Wednesday, February 17, 2021

REVIEW: Daughters of Khaine Battletome

With Morathi's accession to godhood, her disciples, the Daughters of Khaine, have gotten a brand new Battletome to dominate the tabletops of the Mortal Realms. What secrets does this book contain? Whats new and exciting for the Daughters of Khaine? Read on to find out!

Although the original Daughters of Khaine book came out during first edition, it was right at the tail end and clearly had the current edition of AoS in mind. With that, this and the Hedonites of Slaanesh books are the first 2nd edition battletomes to get redone. Right off the bat I think the cover on this is spectacular! The cover of the original book always felt a little weak to me. This one hits all the right notes though. I'm a big fan of the melusai in general so I'm happy to see one front and center. They're what's most unique and iconic about the Daughters to me. We also have a big Avatar of Khaine in the background, perfectly showing off their devotion. This cover is a huge win for me.

Once we crack the book open we delve right into the lore. If you're familiar with the Daughters of Khaine already then you've probably read most of this. The lore section is mostly what we had in the last book, with the addition of a summarized version of the events of the Broken Realms: Morathi book. There were a few new tidbits scattered about though, such as the name of Malerion's capital city, Druchiroth, which I don't think has been mentioned before. Hopefully this is setting up his return in the future. There's also talk about how Morathi is slowly replacing all of the statues of Khaine with statues of herself. Now that she is a goddess, and goes by Morathi-Khaine, she see herself as the rightful recipient of all of the praise. She's even having some of her top disciples go back through ancient texts about Khaine and slightly alter them. She's literally trying to re-write history with herself at the center of it, which is pretty funny and on brand for her.

The timeline section does have a few new entries in it that are worth mentioning. One that stood out to me is the bit about Tayrathi, a Hag Queen of the Kraith, and also the named character of a certain Chuck Moore, DoK fan extraordinaire! It's always cool seeing fans get rewarded with their own lore being worked into the official lore. There's also a bit of an epilogue to the events of Broken Realms: Morathi. Eventually word of her attack on Anvilgard reaches Sigmar, who's not to pleased about it. In response he sends an army to retake the city now renamed Har Kuron. The fighting is fierce with neither side gaining an upper hand. Eventually the Celestant-Prime arrives and asks for a parley with Morathi. The two disappear for awhile, and when they return an agreement had been reached. Morathi will be allowed to keep the city. What she promised in return is unknown. After this there is a map of Ulgu, which was first seen in Broken Realms, as well as a cool image of Hagg Nar with some tidbits of information.

We also get brief looks at all of the major temples, such as Hagg Nar, the Kraith, and so on. I do feel like these go into a bit more detail than we got last time, which is nice. There is also a new temple, Zainthar Kai, which is heavily focused on the scáthborn. 

The unit section gives each unit in the army a little time to shine. Here is where we get a bit more progression in the background to the army. Morathi was one I was definitely interested to read about, since she is now one soul in two bodies. While it's described as both of them being her, I do get the impression that Morathi-Khaine (little Morathi) is more truly her, while the Shadow Queen (big Morathi) is more a manifestation of her rage and anger. It never really talks about the Shadow Queen conversing with anyone for example. She's just there to wreck face. The melusai section also talks about how the scáthborn aren't hidden as much anymore. Previously, they were either hidden away or disguised through magic so that the rest of the forces of Order wouldn't ask questions like, "giant snake people, huh?" Now they're pretty much out in the open though. Morathi sees them as a manifestation of her godhood, and who's really going to argue with a god about it? They are still somewhat hidden though and it does sound like it varies from temple to temple, with some being more open about them than others. It also mentions how the khinerae all hail from Hagg Nar and Morathi chooses which other temples to send them to as "gifts".

This is followed by the gallery section which shows off all of the 'Eavy Metal models as well as plenty of scenic shots. My favorite is of a unit of Doomfire Warlocks charging down a hill against a green backdrop. One thing that's missing here for me is a painted example of each of the temples. In the last book we got one Witch Aelf painted up for each of the temples as a visual guide. There's also an example army, and then plenty of hobby tips and painting tutorials. These mostly seem to be the ones form the last book as well as the ones from Broken Realms combined together, but there are a few new tips added in as well. This isn't really a criticism as I felt the tutorial tips from both of those books were both really solid, so it's nice to have them all collected into the new book. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Now we get to the rules. The allegiance abilities are exactly the same as they were previously, which is again, fine. They worked, they were thematic, no reason to change them. We have the Blood Rites table that adds a new army wide buff each turn, such as re-rolling 1s to run, and re-rolling 1s to wound. Then these is also the Fanatical Faith rule which gives the whole army a 6+ ignore on any wound or mortal wound.

The six command traits for any Daughters of Khaine general are pretty much the same as they were in the last book with a few tweaks here and there to clean them up and make them function better. The new addition comes in the form of three command traits for Bloodwrack Medusas and three for Melusai Ironscales. The stand out one for the Bloodwracks is Arcane Mastery, which lets you re-roll a casting, unbinding, or dispelling attempt for her. For the Ironscale it's probably Veteran of the Cathtrar Dhule, which gives you an extra command point on a 4+ in your hero phase. 

The artifacts are similar, with most of them being the same as their previous counterparts. Some got buffs, and some got renamed, like Shadracar's Fang, but still do the same thing. You'll probably be picking from the tables unique to a priest or a Bloodwrack only anyway. Here I like either the Shadow Stone, which gives you +1 to cast, or the Rune of Ulgu, which gives you an extra spell for the Bloodwrack. For the priest I think the ever reliable Iron Circlet which lets you re-roll prayers of 1 is the clear winner yet again.

