Thursday, March 12, 2020

REVIEW: Seraphon

Everyone's favorite star lizards are back, and they've had quite the revamp. Almost everything, from their lore to their rules has changed since their last book! Read on to find out the inner workings of the Great Plan.

The dinos are back and in style! Their new cover art is pretty sweet. I like that it shows off more of the army. I really liked the old art too. It was very vibrant and had a bit more of a polished look to it, but it also felt more in tune with how they used to be. These new Seraphon are a bit more like their Old World cousins then the dream-lizards we knew from the start of AoS.

When you crack open the book you delve right into the lore. Almost everything here is different from their first book. Some of the basic structure and ideas are still there, in part, but it really is a whole new beast. Well, more like a whole new old beast. Think of their new lore as a mashup between what Seraphon originally were in AoS and what the Lizardmen were in Warhammer Fantasy. After reading this battletome, you can't help but think that the old battletome must have been written from the perspective of an Azyrite scholar who had been studying the Seraphon, but didn't really have a firm grasp on what they actually were. First things first, they are 100%, definitively, not dream lizards. These Seraphon really exist, and continue to exist after battles. Honestly, I was not a huge fan of the old Seraphon lore. It made them feel really impersonal and got rid of a lot of what I liked about the Lizardmen. How can you connect with your characters when the only one that was "real" was the Slann?

We learn how the Seraphon escaped the destruction of the Old World in their temple ships as seen in the End Times saga and fled to the void. There, over time, they began to suffer and die, seeing as how they were cold blooded and space is rather cold. To prevent the mass extinction of their race the remaining Slann put the rest of the Seraphon into a kind of stasis and then proceeded to drift in a slumber throughout the stars. That is until Dracothian found them. He guided their temple ships into orbit of high Azyr and also breathed Azyrite magic into their ships. Due to this and how much time they spend in high Azyr, the Seraphon have become mostly star magic. This is similar to how Stormcast are essentially lightning caged within a human form. So the Seraphon are still real, they just have magic flowing through their veins instead of blood. This has led to the general confusion on the battlefield with other people mistaking them for entirely magical beings. They are also transported to the realms by miniature realmgates that the Slann can control which open in a flash of light, making some people think they appear on the battlefield by starlight.

The temple ships themselves get a bit of exploration as well. These giant ziggurat ships have entire ecosystems within them. They basically contain miniature jungles within which the Seraphon live when not at war. They also have spawning pools which birth all of the Saurus, Skinks, and other dinos, just like they did in the Old World. They basically operate just like how the Lizardmen do, but within a spaceship. Not all Seraphon dwell within high Azyr still though. Some have landed their temple ships throughout the realms to create massive temple cities which are swiftly surrounded by sweltering jungles. These jungles are created by their Realmscaper Engines which recreate their ancestral home of Lustria where ever they live. The Seraphon who settle within the Realms are known as the Coalesced while those who stay in orbit are the Starborne. The Coalesced slowly become more and more physical the longer they stay within the Realms, until eventually they are normal flesh and blood just like the Lizardmen of old.

The Seraphon are organized into "clans" called Constellations. This is due to their fleets of temple ships shining so bright in the sky that they look like constellations. Even those that settle within the Realms retain this name. Some Constellations are entirely Starborne, while some are entirely Coalesced. Some are a mixture of both though, with some of the Constellation staying within the heavens while the rest settles amongst the realms. Most Constellations only have one Slann Starmaster who leads them, but some of the larger ones have multiple Slann. The Slann are the only true survivors left from the Old World and are still trying to enact the Great Plan of the Old Ones. The Old Ones are the creators of the Lizardmen of old, and potentially everything else as well. It is assumed they created the Realmgates, as the Slann are able to manipulate them, and some even say they may have been the creators of the Mortal Realms entirely. Everything the Seraphon do is in furtherance of the Great Plan. This mostly involves attempting to defeat Chaos at every turn, but sometimes it can mean wiping out a settlement of Order that would later go onto assist Chaos in some way, or taking out an errant Waaagh! Sometimes it even means fighting other Seraphon if the Slanns' interpretation of the Great Plan is different.

The events of the Necroquake caught the Slann unprepared and threw a giant wrench into the Great Plan. It also messed with the Astromatrix, a series of magical ley lines that crisscross the Mortal Realms. It was so severe that the Seraphon had to intervene to save the Astromatrix in Shyish or the entire Realm would have been torn apart. The Gloomspite Gits have also thrown off their calculations, with the erratic path of the Bad Moon sending the heavens into chaos.

