Wednesday, June 8, 2016

REVIEW: Godbeasts

The newest campaign book in the Realmgate Wars series, Godbeasts, turns the peril and action up to 11 with Archaon's latest plan. Hoping to bend the titanic godbeasts to his will can the forces of order stop him in time?

For those who haven't read any of my past reviews of the campaign books I'll briefly go over the presentation. It is a high quality hardback, just as we have come to expect from GW. The cover art is pretty cool, with the bottom half being my favorite part. This is another great book from GW that will look great on anyone's shelf.

Once we crack open the book itself we are given a brief overview of the Realmgate wars so far, basically an extremely truncated version of every campaign book to date. This is nice for people who decided to jump in with this book, but I really do recommend reading them in order, it's worth it. After that we pick up in Aqshy, the realm of fire, as a new Warrior Chamber known as the Royal Victrians and a small group of the Hammerhands led by Ionus Cryptborn continue their crusade against the forces of Khorne. Where before we just saw a very small section of the Brimstone Peninsula, here we get a full pulled back view of the entire area of Aqshy. There are several humungous continents amongst the sea which all seems to be on a giant piece of flat land floating in the void. There are plenty of fantastical elements as well, with floating islands and a "sun" which is actually the godbeast Ignax chained down. Having read the previous books that focused solely on the Brimstone Peninsula I have a true appreciation for how vast the map we are presented with really is, but it may be lost on people who aren't familiar with the same backstory. The map itself is really cool looking though and I definitely enjoy the Age of Sigmar map style.

The story has some cool fights and we even get to see Valkyia make an appearance, though she really doesn't do much. I think my favorite part is when it focuses on the Bullgors who have been terrorizing the small remnants of Sigmarite faithful still eking out a living on the Tauroi Archipelago. There are other survivors as well, fighting with the Royal Victrians against the Bloodbound on the main continent of Asphyxia. It's nice to see that even the volcanic and almost barren lands in this part of Aqshy still have regular humans that have managed to hold out throughout the Age of Chaos.

Nurgle also shows up, jealous of Khorne's dominance in Aqshy, forcing Khorne and some of the Stormcasts to even cooperate in a way to deal with what could be an even greater threat. This is a really interesting concept, and not something all of the Stormcast agree with. It's also great to see the Chaos powers feuding like this, with Nurgle's diseases basically draining a lot of the combatants of their will to fight.

There's a moment involving Skarbrand which felt a little odd to me, but it does speak to the great lengths Ionus will go to in order to secure victory. Honestly, Ionus is one of the most interesting characters to me and I am excited to see where his story arc goes. I'm hoping once the forces of Death start becoming more involved we will see more of his mysterious connection to Nagash. There's a little tangent involving an admittedly cool area called the Orb Infernia, which is a planetoid which has been almost entirely consumed by Chaos and is now nothing more then a series of floating continents dominated by four demon princes, each dedicated to a different god and constantly warring with each other, of course. The Seraphon show up to duke it out with the demons and tie them up, which they have apparently been doing for a very long time, which is actually a pretty cool idea. The battle just seemed a little out of place, but it's not long before good old Khorgos Khul shows up to wreck face on both sides. I'm glad they are still bringing him into the story since I would argue that he is pretty important to the story of AoS, at least in these early stages, mostly due to him being the mascot for Chaos from the starter set. Vandus and him still need to have their final showdown, so I'm hoping for some interesting things going forward.

The story in Aqshy culminates in a suitably epic confrontation involving the Everchosen himself with ramifications that could threaten even Azyr itself. The battle involves lots of Varanguard, Fyreslayers, Stormcast, and one of the Godbeasts itself as well as elements of subterfuge and betrayal. It is a really nice conclusion to the entire first story. Honestly the Aqshy story was pretty good, the only part that I wasn't super enthusiastic about were the parts involving Skarbrand and the mountain.

This is the entire first half of the book and once this is done with we switch over to Ghyran and the continued struggles there. For once though we are not focusing on the Hallowed Knights that had been protecting the Everqueen, instead we visit an entirely new area of the realm, where another of the godbeasts, Behemat the father of all gargants, is slumbering beneath the realm's crust. The entire area has of course been infected by Nurgle with the Skaven having a very large presence too. In fact the Skaven have a collection of really cool city sized machines called parasite engines that essentially look like warpstone fueled versions of that giant spider robot from the movie Wild Wild West. These things look to be massive and I hope we see more of them. A model for them would look particularly cool, but they might need to downsize it a bit for the table.

