling hits, still a very good bonus
Reknit Constructs, for healing D3 wounds and Unflinching Coordination, to have a unit fight immediately after a hero, return from White Dwarf but Reknit Constructs had its one big downside removed- you no longer need to not move to use it. Excellent.
There is one newcomer, Impenetrable Ranks which gives a unit a +1 to ward rolls. While in most situations that means a unit can get a 5+ ward, which is still pretty good, it doesn’t just say Deathless Warriors which means if you’re crazy and run Nagash, you can get a 4+ ward. Have fun.
Six Traits here, and honestly they’re all pretty useful. Crafted from Beast-bone grants the general +1 attack per battle round, starting from the first round after he’s fought, and is probably the worst, realistically only granting you maybe 3 extra attacks and not helping out your army that much. Aura of Sterility (sorry Slannesh) is -1 to hit and wound with ranged weapons targeting your troops wholly within 12″, which is a very limiting bubble, while Mighty Archaeossian ignores negative modifiers to your saves. Now, each of those can be great situationally, but the other half of this list is where the real meat lies.
Diversionary Tactics reduces enemy charges within 12″ (not wholly within!) by 3″, and this could be a massive swing, leaving a vital enemy unit out to dry after a failed charge. Dark Acolyte is a fairly standard “your first spell each turn, if successfully cast, cannot be unbound”, which is very nifty with the useful spells (particularly endless spells) this army can bring to bear. Our favourite however is Show of Superiority, where whenever your opponent spends any command points, on a 5+ they must spend two instead of one. Command points are always super valuable, so the ability to mess with the enemy economy cannot be overlooked.
Four artefacts for any Ossiarch Bonereapers hero, and one more for each of the four types of Mortisan. In comparison to the command traits, these are a lot weaker or more situational. The only generic artefact of note is probably Helm of Tyranny, denying enemy units within 3″ Inspiring Presence and adding D3 extra casualties should the enemy fail a battle shock test. Mindblade is situationally useful, where if you wound a Hero but don’t kill them, they can’t complete Heroic Actions anymore, which is probably helpful only because if your hero and a big unit are still alive, the enemy hero won’t be, but if your hero is dead then you’ll need something to help catch back up. Either way, it doesn’t help you win in the first place. Marrowpact heals you for the number of wounds dealt, while Lode of Saturation gives +1 to your Ward.
Moving over to the Treasures of the Mortisans, the two losers are the Soulmason’s Bones of the Abyss, granting your chair +1 Attack until the end of the turn for each spell they cast, and the Soulreaper’s Luminscythe, subtracting -1 to hit and wound when attacking the bearer. Yay? You’re never going to take either of these though, because the other artefacts slap. The Artisan’s Key lets your Boneshaper double tap their healing spell on a 3+, either effecting two different units, or one unit twice. Finally, the Ossifector can take a Gothizzar Cartouche. We’re a bit rough on the Ossifector further down, but this artefact alone might make them worth taking – add a flat +1 to wound in melee for Ossiarch units wholly within 9″ of the bearer. Bonereapers units tend to be front weighted, hitting well but only wounding on 4+ or so. This, at worse, makes your generic units wound on 3+, or turns your elite combat monsters into absolute blenders. Harvesters wounding on 2+ with 10 damage 2 attacks? Don’t mind if we do!
Six spells here, as is right and proper, some old, some new. Empower Nadirite Weapons returns unchanged, granting weapons 2 hits instead of 1 on a 5+, instead of a 6+, but given Nadirite is an army wide rule now, this is a pretty sick upgrade, working on every unit in your army. Protection of Nagash no longer gives you any kind of save, but still means that taking any wounds lets you teleport across the battlefield, setting up more than 9″ away from the enemy. Situational, but still a good toy for Nagash and Arkhan. Reinforce Constructs is the new Reinforce Battle Shields and it got a big glow up, no longer only effecting models with shields, but instead any unit its cast on gets a 4+ ward against mortal wounds. Drain Vitality serves the same roll, but instead of forcing your opponent to re-roll saves and hit rolls of 6, it’s just a flat -1, which, while probably mathematically better, is arguably a lot worse, since you’re no longer forcing your opponent to re-roll any fancy shenanigans they proc’d on a 6 to hit. Mortal Contract remains awesome, letting you do D3 mortal wounds on a 3+ every phase the victim does any damage to your army. Finally, we have Soul Release, denying your enemy the ability to set up summoned units within 12″ of the caster. This is… not a great spell, but since most of your casters know all your spells anyway, isn’t too much of a tax if you have even a Soulmason on the field.
