Goonhammer was given a free copy of Season of War: Thondia for review purposes.
The final section of Season of War: Thondia is Matched Play and that’s probably the most common way that Age of Sigmar is played. It raises a few questions: Will this be essential to my matched play experience? Will it be required for me to bring another book to tournaments to keep up with everything going on?
I will answer that with a resounding No. The implementation of Thondia as a Matched Play tool is a bit strange. It is treated as it’s own battlepack, separate from the Contest of Generals in the Core Rules or Matched Play in the Generals Handbook 2021. This means you should ignore those when using this book and just treat the book as a standalone pack. For reasons we will get into, this likely will not be replacing the General’s Handbook any time soon, but it does give some potential insight into what the future could look like.
Much like other Battlepacks it contains a few useful bits of info: How big a map you should use how many units of each type you must include (and a maximum allowed, if any), Core Battalions, Grand Strategies and Battle Tactics that can be used when playing these missions.
When using this book’s battleplans you have access to 3 Core Battalions in addition to any in the core rules and your Battletome or Tome Celestial. You cannot take more than 1 of each of these though, same as the General’s Handbook. Also remember that Monster units that lose Behemoth to become Battleline are no longer “Monster” choices for Core Battalions but instead are “Troop” options.
Hunters of the Heartland
This is identical to the General’s Handbook one, it’s 2-3 units of “Troops” which cannot be chosen as the target for a monstrous rampage.
Monstrous Kill- Pack
It’s 2-3 “Monsters” in your army that once per game can all carry out the Titanic Duel monstrous rampage instead of any other and no enemy monsters are allowed to carry out a Titanic Duel. Decent for smaller monsters that want to gang up on an enemy one, such as in Beasts of Chaos.
Incarnate Masters of Ghur
You need to take the Incarnate of Ghur: Krondspine Incarnate as well as 1 Commander and 1-3 Troops. It’s a One-drop deployment and the Incarnate in the battalion must be bonded to the hero in this battalion but only reverts to its wild form when all other units in the battalion are destroyed instead of just the hero. A great way to keep your Incarnate fighting on your side for longer and a one-drop battalion is never a bad thing.
You also get a whole host of new Grand Strategies to use for your army and one of these must be chosen when playing using this book. You are still allowed to use ones from your army book though, as those are always allowed in addition to whichever battlepack you’re using. Many are similar to what we’ve seen before in the General’s Handbook, just changed a bit to go with the theme here.
Lord of Incarnates
Of course there was going to be one involving the new incarnate – you only achieve this if you still have an Incarnate from your starting army on the battlefield and it has not reverted to its Wild Form. Using the core battalion above this is actually pretty doable considering how strange it is to actually remove an Incarnate from the table.
Ruler of Mysteries
You have to control more terrain features with the Thondia Mysterious Terrain scenery rules than your opponent at the end of the game. A neat way of forcing these rules on your opponent I guess but it’s still tough to pull off because you might need to be on an objective to score points, not hanging out near terrain.
At the end of the battle if you have more Monsters from your starting army than Monsters from your opponent’s army then you score. Some armies take a lot of Monsters and then some are only monsters and it can be a decent pick for either of these. Personally I like this and hope that it’s a sign of changes coming to Beast Master in a future General’s Handbook. It’s not very interactive that armies like Sons of Behemat need to keep one unit alive and otherwise don’t fail.
Pillars of Magic and Belief
These 2 from the General’s Handbook have been shoved into one Grand Strategy instead and you score it if there are any Wizards and/or Priests from your starting army alive on the field. If you’re an army that has access to both Wizards and Priests and you’re wanting to take both then it can be a decent pick actually as you only need 1 alive in either role.
Sever the Head
Kill all enemy Heroes. Very straightforward and sometimes very easy, but not always. Since this has to be chosen at list creation and you don’t know what your opponent will be bringing to the table it can be a real gamble if you can score it or not. Armies with more ranged threats have an easier time of it for sure since they can get to those support heroes a little more easily.
Hold the Line
A classic and almost everyone’s favourite. A real go-to grand strategy for a lot of armies. Have at least 1 Battleline unit from your starting army alive on the table at the end of the game.
