Monday, February 26, 2018

REVIEW: Daughters of Khaine

This is the Battletome that the AoS community has been waiting and clamoring for, the first appearance of the aelves! Morathi returns to the Mortal Realms with the Daughters of Khaine in tow, so what do these blood thirsty fanatics have in store for AoS?

The cover on this one is pretty reminiscent of past Dark Elf artwork in my opinion. It has all of the color cues, with the blues, purples, and magentas. It's reassuring to see the return of the aelves framed in a familiar way, and the art itself is pretty cool. Out of the three Battletomes so far this year though, this is probably my least favorite cover. The other two are super strong though, so that's not a horrible thing to say. This one is still really cool, and I'm sure one that aelf players are excited to see.

Once you open it up we dive into the lore behind this army, and our first peak into the aelves within the Mortal Realms. First off we get a bit of an overview of who the Daughters of Khaine are, a group of blood thirsty religious fanatics who seek to recover the shattered fragments of their god and restore him to his former glory all under the leadership of Morathi. Think of them as basically the more extreme version of the Devoted of Sigmar, but with aelves, and knives, and blood. The great twist though, is that everything they believe in is a lie. Khaine is dead, or more than likely dead, and Morathi has twisted their beliefs to her own ends, as she always does. Next we dive right into how we got to this point. Morathi awoke within the Mortal Realms and found herself completely alone with her mind broken. As she wandered the wilds of Ulgu she slowly began to remember who she was, the mother of Malerion, or Malekith as he used to be known, and a powerful sorceress. With the help of shadow demons, she learned the magic she needed to conceal her true form, a giant winged medusa, and appear as the aelf she once was. This is also when she decided that Khaine must be dead, since the blood rites she used to preform in dedication to him no longer helped maintain her youth.

After awhile she found Malerion and she was given a small plot of land in the deepest, darkest part of Ulgu. Here is where she established Hagg Nar, the temple city that became the capital of the Daughters of Khaine's empire. Drawing the khainites to her, she placed herself at the head of the cult and told them that only she can interpret his will. Once the location of Slaanesh was found, Malerion, Tyrion, and Teclis reluctantly brought Morathi into the fold. Out of the four, she's the only one who didn't ascend to godhood, a point she is very, very sore over. Since she was once imprisoned by the Chaos god, she knew the magic that was needed to draw forth the aelf souls that he had consumed at the end of the world-that-was. Each aelven deity and Morathi was given an equal portion of the souls to do with as they pleased. Tyrion crafted aelves in the image of Hysh, while Malerion crafted something far darker. Teclis had his Idoneth, who abandoned him, while Morathi went with something in her own image, the melusai and khinerai. While the cult is almost entirely female, she did also take some male souls, these she crafted into a subservient worker class, left much weaker than the rest of the aelves, to do all of the menial labor she needed. Of course, since she is Morathi, she couldn't leave things alone, and weaved a web of deceit to gain an upper hand. This also had the side effect of drawing the followers of Slaanesh to Ulgu during the Age of Chaos. During this time the khainites flourished amongst the bloodshed, and once the Age of Sigmar dawned they even found a home amongst the cities of Sigmar. There they are mostly known for providing gladiatorial battles, and are more tolerated than accepted by the armies of Azyr. There's even more detail I could go into here, and I did before I went back and edited some of it. I don't want to spoil the story for everyone out there who wants to read it. It's all so cool, especially since this is our first look at the aelves and Slaanesh. You get hints of what we may find once Malerion and Tyrion get their turns, as well as finding out what the fate of Slaanesh currently is. There's so much new information in this part, it's really essential reading for any Age of Sigmar fan out there. Aelf fans will be over the moon, while Slaanesh fans get a little something as well. There's even a bit about Morathi flirting with both Sigmar and Nagash to try and get her way. Let's just say Nagash was having none of it.

In a first for Age of Sigmar Battletomes we don't get a space bubble timeline! We get more or less the same thing, but instead it's just organized in the typical three column format the rest of the text is in throughout the book. It looks nice enough, but I kind of liked the space bubbles since it usually had cool spot illustrations, but I'm fine with this as well. We get a bunch of little story snippets from through their history, divided up into the Age of Myth, the Age of Chaos, and the Age of Sigmar. I'm sure the one everyone will be focusing on is the mention of the war against the Idoneth Deepkin in Ghyran. The final entry focuses on the Daughters making war in Shyish during the events of Malign Portents.

