One of the factions made entirely whole cloth for Age of Sigmar, the Kharadron Overlords are capitalist dwarves who plunder the realms for Aether-gold in their steampunk ships and suits. Useful allies for the forces of Order due to their ability to control the skies above a battle, navigate difficult storms, and their general lack of self preservation in the name of profit. On the table Kharadron Overlords are one of the better shooting armies. In fact, almost everything in their army is shooting! So if you want to pillage the skies than grab your boarding pass and let’s go.
First the negative: The Aether-gold rule got worse. Once per game any unit starting as 10+ models, each ship, and each character can spend their Aether-gold to subtract 1 bravery for the rest of the game but use a triumph. Due to how reinforced units work now, this means your Endrinriggers and Skywardens won’t be able to benefit. The new Triumphs aren’t as good or as special as they used to be so it does make one of your core rules a lot worse. I don’t think it cripples the army but as the only real universal battle trait you get it really sucks. I mean, a unit of 10 Thunderers gaining +1 to wound rolls for a volley is not bad at all but it is more limiting. There are a few other things going on, like how the Spell in the Bottle artefact releases an endless spell uncontrolled so compared to endless spells cast by a wizard it’s not as reliable, but the standard Warp Lightning Vortex doesn’t care about that since it doesn’t move.
There are upsides though. You’re one of the best beneficiaries of Unleash Hell since just about everything in your army gets to shoot stuff. The Barak-Thryng skyport who previously were allowed to ally in Cities of Sigmar Duardin or Fyreslayers now treat them as coalition units, which means they can benefit from enhancements and gain their keyword. Not a bad deal if you want to bring some diversity to your list.
Overall Kharadron Overlords power wasn’t too heavily impacted. They still get a lot of shooting and their ships movement shenanigans continue to work as they did before, making them a powerful army that can counter a lot of more melee focused armies.
As one of the armies made specifically for Age of Sigmar your variety is pretty slim. Arguably even more so than the others. The models are gorgeous but realistically there are 3 different unit box sets, one of which can be built 2 different ways for a total of 4 foot units in the army list. The ships is where a lot of your damage comes from anyways but you need bodies on the ground to take and hold objectives too.
First let’s look at leaders, because you’ve got some great ones. The Arkanaut Admiral is a general buff bot who can improve every part of your army. He has many command abilities that can influence almost every unit and phase of the game. The downside of course is that he can be very CP hungry so if you don’t think you have a means to generate a lot of CP he might be better kept at home. There is an artefact to help with this which allows an Admiral to issue an order off his warscroll once per turn without spending CP. He’s not bad in combat, either but foot slogging heroes generally fail to impress, thankfully this means if he’s on board a ship that’s in combat he gets to swing too (and be swung at). The Aether-Khemist is another toolkit-y hero who makes your stuff more powerful. Rerolling 1s to wound is insanely powerful, as wound modifiers are difficult to come by however you have to be on the ground to make use of it, no buffing units while inside ships! Combined with the Inspired Triumph and you can do some real damage, but e also makes enemy units -1 to hit while within 3″ so he helps on the offense and defence. Both Endrinmaster models are valuable, with their ability to repair your ships. The Dirigible Suit is more manoeuvrable with more fire power (and makes your balloon units battleline as your general) while the Endrinharness is a better fighter. You can argue both but the Endrinharness option is much cheaper and both can hitch a ride on ships, so pick whichever you can fit into a list. The last hero worth noting is the Aetheric Navigator who is an excellent control hero, able to either slow an enemy unit with the Fly almost anywhere on the board or reroll runs/charges for your ships. Both are handy based on the situation and don’t cost any CP. He also offers the dispel/unbind you need in an army with no Wizards.
All the Hero options are fairly cheap and offer powerful roles but too many can start to creep into points you can spend on more ships or units. Which ones you bring are going to be largely up to taste. There’s no singular “optimum” combination so adjust them to taste, you can throw in one of each and if you find one isn’t working for you, drop them for something else. It’s not uncommon to double up when you don’t have a ton of options anyway.
For battleline you only have one stock option, the Arkanaut Company and they’re not…awful. They’re not great, but they’ll do the job. There’s not a ton to say, admittedly. They are pretty good at holding objectives, getting buffs for doing so and help get the bodies you need on the point. For actual killing power you’re going to need to do better.
