Monday, August 21, 2017

REVIEW: General's Handbook 2017

The most anticipated release for Age of Sigmar this year is finally here with the General's Handbook 2017! Promising updates on all three ways to play, new points, and Allegiance Abilities for a whole host of factions, does it deliver on those lofty goals?

Yes, yes it absolutely does. This book takes everything that was great about the first General's Handbook and turns it up to 11. The cover is very similar to the last one, but with a Lord-Aquillor instead of Khul. It's a softcover book, and a very good and hefty size, just like its predecessor.

Once you crack it open, the first section we come across is Open Play. I know, you might be thinking, what can they have in here about Open Play since it's just supposed to be putting whatever models you want on the table. This is actually probably one of my favorite sections of the book though. The first big thing you may have already heard of are the Open War cards. While the cards need to be purchased seperately, the rules and suggestions on how to use them are included in the General's Handbook (GHB). There's also a brief overview of the rules included with the cards themselves, which I will be reviewing on their own later, so no worries there. There are some cool suggestions in the GHB about how to use them in a campaign or a tournament though. Honestly, the idea of an Open War cards tournament sounds awesome, and may be something I might have to push in my local area at some point.

The carry over from the last version of this book in Open Play are the multiplayer games. Where as the first GHB had a pretty bare bones take on this, the new version expands on them in some really fun and creative ways.

The first of the two versions of multiplayer games presented in here is called Coalition of Death. This is for when you have two teams of players facing off against each other. The core rules are pretty much the same as last time, but with some fun new additions added on top. The chart you see above is for your general's divine intervention, a mid game boosting effect that you can get if you meet certain criteria. This only works if your entire team is one Grand Alliance though. There are also some cool fog of war rules, including one where you and your teammates can only talk to each other if your generals are within 3" of each other and are not in combat. Otherwise you can only talk by passing notes, which you can only write before the start of each hero phase. They also mention things like you and your teammates have to declare all of your charges secretly, so you don't know what the other person is doing. This reflects the lack of cooperation on the battlefield and could mean some of your charges get blocked by your teammates. All of it seems super fun to be honest.

There are also six unique scenarios for it. They all seem pretty fun and straight forward. One of my favorite things is that for a few of them, the two teams need to bid how much time they will need to deploy. You then compare your bids, and whichever team bid lowest gets to deploy first and gets first turn, but you have to deploy within the time you bid. If you don't finish setting up your units in the allotted time, then the rest of your force starts in reserve.

The second format is called Triumph and Treachery, and is for big multiplayer games with no teams and up to six players. Again, the core mechanics have stayed the same since the last GHB, but with more layers added on top of it. For instance, you gain victory points each turn, which they recommend representing with plastic coins. You can then use these coins to try and bribe the other players, but there is no guarantee they will honor the bribe, plus, you need those victory points to win. There are also Treachery points you earn each turn, which you can use to do a Treacherous Act. There's a whole chart of things to pick from, all costing a different amount of Treachery points to do. Another cool factor is that each turn you need to pick who your enemy is. You can only pick one other player, and that's the only army you can attack, all the other armies are neutral for that round. That, of course, doesn't mean that one of those neutral players can't pick you to be their enemy! 

There are six unique scenarios for this as well, meaning we are already up to 12 scenarios and we're just closing out the Open Play section. Both of these multiplayer versions of the game seem like a ton of fun and I can't wait to try them out, as well as the Open Play Cards. So much to be excited about and we're just getting to the next section.

The Narrative section is a little different than last time. Path to Glory got its own book the other month, so there is no need for that in here, also, there is a little less about running different kinds of campaigns.

What it does open up with though is pretty dang cool. We get Time of War rules for each of the Mortal Realms besides Azyr. That includes ones we haven't been to yet, like Hysh and Ulgu! While these are meant to be specific locations within each realm, they work pretty well as a general catch all for each realm. Aqshy's will be pretty familiar for anyone who has paid attention to past Time of War rules set there, with things like terrain pieces blocking line of sight due to smoke, and a fireball spell that wizards can cast. Ghur has you set up monster models that are independent from the armies and just roam around causing mayhem. I really liked Shyish's rules, with some cool thematic rules for the Realm of Death including a spell that lowers enemy units' bravery, and bonuses for Death units like additional bravery and a +1 to the save of Malignant units. Even though these are in the Narrative section, there's nothing stopping you from using these in Open or Matched play either.

The scenarios in this section are pulled from the Realmgate Wars books, and reworked a bit to be more generic for any army to use. If you kept up with those campaign books these won't be anything new, but it's nice to see them included in here for people who didn't read those books. 

Finishing up the Narrative section are some new rules for Sieges in Age of Sigmar. Don't worry, these aren't overly complex or anything, and mostly revolve around a new phase before the game starts. You and your opponent have to secretly write down what your force will do, like Starve the enemy, or Counter-tunnel, etc, and then these have affects on the game. As far as the fortress goes, they recommend using anything from the obvious choice of the Dreadhold, to a bunch of Wildwoods for Sylvaneth, or whatever other scenery you have to make a barrier. There are also two scenarios in here to use along with these rules. They're a little basic, but a nice addition, and something that can definitely get fleshed out more in the future.

Finally we move onto the Matched Play section. The basic rules of Matched play have stayed the same with a few new additions, which I'm sure many of you will have already seen on the Warhammer Community site. 

