Saturday, May 14, 2022

REVIEW: Nighthaunt Battletome - The Rules

The best army in all of AoS (totally not a biased opinion) has finally gotten its new book for AoS3, the Nighthaunt! Just like with my Maggotkin of Nurgle review, this ended up being pretty large, so I'm splitting it up into two reviews, one focusing on the rules, and the other on the lore and Path to Glory. Today we're going to take a look at all of the new army and Matched Play rules!

First off, a big thank you to GW for sending this book to me early to review. To say I was excited for these new rules is a bit of an understatement. While some of the armies that have come out for the 3rd edition of Age of Sigmar have stayed pretty similar to how they played before with only minor tweaks, we've also had the Maggotkin of Nurgle, which was drastically different. The new Nighthaunt rules fall somewhere in the middle. They maintain a lot of the ideas and themes of the previous book, but the way in which they are implemented are completely different. There's a lot to go over here, so let's get started.

The allegiance abilities for the Nighthaunt are familiar, yet entirely new. To start with, Aura of Dread now makes any enemy unit within 3" of a Nighthaunt unit count as being terrified. This means they're unable to benefit from the Inspiring Presence command ability, which is pretty huge. Too often bravery mechanics in AoS can just be ignored, but not against the ghosts. With the announcement of basic troops becoming more important in the next GHB this could have a huge impact. Next, the Ethereal rule has been rolled into the army wide abilities, which is something I expected to happen, but I was not expecting all of the changes to it. For starters, it still does the thing it's always been known for, your saves cannot be modified in any way, so bye bye rend. On top of that though it gives every unit in the army a 6+ ward save, meaning you don't need to stick close to your heroes anymore to get this benefit. I love this. While it made sense for most of the Death armies to be tied more to their heroes, it just always made Death armies feel weaker than a lot of other armies out there. Why would the literal undead have a worse ward save than something like Daughters of Khaine? Lastly, Ethereal gives the entire army the ability to retreat and charge, which is huge! It's so much more mobile now, but also greatly benefits the Wave of Terror rule. Speaking of which...

Wave of Terror is no longer the rule you remember. Previously if you rolled a 10+ with a unit when charging they got to fight immediately out of sequence, and then got to fight again in the regular combat phase. Now, there's a chart you reference that deals out debuffs to the enemy unit. The bonus on this is that you don't need to only roll a 10+ on the charge. On a 4-7 you get Shriek, which makes the enemy unit -1 to hit against you in that combat phase; on a 8-9 you get Stun, which makes the enemy unit -1 save for that combat phase, and on a 10+ you get Petrify, which makes the enemy unit strike last in that combat phase. If you have multiple Nighthaunt units all charging the same unit you can stack these as well, meaning the enemy unit could be -1 to hit you, -1 save, and strike last. Or you can double some of these up, meaning they could be -2 save, etc. If you roll high on the charge you can also pick a result from lower on the chart, so if you roll a 10+ you can still choose to Stun them instead of Petrify if you want. Couple this with the ability to retreat and charge, and you're looking at some pretty consistent debuffs throughout the game. This is undoubtably a more powerful and reliable ability than the old Wave of Terror. Having said that, I'll definitely miss the rush of rolling a 10+ and getting to attack right away.

Frightful Touch is now an army wide special rule, but instead of doing mortal wounds on hit roll of a 6, it auto wounds instead. Again, this is for every unit in the army though, hopefully making their attacks even more consistent. Vanishing Phantasms is the new version of rising up from the underworlds, and definitely way better. Now, at the end of deployment, but before determining first turn, you can remove up to 3 of your units and place them to the side. These can then come in at the end of any of your movement phases more than 9" away from enemy units. It's less units then you could do before, but it allows you to fake out your opponents as they may deploy to counter a specific unit and then you can just pull them off the board to teleport on later. I hardly did this with more than 3 units before anyway. Lastly, we have a new army wide command ability called Discorporate. When one of your Nighthaunt units is picked as the target of an attack you can increase their ward save from 6+ to 5+. This is basically a replacement for All-out Defense since the ghosts don't get access to that one.

