Wednesday, December 11, 2019

REVIEW: Slaves to Darkness

The final faction to get a Battletome is finally here in the form of the Slaves to Darkness. Besides giving the classic Chaos army a much appreciated book, this also takes care of the last of the warscrolls from the Grand Alliance books. So what does Archaon's horde have in store for us?

First things first, the cover. This is undoubtably a cool cover and very fitting for the army that is home to Archaon himself. I will say though, I'm a bit disappointed that it's not a new piece of artwork. This was the cover for the old Everchosen book back when AoS first came out. Like I said, it's an amazing cover and works perfectly, I just enjoy seeing new art. For a lot of people though this is probably their first look at it.

The book opens up with a general overview of the Slaves to Darkness as a faction. They don't worship any one particular god as a group, but instead the whole pantheon. Some will favor one god more than the other though and more than likely, the warriors in a Bloodbound army or a Maggotkin army started out as a Slave to Darkness and just advanced far enough along their path to be truly blessed by their chosen deity. Though Sigmar has started to reclaim the lands and has several cities across the Realms, the Slaves to Darkness are still the most numerous of the human factions. They basically occupy all of the lands between the bastions of Order. Each Slaves to Darkness Horde is slightly different from each other, both in makeup and size. Some could be vast armies while other may be a small tribe. Likewise, some may have truly fallen to the whims of Chaos and merely look to kill and plunder, while other, while still firmly Chaotic, may have a more traditional sense of society. While money won't hold much value to them, they still barter and trade and build cities and settlements of their own. 

We learn how slowly the inhabitants of the Realms fell to Chaos during the Age of Myth and eventually it reached critical mass and the Dark Gods were able to invade. Once Sigmar retreated to Azyr the remaining people really only had two choices, die or submit. Since then they see Sigmar as the enemy for abandoning them while the Chaos gods kept them relatively safe. Join us and we won't kill you. For now. Once the Age of Chaos had gone on for several centuries though they various tribes began to turn upon each other since there was no one else left to fight. The whole time Archaon was preparing his invasion of Azyr, but was caught off guard by Sigmar's attack. We also learn a bit about the Eightpoints, formally the Allpoints, and now the location of the Varanspire. Though his legions make their base their, Archaon is absent, off on some mysterious mission. The Allgates that lead into the Realms are mostly under his control, though he lost the gates to Azyr, Ghyran, and Ghur during the Realmgate Wars. Recently mysterious ghost lights have been flickering around the gate to Shyish.

During the Soul Wars the events of the Necroquake reverberated throughout all of the Realms, including the Eightpoints, which now has ghosts infesting almost every corner. Through this Archaon has learned from one of his biggest mistakes. Though he had not killed Nagash he thought him defeated and focused all of his energy on Sigmar instead. Now with Nagash resurgent the Everchosen won't make that same mistake twice. 

We also learn a bit about each of the four Chaos gods as well as how they are worshipped by the Slaves to Darkness. The overview of the gods isn't anything new if you're already familiar with them, but for new players it's a nice little primer. What was really interesting to me is how they're worshipped by the Hordes. Though there are only the four great powers, they're each worshipped in a multitude of ways and under a multitude of different names. While a warrior of the Slaves to Darkness may devote themselves to one of the gods above the rest, it isn't the same level of devotion as say the Arcanites or Maggotkin. A Warrior of Chaos that follows Nurgle may still say a prayer to Khorne, the god of war, before heading into battle for instance. They may even switch their allegiance as they see fit. Once a Slave to Darkness has followed the path of a particular god for long enough they may become blessed with that god's favor and transcend to the level of a Blood Warrior. There's other way to fall into the specific god factions as well, such as a Marauder joining in on the cannibalistic feasts of Khorne and throwing in their lot with the Blood Reavers.

