White Dwarf #461 Flashpoints: The Charnel Kingdom

An article by    Age of Sigmar Gaming Hobby Narrative Play Reviews The Narrative Forge        0

In the Narrative Forge, we talk about playing games with more of a storytelling focus in mind. From bespoke missions to Crusade armies to sweeping campaigns, we cover the ways to add flavor to games. In today’s article, we’re reviewing a White Dwarf first, a flashpoint campaign within the Mortal Realms: The Charnel Kingdom – how it works, and whether they’re worth your time to try out.

Helping to flesh out the Broken Realms campaign, Games Workshop White Dwarf has moved the Flashpoint series into Age of Sigmar for the very first time. Specifically, the event is a tease at upcoming events in Broken Realms: Teclis. What follows is a three part linear narrative campaign between the Ossiarch Bonereapers and Flesh Eater Courts. Additionally, an expansion to The Anvil of Apotheosis from General’s Handbook 2020 is presented, aimed specifically at Champions from these two armies.

Credit: Serotonin

The Charnel Kingdom

The Ymetrican Offensive

The Flashpoint opens up with a long narrative setting the stage for the campaign itself. Based off the limited information we have about Broken Realms: Teclis we know it will center around the titular Teclis as he leads the Lumineth in a war against Nagash, the Great Necromancer. It is explained that Nagash had claimed all of Shyish, the Realm of Death and carved out domains many of the other Realms. Exempting the sealed realm of Azyr, one had remained outside his grasp: Hysh, the Realm of Light which had remained guarded by the twin Aelf Gods Tyrion and Teclis. The two had remained isolated within their own realm for countless eons, but Teclis himself had now decided it was time to restrain Nagash’s advance. Nagash was surprisingly thrilled at the prospect of having a sorcerer who could match wits with him. After the initial attack by Teclis, Nagash prepared his counter. He deemed to send Arkhan the Black and Legions of the Ossiarch Bonereapers into Hysh, making their first real progress into conquest of the realm of light.

The initial volley against the nation of Ymetrica was a strong loss for the Ossiarch forces, but Arkhan was not dismayed. He knew that the Ymetricans would not so easily submit, let alone on their own turf. Arkhan made a decision to retreat to Haxiah, the bordering great nation which was so suffused in Arcane energy that no living being could hope to take it if he could hold it. Initially, Arkhan hoped to use the bones of fallen Lumineth to forge new troops, but they had learned from past encounters and burned the bodies of both sides, leaving no material behind. This left Arkhan with a serious logistical issue that needed solving. Xaramos, one of the Boneshapers who had arrived with Arkhan agreed to find a solution as quickly as possible

The Cursed Mountains

Within the nation of Ymetrica there lies the Avalenoria Mountains and at the highest points are the Vertiginous Peaks which almost scrape the sky. Within these mountain passes lie unspeakable cannibal ghouls. Why the Lumineth did not dispatch these creatures is not entirely understood. It’s presumed that either the Lumineth Realm-Lords either don’t see it as worth the man power to clear the vermin, or that they serve as effective detterants to any invaders who may attempt to use them as a staging ground. The current ruling Monarch, Archregent Gorstane
Mortevell was a loyal worshipper of Nagash, unlike most of his kin. Xaramos saw an advantage here, to leverage the ghoul’s zealous worship of Nagash to use the Flesh Eater Courts as both an aggressive auxiliary force with little regard for their own safety and a means to establish a foothold. Xaramos was able to build siege engines and and war camps within the mountains the Lumineth previously felt were safe and dispatch raiding parties on the Lumineth to find proper payment for the bone tithes.

It is not known when exactly Xaramos grew tired of this charade. At some point he decided it was no longer efficient to allow the Flesh Eater Courts to exist as they had. The Flesh Eater Courts were decimated to half their number and were tearing up their own “kingom” in attempt to keep the agents of Nagash supplicated. To Xaramos, they were wearing out their usefulness. Unable to pay the tithe as they once had, Xaramos planned to fulfill the necessary tithe of bones, one way or another. Xaramos ordered the Flesh Eater Courts themselves be slaughtered, for if they could not scrounge up the necessary bone to create new soldiers, then they would offer their own instead.

Black Harvest

Xaramos had not planned for a random factor: Varshorn, a Ghoul King previous exiled by Mortevell. Before Xaramos’s arrival, Varshorn was not as zealous in his belief for Nagash and was exiled to his own fiefdom within the mountains, disguised as a privilege. Xaramos gained a sort of appreciation for Varshorn, who was a talented military tactician. Xaramos found this a refreshing change from Mortevell’s religious zealotry and formed an alliance with him. Once the bone tithe was no longer being fulfilled, these allies were again at odds. Xaramos’s exile spared him from some of the worst of the exploitation and he hoped to parlay with Xaramos, using their budding appreciation for each other to gain some sort of mutually beneficial alliance. Xaramos agreed to this and met with him and his men, on the field to sign a treat.

