Soulblight Gravelords Battetome: The Goonhammer Review

An article by , , and    Goonhammer        0

Goonhammer was given a pre-release copy of this book for review purposes.

One of the very last books released for Age of Sigmar 1.0 was Legions of Nagash. It marked a significant shift in how the books were constructed, and laid the groundwork for how future tomes were written. While it is a 1.0 book it had a lot of 2.0 sensibilities such as subfactions with their own artefacts and unique command abilities for being in that faction. The book largely worked and as such was not Games Workshop’s first priority for a 2.0 Battletome. As the months dragged on, cracks began to form in the book. It was functional, sure but some of the design sensibilities just didn’t translate over very well. The book also suffered from a lack of identity; it was basically all Death factions (except Flesh Eater Courts) under one banner. This made thematic sense, Nagash being the Master of all Undead, but the Nighthaunt became this weird artifact where suddenly Legions of Nagash wasn’t all the Legions of Nagash. This was further complicated by Ossiarch Bonereapers adding yet another Legion that Nagash could join.

Soulblight Gravelords is for all intents and purposes the continuation of this book. There is a bit more of a theme going on here, with the Vampire Lords holding the spotlight. Previously Vampires were just another unit in the book (although Nefereta and Mannfred were Mortarchs in their own right) and not really the star of the show. Vampire Lords were very good but the focus was more on Nagash himself. The book otherwise tries to replicate the feeling of a Halloween store that Legions of Nagash and even Vampire Counts did before that in WHFB. Let’s go, for the night is young.

Army Traits

Gravesites

Gravesites are the same but different – you still have four of them (unlike the community preview which suggested only two), but they’ve lost the ability to heal/revive nearby models. However, in return they have gained two rather powerful quirks:

  • Units that deep strike out of the Gravesites no longer need a nearby Hero, and the unit can deploy wholly within 12″ of the site (rather than 9″) previously. They still need to be more than 9″ away from enemy units, but it means you can be aggressive with deep strikes without exposing any heroes.
  • The 6+ Deathless Minions save now projects out from Gravesites too, which is *huge* in practice because it helps mitigate some of the top heavy nature of Soulblight, making them less reliant on their heroes.

Endless Legions

Credit: Warhammer Community

So, that’s different. Here’s what changed from the old version in Legions of Nagash:

  1. It used to be a command ability, meaning in theory you could do it multiple times a turn. This was easier said than done, however.
  2. Only your general could do it.
  3. No roll was required.
  4. It was “place wholly within 9″ of the gravesite but also not within 9″ of enemies”.
  5. It brought back the whole unit, instead of half.

In general this is actually a huge improvement. The original Endless Legions was one of the cracks apparent from the 1.0 design sensibilities. If you didn’t play 1st edition AoS, only your General got to use their warscroll command ability, and there were no command points. An additional command ability was a novel concept at the time. That’s just how the game worked them, so no real limits like CP were needed, you used it once per turn and that was it. Once 2.0 expanded command traits to include all Heroes who had them (plus whatever your allegiance gave you), they never updated this ability to be for any Hero. The limits of “wholly within 9″ of the gravesite but also not within 9″ of enemies” also made this ability very easy to block by your opponent. If your opponent saw where your general was going they simply needed a single model on the center of the grave site, and you couldn’t do anything.

The new version brings back smaller units but is easier to work with, a single unit can no longer block summoning, and you have your pick of the litter from where to summon. It also scales well with your opponent; are they summoning a lot of new units in? Well that’s more fodder to summon more of your undead back.

Deathless Minions

Credit: Warhammer Community

Quite a bit more powerful than it was. Previously, the 6+ Feel No Pain was 6″ from a friendly Hero, now the range is greatly extended and includes gravesites. With proper placement you’ll never be caught without it.

Reanimated Horrors

-1 Bravery to the enemy when near Gravewalker or Deathrattle units (but not vampires?) and stacks up to -2. Solid buff, since its free and stacks well with other abilities coming later.

