Thursday, April 22, 2021

REVIEW: Broken Realms - Be'lakor

The Broken Realms saga continues, this time with the true master of shadows and deceit. No, I'm not talking about Malerion, but Be'lakor! The world's first demon prince returns in style with a new model and a new plan. So what does he have in store for the mortal realms?

This book covers the story for Be'lakor's dastardly plan, as well as new warscrolls, units, and battalions for Slaves to Darkness, Nighthaunt, Seraphon, Kharadron, Fyreslayers, Tzeentch, and Stormcast. There is a lot less rules content to cover than Teclis, since that had about half a Lumineth battletome in it, so I think I'll be able to cover most of it here. I'm also very excited for my new Nighthaunt goodies and rules.

Very quickly, I think Be'lakor has the best book cover so far, since I mean, he's just a very cool looking demon. It definitely has the best looking special edition cover out of the three. I'm also happy to see it move away from an aelf after the first two were Morathi and Teclis. I guess at least Morathi is also half a snake?

Just like with the previous two, I'm not going to lay out the whole story here, as I don't want to ruin that experience for anyone. While the new rules content is great, for me it's the progression of the story in the Broken Realms series that really makes them worth it. I love seeing how they progress what's going on in the Mortal Realms with these. That being said, I will be covering some of what goes on, so if you're the type of person who wants everything to be a surprise, you have been warned:


The story actually doesn't start with anything overtly related to Be'lakor. Instead we kind of pick up from one of the loose story threads from Morathi. There the aelven goddess struck a bargain with Sigmar to have the Stormcast support an invasion of the Eightpoints. They sought to rid the Chaos forces of the Varanite, a substance one of the Gaunt Summoners was using to try and destabilize the realmgate to Azyr. Unfortunately for the Stormcast, once Morathi had achieved her own secret goal of stealing that Varanite, she peaced out and left the golden boys in the lurch with no support, deep in enemy territory, and miles from the Genesis Gate, the realmgate to Ghyran that they entered through. Now those Stormcast were fighting a desperate retreat across the Bloodwind Spoil, trying to make it to safety. Meanwhile, Gardus Steel Soul and his Hallowed Knights, were holding the gate open on the other side while fighting off an encroaching Nurgle army. Enter the Seraphon! 

Lord Kroak had foreseen something dire about to happen within the Mortal Realms and so sent an army of Seraphon down to Ghyran. They then fought their way through the Nurgle forces besieging Gardus and his Stormcast. Hooray, they thought! Alas, it twas not to be, and the Seraphon fought their way right past the Stormcast and through the Genesis Gate into the Eightpoints, leaving poor Gardus all on his own. They then also fought their way right past the retreating Stormcast within the Eightpoints and launched an attack on the Silver Tower of the Gaunt Summoner himself. While this was going on, Gardus and the Hallowed Knights managed to keep the gate open long enough for the few survivors of the other Stormhost to make it through to relative safety. Unfortunately, Gardus himself once more died heroically fighting off the Nurgle demons and was sent back to Azyr to be reforged. I think that's three times now that Nurgle has killed him.  Inside the Eightpoints the Seraphon fight the Tzeentch forces back enough that the Gaunt Summoner launches his Silver Tower into the aetheric void (space) to avoid defeat. Unfortunately for him, he then runs into a Seraphon temple ship and its fleet. A sweet boarding action ensues, and the Silver Tower ends up crashing back down into Chamon where it explodes, annihilating everything for miles around and shorting out a bunch of realmgates with the magical feedback.

This last bit is what catches the attention of Be'lakor, for if there is a way to destroy enough realmgates then he can cut the rest of the realms off from Azyr. During the events of Katakros' invasion of the Eightpoints during Wrath of the Everchosen, Be'lakor had fought and banished Lady Olynder back to Shyish. Though now it appeared that she had set a curse on him while doing so. Seeing an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone, he launches an invasion of Shyish. Through his network of spies he had learned the resting place of her mortal remains within Dolorum. During the siege of Dolorum against the Nighthaunt, he led a lightning assault towards her resting place, which Olynder attempted to repel. He was able to fight his way towards her body though and rested his sword against it, threatening to destroy her forever. There, the two reached an agreement. Olynder would lend her Nighthaunts to his aide in distracting the forces of order and sowing chaos (with a small c), so he could more easily achieve his goals. In return he promised her a bunch of Stormcast souls if his plan worked, and she would lift her curse. Thus the alliance was struck.