The spells and prayers follow the same pattern, with a few tweaks here and there. Steed of Shadows has become harder to cast for instance. Mindrazor has also gone up one, to an 8+ to cast, but now gives you the +1 damage if you're charging instead of being based off your bravery, which is nice and way more reliable and controllable. On the prayer side, my favorite is still Catechism of Murder, which lets a unit score two hits on a hit roll of a 6 instead of just one.

There are six cults for you to pick from; Hagg Nar, Draichi Ganeth, Kraith, Khailebron, Khelt Nar, and Zainthar Kai. The four existing cults from the previous book all carry over their unique flavors and most of their rules. Some of them have been tweaked or switched around a bit, such as Khailebron's rule that used to be a command trait, now being a command ability. They've all gotten new rules as well though, since each of them now has an ability, command ability, command trait, and artifact. Previously they only had two of those each. Kraith improved a lot with their fight again ability now going off on a 5+ instead of a 6+. I also really like Draichi Ganeth, who now have an ability that gives their Witch Aelves and Sisters of Slaughter +1 rend on the charge, and a command ability that gives them +1 to hit. Khelt Nar, one of the new ones, probably has the coolest command trait. The Circling Flock allows them to summon on a unit of five Harpies once per battle. I really like Zainthar Kai though, since it focuses the most on the scáthborn. Their command ability lets you give a unit of melusai or harpies +1 attack. That may not seem like a lot, but when combined with an ability of Morathi's and one from the Ironscale, you can get a unit of Blood Sisters up to 6 attacks each in combat. This is followed by a narrative battleplan and the Path to Glory section. 

There are seven warscroll battalions to pick from, including one "mega" battalion. Cauldron Guard, Slaughter Troupe, and Shadow Patrol all make a return. These have all been simplified down in the new format so each one only has one bonus. Cauldron Guard for example grants +1 to run and charge rolls. Temple Nest is gone, sadly, but in its place we have three new ones; Scáthcoven, Vyperic Guard, and Shrine Brood. I can see a lot of people running Vyperic Guard just because you're likely to be taking those units anyway. It includes Morathi, a Bloodwrack or Ironscale, and 2-3 Blood Sisters and/or Stalkers. This lets one of the heroes use a command ability for free once per battle.

On the warscroll side of things, we only have two new units with the Ironscale Melusai and Khanite Shadowstalkers, but everything else has gotten reworked in some way or another. Morathi has been reworked rather dramatically since you now field both big and little Morathi at the same time. They both share big Morathi's 12 wounds, and they still have the rules of only taking 3 wounds max per turn. This has been fixed to close up the Endless Spell loophole as well. So if little Morathi take 3 wounds, then those just pass to big Morathi, and once big Morathi dies, they both die. This lets your little Mortathi be the spell casting, buffing champ she is, while big Morathi charges forward and wrecks face. Another big change is to Witchbrew, which now only works on a 5+, but it gets better with each new rule from the Blood Rites table. This means that normally it's a 5+ on turn 1, then 4+ on turn 2, then 3+, then 2+. This can also be manipulated by things that manipulate the Blood Rites table. Witch Aelves are slightly less stabby, with having only 3 attacks each with two knives, but still pretty stabby. The Slaughter Queen's command ability also doesn't require her to be your general anymore, which is always welcome.

The Shadowstalkers seem like they would be good for teleporting shenanigans and grabbing objectives, but they don't seem like they pack much of a punch. The Ironscale is a real winner though. She has an ability that gives any melusai wholly within 12" of her +1 attack if she kills a model in combat. Her command ability also lets you pick a unit of melusai and they can run and charge or shoot that turn, AND they can run 2D6" instead! I think any army that takes melusai will be taking her. Speaking of melusai, the Blood Sisters are pretty much the same, but their Crystal Touch is now an ability and not an attack. This makes sense with how much you can buff their attacks now. Also, the Blood Sisters now have 2 shots each! 

In addition to the units we get two new Endless Spells, and 1 new Invocation of Khaine (Endless Prayer). I really like the Bloodwrack Viper since it looks awesome, and it also has you roll 3 dice against the unit it's near and for each dice that rolls above the wounds characteristic of models from that unit it outright kills them. This means it'll be a pretty reliable 3 dead models for 1 wound models, pretty reliable on 2 wound models, and if you're really lucky you can even kill some 4 - 5 wound models! The last change is in the points section, besides the changed points themselves, the melusai units are now battleline if either a Bloodwrack or an Ironscale is your general.

Overall I really like this book. I know it may seem like a lot of it is similar to the last one, but it's basically kept all of the awesome stuff, and improved everything else! The lore is a great collection of the previous lore and the Broken Realms stuff, which just makes sense. I guess I wish there was a bit more new stuff unique to this book, but there are plenty of people out there who are reading all of this for the first time. Even the existing stuff got embellished a bit more. This basically feels like the took what was there and supersized it, so I can't really complain. The army itself feels familiar enough that I'll know what I'm doing, but with enough new tricks that I can try out plenty of new stuff if I want. I've always loved the scáthborn the most, and now I really feel like I can run a list centered on them and do well, even with the loss of Temple Nest. The Ironscale really is an amazing hero unit! I'm definitely excited to get my DoK back on the table post pandemic. In the meantime, I picked up the DoK side of the Shadow and Pain boxset, so I have plenty of scáthborn to paint up and add to my army, as well as Morathi herself.

Until next time,

Tyler M.

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