Saturday, March 5, 2022

REVIEW: Battletome Idoneth Deepkin

The last book of AoS1 has finally gotten its update for the new edition of the game in the form of everyone's favorite undersea aelves, the Idoneth Deepkin. What have Teclis' number one fans been up to within the Mortal Realms and what changes have been made to their rules? Let's delve under the waves and find out!

First off, I want to thank Games Workshop for sending me a free review copy to take a look at. I generally like to start with the cover, and this one is a little unique. It's very similar to the last cover, but is actually an entirely new piece of art. The Akhelian King on his Deepmare still takes center stage, and the composition is generally similar to the last one, so you could easily mistake it for being the same cover if you weren't familiar with it. While not a bad cover at all, I think I liked the style of the previous one better. If they wanted to do a new cover I would have preferred if they went with something completely new. Such as having a Namarti or even the new Thrallmaster front and center, or an Akhelian eel rider. That being said, it's still a cool cover.

The lore section starts out with a basic overview of the faction before diving into some more specifics. A lot of the basics of the Deepkin are the same here as they were in the last book, with the main differences being what's happened in the plot since then, such as the Soul Wars, Broken Realms, and the Era of the Beast. You can check out my review of the first book here for a look at their existing lore. For those unfamiliar with them though I'll give a quick rundown. The Idoneth Deepkin are actually the very first of the aelves rescued from Slaanesh by the aelven gods. Back during the End Times, the followers of Mathlann were the last elves to be eaten by the Chaos god, since their own god hid them so well. So it makes sense that they're the first to be rescued into the Mortal Realms. Last in, first out and such. These aelves were rescued by Teclis and were called the Cythai. Teclis sought to recreate the glory of the elves of Ulthuan, but unfortunately the Cythai were too traumatized by their souls having been eaten by Slaanesh. He taught them much about their own history and the realms, but eventually he started to realize something was wrong. When he sought to purify them with light magic it only traumatized them further, at which point the aelven god decided to call it a day and scrap the whole Cythai project. Catching wind of this, they fled into the depths of the oceans to hide from his wrath, and took the Ocarian Lantern, the very magical tool that was used to draw forth their souls from Slaanesh, with them. This way Teclis couldn't use its magic to locate them again.

In the oceans they not only found seclusion and safety from those that sought to destroy them, but a type of sensory deprivation due to the lack of light, the freezing temperatures, and the crushing depths. This helped them essentially repress their own trauma. If they can't feel anything at all, then they can't feel sad either. There was actually a short story a few years back about a raiding party of theirs that spent a little too much time on the surface and some of the aelves started to "feel" a little too much and they had to flee back into the waters. Down in the depths they renamed themselves the Idoneth Deepkin and started to create their own empire and civilization. They also discovered the Whirlways, which are underwater realm gates. This allowed them to spread out and create new enclaves across the realms.

As their new civilization progressed they discovered another new horrifying consequence of their scarring by Slaanesh. Only 1 in every 100 Idoneth born were born with a full soul. The rest were born with half souls and as such only lived a small fraction of the normal lifespan. These half souled aelves were called the Namarti. Eventually they found a neat life hack for this though, just steal other living beings' souls! At first they tried using the souls of underwater animals, but they weren't good enough. It was decided that they had to be the souls of sentient beings, and thus began the Idoneth raids upon the surface. Though human or orruk souls weren't as good as aelf souls, if you got enough of them and stuffed them all into a single Namarti then you could extend their life. Some Idoneth decided that wasn't good enough and will settle for nothing less than other aelf souls. Even with these additional souls, a Namarti is unlikely to live as long as a full-souled Idoneth. Despite this, there is still a chance that a pair of Namarti parents could give birth to a full-souled Idoneth, as the curse doesn't seem to distinguish between the two when having a child. 