But it was a all a trap. Immediately upon sitting down to break bread, the Bonereapers struck. The war to end the last of the Flesh Eater Court holdouts had begun.

Mortek Guard

Credit: Silks

Rise of the Dead

With the backdrop set, the flashpoint is presented as a series of 3 battles between the Ossiarch Bonereapers and Flesh-Eater Courts. Anyone who has bought a 2 player battle box is likely very familiar with this format. A narrative is presented to the players, with a bit of flavor text before each fight to explain the setting. To further add flavor to the proceedings a new Realm of Battle in the form of The Vertiginous Peaks is introduced.

Realm of Battle: The Vertiginous Peaks

The Vertiginous Peaks are within the Realm of Light, so they share the same spell and command ability from the core book. The Spell, Pha’s Protection is quite good, granting -1 to hit against an allied unit with a low casting value of 5. The command ability Strike Quickly lets a unit strike immediately in combat, allowing you to chain attacks. Useful buff to the Flesh Eater Courts, as Ossiarch Bonereapers can’t use generic command abilities.

The realm abilities that are unique to the Vertigious peaks come with some really nifty new ones. The Curse of Ushoran makes it so melee attacks starting in round 3 gain +1 to hit and -1 to saves against them, making protracted fights much more deadly. Shrines to Nagash allow you to select a unit within 1″ of a terrain piece and roll a die, if you roll under the number of models that have been slain from that unit, that unit gains +1 to attacks, allowing you to make up for a unit that has lost its max size. An oddity here is Redolent with Dark Energies which require both players to use Shyish spells instead of Hysh spells for Spells of the Realms from Malign Sorcery. Though these aren’t permitted in matched play anymore, so it’s more for narrative.

You can use this realm of battle outside of the campaign and it’s a pretty interesting. The 3 aforementioned abilities are unique and would definitely help mix up even matched play games.

Battleplans

While battle boxes usually give you a list of units to play with, utilizing what came in the box set, this naturally does not demand that of the players. The Ossiarch Bonereapers player will need to have a Boneshaper to represent Xaramos and the Flesh-Eater Courts player to have a Ghoul King to represent Varshorn. In addition, each player is allowed a certain number of units per side, 2 units per side in the first two encounters, and 4 in the final one. To keep things from getting too out of hand, each unit has to follow one of these templates:

  • Champion:  A HERO with 8 or fewer wounds.
  • Regular Unit: A unit of up to 10 models, each with a Wounds characteristic of 1.
  • Elite Unit: A unit of up to 5 models, each with a Wounds characteristic of 2 or 3.
  • Guard Unit: A unit of up to 3 models, each with a Wounds characteristic of 4 or 5.

So in short, no Terrorgheists or Mortek Crawlers here.

Caverns of Death

Round one involves the forces of the flesh-eater courts holding their ground until reinforcements can arrive. It is an unusual map for Age of Sigmar, being split into the left and right sides instead of length ways.  In this fight, due to the rubble that the Flesh-Eater courts threw down to slow the Bonereapers, units cannot run and take -1 to charge. Although it does affect both sides, Bonereapers are generally much slower this is going to prove a challenging handicap for them. Both sides are hoping to kill the other’s General and a major victory goes to whomever does so, while keeping their own alive. If both die, the Ossiarch Bonereapers get a minor victory, or if both live, the Flesh Eater Courts take the minor victory.

A Race Against Oblivion

Round 2 is an escort mission. Varshon and Xaramos sit this one, instead the Ossiarch Bonereapers get a Gothizzar Harvester which they must move 36″ from their starting placement to a certain table edge on a smaller playing field. The Flesh Eater Courts player get a Crypt Infernal named Sir Pazzuli, who gets 2 extra wounds. If the Flesh Eater courts can destroy the Harvester, they win, if the Harvester escapes then the Bonereapers win. This is a nice switch from the last battle, putting the Ossiarch Players on the defensive and requiring they play smart to body block the Harvester from being slowed down or outright destroyed. The unique trait to this battle is deceptively interesting, if the Flesh Eater Courts player bring a Crypt Flayer (Not counting Sir Pazzuli) then a die is rolled when the model is set up, and on a 6 it is slain. The ability to fly and high movement speed is a serious advantage to Flesh Eater Courts players, is it worth the risk of being down a model?

The Immortis

We go back to Varshon and Xaramos, and their final duel. A simple First Blood style map layout, things have escalated to a bloodbath (Bonebath?) as each player brings Varshon or Xaramos and four units. That’s not even all of it! At the end of the movement phase, players can bring back one destroyed unit within 6″ of the edge of the battlefield. The goal is simple, destroy your opponent’s General and avoid your own being hurt. The battle will not end until one man falls.