Deathly Invocation

Previously limited to Nagash, his Mortarchs and a select few vampire units, Deathly Invocation heals D3 wounds (or equivalent models) on Summonable units. Now it comes with every Hero unit, though it scales up in power. Key to your survival, keeping your weaker units alive.

Locus of Shyish

Locus of Shyish returns intact from Legions of Nagash. Makes a spell fire off twice if you roll an unmodified 9+ on your casting roll, giving a hearty bonus to your Vampire Lords.

Torgillius the Chamberlain - Credit: RichyP

Torgillius the Chamberlain – Credit: RichyP

Spells

Two schools return from Battletome: Legions of Nagash: the Lore of Vampires and the Lore of Deathmages. The former is, naturally used by Vampires and the lore of Deathmages is used by… Deathmages (so, right now, just the necromancer). Nagash and the Mortarchs get to use both. The Deathmage spells are almost reprints from Battletome Legions of Nagash, with some game language updated to be more appropriate to the new book and edition. The spells are largely debuffs and I’m glad they remained because they’re a solid set of spells. From Decrepify giving enemy Heroes -1 to wound and damage and Fading Vigour giving a unit -1 to hit.

The Lore of Vampires however got a total overhaul. While the names and the general idea of what a spell does is the same, many of their effects were rewritten to include different rolls or changed casting values. Vile Transference now has you rolling a number of dice equal to half an enemy’s wound characteristic, making it scale up much better to beefier foes. Spirit Gale is now a bravery check rather than rolling 3 dice and dealing mortal wounds (of which there are plenty). Overall, strong improvement on the discipline which was a bit lacking before.

There’s also an additional spell everyone can cast, multiple times a turn even, Invigorating Aura, letting you heal 3 wounds (or equivalent models) to a Summonable unit, essentially Invocation of Nagash with a check.

Overall, good changes. The old book’s spell list held up surprisingly well and keeping them intact was a good call. It’s helped further by Nagash knowing all 13 spells and given he can cast 8 spells a turn at full health, that is a lot of versatility.

Bloodlines

The subfactions work less like the current subfactions of the past few years and more in line with Legions of Nagash. Each Bloodline has two unique traits, and their own set of command traits and artefacts, 6 a piece. Honestly, one of my favorite parts of the book and I hope its a sign for how Battletomes will be constructed in 3rd edition. The “mandatory command trait/relic” seemed like something designed in a vacuum, where it was your cost for gaining the benefits of a subfaction instead of just running your own thing. In reality there was usually at least one subfaction that was too good to ignore, and it meant a whole lot of otherwise good artefacts and command traits went completely ignored. This may or may not become a rule; Cities of Sigmar had a similar design philosophy, but I think it would be an improvement on the game to accept people will take subfactions anyway and to give choice within those.

Anyway, there are 5 subfactions. As normal, it does not limit you from including anything, although some bloodlines are oriented toward a particular playstyle or grant additional battlelines. Many characters in the book are already part of a subfaction and you can include them in other stuff but they won’t gain the benefits of the legion. We’ll go over the traits of each legion and what that playstyle means, and a few choice artefacts and traits that might be worth looking at. For a full deep dive, we’ll work on a start competing within the coming weeks.

Legion of Blood

The first of returning bloodlines, Nefereta’s Legion of Blood is an interesting mix of Deathrattle spam and bravery shenanigans. Immortal Majesty adds D3 to the number of models that flee when an enemy unit fails a battleshock test and Favoured Retainers let you ignore negative to hit and wound modifiers for Deathrattle, reflecting in their preference for skeletons over zombies, finding zombies rather gauche. Reflecting this, the Legion of Blood pick up Black Knights as battleline.

Some useful command traits options include Soul-Crushing Contempt, which gives -1 Bravery when within 3″ of the General, pairing well with Immortal Majesty. Premeditated Violence gives exploding 6s, which is always handy, though its probably going to compete with Walking Death which causes damage to convert to mortal wounds on 6s to wound!

