Wednesday, January 8, 2020

REVIEW: Kharadron Overlords 2020

Everyone's favorite boat loving duardin are back with their newly updated Battletome for AoS2. The Kharadron Overlords have returned with new rules, expanded lore, and plenty of cool new artwork. Let's check out what their new book has in store.

Starting off with the cover we now have a Grundstok Thunderer front and center as opposed to an Arkanaut. I really like this artwork. It's very well done and has a lot of the essence of the Kharadron in it. The only thing I would do to improve it is to have one of their skyvessels more prominent in it. There's kind of one near the top, but it's just the bottom of the boat and it's partially obscured by the AoS logo. I feel like the boats are such a major parts of the Kharadron that it's a shame they're not on the front of the book. At the same time I understand that you want to make sure you get a duardin in there and the boats take up a lot of space, so it's a hard thing to balance. Personally I do think I prefer the cover from the last edition more, but that's not saying this is a bad cover at all, in fact, it's very good.

The book itself starts off with an overview of the Kharadron Overlords (KO). The core structure of their lore has stayed the same, but a lot more has been fleshed out since last time. For those who aren't familiar with the KO they're the remnants of the duardin empires that were conquered during the Age of Chaos. Instead of fleeing to Azyr, they fled to the skies on what would one day become the first skyports. Since then they have flourished above the Mortal Realms, creating a web of city state like kingdoms that mine the seams of aethergold that thread the clouds. They use this aethergold to power their weapons and their flying boats known as skyvessels. Unlike the duardin of old they value merit above all else and the status of any given duardin rises and falls with their ability to turn a profit, not based on their bloodlines. Most of the KO view magic and gods as unexplained scientific anomalies. They acknowledge they exist, but think the answers for why they're able to do what they do just haven't been discovered yet. The most succinct definition of the Kharadron Overlords is that they are agnostic capitalists to the extreme. If they can squeeze a profit out of something, they will. Despite this they're not unscrupulous. In fact, they live be a code, the Kharadron Code. This set of guidelines dictates how they can wage war, conduct business, and everything in between.

We get a bit more backstory on everything we've heard before. For instance, we learn that during the Age of Myth Grungni made sure the duardin in Chamon were all set up with everything they would need before he left them to go help Sigmar, believing that it was better for them to make it on their own. We also learn that the empires of Chamon were primarily made up of duardin, humans, and something called gholemkind. This is just a throw away line right now, but I really hope it gets circled back to later because the idea of a race of golems sounds very interesting. It wasn't long before Tzeentch set his eyes upon Chamon and started planting the seeds of his conquest. Once the portal was open the demon legions of Tzeentch poured through and quickly overwhelmed all of the empires. Whilst some duardin fled for hidden enclaves or made desperate last stands, the clans devoted to the works of the steamhead pioneers found another way. Using their wondrous technologies they built flying strongholds which fled to the clouds. After they had fended off the worst of their pursuers the ancestors of the KO inevitably turned to fighting each other as they sought the limited resources available to them. With full on civil war on the horizon the various leaders met one last time and came up with the Kharadron Code, a set of laws that all of the skyports agreed to abide by.

The resource that all KO value above all else is aether-gold. This miraculous material is found amongst the clouds and takes the form of a lighter than air golden gas. Using this material they are able to create and power all of their advanced technology. To mine the aether-gold they have vast convoys of skyvessels which dredge the seams of gold. There are numerous dangers involved as well as many magical beasts seek to feed on it while other races such as the Grotbag Scuttlers also seek to harvest it. It's even mentioned how the KO are using up their aether-gold at such a momentous pace that they may very well run the well dry. At which point, KO society would inevitably collapse as all of their day to day activities rely upon it. Some skyports, such as Barak-Thryng, have tried to warn against this, but it has only fallen upon deaf ears. A very timely story hook considering the current events of our own world.

Like all of the re-done Battletomes for AoS2, one of the most interesting aspects is how the events of the Necroquake have affected them. The KO referred to this as the Garaktormun, and the waves of Nighthaunt processions hit every skyport, completely overwhelming and destroying several lesser ones. Worse still, the waves of magic knocked many of the seams of aether-gold off course, disrupting the Kharadron's livelihood. The repercussions were so bad that many new amendments were made to the code to deal with the fallout. Not all was lost though, as it also opened up new avenues of profit for the KO, as they were now able to venture into areas that offered tremendous rewards, but also great danger.

This book also gives us our first real look at how Skyports work. Not in the mechanical sense, but more of how they work as cities. We learn how most of them are laid out as well as the various districts they're divided up into. Visitors, such as human, aelves, and even other duardin, typically never make it beyond the docks districts. To be fair though, I imagine the docks districts to be fairly large on a Skyport. It mentions how they will have all of the taverns and such you'd expect. Once you start going deeper you have the warehouses and factories, then the wealthy district of manors and palaces, with the governmental plaza at the very center. It also goes over how the coalition of Skyports works, how the council works, and what the current wealth of each major Skyport is. The three main Guilds, Aether-Khemist Guild, Nav-league, and the Endrineers Guild, also get covered. What's most interesting to me is the boxout talking about the various other companies that make up the Kharadron society. Of course a society entirely geared towards turning a profit would be filled to the brim with corporations and businesses looking to do the same. The example they give is about a company that makes super-charged endrins.