Conclusion

Overall, I like the narrative more than the actual structure of the campaign. Much like the 2 player battleboxes, it suffers from similar issues of trying to make evenly matches forces without using points. Limiting each side to the same number of units is a bit of a problem as Ossiarch Bonereapers are at an advantage if the number of units are matches. The matchups and unique twists to the battles do help give a boost up to Flesh-Eater Courts, so it probably won’t be a total bloodbath if the players are reasonably well skilled. Flesh-Eater Courts can still always summon more units in, if they are willing to use a slot on a character.

The bigger issue is much like the Battlebox type narrative campaigns, there isn’t a lot of room for diversity or alternate outcomes. Each scenario has no effect on the next one and there are no boons (or drawbacks) for victory and defeat. I wouldn’t necessarily want to go this route, for fear of a snowball effect, but I would have liked to see branching paths, where whoever one round 1 would affect which scenario was played for round 2. Or at the very least, different narrative fluff depending on who won or who lost.

Finally, it’s going to be of niche interest. Whereas the 40k Flashpoints are scenarios in which just  about any army can play, this is a very narrow story focusing on two specific forces. Which has it’s own advantages, it allows for deeper exploration of the lore rather than a surface level look at some planet (or realm, in this case). It just means that it’s only going to have any appeal to someone who plays Ossiarch Bonereapers, has a friend with Flesh-Eater Courts, and a desire to play out the narrative. Which is fine, I think there is room for niche things like this, but if it’s going to be very specific in its matchup and be linear, the fluff could be more fleshed out.

That said the story is phenomenal. loved reading it, and it was interesting to see this tiny little battle amongst what is surely going to be a major war between Nagash and Teclis in Broken Realms: Teclis. Seeing the Flesh Eater Courts as sympathetic heroes being exploited by their Masters is a viewpoint we don’t see enough of, and even if I didn’t play these I would love to see more insight into the more ignored factions of the mortal realms.

Credit: Richy P

Anvil of Death

One of the more exciting additions, to me, is an expansion to Anvil of Apotheosis aimed at making Ossiarch Bonereapers and Flesh Eater Court Heroes more in-depth. For those who were not aware, in General’s Handbook 2020 Games Workshop included a featured called the Anvil of Apotheosis. This feature let you set a point value, and create your own Hero from a list of templates. Although technically supported in all modes of play, with opponent’s consent, it’s intended more for Narrative play. Allowing players to create unique Heroes rather than “counts-as” a more generic Hero. You do not need General’s Handbook 2020, as White Dwarf does come with all the tools you need to get going on your own Flesh Eater Courts or Bonereapers Hero.

First, Ancestry and Archtypes were combined into the same step, since at least for these heroes those are usually one in the same. Bonereapers no longer are restrained by the generic Ossiarch Bonereaper ancestry and can now create a Liege, or Mortisan. Interestingly, at least for now, it’s the only way to have a Liege on foot. Flesh Eater Courts now have access to Courtiers and Abhorrants, complete with their summoning abilities! If you chose an Ancestry with the WIZARD keyword, theres a list of 6 spooky themed spells you’re allowed to take with spells like Ravenous Hunger which grants a bonus attack to a friendly unit, or Circle of Death which deals mortal wounds to all enemy units within 12″ on a 2+.

The weapon and mount selection is similarly generic to the book, as the point is to give you a template that is freeform enough that you can project any sort of weapon or mount that you wish. It does add Nadrite weapons, which have exploding 6s as you’d expect.

Finally, we do get some nice bonus abilities to spend your DP on, if you have any leftover. Harrowing Shriek lets you steal the 2d6 vs. Bravery ability from Terrorgheists for some mortal wounds against low bravery armies, while Master of Fiends lets you pick a friendly unit wholly within 9″ of the Hero and either heal D3 wounds on them, or add 1 to their attack if they are unwounded. A lot of these abilities aren’t new but they are new to Anvil of Apotheosis. I really like the Anvil as a concept and the one in General’s Handbook 2020 was a solid foundation to build off of it. I really hope Games Workshop intends to introduce more of these in the future as they really open up options for narrative campaigns in the mortal realms. Age of Sigmar is begging for an equivalent to Crusade from 40k and with options like this it could very easily surpass it, if this information could be collected in one place.

Ideally, this will not be the only Flashpoint in Age of Sigmar. With the Broken Realms campaign setting still on-going, there is a lot of room to explore lesser conflicts in the inter-realm spanning conflict. Are there particular places or armies in the Mortal Realms you’d like to see represented more in the narrative? Let us known at contact@goonhammer.com or on social media!

 

 

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