Thursday, June 17, 2021

REVIEW: Age of Sigmar - Dominion Core Book Lore & Models

The new edition of Age of Sigmar is nearly upon us, and with it the launch box for it, Dominion! This box is packed full of new models, as well as the new core book. So, what's inside Dominion, and what new lore does the core book contain?

There's a ton to write about here. More than I could reasonably fit into one article, and also more than I could reasonably read up on and digest in the time I've had. With that in mind I've decided to focus on the contents of the box, and the lore section from the Core book, as well as the other booklet included. I've always loved the lore and background for AoS, and this edition does not disappoint. There are so many people talking about the new rules already, but not enough about the lore, so I will be saving my rules talk for a later date.

Dominion Box Contents

Dominion is to AoS what Indomitus was to 40k. It's the limited edition launch box. So, kind of a starter set, but not really. You get a bunch of Stormcast and the new Kruleboyz, a War at Amberstone booklet, and the core book with an exclusive cover. Like with 40k, I'm assuming real starter sets will follow, which will have most of the models from this set, but not all of them. If you want a comprehensive look at what's inside then you can watch my unboxing video above. My guess is that Yndrasta, the Annihilators, the Vexilor, the Killaboss on Gnashtoof, the Kruleboyz banner, and the Boltboyz are going to be the models "exclusive" to this box. I put exclusive in quotations, because if it's like 40k, these sprues will get released on their own as online exclusives several months down the line. 

As for the models, these are definitely some of the most detailed models I've ever seen in a starter set. The Kruleboyz have so much detail packed into them. I also really love the armor redesign on the Stormcast. They look so much more sleek and deadly, as well as a bit more realistic. All of the armor actually has straps on it now, so you can see how they might have been attached to the person. It gives them a much more "warrior in armor" vibe than the lightning golem look they had before. I know some people might prefer the old aesthetic, but I know of so many people who didn't know that there were supposed to be humans inside the armor before. They just though they were animated suits of armor. The humanity of the Stormcast is a super important element to their backstory, so I'm glad they look more human. 

Also, the biggest quality of life improvement on these models is that their shoulder pads are now one piece! No more giant gap running down the center of the shoulder pad. This was a huge pain before and wasn't very new hobbyist friendly to be honest. So far I've assembled about half of the Stormcast, and they go together so easy. There are barely any gaps, and most of the ones that are there are hidden or at least partially hidden. I hardly used any glue on most of mine. The push fit aspect of them seems to be getting more precise now too. I've started painting them, with two of the Vindictors finished at time of writing this, and they paint up so well. The detail is superb as well, especially on the un-helmeted heads. I'm reluctant to cast aside my beloved Nighthaunt as the best AoS starter set from Soul Wars, but I think this set beats it out with the level of detail on it. Though, I do think the Nighthaunt from Soul Wars made great getting started models with their ease of paintability.

The Core Book

This is a massive book and a ton of people out there have already covered the rules section extensively. You can even download the core rules for free! So, instead I'm going to focus on the lore sections, as well as a few of the hobby galleries scattered throughout the rules. There's a ton of lore packed into this book too. The rules don't even start for 246 pages!

The first thing you'll notice when you crack open the book is that the intro page, which has been the same for AoS since the launch of the game, is different now. It more accurately reflects where we're at in the story, with us entering the Era of the Beast. This is followed by 3 two page artwork spreads, including the awesome piece showing off the new Dawnbringer Crusades that we've seen previewed already. Then we get a couple of pages giving a brief overview of the game and the hobby, such as different ways to collect the models, the three different ways to play the game, and so on. Starting on page 26 we delve into the background lore.

First off we get 10 pages on the Age of Myth. This covers a lot of what you might already be familiar with, but there's enough new info scattered about that it still feel fresh and new, even for veterans of the setting. Think all of the lore we've gotten before, but more in depth and with more corners explored. It's also all consolidated in one place, since it's been slowly expanding over the years across various publications. This is then followed by 10 pages on the Age of Chaos. There are awesome pieces of artwork scattered throughout this too, so some of these pages are taken up by the art. Speaking of which, some of it is new in this book, but a lot of it is taken from past publications, but it's taking the best of the best from each book, and putting them into one spot. When it delves into how Chaos took root some of the plot from Gav Thorpe's The Red Feast, which is a novel that details how Khorgos Khul first fell to Khorne and opened up the portal in Aqshy for the demonic legions to pour forth. It's nice to see elements from the novels so strongly tied into the official background lore like this. We also get a full two pages dedicated to the fall of the Aelves in Hysh, which was previously only in the Lumineth book.

