Monday, October 28, 2019

REVIEW: Ossiarch Bonereapers

The newest Mortarch on the block is finally here with his whole army in tow. The Ossiarch Bonereapers have arrived to terrorize the Mortal Realms in Nagash's name. So who are these boney constructs and how do they play on the tabletop?

To say I've been excited for this army is a bit of an understatement. I'm always a fan of new Death forces, but the Bonereapers, though not Tomb Kings, clearly are carrying on their bone laden, construct legacy. The cover art on this book is pretty cool. It's not my favorite of the Death covers, but it's still pretty darn cool. Personally I would've preferred to see Katakros front and center, or even just a normal Mortek Guard.

The book opens up with a general overview of the army as a whole. The Ossiarch Bonereapers are Nagash's elite force, acting to bring to fruition what's known as the necrotopia, a glorious land of the dead. They enact what is known as the Bone Tithe across the Mortal Realms. From this tithe is where they draw the resources to construct their legions. For you see, the Bonereapers are not merely reanimated corpses, no, each is in fact constructed from magically reinforced bone crafted to form the most deadly of warriors. Even their souls are a gestalt of the best aspects of the numerous souls harvested by Nagash. They're not mindless automatons either, and each Bonereaper retains just enough individuality that even the lowest of them can make decisions and continue to operate on their own if needed. The Bonereapers were first created during the Age of Myth, but were secreted in numerous catacombs built beneath the cities of the Age of Myth in secret by Nagash. After the events of the Souls Wars these legions awoke, further bolstered by freshly created Bonereapers.

Unlike other undead force, that seek only to vanquish and conquer through force, the Bonereapers believe in a form of diplomacy as well. When they first approach a new settlement, whether it be a small hamlet or a vast city, they present them with a choice. This is called the Bone Tithe. If the enemies of the Bonereapers can meet the terms of the tithe then they are spared. The Tithe consists of supplying the Bonereapers with the raw materials they need to continue their existence, bones. They're (usually) not unreasonable in their demands, and a settlement may be able to dig up their graveyards to meet the Tithe, or some cities have a lottery to sacrifice unfortunate victims. If the Tithe is unable to be met then the Bonereapers take their due by bloody force. Eventually all settlements fall victim to what is known as the Terminus Concept. As the Bonereapers return time and time again to collect their due they're eventually unable to meet the amount required and are slain in return. There's even a cool little story snippet here of a settlement that tries to cheat the tithe by mixing in pig bones with the human remains. Sufficed to say, the Bonereapers weren't happy.

The Bonereapers are not only seeking to tear down the civilizations of the living, but raise up their own in its wake. These will start as military fortifications to secure a new area of territory, but over time civic structures will be raised, and eventually artistic endeavors glorifying their master, Nagash. This is the necrotopia they seek to establish. While they utilize stone in this, they also mix in a healthy amount of bone. They're even able to link distant continents with sea spanning bridges made of bone. If the weather becomes too violent during a Bonereaper army's passing, the Mortisans will simply meld their forces' feet to the bridge until it's safe to continue on again.

While the story of the Bonereapers encompasses many vast armies and generals, it's really the story of a single man, Orpheus Katakros. In life Katakros was a mighty general in Ghur during the Age of Myth. While not well liked by his peers, his tactical acumen was without reproach. Alas, all mortal stories must end, and his did at the hands of a rampaging Ghorgon. Once in his civilization's afterlife of Ossia he rose to prominence once more as the general of the spectral armies. There were two afterlives for his people, Ossia, for those who believe that hard work is its own reward, and Necros, where they believe in being rewarded for a life well lived with an afterlife of leisure. For awhile Katakros left them to their own devices, but as Nagash turned his gaze towards their underworlds Katakors annexed Necros for their own protection. Under his leadership the Ossian Empire was able to hold off against the undead forces of Nagash longer than any other. Once it became apparent that there was no victory, Katakros negotiated a truce of sorts, offering himself up as Nagash's chief general. Seeing the potential in him the Lord of Undeath crafted him a new body of reforged bone and made him the Mortarch of the Necropolis. After Nagash failed to show up in support of Sigmar at the battle of the Allpoints, the God-king went on a rampage through Shyish looking for the Great Necromancer. Katakros challenged him to single combat, and though he put up a valiant effort, he was eventually vanquished. Unable to kill him fully, Sigmar instead imprisoned him in the Stormvault beneath the city of Lethis for many long ages. It wasn't until Olynder released his spirit during the events of Forbidden Power in the Soul Wars that Katakros returned, now put in charge of the legions of the Ossiarch Bonereapers.

