Tuesday, April 30, 2019

REVIEW: Hedonites of Slaanesh

It's finally here, the Battletome everyone has been asking for since the launch of the game, the Hedonites of Slaanesh! What does the tabletop hold for the Dark Prince? What has happened to him since the end of the world-that-was? Read on and find out!

First things first, the cover art. I think I would have preferred a Keeper of Secrets as the central focus, it's just such a cool new model. I understand why they went with the Daemonette though. I like the color choice on it, mostly purples and pinks. It definitely evokes the Slaanesh vibe. It's not one of the strongest covers out there for AoS, but it's not bad by any stretch of the imagination.

The lore section in this book is pretty important for AoS as a whole. The mystery of where Slaanesh is and what happened to him has been a big question mark since AoS launched. Some of those questions were answered with the Daughters and Deepkin books, but this Battletome delves into it even further. To start with, I'm assuming most people reading this are familiar with Slaanesh, but for those who aren't here's a brief overview. He's one of the four major gods of Chaos (sorry Horned Rat) and the chief rival of Khorne. Known as the Dark Prince, Slaanesh revels in and gains power from excess and obsession. Basically anything done to excess feeds into Slaanesh. If you're an obsessive musician who ignores everything else besides your music, you feed into Slaanesh. Excess and obsession of war feeds into him. It's mentioned in the book that even the other Chaos gods feed into him. They secretly fear him because he may be the most powerful of the four. Khorne, Nurgle, and Tzeentch are all manifestations of obsession and excess in one particular area, whether that be in war, despair, or knowledge, and ultimately, all of the feeds into Slaanesh's power as well. It's a really interesting concept, and not one I ever really thought of. Though most of his followers are horrible to look upon, they have an undeniable allure that draws others towards them. This will often result in combatants laying down their arms as they flock to the scions of Slaanesh, only to see their true forms mere moments before being cut down.

At the end of the world-that-was Slaanesh was glutted upon all of the souls of aelf-kind. He had ingested so much soul stuff that he was most likely the most powerful of the four at the time, but was too full to do anything with that power. When he saw the Mortal Realms though he saw eight new worlds of opportunity. He began to sow his corruption amongst the civilizations of these realms, enticing those susceptible to excess. Slowly, pleasure cults and other obscene things began to gestate within the cities and soon he had his foot in the door. His burgeoning reign wasn't to last though, since the survivors of the aelves had another idea in mind.

We actually learn a bit more about the aelves here as well. It's mentioned that even though most of their race was consumed by the Dark Prince, some of them escaped the world-that-was and made it to the Mortal Realms intact. This seems to be a callback to the Araloth storyline from the End Times: Khaine, where a pocket dimension was made and some of the aelves fled into it before the End Times resolved themselves. It's nice to see storylines like this mentioned and acknowledged. Of these survivors, the new aelven gods of Tyrion, Teclis, Malerion, and the demi-god Morathi sought to entrap Slaanesh. They lured him into Uhl-Gysh, a pocket realm between Hysh and Ulgu, using themselves as bait. Once there, they trapped him using chains of pure magic. Since the magic was equal parts shadow and light, itself a paradox, the Chaos god was unable to break them. Even though he was lost, his followers and demons continued on, their very existence proof of their gods' continued life.

The armies of Slaanesh more or less divided into three groups, the Invaders, the Pretenders, and the Godseekers. The Invaders pretty much carry on with what they were doing before their god disappeared, waging all out war on the Mortal Realms for the sake of violence and the pleasures it brings. They believe that by conquering as much of the realms as they can they'll empower their god, giving him the strength he needs to break free on his own. An Invaders army typically has multiple leaders, always fighting amongst each other for who the true leader is. The Pretenders are those who seek to replace Slaanesh with themselves. A particularly powerful demon or warlord will position themselves as the Dark Prince's heir and amass an army of devout followers. Raging egomaniacs, these Pretenders believe that they can ascend to godhood if they gather enough power. If they encounter another Pretender they will kill them and all of their followers, eradicating any trace of them. The Godseekers are those who are actively looking for their god. They scour the realms for any trace of Slaanesh, typically mounted upon fast steeds or chariots. Lately they have been drawn to Ulgu more and more as they catch the scent of their god due to Morathi siphoning off more than her share of aelf souls and unbalancing Slaanesh's prison.