When it comes to the enhancements the Nighthaunt have access to 6 command traits, 3 Relics of the Underworld, 3 Weapons of the Damned, 4 Infernal Treasures, and 6 spells. For the command traits I rather like Terrifying Entity, which makes their Aura of Dread radius 6" instead of 3", and Cloaked in Shadow, which makes it so they cannot be picked as the target in the shooting or combat phase by more than one unit. Even though there are three different categories of artifacts, they can all be taken by any Nighthaunt hero. Though there are a lot of familiar names here, they almost all do something new now. Pendant of the Fell Wind makes any enemy units within 3" of it -1 to wound, while Midnight Tome lets a wizard auto-cast an Endless Spell with a casting roll of a 12 once per battle. I also think Lightshard of the Harvest Moon will see a lot of play. It's a once per battle artifact that makes all Nighthaunt units wholly within 12" have +1 attack. Soulfire Ring can also be quite annoying for your opponent, since as long as your hero killed any models in the combat phase, they can heal D6 wounds.

The spell lore will seem very familiar, with a lot of returning spells. My personal favorite is still in there and still awesome. Shademist goes off on a 6 and lets you pick a Nighthaunt unit wholly within 12" and makes all enemy attacks that target them -1 to wound until your next hero phase. Spectral Tether lets you teleport the caster to anywhere on the table more than 9" away from an enemy unit, while Soul Cage lets you pick a unit within 12" and makes them have the strike-last rule for that turn. As you might have noticed, theres a bit of redundancy built into what some of these abilities do, but that's not a bad thing, as it basically make it so you can ensure you get the debuff you need the most where and when you need it. Thinking of Olynder, I previously always gave her Shademist, but now I might actually give her Soul Cage or even Spectral Tether for more mobility or to get out of a tricky combat.

Like every army out there now, the Nighthaunt have access to some special sub-faction rules. There are four Processions to choose from; the Grieving Legion, the Emerald Host, the Scarlet Doom, and the Quicksilver Dead. The Grieving Legion's special rules is Dragged into the Grave. While enemy units are within 3" of any friendly Grieving Legion units of 10+ models, they cannot retreat. This is pretty good, and definitely gives you more control over positioning since you'll be able to retreat and charge out of it and then pin them down again. I see this favoring units of Chainrasps mostly. The Emerald Host has the Emerald Curse. After deployment but before the first turn pick D3+1 enemy units, then at the end of each battle round roll a dice for each of those units. On a 2+ they suffer D3 mortal wounds, or D3+1 for monsters. Ping damage is always great. It might not seem like a ton, but it adds up. This is especially brutal on smaller heroes. Pair this with a Scriptor Mortis and you're doing a lot of hands off damage.

The Scarlet Doom favors Bladgheists with Vortex of Frenzied Violence. This basically lets you do impact hits with them when they charge. You roll a dice for each model in the Bladegheist unit, and each 5+ does a mortal wound. This Procession also makes Bladegheists battleline for you. Lastly we have the Quicksilver Dead. The Artisans of Harrowing Death rules makes it so your opponent cannot take ward saves against attacks from Dreadscythe Harridans. You also get to take that unit as battleline. Personally, The Emerald Host is my favorite, followed by the Scarlet Doom. I like how the first two fit pretty much any nighthaunt build, especially the Emerald Host, while the second two encourage more thematic builds with specific units.