The timeline section of this covers several other important events, but the majority of it focuses on fleshing out the backstory of Katakros and his rise to power even more. We get to see how he rose from the rank of general in the afterlife of Ossia to overall command of the entire empire as well as how he reacted and counteracted the invasion of Chaos. The very last entry in the timeline mentions how Katakros has breached the realmgates of the Eightpoints itself, leading an invasion of Archaon's domains. There's also a detailed map showing the Ossiarch Empire. This expands what we'd seen earlier of the Prime Innerlands of Shyish, in fact, directly to the right of it. I like that slowly, book by book, the geography of the realms are getting fleshed out a little more. The organization of the Ossiarch legions and society are laid out as well. They have a strict caste system that dictates your role in the legion. You can never rise in rank, but can fall to a lower rank if you displease Nagash.

There are six major legions that get detailed in this book. The Mortis Praetorians are Katakros' personal legion and are unique in that each cohort of the legion has the soul of one of Katakros' best generals from life mixed into the gestalt souls of every Bonereaper. They're first amongst the legions and are instrumental in fulfilling the vision of the necrotopia. The Pretrifix Elite are nomads, having no necropolis to call their own. They construct all of their Bonereapers out of hardened fossils, making them the most resilient of the legions. They're overseen by a coven of Mortisans instead of a Liege-Kavalos, with the head of their number known only as the Grand Necromystic. The Stalliarch Lords hail from Equuis Main, and are primarily a cavalry legion. They are the most bloodthirsty of the legions and will often present the settlements they come across with an unfulfillable Tithe on purpose so they can butcher them and take it by force. In Ghur the Ivory Host has been sent to conquer the lands. These Bonereapers are resplendent looking, but hide a dark secret. Made from the bones and ivory of the many great beasts of the lands, their forms hold the animalistic fury of Ghur. When injured this can leak out, infecting those nearby as they lose all control. The Null Myriad are the legion gifted to Arkhan, for they are particularly imbued with the deathly magics of Shyish. They were the first of the Bonereaper legions during the Age of Myth, but were shunned by the Pantheon of Order. As such, Nagash posted them at the outskirts of Shyish, able to withstand the brutal magical storms of that area. Since the events of the Necroquake they've been further bolstered by using the bones of the skeletons tasked with constructing the black pyramid. Now they create fortresses within the outskirts of other realms, able to strike without fear of retaliation. Lastly, the Crematorians are the Bonereapers sent when Nagash want only to destroy. Each Bonereaper within their ranks burns, literally, with Nagash's wrath within them. This will eventually consume them and all those nearby when they finally perish. They are essentially a ticking time bomb. While effective, the leaders of this legion are secretly seeking a way to cure this curse, scouring the libraries of those they conquer for answers before burning it to the ground.

The unit section goes into more detail on every unit in the army. Katakros was mostly explained earlier in the book, so his section isn't as long, but other get more detail. The Mortisan Bonereapers for instance are typically made from the souls of those in the afterlife of Anadiria, the underworld of creative souls who only seek to create and practice their art. Not only are they in charge of creating the legionaries of the Bonereapers' forces, but they also lead the creation of the vast statues and fortifications in Nagash's honor. Arch-Kavalos Zandtos is the only other member of the Bonereapers besides Katakros who's only made of a single soul. In life he was a talented assassin, who was obsessed with death. In his new life he seeks only to eradicate all life from Shyish, seeing it as a blight on the undead realm. Seeing a kindred soul in Katakros he quickly aligned himself with the future Mortarch before the coming of Nagash, Since becoming a member of the Bonereaper legions he's become even more obsessed with the purity of death to the point of butchery.