Then we get the start of the Age of Sigmar. What I really love about this is that it's incorporating all of the events that we "lived" through if you've been with AoS since it launched, and presenting it as the history of the setting. We get two pages each for the Realmgate Wars, the Seeds of Hope, Malign Portents, the Soul Wars, and the effects of the Necroquake on magic. We also get two pages for each of the Broken Realms books, which brings us right up to where Kragnos left off. Again, there are little nuggets of info in here that will be new to everyone to keep you hooked, but the juiciest part of the book is the section that comes next.

This book gives us the most in depth look at the Mortal Realms so far. We get a general overview of what they are, with a pretty solid explanation, as far as magical realms go anyway. We're a long way from the hand waving of first edition for explanations. One of the coolest parts for me is the map of the realms in the cosmos. We got something like this in 2nd edition, the explains how Hysh and Ulgu are the day and night cycle for the rest of the realms, and showing how they all orbit the Eightpoints. The coolest new addition here for me is that it talks about the moons of each realm. For example, Hysh has Celenar, which is Teclis' buddy, as well as Leoth. One of Ulgu's moons is called the Orb Duplicita, which is home to a bunch of shadow demons. Shyish only has one moon called Lunaghast, which is the ghost of the Morrslieb, the green moon of warpstone that used to orbit the world-that-was, while Ghur currently only has two moons, since the realm ate the third one. It's just awesome details that really help bring the setting to life. A ghost moon! So cool!

After this it talks about how the realmspheres work, with the most magical areas being on the outskirts and the more habitable areas in the center, except for Shyish, which is reverses thanks to Nagash. It also talks about the cities, with their general layout, how they were constructed, and so on. As you'll see, the cities are a major focus in this book. This is followed by the introduction of the Dawnbringer Crusades. These are expeditions set out from the major cities to establish new settlements. Each one will bring with it all of the buildings and supplies it needs. They do this by bringing floating islands with them known as metaliths. Each crusade brings the metaliths with them in a different way. Some are towed by Kharadron ships, while others are pulled along by massive work gangs using chains. Some of these new settlements will one day grow into new cities, but most of them will be overrun and destroyed by the enemies of Order. There's also a cool drawing of an example settlement, detailing what all of the different buildings are. All of them will have Nexus Siphons, which powers the Guardian Idols, statues set up on the perimeter walls that guard against demons and ghosts. They'll also all have an Aqualith, which provides safe drinking water.

This is followed by a detailed look at each realm. All of the realms get an introduction page, which also has a full color map of one of the more important areas within it, followed by two pages going over the most important events that have transpired within that realm as well as what it's like to live there. Lastly, we get two pages going into detail about one of the major cities. For example, Chamon has Vindacarum, Shyish has Lethis, and Hysh has Settler's Gain. Aqshy is the first realm we're introduced to, and it gets an even higher page count than the rest of the realms. Hammerhal Aqsha gets four whole pages dedicated to it, a map of the entire city, and a look at the most famous freeguild regiments that call it home. I really love how detailed they get into the history of the city and how it works as well. It feels very lived in and realistic for a setting, with the typical AoS high fantasy flair added in of course. 

Most of these cities get at least one piece of artwork to go along with it. Some of these are older pieces, but there are quite a few new ones. The art for Settler's Gain, Hammerhal Ghyra, and Excelsis are gorgeous. The Excelsis art shows the city under siege during the events of Broken Realms: Kragnos, which is pretty cool to see. We also get some more solid hints about Malerion's empire within Ulgu, which is promising for what the future holds. These are also followed by two pages each on Azyr and the Realm of Chaos. I would have liked to see a bit more about Azyrheim, like how the other cities got, but maybe that will come in the future if Azyr is ever at risk of invasion.

The last section in the background lore covers the four grand alliances and all of the different factions within them. I'm not going to lie, I haven't had time to finish all of this section yet, but I did read all of the Death stuff. Of course. Each faction gets two pages, with the Stormcast getting several extra. From what I can tell from the Death section these are meant to be grand overviews of each faction for people less familiar with them. Kind of giving you a little taster of what they hold. Though there were some teasers in the Flesh-eater section about Ushoran being out and about in the realms again, so I'm assuming there might be more little things like that hidden throughout the other factions. I'm excited to find them. I'd love to see Ushoran come back as the 6th Mortarch. These all have a gallery section as well at the end of each grand alliance, showing off a selection of the models for the armies.