There are two new Rules of One, you cannot modify the dice roll for the turn anymore, and you cannot duplicate artifacts within your army. I think both of these are good additions, especially the turn roll one. That's too important of a roll to allow certain models an advantage on. The other big change is the inclusion of allies. Basically, depending on the point level you are playing, you can take a certain amount of allies. At a 2,000 point game you get 400 points of allies. These don't break your allegiance abilities at all, but each faction states specifically what other factions it can ally with. For example, my Nighthaunt army can ally with Deathlords and Soulblight, so I can take a unit of Morghasts in my army and still get all of the Nighthaunt Allegiance Abilities and still count my Spirit Hosts and Hexwraiths as battleline. The Morghasts wouldn't benefit from any of my abilities though, and wouldn't even get a Death save since they don't count as any allegiance. The last big change is the inclusion of Massive Regiments, which is basically just a points break for taking max size units. Only some units have this ability, and it will list it in their points cost if they do.

There are six new Matched Play scenarios included in here. Some of them are very unique, while other are variations on the existing ones, but they all have some pretty basic changes across the board. Barring Duality of Death, all of them have a rule saying an objective is held by a unit of 20 or more models within 6", or barring that, the largest unit. This is pushing the Massive Regiment thing more and definitely favors larger armies. All of them now have a rule saying a unit can only control one objective at a time, so no more snaking between a bunch of objectives with one unit. I'm really excited to try them all out, but Scorched Earth look like a ton of fun in particular. With these six new battleplans and the six previous ones, there are now 12 to pick from for tournaments, which I think will lead to a much more varied experience for Matched Play. 

The points section is laid out in the same manner, but conveniently, they have put a little star next to every unit that has had some type of change. This makes it super easy to find all of the changes right away. For most this is a points change, but for others it's the inclusion of Massive Regiment points, the ability to be battleline within its faction, or even the ability to just be battleline for everything. Dire Wolves are now standard battleline for all of Death, which I'm definitely excited about. A lot of the smaller factions got more allegiance specific battleline units. Nighthaunts now have Hexwraiths for example, while Daughters of Khaine can take Sisters of Slaughter and Doomfire Warlocks alongside their Witches as battleline. Each faction also lists out what other factions it can be allied with. One of the biggest changes in points across the board are the battalion points cost, with almost all of them going up by about 100 points. All of the compendium stuff had been removed from here, but they have said it will all be posted online with updated points soon. There is also a Warscroll change included in here involving the Thunderers. They have brought the unit more inline with what actually comes in the box, making it so you don't feel pressured into buying or converting up a bunch of one weapon type. To compensate though, they have added in some new rules that give the different weapon types some nice synergy when used in concert.

Probably the most exciting thing in Matched Play are the new Allegiance Abilities. All of the Grand Alliances had their's reworked a bit, but for the most part are pretty similar. For example, Destruction now has you roll for each hero in your army and on the roll of a 6 they can pick one unit within 6" of them and they get to do a new variation on the "destruction move." The general gets a little boost for this roll as well. This will significantly change the amount of free movement Destruction gets compared to the old GHB. Death has also had a change, with the Deathless Minions rule changing to a range of 6" from 10". All of the Alliances had reworks like this, with some of the artifacts and command abilities getting reworked as well.

The coolest thing to me though are all of the factions that now get their own Allegiance Abilities. For Order there is Darkling Covens, Free Peoples, Seraphon, Dispossessed, Fyreslayers, and Wanderers. It's great seeing Seraphon and Fyreslayers getting some abilities to bring them into line with the other armies with Battletomes. All of the rules seem like a perfect fit for the army, with the Dispossessed getting grudges, Free Peoples getting rules similar to the detachment rules from the 8th edition Empire army, and Wanderers gaining the ability to retreat from combat and still shoot. There's a ton more in there too, and each of them also gets a set of command traits and artifacts. 

The Fyreslayers and Seraphon also get two new Battalions that are similar to the Stormhosts or Wargroves. Basically a mega battalion, that in the case of the Fyreslayers, reflects a particular lodge.

Chaos gets reinforced with abilities for Brayherd, Slaves to Darkness, Slaanesh Warbands, Skaven Pestilens, and Skaven Skyre. The Brayherd get a herdstone and ambush rule, which again, is a perfect fit for their army, while Slaanesh is even more unique, with three different abilities to choose from. You have to decide whether your warband are Seekers, Pretenders, or Invaders. 

The factions I'm most excited about of course, are the Death ones. We get new abilities for the Flesh-eaters, Soulblight, and Nighthaunt! I'm super excited about the Nighthaunt abilities since that's my army. I can now bring my units on from the underworld and the Black Coach finally works with this army! Now instead of its powers being triggered by Death Wizards, it's triggered by Banshees and Cairn Wraiths. There are also a ton of awesome command traits and artifacts for them, with the Lightshard of the Harvest Moon being my favorite. Soulblight is really cool too with the return of the different bloodlines. 

Finally we have the destruction factions, which in this case is just the Ironjawz. Beyond just getting some new abilities that are very fitting for the biggest greenskins, they also get two new battalions just like the Fyreslayers and Seraphon, and with that the General's Handbook 2017 is done.

This book has sooooo much to offer in it. It has way more than the first one did in terms of actual game content. From the new Open Play rules, to the Time of War rules for each realm and Siege and all of the new Allegiance Abilities, it's just absolutely jam packed. I think saying this is a must buy for any AoS players out there is a bit of a redundancy at this point, but it definitely is a must buy. There's something in there for everyone, and I hope that the people who are just interested in the Matched Play part take a look through the rest, because it really is all great. Here's to another year of awesome AoS games with a brand new Handbook to lead the way.

Until next time,

Tyler M.

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