Monday, January 16, 2017

REVIEW: Disciples of Tzeentch Battletome

It's been a couple of months since we have had a major release for Age of Sigmar, but the wait is finally over and change is here! Disciples of Tzeentch finally sees the Arcanites make their full appearance in AoS, but there is also so much more to this brand new style of Battletome then just them.

First off, that cover art is amazing. It's a bit of a break from what we have been seeing with other AoS Battletomes, which usually have one warrior on the front, generally a regular or elite guy and not a leader, with a bit more going on in the background. Here we get a Lord of Change front and center directing his entire demonic cohort against the Stormcast. It's essentially a giant battle scene with a very large focal point. It reminds me a bit more of the older 8th edition cover styles, but even then it has more going on. I really like it. There's so much happening and it's so beautifully drawn. I don't know which style I prefer more though. I kind of liked the covers that focused on the rank and file guys and not the heroes, but there's no denying this cover is one of the best so far.

Once you crack it open you get right into the background lore. Where most books start with an overview of the army, this one instead starts with an overview of Tzeentch himself and his agenda and forces in general. There's also a full page illustration of what I assume if the god himself. He kind of looks like a giant horror with even more faces sprouting out everywhere. I think they went this route because, unlike other Battletomes, this book doesn't just focus on one faction, but instead on a coalition of factions, hence the title Disciples of Tzeentch. The book primarily focuses on the demonic legions of the Changer of Ways and the Tzeentch Arcanites, but an army of Disciples of Tzeentch can be comprised of any unit with the keyword Tzeentch, including Slaves to Darkness.

Next we come to a brief catch up on where Tzeentch stands within the Mortal Realms. Since the Season of War the forces of Azyr have started to rebuild in the Realms, and this means cities. Tzeentch favors this, because civilization suits his style of intrigue and plotting much more then complete desolation does. The Changeling infiltrated the ranks of Azyr, posing as an influential figure during the cities' construction so he could plant the seeds of corruption. Though he was found out at Hammerhal and chased away, the damage had been done, and dozens of Tzeentch Arcanite cults had been established within the Free Cities, hiding until the perfect time to strike. It's hinted that Tzeentch even had a hand in Nurgle's defeat in Gyhran to help bring about these cities and that he may have helped with the disappearance of Slaanesh as well. Now that his brother gods have been beaten back, it's Tzeentch's time to shine.

The first force that gets explored in here are the demonic legions. A lot of this background is somewhat familiar to me since I played Demons in 40k and the lore for what goes on in the Realm of Chaos is pretty similar across the two systems (there's only one Realm of Chaos after all). There are still interesting and new things to find out here though and it's great for people just learning about Tzeentch for the first time. There is some really cool artwork in here as well and an interesting bit of story on a human, named Elias, who went on to become a Demon Prince of Tzeentch with a trully whacky drawing to accompany it. I really hope that this is what that Demon Prince is meant to look like, because even though it's whacky, it's pretty awesome looking.

After the Demons we move onto the Tzeentch Arcanites, the new faction that everyone has been waiting for. These are primarily the cults that the Changeling established within the new cities. The core of them are the Kairic Acolytes, basically the lowest member of the cult. Each cult is established initially by one sorcerer, who then starts taking on apprentices, who if they prove worthy enough, are granted the title of Kairic Acolyte. Most cults are ruled over by a cabal of sorcerers consisting of a Fatemaster, a Magistar, and a Tzaangor Shaman. These cults are split up into smaller covens and will continue to grow and split, until it reaches a total of nine covens. It can never exceed nine though, and at that point the entire cult will split with a new cult forming, and then expanding on its own. In this way they continue to grow and infiltrate the societies in which they reside. The Tzaangors are favored by Tzeentch and are the elite of the cults, generally staying out in the wilds. These cults can stay hidden for years though, using magic to disguise their appearances until the day when they decide to rise up and bring the city to ruin. This story thread actually reminded me a lot of another GW release of late, but on the 40k side of things, the Genestealer Cults. 