There are four major Constellations that are covered in this book. The first, Dracothian's Tail, is the largest and most active of all of the Constellations. They have several Slann and are mostly Starborne. These Seraphon are the ones with lots of yellow markings. The second one covered is the Fangs of Sotek. These lizards are really cool. They were highly active during the Realmgate Wars, and were the ones that stopped Skarbrand from slaughtering the Hallowed Knights as they tried to save Alarielle. They were also key in the establishment of the Cities of Sigmar, helping to clear the lands for their settlement and secretly protecting them ever since. Though they were once a more balanced selection of Seraphon, they have since become more Skink heavy, favoring hit and run tactics. While a lot of their Constellation is in the heavens, they have sent Skinks to all of the major cities where they are highly prized for the ingenuity and craftsmanship. I just love the idea of there being little Skink settlements in every city, selling their trinkets and stuff while they secretly keep an eye on how everything is going. Oh, they also worship Sotek, the great serpent and are suspected to hold blood sacrifices to it on the regular.

The Constellation of Koatl's Claw are a group of Seraphon who have settled in Ghur. Well, when I say settled I really mean their temple ships crash landed there after some Skaven created a Gnawhole right into their ships in orbit. During the crash their one and only Slann became critically injured. Though he still lives, he must spend most of his time in meditation to survive and has little control over the Constellation as a whole. It does mention how he can still astral-project himself onto a battlefield if needed though. Without the Slann's guiding hand and with the bestial energies of Ghur infecting them, the Saurus of this Constellation have become extremely aggressive and primal. The Thunder Lizards make their home within the edges of Chamon. They saturate their beasts with realmstone from Chamon, making them particularly hardy. They are also known to have a horde of highly prized artifacts within their temple cities, more so than other Constellations. Lately, they have become entangled with the Null Myriad Bonereapers, who also make their homes within the highly magical edges of the realms.

The timeline section covers everything from the discovery of the temple ships by Dracothian, through the Age of Sigmar. Some familiar events from the Realmgate Wars are covered here, as well as a bunch of new stuff. The Cities of Sigmar dwelling Skinks from the Fangs of Sotek are mentioned again, but my favorite but is probably what it leaves us on. After the Necroquake, the Seraphon have decided they have focused too heavily on just fighting Chaos, and must turn their attention to the other factions as well. It mentions how they have struck back against the dead and are scouring the realms of Gloomspite dens in an attempt to starve the Bad Moon of its worshippers. It even says how some people have claimed to see temple ships attempt to land on the Bad Moon itself, which is just an insanely bonkers awesome idea.

The unit section is fairly long, spending a good amount of time on each unit. This goes into a lot more detail than the previous book did. One thing that annoyed me about the first book is that it only talked about what the units did in battle, and not how they acted the rest of the time. For example, for the Saurus, it talks about how for the Starborne they are allowed to wander around the temple ships, but a lot of the time they are kept in stasis when not in battle and woken up by the Skinks when needed. For the Skink priests it mentions how the hierarchy works, with the Starseers being the top priest, who are attended by numerous Starpriests, who are then attended by numerous regular Skink Priests, who are seen as being super important by the normal, everyday Skink. It's just very interesting to see how they work as a society. These are the parts of Warhammer lore that interest me the most. The battles are cool and all, but I'm always fascinated by how stuff works on a day to day basis.

The hobby section has a bunch of cool photos of the models, including a bunch of nice scenic ones. I really like the pyramids they built for them, It strikes the right balance of archaic and science-fiction. They also have painted examples for several of the different Constellations. The tutorials go over all of the basics you would need to know, like several different types of skin and scales.

Now, onto the rules! There a couple of overall allegiance abilities for the Seraphon like Contemplations of the Old Ones which lets you pick one Slann and have them replace the spell they know from the spell lore with a new one at the end of your hero phase. Sacred Asterisms lets you pick one of three rules at the start of your hero phase to use that turn. You can either add 1 to the attacks characteristic of one of your heroes' melee weapons, add 1 to run and charge rolls for all friendly Seraphon units, or pick one friendly wizard and add 1 to all casting, dispelling, and unbinding rolls. After this the special rules split into either Coalesced or Starborne. You have to pick which your army will be. Coalesced benefit from Cold Blooded which makes it so their bravery can never be modified, either positively or negatively. Predatory Fighters gives them an additional attacks with their Jaws. Primeval Domain is unique in that any scenery within your territory that are Arcane, Damned, or Inspiring only apply to you, while Sinister and Deadly only apply to your opponent. Lastly, Scaly Skin reduces the damage of all attacks by 1 to a minimum of 1.