All Slaves to Darkness seek to walk the Path to Glory. This in the simplest terms, is a way of drawing the eye of the gods and earning their favor. If one walks far enough along this path they may reach apotheosis and become a Demon Prince and join in on the gods' great game. Just as likely they may become over burdened with gifts and devolve into a Chaos Spawn. This is not always done on purpose by the gods. They just do not concern themselves with the limits of mortals and do not know when their gifts are one too many. Sometimes their gifts will take the form of a useful mutation, such as wings, or enhanced strength, other times it could be something that seemingly serves no purpose. There's also the timeline section, with two full pages of content and lots of good little story hooks.

There are a lot of units to cover in this book and they all get a chance in the spotlight. Some are combined with others, like the Warqueen and Chieftain both just falling under Darkoath, but they're still touched on within it. That was actually even more interesting to me since it explored the Darkoath as a society more than just the two characters. No one knows where they exactly came from, but as their name suggests, they swear dark oaths to the gods before heading into battle. They seem particularly resilient to falling under any one god's sway and instead worship them more as a pantheon. This only fuels the gods further to give them more gifts since they're such exceptional warriors. I would really love to see more from this faction in the future. Interestingly, Archaon gets his real backstory, having been a Templar of Sigmar in the world-that-was before falling to Chaos and ultimately destroying the Old World, but they also give a few other potential stories for him. Some say he was a mighty Emperor of Azyr before Sigmar came and then swore himself to Chaos afterwards. The first is obviously the true one, but it puts a neat in-world perspective on it, since I'm sure very few people know the real truth and Archaon isn't exactly out there giving interviews on his life.

One of the coolest additions for this Battletome are the short stories by Aaron Dembski-Bowden. This was something we saw from Josh Reynolds in the Cities of Sigmar book too and something I hope we continue to see. It adds so much to story and AD-B doesn't hold back here. If you're familiar with his writing, it's just as good as ever here. Each story is given two pages and he uses every word of those pages to maximum effect. I really want to see his take on Chaos within the Mortal Realms now in a full story or novel. He handles the dark, creepy, and entirely human side of Chaos so well. You really feel as if his characters are real, well-rounded people.

The hobby section shows off all of the models by the 'Eavy Metal team and has some excellent scenic photography as well. There are god specific color schemes shown for each of the four powers using the new Chaos Warriors models. The tutorial section goes over pretty much every step you'd need to paint those god specific models too, as well as the traditional black and gold ones.

Now onto the rules. The Slaves to Darkness have a number of rules that apply to all Slaves to Darkness armies plus four specific allegiance abilities to choose from. The first special rule is the Aura of Chaos, which involves the different marks of Chaos. Each of your heroes has an Aura dependent upon which Mark you gave them. They then affect units nearby them with a similar Mark. There are five different Marks; Khorne, Nurgle, Slaanesh, Tzeentch, and Undivided. The Khorne Aura for instance allows units with the Mark of Khorne to re-roll 1s to hit in melee when they're wholly within 12" of the hero. If the hero is your general those units can also add 1 to their wound rolls in melee. Nurgle adds 1 to damage if the unmodified hit roll is a 6 and makes the units -1 to hit against shooting. Tzeentch units can re-roll saves rolls of 1 and ignore spell and endless spell effects on a 5+, while Slaanesh causes 2 hits on an unmodified hit roll of a 6 and gets to re-roll runs and charges. Lastly, Undivided is immune to battleshock and gets a wound and mortal wound save of a 6+. Remember, all of these are wholly within 12" of the hero, so it does require you to bundle up a bit to get the bonuses.

The Eye of the Gods table from the General's Handbook rules has carried over to here as well. Whenever one of your heroes kills an enemy hero or monster in combat you get to roll 2D6 on the table to see what rewards you get. This can be adding 1 to your save roll, gaining an extra attack, summoning on demons, turning into a spawn, or ascending to become a Demon Prince. For those last two you can replace the model with the appropriate new model for free. The Demon Prince retains whatever Mark your hero had and is a wizard if they were as well. This is a fun little bonus and gives you a good reason to keep an extra Demon Prince and Spawn on hand.

