Thursday, January 16, 2020

REVIEW: Disciples of Tzeentch 2020

Tzeentch is the master of Change, and 2020 brings a change of the Disciples of Tzeentch Battletome with a new and updated version for AoS2. What magical might lays inside this arcane grimoire?

First things first, I really like this cover. The old cover was great too, but something about it just seemed odd as a Battletome cover. Generally it's focused on a single warrior of the army with some of the other units and characters in the peripheral. The old one just had a Lord of Change leading a whole army of demons on it. Again, it is a fantastic piece of art in its own right, but just felt a little jarring. Here we have a single Kairic Acolyte taking center stage with some Tzaangors and demons off on the side. All is right with the world now. I also really like the design of the Acolytes. I think they're one of the coolest AoS kits and I have 30 of them primed waiting to be painted at some point, so maybe I'm a bit biased.

The book itself opens with a brief overview of Tzeentch. If you're a fan of any kind of Warhammer, you're probably familiar with him already, but here's a quick overview for the uninitiated. Tzeentch is one of the four Chaos gods and the Changer of Ways. He's all about mastery over fate and magic. Essentially, if it's a plot he can influence, then he's probably influenced it. Back during the Age of Myth he began sowing the seeds of his domination. Whispering promises of power and magical mastery to those who delve too deeply into forbidden lore. Slowly these scholars and warrior mystics began to fall to Tzeentch's whim until the Age of Chaos erupted in full and his legions poured through. The Realm of Metal was most coveted by the Change of Ways and it almost fell completely to the god's control before Sigmar's return.

A lot of the overview of Tzeentch has stayed the same since the last book, but there are a few bits of information that are new or interesting. They mention how in his rivalry with Nurgle he had the Blue Scribes steal a seven volume set of books from beside Nurgle's cauldron that contained the cures for every disease he had concocted. Nurgle has gotten his revenge a few times though, like when he unleashed a supernatural plague that made Tzeentch's demons blind from cataracts, and even infected the Changer of Ways himself. Tzeentch even had a hand in Slaanesh's capture by the aelven gods. It goes over Tzeentch's realms as well, the Crystal Labyrinth. At the center of this labyrinth sits the Impossible Fortress, which none have escaped except, rumor has it, for a little girl and her dog. This is such a fun little wink and nod to the reader.

The demons of Tzeentch take many forms and are constantly in flux. This is their very essence. Despite this they can be broken down into a few more recognizable forms, mainly Horrors, Flamers, Screamers, Lords of Change, and the various heralds. His demonic legions are divided up into nine hosts each, led by a Lord of Change. Some of the more notorious hosts include the Hosts Duplicitous, Hosts Arcanum, The Transcendental Change, and the Eternal Conflagration. Each of the nine hosts gets a little snippet of lore to go with it as well as their symbol. The Eternal Conflagration seems pretty cool to me and is the one that is primarily filled with Flamers. They seek to cleanse all in the flames of change.

While the demons are cool, it's the mortal followers of Tzeentch that interest me the most. Specifically the Arcanites. The bulk of an Arcanite cult is made up of the Kairic Acolytes. These warriors and servants of Tzeentch conceal their identity and typically live amongst the populous of a city of Sigmar. Using magic they can transform themselves into the pinnacle of human perfection when the time is right to launch their attack. The other mainstay of the Arcanite Cults are the Tzaangors. These magically touched Gors may hide amongst the city as well, or out in the wilds of the land and appear when needed. There's a cool little boxout in here about the fall of Excelsis as well. This is basically the plot of the City of Secrets book, so it's nice to see it integrated so fully into the lore. In a nice little twist on the ending of that book it mentions how after the Arcanite plot was foiled, the defenders of the city turned their gaze inwards looking for corruption. This has left their outer defenses less strong and ties in nicely to the story hooks from the Orruk Warclans book which said Gordrakk is on his way there now. It also goes over a bit on how the cults operate and how they're structured. The artwork on this page is probably my favorite in the whole book.

The timeline goes over some key moments from the three Ages of the Mortal Realms. Some of my favorite include the Glossolalia in the Dark Tongue which sees the Dark Tongue being researched in Hysh during the Age of Myth as obscure languages are in fashion. One group takes the research so far that they accidentally become infected with the will of Tzeentch. These scholars are then sent off to other realms and cities to spread their unclean truths. It's also mentioned how Tzeentch had his hand in the Necroquake not going exactly to plan. He saw Nagash's plan beforehand and knew the magical force unleashed would benefit him, so it was he how had the Skaven sent into the Black Pyramid at just the right moment to send the ritual awry.

