Thursday, February 6, 2020

REVIEW: Wrath of the Everchosen

The latest addition to the Soul Wars saga is finally here in the form of the Wrath of the Everchosen. Nagash has decided to go all in and has sent Katakros and Olynder to invade the Eightpoints and take the fight directly to Chaos. Will they succeed and who will come out on top?

The cover on this is pretty awesome. Who doesn't like seeing Archaon destroying his foes? This cover actually reminds me of the old Storm of Chaos cover since it also had ol' Archy on foot in a similar pose. This being AoS though, it's of course turned up to 11.

Once you crack open the book you get a brief introduction to what this book is, such as what to expect in it, and then we delve right into the story. Books like this are always challenging to review since I don't want to ruin or spoil the story for people intending to read it. I'll try and cover as much of it as I can up to the point where I think it would start to dilute the joy of reading it yourself. The set up sees Nagash ready to challenge Archaon and Chaos itself in their seat of power. Katakros and the Bonereapers are now ready to help conquer the Mortal Realms in their master's name. The Great Necromancer sees the Eightpoints as the perfect staging grounds for his conquest since it has direct access to the rest of the Realms. All he has to do is take it away from the Everchosen. Luckily for him, Archaon and his Varanguard are off on a secret mission, leaving the Eightpoints under the command of a highly regarded Chaos Lord and one of his Gaunt Summoners.

First things first, Katakros has to take back control of the Gate of Endings, the massive realmgate that leads to Shyish. However, on the Eightpoints side of this there is a massive Dreadhold that would take way too much time and resources for the Bonereaper legions to overcome on their own. This is no problem for his incorporeal ally though, and Olynder and her Legion of Grief sweep through the realmgate and all but overwhelm the defenders on the other side. When the Chaos Lord and Gaunt Summoner arrive to attempt to relieve their forces, the Chaos Lord is killed by Olynder himself, in one of the coolest scenes in the book if I do say so myself, and the Gaunt Summoner wisely chooses to flee.

With the realmgate firmly in their control, Olynder takes her Nighthaunt forces out into the Eightpoints to begin to push their advantage on the Varanspire, while Katakros and his legions roll on through and begin to fortify the now destroyed Dreadhold with a fortress of their own known as the Arx Terminus. Archaon, out on his secret mission, which I won't spoil anything about because it has huge ramifications for the story going forward, gets word of the siege on his home turf and promptly takes his Varanguard and returns to the Eightpoints to settle the score. This is where I'll leave my coverage of the story, but it carries on from here with an eventual confrontation between the Undefeated Mortarch and the Grand Marshall of the Apocalypse himself. Who comes out on top? What does this mean for the Soul Wars and the fate of the Eightpoints? You'll have to read it for yourself to find out! Even the parts I already covered in here have so much more depth to them in the book. One cool example is that before the Nighthaunt pour through, zombies start shambling into the Dreadfort. These are actually the reanimated corpses of the Chaos defenders from the Shyish side of the gate. I'm a huge Nighthaunt fan, so I was excited to see them make a pretty substantial appearance here. On the Death side of things Katakros, Zandtos, Olynder, and Kurdoss all get some fairly substantial word counts dedicated to them. Most of the Chaos legions that get rules in this book make an appearance as well. I would have liked to have seen more from Be'lakor, but it's a small gripe. I loved the story. It felt big and epic, yet at the same time grounded. Well, as grounded as anything in the Mortal Realms can be. I've definitely been fighting the urge to buy Archaon after reading this.

The photography in this book is amazing! It has some of the best scenic photography yet with some really cool setups. I particularly like the Nighthaunt vs Nurgle picture, of course. There's also a nice one of Archaon closing in on Katakros and the final image of the book, Archaon surrounded by all four greater demons. That one is iconic and I would love to see it available as a print or a poster.