Here is where I will leave the story so you can enjoy the rest on your own. The final confrontation is pretty epic though, and the consequences of Be'lakor's plan will have pretty far reaching effects. I'm very interested to see if they will persist after Broken Realms concludes, which, if so, will have a seismic impact on the setting of AoS. Even if it just lasts through the end of Broken Realms, it's still a pretty big deal. There's also a death in here that made me a little sad. Newer fans to AoS might not even register it as much, but if you've been following the story since the launch of AoS then you'll probably take notice. I kind of wish it didn't happen, as I think it's a loss to that part of the setting and a loss of an interesting character, but it also does set the stakes pretty well. I almost forget to mention a certain duardin character who makes an appearance that longbeards may recognize! Overall I quite enjoyed this story. I think it was much stronger than Teclis and I really felt the stakes of what was happening. Part of that may be because I relate to the humans and Stormcast in here more than aelves, but I also just think the writing was stronger. The first third of it had some moments that felt a little to nebulous with the Seraphon, but the second two thirds of the story were concise and had some real peril. If I had to rank the books so far it would be Morathi, Be'lakor, then Teclis.

The only real complaint I have about the book is the lack of new art. We get a new piece of Be'lakor's face, which is also used as the Limited Edition cover, and then new Seraphon, Kharadron, and Tzeentch vignettes, which are used as the covers of the boxed sets that are coming out alongside this. We don't get anything actually depicting the story. In Morathi we had a wonderful two page spread of the final confrontation, but so far in Teclis and Be'lakor we haven't gotten anything like that, which feels like a real loss. I don't know if this is a casualty of the pandemic, but I really would have loved to see something depicting Nagash and Teclis facing off as well as the finale in this book. 

After the story section we move onto the rules. This starts out with all of the narrative parts we need to recreate the story as a campaign. We get Realm of Battle rules for The Genesis Gate, Dolorum, and Prosperis in Chamon. This is followed by the siege rules and Coalition of Death, the rules for multiplayer games. We also get six narrative battleplans that recreate pivotal moments from the story, such as the defense of the Genesis Gate and the attack on Dolorum.

After this we move onto the Battletome Updates. This starts off with the big guy himself, Be'lakor. His warscroll is pretty similar to his existing one, but beefed up, as befits his new model. His wounds, move, and attacks have all been adjusted to fit the larger model. His abilities are also all pretty similar with a few changes. Lord of Torment now has a 12" range instead of 10", and the Dark Master is a bit more flexible. You now pick a unit at the start of your opponent's hero phase instead of at the start of the battle, but it's still only once per battle. You also roll for that unit at the start of each phase instead of your opponent, and on a 3+ they can't do anything. It's still a really powerful ability and can really put a wrench in your opponent's plans. The rules for the Legion of the First Prince are also reprinted here with a few tweaks. These originally appeared in Wrath of the Everchosen, so they're not that old.

The Nighthaunt have gotten a huge buff here with rules for two Processions. These are equivalent to Stormhost rules. The first is for the Emerald Host, which is Olynder's personal army from Dolorum. The Emerald Curse lets you pick one enemy hero after set up but before the battle begins and then subtract 1 from their save rolls for the rest of the game. Knights of Regret gives your Hexwraiths a boost with +1 attack on the charge. When they're near a friendly Nighthaunt hero you can also bounce wounds to them on a 2+. The command trait is Lord of the Host which lets your general use their warscroll command ability once per battle with no command point being spent and the artifact gives your first Knight of Shrouds an additional attack to their sword. The second procession is Reikenor's Condemned. The main ability lets your Chainrasps and Glaivewraiths re-roll attack rolls while within range of your Spirit Torments and Chainghasts. When you use the Guardian of Souls spell on them they also return an additional D6 models to the unit. The second ability lets you take Reikenor in your army and count him as your general in addition to whatever other model you pick as your general. I really wish we got something like this for Olynder in the Emerald Host. The command ability lets you add 6" to the movement of a Chainrasp or Glaivewraith unit within range, and the artifact essentially gives your hero Reikenor's Corpse Candles rule.

