Wednesday, November 11, 2020

REVIEW: Broken Realms - Morathi

Broken Realms: Morathi is here and with it a huge shakeup to the story of the Mortal Realms. What diabolical plans does Morathi have and what else does this book bring to the game itself?

First off, what is this Broken Realms book? Simply put, it's a campaign book which advances the overall storyline of AoS and brings in some new rules and updates to old units as well. It's similar to the Realmgate Wars book from the start of AoS, but much more focused on a single storyline. It's closest comparison would be the Psychic Awakening books from 40k earlier this year. The story portion of it takes up 71 pages of the 120 total pages of the book. I love campaign/lore books like this, so this is right up my alley.

I don't want to give away the whole story, since that's the real joy in reading books like this. You need to experience the story for yourself and all the twists and turns it brings with it. Some spoilers are inevitable though due to the rules content. I can't really talk about all of the new rules without spoiling some pretty major events from this book and the Mortal Realms in general. So, SPOILERS. You have been warned.

The story section opens up with a brief overview of the current state of the Mortal Realms. It pretty much picks up right where Wrath of the Everchosen left off, covering the events from that book and their immediate fallout. Basically, Katakros is still in the Eightpoints, with the Bonereapers holding their new fortress in front of the realm gate to Shyish. We also get a brief overview of the Daughters of Khaine and Morathi, since they're pretty important to this story. After that we dive into Act I, Blood of Khaine. This starts with a look at Varanthax's Maw and Varanite in the Eightpoints. We just saw these for the first time in Warcry: Catacombs. I imagine that maybe Catacombs was originally not meant to come out right before this, so there would have been a little bit of time between the releases. Varanite is the realmstone of the Eightpoints, and a potent magical force. Morathi has sent her Shadowstalkers to scout out the area, and has learned that Archaon has started mining the Varanite in vast quantities. The forces of Chaos are then taking this molten realmstone and pouring it into molds around the pillars of the realm gate to Azyr. Their hope is to weaken the magical bonds of the gate, and invade Sigmar's realm directly. Morathi also wants this potent realmstone for herself, and has declared it to be the Blood of Khaine to her followers. Using the knowledge of what Archaon's forces are doing, she secures an alliance with Sigmar and Allarielle. The Stormcast Eternals and Daughters of Khaine march into the Eightpoints in force through the realm gate of Ghyran. After securing a foothold on the Eightpoints' side, they then march off to Varanthax's Maw. 

This is, unsurprisingly, where Morathi shows her true colors. Once she is inside the Maw and has access to the Varanite she weaves an illusion while she drains the molten stone through a magic portal into her master cauldron back in Ulgu. The Stormcast don't see any of this though, but are left to be slaughtered as the Khainites flee. While this was all going on, a group of Shadowstalkers also infiltrated the domain of the Deepkin, and stole the Ocarian Lantern, a magical artifact that Teclis had used to draw forth the aelven souls from Slaanesh, and which had been stolen by the Deepkin ages ago. With this we head into Act II, Rise of a Goddess. An interesting point here, as far as I can tell the other Stormcast that were left in the Eightpoints, either battling the forces of Chaos, or safeguarding the gate to Ghyran, are still there at the end of this. Now we have both a Bonereaper and Stormcast redoubt within Archaon's domain. I'm excited to see where this goes in the future.

As the name of this Act suggests, Morathi's masterplan is to finally ascend to godhood. With the Varanite and the Lantern she has everything she needs, all that's stopping her is a coalition of Idoneth Deepkin led by Voltunus himself, who are none to happy about their stolen lantern, and some pesky Slaanesh worshippers who have followed her back to Hagg Nar as well. It's here that I'm going to stop going over the story in detail, but there's a cool battle between a mostly Scourge Privateer free city within Ulgu, Misthaven, teamed up with the Khainites versus the Deepkin and Slaanesh forces. There's also our first detailed map of Ulgu where we can see where several of the temple cities are located. I'm a fan of maps in AoS since it helps solidify the setting more. There are also narrative sections scattered throughout this story, as in, more along the lines of a short story than the kind of "history" reading the rest of the book is presented in. If you've read other AoS stuff, or Wrath of the Everchosen then you know what I'm talking about. I also glazed over a lot of cool and interesting stuff in Act I as well. So like I said, I definitely recommend reading this book on your own to get the full story and the full experience of it. 