The artefact slot has some very cool options. Mixed in with standard stuff like +1 to saves or denying an enemy Hero a chance to fight on a 3+ there are some very cool ones like Ring of Dominion which lets you convert an enemy’s melee attack into mortal wounds against them on a 5+ (though it is held back by not letting you use any weapons that have degrading stat lines, which many of the best are). Shadeglass Decanter allows the bearer to pick an enemy Hero on the field and roll a die. If the roll is equal to or greater than the battle round, the Hero takes a mortal wound. So that’s one guaranteed wound turn 1 and fairly good odds to keep tapping wounds off. Finally, there is the Oubliette Arcana, which allows you to roll a die and on a 5+ to unbind a spell (even after attempting to unbind it) which could mean a lot in the current Magic heavy meta. Lot of really great stuff that allows for an adaptive playstyle if you want to mess around with an opponent’s army.

Legion of Night

Mannfred’s legion was generally considered the weakest of the original Legions of Nagash. Its powers weren’t generally that helpful and the attached warscroll battalion didn’t do it any favors either. The new Battletome attempts to retain the feel of the legion but steps it up by a lotAgeless Cunning lets you pull a Stormcast Eternals and put half your army in reserve (though you can only outflank from the board edge, so it’s not exactly the same) and The Bait makes your chaff Deadwalkers and Deathrattle units slightly tougher with a +1 to save for the first turn. So put your strong stuff away where it can be protected from ranged fire, lure your foe in with some Skeleton Warriors and then drop the Vampires on them.

Unbending Will is a command trait that lets you ignore battleshock within 12″ of the General. Given the books reliance on large groups of Skeleton Warriors and Zombies this could be useful to prevent huge losses from battleshock. Unholy Impetus gives +1 attack to all units within 12″ for the phase if they killed an enemy model and on the Defensive side Terrifying Visage gives -1 to wound rolls when enemy attacks the general.

Over in artefacts Shard of Night lets the bearer ignore Rend for missile attacks, which can help a lot give your own lack of range. Chiropeteran Cloak will deal a mortal wound back to an opponent if they roll a 1 to hit, making them a little more wary.

Overall Legion of Night is solid. Not great, but if you like a lot of outflanking shenanigans there can be fun to be had here.

Vyrkos Dynasty

Almost all the new characters introduced with this release are Vyrkos, which is probably going to generate a lot of excitement around them. The good news is it wouldn’t be wrong to say that these are the stars of the show and the focus of the new tomb. With no less than 4 named characters (more if you include multiple versions of Radukar) added to the line-up these more animalistic vampires are what we expect you’ll be seeing the most of on the tabletop. The two components of Battle Traits are arguably the strongest two in the book. The amusingly named pair of The Strength of the Pack is the Wolf adds +1 to wound rolls for all non-vampire units when near your Vampire Hero’s is a massive benefit and its counterpart The Strength of the Wolf is the Pack gives rerolls to all your casting rolls for the Vampire Hero’s just makes the casting of spells that little bit more reliable than it would be without. We’ll save you the maths, but it’s a marked increase in getting off a few key spells when needed. In general, this is just is a serious all around buff for almost any list.

Command traits that stick out include Pack Alpha which lets you use a free Command ability each turn, Hunter’s Snare which lets the general count as whatever his wound characteristic is for purposes of capturing objectives and Spoor Trackers lets Deadwalkers move an extra 3″ when within 9″ of the General. This will let your Dire Wolves jump ahead early on and your Zombies to keep up with them.

The Artefacts are a bit dicier, filled with “once per battle” options which will require smart usage. The Terminus Cloak allows you to force a -1 to casting rolls on all the enemy’s wizards for a turn, with unlimited range. Standard of the Ulfenwatch lets you roll a die each time an opponent uses a CP and on a 5+ you get one, so save it when they have a ton saved up and you think they’re making a big play. Overall the Artefacts aren’t as good as other legions, but the rest of the traits more than make up for it.