Like every other 3.0 book, the mandatory command traits, artefacts and the bonus command ability have been thrown out. This is a more of a victory for you than any other army because rather than just having your command ability thrown in the trash you basically just get all of them now. Pretty cool.
Once per turn, after an enemy unit has charged, your Praetorians can attempt a charge. This counter-charge could really force your opponents to think about who charges when, where, trying to bait it out of you. This no-cost surge forward is interesting, and could help swing a combat, particularly if your opponent is trying to dogpile a single unit and not draw in the rest of your army.
Petrifix elite has a serious identity crisis and has changed several times. Since Ossiarch Bonereapers can use All Out Defence now, we kinda new -1 to Rend wasn’t going to stick. So now they get the Thunder Lizard treatment and get -1 Damage on Hekatos units (which includes Necropolis Stalkers, Immortis Guard and both kinds of Morghast) and Harvesters. This is a lot better than it sounds, despite the limitations. Stalkers remain as one of the best hammers in the book, and is possibly the best option of them all.
Formerly run and charge for your whole army, this is now re-roll charges for units with a mount, which is… not a lot of units, though this hilariously does include the Mortisan Soulmason. A flat nerf, and not enough to make the faction, especially viable given how good some of the other subfactions are.
Previously, uh, bad, Ivory Host is now a possibly competitive option. Nadirite Weapons now triggers three hits on a roll of a 6, if you’ve suffered any wounds earlier in the turn. When multiple combats occur it’s inevitably that somebody is gonna take some chip damage, so this will let them strike back with a vengeance.
If a unit is wholly within 9″ of Arkhan or any Mortisans, ignore any spell targeting them on a 2+. Situational, but appreciated when needed. The value of this is going to entirely depend on your meta, and given the variety of armies at larger events, probably just flat isn’t worth it.
Basically you’re getting the Stormcast explosion ability, roll a number of dice equal to the wounds of a model that just died and each 5+ is a mortal, so it at least scales. It’s not useless but Ossiarch Bonereaper lists usually run a very low number of models, and don’t want to lose too many. That said it’s potentially fun if you run a lot of Mortek.
Just one, the Ossiarch Court. It’s a slightly modified Battle Regiment that lets you bring up to 2 monsters and up to 2 artillery, to accommodate the fact that due to the limited model range it’s not unusual to want to run a Harvester and a Crawler, or some combination thereof. There is something new here, a deployment stipulation that requires all units be within 6″ of 2 other units in the battalion. Workable, but you’ll need to practice your deployment so you don’t eat up too much time figuring this all out.
Four strategies here in the Demands of the Tithe, and up front none of them are better than the core strategies.
The Scales Balanced is scored if any friendly Mortek Guard or Kavalos Deathrider unit ends the game with the same number of models as they had at the start. This is bad, because it’s relying far too heavily on what your opponent does and, despite the plethora of healing available to you, means that you have to spend your time healing a unit to score this rather than healing elsewhere to help you win the game in the first place. Very much a “win more” kind of strategy.
A Textbook Conquest requires that you hold every objective at the end of the game. If you’re doing this, you’ve already won, so why are you worried? It’s also entirely dependent on your event organiser’s choice – are they choosing missions with one, or five objectives? This is just too far out of your control, and too challenging to complete, to be worthwhile.
Cremation and Termination, the name of our next black metal album, is scored if, at the end of the game, you have more Mortisan heroes than the enemy has heroes at all. This is awful, since your opponent can deny you with maybe just a single targeted kill. Your big heroes aren’t Mortisans (not even Arkhan), so you’re forced into taking a spread of smaller heroes, killing all your enemy’s, hoping none of your own die, and then even if that’s all fine praying you don’t run into Gitz with eight billion heroes and have no chance of scoring this outright. Pass.