Starborne on the other hand have a completely separate set of allegiance abilities. To start with, they're all Bravery 10 instead of it being unmodified. In the past this was the norm, but now all the Seraphon warscrolls have different Bravery values unless they're Starborne. Lords of Space and Time lets you pick any Starborne unit at the end of your movement phase, and move it to anywhere on the board more than 9" away from the enemy. Lastly, they have summoning. You do this by accruing Celestial Conjuration Points. You get D3 of these at the start of your hero phase if your general is a Slann or a Starseer and they're on the table, another D3 if you have an Astrolith Bearer on the table, and Slanns can also forgo a spell to get another D3 points. There is a chart with values for each unit, with the lowest being 6 and the highest being 30. These can be brought on near a Slann, Oracle, or Astrolith and 9" away from the enemy. Basically, the Starborne are the most similar to the way the Seraphon were before this book.

There are three sets of command traits, one for Slann, one for Saurus, and one for Skinks, each with three traits to choose from. The Saurus and Slann ones both have a similar one that gives them an extra command point on a 4+, and the Slann also has one that lets them know an extra spell from the lore. There are also three sets of artifact tables divided up the same way, but the Slann have six to choose from while the Saurus and Skink only have three a piece. I think Plaque of Dominion for the Slann will be taken quite a bit. It lets you pick any enemy Hero within 12" of the Slann and has them fight last that turn. If they're a wizard they also subtract 1 from their casting rolls. Blade of Realities is nice for the Saurus as well, giving one of the melee weapons an additional -1 rend, and also adds 1 damage for each successful attack against a hero.

There are two spell lores to pick from, one for Slann and one for Skinks. Each of these have six spells to pick from. Stellar Tempest for the Slann is a good horde killer, doing a mortal wound to each model in a unit on a 5+. I also really like Drain Magic for them which goes off on a 9 and immediately dispells all Endless Spells within 24" of them that are not Bound. This would be really good against Tzeentch or Skaven. Skinks have a similar horde killing spell, but with a shorter range, 12" instead of 24". They also have Bind Endless Spell which lets you pick an Endless Spell within range and give it the Bound keyword. So what's all this Bound stuff? Well, Seraphon have access to Bound Endless Spells, which are basically all of the Predatory Endless Spells from the Malign Sorceries box, but only the Seraphon player can move them. Meaning you don't need to worry about your opponent moving a Purple Sun back towards you. So that Skink spell could let you take control of one of your opponents Endless Spells, which is pretty cool.

They also have access to a cool new piece of scenery, the Realmshaper Engine. First off, I love the look of the model. I'm a sucker for pyramids. The rules are pretty good too. You have to set it up before other scenery, just like the Bonetithe Nexus for Bonereapers since it's so large. It has the garrison rule for up to 20 wounds worth of models, and also has Power Unleashed. This lets you pick any terrain feature on the table in your hero phase and roll a dice. On a 4+ it does D3 mortal wounds to any units within 3" of it. You add 2 to this roll if it's within 18" and subtract 2 if it's more than 36" away. You can only do any of this though if a Seraphon Wizard or Priest is garrisoning the Engine.

There are four Constellations that you can pick for your army to be from. These are like the Stormhosts for Stormcast. Dracothian's Tail and Fangs of Sotek can only be taken by a Starborne army while Koatl's Claw and The Thunder Lizard can only be taken by Coalesced. Dracothian's Tail lets you keep half your army in reserve and bring them on more than 9" away from an enemy unit at the end of any of your movement phases, just like with Nighthaunt. The command trait gives your general one extra spell from the spell lore and lets them re-roll 1 casting, unbinding, or dispelling dice per turn. The artifact, Godbeast Pendant, has you roll a dice the first time they are slain and on a 4-6 they are not slain and they heal all of their wounds. This is a pretty good Constellation and gives you a ton of flexibility. The Fangs of Sotek adds 3" to the move of all Skink units in your first turn. The command ability lets you pick one Skink or Chameleon Skink unit within range at the end of the enemy charge phase and have them shoot, then on a 4+ they can retreat, but not run. Their trait gives you an extra command point on a 3+ as long as the general is alive and the artifact is also really good. If you inflicted any wounds on an enemy model with the Serpent God Dagger, but did not kill them you roll a dice and on a 5+ the enemy model is slain.