The next section goes over the organization of a khainite cult and the major temple cities and sects of the Daughters of Khaine, Hagg Nar, Draichi Ganeth, the Kraith, Khailebron, and Khelt Nar. Each of these gets about two paragraphs of background as well as a cool little illustration of a Witch Aelf or Sister of Slaughter from that city. Hagg Nar is the capital and Morathi's lair, while Draichi Ganeth is the most numerous. They're the ones who have settled within the cities of Sigmar the most, so are the most well known. They also happen to be the colors of the studio army, the ones that carried over from 8th edition. The Kraith are an extra fanatical group of warriors who make no permenant home, with the Khailebron boasting the most number of melusai. Finally, Khelt Nar is one of the newest sects and is quickly growing to rival even that of Hagg Nar. Each sect also has its own symbol shown, which is handy for when you're painting banners.

Once we start going over the lore for each unit we get to really start diving into how some of these have been reimagined. Morathi has more or less been covered in the previous sections. It talks about how she is using the iron heart of khaine, the last fragment of that lost god, to channel the worship of her cult into herself to hopefully one day achieve godhood. Some of the more interesting bits for me are the Sisters of Slaughter, who are more or less the public face of the cult, fighting in gladiator battles within their own cities and the other free cities. The Bloodwrack Medusas are now favored witches who have been bitten by the snakes in Morathi's hair and transformed, imbued with sorceress might. The melusai, the new half snake infantry, are some of the recovered aelf souls, formed into a more pleasing form to Morathi. They and the khinerai harpies are the only members of the cult who know the truth about Khaine and Morathi. They know that she is the true center of worship, not the dead god, and also form her most elite guard. The melusai and khinerai are kept secret from the other forces of order, either hidden from sight or disguised using magic to look like normal aelves. The Doomfire Warlocks are true born male aelves, as in aelves that are born the natural way and not formed from recovered souls, who prove themselves valuable enough to be entrusted with their role. Morathi has marked them though, so that they are always kept in check, unbeknownst to them.

The center section of the book once again features some amazing looking model photography, continuing on from the very strong work we saw in Legions of Nagash. They are really getting the hang of making these look scenic, with evocative backgrounds and lighting. Like I said last time, I'm very excited to see this continue in future publications. It helps bring the world to life so much more than models on a table with a smoke machine did. There is also a painted example of each sect's color scheme, and a full 'Eavy Metal section. The artwork throughout this is fantastic as well, with plenty of new pieces. There is one at the very start of the book with Morathi presiding over a bunch of supplicant witch aelves which is just awesome looking, and bunch more throughout the book featuring the newer units. The one for the Bloodwrack Medusa and Morathi later in the book are great as well.

In another carry over from the Legions of Nagash book we get a four page painting guide section that goes over everything from aelf skin, to melusai scales. I really like these inclusions, and they're very helpful and comprehensive. The bit in here on how to paint the mirror on the Bloodwrack shrine is particularly good.

Now we're finally at the new rules. The allegiance abilities for the Daughters of Khaine is a 6+ save against any wound or mortal wound suffered to represent their fanatical faith, as well as a Blood Rites table. Each turn you gain a new ability like re-rolling charge or hit rolls of 1. These are all cumulative as well, so by turn 5 you'll be re-rolling run, charge, hit, wound, and save rolls of 1, plus all of your Avatars of Khaine will be animated from turn 3 onward. It'll be pretty brutal, plus there are artifacts and command traits that can play around with this for heroes. The command traits have several good options, from the aforementioned playing around with the Blood Rites table to using your general's bravery in place of your units' within 14" and the standard buffs to your general's rolls and damage.

The artifacts section is split into three different categories, all Daughters of Khaine heroes, wizards (Bloodwrack Medusas), and priests (Hag and Slaughter Queens). There are a lot of good ones in here, so I don't think you'll see the same one repeated over and over again. I'm thinking about running a Bloodwrack general, so the ability to increase the Whisperclaw's rend to -2 looks pretty good. There are also plenty that either effect spells or prayers or allow you to take more. We also get a spell lore for the Lore of Shadows and a Prayers of the Khainite Cult. The spells can only be taken by Morathi, a Bloodwrack, or Doomfire Warlocks, but there are some good ones in here, including a few returning from older editions like Pit of Shades and Mindrazor. Mindrazor increases the rend characteristic of a friendly Daughters of Khaine unit by 1, as well as the damage by 1 as long as the unit that's being attack has a lower bravery. Shroud of Despair is also pretty good, with the standard effect just being a -1 bravery to an enemy unit, but if it's cast with an 8 or more it's a -D3. That can be pretty devastating. All of the prayers buff friendly units, and all of them are pretty good. There is one that allows you to inflict a mortal wound for each of your own models killed in combat on the roll of a 5 or 6, and there is another one that allows you to re-roll any failed Fanatical Faith saves on a friendly unit.