The Pride of Ossia is the best of a bad bunch, requiring only that you complete at least four battle tactics, and that every battle tactic completed comes from the Flawless Executions list of of Ossiarch Bonereapers specific battle tactics. So, yes, if you complete five then you fail this grand strategy. Woo? This one really depends how you rate the battle tactics; we’re a fan of some, but getting to four is pushing it.
Trample the Defiant needs a Kavalos Deathrider unit to charge, but still be in combat at the end of the turn. This is awkward because it means you can’t kill your target, so either make sure it’s durable enough to take the hit (and not kill you on the return hit), or charge into 2 units so one is left alive. This is at least an improvement from the White Dwarf version because you have easier access to reroll charges this time. The Sculptor’s Entourage needs a unit of Immortis Guard and a Mortisan to contest the same objective outside of your territory, the good news is running these is going to be common in your list so it’s a pretty easy to do. Remorseless Bombardment needs a Mortek Crawler to kill a unit, so make sure to target something on its last legs. The Tithe Demand is much more achievable, requiring that a (greatly superior) Gothizzar Harvester makes the final blow on a unit. The Edge of Obliteration is similarly simple, requiring only that two Necropolis Stalker units are in enemy territory, but outside of 9″ of enemy units. This is the good kind of battle tactic, one that you have near complete control over. Finally, Unfeeling Recursion requires that you’ve healed three or more units, using Reknit Constructs and then not have any models slain this turn in those units. This is doable with some caution, either don’t send them into combat at all, or make sure its one where they can easily win (or cripple the unit enough that they won’t lose models on the return fire, such as into a unit of stalkers).
Overall a pretty solid bunch, but a few of them rely on bringing specific models and you won’t be able to fit everything into your list.
Katakros, Mortarch of the Necropolis
Katakros saw some changes. Let’s focus on the big one: His entourage no longer dies off as he takes wounds. While a fun gimmick, it could be a nightmare to keep having to check the warscroll to see which attendants were still alive (and then have to check which benefits they conferred). They also died very quickly, and Katakros could be stuck in this weird limbo where his utility had diminished but he was not yet injured enough to bring out the big guns.
As for his entourage, their attacks have been consolidated into one set of attacks and their abilities remained mostly the same. He still causes a -1 to hit on a unit of his choice and he still can steal a command point at the beginning of each player’s turns. It’s a 5+ now instead of a 4+, which seems fair since the ability can’t be removed. Since his banner bearer can’t die, instead of expanding the range of Supreme Lord of the Bonereaper Legions Katakros can now issue one order a turn for free. As if you didn’t have enough CP to work with.
Speaking of Supreme Lord, it’s still here, granting +1 to saves and hit, but has been toned down for the outrageous 36″ to a more reasonable 24″. Interestingly it cannot be used while in combat. It still works if you use it then charge into combat later, you just want to avoid him getting stuck until your next Hero phase. Katakros’s other hits are still here like Endless Duty for +1 attack and Mortarch of the Necropolis to restore 3 wounds (or equivalent models) to 3 units. They actually added a patch to one of the biggest weaknesses with the ability, too. You can revive a Stalker or Immortis guard model on a 3+ instead of healing if there are no wounds, which was probably the biggest incongruity in that unit. Finally he also got one last ability Do Nothing! This one is Mine! which lets him fight at his bottom bracket if he is in combat with a Hero, even if he doesn’t target that Hero. While his shield no longer does Mortal Wounds on 6s, he now benefits from Nadirite Weapons and his entourage is only slightly impacted from damage so it hashes out.
So, altogether, is he worth it? That’s a tough one, at 440 he is a serious investment. That said his utility is hard to deny, and he can no longer lose that utility by being shot at a few times so if you want to build around him he can put in the work, you just really need to work with the fact you’re handicapping yourself quite a few points.