After the story is over, which takes up about half of the book, we get the hobby section. This is jam packed with tutorials on how to paint all of the new Chaos factions that get rules. Every single one of them gets a tutorial, and I really like how a lot of them look. The Slaanesh ones in particular are so cool. There's even one for Be'lakor. What I like most about them is that they primarily use Contrast Paint, but they aren't afraid to use regular paints as well. My one complaint here is that we don't get a good look at each finished model, just the little snippets of imagery for each step in the process. I would love to be able to see the completed model as a whole.

The rules section opens up with a set of Realm of Battle rules for the Eightpoints just like the other Realm rules we already have. The realm specific spell only works with the Roaming Monster rules, which we'll go over in a bit, essentially allowing you to mark an enemy model as the monster's prey. The command ability allows you to pick a predatory endless spell within range of a wizard and add D6 inches onto its move value. The Realmscape features are used very cleverly here, with one doing nothing, while two through five each correspond to one of the Chaos Gods. For instance, Exultant Melody lets you run and charge, but then you suffer D3 mortal wounds afterwards while Drifting Chokespores make it so units cannot fly and you subtract 1 from the hit rolls of missile weapons. Six lets you pick which of the four god themed results you want to use each battle round.

The next addition to the rules are Roaming Monsters. This probably won't see much use outside of narrative and open play, but it seems like a fun and thematic addition for the Eightpoints. It reminds me a lot of the roaming monster rules from Warcry actually, which I'm sure was the idea. There's a table of monsters to pick from, which each player gets to choose from. You can only have as many monsters as you do artifacts of power. These monsters are activated after Endless Spells, but before the actual player turn. There are a series of tables to roll on to see what they do. This could be anything from doing nothing, running away, or attacking the nearest unit. There are also Wandering Endless Spells. These work in essentially the same way as the Monsters but can be chosen from any predatory Endless Spell in the game. They are moved after regular endless spells and are also activated by rolling on a behavior chart.

Siege Rules are the biggest addition here for Narrative play. These seem to be more of an evolution of the existing siege rules we already have instead of a complete redo. All of the scenarios have an attacker and a defender, as would make sense, and the defender needs to have a fortification. It says it can be any set of scenery such as Wyldwoods or a fortified set of ruins, or whatever works really. There is then a siege phase that takes place after deployment, but before the game begins. The attacker secretly picks whether they are going to focus on starving the enemy, battering their defenses, or tunneling, and the defender picks which they are going to try and defend against, in secret as well. Then you both reveal your results and consult a table which gives you bonuses or de-buffs on the next part. You then roll to see how starved the defender's army is by rolling for each unit and on a 5+ doing D3 mortal wounds to them. The attacker then rolls for each piece of scenery in the defender's territory and on a 5+ it loses its terrain rules besides cover. Lastly, you both roll a dice for tunneling and if the attacker rolls higher then one hero and two units can be taken off the board to tunnel on later. These pop up at the start of any movement phase within 6" of the point and more than 3" away from enemy units.

There are also three new sets of command abilities for each player. For instance, the attacker has Cry Havoc which allows them to pick a unit in the combat phase within range of their hero and gives them +1 to hit, but -1 to their save as they fully commit to attacking no matter the cost. The Defender has ones like Boiling Oil that lets you pick a terrain feature you're garrisoning and roll a dice for each enemy unit near it, doing D3 mortal wounds on a 4+. Lastly, each army gets a new set of allegiance abilities, one if they're the attacker and one if they're the defender. For instance, Nighthaunt cannot be starved if they're the defender, and cannot be affected by Boiling Oil if they're the attacker. There are also two generic siege battleplans included.

Following on from this we get six narrative battleplans that follow along with the main points of the story. This starts with one of the opening battles in the Forest of Eyes all the way through to the final confrontation between Archaon and Katakros. These all seem pretty fun and thematic, but I'm not going to go over them as I don't want to spoil the story. They're all written in a way where they can be used by any army though, so you don't need a Chaos and Death army to play them at all.