Of the Coalesced Constellations, Koatl's Claw is all about the Saurus. It gives all Saurus +1 to hit in combat if they charged that turn. Their command ability lets you pick a Saurus unit and count them as having charged even if they didn't to activate the previous ability. The trait lets you recover a command point on a 4+ as long as you spent it from your general onto a Saurus unit. The artifact does an additional 2 mortal wounds on a 6 to hit in addition to other damage. The Thunder Lizard focuses on your monsters, giving them all an additional 2 wounds. The command ability is used at the end of the shooting phase and lets you pick a Bastiladon or Engine of the Gods and either shoot a second time, or use the Engine a second time that turn. The trait gives your general's mount +1 to its attack characteristic for all of its melee attacks. The artifact is a shooting attack that does D3 mortals on a 4-5, D6 on a 6, or nothing and can't be used again on a 1. This Constellation also unlocks Stegadons as Battleline so you can run an all monster army if you want.

The narrative battleplan sees a Seraphon warhost appearing suddenly to take out an enemy. The Seraphon player must take the maximum amount of allies and only these units start deployed on the board. All of the Seraphon units arrive at the end of the first turn of movement. There are also rules for great chasms opening up. This is followed by the Path to Glory rules.

There are 10 warscroll battalions, with five for the Coalesced and five for the Starborne. They each have one mega-battalion, then four individual ones. These are actually the same battalions for each, with the same unit requirements, but give you different benefits. For example, the Sunclaw Temple-host and Sunclaw Starhost both require an Old Blood or Scar Veteran and three units of Saurus Warriors. The Temple-host improves the rend of their jaw attacks by 1, while the Starhost improves the rend of their Celestite Weapons instead. The Firelance Host is mostly Knights, the Shadowstrike Host is mostly Skins, and the Thunderquake Host is a combination of monsters and Kroxigors or hunting packs.

There are a lot of warscrolls in this book, 28 to be exact, excluding the Bound spells. Pretty much everything has changed in a noticeable way so it's hard to go over all of it. Since these will be out on the App for free soon I'll just go over a few that stood out to me or that I particularly like. The first big change is that Kroak now has a normal amount of wounds. The weird rule for how to kill him before is gone. Instead he now has 7 wounds and ignores each wound taken on a 4+, so he's still tough, but it's not as annoying anymore. He can also generate you more command points each turn. Carnosaurs have also seen a slight improvement, with their jaw attacks now doing a healthy 5 damage, but at the trade off of less attacks. All of the Saurus heroes pretty much either add 1 to hit or 1 to wound for Saurus units with their command abilities now too. The Scar Veteran actually has the best ability in my opinion, turning all unmodified sixes to hit from a Saurus unit into two hits. The standard Saurus have seen a nice improvement, with their clubs now having -1 rend and their save being improved to a 4+. Their old shield rule is gone though. They also now gain +1 attack for having 15 or more models in the unit.

The Troglodon has gotten one of the biggest improvements in the book. It's now a hero and a wizard which has +1 to cast, unbind, and dispell. It can also unbind and dispell from anywhere on the battlefield. It can heal on a 2+ and its spell is Comet's Call which lets you pick D3 enemy units anywhere on the battlefield and do D3 mortals to them, or pick D6 units if you rolled a 10+ to cast. The Salamanders are now really good as well. They each have 4 shooting attacks with -2 rend that do D3 wounds. It's melee attacks are exactly the same, but only 3 attacks. In addition, if you roll an unmodified 6 to hit for melee or shooting it just does D3 mortal wounds instead. All of that for only 80 points. There are a ton of other good options in here too. It's really almost a complete re-work of the army. The last few scrolls are the bound predatory spells they can take, like Purple Sun or Burning Head. One thing worth mentioning for the Bound spells is that while their rules are the same, they don't have the Empowered rules for being in certain realms. For battleline we have Saurus Warriors as the base unit, with pure Seraphon being able to take Saurus Guard, Knights, and Skinks as well. Thunder Lizard armies can take Stegadons as battleline.

This is an amazing re-work of the Seraphon in my opinion. Everything from the lore to the rules have been improved upon. Considering they were the third battletome released for AoS, it's nice to see them finally get some more love. I really liked the old Lizardmen lore so I'm glad to see the Seraphon return to their roots a bit and I'm really glad the whole dream lizard thing is gone. I'll take real lizards any day of the week. If you're a fan of the Seraphon or even just the models but the previous incarnations of them in the game were holding you back, then you'll love this book. There's never been a better time to enact the Great Plan!

Until next time,

Tyler M.

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