Kastelai Dynasty

The Kastelai are a sort of hybrid of the old Legion of Night and the pure “Soulblight” allegiance from Legions of Nagash.  They give you the terrifying Blood Knights as a battleline and the ability to outflank with them. If you want lots of strong cavalry, these are your boys. Additionally, they get access to the Might of the Crimson Keep, any time a Vampire unit (so your Heroes or Blood Knights) kills an enemy unit they gain a bonus. Since Kastelai will likely rely heavily on Vampire Heroes and Blood Knight for Battleline they will often have fewer models on the field this will help soup up the more elite army.

Credit: Warhammer Community

Some really good synergistic traits here including A Craving for Massacre which includes the old standby of letting a general Run and Charge in the same turn. Power in their Blood lets a General benefit from Might of the Crimson Keep pictures above if they were within 6″ of the enemy that killed a unit, or if you’re in for a once a game hammer, Rousing Commander lets you give every unit within 12″ of the General Bloodied Strength and Stolen Vitality for the phase.

The artefacts continue to be stand out, with Sword of the Red Seneschals adding +1 to wound for units within 12″ of the bearer if they slew a model this turn, Bloodsaint’s Shield giving -1 to Casting within 6″ and Fragment of the Keep giving the enemy -1 to wound within 6″. All around really good artefacts here, Kastelai is a strong contender for second place. Especially since many will want to run those gorgeous new Blood Knights that came out.

Avengorii Dynasty

The final Dynasty is like a mirror of Gristlegore from Flesh Eater Courts. Terrorgheists and Zombie dragons become Battleline under them so you can already see where this is going. Avengorii gets three battle traits Cursed Mutations gives you one of 3 mutations for Zombie Dragons or Terrorgheists (including Vampire Lords riding the zombie dragons) with an additional one for each battalion. These are quite good, with all 3 being potentially good choices. Maddening Hunger lets you auto slay a model within melee range for 1 point of healing which can keep them topped off, Urges of Atrocity letting them run and charge in the same turn (though sadly once per game) and Nullblood Construct forces enemy Wizards to reroll successful rolls within 9″. Anything that disrupts wizards gets a pick from me.

The other 2 abilities are Monstrous Might which subtracts 1 from wound rolls that target your Terrorgheists and Zombie Dragons, unless the attacker is also a Monster. Unstoppable Nightmares lets one Zombie Dragon or Terrorgheist, per turn, use their top damage block. These both apply to the Vampire Lord riding variant as well, so you can very easily have a list of all monsters, as Nagash intended.

The command traits and artefacts are paired down to 3 each, which is fine given the more focused nature of this dynasty. Torment Driven-Throes is a command trait that protects the General from attacks until they’ve gone last (though you have to roll a 5+ to do it) and An Eye for an Eye adds 1 to damage if your general was wounded this turn. The artefacts leave a bit wanting as they are all once per battle, but Ghorvar’s Collar sticks out for letting a bearer reroll wound rolls of 1 once per game and Breath of the Void Maw letting you deal D6 mortal wounds within 6″ once per game. All in all its not a great dynasty but if you have your heart set on lots of dragon things this is the place to go. Overall I think its fighting with Legion of Blood for second place with Kastelai, depending on what kind of Vampire list you want.

Battalions

Not great folks! I don’t think a single one of them is realistically going to see play so this fits one of the “have nots” Games Workshop has talked about with regard to Battalions. The only one I think is remotely interesting is Deathstench Drove which requires a corpse cart, 2 dire wolves and 2 Deadwalker Zombies units. It adds 1 to the attack characteristic of units within 12″ of the corpse cart so pretty good, as these are largely units you’d like to take anyway.

Games Workshop has discussed revamping how battalions work so this could be something we’re missing. I’m hoping so, as the fact that some books have great ones and others do not is continuously frustrating.