There's one spell lore for the whole book regardless of which sub-allegiance you pick. There are six spells to pick from and three of them almost immediately stood out to me. Binding Damnation goes off on a 7+ and allows you to pick an enemy unit and make it fight last in combat, which is pretty big in the current meta. Whispers of Chaos is a good horde killer and lets you roll a dice for each model in an enemy unit. On a 6 they suffer a mortal wound. On top of that, if any models were killed then that unit can't move again until your next hero phase. It's a bit of a double whammy. Mask of Darkness is a good old teleport spell, allowing you to pick a unit near you and set it up anywhere on the table more than 9" away from an enemy unit. There's a lot of good picks in here and I'd say all together it's a very strong lore.

The first sub-allegiance are the Ravagers. These are your standard Chaos guys, raiding and pillaging the Realms. As long as your general is not a Demon Prince, then all 6 of your hero choices can have a command trait that they get to use during the game, though each has to be a different one. You also get to pick which model acts as your general each turn, allowing you to maximize your Auras and other command ability ranges. They also have a special command ability that lets you summon on a unit of Marauders, Marauder Horsemen, or Cultists (Warcry units) on from one of the board edges. This can only be used once per battle by the same model and it has to be your general, giving you even more reason to switch up your general each turn if you want to take full advantage of it. They have six command traits and six artifacts to choose from. The traits range from giving them extra wounds, to causing mortal wounds on the roll of a six and messing with the Eye of the Gods table. There's nothing that immediately stands out to me, but more than likely you'll be able to take most of the ones you want. Mark of the High-Favored stands out to me from the artifacts. It boosts the range on your Aura ability from 12" to 18".

The second sub-allegiance are the Cabalists. These are the masters of magic amongst the Chaos armies. In your hero phase you can pick one of your wizards to perform one of two rituals. The first goes off on a 3+ and lets you inflict D3 mortal wounds on a nearby friendly unit. For each model killed you add 1 to the casting roll of your wizards for that turn. The second also has you inflict D3 mortal wounds on a friendly unit and for each model killed you can pick a predatory endless spell nearby them and move it 3", 6", or 9". They also have a unique spell that all their wizards know, Crippling Ruin. It goes off on a 7+ and inflicts D3 mortal wounds on an enemy unit and reduces their move by 1" for each mortal wound until your next hero phase. Of their six command traits, the first three are the same as the first three on the Ravagers, while the second three all give you ways to boost your Rituals. I think the two best artifacts are the Scroll of Dark Unbinding, which gives you a once per game auto-unbind, and Spell Familiar, which lets you know one extra spell from the lore.

The third sub-allegiance are the Despoilers. These guys are led by Demon Princes and are looking to corrupt the Realms. Their first trait is that the general's range on their Aura is 18" instead of 12" and they ignore wounds and mortal wounds on a 5+. You also roll for all of your Demon Princes and Monsters on the table in each of your hero phases and on a 4+ heal D3 wounds. The most unique rule allows your Demon Princes to corrupt scenery pieces near them, making them impossible to see through and having the potential to cause mortal wounds to nearby units. Your Demon Princes and Monsters are unaffected by this though, giving you the advantage. Paragon of Ruin seems like the best command trait giving D3 units a pre-game 5" move. Helm of Many Eyes stands out from the artifacts, allowing its bearer to fight first in the combat phase. Since Demon Princes can already do this you'd want to use this on a mortal hero. There's also another one that gives you an extra D3 command points at the start of the game.