The Stormcast Eternals show up to take the area back and we get a series of cool battles, culminating in my favorite part of the book where they fight over a floating island/torc thing the hangs over the realm. It's a circle that doesn't quite close all the way and on one end there is new life and on the other death with the entire spectrum in between. The Hallowed Knights and the Sons of Mallus duke it out with beastmen, skaven, spiderfang grots, and a group of gargants, because oh yeah, there are entire tribes of gargants that make this area their home. There is a really cool quick moment in the realm of death hinting at something big coming there soon as well as an introduction to the brother of Ionus!

We also get to see the return of Gardus of the Hallowed Knights, but it didn't really feel like a big enough moment for me. To me, Gardus, Vandus, and Thostos are the three main Stormcast since they are who we started our journey in AoS with for over two campaign books. I imagined the return of one of them would be a huge event, although maybe they are waiting for his reunion with his Lord-Castellant Grymm for that. I don't want to give away anymore of the story here, but it's definitely worth the read if you are following the Realmgate Wars.

I almost forgot to mention that Tornus makes his debut in this story, formally Torglug the Despised. It's cool to see his story continued as he flies around with the Celestant-Prime kicking butt and taking names. I hope we get to see a bit more depth from him in the future, ideally in a novel or short story. The other really interesting part of the story in this is we get our first real glimpse at how long and vast some of these conflicts can be. In past books it could feel like everything happened within a week or two, while here we get descriptions of conflicts lasting  for months or even years. What I really like about this is it gives you so much time and space to fit your own stories in around the main narrative of AoS. I think this is a hugely important development, because while the realms are vast and you really can fit in whatever you want without contradicting the main story, now you can fit stuff into the main story without contradicting it too. You can just say this battle took place during the year long main conflict and it would work perfectly.

Just like the past campaign books, there were several painting guides scattered throughout, which are always welcome. Two that really stood out to me as being particularly cool was a painting guide for a Realmgate from the Orb Infernia, so lots of red and bright flames, and a guide for an entire Realm of Battle table from Aqshy. Both of these seemed fairly easy to do and the results look great. I would love to paint up a Realm of Battle board in the Aqshy style. I hope they continue to include more guides for scenery items like this in future books. All of the artwork was once again top notch as well as all of the model photography. At this point I would be more surprised if the artwork was not good.

There are plenty of battleplans throughout the narrative which tie directly into what is going on in the story at that moment. There are even two sets of linked battleplans, which you can either play simultaneously with each other, or one after the other. This really helps reinforce the idea of an ongoing narrative and I wish my friends and I had all of the forces to play through the campaigns from one of these book. Some of the battleplans in here are stronger than others, but they all look like they would be fun to try out. At the end of the day more battleplans is never a bad thing. There are currently 68 different battleplans available between all of the books out there! 68! There is literally almost no reason for you to play the same battleplan twice.

Near the end of the book we get all of the warscrolls for the units and characters relevant to the story, all of which have been published elsewhere at this point, as well as all of the battalions exclusive to this book. Just like Balance of Power some of these battalions allow you to field a "special character" such as Tornus, by giving the generic version of that model an extra rule if you take the battalion. I really like this method and I'm excited to see it continue. This allows them to create rules for special characters from the narrative without having to make a special model just for them. One particularly impressive battalion is the one for the Royal Victrians, which is essentially the equivalent of fielding an entire Warrior Chamber.

Overall this book is a solid addition to the Realmgate Wars series, even if it wasn't my personal favorite, Quest for Ghal Maraz still holds that spot. There were a few moments in the story that were a little iffy for me, although the Ghyran half of it was pretty solid. I would still like to see the Seraphon incorporated more intrinsically into the main narrative, perhaps directly fighting alongside the Stormcast. As a whole though I enjoyed the narrative and thought it was suitably epic and entertaining. I would have to say for me it was about par with Balance of Power, setting up a lot of new conflicts and plot points. If you are invested in the narrative of AoS I would definitely recommend picking this up. There are plenty of things that happen in the story that look like they will have huge consequences going forward and you don't want to miss out on them. Everything in Godbeasts is truly an almost mythical level, which is very suiting for AoS. I think this would be a hard book to start out with if you haven't read any of the previous ones, but it could be done if you really wanted to jump in with Godbeasts.

With the next step in the narrative promising to be something monumental I am really excited to see all of the plot points that have been set up over Godbeasts and Balance of Power finally come into play in a big way.

Final Score - 4/5

Until next time,

Tyler M.

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