Nagash

Credit: Silks

Units

As this is a review and not a Start Competing, we’ll hit all the notable new stuff and changes in the book rather than a comprehensive overview. By the time this review goes live, the warscrolls for these units should be uploaded on Games Workshop’s webstore so you can look for yourself if you need more in-depth coverage. One interesting change is that GW has started using multiples of 5 for points instead of 10. This will likely help add a lot of nuance to list building and will be more common going into 3rd edition Age of Sigmar.

Leaders

A moment of silence for Arkhan the Black, whom we lost this past year in an unrelated accident.

Nagash does return however he took another points hike pushing him up to 975 pts. His warscroll is identical to the Ossiarch Bonereapers one, although a special rule allows him to gain the Soulblight Gravelords keyword, and he does know all 13 spells in the disciple. Is this worth a 95 point price hike? Probably not. He was already suffering as it stood and I’m not sure if all those spells are worth it. It may depend if everything goes up in price in 3rd edition Age of Sigmar, similar to how the new edition of Warhammer 40,000 worked.

Mannfred von Carstein the Mortarch of Night returns better than ever. Of the three original Mortarchs, Mannfred was generally considered the weakest. He was a decent glass cannon beatstick but his Legion was terrible. Well it seems he hit the gym and came back with a few new tricks. His new Mortarch of Night ability lets him teleport across the field whenever he’s locked in combat. This is going to make him hard to kill as he will just leave any combats he doesn’t feel are advantageous. Or, a Mannfred player can initiate combat just to teleport away. It’s going to be frustrating to deal with and something opponents will need to prepare for.

Leading the armies of the Crimson Keep we have Prince Vhordrai, still atop his Zombie Dragon named Shordemaire. If you want to spend a big chunk of points on the hardest hitting model in the book then this is where you go. Damage 4 melee weapon? Check. Big move flying monster? Check. Fantastic Melee focused Spell? Double Check. He’s in a good spot and should really see table time in the right lists. I’m going to mention the Prince Vhordrai here as well, the Vampire has lost a few bits from the old scroll and as a result in most cases you’ll either go Prince Vhordrai or not at all.

Radukar the Beast is the grown-up version of the Hero we first saw in Cursed City and he’s just that. He packs a combat profile not many characters pick up at his full price tag being the equivalent of a small monster, with 12 (or 14 with his own Command Ability up) attacks with a reliable profile he’ll certainly be able to make his mark on the game. His Warscroll features a bunch of abilities which help back up that combat punch such as being able to run and charge and the ever present on Vampires The Hunger. He’s fairly tough to take down with an inbuilt -1 to hit and able to spike some Mortal Wounds. Having two Command Abilities gives him the flexibility to bring more Dire Wolves to the field or generate a rather large aura of +1A to all friendly Soulblight Gravelord Units you’ll always have something for him to be getting on with.

The other new larger based character in the book is the new Vyrkos matriarch – Belladamma Volga, First of the Vyrkos. Riding atop one of her previous suitors she’s a fantastic support character you can really build around. While not Mortarch levels of power you’re picking up a very capable 2 cast wizard without breaking the bank. She’s fairly survivable around Dire Wolves being able to pass off wounds to them and her command ability Pack Alpha has the good version of the 6″ pile in tricks for 1 friendly Dire Wolves unit which is always useful to have when the need arises, if not something you’ll be making regular use of every turn. Bring two really good spells (including one which in theory allows the summoning of 12 wounds worth of Dire Wolves) she’ll be a mainstay of a bunch of armies on the table – and with a model like that why wouldn’t you?

Lady Annika, the Thirsting Blade and Kritza the Rat Prince are two melee hero’s who’ve also been added to the Roster of the Gravelords. While fantastic little models they’re really not much to write home about here. Kritza’s price point is really appealing but they’re what they are and don’t bring a lot more to the army past their combat abilities. Kritza especially might make it into some forces, just through the fact he’s a constant annoyance and won’t just leave the field.