The Matched Play section introduces a ton of new rules for Chaos armies including Allegiances and Hosts of Chaos. We start off with a whole new army, The Legion of Chaos Ascendent. This army can contain any model with the Chaos Daemon keyword, regardless of what god they serve. The have two abilities. Infernal Realmwalkers gives them a 6+ shrug against any wound or mortal wound they suffer, while Unyielding Legions lets you pick any Daemon hero at the end of your movement phase and roll 3D6. If you roll a 10+ you can summon on a unit matching that daemon's god within range of him. If you roll a double though you suffer a mortal wound and a triple makes you suffer D3 mortal wounds. You also have three command traits, three artifacts, and three spells to choose from. The Ruinous Aura trait is pretty good in that it adds 1 to your Realmwalkers save if you're close enough to the hero. The Echo of Hatred spell is nice as well as it allows you to pick a friendly unit and gives them the ability for a model to attack if they're slain in combat, like the Blood Warriors' ability.

There are then four hosts battalions you can use for this army, one for each of the gods. They all consist of 2-3 heroes, plus whatever that god's sacred number is in the basic battleline unit. For example, the Nurgle one needs seven units of Plaguebearers. They each then get one new ability. The Nurgle one again has Plague Smeared Blades, which gives +1 damage for each unmodified hit roll of 6. These all have matched play points as well. Some are more viable than others. Personally, I can't see myself taking 7 units of Plaguebearers, as they would almost certainly have to be minimum sized units to fit them, the heroes, the battalion, and anything else you want into a 2,000 point army, but the option is there.

The second new army are the Knights of the Empty Throne. This is a Slaves to Darkness army, but swaps out the keyword for the new one. The big hook with this army is that it gives all Varanguard units the Hero keyword. They also have an ability that lets you roll a dice when a unit of Varanguard are destroyed and you can bring on a new unit of them on a 5+. There are also three new command traits and three new artifacts to pick from. Since this gets rid of the Slaves to Darkness keyword though it appears your only battleline choices are Warriors and Marauders. I could be wrong on that though.

The most exciting addition for me are the new Hosts of Chaos. These are like the Stormhosts from the Stormcast book. Khorne gets two, Slaanesh three, Tzeentch two, Nurgle four, and Chaos Ascendent one. The Flayed is the first of the Khorne ones. This is clearly meant to focus on the mortal warriors more. The main ability has you add +1 to a unit's save rolls for the rest of the game once they have killed a hero or a monster. Their command ability is pretty good too which lets you pick a nearby unit and give them +1 to hit if they charged that turn. The second Khorne host is The Baleful Lords. I definitely like this one more. Their Bloodthirsters can run and charge plus you can include an extra behemoth as long as it's a Bloodthirster. That means up to five Bloodthirsters! The command ability lets you pick a Bloodthrister and treat it like it has 0 wounds taken for what level its profile is at, while their trait lets you add +1 to charge rolls for Bloodthirsters within range of the general.

Tzeentch has two entries in the form of the Unbound Flux and The Cult of a Thousand Eyes. The Unbound Flux focuses on the demon side of things and has a rule that does an additional mortal wound on a 4+ if you inflicted any mortal wounds via spells. Their command ability lets you give a wizard +1 to cast. So this can be used for wizard heroes or wizard units. Their artifact is pretty good doing D3 mortal wounds on a hit roll of a six instead of the normal damage. The Cult of a Thousand Eyes focuses on the mortals instead. You get to pick D3 enemy units at the start of the game and your mortal units get to re-roll hit rolls in combat against them. This could be really good with a Tzaangor heavy list or if you took a lot of Slaves to Darkness units. They also have a command ability that lets a friendly unit ignore the effects of cover when targeting an enemy unit.

