Wednesday, March 8, 2017

REVIEW: New Stormcast Eternals Battletome

Ever since the General's Handbook came out people have been asking for Allegiance Abilities for the Stormcast and now we finally have them in the new and updated version of the Stormcast Eternals Battletome. This is the first Battletome in AoS to get an update, so how does it compare to the original as well as its contemporaries?

The Stormcast Eternals Battletome was the first out of the gates for AoS, and now roughly a year and a half later they are the first to get a redo. Some might see this as a cash grab, but the way AoS is played and how the books are structured has changed a lot since that first Battletome. Seeing as how the Stormcast are the poster boys for the game it only makes sense that they are up to date with the other armies.

I wasn't the biggest fan of the cover art for Stormcast Tome 1.0 and with this one I think they have done a much better job. The style of art just seems a lot more fitting for a game like Warhammer than the first one did. You still have the lone warrior charging out front, but they have managed to fit in other iconic units from the army behind it. It's a little weird seeing a Stormcast fighting over such a lush and grassy field, but besides that I love it.

Once you crack it open you get to the background lore for the army. If you have read the first book there's a lot of recap, but with a few updated bits. The timeline obviously extends beyond where the first book left off as well, so we get a bit of talk about the events from the campaign books like All-Gates as well as the new cities of Sigmar springing up in the Mortal Realms. I won't go back over all of the lore for the Stormcast here, but if you're unfamiliar with it I definitely recommend brushing up on it, it's pretty interesting. The Black Library novels add a lot to it as well. I will say that I feel like they have taken some things that were presented somewhat vaguely before and really solidified them in here, giving the army a feeling of being grounded in reality a lot more than before.

The have added the Extremis Chamber in here this time around instead of getting its own book. This means their lore is a little more condensed then it was in their original book since now they have to share space, but I still felt like it covered a lot. Of course, the new guys on the block are the Vangaurd Chamber. These are the hunters and scouts of Sigmar's armies. Unlike the Extremis Chamber, which was written into the background as having been opened for the first time when the book and models came out, the Vanguard Chamber have been written in as having always been there. It says that they have been operating within the Mortal Realms since Vandus' first battles in Aqshy, effectively making them the first AoS faction really "retconned" into the lore.

The way they get around this is by saying that before they were acting much more covertly, essentially doing hit and runs before blending back into the shadows, leaving so few survivors that no one was really sure who they were. Now they are acting more openly, hence why they are coming out now. It's a little odd for me, since I felt like it would have been easy enough to say that they were formed from veterans post Season of War, and deployed as a force for the first time now. That would have been very organic feeling to me, especially since they all look like hardened veterans. As it is, this doesn't upset me horribly or anything, and their explanation of having been working behind the scenes before works well enough. It also lets you play games with them pre Season of War and not have it feel odd. It says that some Stormcast are reforged their very first time into a Ranger of the Vanguard Chambers, while others are "promoted" from other Chambers when they die in battle and wake up after their reforging wearing new armor and with a new role. I like how this gives you a bit of freedom with crafting your own backstory for them. They really sound like the toughest Stormcast around, having to survive on their own behind enemy lines for months, or even years on their own.

Just like the previous Battletomes it shows you a breakdown of the organization of the Stormhosts, but with a bit of a makeover. The one in the original Battletome was just some simple squares and bullet points, now we get this pretty awesome looking graphic to showcase it. It's a small addition, but make the book feel like more effort has gone into it. You also get to see the Vanguard Chamber opened and how it's organized as well as the Extremis Chamber.

In a first for any Battletome as far as I can remember we get two maps of fairly large sections of the realms. One is of Aqshy and one of Gyhran. It's primarily showing off the twin city of Hammerhal and its surrounding area, but it's still cool to see areas of the Realms getting fleshed out and explored like this. It makes them feel more real and like places where people could live and not just where battles take place.

In a cool addition to what we had last time they included a double page spread showing off some of the weapons of the Stormcast. This is something that we have seen in a few of the more recent Battletomes and it's always pretty cool looking.

Probably my favorite addition to the Battletome is a pair of vignettes of a Liberator and a Retributor. This breaks down the components of the armor, but most importantly just looks really cool. They are also surrounded by a bunch of concept sketches of different armor plates and helmets. This makes me really want a Stormcast sketch book with more stuff like this in it.

Once you move past the general lore section you get the "timeline" which peppers in a bit of new battles amongst the ones we are familiar with, including inserting a few earlier Vanguard battles, as well as advancing the timeline into the age of Sigmar's new cities. Just like other timelines this one gives you plenty of story ideas in two sentence bursts that you can expand upon your own. There's also the color scheme section where we get to see color plate examples for a bunch of different Stormhosts. Instead of getting a bunch of examples of the gold and blue of the Hammers of Sigmar like last time, each Stormhost only gets one Stormcast, and some helmet and shield variations. This allows them to pack in a bunch of examples.

Which works great because they also show off some Dracoth and Gryph-Charger examples to make sure the other Chambers don't feel left out. They also go into detail on each unit a bit more, just like in previous books, really fleshing out the backstory even more. Following the new style these are grouped together based on the army roles, such as all of the Paladins being on the same two pages, although they still each get their own header, instead of each unit having it's own page. This is the first place where you can really learn the backstory on the Vanguard units as well as the Lord-Veritant, who was released on his own in the fall.

The miniature gallery section reuses a lot of photography you may have seen in past Battletomes and campaign books, but it has a few new pieces in it. It is nice to have it all collected in one place though and is as inspiring as ever. There are no new alternate schemes in the 'Eavy Metal section, which I would have liked, but I can't really fault them for that. 