The big new Centaur Vampire Lauka Vai, Mother of Nightmares and the none named version in the Vengorian Lord are a really nice mix of power and thematic rules which can sometimes counteract with the more reliable choices in the book. Their Warscrolls contain a really useful Command Ability which lets units heal, along with a defensive buff (reducing rend of enemy weapons) and a decent spell not to mention a possible 32 damage (you’ll do well to get near that) have a pretty packed scroll. One rule I want to bring to people’s attention is Undeniable Impulse, on the roll of a dice you might gain run and charge but lose the ability to use Command Abilities. This is one of – if not the most – thematic rule I’ve ever seen. It shows how the Vampire struggles with their blood-thirst and the longer they’re on the battlefield the more they’re more likely to give into their primal urges. As a fantastic rule as this is not being able to use any Command Abilities when it’s up means you’re going to have to use other characters and ~300pts you won’t always have lots of others around late into the game.

The Vampire Lord has lost the ability to take a skeletal steed, but can still fly (possibly due to the bats in her hair). Moving Deathly Invocation from the warscroll to the Allegiance Abilities means the Vampire Lord is now likely a less popular allied choice. However, you’re still getting a nice little combat character and a good command ability which is stackable with similar abilities for +A building. Still a solid choice in any army, though a bit disappointing they didn’t get a glow up.

Saving one of the best till last here in the Necromancer. Armed with his trusty staff, Deadwalker wound sponge in Undead Minions and Vanhel’s Danse Macabre you’ve got yourself a model which will appear in a lot of lists. Vanhel’s Danse Macabre being cast on a 6 means it won’t always go off but you’ll be casting it nearly every turn and it lasts until your next hero phase so you can use it with the Skeletons mentioned later to try and pre-empt the enemy coming in and regen more than you otherwise might think you’ll be able to.

The two Wight Kings are currently in a really weird place. Their command abilities don’t work because they grant rerolls to Deathrattle units in the hero phase – when Deathrattle don’t attack. These are certainties for rewrites or amendments in the FAQ. Staying clear for now might be the best option shy of needing to take one if you want to play with certain battalions.

On the topic of the new Warhammer Underworlds warband everyone bought to get themselves pumped for this army: if you’re taking this warband, you’re really taking it for Prince Duvalle’s Fiendish Lure spell, adding +1 to hit against a target enemy unit until your next hero phase. The real benefit of this is that, unlike the standard Vampire Lord’s spell, you cast it on the enemy, not one of your own units; the Lord’s spell is restricted to Summonable units, so Duvalle can buff some of the heavier vampiric hitters in your army. The downside here is the 6” casting range, which practically means you’re probably having him walk alongside Grave Guard while the Blood Knights are off ranging with their faster movement.

On his warband side, Gorath the Enforcer is a pretty neat mini hero – three wounds, 3+/2+ attack profile and D3 damage. Sadly, the other two friends, Vellas von Faine and Ennias Curse-born, are single wound squishies with a profoundly average attack profile for this army. Seriously, whoever heard of a vampire hitting on 4+?!

You could use this unit to extend the aura of Legion of Blood’s Immortal Majesty, making more models run when near a Vampire. Which is kinda odd, really, changing the dynasty and heritage of unique named characters, but rules as written they’re in any dynasty or legion you so choose. At 200 points though, I don’t think even the spell or dynastic flexibility makes the unit worth it. The 60 point ‘Warhammer Underworlds warband tax’ strikes again!

Battleline

One of the issues that Legions of Nagash had previously in the past, was finding a way to make it’s units feel distinctive in a book so deep, and there might be no greater example of this challenge than they had with Zombies and Skeletons. The good news is we think they’ve cracked it with the Soulblight book. Want a horde? you probably want Deadwalker Zombies, who have had a major facelift with the ability to cause mortal wounds on 6s to hit (representing them grabbing and wrestling the enemy to the ground), as well as the ability to activate and pile in from 6″ away. They can’t take a beating at all, but what’s interesting here is that at the end of the phase they roll a dice for every model slain by them, and on a 2+ they add a zombie to the unit. Currently as written this allows you to take the unit above it’s starting size, however I can’t see this making it past the FAQ in a few weeks time.