There are no Core Battalions for the army, but there are 4 Grand Strategies and 6 Battle Tactics. Out of the Grand Strategies, Feed on Terror is the best and easiest to score. You just need to have one or more terrified enemy units on the board at the end of the game. That means you just need to make sure you still have a unit of Nighthaunt in combat with an enemy unit when the game ends. You'll also need to make sure you don't table your opponent. The Battle Tactics have several that I think are good. Tide of Terror rewards you for having 2 Nighthaunt units both within 1/2" of the same enemy unit at the end of the turn. Pretty easy, though you'll have to make sure you don't kill them beforehand. Mass Panic requires you to have 3 or more terrified enemy units on the board at the end of the turn. There are a few other good ones, but I think this suffers a bit from the same problem most of the other new books have suffered from. While these are fun and thematic, the core ones from the GHB are just better. Same goes for the Grand Strategies. You're just better off picking from the GHB if you're playing in a competitive game.

Normally I don't spend a ton of time talking about the warscrolls, since you'll be able to see them all for free anyway, but seeing as how Nighthaunt are my number one army, and so much has changed about them, I feel like I need to dive into them a bit. First off, Nagash is available in the army now and has his warscroll in the book. He's a warmaster, which means he can be taken in the army, but doesn't benefit from any of its abilities. I'm definitely excited that I now have him as an option here. It's still weird to me that the Lord of Undeath doesn't have his own death ward save. His ward is only good against mortal wounds. It's just really odd. Next up is Olynder and man oh man did she get good. I always liked her before and took her in most of my lists, but she got a serious upgrade here. She has a 4+ ward save now, which makes her way more survivable. The No Rest for the Wicked is a once per battle ability that lets you bring back D6 models to EACH Summonable Nighthaunt unit on the entire table. Her Mortarch of Grief ability has you roll a dice each time your opponent uses a command ability within 12" of her, and on a 5+ the command ability doesn't work, but they still lose the command point. She also still has Lifting the Veil, which now works in the shooting phase, allowing you to position her better for it and is now 12", as well as Grief-stricken. She's gone up in points though, but she's definitely worth it.

Kurdoss meanwhile has pretty much become a big beat stick. He still has his command point stealing ability, but beyond that he just dishes out the paint with his scepter. 5 attacks at 3s and 3s, with -3 rend and 3 damage. Brutal. The new Awlrach the Drowner model basically has the old universal Nighthaunt command ability of being able to teleport units around the table that everyone took on the Dreadblade Harrow baked into his warscroll. He's the only one that can do this now, but he's also beefier and can do more damage than the Dreadblade could. I wish he was a little cheaper in points, considering I use to be able to do this with the 100pt Dreadblade, but he definitely still has a place in NH armies. You just need to plan around it. It's such an awesome model too.

I'm going to start skipping around a bit here now. The Knight of Shrouds on Steed is pretty legit. They finally made his Sword of Stolen Hours worthwhile now. Now if ANY models are slain by the sword, at the end of that phase you heal 1 wound on the model AND add 1 to the wounds characteristic of the model. If you're able to keep him alive you can probably get him above 10 wounds during the game. His command ability now lets you use All-out Attack once per turn for free, and he also has the ability that a lot of smaller heroes are getting where he can nominate a NH unit near him to attack right after he's done. I also really like the Lord Executioner and am excited to try him out. He has 5 attacks, 3s and 3s, -2 rend and 2 damage. He also has a ward of 5+ and has an ability that makes the unit he's fighting -1 to wound. Legit. The Krulghast has had a re-work and now projects a 12" bubble around him, as long as he's within 12" of a terrified unit, which makes all attacks against Nighthaunt units within his bubble -1 damage, to a minimum of 1. This is good, but obviously not against 1 damage attacks already. The sweet spot is against attacks with 2 damage in my opinion.

The Spirt Torment now just brings back/heals 3 wounds worth of models, no need for any enemy models to die, and it's at the end of every combat phase. I expect to see him continuing to be taken in almost every list. The Banshee's scream is now a shooting attack, and at most can do 3 damage. I'm a bit sad about this, as it was always awesome when she did massive damage against low bravery units. To make up for this she now has an ability that can make command abilities cost double the command points for a unit she's fighting. I can see her being taken as a support model, where as the Cairn Wraith is just a beat stick, and I think there are other units in the army that do that role better. Although, after seeing the work he did in the recent Warhammer+ Battle Report, and the upcoming importance of troop units, I think I might have to reassess my opinion on him. Luckily I have 3 of them painted already.