Kill the opposing player’s General while keeping yours alive. Easier said than done and often far too easily countered as well. Some armies can effectively pull it off but it’s not easy.
There are 7 battle tactics to use when playing the battleplans from this book which you use instead of those in the core rulebook or the general’s handbook. You may still choose the battle tactics from your army book or white dwarf update if you have any. Spoiler alert: they really want you to take an Incarnate.
An interesting note here is you do not score points for completing these. A fact I took for granted in the Contest of Generals in the core rules does not give you 2-3 points per completion, as it was basically supplanted by General’s Handbook which gave them scores. Instead you track how many Battle Tactics you score as a tiebreaker.
This isn’t a bad way of doing things, but it is different. I prefer the point scoring, as it lets players succeed at missions their army might otherwise not be well suited for but Thondia takes the experiment a bit further by making some worth 2 battle tactics under certain circumstances
Pick a battleline unit from your opponent’s army and destroy it. However, if it’s destroyed by the Krondspine Incarnate then you count as having achieved 2 battle tactics instead of just 1 giving you not just more victory points but also potential to score more battle tactics than your opponent, if that victory condition matters in your battleplan.
Pick 1 terrain feature with the Thondia Mysterious Terrain rule that is controlled by your opponent and then take it from them. Easy to score and if you’re using the terrain rules (which you should) and have enough terrain on the table it can easily come up in game.
Destroy the Bonded
If your opponent has an incarnate bonded to a hero then kill that hero. If that hero was killed by your own incarnate then you count as scoring 2 battle tactics instead of just 1. Incarnates everywhere!
Pick 3 units from your starting army on the battlefield, run with them, and have them end within 3” of each other. If any of those units was the Krodnspine Incarnate and another was the Hero it was bonded to then you score 2 battle tactics instead of 1.
Pick an enemy Incarnate on the table and destroy it this turn. Incarnates don’t have wounds like normal units, we’re covering the Incarnate and how to kill it separately. If you abolish it with a friendly Incarnate then you score 2 battle tactics.
Completed the tactic if there are at least 2 more friendly Monsters on the table than there are enemy Monsters. If 1 of those Monsters are incarnates then you score 2 battle tactics. The realm spell to be able to turn a Hero into a monster can be used with this to make it scorable – or more easily scorable.
Just have 2 or more units from your army wholly within the enemy’s territory, and if one of those happens to be the Krondspine Incarnate then you score 2 battle tactics instead of only 1.
So the missions in Thondia are very different from what we’ve seen in Contest of Generals or the General’s Handbook 2021. Instead of a packet of missions meant to be chosen from at random, Thondia has 5 Matched Play missions meant to be played in order as part of a campaign.
The book contains a score sheet to track who wins on each mission and then at the end, the successes are tallied up and the winner won the best out of 5. This is clearly not meant to be a competitive packet you use to set up GTs, but a series of games for players to play in a row to mix up the usual combinations of Savage Gains and Feral Forays or what have you.
This missions are very weird, and don’t feel as symmetrical as they are in other Matched Play packs we’ve seen to date. If anything, they feel like narrative missions that have some level of balance in points, if not in deployment and objectives. There is, however some interesting experimentation that I’d like to see expanded upon in future packs.
Mission 1: Clash in the Borderlands
Clash in the borderlands starts off with a safe deployment of 11″ up on both sides of the long edges, like see see in missions like Marking Territory or Savage Gains. There are no objectives. Instead both players are trying to get to their opponent’s edge of the field and “raid” it, at which point they leave the field and half of their point value is tallied. If by the end, if one player is up by 200 points or more, they win.
The mission introduces mission specific Battle Tactics, which we haven’t seen before. One is Raiders, for picking a unit to go Raid and doing that thing. Defenders requires you to pick an enemy unit and destroy it, like a more lenient Broken Ranks.
Interestingly the rule Seize the Initiative is here, which states players do not roll off for the first battle round, but whoever finished setting up first gets to go first. Which anyone who plays Matched Play probably knows is just how the game works right now. The Core Rules actually don’t mention this, it’s tied to the General’s Handbook 2021 battlepack it could be subject to change in the future and they’re experimenting with whether it works as a permanent rule or should be mission based. I expect this may cause some confusion.