Having said that, here come the SPOILERS. I can't go over the rules section of the book without saying that, yes, Morathi succeeds and achieves godhood, while also splitting her essence between her aelven form of Morathi-Khaine, and the serpentine Shadow Queen. Also, with this achieved, she moves onto part one of her master plan, which involves taking over the city of Anvilgard. Yes, sadly, that city is no more. In it's place stands the city of Har Kuron, securely in Morathi's grasp.

The rules section starts off by giving you the rules to play out the story of the book as a campaign. This includes a list of what armies take part in it, as well as the consequences for what happens depending on who wins each battle. We get six battleplans, two for each Act of the story, as well as three Realms of Battle, one for each of the major locations. This includes Varanthax's Maw in the Eightpoints, the Helleflux in Ulgu (where Hagg Nar is located), and the Charrwind Coast in Aqshy, (former) home to Anvilgard. The battleplans let you recreate the pivotal moments of the story, from Morathi's theft of the Varanite, to the defense of Hagg Nar, her ascension to godhood, and finally the fall of Anvilgard itself. These vary in size, with some of them using a full 6' x 4' table while others just use a 4' x 4'. Each battle has its own special rules, and also tells you specifically what armies to take and which special characters are used. 

After this we come to the Battletome Updates, the part of the rules that most people are looking forward to since it can be used in both Narrative and Matched Play. The Daughters of Khaine obviously get some updates since they're the stars of the story. First off they get a new temple in the form of Zainthar Kai. I'm definitely excited about this addition since its main focus are the Scathborn, or the Melusai and Khinerai. To start with all of these units get +1 bravery. You also get to pick one additional artifact of power for your army. The command ability lets you pick a unit of Melusai or Khinerai within range and add 1 to their attacks characteristic in combat. The command trait isn't half bad either. You roll a dice for each enemy unit within 3" of your general and on a 5+ they suffer D3 mortal wounds. There are also three warscroll battalions exclusive to this temple, the Vyperic Guard, Scathcoven, and Shrine Brood. The Vyperic Guard is quite nice in that you can use a command ability once per battle without spending a command point. You have to take Morathi and 1-2 Medusae/Ironscales, and 2-3 Melusai units for that battalion. 

The big news here is the new warscroll for Morathi. You can now use both versions of her on the battlefield at the same time! Instead of the old transformation rule, there is now a new one called One Soul, Two Bodies. Essentially, anything that would wound Morathi-Khaine (the little one), wounds the Shadow Queen (the big one) instead, and the big one still has the Iron Heart of Khaine, meaning she can never take more than 3 wounds a turn. They've now fixed this as well so you can't use Endless Spells to get around this limit. Once the Shadow Queen dies, then Morathi-Khaine is removed as well, so even though the little one has 6 wounds, they never really come into play, and instead the pair have 12 wounds shared between them. There are also other improvements to the pair, making them even better in the game, but you can see the warscroll online soon for yourself.

The next faction to get an update are the Cities of Sigmar. They get a new Darkling Coven themed battalion, but the big new addition are the two new cities, Misthaven and Har Kuron. There's also a note in here saying that even though Anvilgard is gone now, you can still use the rules for it and just say it was set before this, or it's an Anvilgard army that wasn't at the city when it fell and is still fighting for Sigmar. It's like the Cadia of AoS. Misthaven is the first city from Ulgu that we get rules for. It's known as the City of Scoundrels, and focuses on more tricksy tactics. It's main ability is called Underhanded Tactics and lets you set up units as a flanking force. For each unit of Darkling Covens, Freeguild, or Duardin that you set up in the normal manner, you may set up one unit of Order Serpentis, Privateers, or Shadowblades as a flanking unit. Then at the end of each of your movement phases you may set up one of these units more than 9" away from enemy units anywhere on the board. Anything not set up by the start of turn 4 is destroyed. The command ability stacks on top of this, allowing you to move a flanking force unit that has just set up within range of your general up to D6". You also have access to the Misthaven Narcotics, which one of your heroes can take and is a one use item. There are six to choose from which all boost your hero in some way, from increasing their hits rolls, to healing wound, to even letting them fly for a turn. There are also three command traits and three artifacts to pick from.