My favorite out of all of these are the Nurgle ones, of course. We get four of them since Nurgle doesn't have anything like this in their own book. Munificent Wanderers focuses on your Plaguebearer units primarily. Locus of Corrosion makes all enemy units within 3" of any Nurgle demons worsen their rend by 1 to a minimum of zero. This is really good and makes your tough demons even tougher. The command ability lets you pick a Plaguebearer unit and if an enemy unit finished a charge move within 3" of them they suffer D3 mortal wounds. This will be a great deterrent for smaller units of Plaguebearers. Just set them up as a road block, load this on them and wait for your enemy to come to you. The command trait is really good as well. All Plaguebearer units wholly within 12" of your general reflect mortal wounds back on the enemy unit attacking them in combat if the enemy rolled a 6 to hit. That's per hit too, so if they roll a lot of sixes then that's a lot of mortal wounds going back on them. Stick this on a Great Unclean One and you suddenly have a pretty big bubble of effect. The Droning Guard is the other demon heavy one, but instead focuses on the Plague Drones. They also have the Locus of Corrosion, and their command ability make Plague Drones have disgustingly resilient on a 4+ instead of a 5+. The command trait for this army lets you move all of your Plague Drones up to 4" before the game begins.

The first of the mortal focused Nurgle hosts are The Blessed Sons. Nurgle's Embrace has you roll a dice when a Rotbringer dies and on a 2+ you do a mortal wound to the enemy near you. This is okay, but considering it's Rotbringer, and not Nurgle, you won't get a whole lot of use out of this. Ideally you don't want your four wound Blightkings dying that frequently. Their command trait is pretty good though, and lets you auto-run a Rotbringer unit 6" once per turn if they're within range of your hero. Their command ability is okay, but again, not great. You pick a unit, and if they do more wounds and mortal wounds to enemy unit they're fighting than that unit's bravery, then you do an additional 3 mortal wounds. It's very situational. The Drowned Men focus on the Blightlords, the fly riding mortals instead. They have the same Nurgle's Embrace rule, but their command trait lets you re-roll charge rolls for your Blightlords if they're within range of your general. Their command ability is pretty good though, making the attacks from a Blightlord unit have an additional -1 rend if the to wound roll is a 6.

Slaanesh gets three, each focusing on either the Invaders, Pretenders, or Godseekers. The Lurid Haze are Invaders and get to ambush D3 of their units, which can be good, but Slaanesh is also pretty fast already. Their command trait lets them re-roll run rolls too. Their command ability lets you add 1 to a unit's save roll, which can definitely help in crucial moments. The Faultless Blades are Pretenders and get to add +1 to their hit rolls if they're targeting a hero and charged that phase as well. Their command trait lets units pile in an extra 3" and their command ability lets a unit discard the first 2 wounds suffered that phase. Lastly, the Scarlett Cavalcade are Godseekers and if they have two units with 10 or more models close enough to each other, they can just make one charge roll for the pair. Their command ability lets you pick a friendly unit and reflect mortal wounds back on an enemy unit when you roll a save roll of 6, as long as you charged that turn.

The final host is The Legion of the First Prince and this one is all about Be'lakor. He can re-roll all of his to hit and wound rolls if he is within 8" of 1 of each of the god's basic troops such as Bloodletters, Plaguebearers, etc. His command ability also lets him heal those same units by bringing back D3 models to one unit. He also has a unique spell that all wizards in his army know that lets models from a unit fight when they are slain but before you remove them.

There's a lot to love in this book. It has, in my opinion, a really cool storyline, as well as a ton of new rules for Chaos armies plus a bunch of narrative stuff. I really enjoyed the Soul Wars and Forbidden Power stories and Wrath is right up there with them. The last time we saw someone take on Archaon is was Vandus back in the Realmgate Wars. With Katakros supposedly being as amazing of a general as he is, it's nice seeing him prove it a bit against the Everchosen himself. If you're a fan of the background and lore of AoS then I definitely recommend you pick up this book, You won't regret it. I feel like it also fleshes out the Eightpoints a bit more from what we've seen in Warcry so far. The rules section is great too, with Nurgle being my favorite. They really needed the boost and hopefully this put them on a more level playing field with their brothers.

Until next time,

Tyler M.

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