Dawnbringers Book 1: Harbingers – The Goonhammer Review

This review was completed with a free copy of Dawnbringers: Harbingers provided by Games Workshop.

As we come to the end of this cycle of battletomes – only two remaining at this point – that often means it’s time to expand the suite of books with Campaign books. These have taken several forms in Age of Sigmar, from narrative only to essentially mandatory in matched play.

This book takes a Path to Glory only focus, dramatically expanding the rules for your Path to Glory campaigns while also pushing the story forward in the world of Age of Sigmar.

Harbinger of Decay Credit: Bair

The Lore

I’ll be minimal with the spoilers for this one, since this is a 4 book series we got time to digest it and see how it pans out in the next book. The last major story arc, Broken Realms, was an absolutely incredible campaign which leaves it with big shoes to follow. While the first Broken Realms really grabbed your attention early with Morathi ascending to godhood (or at least close enough) this is a much slower burn than that, and spends a lot of time setting the stage for events to come.

In Broken Realms Alarielle was successful at driving off Nurgle which opened up Ghyrn, the Realm of Life for sigmarites to establish settlements in its lush and fertile forests. She completed a ritual to bring life bringing rain that healed all sickness for mortals living in the realm, which naturally didnt sit well with Nurgle. His followers hid in the deep caves and heavy tree coverings of the realm in order to gather their strength and wait the rain out. A new plague, the Shudderblight, has ushered in his return.

The Shudderblight is a unique plague for Nurgle, think of it as communicable Depression. Those afflicted with it lose the will to fight, and sometimes to live. As the citizens of Hammerhal were increasingly afflicted by it, there seemed to be no way to stamp it out, until the strangest of saviors arrives, a Flesh Eater Court Marrowscroll Herald, Jerrion, who’s delusion sees himself as a knight trying to drive out these unholy monsters. Even the Flesh Eater Courts could be affected by the Shudderblight, briefly seeing the monsters they had become and losing all hope in the process. But Jerrion holds fast and fights to drive the herald of Nurgle and his troops out.

We then snap over to Ashqy. Since Hammerhal is a city that spreads out over both Ghyran and Ashqy, this unfortunately gives the Shudderblight a vector to jump realms. The fire side of Hammerhal is affected by the Shudderblight a bit differently, become increasingly paranoid and pushing witch hunts upon the city to try and purge the sickness.

A group of Fyreslayers, lead by a Grimhold Exile Fjori attempts to warn the locals of a Gitz infestation. Initially this is met with deaf ears but when an entire industrial district goes up in flames, taken much more seriously. The Fyreslayers reluctantly decide to aide the Sigmarites in their fight and try and put the Gitz down for good.

Overall the plot feels…lackluster. It actually isn’t terribly long, and its role in a large plot isn’t clear. If you’d like some shorter stories that stand on their own, these can be interesting. They show off of the factions we really don’t get to see too much in the fiction, and avoid the “Big name” characters butting in to things like Broken Realms.

It’s not to say this could get more interesting in time. Like I said, I feel this is intended to be a slow burn, and well see where things pan out in the coming months.

The Battlepack

The last narrative book, Thondia, included a 5 mission narrative pack that was intended to work like a tournament, with 5 games playing out the story of that book. It…didn’t really work, because it’s going to be hard to sell people on 5 (essentially) Matched Play games that are balanced more like Narrative Play games.

So this time they went all in and made a Path to Glory pack. You can mix and match this with other Matched Play Battlepacks, but when using the specific missions you get access to unique abilities and have to follow specific restrictions. Conveniently, Games Workshop made the base battlepack from the core rules completely free, so you can get started on your own roster here.

I want to be clear on this: This book only has rules for Path to Glory. While there are warscrolls for the new heroes and Regiments of Renown, these will undoubtedly be published online, officially, very quickly so the only unique content is the Path to Glory pack.

Unique Rules

Credit to Warhammer Community

Players must wrestle with the Plague of Doubt, the Shudderblight, rolling off after deployment and the “winner” must roll on a table filled with debuffs. The writing is a bit unclear but seems to imply the debuff applies to both players. It may be nothing, it may be the relatively minor Stick Together giving -1 Bravery or the nasty Blighted by Despair which forces both players to pick a friendly unit and then makes it impossible to use Inspiring Presence when within 3″ of that unit. The roll is modified by how many players in the battle have a Communication Outpost (which we will detail below), adding +1 to the roll for each player who has one.