The gallery section has some sweet army shots of the Bonereapers with some custom fortification scenery. We get all of the 'Eavy Metals shots we expect, as well as example color schemes for the other major legions. The tutorial section goes over how to paint all of these different legions as well as the major staples of the Bonereapers such as the bone itself.

Now let's move onto the rules. If you wanted a hyper elite death army then you're definitely in luck here. They have a number of allegiance abilities, starting with Lords of the Ossiarch Empire which lets you take Nagash and Arkhan in your force, and gives the the Ossiarch Bonereapers keyword if you do. The Deathless Warriors rule is their own version of the classic "Death" save. They ignore any wound or mortal wound on a 6 if they're a unit with the Hekatos keyword or wholly within 6" of a Mortek Hekatos or 12" of a hero. This is the first big change from most normal armies, which will be really important with the next rule too. The unit champions for this army are called Mortek Hekatos while more elite units, like Stalkers and Immortis Guard, have the Hekatos keyword. This means that you don't have to rely on your heroes as much as your champions can do the same thing.

Ranks Unbroken by Dissent is the big rule, and it has several parts. First off, you never need to take a Battleshock test for this army, which is pretty good. You'll never have to worry about large units losing models to battleshock, but at the same time you may want to keep your units smaller so they can fit wholly within the range of their Mortek Hekatos. The other big part of the rule are Relentless Discipline points. These essentially take the place of command points. In fact, you can't use command points at all. At the start of each battle round you generate one point for each hero you have on the table, another one for each Liege, 3 more if you have Katakros, one for each battalion, and then roll a dice for each of your units, including your heroes, and earn another one for each roll of a 6. You use these in the place of command points for command abilities on warscrolls, the legion command abilities, and the army wide command ability. Anything you don't spend by the end of the battle round is lost, and then you generate them all over again at the start of the next one. Lastly, we have the army wide command ability, Unstoppable Advance, which can be used by a Mortek Hekatos, a unit with the Hekatos keyword, or a hero. You pick a unit wholly within range and then add 3" to their movement. They can still run and do everything else as normal. This is a huge boost and you'll probably be using it quite frequently since the guys on foot aren't the fastest.

There are two sets of six command traits each, one for Liege-Kavalos and one for Mortisans. Most of the Liege traits improve their own abilities, or make them a wizard like Dark Acolyte. Ancient Knowledge will probably see a lot of use though since it generates an additional Discipline point. The Mortisan table has the same first two traits as the Liege, including Ancient Knowledge, but the rest are all unique. There's one to deny a command point on a roll of a 6, but I think we'll see Soul Energy the most that lets you re-roll casting, unbinding, and dispelling rolls, but if you do so the wizard suffers 1 mortal wound. The artifacts are split up with six for the Liege and three for each of the three Mortisans. Helm of the Ordained for the Liege is really good since it adds 1 to hit rolls for friendly Bonereaper units wholly within range of him. I also really like Soul Reservoir for the Soulmason. You can add 2 to the casting roll, but if you ever roll a natural 10+ then you cannot use the artifact again.

The Lore of the Mortisans has six spells to pick from. Bonereaper wizards each get to pick one, while Nagash and Arkhan know all of them. My two favorite are Arcane Command, which goes off on a 5+ and gives you an additional D3 Discipline points, and Empower Nadrite Weapons. This one lets you pick a friendly Bonereaper unit and supercharges their Nadrite Weapons, generating an additional hit on a 5+ to hit and a 4+ for Deathriders charging with spears. All of your basic units have Nadrite Weapons, which normally generate additional hits on a 6, so this gives them a bit of a boost. I think we'll see this being cast a lot. Drain Vitality is also a good one where you pick an enemy unit and they have to re-roll unmodified hits and saves of 6. That could be particularly devastating on units that have abilities triggered on rolls of 6.