They only get two pages for their timeline, but it still manages to cover quite a bit spanning the three Ages. One of the most interesting entries to me is a bit about Brokk Grungsson doing a grand tour of all of the Cities of Sigmar as a bit of public relations. However, after meeting the chief architect of Greywater Fastness he leaves in a hurry, to everyone's surprise. We are also shown how the sky-fleets are typically organized before heading into a little paragraph on each of the major skyports. A lot of this will be familiar to people who have read the last book. One really cool new bit is about Barak-Mhornar, which has voluntarily left Chamon. To get to it now, Kharadron have to fly through a realmgate of umbral magic situated where the city used to be, then get led through a series of mist shrouded floating islands before coming to the Skyport itself. The KO of that city also refuse to tell anyone where the skyport is actually located, though it sounds like Ulgu to me.

The unit section gives each selection in the army its chance to shine. Each of the heroes has a cool new portrait, all done in the same style that I really like. Here we go into more detail, like how a Kharadron become an Arkanaut through a special selection process. They get three chances at this and if after the third time they're still not chosen to be an Arkanaut then they have to go find a different job like working on the docks or one of the larger cargo carriers. The Grundstok Company gets further explored as well.

In the gallery section we get to see all of the cool 'Eavy Metal paint jobs as well as some really evocative scenic photographs. I really appreciate that they took the time to blur the cotton used to make the clouds. It really sells the cloud effect more where as in the last book it just looked like piles of cotton more often than not. The tutorial section shows you how to paint each of the six major skyports with a step by step tutorial. I think these are all the same as what was in the last book, but it's still great material for hobbyists.

Now onto the rules. Their allegiance abilities have changed a little bit since last time. Their main ability, Stick to the Code, is still there, but there are a lot less choices for codes. When you make your army you get to pick one Artycle, one Amendment, and one Footnote, except now there's only three of each. This isn't a huge deal though as more often than not I think you'll be playing as one of the six major Skyports which all already have their codes pre-selected for you. The new addition to their abilities is the Aether-gold rule. Each of your heroes, skyvessels, and units of 10 or more models start the battle with one share of aether-gold. Once per phase you can pick a unit and say it will spend its aether-gold. You can then use one of the generic triumphs for it. After you spend a unit's gold you can't do so again, and that unit is also -1 bravery for the rest of the game.

There are four tables of command traits to choose from, one for Admirals, one for Endrinmasters, one for Navigators, and one for Khemists. They all have the same first two, with three of them having the same first three such as Wealthy, which lets that character start the game with two shares of aether-gold instead of one. Some of my other favorites are Cunning Fleetmaster for your Admiral, which lets you move one skyvessel before the game begins, Ride the Winds for the Navigator, which lets you add 3" to the move of the boat he's on, and Genius in the Making, which increases the Khemist's Augmentation ability from 12" to 18".

The artifacts of power are split up the same way, but the Khemist and Navigator only have three to choose from instead of six. Proclamator Mask-hailer is a good choice for the Admiral since it lets you use one of his command abilities for free once per battle. Of course, the one everyone is talking about is the Spell in a Bottle for the Khemist. This allows you to pick any Endless Spell, regardless of allegiance, and cast it once per battle. It's a pretty cool artifact and really opens up your options with this army. There are also Great Endrinworks to choose from. These are essentially Mount Traits but for your skyvessels. The Ironclad has six to choose from, while the Frigate and Gunhauler both have three a piece. Prudency Chutes is an option for both the Frigate and Ironclad and makes it so you don't need to roll to see if any of the models on board are killed when it dies. I also like the Coalbeard's Collapsible Compartment for the Gunhauler, especially for smaller games. This allows the Gunhauler to carry five models.

There are six Skyports for you to choose from for your army. These are like the Stormhosts in that it grants you extra abilities, but forces you to take certain artifacts and traits, and in this case, certain Kharadron Codes as well. Barak-Nar are the poster boys of the KO and their ability has you roll a dice for each of your heroes on the table (including those in boats) at the start of the first turn, and on a 4+ you get an extra command point. Their Codes revolve around re-rolling battleshock tests, as well as allowing all of your heroes a chance to unbind a spell and getting +1 to that roll. Barak-Zilfin has always been about their boats, and we see that reflected here. They get to choose one extra Great Endrinwork for their skyvessels. Their Code allows them to always run 6" without rolling, make a move in the hero phase once per game, and gives them a bonus against targeting flying units. Their trait gives you the chance to recover command points your general spends on a 5+ as well. Barak-Zon gives your army a bit of a boost to your melee attacks if you charged that turn, while their Code further reinforces this with a bonus to their bravery, bonuses for your heroes fighting other heroes and monsters, and the ability to leave a boat in your hero phase. Their artifact boosts your hero's number of attacks and their trait is actually pretty good too. The first time your general dies, on a 2+ they are not killed and have D3 wounds remaining instead. These guys are definitely the combat army of the bunch.

