Thursday, June 20, 2019

REVIEW: The General's Handbook 2019

It's that time of year again, General's Handbook season! With the turning of the calendar we get an updated set of Open, Narrative, and Matched Play rules including updated points. So what does 2019 hold for the Age of Sigmar?

In a move that breaks from what we've seen in the past, Games Workshop has actually split the General's Handbook into two separate books. All the normal stuff we've come to expect from the GHB (General's Handbook) is in one book, while the updated points values have been broken off into their own. They're still sold together, so no worries there, but now this means when GHB 2020 rolls around, you can still have all the relevant info from the GHB 2019 and just use the new updated points book from 2020. It's a really cool and useful idea.

Inside the book itself we first dive into the Open Play section. The first big new feature here is a random army generator. It's basically the idea of the Open Play Card for scenarios (which I still love), but for picking your army. They break stuff down into different categories, like a unit of 20 models is considered a Horde, a hero is a Champion, Elite units, etc. Then there are cards you can photocopy to randomly draw to form your army on the spot or you can roll 2D6. Each result tells you what to take and how many Force Points it's worth. You're also given a recommendation on how many force points to take depending on the size of the game you want, with a small game coming in at 15 force points. It's a pretty cool idea and would present an interesting tactical challenge when you have to work with what you're given instead of what you choose.

They have the same concept for scenery deployment with multiple tables you can roll on. You can generate which scenery to take from here, all the way to a 2D6 system with multiple maps showing you where to place the scenery. They then have the same thing for army deployments, objectives, ruses, and twists. Basically the Open War cards of old with slight reworks. There are also Hidden Agendas, which are secondary objectives you can try and compete during your games. These actually come into play for Matched Play as well. With all of these choices you can generally set up and play an entire Open Play game by randomly generating everything, your army, the scenery, its layout, your deployment, the mission, everything. It's a pretty cool idea and could lead to some really interesting games.

The Narrative Play sections is chocked full of content. It opens with some of my favorite, and I think, coolest rules in the book, the Streets of Death. These are rules for playing your games of AoS in the close quarters of a city. There are rules for hiding units in a building, destroying buildings, setting things on fire, and coming up through the sewers. It's basically Cities of Death from 40k, but for AoS. There are even rules for moving Monsters through the narrow streets of a city and how hard it would be for them. I definitely want to give this a shot. I feel like it would probably work best in a Meeting Engagement or Vanguard sized game for a few reasons. The smaller board sizes will really let you pack it full of building scenery, and also the smaller game and army sizes will make it easier to incorporate all of the cool new city rules.

Next we have rules for Arcane Objectives. These are basically rules for spicing up how your objectives work in your games. For example, one of the Arcane Objectives rules is called Trapped and it inflicts D3 mortal wounds on the first unit to control it during the game. These are followed by rules for Regiments of Renown. These rules let you customize some of your units and give them additional special rules to really make them stand out. There are 6 different tables for you to roll on. Some of them are specialized, like the Spearhead table, which can only be used for mounted units with an armor save of 3, 4. or 5+. I think these would work great in a campaign where you can progress a unit as you play through multiple games. All of these rules are then put to use in an example campaign of the Battle for Elixia. We get a bit of background on the city, which most Realmgate War veterans will recognize, as well as a bit of new lore concerning the Soul Wars. Then we get the rules on how to play the campaign as well as several narrative/historical battleplans to play through.

We're only about half way through the Narrative section! Next there are rules for playing Raids and Ambushes in AoS. These are more a collection of various rules you can implement in your games if you wanted to theme your battle around the idea of an ambush. I don't think you could use all of the rules presented in one game since some of them cover the same idea but from a different angle. There is mention of battleplans referencing these rules, though no example battleplans are given, so I'm guessing we can expect some Raids and Ambushes battleplans in the future, perhaps in a Battletome. This is followed by a set of random name generators for most of the main factions. Each has three tables to roll a D6 on. For example, on the Nighthaunt table I could end up with a character named Old Graveclaw, the Whispering One. These have no effect on the game itself, but are a great tool for those of us who like to personalize our forces and are a lot of fun.