The Idoneth society split into distinct castes, with the Akhelians, Isharann, and Narmarti. The Akhelians and Isharann are the healthy, full-souled aelves, while the Namarti are a sub-class of thralls composed entirely of those with half-souls. The Akhelians are the warriors of the Idoneth ruling elite and lead the soul raids onto the surface. The Isharann on the other hand are the priests and functionaries of the elite. Most of this so far has been more or similar to the first book, with a few new details here and there, like the Ocarian Lantern being mentioned, which was a concept not introduced until Broken Realms: Morathi.

One of the new bits of lore added is a brief description of how the Idoneth get along with the other races of Order since deciding to join in the fight against Chaos, Death, and Destruction. Humans, for the most part, are wary of them, but welcome the aid. They realize that these are probably the people behind all of the mysterious attacks upon coastal villages, but can't deny the Deepkin's effectiveness in battle. The duardin aren't huge fans, especially the Fyreslayers, who apparently have been a frequent target of the soul raids. On the aelven side of things, the Deepkin have a deep dislike for the Lumineth, who they find to be arrogant and haughty, but get along fine with the Sylvaneth, since they're both fans of nature, just one above the sea and the other below. After the events of Broken Realms: Morathi, Volturnos has made a secret pact with Morathi to work together. To be fair, it was either that or be killed, so he had little choice. 

There's also a map showing the Idoneth's empire in the oceans around Ymetrica in Hysh. This is where they originally fled to following Teclis trying to kill them. The timeline is where we get some real juicy bits though. There's mention of a war against an abyss-dwelling race called the Abholons during the Age of Myth, which brings to mind the trench from Aquaman. The Age of Chaos brought on a civil war amongst the Deepkin, which eventually settles into simmering distrust amongst some of the enclaves. One of my favorite bits mentions how during the events of the Spirefall in Hysh, when the Lumineth fought amongst themselves, the Deepkin took the opportunity to do a little soul raiding. Slipping in amongst the chaos of the Ocari Dara, the Idoneth took some petty revenge upon Teclis' favored aelves. The dawn of the Era of the Beast sees Alarielle's life magic spread even to the ocean, which also encourages a renewed alliance between the Deepkin and the Sylvaneth.

After this we go into a more thorough exploration of the Isharann and Akhelian castes. It's an interesting look at how their society works, with Akhelians undergoing a decades long training process called the asydrazor, then graduating to manning the weapons on Leviadons and Allopexes, before moving onto riding Fangmoras, then unit leaders, and if their good enough becoming Kings or Queens. I didn't realize that the title of Akhelian King is merit based, which is a cool bit of lore. The only "odd one out" are the Akhelian Thrallmasters, who are either typically loners, or Akhelians who have been exiled, as working with the Namarti is seen as a kind of punishment. The Isharann are any Idoneth who display magical powers. They're trained from birth and then sorted into the profession that best suits them. The ones we see in the game are only a small selection of the Isharann, as there are many who perform non-battlefield duties, such as building the cities or taming the beasts of the oceans.

Each of the major enclaves gets its own page dedicated to it. The Ionrach are the empire builders. They're the diplomats of the Idoneth race and are also the ones who will most frequently interact with outsiders. They're also the only enclave led by a living Cythai, as Volturnos is the last Cythai left. There is mention of how as part of his bargain with Morathi he was gifted several Cythai souls that she stole from Slaanesh, so there's the possibility of some more returning in the future. The Dhom-hain settled in the oceans of Ghur, and as such, have the best bond with the beasts of the sea. The Fuethán live in Aqshy and are the most temperamental and warlike of the Idoneth. They have a strong preference for aelf souls and have made an enemy of the Kraith. The Mor'phann hail from Shyish, and their city actually resides within the underworld for anyone who died by drowning. They also may be dabbling a bit with Necromancy as they seem to have an aptitude for soul magic that far outstrips the rest of the Deepkin. The Briomdar live in Ghyran and have a close relationship with the Sylvaneth. This has resulted in them being adapt at healing magic, and they hope to one day fully heal the soul curse of their race. Lastly, the Nautilar are a breakaway enclave of the Ionrach, and have made their city upon the back of a Great Scaphodon, a god beast sized turtle like creature. This was actually done by mistake, as they originally thought it was the sea floor, before the Scaphodon got up and started swimming around.

