Monday, September 25, 2017

REVIEW: Season of War - Firestorm

Games Workshop is about to light off a Firestorm of excitement in the narrative community for Age of Sigmar. See what I did there? eh, eh? This new campaign system in a box really is amazing with the amount it contains in rules, backstory, and physical content.

So what is Season of War: Firestorm? Put simply, it's everything you need to run a campaign for AoS in one box. You get a high quality map of the area in Aqshy you'll be fighting over, counters for every faction currently avaialable, cards for all types of things, and a rulebook containing not just the new campaign rules, but a bunch of new backstory on Sigmar's cities as well as Allegiance Abilities for them! It's a ton of content, and the only thing I think you might need to add to it (besides willing players and their armies) are some ziplock bags to keep all the cards together between campaigns. The box itself is fairly small, but well built, which means it'll be great for storage between sessions as well.

First things first, let's talk about that book. It starts off with quite a bit of new background lore, catching us up from where we left off in the worldwide Season of War campaign last summer. The most interesting thing to me is the wealth of information we're given on Sigmar's cities. Besides the three that we already new about in Ghyran; Greywater Fastness, The Living City, and the Phonecium; we also learn about three new cities in Aqshy. These consist of Tempest's Eye, Anvilgard, and Hallowheart, each of which seems fascinating to me. Anvilgard, for example, was founded by the Anvils of the Heldenhammer, and is a coastal city which sees a ton of trade, while Tempest's Eye has a distinctive Eastern flair based off its artwork, and mentions frequent trade with the Kharadron Overlords since it is based on a mountain peak. Each of these cities also gets a new piece of art, showing off a bit of what they look like. I loved these and I'm sure the inspiration they provide will be the springboard for countless army projects. Each of these cities only gets about a paragraph's worth of information, but its enough to hook you in and flesh out the city a bit more. Hammerhal, Sigmar's greatest city, also gets a highlight, though I think the game Shadows of Hammerhal is still the best place to deep dive into that city if you're interested.

Besides the cities, we also learn about the Flamescar Plateau, the location depicted on the map that you'll be fighting over in the campaign. Once the location of the sprawling and powerful Agloraxi empire, its barren remains are littered with powerful relics and places of strategic importance, hence why everyone is fighting over it. What could have easily been a throwaway line about lost relics instead feels like a fully formed backstory with a ton of things that caught my attention. Just like the city of Shadespire in the Skirmish book, the Agloraxi empire really ignites your imagination. The Titan Works for instance seem fascinating and I would love to see more stuff like this explored in AoS. These incredibly cool high fantasy elements are yet again another thing that would have been impossible in the old world.

Each of these cities is then further explored in the miniatures gallery section. We get to see examples of each city's color scheme on a variety of models, which you need to paint them as to use their Allegiance Abilities, as well as their city symbol. It's all pretty cool looking, and I definitely like the look of several of these cities. Anvilgard and The Living City look particularly cool to me.

Next up are the rules for the campaign themselves, which are pretty in depth, but easy to follow at the same time. Unlike the rules from the Mighty Empires boxset of the past, or the campaign section in the first General's Handbook, this feels fully fleshed out. There can be up to four players in the campaign, and much of the interactions with the system are card based. Each Grand Alliance has its own deck of Dominion Cards. To start the campaign you randomly draw the eight "Core" cards and put them in a handy envelope specific to your Alliance to store them. Each time you fight a battle over a section of the map you randomly draw six of these cards. Each of them will have a Muster Points value on it. Each point is equal to either 10 wounds worth of models, or 100 points, depending on how you are structuring your games. This means that each game your army size can be different, since you add up the number of Muster Points on all six of your cards, and that's your army size. Some of these will also have additional Strategy, Build, or Glory points values on them. Glory and Build points are won at the end of the game, while strategy points can be spent before the game on a selection of Stratagems listed in the book. The Stratagems range from costing 1 to 5 points, and grant you abilities like being able to redeploy one unit after deployment, or limiting all shooting attacks to 12" maximum for the first turn. Glory points are how you win the campaign, by accumulating at least 30 of them. There are Glory Point cards, that simply have a number on them, to help you keep track of how many you have. Build points can be accumulated and spent to upgrade some of your Core Dominion cards into more powerful ones, to "buy" additional Dominion cards, or to put a garrison on a territory you control. Garrisons allow you to use one extra Dominion card if you are fighting in a territory. You're also encouraged to form alliances and lend out Dominion cards to other players for a battle, these are then returned to you after, although there is no guarantee they will do the same for you.