Harbinger Quests

The Harbingers mentioned in the narrative are here with their own special rules. In order to recruit them, you must complete the Agents of Upheavel quest which involves sending off one of your Heroes (not your warlord) and for each battle you complete without them, you gain 2 quest points. If you roll less, you get to recruit the Harbinger appropriate for your army’s Grand Alliance. This is a free addition, no Glory points required, and you mark them as a Harbinger, to distinguish them if you already had one of these guys in your army roster (Yes even the Harbinger of Decay).

Despite being named characters in the lore, these are the generic versions in your roster, which means they can receive upgrades and they get their own unique set of upgrades, different for each Harbinger, which gives a lot of customization. At each level of advancement, you can pick from 1 of 2 viable upgrades, unique to each Harbinger.

The Spread the Word quest can be chosen once you have a Harbinger. You gain a Quest Point every time you end a battle on an objective or wholly within enemy territory gives you a Quest point, and you can cash in 1 glory to gain another quest point. Once you hit 3, you can generate D6 renown for that Harbinger. You also get to turn an Ancient Road in your holdings into a Trade Route, to represent the increased traffic of those seeking to join the Harbinger’s banner.

Harbingers also allow you to unlock a new exclusive upgrade, which you also need to get the last 2 upgrades: Communication Outposts.

Communication Outposts

Communication Outposts are unique upgrades you can choose to establish for the cost of 5 Glory. The primary bonus is that with a communication outpost you can Receive Messages as part of the aftermath sequence. Rolling a die you can receive alliance points, for free on a 6 or a small cost on a 3-5. The cost may involve paying a glory point, risking a unit or hero to aid an allied settlement (with the risk of them getting hurt in the process). Alliance Points can then be traded in for boons before a battle.

The system for Requesting Support is impressively extensive. There are once per game buffs related to every army in the game with very fluffy options like the Daughters of Khaine using their Shadow Network to give a free command or Gloomspite Gitz to harvest some Hallucinogenic Mushrooms for a potential +1 to attack. You can choose any army buff within your grand alliance for a 3+, or a 2+ if they are listed as viable allies for your army. No word if you call in support from your own army, nothing seems to say you can’t but RAW it would be a 3+ since you can’t ally with yourself.

A small but fluffy downside is that having a communication outpost adds to the Plague of Doubt rule (+1 for each player with an outpost) to represent how the Shudderblight spreads through ominous whispers. Which means that while these powerful upgrades do give useful boons, they can potentially pose an issue as fear and paranoia spread through your ranks due to ill news from abroad.

Marrowscroll Herald. Credit: Matthew Ward


Staging Ground

A “protect the briefcase” mission with a lot of interesting way to complicate the battle. While battles like this are often stacked in favor of the one trying to attack, the guard gets to put 4 pieces of terrain in their territory while the infiltrator only gets 3. The infiltrator must also divide their forces into 2 as equally as possible, with the second half coming in at the end of the Infiltrator’s second move phase.

As for the actual mission, the goal of the Infiltrator is to get to the secret and nab the Secret Plans. If a Hero is within 3″ of the plans they can nab them on a 3+ (2+ for a Harbinger.). The goal is to get to the battle field edge with the goods and escape. If they die, they drop them and a market is left where they were dropped for someone else to pick up. The Guards can never pick it up and bring it back to the center so be careful!

If the Infiltrator can escape the field they get a major victory, or a minor victory if they end the battle holding it. The guards are trying to make sure nobody ends the battle with it, or even better, nobody ever gets it at all.

Battle for the Pass

This is a much more traditional battle and could even be done in matched play. Simply put, the goal is to hold the center objective and score points for each of your turns you hold it. The dark grey areas are blocked off, presumably by cliff sides, so you must be careful not to commit too many forces and get stuck, unable to maneuver. You also get a point for each friendly unit wholly in your opponent’s deployment, so if you got teleports or deep strikes you can get a real advantage to sneak around the back.

Nexus of Power

This is an…interesting one. 3 pieces of terrain are places in the center territory and then one is chosen to be the titular Nexus of Power. This is your objective marker.

You’ll notice there’s no deployment markers, that’s because anyone can deploy anywhere! As long as it’s more than 9″ from the Nexus or enemy units, and more than 6″ from any friendly units, you can put a unit anywhere, anything else must go into deep strike, which can drop in from within 9″ of the edge. Naturally to keep it fair, one drop battalions are not allowed here, so you can’t section off the map so it is impossible for your opponent to deploy.

To score, players must control the Nexus, and you will score a number of victory points equal to the battle round, so it might incentivize you not to get too greedy and play the long game.