The unit section goes into each unit in more detail. In the entry for the different eel riders it mentions how Teclis taught the original Cythai about the history of the High Elves of the world-that-was and how they rode to battle atop horses and dragons. Even centuries later the Deepkin still wish to emulate their forebears, but since they're under the water, which is a bit difficult for horses to deal with, they instead ride into battle atop the beasts of the sea.

This is then followed by the gallery section, which shows off all of the 'Eavy Metal models. It also has some amazing scenic photography, which is some of the best I've seen yet. They're really getting creative with the compositions, backgrounds, and lighting. It feels even more cinematic and painterly, and less like models lined up. This section also has painting guides fo each of the major enclaves, as well as other key details for the Idoneth range. I also want to mention here the other artwork and general design of the book. There a few new pieces of art, and also some missing that were in the last book. Overall it's really good, but the new piece for Volturnos felt a bit odd to me. It's an unusual style, and the eye patch looks a bit like it was added last minute. It's a bit of a shame as I feel that the vignette of him from the first book is near perfect. The layout really leans into the water motif more than the last one. Everything has a tint of blue to it, and the side bar illustrations are full of sea creatures.

Now, onto the rules section. Starting with the allegiance abilities, we have Forgotten Nightmares. This works exactly the same as before, just with some cleaned up wording. Idoneth units can only be picked as the target of a shooting attack if they're the closest eligible unit to shoot. Tides of Death also works exactly the same, again, with cleaned up language. For example, High Tide now says that in that battle round the Strike-First effect (core rules, 12.4) applies to friendly Deepkin units. The first major change we see is with the Isharann rituals. These now work completely different. If you have any Isharann in your army you get to pick one of four rituals that apply for that battle, and only one. This is done before the start of the first turn, so you have a bit of flexibility. Each ritual basically boosts one of the Tides of Death abilities. For example, Ritual of the Surging Stream adds 1 to the run and charge rolls during the Flood Tide turn. This is a huge change from the last book, where they had nothing to do with the Tides of Death, and were also really hard to pull off as you needed to roll a 10+ on two dice to use them.

The artifacts have gotten a bit of a change, going from a flat 6 for any Deepkin hero to choose from, to 3 each for Akhelian heroes, Isharann heroes, or an Eidolon hero. I suspect the Teachings of the Túrscoll artifact for Isharann will get taken a lot, as it allows you to flip the Tides of Death table at the start of the game, meaning you would get High Tide on turn 2. This was previously an ability on the Tidecaster's warscroll, but now can be done by any Isharann. Nightmare Legacy for the Eidolon is another good one, which lets the Aspect of the Storm Eidolon do monstrous rampages despite not being a monster. The artifacts are split up the same way, with 3 to choose from for each of the types of heroes. Rune of the Surging Gloom for Isharann lets you summon on an additional Gloomtide Shipwreck once per battle, which is pretty handy.

There's also a table of 6 mount traits, but 3 of them are Deepmare only and 3 are Leviadon only. Ancient for the Leviadon makes enemy attacks with a rend of -1 attacking it a rend of 0, which I expect to be taken quite a bit. Lastly, in this section, the spell lore now only has 4 spells to pick from, Steed of Tides, Counter-current, Pressure of the Deep, and Arcane Corrosion. To be honest, they're all pretty good. Pressure of the Deep still lets you snipe out specific models from a unit, which can be key with coherency or taking out a banner or champion. Arcane Corrosion reduces an enemy units rend by 1 until your next hero phase, Steed of Tides lets you essentially teleport a non-monster hero, and Counter-current can halve run and charge rolls for a unit.

Each of the 6 main enclaves gets a set of special rules. Nautilar has a special monstrous rampage for its Leviadons that increases the rend on the Fins and Jaws to be -3, and also lets you take Leviadons as battleline. In a similar fashion, Fuethán armies can take Allopexes as battleline and has a special formation of Allopexes it can take. In the fashion of AoS3, these have all been greatly simplified down from the previous book. There is no artifact or command trait you need to take or anything like that. Each enclave just gets one additional special rule, and some get additional battleline.