Just like the Stormhosts in the Stormcast book, the Daughters of Khaine have a selection of sects for you to pick from. The rules state that all you have to do is paint your models in the correct colors, or if you create your own color scheme you can pick which one fits your army most. Basically, if you paint one of the official color schemes you have to use the rules for that scheme, otherwise you're free to do what you want. There are rules for Hagg Nar, Draichi Ganeth, the Kraith, and Khailebron. They all have one extra ability, a bonus to a particular battalion, then either a command trait or artifact that you HAVE to take. For example, Khailebron gives you the Concealment and Stealth ability which makes your opponent subtract 1 from hit rolls that target your units in the shooting phase, allows you to take two extra units of melusai in the Temple Nest battalion, and a command trait that allows you to pick a friendly unit near your general and remove them from the battlefield and set them up again anywhere not within 9" of an enemy unit. They're all pretty good choices to be honest.

The scenario included in the book has the Daughters of Khaine attempting to offer enemy units to their god. Depending on how many enemy units are killed they either get Khaine's Favor or Displeasure and a Blood Offering points. Whoever has the most Blood Offering points wins. It seems very fitting for a Khaine army. There is also the Path to Glory section, which is what you would expect. The tactics section in this book seems to actually focus more on Matched Play for all the example which is nice. It goes over how to best use the four different sects, with unit choice and good combos. It seems a bit more in depth than we have gotten in the past.

There are six battalions to pick from, including a mega battalion including Morathi and four of the other ones, and a mixed race battalion with some Stormcast. They all focus on different things, with one focusing on Witch Aelves, one on Sisters of Slaughter, one on Doomfire Warlocks, and the last on melusai. I really like the Temple Nest battalion, which is a Bloodwrack Medusa (which can be on a shrine or not) and two units of Blood Sisters and two units of Blood Stalkers. Any enemy units attacking units from this battalion in combat suffer a mortal wound on any of their own rolls of 1 to hit. This is pretty awesome, plus you get to take a bunch of melusai. I'm thinking about using this for my 1,000 point army idea (I like building Vanguard armies if you haven't noticed) since including all the required units it comes out at 900 points. That leaves me room for a unit of Witch Aelves or a Hag Queen to buff the Melusai. I would take this as a Khailebron army of course.

The warscrolls have changed a bit for the existing units, plus the new ones for Morathi, Slaughter Queens, Slaughter Queens on a Cauldron, Avatars of Khaine, Blood Sisters, Blood Stalkers, Khinerai Heartrenders, and Khinerai Lifetakers. Morathi is obviously the most exciting addition, with her having two models, an aelf one and the Shadow Queen model, which is when she is her giant snake. You can choose to transform at any point, but if you take too many wounds the transformation may be forced upon you. Any wounds you have suffered double when you transform. Her aelf version has a good command trait and other abilities, but her Shadow Queen version is a combat monster. The Avatar of Khaine can only attack if a priest uses a certain prayer, or after turn three it comes alive for the rest of the game. Not only is it on the cauldrons, but you can also take it on it's own and have it walk around the battlefield. I really like that this was included, since it lets you use the awesome statue model even if you build the kit as a Bloodwrack Shrine. Speaking of the Bloodwrack Medusas, they are now wizards as well. Other changes are the abilities to take shields on Witches, an extra knife on Sisters, crossbows on Warlocks, and a bunch of other little changes. The melusai seem particularly cool, with the Blood Sisters able to dish out mortal wounds on a 4+ in combat with their Crystal Touch attack and the Stalkers able to during shooting on a 6+. I really like the melusai, they're just awesome models too. Everything has changed a little bit, and this army seems like it can really hit hard, but it's a glass cannon. They're mean, but they'll break under brute strength. You'll need to be quick and smart about how you play them.

Now for the worst kept secret for the past couple of days, there's a particularly interesting entry in their allies chart. They're able to ally with all the existing Dark Elf factions and Stormcast, but there is also something in there called the Idoneth Deepkin. If you recall, the Idoneth were Teclis' creation from the aelf souls that abandoned him. I wonder what they could be...

This was really a great first step into the Mortal Realms for the aelves. The Daughters of Khaine were already one of the most interesting and popular factions amongst the aelves, and now they have a bunch of new units and rules to make them even better. Their backstory is great too, and of course Morathi would insist on being the first aelf to get to tell her story. I'll be really interested to see if her story moves forward on her quest for godhood. I would say this book is definitely a must read for anyone who's interested in the lore of AoS. It has so many integral parts to it that I'm sure will be important. The aelves have always been important to Warhammer and this is also our first look into what may be happening with Slaanesh. If you're an aelf fan than this is the book you've been waiting for. I have no doubt we'll see a lot more of the Daughters of Khiane on the tabletops in the near future.

Until next time,

Tyler M.

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