Wednesday, July 17, 2019

REVIEW: Sylvaneth Battletome 2019

The Sylvaneth were the first Battletome to get the full treatment of spells, traits, and abilities back alongside the launch of the first General's Handbook. Now they're back with a full AoS2 makeover and some new Endless Spells. So what lurks within the woods today?

The cover on this is pretty awesome. There's a ton going on, with the new Arch-Revenant taking center stage. I really like how kinetic it is. You really get a sense of the Sylvaneth at war with this. It definitely hits that teal and orange sweet spot too. The only real gripe I have with it is that the fire doesn't scream Sylvaneth to me. I get that it's supposed to show them in battle, but why would they be setting fire to the woods? Since you can't see who they're fighting it's hard to make sense of what's going on. I would have preferred to see something greener and more arboreal like their first Battletome cover. In fact, I think if you took out the fire on this and just made it a forest it would be perfect. It's a small gripe though, as this cover definitely grabs your attention, looks really cool, and is wonderfully rendered, so it checks all of the boxes.

When you crack it open one of the first things you see is a beautiful full page scenic model shot. Normally I don't start off with the photography, but I really like this picture. Not only does it show off the range wonderfully, but the scenery used and the background is amazing. It really has the sense of overgrown ruins, especially with the pillars in the background. Once we delve into the book proper we're treated to a general overview of the Sylvaneth as a race and an army. If you're already familiar with their lore, than a lot of this will be a recap to you. It briefly goes over their origins from the Age of Myth and how they're symbiotic with the nature around them and extremely distrustful of outsiders. They also get broken down into their main designations here, the Noble Spirits, Free Spirits, Forest Folk, and Outcasts. It talks about how they deal with the other members of the Alliance of Order as well. They're reluctant allies more often than not, being highly protective of their territories for the entirety of the Age of Chaos. It is only now, with Alarielle resurgent that they're once again looking towards conquest of their lost lands.

We then delve deeper into their history, starting with their origins. Once Alarielle awoke within the Mortal Realms she sought solitude amongst the gardens of Ghyran for a long time. Eventually she desired company, and so planted the seeds she had saved from the World-that-Was, seeds that would grow into the first Sylvaneth. During the Age of Myth they were a relatively peaceful people. They sought to live as one with nature, and the Forest Folk were just the caretakers of the gardens and the average citizens of the race. The Noble Spirits existed and fought battles where needed, but war hadn't consumed them yet. It was during this time that they also spread out into the other realms and created enclaves everywhere. It wasn't until the Age of Chaos that the Sylvaneth were forced to fight for their very survival.

It was Nurgle who first invaded Ghyran, for he coveted the bounteous life that flourished there. From this point on it was essentially a fighting retreat as the Sylvaneth fought to retain their lands. A lot of this is repeated from the Realmgate War books and the first Sylvaneth book, but an interesting bit of new lore is the inclusion of Kurnoth, the Hunter God. He had survived the world-that-was as well, and it wasn't until the Age of Chaos where he was killed in battle against the forces of Nurgle. Only his spear and a few other remains were salvaged and taken to Alarielle. Eventually Alarielle was broken and she sequestered herself within the hidden pocket realm of the Athelwyrd.

Just as it all seemed lost, the Storm of Sigmar broke and the Stormcast appeared to reclaim Ghyran. The Hallowed Knights led by Gardus Steelsoul and Lorrus Grymn found Alarielle's refuge to try and convince her to rejoin the alliance of old. Unfortunately they also led the forces of Nurgle there, and so had to quickly flee with the goddess and her remaining followers. She eventually turned into a Soulpod herself, and was replanted in a place of great glory so she could absorb all of it. When she re-awoke she was in her full war regalia and sang a new song of bloodshed.

Calling the Sylvaneth to her and taking up the spear of Kurnoth she began to persecute a war of reconquest and vengeance. With the aid of the Stormcast Eternals she was able to retake great swathes of Ghyran from the forces of Nurgle and ultimately took back the Genesis Gate, the massive Realmgate that led right to Achaon's seat of power. With the gate now sealed, the forces of Nurgle were cut off and the tide began to shift. It was during this time that she also created the first three new cities of Order, the Seeds of Hope, within her domains.

The best bit of new lore here is as it pertains to the Necroquake. When the malign portents had begun to appear Alarielle had tasked Drycha and her Outcasts to investigate it and thwart whatever Nagash was planning as she continued her fight against Nurgle. When the full magics of the quake rolled across Ghyran many enclaves and cities were lost to the surging undead hordes and endless spells. Unable to contend with the necromantic might the Sylvaneth fell back. This was too much like the old ways for Alarielle and she planted a new soulpod for the first time, the Arch-Revenant. With these new lieutenants the Sylvaneth went back on the offensive. The unleashed magics also woke up dormant forest magics in the form of the Gladewyrms and such.