Although not a part of the cult, it is not uncommon for one of the Gaunt Summoners to align themselves with the Arcanites. In fact, they are highly revered by the cults and are considered honored guests. They also hire the services of other powerful allies, primarily the Ogroid Thaumaturge and the Curselings. Particularly powerful cults can also summon the aide of Demons, but who is ultimately in control then is up for debate.

We then get a few cool new additions to the Battletome. Where the Bonesplitterz and Beastclaw books gave us the alphabet for those races, here we get pictures of some of the arcane artifacts of Tzeentch, sigils for the most prominent Arcanite Cults and Demonic Legions, and also a modified alphabet of the dark language for Tzeentch. I really like this since it lets you really customize your banners and such with the proper symbols and you can spell out real words if you want. The artifacts give you a little something to go on if you want to properly model them onto your minis, which is nice as well. 

After this we get the standard color palette page with a bunch of different examples on how to paint your Acolytes and Tzaangors. We also get the obligatory timeline here, which covers two pages. This only starts from the end of Season of War and basically has a bunch of little story snippets of Tzeentch setting up cults and foiling people's plans, particularly Nurgle's. Sigmar also senses that all of this is adding up to something bigger, which I'm sure we'll see more of in the next campaign book.

The new artwork in this book is spectacular, with GW continuing to improve it's output with each book. While some of the earliest AoS books had some iffy art here and there, Disciples of Tzeentch is solid throughout, with the cover and a battle piece featuring an Ogroid versus some Stormcast being my two favorites. All the model photography is great as well, and these new minis are stunning. The new Lord of Change is insanely good with how much detail it has on it. The Kairos variant for it is equally as stunning, and there are a few other new models in here that continue to impress.

Next is the unit description section where we get a bit more background lore on each of the units. It starts off with the demons and goes over each of them. For me there wasn't much new here because I am already familiar with a lot of the demon lore, but for new players there's a tone of background information to absorb. The Arcanite Cults are what I was most eager for and I wasn't disappointed. The Curslings were pretty awesome. This use to be the special character from 8th edition that has been repurposed as a special character. Now the back story for them is that they are always looking to learn new secrets to further their favor with Tzeentch. It gets to the point that the secrets build up and form a tumor that eventually grows into a demonic entity that hangs off their side, constantly whispering secrets in their ear. The Kairic Acolytes are also pretty cool, and are able to change their shape at will, hence why they are all ripped. Some of them are old, feeble, out of shape, but when they reveal themselves for battle, they change their form to the ideal human form. I think I want that work out routine.

Following that are all of the pictures the models, and man oh man are they nice. Everyone has probably already seen the new models now, including the Changeling, Kairos, and the new demons and Tzaangors, so you don't need me to tell you. Just like the rest of the book this is split up into the Demons and the Arcanites.

The rules section starts out with the Allegiance Abilities for Disciples of Tzeentch. These are rather unique compared to what we have seen so far. The basic allegiance abilities applies to the whole army and has you roll nine dice at the start of the game. You then place these nine dice to the side and can substitute them in for a number of different rolls. For example, if you rolled a five for a destiny dice and then try and cast a spell but fail, you can swap one of those casting dice out for the five if thats what you need to succeed. It's a pretty cool idea and definitely fits with the nature of Tzeentch being able to see the future before it happens. Once you have used a destiny dice it's done and cannot be used again, but there are a number of abilities ranging from artifacts to warscroll battalions that allow you to attempt to replenish your destiny dice pool. The command traits are split up between the Demons, Arcanites, and Mortals. Depending on who you general is you roll on the appropriate table. The first three results are the same across the tables, but the second three are all unique. I don't think I saw a single bad command trait amongst them. The Artifacts are split up between Arcanites and Demons as well, as are the spells. This means a ton of variety for your army, and if you have a mixed Demon, Arcanite, and Mortal army then you could play a different combination of spells, command traits, and artifacts each game. 