Nagash, Supreme Lord of the Undead
Big changes here – the self-proclaimed Supreme Lord of the Undead has been completely rewritten conceptually. Some things have stayed the same, he still casts up to 8 spells that degrades down to 4 through the damage table and he’s still a Warmaster that knows all the spells of the army you take him in, and hand of dust is the same. Everything else has changed.
Nagash’s shooting attack is gone, but the melee profile has been smoothed out. No aspect of it degrades anymore, it’s a flat 4 attacks each for both Alakanash and Zefet-nebtar and the bizarre decision to have the huge sword wound on a 4+ has been reversed. This works out meaning the old Nagash very slightly out damages the new Nagash at top bracket, but the new Nagash remains consistent until death. Another core profile change is that Nagash’s wounds are up to 18, which is a very welcome change as 16 did feel a bit wimpy and every wound counts on a model like this. Finally on the core profile, Nagash now has a degrading movement profile, starting at 10” and degrading down to 7”. This is a mild speed boost at top bracket, but unless you have a lore-teleport or other speed boost he will be sluggish.
A very, very welcome change is that the bonus to cast/deny/unbind is now always +3, a more thematic way to handle that and you’ll take the flat bonus for degrading movement every day. Note that Nagash now just has an unlimited number of denies with this bonus. The ability to mortal wound machinegun via unlimited arcane bolts is just gone and whilst that was a strong ability, it always felt like a bit of a stopgap until they had a better idea. In Soulblight, having access to both lores makes Nagash a brutal debuff machine, and being able to start comboing those Lore of the Deathmages spells on the enemy is crippling amounts of debuff onto melee units.
Invocation of Nagash is now a degrading ability, being an aura with a range that starts at 24” and goes down to 9”, a pretty big swing. Otherwise, this still lets you heal 3 wounds or return 3 wounds of models to a summonable unit, but now targets every eligible unit within range of the aura. This looks like a worse version of the ability, but you’re much more likely to be wanting your units to be hugging Nagash now, for reasons we will get to in the next paragraph. In the Soulblight context, if a unit is near Nagash and a gravesite you’re looking at bringing 7 wounds of models back into a unit with zero dice rolls, which is really good.
Morikhane, Nagash’s ensorcelled armour, now provides a 12” aura of a 5+ ward to death units. This is a huge change and gives Nagash more of a castle gameplay effect than he previously had, though to be fair 12” from his huge base is a decent amount of real estate to be working with. Note that Nagash is also affected by this aura, being a 5+ this means he’s slightly more vulnerable to mortal wounds than previously but is much more durable against regular damage, and combined with the wound increase he will be a menace to deal with for armies that cannot output a large quantity of mortal wounds.
Supreme Lord of the Undead is a start of hero phase ability that gives you a 3+ roll to return a slain summonable unit, with half of its starting models. Last but not least, Soul Stealer is now a real spell. Still a nice 24” range, it now automatically does d3 mortal wounds and can do d6 mortal wounds on an unmodified 9+ to cast. Nagash gets wounds back for every one inflicted, so chances are you will be casting this quite often now.
For all of this, Nagash is back up to 965 points. That’s a huge chunk of your army, you’re essentially playing with a thousand point army and Nagash. Unlike in Soulblight or Nighthaunt, where he might see some play, he probably will continue to not see much use in Ossiarch. The reality is your units cost too much, and you just cannot afford to offload half your list onto one guy.
Arkhan the Black, Mortarch of Sacrament
Arkhan is noticeably improved in this book, which is interesting since he was one of the few units who actually was pretty solid at his baseline. He hit the gym with the other Mortarchs in Soulblight and gained a 3+ save, and is at 14 wounds like the other 2. Arkhan’s damage table is massively improved as well – you now only start to bracket having lost eight wounds, rather than the previous, uh, three, and Arkhan is at every point on that chart hitting harder, moving faster, and casting better than he was last book. Before getting down into his tome of special rules, the only loss to his stat line is dropping Zefet-kar (his sword) to hit on a 4+, but his ghost buddies now hits on a 4+ up from 5+, so, fair trade. Your D3 damage weapons have all stabilized at flat damage 2 now, which is always a good quality of life change.