Barak-Urbaz makes it so you don't lose 1 Bravery when using your aether-gold share. Their code gives D3 units an extra piece of aether-gold, and once per battle a unit can gain a piece if they fought in the combat phase. If you take a Khemist as your general they can pick two units for their Augmentation ability. Barak-Mhornar's big thing is that in your first turn all of your units can run and still shoot. Their Footnote also allows you to pick a unit to fight first in the combat phase once per battle. If your general is on a boat at the start of the game, their trait allows you to redeploy that boat anywhere on the board more than 9" away from enemy units. Lastly, Barak-Thryng's ability allows a model to fight on the roll of a 4+ if it's killed. Their Amendment lets you take any Duardin unit in your army and gives them the Barak-Thryng keyword, but only 1 in 4 units can be Duardin. The Footnote lets you pick a unit once per battle and has them do 2 hits on an unmodified hit roll of a 6 instead of just 1.

The Narrative battleplan focuses on a contingent of Kharadron who have crash landed and are surrounded by enemy forces. The KO force is split in two, with half starting in the middle of the board, and the other half acting as the rescue force that arrives later in the game. If someone wanted to make a crashed skyvessel for this to be fought around it would look pretty awesome. They also have all of the Path to Glory rules a normal.

There are four Warscroll Battalions for them to pick from, including one mega battalion. These are the same battalions as they had in their last book, just with some updated rules. The Iron Sky Command now makes your units immune to battleshock if they're within range of the Ironclad. The Iron Sky Attack Squadron, which is the one with Frigates and Arkanauts, allows them to leave the frigate before or after its move. They also get a charge bonus on the turn they leave a Frigate. The Grundstok Escort Wing lets you pick an enemy unit at the start of the shooting phase and every unit from your battalion gets to re-roll hit rolls of 1 against it. This is probably my favorite battalion since it has several Gunhaulers, a Frigate, Thunderers, and Skywardens in it. Those are all pretty good units for shooting.

There is only one new unit in the army, the Endrinmaster with Dirigible Suit, but every warscroll has been pretty substantially changed. I'm not going to go over all of the changes, but I will talk about some of the biggest ones. The biggest change to the army is undoubtably how the skyvessels work. The Sky Transport rule now uses the garrison rules from the core rulebook, meaning the models embarked on it can shoot from it and fight from it as well. This is a huge change and just feels right thematically. Of course they would be fighting from the decks of their ships! As a trade off, the units embarked on the ship can now be targeted as well. The boats also gained the Disengage rule. This allows the boat to retreat from combat and still shoot that turn. The only caveats are that they have to have suffered less than 10 wounds and they cannot do this if the unit they're in combat with can fly. One of the coolest new rules is the Fly High rule. Basically, instead of moving the boat normally, you can put it anywhere on the board more than 9" away from the enemy. This makes the army super maneuverable. All of the boats also got better armor saves to reflect the fact that they're big iron boats. Another big change is that the Arkanauts can only take 1 of each special weapon for every 10 models, basically meaning they can only be equipped with what comes in the box. No more three skyhooks. The Thunderers also gained a rule that gives them +1 to hit if they have 1 of each of their special weapons. The Skywardens and Endrinriggers can't attach themselves to a boat for its whole move anymore, but they can attach themselves to a boat that Flies High if they're close enough. The Admiral also now has four command abilities, two for the shooting phase, and one for combat and one for charges. Most of these only effect the Skyvessel he's on, but I think it's really cool. There are a bunch of other changes to the rest of the army as well, but those are all of the major ones in my opinion. All in all I think the KO are in a much better position than they were before with some really cool new rules that reflects the lore wonderfully. Perhaps one of the biggest changes is what's battleline now. Previously it was only the Arkanauts, well, now they have a bunch of battleline ifs. In a Barak-Zilfin army Frigates are battleline. In a Barak-Urbaz army Gunhaulers are battleline. In Barak-Nar Thunderers are battleline, and if the Endrinmaster with Dirigible Suit is your general then both Skywardens and Endrinriggers are battleline. This really opens up your options and even lets you do an all boat army (plus a hero) if you really want to.

I think the Kharadron Overlords really scored big on their new Battletome. Their lore and background was deepened a ton and their rules got an almost complete overhaul. In the last book, all the major points of their background were there, but a lot of it was very surface level. Here we really got to dive into the nitty gritty of it all and learn more about how they function as a society. It's also no secret that their previous rules didn't work spectacularly. They had a lot of FAQs and even had an entire warscroll replaced. Now we have everything brought up to date for AoS2 and they've been made into a much better army that looks like a ton of fun to play. I already have a Frigate, a Navigator, and a unit of Arkanauts painted from the last release, which only puts me three Gunhaulers and an Admiral away from having a pretty cool 1,000 point force. I'm really hoping we see more boats on the table with this new book.

Until next time,

Tyler M.

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