The unit section breaks down the army unit by unit and gives each of them a more thorough exploration. Again, much has stayed the same here, but little bits have been fleshed out even more. The Ogroid Thaumaturges, one of the coolest Tzeentch models, are shown to strive for sophistication, presenting themselves as cerebral and pretentious, but let their bestial nature through when provoked. It's also mentioned how they're revered within the Pyrofane Cult for their mastery of warp fire. In a nice little twist on the Gaunt Summoners it's revealed that it was Tzeentch himself who allowed Archaon to bind them to his will. The Changer of Ways weighed the pros and cons of it and decided it would be more beneficial to have a "in" with the Everchosen if needed.

The hobby sections shows off all of the 'Eavy Metal models as well as some really cool scenic photos. The tutorial part of it actually covers almost all of the techniques you would need to paint an entire Tzeentch army. While parts of it are ported over from past books, there are plenty of new techniques shown using the new Contrast Paint range. Tzeentch really is a perfect match for Contrast paint.

Now onto the rules. Destiny Dice are back! Just like last time, you roll nine dice at the start of the game and set them to the side. You can then use these dice in place of a roll, but you have to declare it before you roll anything. There are a limited number of things you can use this for which are Casting, Unbinding, Dispelling, Run, Charge, hit, Wound, Save, Damage, and Battleshock rolls. Just like with past demon books the Locus rules have been moved from the individual warscrolls to an army wide rule. In this case we get the Locus of Change which makes all Tzeentch demons -1 to hit in melee if their within range of a friendly demon hero. The Summoning mechanic works the same as before as well. For each spell that successfully goes off, yours or your opponents, you earn one Fate Point. These can then be spent at the end of your movement phase to bring on a new unit. You can only do this once per turn though, so you can't summon multiple things at once. This starts with three Screamers for 10 Fate Points all the way up to a Lord of Change for 30 Fate Points.

The big new addition to the army wide rules are the Agendas of Anarchy. There are nine Agendas to pick from, and at the start of each of your hero phases you can pick one to try and complete. You have to tell your opponent what it is though and you're not allowed to repeat it. For example, there's Mass Conjuration, which has you pick one friendly Tzeentch Wizard and if they successfully cast two spells on an unmodified 9+ that hero phase then they get to add +1 to all of their casting rolls for the rest of the game. Some of these are easier to complete than others.

For command traits we get six for Arcanites, six for Demons, and three for Mortals. The Arcanites and Demons table shares the first three traits. Arch-Sorcerer lets you know two extra spells, which is always good, while Nexus of Fate lets you roll a dice and replace one of your Destiny Dice with it. I really like Arcane Sacrifice, which lets an Arcanite hero inflict one mortal wound on a nearby friendly unit and then gets to add 9" onto the range of any of their spells that turn. It's good, and really thematic. The artifacts are broken up into four tables, Mortal, Arcanites, Demonic Weapons, and Demonic Powers. The Mortals get six, Arcanites three, Demon Weapons six, and Powers three. An Arcanite hero will get to pick from the Mortal and Arcanite table though since they will have both keywords. Aspect of Tzeentch is probably the best. It's a Demonic Power that lets you roll a dice each time you spend a Destiny Dice, on a 5+ you can roll another Destiny Dice to replace the one you just spent.

As befits a Tzeentch book there are two tables of six spells each, one for Arcanites and Mortals, and one for Demons. Fold Reality and Tzeentch's Firestorm are both back and still just as good as ever, so I expect to see these in almost every list. Fold Reality gives you the chance to bring back slain models to a demon unit. Firestorm is just a great horde killer. Glimpse the Future is really good to for the mortals, giving you another way to replace Destiny Dice.

There are six "stormhosts" to choose from for the army, three focusing on demons and three on Arcanites. The Eternal Conflagration gives all of your Flamers and Flamer based units an extra -1 rend on their shooting attacks. Their command ability also gives you a way to mess with the enemy's bravery when shooting at them with Flamers. The command trait makes nearby friendly demon units -1 to hit from shooting. This will couple well with the Locus, making them -1 to hit all around. The Hosts Duplicitous has a really nasty ability that makes it so enemy units cannot retreat from combat from them. This allows you to tie up units with smaller throwaway units until you can deal with them. Their command ability lets you replace a destroyed Horror unit on a 5+, and their command trait allows and friendly nearby Tzeentch demon wizards to re-roll their casting or unbinding rolls. This is just an all around awesome host. Lastly for the demons is the Hosts Arcanum. They can auto unbind a spell once per turn. Their command ability benefits Screamers, giving them +1 save and -1 rend on their bite attacks. Their trait allows D3 units that can fly to move up to 6" before the first battle round and their artifact lets you bring on a free unit of 6 Screamers once per battle. I really like this Host too. I'm a fan of the Screamer models and this seems to really amp them up.