Feaster of Souls lets you heal the number of wounds you inflicted in combat, now capped at six rather than two, and while his spirit companions have lost their mortal wounds on 6+, his former command ability First of the Mortarchs is now baked in and always active, rather than costing a command or Relentless Discipline point. His healing is improved as well, giving him the chance to resurrect Immortis Guard and Necropolis Stalkers on a 3+ while keeping his “three units within 24″ heal or resurrect three wounds” ability. Curse of Years remains unchanged, being a potent psychological weapon that could do infinite damage (well, fifty) on your opponent but mathematically does about three.
All in all this is a damn good model which, at 370 points, needs to be built around, but operates as a great centrepiece – or a buddy to the strategic genius and absolute blender that is Katakros if you’re ok dumping 810 points on 2 models.
Mir Kainan and Kainan’s Reapers
Mir Kainan saw some legitimate use in tournament lists during the Dark Days of the Ossiarch Bonereapers (all of 3.0 to date…), with a vicious attack that did D3+1 Mortal Wounds on a hit roll of a 6. That’s gone now, and while he’s gained an attack on the upswing, it doesn’t even out. Instead, he’s got a little Blood Tithe mechanic that allows him to heal his Reapers for 3, or grant each of them an extra melee attack. This is actually really good, because Kainan’s Reapers, while being just okay in combat, can tank wounds for Mir, tying in well with his new signature spell, Dire Ultimatum. With a casting value of only 4, Mir can force an enemy hero to target him rather than his chosen victim. Got a raging Bloodthirster that’s about to delete Nagash? Too bad, he has to swing at Mir instead, and since he can pass wounds to his Reapers, giving him functionally eighteen wounds, three of which he can return with his Bone-tithe, with others being healed from other sources as normal. This has the potential to be deeply irritating to a melee hero, but is likely a trick that’ll only work a couple times before your opponents grow wise to it. Which they will, because this spell forces your opponent to target Mir. Cast this spell then have some way of moving out of combat? Too bad, that enemy monster can’t attack at all. Deal with it.
Vokmortian, Master of the Bone Tithe
Vokmortian has received a massive upgrade, and is now likely “almost entirely useless”, rather than guaranteed to always sit on your shelf. He still does the same basic things (debuffs, two cast wizard), but now also knows every spell from the Lore of Ossian Sorcery, which would be amazing… if the Soulmason didn’t always have this trick. You’re not taking him to do damage, but his survivability has gone way up, as on a 3+ an enemy unit of your choice needs to spend a Command Point to target him. This would be great on a combat character, but for some reason Vokmortian is still a squishy wizard with almost no combat ability. His signature spell, Mortal Touch, is now a 4+ to kill a single model, rather than 5+, but it remains a one inch spell on a fragile model that shouldn’t be in combat. His other debuff, Grim Warnings, is much improved, reducing enemy leadership within 12″ by 2 by default, and if the enemy general is slain, reducing it by 3. He’s… okay? 140 points for a 2 cast wizard isn’t terrible, and the leadership debuff is grand (or would be, if Inspiring Presence didn’t exist), but for only 20 more points you’re getting a Soulmason, so there’s really no contest.
Zandtos is basically a much stubbier, but less supportive, version of the Liege-Kavalos. His Dark Lance is 5 attacks doing up to 15 damage on the charge, plus the mount, and he can always be taken as a Warmaster. His unique command ability Still their Breath! gives +1 to wound to all friendly Ossiarch melee attacks wholly within 12″, but only effects Mortis Praetorian units. He’s got Will of the Legions, like his mate below, but not having Endless Duty is a real kick. He’s cool, but not useful enough as a utility piece to be worth taking over a generic Liege-Kavalos, and is 20 points more anyway.
Continuing our theme of simplified attack profiles, the Liege-Kavalos loses his shield attacks but gains two more base attacks, making him a very respectable combat character when combined with Unstoppable Charge (improved now to 5+ to do mortal wounds on a charge roll), but he’s mostly here as an incredible support piece. Endless Duty remains an amazing staple, giving +1 attacks to an Ossiarch unit, while a new ability, The Will of the Legions, means that he can use a command ability once per turn for free! This is great, since we’ve now got fewer command points than we had Relentless Discipline Points, so expect to see him in a lot of lists.