Each section of the map has its own name and its own Time of War rule to go along with it. This means each of your games is guaranteed to be different. There are three Strategic locations on the map, the Caverns of Fulminax, Eyes of the Prismatikon, and the Infinity Gears. If you control all three of these plus have reforged a Scepter of Fire at the Titan Works then you immediately win the campaign, since you now have the power to shoot beams of intensified fire through realmgates into any part of the Mortal Realms. Like I said, the Agloraxi empire was pretty powerful back in the day and their artifacts are highly coveted. They have also included several new battleplans for ambush scenarios. These look pretty fun, and will definitely add a cool narrative element to your games.

Last but not least, we have the new Allegiance Abilities. These are meant to work on top of any other Allegiance Abilities you have, but like I said earlier, you are supposed to paint and theme your army to match since there is no points cost for these. Each of the cities explored, including Hammerhal, gets its own set of Allegiance Abilities, which just gives one additional rule. For example, Hammerhal adds 1 to every unit's bravery, and the more you are outnumbered, the higher your Bravery gets. Each of them also has restrictions on what type of factions can be used within its army. Hammerhal is all Order besides Seraphon, whereas Anvilgard is only Stormcast Eternals, Free People, Devoted of Sigmar, Duardin, Darkling Covens, Scourge Privateers, and Order Serpentis. Not to be left out, Chaos, Destruction, and Death each have a set of new Allegiance Abilities too. These represent the forces in the Flamescar Plateau that are looking to tear down Sigmar's cities. Death's faction is a ghostly vampire fleet, that's pillaging the land, while Destruction's follows the horde of Gulgaz, who was featured in the Path to Glory book. These Allegiance Abilities can be used outside of the campaign as well, including in Matched Play!

Now that's just the contents of the book, there's still all the other stuff in the box. The board is a highly detailed map of the Flamescar Plateau printed on a game board which can fold up to fit in the box. I really like that they put this on a game board instead of just doing a poster or something.

The coolest thing to me are all of the markers that you use on the map. These consist of garrison markers, army markers, control markers for each available faction, a realmgate which hops around the board, and more. The coolest thing about them is that as opposed to being stickers that can only be used once, they are more like window clings, which you can stick onto the map, and then peel off and reuse!

There are also a bunch of different card decks. You get one Dominion card deck for each of the Grand Alliances, plus a Glory Point deck, the Scepter of Flame cards, Secret Objectives, and the Strategic Locations cards. These are as high quality as you would expect from GW and are normal playing card size. There are also four envelopes, each themed to one of the Grand Alliances. These are meant to be kept by the players in the campaign and they store all of their cards the accumulate in there.

All in all this is a fantastic set! It truly is a campaign in a box, with everything you need to play a truly engrossing four player campaign. I love the setting too, and the additional background on the cities of Sigmar and the history of the Flamescar Plateau was great. I'm excited to see these cities continue to develop and to see new ones added as well. I'm sure the new Allegiance Abilities will be used by many players out there and I'm looking forward to seeing some armies themed around these new cities. There's so much content in here, from background lore, to new rules for all AoS games, to the new campaign rules, and all of the markers, cards and the map, I'd be surprised if anyone was disappointed with this. It'll be cool to see if this is something GW returns to, setting the new campaign box in another corner of the realms, or continuing the story of the Flamescar Plateau even more.

Until next time,

Tyler M.

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