The Arcanite cults start with the Cult of the Transient Form. Their main rule is that when an Acolyte is killed you roll a dice. On a 2-5 they get to fight before getting removed, and on a 6 they turn into a Tzaangor and get added to a Tzaangor unit that's within range. Their command ability gives you +1 to this roll. The Pyrofane Cult was my favorite in the old book and here they're just as cool. All of your Acolytes get +1 to hit for their shooting attack, and if they did any wounds on a unit at the end of the phase you roll a dice and on a 5+ that unit suffers a further D3 mortal wounds. Their command ability lets an Acolyte unit re-roll their wound rolls for that attack as well, making them extra deadly. Lastly, the Guild of Summoners has a really unique way to summon on Lords of Change. Instead of the normal cost of 30 Fate Points, they only cost 9 points the first time, 18 the second time, and then 30 every time after that. You're pretty much guaranteed to get a Lord of Change within your first two turns. Their command ability lets you add +1 to casting for wizard of your choice, and their trait has a way to generate extra command points as well.

The narrative battleplan sees an enemy army attempting to stop an arcane ritual. The twist is that the Cult Leader for the Tzeentch army is hidden. Essentially, your general starts in reserve and there are four ritual points on the battlefield. The enemy army must search each one and on a 6+ that's where the Cult Leader is. If they search 3 and still haven't found them then they're automatically revealed to be at the fourth spot. The Tzeentch player needs to keep their general alive while the other player is trying to kill them. We also get all of the Path to Glory tables as usual.

The warscroll battalions are divided up into demons and Arcanites. There are six regular demonic battalions and one mega battalion for them. The dreaded Changehost is back, the bane of my AoS1 games (shakes fist at Rhellion). Now it lets you teleport any two units from the battalion at the start of your hero phase to anywhere on the board, 9" away from the enemy. It's still really good, and now way less complicated to use. The Omniscient Oracles battalion is Kairos plus three Lords of Change and lets you re-roll hit, wound, and save rolls of 1 for all of those units. There's also a Flamer focused one, a Horror focused one, a Herald focused one, and the Overseer's Fate-Twisters, which lets you add more dice to your Destiny Dice pool and is a bit of a grab bag of heroes, Exalted Flamers, and Burning Chariots. On the Arcanite side we have all of the old battalions returning with slight twists to their rules. I really like the Wychfyre Coven which is three units of Acolytes and a unit of Enlightened. This lets you use the shooting attack from one of your Acolyte units in your hero turn. The Tzaangor Coven is also pretty good, consisting of two of each type of Tzaangor. This lets you pick one of the units within 3" of an enemy unit at the start of your hero phase and either shoot or fight with them.

All of the warscrolls got some changes, but you can see all of them in the App for free, so I'm not going to spend a lot of time going over all of them. The Gaunt Summoner has been brought in line with the Slaves to Darkness one, minus the disc. They both have the Tzeentch and Slaves to Darkness keywords though, so you can take either version in either army. The Fatemaster has had his Disc upgraded to match the profile of his Tzaangor counterparts, giving him a bit more bite in combat which is always welcome. My favorite change is to the Kairic Acolytes. They're now proper wizards and can cast and unbind one spell as long as they have nine or more models. They only know one spell though, Gestalt Sorcery. This goes off on a 6 and gives their shooting attack, Sorcerous Bolt, -1 rend. The Enlightened on Disc and on Foot have also been split into two proper profiles. The last new addition to the army are the three new Endless Spells. The one that stands out to me is the Tome of Eyes since it lets you re-roll casting attempts by the wizard who cast it. It also has their spells go off automatically on a 2 or a 12, though it does D3 mortal wounds back to the caster. The other two are okay, but don't really shine to me. The Burning Sigil is okay if you roll well enough on the random table since it can add 1 to the attack value of a nearby unit, but that's not guaranteed. Lastly, there are a few new Battleline Ifs for the army. Flamers are Battleline in a Eternal Conflagration army while Screamers are Battleline in a Hosts Arcanum army. Chariots are Battleline if you have a Fateskimmer as your general.

This book made a lot of necessary tweaks to the Tzeentch army to bring them up to speed for AoS2 and simplify the whole process. On the lore side there were a few advancements and a lot of stuff got fleshed out more, so if you're a Tzeentch fan then you're probably pretty happy with it. I've always been more of a Khorne and Nurgle guy, but I am tempted by a mostly Arcanite force, or even a mostly Screamer force now.

Until next time,

Tyler M.

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