As if this guy didn’t need to get better. Same as before, 2 spells and can cast his Warscroll Spell an extra time on a 2+ (D3 times on a 6). Since rerolls are a big no-no, his warscroll spell now gives +1 to wound which, honestly, damn good trade. Also, if that wasn’t enough, he knows all the spells now.
Almost identical to his previous iteration, the Boneshaper is your healer, healing or resurrecting 3 wounds to a unit within 6″. Like Katakros, Arkhan and Nagash, he can bring back a Stalker or Immortis guard model on a 3+. His unique spell, Shard-Storm, is also better, rolling a dice for each model in an enemy unit and dealing mortal wounds on a 5+ rather than a 6+. All in all, a respectable upgrade and probably your best Galetian Champion choice while this season continues.
A weird melee wizard combo thing, the Soulreaper has three pretty spicy attacks, or five if you’re attacking a unit with five or more models. Its spell isn’t terrible, dealing D3 mortal wounds to a unit within 12″ or flat 3 if the target unit is within 3″. These are… fine, but it doesn’t fight as well as any non-Mortisan hero, and doesn’t cast as well as most other Mortisans. So, other than the sick model, why take it?
We’re… torn on this unit. The Ossifector is situationally useful, but does’t exactly help the conspiracy of “new units must be OP to make sales”. A single cast wizard, his unique spell Empower Ossifection allows you to grant his abilities to three different Gothizzar Harvester, Morghast or Mortek Crawler units wholly within 12″, rather than just one. What are those abilities you might ask? Well, each hero phase the Ossifector can select one of those units, and grant it one of three unique buffs. Ossified Barbs increases melee Rend by 1, Accelerated Calcification makes them ignore the first wound or mortal wound they suffer each phase, and Enhanced Clawspan means 6s to hit with ranged weapons score 2 hits rather than 1. It really depends on your army build whether these 120 points are worth putting into a new one of those units, rather than just buffing the ones you have, and not getting Empower Ossifection off can really swing his value.
Ossified Barbs is neat, pushing Morghast and Harvesters into some really nasty numbers, but they’re not exactly lacking in punch to begin with. Accelerated Calcification can be neat, helping you push into enemy lines intact, but if you don’t have your spell off your enemy can just target something else, while Enhanced Clawspan might just be the thing that pushes Mortek Crawlers into “okay” range – but now functionally costs 320 points. Look, he’s a great model, but a unit’s value shouldn’t swing so hard on “do you have magic dominance”. Try him out, he might work for you – he’s just never done us any favours to date
Just a note here, to avoid any confusion. Although the leaders of this unit (and the Kavalos Deathriders) are called Hekatos, they don’t confer the Hekatos keyword. So they do not apply to abilities that use it, like the Petrifix Elite faction bonus.
If there’s any weakness in the book, it’s probably here. We all knew that “reroll all saves” business wasn’t going to fly in 3.0 so the new version of the command ability is to give them ethereal and ignore all save modifiers. Which is…an interesting choice, and I do mean that. For any rend higher than -1 it’s a net positive, for rend -1 (assuming you have no other +1s) its basically the same as all out defence but can be used multiple times across multiple units, so either way it does work.
The problem is they’re still a 4+ save on what is meant to be a grinder unit, which doesn’t leave them a lot of room to work with. It’s basically 50-50 (slightly in your favor thanks to that ward), but since you get to ignore battleshock you just need one to survive. It’s going to be feast or famine, depending on your rolls.
As for combat ability they’re still pretty mediocre, keeping that 4+ to wound hurts a lot, and it’s now shared with the greatsword option. Which to its credit at least does damage 2 now and can benefit from Nadirite Weapons so you might as well start slapping those back on your unit leaders.