Next we get two full pages of timelines for the Sylvaneth. There are a lot of new little story hooks here that are pretty cool, such as the Battle of Tears which details the fall of Kurnoth. There's also plenty covered from the Age of Sigmar like the Ghoul Mere, showing their uneasy alliance with the Greywater Fastness. A lot of this covers the events from the Realmgate Wars books since the battle for Ghyran was one of the main story lines from that campaign. It's great for people who weren't involved with AoS yet at that point or didn't read those books when they first came out.

It then delves into a bit more depth on how the Sylvaneth wargroves are broken down as I mentioned earlier. Here it breaks the Nobles Spirits into the Lords of the Clan and the Households. Households are the standard military unit of the wargroves, consisting of Tree-Revenants, Branchwychs, and Treelords. All wargroves have at least one household, while the larger ones have many to call upon. We then get a bit more detail on all of the major Glades, Oakenbrow, Gnarlroot, Harvestboon, Ironbark, Winterleaf, Dreadwood, and Heartwood. Oakenbrow is the oldest and largest of the glades. As such they have the largest amount of Treelords amongst their number and are also the most willing to cooperate with outside allies. Gnarlroot holds magical dominance over all of the rest, while Harvestboon is the youngest and boldest of the major glades. They were created during the Age of Chaos and as such have never known peace. All of the other major glades have their own quirk, like Ironbark hailing from Chamon and being friendly with duardin and Dreadwood having an uncomfortably close relationship with the Outcasts.

All of the units then get their own exploration, broken up into the different factions of the wargroves such as Forest Folk. The Arch-Revenants are the new addition to the bestiary. They're the lieutenants of the wargroves and a member of the Free Spirits. Exceptional martial leaders and spies, they're not fully trusted by the wargroves, who see them as outsiders. They worship both Alarielle and Kurnoth and rouse the belligerent natures of all Sylvaneth nearby them.

This is followed by the miniatures gallery section. Once again, there are several awesome looking scenic pictures. They're really hitting it out of the park with these. The normal 'Eavy Metal gallery follows, along with an example army. The painting tutorial section goes over several basics for the army as a whole, as well as different bark examples for the various glades.

Now we're onto the rules. The Allegiance Abilities have gotten a bit of an update. Forest Spirits allows you to keep half of your army off the board and bring them on near Awakened Wyldwoods and more than 9" away from enemy units at the end of your movement phase. Navigate Realmroots is a similar idea, but essentially allows you to teleport a unit that's wholly within 6" of an Awakened Wyldwood to another Awakened Wyldwood in the same manner as the Forest Spirits rule. Both of these give the army a huge amount of mobility. Lastly, Places of Power allows you to pick one terrain feature on the board that's not a piece of your opponent's army (so no Herdstones for example) and all Sylvaneth units wholly within 6" of it don't need to take Battleshock tests.

Unlike a lot of recent battletomes, the Sylvaneth stick to their roots and only have six regular command traits and six wizard command traits to pick from regardless of which model is actually your general. Nothing specific to Treelords or Branchwraiths or anything. Gnarled Warrior, which allows you to re-roll save rolls of one, and Dread Harvester which allows you to re-roll hit rolls in melee if they charged stand out to me from the regular table. From the wizard table I like Glade Lord, which essentially turns Wyldwoods into Arcane for this general, and Spellsinger, which adds 6" onto your spells' range. There are four different artifacts tables to pick from for a total of 24 artifacts. I like Greenwood Gladius for the Spirit of Durthu since it adds 2 attacks onto one of their melee profiles. Nightbloom Garland is also really good, making it so your hero can only be targeted if they're within 12". That's for missile weapons, spells, whatever. Acorn of Ages is always a classic as well, letting you set up another Wyldwood for free.

The spell lore, the Lore of the Deepwood, has six spells for you to choose from plus one extra spell that all wizards know. The extra spell is Verdant Blessing, which lets you set up a Wyldwood on a 6+ wholly within 24" of the caster. You then get to choose one more spell from the list. The Dwellers Below is a great horde killer, allowing you to roll a dice for every model in an enemy unit and causing a mortal wound for each roll of a 6. Verdurous Harmony lets you return a slain model to a unit, or in the case of Dryads, Tree-Revenants, and Spite-Revenants, D3 models. This would be awesome on a unit of Kurnoth Hunters.

The Awakened Wyldwood plays pretty similar to how it did in the past, but with a fancy new model. Models cannot see through more than 1" of a Wyldwood unless it can fly. The Roused by Magic ability makes it so the woods do D3 mortal to all non Sylvaneth units within 1" of it on a 5+ if any magic was cast nearby it. Lastly, the Wyldwood rule does D3 mortal wounds to any non-Sylvaneth unit within 1" of it at the end of the charge phase. It's not if a unit charged that turn, just any unit near it at the end of the phase. This make protracted combats near the woods especially dangerous.