There are six different Legions you can choose for your army to be from. These are basically like Stormhosts with a unique rule, command ability, trait, and artifact each. The Mortis Praetorians are Katakros' own legion and subtract 1 from the bravery of any enemy unit within 12" of them. Their command ability, Counter-strike, lets units of yours that were charged by an enemy unit re-roll all of their hits. This could be really good on a unit of Mortek Guard sat on an objective. Their trait gives you D3 additional Discipline points once per battle, and the artifact changes one of the weapons to -3 rend, so all pretty good.

The Petrifex Elite are my favorite. These guys are made from fossilized bone and are super resilient, and as such have +1 to their save army wide. This makes most of your army a 3+ with units like the Immortis Guard being a 2+. Their command ability Bludgeon is also amazing, allowing you to improve one of your unit's rend characteristic by 1. The trait and artifact both make your heroes more durable by adding 2 to the wounds and negating the first wound suffered in each phase respectively.

The Stalliarch Lords are a close second favorite. All of your units can run and charge, making a cavalry army a truly terrifying prospect. Their command ability gives you even more flexibility by allowing you to pick a unit to retreat and charge. The trait and artifact both make your heroes more killy in combat, with the artifact being restricted to the Liege. The Ivory Host gets extra angry when you hurt them, and any Ivory Host unit within range of an Ivory Host unit that's wounded adds 1 to all their hit rolls, but subtracts 1 from their save rolls as they fly into a rage. Their command ability can be used to negate the save part of it though. The Null Myriad are all about negating magic and ignore the effects of spells and endless spells on a 5+ or a 2+ if you use their command ability. Their artifact, the Baleful Blade is awesome since your opponent gets no save against it at all and they cannot negate the wounds suffered by it. Lastly, the Crematorians blow up when they die and each time one of your models dies you roll a dice and on a 5+ you inflict 1 mortal wound to a nearby unit. They can also ignore cover with their command ability.

The scenery piece for the army, the massive Bone-tithe Nexus, is set up in a rather unique way. Since it's so large you actually set it up before any of the other terrain on the table. It can go anywhere on the table, as long as it's more than 3" from objectives and 6" from an edge. In your hero phase you can pick from one of four things for the Nexus to do, either a Punishment of Agony, Death, Ignorance, or Lethargy. For Agony you pick an enemy unit in range and on a 4+ they're -1 to hit until your next hero phase. Death lets you do a mortal wound to an enemy unit in range on a 2+. Ignorance lets you pick an enemy wizard and on a 2+ they're -1 to cast, dispell, and unbind until your next hero phase, and Lethargy lets you pick an enemy unit wholly within range and on a 4+ they cannot run and only roll a single D6 to charge until your next hero phase. All of these are pretty good and can be key in certain situations. The narrative scenario also revolves around the Nexus and has an enemy force attempting to destroy it. This is followed by the standard Path to Glory section.

The Bonereapers get one mega battalion, and six regular ones to choose from. Each of the six regular ones focuses on a particular aspect of the army. The Mortek Shield-Corps for example is all about the Mortek Guard and consists of three units led by a Mortisan of your choice. They then get to use their Shieldwall command ability once per turn for free. I really like the Katakrosian Deathglaive which consists of two units of Necropolis Stalkers and a unit of Morghast Harbingers. All of the units in this battalions within range of the Morghast get to move 6" before the first turn. If you combined this with the Stalliarch Lords you could get a turn one alpha strike off pretty easily. There's also the Mortisan Trident, which focuses on the Mortisans, the Aegis Immortal which is about the Immortis Guard, the Kavalos Lance which focuses on the Deathriders, and the Mortek Ballistari, which has the Mortek Crawlers.