Brutal Interception

For this the Carrier needs to split their army into 2 equally sides contingents. The goal is to get one of the messengers into the receiver territory. If they do end the battle with at least one unit in and not in combat, that’s a major victory, with a minor victory for making it but being in combat.

Basically the Interceptor needs to play the hardest game of shield wall ever and keep the messengers from getting in, while also avoiding the pincer attack from behind.

Agents of Fate

Another mission about trying to escape the board, the Escort player picks a Hero to be the envoy and the goal is to get them to the other side of the board and escape with an important missive. If the Escort has a Harbinger in their army they must be the envoy, otherwise any hero will do.

Go for the Throat

This final mission is a shell game. The Defender picks one of the three objectives in secret to be the weak point, and the Attacker must guess which it is. The mission is shorter – only 4 rounds, and the only indicator of success is controlling the weak point at the end. A good poker face and reading opponent’s formation is going to be necessary to succeed in this mission.

Grimhold Exile Credit: Bair

New Warscrolls

The four Dawnbringers featured in the lore get new Regiments of Renown. The book includes their warscroll and the warscroll of applicable units. This, admittedly, comes off as padding since they havent changed except for the Flesh Eater Courts, which we’ll go into.

Just like the Regiments of Renown released earlier this year, while the characters have names, the models representing them are not named. This means if you just want to use the new Dawnbringers in your army then they are generic heroes who can be given Enhancements. Otherwise if you want to use the Regiment of Renown the same rules apply as the first set that came out:

  • Can be taken by any army in the same grand alliance except the army that those units natively belong to.
  • They take up your allocated points for allies, but can still be taken even if it surpasses your cap on ally points.

Maggotkin of Nurgle

RagnarokAngel: The Harbinger of Decay has returned with a new model and got a new warscroll to match, and boy did he need it. He moves 2″ faster, which is fair as a mounted Hero. Shudderblight returns intacts, denying command abilities on a 3+. The basically useless Augur of Entropy granting D3 command points on round 1 has been removed, and in its place, he’s a Priest now! His warscroll prayer is…not great, subtracting the current battle round from a target’s bravery but unlocking Heal and Curse is a pretty big gain. You cannot use both disease points and Curse as they both proc on 6s to hit, but you can use it when the opponent is already capped on disease for the turn or even if you’d just like to cut through the tape and jump straight to mortal wounds.

After that you have to make a choice. The Plague scythe has changed, the profile has moved to a new weapon (sans one attack) called the Grim Rotsword. Your choice here is if you want to take the Doom Bell or the new and improved Plague Scythe. The Doom Bell can toll once per game in your hero phase affecting all enemies within 14″ granting -1 to Move, Run, and Charge rolls. The Scythe is just a weapon, but a pretty solid one with two Rend -2 Damage 3 attacks where the bell is only Rend -1 Damage D3.

Which one you take is…tough. It depends what you wanna do with him. The doom bell’s range is pretty generous and can potentially mess with a crucial charge, especially for units deepstriking or teleporting in to try and charge you. The Scythe however does some pretty solid damage and he wants to see combat anyway to get the most out of it Shudderblight, so he might as well take some stuff down with him. It’s likely going to matter if you want him to play more of a backline support role or be up with the boys charging in.

Onto the Regiment itself, Phulgoth’s Shudderhood. It’s not a bad anvil, albeit a slow one. The unit composition is solid, 5 Blightkings, 2 Pusgoyle Blightlords and the Harbinger himself. They’re -1 to hit with ranged attacks and do gain Nurgle’s Disgustingly Resilient 5+ Ward and health regeneration. The problem is without Diseased weapons the damage output is going to feel a bit more lackluster. If you’re using Curse on the Harbinger you won’t miss Disease that much; but there’s a lack of Chaos armies who really want this stuff. It may go well in Slaanesh or Beasts of Chaos – fragile armies who could use something tough to soak up the punches but most other armies won’t much care about what the Shudderhood has to offer.


Bair: What every Fyreslayer player has been wishing and hoping for the last 7 years: a foot hero! This brings Fyreslayers to have the highest foot-hero to unit ratio, with a total of 10 foot heroes to 4 unit options. The new Grimhold Exile is a combat beast, alongside others such as the Grimwrath Berzerker and Doomseeker. However he is a Leader so will eat one of your normal 6 slots for Heroes; which does make him harder to just slot into a list. He’s no slouch in combat with 5 attacks Rend -2 and Damage 2 and gaining a 4+ Ward in combat keeps him hitting longer. Once per game he can hit something big much harder rolling as many dice as the wound characteristic against an enemy dealing a mortal wound for each 4+. That’s an average of 17 or 18 mortal wounds to a Mega Gargant in one swing. It’s only once per game and replaces your attack for the round, but hit the right thing and that’s all you’ll need! Knocking half the wounds off a big scary monster is no joke. The downside is that he doesn’t get to pile in before making that attack and has to be within 1″ of what he’s attacking making it somewhat avoidable by a savvy opponent unless he’s attacking first. His other once per game ability gives a very small 6″ bubble for Fyreslayers (that are not mounted, sorry Magmadroths) to run and charge. Unfortunately that’s a Wholly Within 6″ bubble, so you’re realistically only getting like 2 units with it, plus maybe a couple foot heroes.