Lastly, the Narrative section is rounded off by the Mercenary rules. We already saw the Fyreslayers and Flesh-eater Courts rules in Forbidden Power along with how they work in Matched Play, but here we get additional mercenaries. These feel a lot like the old Regiments of Renown from Warhammer Fantasy. For example, there's the Sons of the Lichemaster, which is a Necromancer, and 0-3 Skeletons or Zombies and 0-1 Corpse Carts. This can be taken in any grand alliance, but costs you a command point on your first turn, and comes out of your ally points. You then get the additional rule Power of the Lichemaster, which gives Skeletons and Zombies within range of the Necromancer +1 attack. They're all themed around small warbands like this with very specific restrictions. There is a Blood Knight one, a Pistolier themed one, a Gargant one, an Ogor Maneater one, and several more. They may not be the most tactical thing to take, but seem like they'd be good fun and give you a chance to paint something different from your army. I'm excited to see if we get more of these in the future. I was thinking about how I could take the Lichemaster one in a Legions of Nagash army, and coupled with the Lord of Nagashizzar command trait, I could get Skeletons up to 5 attacks each. So there are definitely some good uses for them.

Now we're onto the Matched Play section. Much has stayed the same, but a lot has changed too. There are tons of places covering this out there, so I'm just going to talk about some of the larger changes. The first big change is that you can only buy 1 extra command point for 50 points, and it actually costs points now, so that may affect whether you get a Triumph or not. Speaking of which, there are now three additional Triumphs. Unbowed lets a unit ignore Battleshock for a turn, Eager lets you re-roll a charge or run roll, and Cunning lets you use a command ability for free once. There are also three new generic command abilities to choose from. All-out Attack lets you re-roll hit rolls of 1 in the combat phase, All-out Defense lets you re-roll save rolls of 1, and Volley Fire lets you re-roll hits rolls of 1 in the shooting phase. I can see these getting heavy use and they really open up your options regarding heroes who don't have a command ability on their warscroll or don't have a good one.

With terrain there are now rules on how they're placed on the table along with Faction specific terrain. This includes how it needs to be spaced, as well as a list of terrain to pick from with size restrictions. There are also six new Scenery rules to roll for. The original six are still there, some with a tweak or two, like Arcane which now boosts unbinding and dispelling alongside casting. Now you roll to see which table you roll on first, with 1-3 being the original table and 4-6 being the new table. The new table includes stuff like Overgrown, which blocks line of sight, or Commanding which gives you an additional command point if you have a hero nearby. All of the battleplans then got a small facelift. A lot of these are just new deployments, or slightly shifted objective placements, but some involve a bit more. Relocation Orb now is a bit more predictable with a few less places for it to move for example. It mentions how you can choose to use the 2018 or 2019 versions of any battleplan, so we really have a ton to choose from now with a total of 12 included in this book.

The biggest addition to Matched Play is the new game mode of Meeting Engagement. This is played at a much smaller size, only 1,000 points, but is completely different to a regular Pitched Battle game. You split your force into three sections, a Spearhead, a Main Body, and a Rearguard. Each of these tells you what can go into each. For example, the Spearhead can have 0-1 heroes, 0-1 battleline units, and 0-2 other units. No artillery, no behemoths, and no units larger than their minimum size. In fact, the largest units can be is double their size, and only under certain restrictions. You also can't have more than two of the same unit in your army. It really encourages a more diverse, smaller unit based army.

The battleplans for this then have the different sections coming into the battle at different times. Most of them have you start with the Spearhead deployed, the Main Body coming in on turn 1 and the Rearguard on turn 2. Which table edges they can come off of is also varied by battleplan. A lot of them have you scoring victory points if you kill more wounds of models each turn, as well as holding objectives. They also only last 4 turns. It's really a whole different way to play the game and I'm really looking forward to playing it.

Also included are example tournament packs in for Pitched Battles and Meeting Engagements. These are presented as the rules that GW will use to run their own tournaments, but are great starting points for independent organizers. They can even just be used as is. I think this will help encourage a few first time TOs to get an event running since a lot of the leg work has already been done by them. There is even a code of conduct for playing games of AoS at the front of the book that they can use.

The last bit in the first book are the updated Allegiance Abilities. We get rules for Darkling Covens, Dispossessed, Free People, Wanderers, Slaves to Darkness, Seraphon, and Ironjawz. All of them have gotten little tweaks, but the two biggest additions are to the Seraphon and Ironjawz who have both gotten a set of six spells to choose from. Some of the Seraphon ones look truly devastating, which is only appropriate for the masters of magic.

The points book literally just has the updated points profiles listed in it, so I won't go over those changes here since you can find coverage in a lot of places. A lot of stuff got tweaked. We also have all of the Compendium points printed in here, as well as all of the Forge World models and armies, which is a nice addition.

If you play Age of Sigmar then this is an obvious purchase for you. It not only has the updated rules and points for Matched Play, but it also is crammed full of fun and cool new rules for Narrative and Open Play. Like I've said, Streets of Death and Meeting Engagements are the two coolest things for me, but I look forward to trying a little bit of everything in here.

Until next time,

Tyler M.

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