After that we get the battleplans, which are quite a departure from what we have seen before. We get one battleplan that focuses on the Demons, and one that focuses on the Arcanites. Both seem pretty fun to play and definitely reflect the narrative nature of their factions, in fact I would like to try out the Arcanite one in the future. However, unlike with previous Battletomes, there is no story to go along with them, they are just presented as are. This is a bit disappointing since I have always enjoyed the stories that went along with the battleplans. For instance, I would have loved to have read the story that led up to the Arcanite Cult revealing itself to overthrow the city. Like I said though, the battleplans on their own are still very good, just lacking a bit of the narrative set up.

This Battletome also sees the first addition of the Path to Glory rules in the book itself. This is a nice addition and I hope to see it continue going forward. Just like with what we saw in the General's Handbook, you are presented with the guidelines on how to build up your warband from scratch as your general recruits more followers. You also get the basic rules for Path to Glory so you don't need to reference the General's Handbook as your reading this. You can either build a demon warband or an Arcanite one with plenty of rewards available for both your leaders and units. 

The Warscroll Battalions are once again split up between the Demons and the Arcanites, with each receiving several different choices. Each faction also gets two larger battalions that are used to represent a specific army on the tabletop, like the Wargroves from the Sylvaneth Battletome. The Warscrolls are also divided up amongst Demons and Arcanites. For the Demons we get full rules for the Blue and Brimstone Horrors, as well as minor tweaks to the existing scrolls like Kairos. The Lord of Change also gets a brand new warscroll to accompany its large new model. The Arcanite side is almost entirely new, with the exception of the Fatemaster, Gaunt Summoner, Ogroid Thaumaturge, and a few others. The Kairic Acolytes and Tzaangors also get their Silver Tower scrolls expanded upon with a bunch more options available for the units. They did still keep the option for mixed weapons though so that your Silver Tower minis are still playable. We also get the Tzaangor Exalted, Skyfires, Shaman, and a few others. The only Slaves to Darkness unit we get in here is the Spawn for some reason, but you can still include other Slaves to Darkness units in your Disciples of Tzeentch army as long as they have the Tzeentch keyword.

Lastly we have the core four pages of rules and as a first for a Battletome, the pitched battle profiles for every unit in the army. It's pretty convenient to have the points right here in the book, but I do hope that this doesn't prevent them from updating them in the future if they need adjustment. There are quite a few abilities and spells in this army that create new units or models, such as the Pink Horrors splitting into Blue Horrors, the Tzaangor Shaman creating new Tzaangors out of enemies, or various other things like turning people into Spawn. I'm a little unsure on how this will be handled in Matched Play, since right now any model you put on the table needs to be paid for in points, so I don't know if you need to set points aside ahead of time to utilize these abilities. They are definitely very fitting to the Tzeentch lore though and will work great in Narrative and Open Play and hopefully there is a good way to make them work in Matched Play. I can see setting aside points for the Blue and Brimstone Horrors, since it pretty guaranteed that you will utilize those, but for random spells it's a little different.

Overall I really liked this book. The rules are extremely fitting for a Tzeentch army and I think I may put together a small Arcanite force. The background lore does a good job at laying the foundation for the new story post Season of War. I'm really excited to see where these new Free Cities go and what part the Arcanites play in it. I definitely like the hidden enemy aspect of the Arcanites and hope to see more from them in the future. For only $35 this is a pretty good deal, especially if you are a Chaos or Tzeentch fan. As the first new book for AoS in 2017 and the first one we have seen in several months I would say this is slam dunk and promises great things in the coming months. If you want to see hints of where the story is going, are a fan of Tzeentch, the Silver Tower, or the forces of Chaos in general, or even just enjoy the background for AoS then I would definitely recommend picking this up. 

Change is inevitable, will you resist it or embrace it?

Until next time,

Tyler M.

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