Monday, May 20, 2019

REVIEW: Forbidden Power

It's been a year since Age of Sigmar 2 was released and now the next stage in the Soul Wars is upon us, Forbidden Power! So what does this box contain and what exactly does the new book hold within its arcane pages?

To say I've been excited for this release is a bit of an understatement. Not only does it have four awesome new Endless Spells in it and the Penumbral Engine, but it contains the next chapter in the unfolding saga of the Soul Wars conflict as well as the army list for the Legion of Grief! Don't worry, Order players get a new army too with the Defenders of Lethis. So first off, the box. This thing is pretty big. It's basically the size of the Malign Sorcery box but without the cool ziplock baggy thing. The artwork on the packaging is cool enough, with a pretty cool looking Stormcast front and center and Olynder and the Celestant Prime behind her.

Once you crack it open you're greeted with plenty of sprues! We get models for the Soulscream Bridge, the Horrorghast, Lauchon the Soulseeker, and the Shards of Valagharr, and the Penumbral Engine. These are spread across six different sprues, with all of the bases secured in a little clear ziplock bag.

The Penumbral Engine looks like it'll take a bit of work to put together and will definitely benefit from subassemblies. I'm not surprised though with how many concentric rings are in it.

I'm surprised by the size of some of these spells. They're all much larger than I though. Lauchon himself is easily double the size of a normal skeleton while the Soulscream Bridge is by far the largest. I plan on putting together the Horrorghast first for an event coming up, but Lauchon the Soulseeker is definitely next on my list. That model is just way too cool.

Once you've taken out all of the plastic and ogled over the minis you get to a cool little divider. This is to protect the paper products from the plastic ones in the box, but also has some cool artwork on it. I think I'll probably frame this up like I did with the one from the Blight Wars box.

Beneath this are the warscroll cards for all of the spells and scenery, the core rules for AoS, instructions for the models, and the Forbidden Power book itself.

You also get some tokens. Some of these are for the two army lists in the book, others are just objective tokens, and others are for some of the more narrative bits of the book.

Now let's move onto the meat of this expansion, the book itself! It's an 88 page soft cover book, structured more or less like a Battletome. When we crack it open we dive right into the new lore and story surrounding the Battle for Lethis. We start off by getting a brief overview of what the Stormvaults and Penumbral Engines are. During the Age of Myth Sigmar found plenty of artifacts imbued with so much power he either couldn't destroy them, or he wanted to keep them around incase he ever needed them. He couldn't run the risk of anyone finding them though, so he built massive Stormvaults scattered across the Realms and locked them away inside. It wasn't just artifacts either. Sometimes if he came across an entity that was too powerful for him to kill he just locked them away inside these Stormvaults as well. The Penumbral Engines actually started out as devices known as Enlightenment Engines, a gift from Teclis. These devices imbued anyone nearby with the knowledge of the aelven god, helping to spread enlightenment. Once Sigmar knew he had to keep the Stormvaults even more hidden and secure then they already were, he tasked Grungni with altering the devices purpose to obscuring instead, which the Duardin god did with glee. Pesky aelves! Once altered these Penumbral Engines obscure and hide anything nearby, erasing them from people's memories as well.

In fact, these worked a little too well, and over the Age of Chaos Sigmar forgot where the majority of them were located. Once the necroquake hit that all changed. The magical forces unleashed exposed a ton of the Stormvaults and now all of the races are attempting to either raid them for artifacts, or secure theme again in Sigmar's name. During this whole section there are little callouts to prominent Stormvaults as well, like one located beneath the streets of Hammerhal, and the Midnight Tomb, the Stormvault located beneath the free city of Lethis in Stygxx in Shyish. This one is the focus of our story, because not only did Sigmar lock away artifacts, but also an ancient being whose power, if unleashed, could tip the balance of war in Nagash's favor. Unfortunately Nagash has noticed this as well and has sent Olynder to secure it. Kurdoss Valentian, her betrothed and advisor, has secured the fealty of a number of Deathmages and Wight Kings, and now they've assembled one of the largest forces of Death, the Legion of Grief. With this power at her disposal, she descends upon the city of Lethis, determined to release the ancient evil that slumbers beneath it. I don't want to ruin any of the actual siege and battle, but it's pretty awesome. There's a number of surprising moments and awe inspiring confrontations that will make you want to recreate it on the battlefield. The forces of Sigmar don't stand alone though, and they are joined by forces of Kharadron, Idoneth, and Fyreslayers. The Kharadron are interested in the artifacts stored within the Stormvault and also had aether-gold mining operations nearby that were disrupted by the arrival of the gheists. The Fyreslayers are just paid mercenaries, while the Idoneth are intrigued by the idea of a device that can make people forget. Something that could be very useful to them if they can get their hands on it. This story covers the entirety of the siege, so we get to see the outcome of it and also the outcome of the entity locked away within the Midnight Tomb. As a Nighthaunt fan it was awesome getting to see them in action. They really conveyed the ghostly and terrifying nature of this army, especially in the build up to the first attack.