Horsey friends are basically the same from last edition in role, being a solid medium cavalry unit that’s just a bit slower than last edition, down to 10″. They’ve gained Unstoppable Charge just like their Liege bosses, letting you roll a number of dice equal to their unmodified charge roll and dealing a mortal wound to their target for each 5+. This is not only free, its great, as it also allows you to pile in an additional 3″ if you’ve charged – these guys are a lot faster than they look, and what they’ve lost in speed they’ve gained in mobility. to make that absolutely clear, Deathrider Wedge is a redone command ability allowing you to charge over enemy units with 3 or fewer wounds. So, to be clear, this unit can move 13″, then charge 2d6+1″ over enemy units, then pile in 6″. That is a supremely mobile unit.
In broad strokes, it works the same as it did before, but the devil is in the details. While it is still only 10 wounds, it no longer brackets, which means its damage output won’t drop like a stone the second something looks at it. The weapons no longer matter anymore, both have the same profile with no special abilities to distinguish them, so equip what you want. While it sucks to lose the mortal wounds on the Soulcrusher Bludgeons, remember that it benefits from Nadirite Weapons now, so between the two weapons and the fact that damage output isn’t going to drop from wounds taken, it will generally do more damage than it did before.
The healing ability has been cleaned up a bit, 1 wound healed for killing a model with 4 wounds or less, and 3 for 5 or more wounds. Overall the changes don’t really affect it too much, it will still be preferred as a support unit for your Mortek blobs. It just can scrap alongside them slightly better than it did.
This is a radical change from how it used to work. First off, the once per game shots have been removed, instead folded into the attack profile giving you one of 3 different profiles to use. This is largely a quality of life thing for all involved, as the special ammo was pretty finicky and often wasted a turn if they biffed.
Previously the Crawler’s shooting was awkward. It had 36″ of range and 4 shots at 5 Damage each, but no rend. So it often did nothing, but if it did cut through armor it absolutely crushed. The new version could be described as “consistent” depending on what you want to do with it. The longest range shot is only one shot, but its Rend -2, D3+3 damage, making sniping out a foot hero that is left out in the open a real possibility. The midrange shot is probably the most reliable, with 4 Rend -1 Damage 2 shots. The “close” (maximum range 18″) shot is a potential horde clearer doing 2D6 Damage 2 shots with no rend. probably the most bang for your buck especially if you’re targetting some 5+ or 6+ save chaff.
Overall I think it’s not going to give you those magical but rare moments where you did something incredible with a lucky shot, but it’s going to more consistently do its job at hitting stuff. The Strike Last is a pretty good set up for the charge so your melee stuff can clean up.
Potentially the best glow up in the book? The Immortis Guard got boosted to 5 wounds instead of 4, which is huge since in addition to increased durability, they get to count as 2 models on an objective. Combined with the healing abilities from Arkhan et al. being given an additional rule to bring back Immortis Guard/Stalkers on a 3+, this is a victory in every conceivable way. No longer are they stuck in the awkward puberty of 4 wounds.
Previously a crucial unit to shield Arkhan and your Mortisans from ranged fire with their 2+ Bodyguard, they still have that and these guys actually got a pretty scary profile now. Each model gets 3 Rend -2 Damage 2 attacks, and while the shield bash is gone, their command ability now lets them fight a second time once per game using their spears. Incredibly good. While I think the Stalkers can do more damage in the long term, Immortis Guard can do just as good once per game, which might be all you need.
The stalkers changed very little, and that’s a good thing. Like the Immortis Guard, they got boosted to 5 wounds, and their special weapons were changed to be an flat upgrade instead of trading accuracy for damage. They get 1 fewer hit from the spirit blades, but in the aggregate it works out because now they can benefit from Nadirite Weapons.
The stances were naturally shifted away from the rerolls. Instead they offer +1 to Hit, Wound, Saves or +1 damage (sorry, no more -1 on precision). You’re still going to want to use Precision stance almost all the time, even without the Rend, extra damage is hard to argue with mathematically, and you can always Bludgeon.