The other additions to the Nighthaunt are an updated warscroll for the Harridans, the warscroll for their new hero the Krulghast Cruciator, and the Sorrowmourn Choir battalion. The Harrowing Shriek rule on the Harridans got a boost and now subtracts 1 from hit rolls for enemy units nearby if they're bravery 7 or less. Previously it was 5 or less, which is almost nonexistent in the game, so at least it will see some play now. The Cruciator is a support hero who's main ability is Empowering Excruciation. If he inflicts any wounds with his missile weapon then he becomes empowered. While empowered the death save for any Nighthaunt units within range of him becomes a 5+ instead of a 6+, so you'll want to have him near the front line. I can imagine bubble wrapping him in a unit. He also has 6 wounds, so he's a bit more survivable since he'll have to be in the thick of the fighting. The battalion is Olynder, a unit of Harridans, and two units of Mymourns. They gain the ability to bounce wounds off of Olynder onto them on a 2+ and also allow Olynder to be the general in addition to another model who is general. This lets you take a command trait on a hero who can take it, while still using her command ability, which requires her to be the general. Personally, I would rather had seen this latter ability rolled into the Emerald Host, since the Hexwraiths there already do the bodyguard rule. 

The Kharadron get a set of new Guild Triumphs to pick from as well as a new battalion. The Guild Triumphs include two each for the Aether-Khemist Guild, Nav-League, and Endrineers Guild. I think my favorite is probably the Blow the Magazine rule for the Endrineers. If you have one on a Skyvessel that gets destroyed he can choose to blow up the magazines. You roll a dice to see how big of an explosion it has, doing either 1, D3, or D6 mortals to nearby units. Something about that just seems so ridiculous and awesome. The battalion consists of an Endrinmaster with Dirigible Suit and two units of Endrinriggers. Every unit in the battalion can move an extra 3" and they can pick one skyvessel per unit left in the battalion that's within range and give it an extra 3" movement as well.

The Seraphon start off by getting bound versions of the four Endless Spells from the Forbidden Power set. They also get the Celestial Stampede battalion. This consists of a Stegadon with Skink Chief, an Engine of the Gods, and a Bastiladon. The Skink Chief gets the Prime Warbeast trait even if he's not your general. They also get a special attack you can do one per battle called Lance of Cosmic Power. You pick a unit within 24" of the Chief and visible to him, then if you Engine of the Gods and Bastiladon are within 24" of the enemy you roll 3 dice and for each 2+ you do D3 mortal wounds.

Tzeentch simply gets a battalion consisting of a Herald on a Chariot, and 1-3 units of Horrors. All of the units in the battalion get +1 attack when they charge, and the herald knows Tzeentch's Firestorm in addition to his other spells at a +2 to cast. The Fyreslayers are also in here with updated warscrolls for the Doomseeker and Grimwrath Berserker. The Doomseeker has gotten an all around boost in combat and to his throwing axe. He hits better and has rend now, plus his Oathbound ability allows him to pile in and attack when he is killed as long as he's only attacked once so far in addition to its normal ability. The Runic Power ability also gives him +2 damage when he does this. The Berserker had his throwing axe improved and also got a new rule, Grimwrath Oath. You can now pick an oath from a list at the start of the first battle round. These include things like being able to run and charge, shrugging wounds on a 6+, and doing a mortal wound on a 6 to hit in addition to the normal damage.

Lastly we have the star of the show for Order in this book, Gardus Steel Soul. He has the same attack profile as a normal Lord-Celestant, but one less save and one more inch of movement for some reason. He's also lacking the Inescapable Vengeance rule, but has three new rules to take its place. Aura of Purity gives him a 5+ shrug against mortal wounds, and gives a 6+ shrug to nearby units of Hallowed Knights. Martyr's Strength lets him pile in and attack on a 2+ when he's slain, and Saintly Assault is a once per battle ability that let's Gardus and nearby Hallowed Knights units re-roll charges and get +1 attack on that charge.

Like I said previously, I really enjoyed this book and would rank it second behind Morathi so far in the series. The story is pretty good, but lags a bit in the first third. I really enjoyed the latter half though and felt like it has some of the highest stakes for the setting so far. While Morathi had pretty big shake ups, it was mostly contained to the Daughters of Khaine. Here, Be'lakor's plan will have far reaching consequences for all of the forces of Order, and especially the Stormcast. On the rules side, Chaos and Nighthaunt benefitted the most, with the others being nice additions. I am really excited to finally see Gardus on the tabletop though. He's been such a huge character in the fiction, so it's nice to finally see him as a model. I'm really looking forward to where the Broken Realms story is going. I can see this book feeding pretty directly into the next major confrontation, but it will be interesting to see how the characters and plots from Morathi and Teclis feed into it as well.

Until next time,

Tyler M.

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