Within Uhl-Gysh the aelven gods are pulling the souls Slaanesh had consumed from his gullet. In this way they have made both the Scathborn and the Idoneth, as well as others. When each of these souls is pulled from out of him it's the most excruciating pain that Slaanesh has ever felt, leaving him feeling literally hollowed out inside. It's both torture and the most exquisite sensation he has ever felt. He knows he must escape though, and is actively looking for a way to do so. The key is in breaking the 66 magical chains that bind him. Each chain is unique and fashioned from unique magic. Orchestrating events through his greater demons, Slaanesh has already manufactured the breaking of two of the chains on his own, while the Necroquake broke a third. As each of these chains broke the Chaos god quickly manufactured the illusion of a fake chain, so that none of the aelves were aware what was happening. One of the chains was the Chain of Utmost Betrayals, which could only be undone when thousands of innocent souls were killed by their own protectors. To do this Slaanesh manipulated events until the Stormcast were forced to purge many of their own cities of Chaos cults, killing thousands of innocents in the process. This is an event mentioned within the Stormcast Eternals Battletome, so it's cool seeing it used here as part of Slaanesh's plan. He now has the knowledge needed to break dozens more of the chains. Once enough of the chains are broken he will be strong enough to break the rest on his own, at which point he plans on drowning Hysh and Ulgu in excess, bringing the realms under his control.

The timeline section has several cool moments spanning from the Age of Myth to the current point in the story. There's a cool little story hook from around the time of Malign Portents that mentions a Godseeker host in Shyish that ventures off to Shadespire. There they find a mirror amongst a heap of duardin bones. Taunted by the being held within, they shatter the mirror, which sets in motion a chain of events that will see Shyish face a new evil. I have no clue who or what it could be, but I'm definitely excited to see where it leads. The last story has Morathi warning the other aelven gods of Slaanesh's danger. She is ignored by all but Teclis, who begins marshaling the might of the armies of Hysh while Morathi continues to expand her Scathborn for the war she is sure to come.

The unit section goes into more detail on every unit in the army, some of them getting a lot more attention then I would've expected. The most interesting to me is Shalaxi Helbane, a Keeper of Secrets created by Slaanesh with the sole purpose of hunting down the Dark Prince's prey. Shalaxi was trained to be able to counter and kill the Bloodthirsters of Khorne over all others. The Keeper has even managed to fight Skarbrand to a standstill twice. The heralds of Slaanesh section gets greatly expanded as well with numerous new models and units.

Next we have the gallery section. Again, the photography here is amazing. I particularly like the big two page spread that starts off the section. It has the forces of Slaanesh duking it out with the Deepkin on a beach with the sun setting in the background. It's an extremely inspiring image and does a fantastic job at setting the scene. There was plenty of custom scenery made for this section as well, with a bunch of really cool looking romanesque pillars and temples. We get a couple of alternative color scheme examples with some Daemonettes. I particularly like the yellow and green ones, which would normally seem odd for Slaanesh, but works really well. The painting guide sections gives step by step tutorials for the main Slaanesh color scheme, as well as breaking down a few of the alternate schemes. I really enjoy these hobby sections. It gives you so many good painting ideas and breaks down exactly how to do it, or at the very least, which paints were used.

While Slaanesh has had rules in the General's Handbook for a bit now, this is the first time they've gotten their very own Battletome. The Depravity Points and summoning from their previous ruleset has carried over, and more or less stayed the same with some modifications to how many points things cost. Basically you generate the Depravity Points with your heroes. You earn one for each wound they inflict that does not kill a model, and for each wound they suffer that does not kill them. So if they attack a unit of Liberators, which each has 2 wounds, and kills 3 of them, you would earn 3 Depravity Points for the first wound inflicted on each model, since it was the second wound that actually killed them. You also get to pick a host for your army to be from, either the Invaders, Pretenders, or Godseekers. While you don't HAVE to pick one, all of the command traits and artifacts are tied to these hosts, so if you want any of those then you need to pick one. They also have two army special rules, Locus of Diversion and Euphoric Killers. Locus of Diversion allows each of your heroes to pick one enemy unit within 6" of them at the end of the charge phase and roll a dice. on a 4+ that unit fights at the end of the combat phase. Keepers of Secrets get +2 to this roll. This is a super powerful ability that can ensure that you get to strike before your enemy a lot of the time. Euphoric Killers affects all Slaanesh models, so that means demons, mortals, beasts, whatever, and turns each unmodified hit roll of a 6 into two hits. If the unit has 20 or more models then it inflicts three hits instead of two. On large units this can be devastating.

Now onto the three hosts. Each of these has their own extra set of rules, as well as a set of command traits and artifacts. Unlike with all of the other mono-god books, this isn't split up between demons and mortals, so all your Slaanesh heroes will be pulling from the same tables. Each host also has a unique way to generate more Depravity Points. The Invaders host has a rule called Figureheads of the Dark Prince. You can have 1 to 3 generals in your army, but only one of them can have a command trait. This means they all have the extended range on command abilities that generals enjoy, as well as generating you an extra command point each time one of them is slain. You can't use any traits or command abilities if they're too close to each other though as they're too busy bickering with each other. At the start of your hero phase you earn D3 more Depravity Points if you have your units wholly within the enemy territory, or D6 if you have 3 or more units wholly within. All of their command traits seem pretty balanced, with none really standing out as better than the rest, which seems good to me. Out of their artifacts I like the Icon of Infinite Excess. It's a once per battle ability but gives you a 12" +1 to hit bubble around your hero. The Pretenders get to have two command traits on their general, as well as all units with 10 or more models getting to re-roll hits rolls of 1. You earn extra Depravity Points for them by having your general close to enemy units. Basically, you want to get them stuck in. Out of the command traits for them I like Inspirer which gives you a 9" bubble of ignoring battleshock, and True Child of Slaanesh, which has you roll 6 dice at the start of the game with each 5+ earning you an extra Depravity Point. The artifact Silverslash adds 2 to the attack characteristic of one of your hero's weapons, which can be devastating on the claws of the Keeper of Secrets. The final host, the Godseekers, adds 1 to the charge roll for your entire army. It also unlocks Seeker Chariots as battleline. You earn extra Depravity Points for making charges as well, so everything really encourages you to make a super fast army. Thrill-seeker allows you general to run and charge, which would be amazing on a Keeper.

