SRM’s Ongoing Stormbringer Review: Week 16

Stormbringer is a weekly hobby magazine from Hachette Partworks introducing players to Warhammer: Age of Sigmar. In this 80-week series, our intrepid magazine-receiver will be reviewing each individual issue, its included models, and gaming materials. A Premium US subscription was provided to Goonhammer for review purposes. If you want to follow along at home, US Customers can check out Stormbringer here.

I recently read a Warcom article that stated that there are no plans to bring Kislev and Cathay to The Old World, despite showing concept art in Old World articles back in 2020. (The timing of this take might make more sense to you if you know I write these columns a couple weeks in advance.) My read is that those were just Total Warhammer 3 concept art pieces repackaged for Warcom, but y’know, if there’s no plans to bring Terracotta giants and bear cavalry to The Old World, there’s another fantasy wargame with plenty of room. Just sayin.

The Narrative Materials

Bastian Carthalos. Credit: SRM

We’ve got an unusually dense lore section this week, so buckle up. First up is another in-universe piece about the monsters of Ghur, told in first person by assumedly the same unseen narrator. These monsters of the dead lands can usually be smelled before they’re seen, so keen senses will likely be what keeps you from becoming an Arachnarok Spider’s lunch. A Gothizzar Harvester stretches the definition of a normal monster here since I can’t imagine those roam far from their Ossiarch masters, but it’s all good fun.

Our next segment is a continuation of Issue 13‘s short story, Spearhead. Alyria Swiftwind is still mid-battle, nearly dead and surrounded by Kruleboyz. As her final act, she tackles their Killaboss, and as her soul is yeeted back to Azyr on holy lightning, that same lightning burns the Orruk to a crisp. She remembers her deaths and is reforged, only to meet Bastian Carthalos who says he’s in need of her. This cliffhanger won’t resolve this issue, but I’m curious to see where it goes. Having death and rebirth be a core facet of the setting’s Big Damn Heroes is interesting, because normally it’s counterintuitive to show your protagonists getting owned so often. It’s always framed here as noble – Alyria’s never died without protecting someone else, for example – so they don’t come off as jobbers. This story isn’t anything entirely too special, and its first part wasn’t either, but maybe they’ll resolve into something notable.

Now for a question that plagued the player base for the first few years of Age of Sigmar’s existence: What’s life like for your average person in the Mortal Realms? The realms are equal parts hostile and magical, and even in the comparatively tame Cities of Sigmar you’ve still got to worry about Chaos cults, hauntings, or more mundane hardships that will kill you just the same. If you don’t die in a life of backbreaking toil, the next attack might see you drafted and put on the walls, fighting some mind-breaking horror with little more than a wooden shield and a rusty sword. Other people, especially those who are stuck living out in the Realms, go down the Path to Glory, following the Chaos gods in exchange for power and security. Answering the question of “why would a dude throw in his lot with the tentacle-eyed monsters” has always been one of Warhammer’s biggest challenges. I feel like the Mortal Realms are a dangerous enough place that maybe, just maybe, worshipping a god of blood and skulls might appear to be a reasonable survival strategy. Lastly are the people living under Ossiarch and vampire lords, who are livestock in life and labor in death. A few are lucky enough to become vampires and continue the cycle of abuse, which isn’t exactly the sunniest outcome. No mention is made of humans living under the forces of Orruks or Ogors, as they assumedly don’t live long enough to form much of a culture.

We have one last piece this week, and it’s a Battle Record for our new Primal Lair set of terrain. It’s an odd inclusion in Stormbringer, and one with an equally awkward set of tables to roll on.

Nefeli Firemane crouched down next to the odd hexagon-shaped rocks, running a Sigmarite gauntlet over their surface. More a geologist than geomancer, she could tell by their subtle pockmarks that this was volcanic rock, Ghurish basalt perfect for construction. Nefeli jotted this information down on her Sigmarite clipboard and turned her attention elsewhere. She made note of the underground vents nearby, jettisoning acrid fumes into the air, marking them with tiny flags she kept in her pouch. While her stormforged senses would not be deterred by such hazards, the mortal mining crews that would follow could be injured or blinded by them. Even for an immortal chosen of Sigmar, workplace safety was no laughing matter.

The Hobby Materials

Primal Lair. Credit: BuffaloChicken

This week contains our first terrain kit in Stormbringer and it’s a weird one: The Primal Lair, a set of hexagonal terrain tiles from 2019’s Warhammer Underworlds: Beastgrave. These were meant to represent impassible or lethal tiles in that game, and here they’re just weird little blocks of scatter terrain, intended to block movement and provide a little bit of cover. They look lovely, with sharp details, oversized bones, and a strong fantasy aesthetic, but they’re still odd pieces for Age of Sigmar. Construction is simple, save for a few fiddly tentacles on one of the hexes. The painting instructions are curious, in that I genuinely don’t know what they’re going for with a wild red white and blue color scheme.

The Gaming Materials

Kruleboyz Man-Skewer Boltboyz

This week we learn about terrain and how our units will interact with it on the battlefield. The basics of cover are spelled out, and helpful illustrations show units in and out of cover as well as how one should move their models around terrain. It’s a mix of tactical advice and rules writing, encouraging players to weigh their decisions when moving in, behind, and around cover. The only thing missing is multiple levels of terrain where units can climb up (like buildings) but that’s for another issue and another terrain piece, I imagine. We have a small battle to test these rules out, where our Stormcast and Kruleboyz find themselves both in Hostile Territory. All of our terrain lies between the two patrols, forcing players to interact with the Primal Lair and learn how to use cover. The mission is simply to kill each other, but I enjoy the assertive use of terrain. Too many games I’ve played have simply had a few ruins in the back corners of the board and a football field in the middle.

Final Verdict:

This isn’t really a kit you can buy anymore, but when you could it seemed to go for around $36. At our $13.99 cover price, that’s a hefty savings, but how useful this kit is will be anyone’s guess. It’s awkwardly sized between scatter terrain and functional terrain, and unless you’re an avid Underworlds player, the utility might not be there for you. The rest of the issue is good fun, fleshing out the setting and continuing our first short story. It’s a strange issue if you couldn’t tell.

See you next issue, warhams.

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