Mission 2: The Invasion
Square deployments, think like Apex Predators. Rather than role off, the player who won Mission 1 is the Attacker and the loser is the Defender.
Just like the first mission, there is no objective markers. Instead you’re trying to control quarters of the battlefield. Each Quarter is controlled if you have a unit wholly within and your opponent does not. The tally is only done at the end of the game you need to pace yourself.
There are 2 mission specific battle tactics, Occupy for controlling your opponent’s deployment zone and Repel for pushing an opponent’s unit out of your own deployment.
Two last interesting quirks for the mission is that the Attacker always goes first, giving the winner of mission 1 an advantage and the attacker can use their first command of the turn without spending a CP, really pushing the advantage of dominating turn 1.
Mission 3: The Prize
OK now it starts getting weird. The missions have been a bit unorthodox so far but now the deployments are getting equally strange. Attacker is automatically whoever won the last mission yet again, and they get one of the long edges. Meanwhile the Defender gets a 22″ by 30″ rectangle in the corner. Technically the same amount of space but far from symmetrical!
Players alternate picking 5 pieces of terrain to be a potential relic site. Then each round the loser of the roll off chooses one of the potential sites and rolls a die, if the roll is higher than the current battle round then that site is removed. If it is equal to or less it becomes the for-sure site of the relic. You no longer need to roll and everyone is going to want to fight for it.
Victory is achieved by having a unit within 6″ of the relic at the end of the fight and no enemy units nearby. The way the roll off system works is very interesting, should you pick a terrain feature on your opponents side and hope to roll high so you can remove that option in future rounds? Or go for it and hope the one sitting in your corner is the golden egg? A lot of fun could be had with this.
Mission 4 – The Trap
The most bonkers deployment of them all, it’s like something out of Path to Glory. Attacker only gets a small corner in the lower right, 22″ up and over, while Defender does get their revenge as the deployment is almost the entire field and they get to decide who goes first.
As has been par for the course, attacker is whoever won the last round. They got the relic and now get to pick an extra artefact. Defender is going to try and steal it back. If the Hero bearing that extra artefact dies, it can pass to a Hero within 3″, otherwise the artefact is lost forever.
The winner is whoever holds it at the end, leading to the most intense game of Hot Potato in the mortal realms. If no winner can be determined, use battle tactics.
Mission 5 – Cut off the Head
The grand finale. Deployments are still weird, but are back to being symmetrical L shapes. In this mission we see the culmination of stuff that has been introduced over the previous 4 missions.
First, the attacker is whoever won Mission 4, naturally. They have an extra Artefact to represent having successfully stolen the Relic (even if they didn’t). The goal is to kill your opponent’s General while keeping yours alive. That’s it. Once you do that, you won the game.
There are also two battle tactics surrounding your General: Fortune Favors the Bold for getting them into combat, and Better Part of Honour for retreating out of combat.
The mission pack here is…weird. It feels more like a series of Narrative Missions rather than Matched Play. It’s only really Matched Play because you’re required to structure your army with a specific point limit and unit requirement in mind, after that the similarities to what Age of Sigmar players would consider “Matched Play” ends.
To me Matched Play requires symmetrical deployment and objectives, to which these have none of that. They’re all over the place and have a loose narrative through line, like something you’d get from a 2 player battle box or a White Dwarf article. I don’t deny it’s fun I’m just not sure how much interest it will have for the Matched Play crowd, as none of it is going to cross over into the General’s Handbook.
I don’t know what I’d recommend instead. 40k includes Armies of Renown, but I’d rather we didn’t do that. The self-contained style of Mission Packs keeps book count down and I’d rather just need to consult the General’s Handbook when playing Matched so they can’t really afford to add new rules here either.
It’s a fun novelty and if you’re willing to work within the scheme of asymmetrical warfare you might have some fun with this. Overall I think Thondia was designed for the Narrative player in mind and any other rules are purely a bonus.
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