Now the thing that everyone has been asking for, the new Allegiance Abilities! If you take a pure Stormcast army then your entire army can deploy in the heavens and lightning strike down, which is perfect. It fits everything we have read about the army in all of the lore and background and also helps make them truly unique compared to how other armies play. You also get six command traits, but the coolest addition to me are all of the Artifacts. You can still only take one per force unless you are using battalions which let you take an additional one per battalion, but you have a ton of choices. There are the typical artifacts with weapons and such, but there is also a selection of magical armor, magical banners for your Vexillor to choose from, and magical lanterns for your Castellant and Azyros. I just love how much this let's you customize your force, and unless you are taking a bunch of battalions, it also forces you to be a lot choosier with what you take. If you take a lantern or banner it doesn't replace the lantern or banner abilities on the unit's warscroll either, it just adds on additional abilities.

In two more firsts for this Battletome you can also pick traits for your heroes' mounts, whether that's a Dracoth, Stardrake, or Gryph-Charger. Each of these has their own table to pick from. The first three traits on each table are the same across all of them, but after that they are all unique. So now your hero can have a unique command trait, a unique piece of wargear, and their mount can have a unique trait as well, meaning that the chances of your hero being identical to someone else's is slimmer than ever. Since Stormcast don't have any wizards they instead get a selection of prayers that their Relictors or Veritants can pick from. These are all pretty useful, and since they are prayers it means they can't be unbound. Magic has always been one of my favorite parts of Warhammer, so it's nice seeing the Stormcast getting something similar. I have a feeling we will start seeing the Relictor used a lot more. I know I finally painted mine up in preparation for this new book. 

Just like in the Disciples of Tzeentch Battletome we get two battleplans that showcase the unique fighting style of the army. I still miss the stories that use to go along with these since they were always fun reads and added to the background of the army. With how large these books are getting already though with all of the additional rules I understand why they cut that part though. Both of these battleplans look pretty fun, especially the first one where your Stormcast army needs to prevent the opposing army from escaping the board. They played this scenario in last month's White Dwarf if you want to see how it works in more detail.

The Path to Glory rules are included here again and they are more or less what you would expect based off what we have seen before. Something unique they did include though are rules on how to form a warband specific to a Warrior, Extremis, or Vanguard chamber. 

There are a total of 19 battalions in this book! That's an insane amount and pretty much means there's a fairly good chance you can field one of these with the models you already have. Most of the old ones return here, with exception of a few like Wardens of the Realmgate. They more or less stayed the same, though a few changed slightly, like the Hammerstrike Force, which now only requires two Paladin units instead of two Retributor units, giving you a bit more choice in how to build up. All of the battalions from the Extremis book make their way in here as well.

We of course get a few new ones for the Vanguard Chamber, as well as a few mixed force battalions. There are a few that mix units from the Vanguard and Extremis chamber in some interesting combinations.

This is one of the areas I was really looking forward to, the individual Stormhost battalion rules. We get rules for 8 of the Stormhosts including the Hammers of Sigmar, Hallowed Knights, Astral Templars, and more. Each of these requires you to take at least one other battalion, usually with a few modifications to the units required, and then rewards you with a couple of rules that help flavor your army's fighting style to reflect the lore. For the Hammers of Sigmar you need a Thunderhead battalion, but you need four units of Liberators in it, which I guess means I will be buying two more units of Liberators for my army. Something interesting that I noticed is that each of these Stormhosts is marked as a certain type of chamber, such as Warrior or Examplar. The Hammers of Sigmar for example is centered around the Warrior Chamber which is mostly Liberators and Judicators, while the Celestial Vindicators is an Examplar Chamber, which is mostly paladins. These reflects what other battalions you can take in your Stormhost battalion. In a Warrior Chamber you can't take the battalions for the Examplar, Vanguard, or Extremis Chamber for example. It makes me wonder if they will ever release Stormhost rules for the other chambers. 

The warscroll section brings back all of the units we already knew, including the Extremis Chamber, and of course adds in the Vanguard units. A few of the returning units have been tweaked slightly. The only two I noticed was the Vexillor and Azyros, who have had their power level turned down a bit, but have also had their points reduced to compensate. For the Vanguard Chamber we get rules for the Lord-Aquillor, Rangers, Palladors, Raptors, and Aetherwings. These are presented in the new format without the pictures of the units, which works just fine for me. It let's them really pack the rules in and makes it feel a bit more rulebook like, which I enjoy. It's all finished up with the four pages of rules and the pitched battle profiles. Like I said before, a few units have had their points adjusted and the Judicators became battleline for Stormcast Allegiance only, but besides that the old stuff stayed more or less the same.

All in all I think this is a home run for the first redone Battletome of AoS. It incorporates all of the best stuff about the new battletomes and expands on it even further. I feel like it also took all of the elements of the first Stormcast book that felt a little vague and insubstantial and really started to drill down into the details on them, like how the Stormhosts are organized. The fact that it incorporates all of the rules for Stormcast, including Extremis, the Veritant, and even the Knight-Questor from Silver Tower is a huge plus as well. It really is the definitive guide to the Stormcast out there right now. The level of customizability that they have introduced here with all of the traits and artifacts is going to go a long way to making everyone's armies feel unique and brings back a bit of that flavor from 8th edition. This really is the best Battletome they have done yet. I know I say that with every new Battletome, but that's just because they keep improving them and adding new content, which bodes well for the future of the game. The price is even lower as well, coming in at only $40 while I believe the original one was $60. That means you are getting way more content for your money. If you play Stormcast or are thinking are thinking about playing them I definitely recommend buying this. I know the basic rules are in the app, but you get so much more in the Battletome. Besides just the Allegiance rules and Battalions, which are a definite attraction, the wealth of lore and info in here is fantastic and really helps define the Stormcast as an army.

Until next time,

Tyler M.

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