The last sub-allegiance is the Host of the Everchosen. As the name suggests this is Archaon's personal army. All of the buffs rely on your general being Archaon, so it's not really worth taking unless you're doing that. It gives him an 18" Aura, makes your entire army Battleshock immune as long as he's alive, and lets you pick one enemy unit a turn and giving your army re-roll 1s to hit and wound against it in melee. The Dark Prophecy command ability has been the talk of the internet lately and is pretty good. It lets you roll a dice at the start of your hero phase and keep the result hidden from your opponent until you roll for the next turn priority. On a 4-6 you get the turn, and on a 1-3 the opponent does. This lets you plan for whether you're going to get the double turn with 100% certainty. Instead of having artifacts or traits, since Archaon can't take them anyway, you get to pick which of the Circles your Varanguard units are from. There are eight to choose from. These abilities range from giving them Fly, to allowing you to re-setup all of your First Circle units at the start of the first battle round.

The narrative battleplan has a Chaos Sorcerer Lord trying to unleash a dark magic protected by an enemy army. The sorcerer must sacrifice Marauders nearby to complete a ritual, and if they get over 10 models sacrificed they win. It's a cool idea and very thematic from the Slaves to Darkness. As the originators of the Path of Glory it only makes sense that they have a set of those rules in here as well.

There are eight Warscroll Battalions to pick from and one mega battalion. Three of the battalions are "Undivided" or don't require a specific Mark, while four of them center around a fully Marked army, and the last one is all about the Varanguard. I particularly like the Ruinbringer Warband, which is a Chaos Lord on mount or Karkadrak, and then 4-8 units in any combination from Chaos Knights, Marauder Horsemen, Chariots, or Gorebeast Chariots. The benefit they gain is that each time a unit from this battalion finished a charge it does D3 mortal wounds on a 2+. I just really like the idea of a mostly Chariot army since Chaos Chariots are battleline in a full Slaves to Darkness army too. Each of the god focused battalions has a god Marked hero, then a number of god Marked units that correlate to their god, so seven for Nurgle, eight for Khorne, etc. These battalions can also be taken in their god's faction, so you can take a Plaguetouched Warband battalion in your Maggotkin of Nurgle army if you want. The Overlords of Chaos battalion allows you to give each of the Varanguard units in it a different Circle keyword instead of just picking one for all of them, but can only be taken in a Host of the Everchosen army.

There are a lot of warscrolls in here, 40 to be precise, with a lot of heroes too. Everything that was in the Slaves to Darkness faction before is here along with Be'lakor, some other monsters, and all of the Warcry stuff. Everything has been tweaked a little bit, with the majority of it receiving a bit of an upgrade. Archaon is definitely worthy of the title Everchosen now. His sword even has rend -2 on it now! I won't be going over all of the scrolls since you can see them for free, but there are some good combos in here. I particularly like the Furies as a cheap unit that can have a big impact on your game.

There are also three new Endless Spells in here. I think the Eightfold Doom-Sigil will see a lot of use since it really buffs your units. Each turn you keep track of how many models died within 12" of it and then at the end of the turn whoever's turn it is rolls a dice for each model killed and on each 3+ they must pick one Slaves to Darkness unit within range of it to get +1 attack until their next hero phase. This means it goes off in each player's turn, forcing your opponent to pick which of your units to buff in their turn. Of course, if they're also playing Slaves to Darkness they can just pick their own units instead. Still, it's very powerful. The Slaves to Darkness are able to ally in Beasts of Chaos, Khorne, Nurgle, Slaanesh, and Tzeentch units. They have a number of battleline units to pick from too if they're pure Slaves to Darkness. Besides just the Marauders and Warriors, you also have Marauder Horsemen, Chaos Knights, and Chaos Chariots, as well as Varanguard in a pure Everchosen army.

It's awesome seeing the Slaves to Darkness finally getting their time in the spotlight. This book really fleshes them out and makes them feel like a believable and interesting faction. The new models definitely help too since those older Chaos Warriors are a bit static now. Not only is the lore excellent in here, especially Aaron's contributions, but there are some really good list options as well. Anything in here that can be god marked can be taken in one of the god specific armies too, so a lot of opportunities have really been opened up. Now that we're firmly out of the Grand Alliance books I'm really excited for where the game could go in the future.

Until next time,

Tyler M.

No comments:

Post a Comment