Wednesday, June 27, 2018

REVIEW: Malign Sorcery

One of the most exciting new additions in this edition of Age of Sigmar is Malign Sorcery and the Endless Spells it contains. Complete as its own boxset with 13 unique spells and a full book of lore, scenarios, and rules, it's definitely on most gamers' radars. So what exactly does this magical expansion contain?

As a sucker for slick packaging and a cool presentation, Malign Sorcery ticked all my boxes. To start things off, it's a rather hefty box, what with all the spells inside, so what did they do? Added a handle on top of course! If you really wanted to you could use this box to transport stuff later, and the handle definitely helps with carrying it around before you open it. Beyond that though it's just kind of cool. Not super important, but a nice feature. When you crack open the box itself you find the Malign Sorcery book and all of the warscroll cards for the spells, as well as a rather large plastic bag.

This was definitely something I wasn't expecting, but again, it makes sense from a few perspectives. With the Malign Sorcery artwork from the book cover printed on it, it just looks cool, but it also protects the book from getting damaged from the plastic sprues. Apparently this is a resealable plastic bag. I, unfortunately, didn't check this beforehand and proceeded to just cut it open. Oh well, lessons learned.

The spells come on several different sprues, each a different color. The Purple Sun is so large it gets two sprues to itself, which are colored purple. The Gnashing Jaws and Gravetide are on a red spure, the Pendulum, Mirrors, and Swords are on a metallic sprue, and everything else is on a blue spure. There's also a brown sprue for the bases. They're all push fit models too, just like the starter set, no glue required. This means you could clip them off the sprue, push them together, and start playing with no worries. They'll even be magical colors without paint.

A lot of the smaller spells are just on piece that pushes into the base, while even most of the larger ones are only three to six pieces. The Purple Sun is definitely the exception, with a multitude of pieces and even an internal scaffolding assembly that helps it hold it's circular shape. Though you don't need to glue them, you certainly can. I glued mine together and had no issues with assembly.

Now let's move onto the book and the rules. The Malign Sorcery book is about the same size as the 2018 General's Handbook. The front half of it has a bunch of lore covering magic in the Realms.

We learn about how magic came to the Realms and who taught it to everyone and such. Not much of a surprise, Teclis was involved again. There's also a bit that goes over what Realmstone is. It's basically super concentrated nuggets of magic tied to the Realm, which influences the form it takes in each of the Mortal Realms. In Shyish it's grave sand tied into the lives of all living beings, while in Chamon it's a liquid metal, almost like mercury. Then there is the ever familiar warpstone, which is concentrated Chaos magic and highly coveted by the Skaven. It also briefly goes over the events leading up to the Necroquake, as well as the fallout from it which unleashed the Endless Spells. Probably some of the coolest parts though is when it talks about the spells themselves. Considering they're endless, some spells have just been rampaging through the Realms ever since the Necroquake and have even earned monikers and legends. There are apparently groups of spell hunters who will try and track these rampaging magical phenomenons down for bounties. I think it's really cool imagining a small warband of paid rogues and misfits tracking a Gnashing Jaws or a Burning Head through the wilds of the Mortal Realms.

Each of the spells also gets its own description. Some of these are two pages, some one, and some share a page with others. They all have cool little tidbits in their lore, with the Purple Sun being truly feared across the Realms as it turns all it touches into amethyst crystal. One of the cooler ones for me though were Ravenak's Gnashing Jaws. Apparently Ravenak is a godbeast or something of such horrible hunger that it was trapped beneath a mountain. Eventually the mountain entrance was found and primitive tribes started making sacrifices to it, ensuring it was consistently fed. The Gnashing Jaws are thought to be the magical manifestation of Ravenak's unceasing hunger upon the battlefield.

There's also a story in the background of the Umbral Spell Portal of an aelf wizard who wanted to know what happened between the two portals. Anything that passed through them came out on the other side perfectly fine, but seemingly drained of most of its color. This wizard devised a way to turn herself into pure light magic and pass through the portal. When she came out on the other side her hair had turned silver and her eyes grey, but besides that she was fine and she reported that nothing odd happened inside. However, she soon started going slowly insane as she claimed her research quarters started developing more dimensions than they had before. All of the spells have interesting little quirks to them like that.

Like with most Games Workshop publications we get a cool model gallery section. There's some nice photography going on, a lot of which has been seen on the Community Site already. I do like how they went with the color coded backgrounds on a lot of them though to match the color of the spell.

The true star of this section though is the painting guide. Here we get hints and tips for all the spells, including step by step guides for a few of the more major ones. I'll probably be following this guide for my own Purple Sun. Things like this are really helpful, even for more experienced painters. I never hurts to see some ideas on what paints to use.