Har Kuron is the one that excites me the most, since it's essentially all the old Dark Elf stuff together again in one city. A few basics: you can only take Darkling Covens, Order Serpentis, Privateers, and Shadowblades as your units, but 1 our of every 4 units can be from the Daughters of Khaine! It's like the band is back together again and they just started torturing and murdering everything nearby! Any DoK Priests in this army also have access to a special prayer, Incitement to Murder. This lets you pick any Har Kuron unit, so not just DoK, and any time they make a hit roll of a 6 until your next hero phase it does 2 hits instead of just 1. This applies to shooting as well, so get those crossbows going. The command ability lets your hero kill a model from a friendly unit to make them and any units wholly within 18" of them immune to battleshock. Very Dark Elfy. There are three command traits to pick from, one of which makes you a priest and lets you do Incitement to Murder, and another of which makes you a wizard. There are also three artifacts, of which I think I like Traitor's Banner the most. It makes all attacks targeting any friendly units wholly with 12" of the hero -1 to hit. They even have their own spell lore with six spells to pick from. It looks like it's a mix of the old Anvilgard spells with some DoK spells. You have Vitriolic Acid which makes an enemy unit have no save, as well as Pit of Shade and Steed of Shadows. I already have 1,000 points of DoK, so this kind of makes me want to bust out an old school Dark Elf army. I really like the Order Serpentis stuff, and a lot of the Darkling Coven stuff is awesome as well!

The Stormcast get some new stuff as well, including a whole new way to play them. The Stromcast as they are in their own Battletome really reflect the striking from the heavens thing pretty well, but now we have Stormcast out fortifying cities and such too. That's where this book comes in with Stormkeep Battle Traits. This reflects Stormcast armies that are embedded into the Cities of Sigmar. To start with, 1 out of every 4 unit can be a Cities of Sigmar unit and can be affected by Stormcast command abilities. They also gain 1 bravery while near Liberators. Stormcast units also gain this +1 bravery for being near Liberators, and if a Liberator unit didn't move that turn you can say they will stand fast which gives them +1 to hit and save rolls. You also still have access to all of the Stormhosts abilities from the Battletome. Along with this we get three battalions, a mega battalion of those three, and a thematic one to fit the campaign. I quite like the Stormkeep Garrison, which allows the Justicar and Paladin units from that battalion to use the stand fast ability as well if they're close enough to the Liberators.

Not to be outdone by their murder loving cousins, the Idoneth Deepkin also get a bunch of new stuff, including mount traits fro their Deepmares and Leviadons. They also got updated warscrolls for the Allopexes, Leviadons, and both versions of the Eidolon. All of these units needed a little boost and now they're able to compete against their eel brethren a little better. They also get one battalion to go along with the campaign.

Lastly, we have the Idolators, a new Chaos faction within Slaves to Darkness. The seek to venerate their own gods while tearing down all others. I was most excited for this faction because it hits two of the things I really felt was missing from the original Slaves to Darkness (really no good way to abbreviate that book's name) battletome. First off, Cultists are now battleline! That means you can run an all Warcry army if you want since all of those warbands are Cultists. At the time I really wanted to do an Iron Golems army, and now I can if I want. Not only that, but the Cultists gain the ability to change the lowest dice in their charge roll to a 6, so you know you'll at least always be going 7" with them on the charge. Another huge thing is that you can give one of your Chaos Chariots, or Gorebeast Chariots the Idolator Lord, Hero, and Priest keywords! I was a little bummed that I couldn't take a Chariot lord, and now I can do that as well too! The whole army gets +1 to hit against Priests, and you get a unique command ability that lets you pick a unit near an enemy faction terrain feature and roll a dice. If it's greater than the number of enemy models within 3" of the terrain feature then it's desecrated and no longer has any rules that apply to it. Just switch off that Bonereaper Obelisk or Idoneth boat. There are six command traits to pick from as well as 5 prayers, which are unique to an Idolator Lord (the chariot guy). Each one is keyed to a specific mark of Chaos, so you'll only ever have the one that matches the mark you took. They also get one battalion that goes along with their role in the campaign. 

That's the book! There's a lot going on in here, and a lot of new rules. If you have a DoK, Deepkin, Cities, Stormcast, or Slaves to Darkness army then you'll probably want to pick this book up for the new expansions to your army. I definitely recommend this book to any AoS fan though, especially if you like the lore. I know I didn't go super in depth with my coverage of it, but that's only because I genuinely don't want to spoil all the good moments for you. There are some cool callbacks to the world-that-was, and a nice cliffhanger involving Chaos. I'd say it's essential reading for AoS lore junkies like myself and decidedly moves the story forward, which is one of the coolest aspects about AoS lore to me. 

Until next time,

Tyler M

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