Now onto the units themselves. I'm not going to spend a ton of time going over each of them, since you can see their scrolls for free in the App, but I did want to touch upon a few since they're so unique when compared to other armies. There are nine heroes, five of which are named characters, eight units, and three Endless Spells. The Mortek Guard, Deathriders, Stalkers, and Immortis Guard all have a command ability on their warscroll that only they can use. Both the Stalkers and Immortis Guard have the Hekatos keyword, while the other two have unit leaders that are Hekatos, meaning they can use command abilities without a hero nearby. Now, remember, this army can't use any of the generic command abilities, so they are a bit limited in that regard, but not being tied to a hero for your death save or commands really lets you deploy and move strategically. The Bonereapers, in my opinion, really favor a more elite, minimum sized unit style of play. A unit of 10 Mortek Guard are more than capable of holding up most units. Both the Mortek Guard and Deathriders have Nadrite weapons, which explode into 2 hits on a roll of a 6. This can be further amplified with the spell I mentioned above.

One of the coolest warscrolls is Katakros, which has been talked about a bit on the Community Site already. He has all of his advisors, who grant him extra abilities, and as he takes wounds they die and you lose those abilities. Once it's only him left though his attack profile increases greatly as he joins the fight proper. Him, Zandtos, and the Liege-Kavalos all have the My Will Be Done, er, I mean, Endless Duty command ability, which lets you add 1 to the attack characteristic of a Bonereaper unit within range. Katakros also has the Supreme Ruler of the Bonereaper Legions command ability, which is a bubble of +1 to hit for Bonereaper units and +1 save for Mortis Praetorian units. While his banner bearer is alive this bubble's range is doubled as well! Other things his advisors can do is get rid of enemy command points, and make an enemy unit -1 to hit. He's pretty awesome all around. He can also heal units.

My favorite Mortisan is the Soulmason for a number of reasons. That model is just so cool to start with. Most importantly though, he's a wizard that can cast twice. His own spell, Soul Guide, lets you pick a Bonereaper unit and give them re-roll 1's to hit, and because of the throne you have a chance of being able to cast it again. So you cast your two spells, then at the end of your hero phase you roll a dice. On a 1 nothing happens, on a 2-5 you can cast Soul Guide again, and on a 6 you can cast it D3 more times. Vokmortian is also pretty neat since he pretty much has a mini version of Hand of Dust and can also cast two spells. The Deathriders' command ability allows them to cause mortal wounds on the charge, and the Stalkers have a cool ability to pick a different aspect each combat phase. This can give you re-roll hits, re-roll wounds, re-roll saves, or increase rend and damage by 1. It's pretty handy. The Immortis Guard, besides being tanks, can also act as a bodyguard and absorb wounds from nearby friendly heroes on a 2+. The Morghasts have pretty much stayed the same, while the Harvester can really pump out the damage, and also heal nearby friendly units when enemies die within range. It's recycling. The Mortek Crawler is no joke either, with a 36" range and 3 attacks hitting on a 2+, wounding on a 3+ with no rend, but 5 damage! That's just it's standard attack too. It has two other ways to attack that can just flat out slay models.

For the Endless Spells we have the Nightmare Predator, Soulstealer Carrion, and Bone-tithe Shrieker. One cool rule that all three of these share is the Soul-linked rule. This makes it so that only the Bonereaper player who cast it can ever move the spell, removing the potential of an Endless Spell rampaging through your own lines. The downside is that the wizard that cast it is -1 to cast as long as they're soul-linked to it. The Predator is a mortal wound dealer, while the Carrion can heal the caster. It also grants the caster line of sight to anything the Carrion can see as well. The Bone-tithe Shrieker will probably see a lot of play since it adds +1 to hit for Bonereaper models targeting an enemy unit within range of this spell. It also subtracts 1 from the enemy's bravery. There's actually quite a bit of bravery debuffing things in this army and I'm tempted to add a Horrorghast in too. Lastly, the Bonereapers cannot take any allies. Well, it looks like I actually went into quite a bit of detail on the warscrolls, but I just love this army so much. It's so cool.

As you can tell, I really like this army. If you're a fan of the forces of Death then you'll definitely love this book. I love seeing where we're able to go in the Mortal Realms in terms of new armies. I know the Nighthaunt were a mostly new army, but I consider this to be the first all-new Death army made with AoS in mind, since the Morghasts and such were clearly made with AoS in mind back during the End Times. Prepare to pay the tithe!

Until next time,

Tyler M.

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