The book also gives more background on Lethis itself and really fleshes it out a bit so you care about the city and its defenders. There's a list of Dramatis Personae at the start so you know all of the major players. They also briefly go over Shyish and the necroquake for those who are new to the story, though it's presented in a new enough way that it didn't feel stale to me reading about it again. I really like Lethis and would love to make an army centered around its defenders. There's so much cool stuff about it, and they make the defenders feel real by naming the different armies. The Freeguild are the Blackshore Guard for instance, who are, of course, garbed in all black. They also worship Mordda, an ancient god of death thought to have survived Nagash's purge somehow. Mordda is represented by the raven, and as such Lethis is often called the Raven City. The Stormcast in this story are all from the Anvils of the Heldenhammer, one of my favorite stormhosts. Sigmar is unable to divert any other Stormcast to help in the defense, but he does send the Celestant-Prime at the head of an army of Devoted of Sigmar. There are also a few narrative story bits scattered throughout which are really cool. Teclis, Olynder, and the Celestant-Prime all have dialogue as well, which I think is the first we've seen of from any of them.

Once the story concludes there's a hobby section with plenty of pictures. In a cool twist there are three double page spreads of armies fighting that depict Stormvaults in other realms. The Gyhran one looks pretty cool and I think you can do some pretty unique things with that new scenery if you themed it to a realm. All of the Endless Spells get shown off, and there's also a tutorial section. This goes over painting a bunch of the different parts of the spells, as well as a few different colors of stone for the new scenery. After that are example armies for both of the new lists.

Speaking of the new lists, the rules sections kicks off with two new additions to the battlefields of the Mortal Realms, the Defenders of Lethis and the Legion of Grief! The Defenders of Lethis list is for Order armies and is meant to represent the forces present during the Siege of Grief. You're allowed to take models from the Kharadron, Fyreslayer, Idoneth, and Stormcast factions, as well as the Excelsior Warpriest from Silver Tower. I love the idea of a mixed list like this, but I'm a bit disappointed that you can't take Freeguild and Devoted units as well since they feature so prominently in the battle. There are some restrictions on what Stormhosts and Lodges you can take for the Stormcast and Fyreslayers as well, like you can't take the Hammers of Sigmar for example. This is to better represent who was actually present at the battle.

The Defenders of Lethis have a whole new set of allegiance abilities that replace any of the existing ones for the factions taken. Warriors of the Grand Necropolis allows you to re-roll failed battleshock tests, and for any Human and Duardin units you can add 1 to your hit rolls if the enemy unit charged that turn. Meanwhile your Akhelian Deepkin units get +1 to their move and charge rolls. Lastly there is a new command ability that gives Liberator units +1 to their save rolls if they're within range of the hero using it, but they cannot make pile in moves that turn. They also get three command traits, three artifacts, and three prayers to pick from. Of the command traits I like Raven Priest the best, which makes your general a Priest so they can use the new prayers. Solemn Duty is also good, giving nearby units battleshock immunity. The artifacts are good as well, with one giving you a 5+ "death" save, and another allowing you to heal D6 wounds once per battle. The three new prayers of Morrda all go off on a 3+ and are all really solid. Morrda's Embrace gives you a 12" bubble of re-rolling saves of 1, while another lets you make an enemy unit -1 to hit, and the last one basically lets you use the equivalent of Deathly Invocation on a friendly unit, bringing back D3 wounds worth of slain models to the unit.

The Legion of Grief is what I'm really excited about. This is a Death army that can take units from the Nighthaunt, Deathlords, Deathrattle, Deathmages, and Deadwalkers factions! The only restriction is that if you take a Mortarch you must also take Olynder and if taken she must be your general, which makes sense. It's her Legion after all. This army forfeits all of the allegiance abilities from the Nighthaunt book, and instead gets a whole new set. They get all of the perks from the Legions of Nagash, including gravesites, an improved death save (only have to be within 6" instead of wholly within 12"), and the command ability to bring a unit back at a gravesite. They also get the Aura of Grief ability which makes any enemy units within 6" of any of your units -1 Bravery. This is a pretty good perk considering some of the artifacts, traits, and spells available to them.