That killing power comes in the form of the Grundstok Thunderers. They have a variety of weapons, and you should take at least one of each of the special guns as you get +1 to hit when you have all the special weapons in a squad. If they get caught in melee they are decent at avoiding getting hit and gain +1 attack with ranged weapons, deterring weaker squads. Generally, avoid that if possible as they won’t stand up to heavy hitting melee but having 2 wounds each does help.
Rounding things off are the Skywardens and Endrinriggers. They’re less great and harder to argue for, though a fully kitted out Endrinrigger unit can do some damage at range, especially if reinforced. Endrinriggers can also heal your ships and can Fly High with them so are worth considering for that.
But this is all prelude to the thing you’re really here for: Those big ships! Good news is that the Frigate and Ironclad are both solid choices. They offer a similar role, with the Ironclad being noticeably tankier, able to carry more units and packing a bit more firepower and the frigate being a bit faster but fundamentally they share a lot of the same abilities. They drop bombs when there are enemies in combat range, are able to retreat and fire from enemy units that can’t fly and both can fly up into the sky and drop back down anywhere on the field, following the normal “more than 9″ away” rules. There is a lot of debate about the ideal combination, though many use one of each to good effect. The Ironclad costs almost twice as much as a Frigate, and at 490 pts you’re unlikely to fit more than one Ironclad in your list. Again, experiment with what works for you, bring one of each and if you think the Ironclad doesn’t pull its weight, maybe go with 2 Frigates instead.
The Gunhauler is a neat novelty, mostly functioning as support as it gives a 6+ Ward for its big brothers when nearby and a few extra cannon shots. If you have the leftover points, it’s not a bad purchase just don’t bother with more than one. They can however be great back-field objective threats, being able to Fly High like its big brothers meaning the enemy will need to try and keep board control while being blasted to pieces.
We didn’t even get into the coalition and allies you can pull in which can go a long way. A Stormcast wizard or priest can go a long way in granting magic and unbinding to an army who otherwise has no wizards. If you play Barak-Thryng you can also coalition in Fyreslayers and Cities of Sigmar Duardin units, which give you further diversity in taking stronger combat units and tankier foot units like Hearthguard Berzerkers and Ironbreakers. Two fields you absolutely suck at.
How To Play
You’ll notice very quickly how many missle weapons you got in your army, and the dearth of melee options. Don’t think this turns your army into 40k or anything, your range isn’t 30″ like those Light Elves. You’re still firing at medium range but you have the mobility to back it up.
Being Duardin you’re pretty pokey, lot of 4″ movement going on. However, there are answers to that! The transport capacity of your ships can’t be overlooked. More than offering some meaty firepower both versions can garrison troops inside to move them around the field in relative safety (Garrisons offer -1 to hit to the enemy and +1 to saves for you) and you’re the only army in the game that really gets an ability like this. While the limit is quite generous (15 for frigates, 25 for ironclads), you probably don’t want to weigh them down so much they’re half speed. The ships not much good if it can’t get anywhere!
Don’t forget the ships can, when they’ve taken few wounds, fall back and shoot if the enemy can’t fly. Combined with Fly High you have some of the best mobility options at your fingertips and you want to make sure to make the most of them. Just have a plan to drop your duardin on the objectives, they don’t count when on board and the ships aren’t monsters. The basic jist of the army is to play keep away as much as possible by gunning at the enemy as far away as possible. If they deign to try and charge you, get out of there and keep going. The clock will be ticking if your infantry gets into melee so avoid that scenario at all costs!
For subfactions, Kharadron Overlords don’t really have a set “right” choice (though some might argue a strong preference for Barak-Zilfin, for the extra ship trait and reroll 1s to hit against Fly). You can either create your own subfaction (another thing unique to you) which has 3 components: an Artycle, an Amendment and a Footnote, of which you pick from one of 3 for each or use one of the premade one which select the Code for you but offer another bonus on top of it. Players have struggled to settle on an “ideal” pick because each one offers some different options for units as battleline, lets you coalition units from other armies and so on. Find the one that hits your playstyle best, or experiment with making your own.
Barak Zilfin Fleet
Allegiance: Kharadron Overlords
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