With that, the lore section is done and we're on to the rules. Like I said, I'm not going to really cover these right now, since you can download the core rules for free, and there are a ton of other people out there, more qualified than me, already giving some good analysis on the rules. There are quite a few significant changes though from 2nd edition, so I would like to talk about them at some point in the future! What I will talk about a bit though is the layout of the rules within the book. We start off with the core rules, then got to Open Play, Narrative Play, and finally, Matched Play. Each section is bookended with a gallery of models from one of the design studio people's armies. At the end of the core rules are Ben Johnson's Sons of Behemat for example. They let each person talk a bit about their army and show off the models in some awesome photos. I really like stuff like this as it shows off actual armies, painted in varying styles, as opposed to only the 'Eavy Metal and Army Painter models. The Death army at the end of the Open Play section by Thomas Elliott is absolutely amazing and I want to steal every single conversion idea in it.

I'd really love to delve into the Narrative section more in particular with the re-worked Path to Glory section. From what I've been told it's much more similar to how Crusade works in 40k, which I really like. After the main rules sections we get some of the extra rules, such as Siege Warfare and Triumph and Treachery. Surprisingly there are no Streets of Death rules though.

And that's the book! The layout on everything looks spectacular, and there are tons of fun quotes, narrative story bits, and cool artwork scattered throughout. I really think this is their best core book yet. I love how they focused so much on the realms and the cities. It really helps the world feel more lived in and also presents it to us from the human perspective, which is what we can relate to the most. The way the rules sections are laid out is brilliant as well. With each section and rule numbered so you can easily find what you're looking for. This limited edition version of the book also has a full artwork cover, as well as a black ribbon to mark you page.

War at Amberstone Watch booklet

Besides the core book, the other book you get in the Dominion box is the War at Amberstone Watch booklet. At first you might think this was the getting started rules, especially since it even says "Start Here" on the cover of it. Surprisingly though, it's only the lore for the battle this box is based around, as well as the units included. We start off with Yndrasta noticing strange goings on out in the wilds of Ghur. An unusual number of settlements have started going quiet. She has been tasked with hunting beasts though, with Kragnos and Gordrakk in particular being her top targets, so alas, these mysteries are beyond her purview. Instead she asks an old friend who is now a Lord-Imperitant to go investigate. The Stormcasts head out towards the settlement of Amberstone Watch where they find the Kruleboyz up to no good. The killaboss Gazog has decided he is going to attempt to poison the continent of Thondia using a magical elixir, all he needs is to find a magical layline. Unluckily for Amberstone Watch, they sit right on top of one. A series of escalating battles are fought, culminating in the final confrontation, which is left open ended, as that's what you now get to fight! 

Interestingly, I believe each battle represents the contents of the different sized starter sets we're going to get. The smallest battle has a unit of Vindictors and a Knight-Arcanum facing off against a Killaboss on foot and a unit of Gutrippaz. The next battle sees a unit of Vindictors, Praetors, and a Lord-Imperitant facing down a unit of Gutrippaz, Hobgrots, and a Swampcaller Shaman, while the final battle has all of the units from the Dominion box.

After this is gives a brief overview of both the Stormcast and the Kruleboyz as a whole, before diving into each unit individually. Yndrasta is an interesting character who is now tasked as Sigmar's hunter. The Knight-Arcanums also come from a different temple than the wizards of the Sacrosanct chamber. Their magic has more to do with the elemental forces of the realms as opposed to the soul magic we saw last edition. Other interesting notes are how the Annihilators retain a lot more of their personality than other Stormcast since they die less, and hence go through the reforging process less. Also, the Praetors often times start to pick up personality traits, and sometimes even physical traits of the Stormcast officer they have sworn to protect. It mentions how some Stormcast heroes who have Praetors go out of their way to try and remind them of their own personalities so they don't lose it entirely.

On the Kruleboyz side we learn about all of the new units. A lot of it mentions how they're a lot more cunning than your typical orruks, and units like the Boltboyz are actually deadly accurate with their shooting. The Hobgrots are said to work for both the chaos duardin, the kruleboyz, and are even rumored to have their own kingdoms. All of their armor and weapons come from the chaos duardin, who employ them to deliver captives caught by the Kruleboyz. It'll be interesting to see how this works in game if the Chaos Dwarfs ever make a reappearance since they don't fall into the Destruction alliance. It certainly seems like there's a high possibility we will be seeing them again too with how often they're popping up in the background lore now. I kind of wonder if this booklet WILL have the getting started rules and battleplans in the actual starter sets, but had them pulled for the Dominion box since it's not really meant for new gamers, hence the lack of dice and rulers. 

If you're a fan of either of the factions in this box, then I think you'll definitely want it. At the very least I recommend picking up the core book. The background lore presented in here is amazing and I absolutely loved every page of it. It's the most comprehensive look at the history of the Mortal Realms and how they work as settings. 

Next week I expect to have my review of the new General's Handbook, then the week after that I may do my thoughts on the new rules in general as well as the Path to Glory section.

Until next time,

Tyler M.

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