The rules section starts out by going over the basic rules for Endless Spells. In a nutshell, you can summon one Endless Spell a turn with a wizard. They all have their own casting level, just like any other spell, and can be unbound, just like any other spell. If a spell is a Predatory Spell that means they move around the board. Most of them say you can move the spell once after you set it up for the first time. After that, Predatory Spells are moved at the start of each Battle Round before either of you take your turn. Whoever is going second that round gets to move the first spell, then after that you alternate if there are multiple spells on the table. This mean you could cast Purple Sun one turn, then if you go first the following turn, your opponent can just move it right back at you. This makes you think a bit more about whether you want to go first or second. A wizard can attempt to unbind an Endless Spell that's on the table in their hero phase in lieu of casting one of their spells. Each spell then has its own rules which are on its warscroll card which I'll go over briefly a little later in this review. After those rules we get a few narrative/open play battleplans that involve Endless Spells.

There are rules in here for fighting Skirmish games using Endless Spells at the edges of the realms, the areas most saturated with magic. You do not take an Endless Spell in your skirmish warband as a model, instead the special scenario has you and your opponent acting as mercenary gangs of spell hunters who have both tracked an Endless Spell to the edge of Aqshy. Here you are attempting to bind it to your will, which there are special rules for in the scenario. The spell is more of a wild element that both of your have to contend with. You do get a whole new choice of Command Traits, Artifacts, Reward Table, Scenery Rules, and something called Leader Spells, which your wizard can know. I personally really like this idea since the bit of lore about spell bounty hunters was something that immediately jumped out at me.

Path to Glory also gets its own section here with a new table for recruiting Endless Spells to your force. You also get a new Followers and Champions Rewards table as well as two scenarios written for it.

One of the most exciting additions to Age of Sigmar with this expansion outside of the Endless Spells themselves is a whole host of new artifacts and spells tied to each of the Realms. Each Realm gets six new spells. When you're fighting a battle within that Realm, all wizards on the board know all six of these spells. Some of them are really powerful and all of them are fairly cool, but remember, both you and your opponent will have equal access to the same spells in your game as long as you both have a wizard.

With the artifacts you get to declare which Realm your army hails from before the start of the game and this gives you access to both the weapons and relics table for the Realm. That's a total of 12 new artifacts for you to pick from. You can mix and match these with the ones from your Battletome as well. So if you have access to two artifacts due to a battalion you can take one from your Battletome and one from your Realm if you want. This really opens up the level of customization with your heroes. While you can certainly just pick which Realm you want to use based on how powerful something is, I really hope we see armies modeled to look like the Realm they come from, even if that's just basing.

The book itself wraps up with the points for the Endless Spells, as well as two more Battleplans designed for Matched Play. It would be cool to see these mixed into the 18 other Matched Play Battleplans we have at events, kind of like what they did at SCGT this past year with the Malign Portents Battleplans.

The rules for the spells themselves are all on their own individual warscroll cards, which will make referencing them easier in games, but don't lose them, because they're not printed in the book. Though they are also in the App, so you can always pull them up there. They're all pretty good, but in different ways. The infamous Purple Sun kills any models it touches on a 6+ outright, unless they have 6 or more wounds, in which case it does 2D6 mortal wounds. There are a bunch of ones that do D3 mortal wounds, which will be good for chipping away at heroes. One that a lot of people have zeroed in on is the Umbral Spellportal. This allows you to set up one portal near your wizard, and the other 18" away from the first, you can then measure the range of all of your spells from the second portal as long as you're close enough to the first. This essentially adds 18" on to the range of any spell. Nagash's Hand of Dust through it is going to be amazing. Like I said, you can check out the rules for all of the spells within the free Age of Sigmar App.

This is a really cool expansion for Age of Sigmar. Not only does it add a ton of new rules, spells, and artifacts, but it makes the magic of AoS into a visual spectacle. It's going to look so cool to see these spells on the tabletop as the rampage through the armies. Just the other day they announced three Endless Spells apiece for the new Stormcast and Nighthaunt Battletomes too, so it looks like we're just going to keep getting more of these. There are elements of it that may seem overpowered to some, but I think in the end it's going to be more of a level playing field since everyone has access to the same things. It's just another element of the game that you'll need to learn and learn how to counter in game. I'm definitely excited to get my Purple Sun painted up to use in a game. If you play Age of Sigmar I think this is pretty much a must buy. All the armies out there that don't have a Battletome yet, or have an older one, or don't even have Allegiance Abilities yet, suddenly just got access to a bunch of new stuff that will shake up the way they're played, and even ones with Battletomes now have access to even more choices.

Until next time,

Tyler M.

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