There are three spell lores to pick from. One for any Slaanesh wizard, one for Keepers of Secrets, and one for mortals. The one available to any Slaanesh wizard has six spells to pick from. Hysterical Frenzy stands out the most to me from this lore. You pick an enemy unit wholly within 18" of the caster, and roll a dice for each model in the unit. Each 6+ does D3 mortal wounds! This would be insane on a horde, and even multi-wound models will feel the pain from this one. The Keeper lore has three spells for you to pick from. There is one to heal a model, which I would probably use on the Keeper themselves, and another that lets you pick a hero within 12". That hero cannot use a command ability, or run, or charge until your next hero phase. Depending on how the turn rolls go that could really hamper your opponent. The mortal spell lore also has three spells to pick from, and is probably the weakest of the lot. Battle Rapture allows you to make a friendly unit immune to battleshock, which could be pretty good at a key moment, and depending on how you roll on the casting it could potentially be 3 units instead. This only works on mortals though.

The Fane of Slaanesh is the new scenery piece the army gets access to. If you summon a unit on wholly within 12" of the fane, then you earn back D3 Depravity Points. You can also buff your heroes with it be either taking a mortal wound, or sacrificing an artifact of power. The mortal wound sacrifice only buffs you for a turn, while the artifact one if for the rest of the game, but then you can't use that artifact anymore. That could be worthwhile on one use artifacts that have already been used in the game.

The narrative battleplan for this is interesting in that it actually represents two rival Slaaneshi hosts duking it out. Normally you're facing off against some other army, but the idea of a civil war type thing is perfect for the vainglorious Slaaneshi forces. Depending on which host you are you'll have a different quest you need to complete along with securing the objective, a Fane of Slaanesh at the center of the battlefield. Path to Glory features in here as well, with the usual tables and rules we have come to expect from it.

There are four warscroll battalions to pick from for the Hedonites. The mega battalion, the Hedonite Host, is actually attainable within a Matched Play game considering how small the other three battalions are. You need to take at least one of each of the other battalions in it and then you gain 1 bravery across the army, plus an additional D3 Depravity Points in each of your hero phases. Depending on which host you're playing there are different requirements on this as well. The Supreme Syrabites battalion is 3-6 heroes, which can earn you extra command points. The Epicurean Revellers is at a minimum 2-6 units of Daemonettes, and has those Daemonettes generating mortal wounds on a wound roll of 6, and then stopping that attack sequence. The last battalion, the Seeker Cavalcade, is 2-6 units of Seekers or Hellstriders, and then some chariots if you want to take them. They get to pile in 6" and can pile in from 6" away.

I'm not going to spend a lot of time going over the warscrolls for this army since you can see them in the App for free, but there are some gems in here. The Keepers are insane and will put out a ton of damage. Their claws alone are damage 5! There are 10 heroes in this book, and 8 units, three of those are chariots on both the hero and unit side of things. The Hellstriders have been split up into two unit entries, one with blades and one with hellscourges. The Endless Spells are pretty good too. The Mesmerizing Mirror forces you to move closer to it or suffer D3 mortal wounds. Enemy heroes can potentially get a bucket load of mortal wounds from its other effect as well. You roll 6 dice and for each 6 you do a mortal wound multiplied by the number of 6s you've rolled. So if you somehow rolled six 6s then you would do 36 mortal wounds!

This is definitely one of the most anticipated battletomes in AoS outside of the aelves, and it's finally here. It delivers on everything we've been hoping for with the background. We now have a much better understanding of what's going on with this MIA Chaos god, and the hints dropped about what's in store for the future could be devastating to the Mortal Realms. I'm definitely looking forward to some of the storylines getting mined in the future. The army itself is a powerhouse too. It's super fast, can summon a ton, and will be pumping out the mortal wounds. I was toying around with a few lists and came up with some fun ideas for a 1,000 point Godseekers army that's mostly chariots. I do love me some chariots. If you're a fan of Slaanesh then this is the book you've been waiting for. It's also a pretty pivotal book for the story line of AoS in general.

Until next time,

Tyler M.

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