For the Regiment of Renown you get the Grimhold Exile, 5 Auric Hearthguard, 5 Hearthguard Berzerkers, and 10 Vulkite Berzzerkers (either warscroll). Enemy Monsters within 3″ of any units here cannot contest objectives and they can’t be chosen as the target of a monstrous rampage. Pretty lacklustre, there’s not really a single Order army that’s going to rush to take this. Cities of Sigmar might find some use for it, maybe? Hearthguard Berzerkers need to be a larger unit to do much and Auric Hearthguard are just really not impressive at all. Not just that, but Fyreslayers really need their runes to work properly and not having access to them just hurts these Warscrolls a bit too much.

Rabble Rowza Credit: Raf Cordero

Gloomspite Gitz

Ellarr: hoo boy… let me start off by saying the model is gorgeous and full of character. He’s not overly busy and there’s enough variety in textures that it was a joy to paint.

He’s a 5 wound gitz hero with the kind of stat profile you’d expect to go along with it, along with three special rules.

The first is that he has a ward of 4+ if he’s more than 6″ away from all enemy units. Useful but only if the rest of the warscroll is worth it. His second rule is that once per game he can shoot off his squig bats to three different enemy units within 12″ in the shooting phase, doing d3 mortal wounds to each. This is a pretty useful effect as it ignores LOS and isn’t classed as a shooting attack so it bypasses certain defences and since it’s not actually a missle weapon you can run the Rowza and still send the bats off.

The third ability is where things get ugly. While any friendly Rowzas are on the battlefield, you can say a friendly monster is ‘goaded’ until the end of the turn. Units that are goaded can run and charge (AMAZING!) but with some severe drawbacks that take it from exciting to awful. First of all, the monster must end any move (except pile-ins) closer to the rowza than it started, meaning the monster can’t just run and charge away from your lines unless for some reason the rozsa is ahead of your army. You could set this up with a teleport but that’s a lot of set up to make that effect work. In addition, each time the monster finishes a move it does d6 mortal wounds to each friendly unit within 3″ (roll separately for each).

The Rabble-Rowza feels like a unit that was designed based off an amusing conversation during a lunch break rather than an earnest attempt to give the army a useful hero with a defined role. It’s lone saving grace is that it’s cheap at 100 points, meaning you could stack up to six of these for their bat squig shooting attack for a bizarre mortal wound bomb.

The Regiment is a confused thing, as the rowza doesn’t benefit the squigs and the Gobbapalooza is all about buffing up Gitz keyword units so it doesn’t really do anything outside of its self contained pocket of units. The regiment specific rules are more interesting, as if one of the units in it redeploys, each other unit in this regiment within 6″ gets a free redeploy move as well. In addition, you can tuck the units in reserves during deployment, though they must come on in your first hero phase wholly within 6″ of a board edge and more than 9″ from all enemy units, and cannot move in the subsequent movement phase. What this means in practice is that you’ll probably deploy most of the regiment normally and stick the rowsa in a back corner diagonally opposed to a friendly monster so you can goad and at least get the run and charge trigger that way… but you won’t pay 500 points for this mess of units for that.

Flesh Eater Courts

chimp: Flesh Eater Courts are unique, unlike the other 3 armies their rank and file warscrolls also got an update.

Let’s get right in and say the Marrowscroll Herald does not have a great warscroll. For 115 points it’s a 5 wound, 5+ save courtier. Uniquely for a courtier, the Herald has no ability to muster on its warscroll, but with 5 damage 2 attacks it is one of the better courtiers in combat. As a defence against getting shot to bits, it’s not visible to enemy models if it’s wholly within 6″ of 5 other FEC models, which is nice.