In the Path to Glory section the Deepkin are given a unique twist with the Quota of Souls rule. This allows you to roll a number of dice depending on the enemy unit you just destroyed, and for each 4+ you add 1 to your soul quota. Souls can then be spent in Path to Glory to lessen the effects of casualty and injury rolls, and used in the place of glory points to recuperate a unit or reinforce a unit. This is a great way to bring the main driving force of the Deepkin into the narrative of the game. They also get 4 unique quests to complete, with 2 unique battle plans tied to those quests, a unique table of veteran abilities, a unique set of territories, and a name generator. All in all I'm really liking how involved the Path to Glory sections are. It's a huge step up from past editions. There are also 3 Warscroll Battalions, the Royal Council, Akhelian Corps, and Namarti Corps. The names should be familiar to veteran players as is their composition. They all have the Full Fury of the Storm ability, which basically allows any unit from the battalion the ability to cause impact hits when they charge during High Tide.

The Matched Play section gives 4 unique Grand Strategies and 6 unique Battle Tactics. The Akhelian Pursuit Grand Strategy will be great for eel heavy armies and requires you to have 3 or more Akhelian units wholly within enemy territory at the end of the game. On the Battle Tactics side I like most of them. Assassins of the High Tide is if your units kill 2 or more enemy units during High Tide, which should be pretty easy. Revenge of the Namarti is if your Namarti kill an enemy hero or monster, and Deny Trespassers is if you have a Gloomtide Shipwreck within 12" of an enemy unit at the start of the round and that same shipwreck has no enemy near it at the end of the round. Strangely, there are no Matched Play battalions for them to pick from.

On the warscroll side of things there have been quite a few changes, some smaller and some larger, so it's hard to go over all of it. Instead, I'm going to pick out a few things that stood out to me. Volturnos, always a favorite, is now more consistent with his sword with 4 attacks, -2 rend, and a flat 3 damage. He's also a warlord now. His Supreme Lord of Tides ability is more or less the same, but with a smaller area of effect. All of the Isharann characters also now have a 5+ ward with the Gifts of the Depths ability. Lotann has gotten better with his Catalogue of souls ability now adding 1 to wound rolls in melee for ALL Idoneth as well as gaining a better save and a once per battle ability to use an additional Isharann ritual for one unit.

On the eel side of things the Ishlaen now have -1 rend on their swords and their Biovoltaic Barrier now makes their save the same as ethereal, and boosts it to a 3+ on the turn they charge. Morrsarr are basically the same, but now do their Blast on a 4+ instead of a 3+, but get a boost to their roll if they're outnumbered. The eels for both units have also had their profiles simplified, now with one attack profile that does 3 attacks, 3s and 3s, -1 rend, and D3 damage. So, better then it was before. The Namarti Reavers seem really good to me, with better bows and an ability to get +1 to their shooting if they're close enough. They're also now just basic battleline. The Allopexes and Leviadons also got improved considerably as has been previewed on Warhammer Community.

All in all it's a solid update to the army. On the rules side of things there's nothing drastic like we had with Maggotkin, but if it ain't broke, don't fix it. The warscrolls have been tweaked, refined, and boosted where needed and the army still plays in the same way it did before, but now with added AoS3 benefits and the Thrallmaster as a new unit. Also, lots and lots of battleline options. I'm equally excited and scared to see all the Leviadon and Allopex heavy armies that will come out of this. I like how the lore has been built on, with most of the new info coming from what's happened since the start of the Soul Wars through the Era of the Beast. With both Teclis and the Lumineth having come out since these guys originally released, I think it was important to reassess how the Deepkin would feel about them. I'm also excited to see where it goes going forward with the heavy Sylvaneth hints and the returned Cythai souls.

Until next time,

Tyler M. 

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