Morghast Archai and Morghast Harbingers
Both Morghast units have gained an inch of movement, while also gaining Elite, meaning they can issue command abilities to themselves, and on the whole both units have been slimmed down, without losing much at all. Archai have Necromantic Custodians, granting them a 5+ Ward while wholly within 12″ of an Ossiarch hero (meh), while Harbingers have On Wings of Malice for their unique ability, allowing you to deploy 9″ away from enemy units rathe than being set up normally. The Harbingers really win that contest, making them superb back field bully units. Both Morghast also have Grim Opponents, granting them strike-first if you make an unmodified charge of 8+, but the real spice comes from Heralds of the Accursed Ones. Where before this was a measly -1 to Bravery, now enemy units cannot receive commands while within 3″ of a Morghast unit. At all. This is nuts, and we’re huge fans.
Each of these spells is Bonded, basically meaning the spell disappears if the wizard dies, rather than go wild. It’s tenuous as a bonus, but its not a detriment either.
The Shrieker has been both buffed and nerfed in this book. No longer does it reduce enemy Bravery by -1, but instead has the more powerful effect of denying Inspiring Presence and Rally commands while within 12″. There’s a trick in here bundling it up with Vokmortian, for a pretty hefty bravery bomb, but we’re not sure if it’s worth the investment. On the other hand, the Shrieker also no longer grants +1 to hit to Ossiarchs within 12″, instead reducing enemy Ward saves by -1 within 12″. This is… not as great, and much more situational. The chance to force another save is always better than reducing enemy saves, especially by only -1. Formerly a staple (who doesn’t love most of their army hitting on 2+?), you’re a lot less likely to see it now.
Nightmare Predator has received a buff, for some reason, being able to be cast 12″ away rather than 6″, and moving 8″ with fly rather than 2d6″, all for lowering the casting value down to 5. It’s an offensive weapon, dealing D3 mortal wounds to any unit it moves over, and dealing another D3 to a chosen unit on a 2+, or D6 on a roll of a 6. There’s no more extra damage against a chosen hero, but the damage in general is higher, and it no longer disappears if your victim hero dies. With the guaranteed higher movement this thing can reliably deal 4d3 mortal wounds a turn across an enemy army, which is a damn good deal if ever we saw one, all for the low low cost of 40 points.
The Carrion was a weird spell, randomly buffing or damaging, so you never really knew how to plan around it. No longer! Now, enemy models with 1 or 2 wounds within 6″ cannot contest objectives. This is insane. Being able to just switch off an enemy’s scoring ability on a key turn can be painful, with at worst your opponent being forced to use higher wound, more elite models to hold objectives rather than chaff. Even better, this affects units not a unit, so if you place the Carrion right it can block off multiple units and multiple objectives all at once. 10/10, best ghost bird in the game.
Bone Tithe Nexus
After the errata forcing the Nexus to be deployed in your own territory, it went from “critical part of many players plans” to “a giant annoyance”. It’s now impassable, which is likely more a quality of life feature to avoid precariously balanced models. As for its abilities, they’re all 18″ range and all now trigger on a 4+, but with a +1 if any enemy models were slain within 12″ of it last turn. Since the Nexus exists wholly in your territory, and likely isn’t in an advantageous position, if this is triggering it probably means you’re being swamped anyway, so we guess its a nice way to get back at your enemy? The four abilities are -1 to hit for an enemy unit, deal D3 mortal wounds, -1 to casting or chanting rolls for a wizard or priest, and finally a combo of remove the ability to run and -3 to charge rolls. They’re nice abilities, but the placement restrictions mean that you’re going to struggle to use this at all, let alone optimally. Hey, at least its free, right?
Wrapping it all up
Ossiarch Bonereapers were a very popular army at launch, both mechanically and thanks to the amazing models, and there’s never been a better time to break out the boney boys. Bonereapers have improved survivability, improved output, and a frankly absurd amount of quality of (un)life changes to make the army a ton of fun to play, and a real threat on the battlefield. It’s hard for us to find something that got worse for this army beyond some modest points increases and a couple of obnoxious units being toned down. Admittedly, the army was in a pretty bad shape after 3.0 dropped, but this book really feels like it’s in a good place in the game overall. Our playtesting against the other books released this edition suggests Bonereapers are absolutely a podium contender, and with the number of overlapping buffs and unit options in this book we’re sure that generals will be exploring new builds and ideas right up until their next battletome. Looking forward to striking fear into the hearts of all the Mortal Realms? That sure tickles our funny bones!