What the Marrowscroll Herald is really bringing to the party is The King’s Entreaty, an unusual ability that allows you to offer an infected bone to an enemy unit within 3″ at the end of the charge phase. If your opponent refuses the bone, your friendly FEC units within 3″ (not wholly, thankfully) get strikes-first for the ensuing combat phase. If they accept the bone, they become infected and have to roll 2d6 every time they issue or receive a command, cast a spell or chant a prayer – if the roll is over their bravery then they can’t attempt that action. It’s a neat ability in concept, but your opponent having total control over whichever effect gets applied is limiting to its utility. The temptation would be to solo charge this unit into a big bad like Archaon to get the control effect applied, but your opponent can opt to just take the strikes-first instead. This means you’ll want to be providing enough threat in the first place, at which point you aiming to kill or cripple that unit in melee anyway. Add on to this that the control is gated behind a bravery roll, most things that are scary enough to want to infect are also high bravery, and it’s a tough sell in an army with a strong hero selection anyway. Also, because of the kind of units you want to be targeting with it, throwing a 5 wound model within 3″ of them means the ability is not terribly likely to be getting used multiple times.

Amusingly, probably the most exciting warscroll update here is to Crypt Ghouls who are currently undergoing something of a Nagash-based renaissance. The rerolls to hit from being wholly within 18″ of an abhorrant are predictably gone, but replaced with some spicy extra rend, and the buff can also now trigger wholly within 9″ of any courtier, which is a good quality of life upgrade for how the army wants to play. Their Boundless Ferocity ability has also seen a change, and is now a nod to their abilities in the world-that-was with hit rolls of a 6 automatically wounding, expanding to hit rolls of 5 or 6 when the unit has 20 models. For Morgaunt players this probably needs an FAQ, as Bloody Loyalty activates boundless ferocity at 10 models, but it is now always “active”.

Crypt Flayers have had something of a conceptual overhaul, becoming more of a shooting and support unit with relatively poor melee. Their Death Scream has been totally rewritten, and is now a regular shooting attack. With 4 shots and rend -2, it’s better than their melee profile. It does hit on a 4+, which is always a shame, but if you’re shooting a unit with bravery 6 or less they wound on a 2+. Their melee has lost the mortal wounds on a 6, but gained a 2″ reach, so the unit can now blessedly fight in ranks with less faff. Finally, they have a brand new ability in Escort Courtier, which lets you grab a courtier wholly within 3″ when they move and bring that courtier with them. This lets you use their 12″ flying move, and when you set the courtier up again it has to be wholly within 3″, but you can use that for even more extra movement. The only restriction is the set up can’t be within 3″ of any enemy models, fine.

Given the changes to the previous two scroll, the change to Crypt Horrors isn’t too surprising. They’ve gained a 2″ range on their melee attacks and replaced their rerolls to hit with extra rend if they’re near a courtier or abhorrant. Losing out on the rerolls is the biggest blow here as it was previously full rerolls and they hit on a 4+. To compensate, they are now 4 attacks a model, so absolute baseline the unit does hit harder against most targets – but is more vulnerable to debuffs to hit.

Overall a very interesting set of changes to some core FEC warscrolls. There’s some good quality of life updates and the expected loss of rerolls have been replaced with a genuinely very helpful increase in rend. Whether this will boost FEC as a whole is harder to say without having access to the points for these units at time of writing. It’s an upgrade, but the army still has some foundational rules issues that will require a new battletome to overcome.

The regiment of renown itself? Jerrion’s Delegation gets you 3 flayers, 3 horrors, 20 ghouls and a marrowscroll for 460 which is presumably a fairly steep discount. The unit selection is all a bit incoherent and fragile, you get the 6+ death save but without any of the FEC recursion mechanics or feeding frenzy you wont get much out of these scrolls.

Closing Thoughts

Overall I…think I like this? This is hard for me to review, because it’s not really for me. I’m not much of a Path to Glory player, I think it was a bit of a failure, however this book makes me a bit of a believer.

The biggest issue with Path to Glory is that the core mechanics are boring and there really haven’t been enough supplemental books to spice things up. Those mostly come from Battletomes and last year’s Thondia book, which wasn’t exactly setting the world on fire.

This actually does take a stab at some interesting new mechanics and unique progression. It doesn’t all get there, but it actually will allow the book to age much more gracefully. Broken Realms is a great series and worth reading for the story, but the rules inside were outdated basically instantly. If you want to play Path to Glory these will be practically evergreen, unless 4th edition changes the idea very radically. Future books, if they maintain this format, could create a mound of potential Path to Glory content to forge into a new and exciting campaign.

The story itself hasn’t really gotten going yet, so we’ll see how that pans out and give them the benefit of the doubt. Age of Sigmar tends to tell very “big” stories so the perspective shift to something small scale is something different.