As for Skeletons, they come in multiples of 10 and act as your cheap battleline filler option. They’re a little more consistent in combat and certainly tougher (with a base 5+ save now) but they lost their bonuses based off of numbers in the new tome, leaving them in a weird spot where Zombies work better in numbers, and Dire Wolves hit harder than them for their price point. They do however really benefit from the Necromancers base spell Vanhel’s Danse Macabre. Getting the second combat activation allows them to regen twice in the same combat phase providing they’ve already taken the hit from whoever is unlucky enough to be fighting them.

Dire Wolves are my (Liam’s) favourite pick in the Battleline slot. They’re quick, fairly reliable in terms on damage on the charge and share good synergies with some other easy to access rules. Having 2 attacks on 4+/4+/-/D1 isn’t great, but you can easily for a couple of CP, the Vyrkos trait and on the charge they can get to 4 attacks at 3+/2+/-/D1 and that’ll go through screens and lightly armoured troops like a knife through butter. Not to mention they’re still 2 wounds a pop and on a decent sized base to can really fill table space when needed.

Other

Blood Knights return, and have probably been one of the most anticipated units. An absolutely atrociously priced unit originally, at $100 USD/61 GBP for five (and not even in plastic!) people tended to avoid them on price alone, but also that they were not….great? I mean they were fine but not anything you couldn’t get elsewhere with another unit. These new boys show a lot of similarities with the old ones but have faction rules to support them, especially in the Kastelai Dynasty where they become battleline, like the original Soulblight Allegiance from Legions of Nagash. Some notable changes include +1 damage on the charge (instead of D3) which makes the damage more consistent and Riders of Ruin is a brand new rule guaranteed to cause a lot of rules debate until the FAQ. Basically, it lets you make a normal move when locked into combat, and if you use this to jump over models with 3 wounds or less, you roll a die for each model in the Blood Knights unit. On a 2+ deal D3 mortal wounds. With their solid 10″ movement this makes cheap screens basically ignorable, ouch! The confusing thing is if this allows one to fall back and charge again, as a “normal move” could mean a retreat, but units usually say retreat, but they also usually say a unit can fall back and charge if they can do that. Ellarr and RagnarokAngel’s theory is that this has something to do with how movement rules will be changed for 3.0 and exists for futureproofing. For now I’m taking the less generous approach and saying you cannot fall back and charge but time will tell.

Grave Guard are a big winner for a returning unit, with some shuffling of profile bonuses and tidying up of warscroll rules effectively resulting in two flavours of GG: Punch very hard, or punch slightly less hard but be very tough for their cost. The double damage on 6s to wound has changed over to a flat MW in addition, and the Great Wight Blades now deal flat 2 damage. This is a classic example of a great warscroll in a vacuum, but also one that scales very well with buffs. Despite not receiving a model update with this tome, I fully expect we will see a lot of Grave Guard in the future, as they’ve managed to stay at the same price point but get even tougher and punchier in the process.

Black Knights are the mounted Skeleton unit. These have been gutted from their previous incarnation. They now die easier and deal less damage. There isn’t really much to write home about these at this point in time.

There are two types of Corpse Cart in the book, it can either be armed with the Unholy Lodestone and provide a nice casting bonus to friendly wizards along with letting Deadwalker Zombies have an improved save or it can have the devilish Balefire Braziers which provide a negative to enemy casting and make its harder for your troops to be damaged by a passive negative to wound order. They’re both really nice support pieces and having one, or both is never the wrong choice in the army.

The last unit with new models in this commentary are the Fell Bats. They’ve lost their bonus damage and now are just a nice chaff unit. They’ll be a filler in lists for the most part – but in Fall Back and Charge have one of the best abilities in the game if the player can make the most of it.