The Legion of Grief is all about causing grief and despair, and as such have a few things to debuff enemy bravery. They have three command traits, three artifacts, and three spells to pick from. My favorite command trait is Tragic Emanations which makes all enemy units with 12" of your general -2 bravery. That means if they're within 6" of your general they'll be -3 bravery. There is also a spell, Shroud of Terror, that subtracts D3 bravery from an enemy unit within 12" on an 8+. As far as the artifacts the top pick is probably Grave-sand Gem, which lets you either heal a wound or inflict a mortal wound on a nearby enemy hero. I think there are some really interesting combinations and army lists you can do with this army. I'm definitely going to give them a spin. My main idea is to take as many other bravery debuffing things as I can and then load up on Tomb Banshees and Olynder to try and mortal wound bomb units. I don't know if it will be extremely effective, but it'll be a lot of fun.

The other big rules addition here is the introduction of Mercenaries. These are essentially allies that you can take regardless of your Grand Alliance. We get rules for using Fyreslayers and Flesh-eaters here to represent the factions from the Lethis storyline. They use up your ally points as normal, and in addition they have a special rule called Disrupting Presence, which means you do not get a command point on your first turn, so there is a bit of a trade off for taking them. The Fyreslayers represent the Greyfyrd Lodge and can include any Fyreslayer units besides Auric Runefathers. They have a special rule called Fulfil One's Oaths which adds 1 to the hit rolls for their melee attacks against units that have charged that turn, but they also subtract 1 from their bravery at the start of the third turn if they're not wholly within 18" of your general. The Flesh-eaters represent the Tenebrous Court and can take any Flesh-eater unit besides Royal Zombie Dragons and Terrorgheists. Their special rule is Frightful Allies which adds 1 to their melee hits if they charged that turn, but they're never allowed to retreat. I think there are some good uses for these in games, especially with taking some of the Flesh-eater heroes that can summon, but you're already losing a command point by taking them, which you need to use their summon ability, so it might not be the most honed thing to do. It'll provided a lot of fun matchups though and gives you a good reason to paint a few units outside of your alliance.

There's also a set of realm rules for playing Stygxx, which is a slight variation of the Shyish ones. You get access to a new prayer, and the realmscape feature is only ever one thing, which makes any rolls of a double while casting an auto success that cannot be unbound.

The last major thing in the book itself are the campaign rules. These just center around fighting over Stormvaults, not the battle for Lethis itself. It seems like a lot of fun and is something I'm already looking at adapting for a one day event. The first player to win six games then gets to march upon the Grand Stormvault which is a big four player game, and whoever wins that game is the overall winner. Each time you win a game you get to conquer a Stormvault Sacristy, which is a table you roll on. One of the Sacristies for example lets you auto cast Lauchon the Soulseeker in your next battle, and if you're playing Matched Play then you get to take that spell for free. Another gives your general +1 wound, and another lets you take the Soulscream Bridge in the same way as Lauchon. One of the coolest things to me are the awakened artifacts. After the first game everyone gets to pick an awakened artifact, there are six of them to choose from. Each of these gives you a bonus, like Gheistbane, which improved one of your melee weapons' rend by 1. They then each have five levels of power they can go through, which you have to complete "tasks" each game to level up. Gheistbane for example has to have killed three or more models in the previous game to level up. By the time you get to level five of Gheistbane it will be +3 rend, +3 attacks, and doing an additional mortal wound on an unmodified hit of 6.

There are then four Pitched Battle battleplans, and four Narrative battleplans all focused around the Stormvaults. Some of them have a "neutral" Penumbral Engine in the middle of the table affecting the objectives. They all seem pretty fun, and now we have four more Matched Play battleplans to use. Again, I'm thinking about using some of these in a one day event.

The box also comes with warscroll cards for all of the spells, the Penumbral Engine, and all of the new scenery that comes out alongside this. You can check these out for yourself in the App for free, but I really like the Horrorghast. It make any enemy units within 6" of it -2 Bravery which combos nicely with the Legion of Grief. Lauchon the Soulseeker is also great since it lets you move a unit in your hero phase, which can then move normally in it's movement phase. All you have to do is sacrifice a model from the unit. The Penumbral Engine is a scenery piece that can be taken by any army. At the start of the battle you roll to see if it's a Penumbral Engine still or has reverted back to being an Illumination Engine. When in its Penumbral state it lets you re-roll saves of 1 for any units wholly within its bubble, while the Illumination state grants you an extra command point if you have a hero nearby. It has a chance of switching which state it's in at the start of each battle round on a 5+. These cost 100 points and come out of your ally points pool.

Overall I love this expansion. Lots of cool new spells, two new army lists, some fun battleplans, and a truly awesome storyline about the Siege of Grief of Lethis. This is definitely something any AoS player will want to pick up. If you're a Nighthaunt or Legions of Nagash player I would say doubly so, since you get a whole new way to field your army.

Until next time,

Tyler M.

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