Each of the major glades also gets their own set of rules. These are essentially like Stormhosts and you can pick for your army to belong to that glade and then you get to use their rules. There are seven of them, so I won't go through each of them, but I will pick out some rules I think are cool. The Oakenbrow glade essentially makes your Treelords and Treelord variants much tougher and harder to kill. You'll definitely want to make them the core of your army here. Gnarlroot is still all about the wizards, with all of its bonuses centered around magic and magical things. Shield the Arcane for example gives your Gnarlroot units wholly within 12" of a Gnarlroot wizard re-roll 1s to hit. Heartwood is focused on the Free Spirits with the artifact allowing all Kurnoth Hunters wholly within 12" of the bearer to re-roll their hits. Ironbark has bonuses to its save and bravery, making them hard to shift, as befitting a glade from the Realm of Metal. Winterleaf is one of my favorites. Winter's Bite makes each unmodified melee hit roll of a 6 into two successful hits. Their command ability, Branch Blizzard, is basically like the Dwellers Below spell, but automatic. They also get a once per battle ability to pile a friendly unit in and immediately attack for a second time in the same phase. Dreadwood has Spite buffs, teleporting, and bravery debuffs, while Harvestboon is super aggressive, with bonuses on the charge and extra attacks.

The narrative battleplan in this book has the Sylvaneth attempting to reawaken a trio of soulpod groves. Essentially they are three Wyldwoods in the center of the board that you need to try and awaken through special mechanics while your opponents can prevent that just by being near them. I can see this being a touch battle for the Sylvaneth, but it's definitely fitting to their lore. The Path to Glory section is in here as normal as well. One day I'll play it! It really does look like a lot of fun.

There are six different battalions to pick from, including one super battalion. The super battalion gives you an extra Wyldwood at the start of the game, but that will only be for Narrative or Matched play due to how many points it costs to run it. The other five should be familiar to anyone who had the old Battletome. They have all had some tweaks and streamlining. My personal favorites are the Household, Forest Folk, and Outcasts. The Household is 1 Treelord, 1 Branchwych, and 1 unit of Tree-Revenants and makes it so your opponent cannot retreat from combat from any of those units. Forest Folk, which is a Branchwraith and Dryads, can retreat and still charge, making them super flexible and mobile. The Outcasts consists of 3 units Spite-Revenants and makes D3 more models flee from Battleshock while within 3" of them.

The warscrolls have all had tweaks and since they'll be available on the app soon I'm not going to spend a lot of time going over them. Drycha can now choose at the start of each battle round whether she is Enrages of Embittered. This will make her Squirmlings and Flitterfuries either 10 or 20 attacks a piece. Either way, she now gets to use both of them. The new addition to the army, the Arch-Revenant, seems pretty good and I definitely can see it being included in most armies. She's okay in combat, but her main positive is her command ability, Call to Battle, which lets you add an attack onto a Sylvaneth unit. That's always a good thing. She's also super mobile with a 12" fly move. The Waypipes on the Tree-Revenants also now allow you to teleport to anywhere on the table, not just the side of the board. The last big change is that the Kurnoth Hunters have been split into three distinct scrolls depending on their weapon choice. The swords saw a nice buff with unmodified 6s to wound doing a mortal wound in addition to the normal damage. The bows still seem pretty good too.

Lastly, the new Endless Spells for the Sylvaneth. The Gladewyrm is a pretty standard predatory endless spell that either dishes out D3 mortal wounds to enemy units or heals friendly units. If you want to do damage the Skullroot seems like a better option since it hurts all units it passes across and then also causes extra models to flee if their within 3" of it in the battleshock phase. My favorite though is the Spiteswarm Hive. It doesn't move and can only be controlled by the player who cast it, which makes it much more reliable. At the end of the hero phase (both hero phases) you can pick for it to either have Vital Venoms, which on a 2+ gives nearby friendly unit plus 3" to it's move and charge for that turn, or Shielding Swarm, which on a 2+ allows you to re-roll save rolls of 1 for a friendly unit until that end of that turn. There were several point drops, such as Durthu going down to 340. For battleline you can pick Dryads, or both of the Revenants in a Sylvaneth army. For allies you have Idoneth, Stormcast, and Wanderers, as well as Dispossessed and Fyreslayers if your general is from the Ironbark glade.

There's a lot to love in this book and it seems like a really solid update for the Sylvaneth. For people who weren't familiar with the major events of the war in Ghyran during the Realmgate Wars this acts as a great crash course on that too. I really feel like the production value on these books keeps increasing as well. If you're a fan of the Sylvaneth then this is definitely the book for you. It updates the lore to the current timeline and really streamlines their rules and makes them fit in with AoS2.

Until next time,

Tyler M.

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