Varghiests have had some small changes, instead of bonus attacks they straight double hits on 6’s and they get a setup off the board option on their Warscroll which usually means more to allied armies than here. In the right Dynasty where you can buff Vampire keyworded models these certainly have a home but you do end up building around them rather than putting a unit in when you’ve got a few points left towards the end of building a list.

Behemoths

The Mortis Engine hasn’t really changed much, it still provides a casting bonus, pumps out a few mortal wounds and has a handful of mediocre attacks. Part of me wants to try multiples of them and see if I can screen them long enough for their Mortal Wounds to do their thing but I feel that might be a fools errand. The Vampire-y versions, Bloodseeker Palanquin and Coven Throne also return largely intact, though there are some notable changes. Scrying Pool on the coven throne lets you reroll one hit or wound per turn instead of a single die all game, which will generally work out better. Overall, it’s a bit of a wash. The Behemoth slot is crowded as hell, and it’s hard for them to compete with Zombie Dragons and Terrorgheists.

The Zombie Dragon and the Terrorgheist are the two monsters in the book. They’re both able to be taken as Battleline in the Avengorii Dynasty. They’ve not changed and are still big stompy monsters, if you like that then go and knock yourself out, but they aren’t cheap. If I’m paying that much for a monster personally I’m going to take the Zombie Dragon with Prince Vhordrai on top of it.

1999 Mordheim Vampire

Conclusion

Liam_Jordan: So, overall feelings of the book? I like it, there are some really nice rules in there and most of them have theme and purpose and I want to be clear on this next bit – if every book was this level of power it would make Age of Sigmar an even better game. But unfortunately they aren’t and this isn’t at the power level of the Realm Lords or the Daughters of Khaine. But it’s not going to be a push over at all and firmly sits in the playable bracket at any serious event, capable of winning, but you’ll need skill and more than a little luck.

They’ll be certain builds which pop up such as the Vykros character combo of Volga, Radukar the Beast, Vampire Lord and Necromancer with Wolves, Zombies and Grave Guard/Blood Knights rounding the list, then the Kastelai Prince Vhordrai plus all the Blood Knights with Wolves/Zombies for support. I’m sure they’ll also be those who’ll make the most of Mannfred who has really benefited from the books small scroll rewrites but at the same times they’ll be those disappointed with Black Knights and Vampire Lord on Zombie Dragon power hits to the point where I doubt they’ll see the table in any competitive list.

With that in mind? I’d give the book a solid 7/10 overall. It’s not going to cause competitive waves but what it will do is change up the old Legion of Nagash playstyle and bring new players to the Death Grand Alliance. Now just to wait for Volga to hit pre-orders and off we go!

RagnarokAngel: A lot of the response seems negative but I think they’re overblown. The book is…it’s fine? I don’t hate it, and I was a huge fan of Legions of Nagash and just wanted this book brought into the new edition. I agree with a lot of the criticisms I’m hearing that it’s not creative enough, as many of the abilities are just rehashed from Legions of Nagash but that’s kind of what I wanted. I think some positive changes were made in terms of rearranging the subfactions, how summoning works and updating the spells.

I think a lot of the anger is coming off a string of pretty broken books, between Seraphon and Lumineth we’ve been spoiled for meta-defining books which reinvent the entire competitive scene and a course correction was bound to happen. We also don’t know what this might mean for third edition because the book is definitely written with that in mind. We’ll need to wait a few weeks for the full picture.

Overall I think the negative feelings are based around how much excitement there was for this book. There were people hoping to buy Cursed City to get a start on the army, and people who never wanted to play Age of Sigmar now wanting to get in on it. There was a lot of attention on this book and I wager it was never going to meet expectations. For newcomers coming in, hoping to play some vampires and skeletons, I think you’ll still have a good time.

What are you most excited for in the Battletome? Any lists you’re hoping to run? Any units stick out? Let us know down below or contact@goonhammer.com.

 

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.