Moving on from heroes, the Grimghasts are pretty similar, but now get +1 attack against enemy units with 5 or more models instead of re-rolling attacks. They are definitely still a very solid battleline unit. Bladegheists now only have the ability to be +1 attack when they charge, but that should be every one of your combat phases since you can retreat and charge. Spirit Hosts got the most interesting re-work for me. They're still 125 points, but have lost their mortal wound ability. In it's place they are basically bodyguards. If they're within 3" of one of your heroes, you can choose to pass any wounds taken by that hero to the Spirit Hosts on a 3+, but they cannot be negated. This is basically adding 9 wounds onto any of your heroes. I definitely plan on running at least 1 unit in every list, especially with Olynder. Glaivewraiths got a bit of a boost, with -1 rend and 2 damage and a special charge ability. Sadly their points went up as well and I still don't think they're worth it. Maybe if their cost comes down a bit we might see some in armies as a way to hopefully get some extra Wave of Terror debuffs off as well as a bit of damage. With only 1 wound each though and in units of 4, they're pretty easy to kill. Mymourns, Dreadscythes, Chainghasts, and Hexwraiths are all still pretty good too. I especially like the new Hexwraith scroll as they do impact hits on the charge and you can also choose to double move them, but then they cannot charge that turn. It's a good move to grab objectives though. Chainrasps are still fine. They got a bit more expensive, but they're good for screening and objective sitting. I expect to see minimum sized units of them.

The last unit to get a big re-work is the Black Coach. It's completely different now. In place of the old power levels ability, you now place a dice next to it at the start of the game starting at 1. For each enemy model that dies or flees within 12" of it, add 1 to the dice to a maximum of 6. When it gets to 5-6 your ward goes to 4+ (it's normally a 5+), and on a 6 you can unleash it's stored necromantic energy in your shooting phase. Pick a unit within 12" and on a 2+ you do 3D3 mortal wounds to that unit, and then reset the dice to 1. You also have impact hits as standard now, and the coach can teleport around the board, though it's large base size may make that difficult. It's an interesting re-work of the warscroll that really gives it a completely different role. Before it was more of a support piece that could also dish out some damage when needed. When you powered it up you had a bunch of different abilities, one of which, the healing one, was really big. Now it's more of a straight up damage dealer, but mostly in shooting. I don't think it will do a whole ton of damage in combat. It is pretty tanky though. I really enjoyed rolling for the power levels each turn and am not too thrilled about having to keep a dice near it the whole game. The most practical way to do this will be to keep the dice ON the model, which just looks meh to me. I'm still excited to try it out though and see how quickly it can power up to do its shooting attack. All of the Endless Spells are basically the same except for a slightly smaller casting range on the Mortalis Terminexus. As far as points go, pretty much everything has gone up. This will mean smaller armies then we saw in AoS2, with no unit or hero under 100 points besides the Chainghasts.

I'm not going to lie, when I first flipped through the book I was a bit shocked at how much had changed. Like I've already said, I really enjoyed the getting to fight immediately on a 10+ charge rule, as well some of the other fun, yet unreliable rules, like the Banshee's scream or the Coach's power levels. With this new book the Nighthaunt have definitely gotten a power boost though, with a ton more reliability. As I read more of it I just got more and more excited about the new rules. They still definitely feel like Nighthaunt, it's just approached in a different way, and I can't wait to try it out in a game. Everything is so mobile now and it seems like it will really feel like a tide of ghosts swarming over everything. A lot of the weaker scrolls also got a boost that makes them more likely to be taken, like the Lord Executioner. I also really like how the death save got rolled into Ethereal so it's not tied to heroes anymore. I'm excited to see how this is handled in the rest of the Death books when they get redone. I'm really itching to play some games with them!

Until next time,

Tyler M.

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