Saturday, April 22, 2023

Why You Should Collect and Play: Seraphon

They're aztec dinosaur people riding other dinosaurs, what's not to love about that! What? You wanted a more in depth article than that? I mean, if you're not hooked by that first sentence... Okay, I guess I can go into it more, but, I mean, dinosaur people! So, what makes the Seraphon such a cool army to collect and play? Lets find out! (It's cause of the dinosaur people. Obviously.)

First off, thank you to Games Workshop for giving me early access to the newest Battletome for these lizardy peeps. I've always been a huge fan of the Seraphon, starting back when they were known as the Lizardmen. I mean, like I said, aztec dinosaur people riding other dinosaurs, what's not to love? As a kid I wanted to be a paleontologist, and I also have a special affinity for any ancient cultures that loved pyramids. During 8th edition Warhammer Fantasy I had plans to do a Lizardmen army next after I was done with my Tomb Kings, but then the End Times happened, so that got diverted a bit. When they next returned as Seraphon in Age of Sigmar I have to admit I wasn't a huge fan. I just didn't know how to wrap my head around the dream-lizards. The lore and concept of them seemed too nebulous and weird. Since then, GW has done a lot of reintroduce the core concepts of the lizards that made them so cool to begin with. We first saw this in their 2nd edition battletome, and I feel like that's continued even further with this newest rendition. Now we have the best of both worlds with a more classic Lizardmen feel as well as their spacey cousins (who are definitely not dreams of the Slann anymore). The Seraphon have a super unique and thematic way to play as well, and some killer background lore. So in place of a traditional review of the book, I'm instead going to explore the faction as a whole, and why you should collect and play it! For the rest of this article I'm going to break it down into the lore, the rules, and the models.

The Lore

As I mentioned prior, when the Seraphon were first introduced into AoS they were given a rather weird and nebulous spin. It was heavily implied that only the Slann were still alive in the sense that we think of, whilst everything else in the army was a mental projection, or dream of these magic frogs. It was super strange, and also robbed the army of a lot of their flavor. They weren't real, so where were the stakes? Also, jungles, where are they? Well, worry no more, all of those issues have been resolved, tweaked, or conveniently forgotten just like a Slann's bad dream. If you're familiar with the Lizardmen lore from Warhammer Fantasy then you'll be happy, as a lot of that has been worked back into the army. So, let's start from the beginning.

The origins of the Seraphon are shrouded in mystery, though few dispute that they didn't originate from the Mortal Realms. The most widely believed origin is that they actually hailed from the world-that-was. There, ancient beings known as the Old Ones, presented the magical Slann, creations of their own, with a Great Plan. Unfortunately the forces of Chaos were then unleashed upon the world and the Old Ones were either killed or disappeared. The Slann and Seraphon were able to withstand the tide of Chaos though, successfully repelling it and saving that world for a time. Much later in time, when that world fell into Chaos again, the Slann and other Seraphon retreated from the world in their temple vessels, massive void ships able to survive in space. We, the reader, know that at least this much is definitely true, as it's the history of the Lizardmen/Seraphon from Warhammer Fantasy, ending with the End Times. From there it gets a little more speculative. The Slann and their servants were said to have traversed the cosmos for ages, with all of the surviving Seraphon going into a biostasis with the exception of the mage-priests. 

Lost in the void, the Seraphon temple ships were discovered by Dracothian himself and guided into the cosmos surrounding Azyr. Presented with the Mortal Realms, the Slann have decided that these strange new worlds must be part of the Old Ones' Great Plan and have now dedicated themselves to preserving order and defeating Chaos there as well. Though they are largely on the side of Order, they will do what they feels needs to happen to protect and progress the Great Plan. If that means removing an agent of Order who doesn't fit into their plans, then they have no qualms about that. Even the gods of Order who were once mortal, such as Sigmar and Alarielle, are not above suspicion. They see them as useful allies in defeating Chaos, but once that is completed things will need to be reevaluated.

All of the Seraphon originally lived in their massive temple-ships amongst the cosmos. Though they're technically void capable, think something more along the lines of ancient temples crossed with space ships. Within their thick walls, the laws of physics are more mutable, with their gargantuan World Chambers being impossibly large for the space they occupy. This is where the majority of the space-faring Seraphon, or Starborne, reside, so even though it's within a ship, it feels like a sprawling jungle complete with smaller temples, spawning pools, and "local" fauna and flora. The Slann quickly discovered the Astromatrix, a grid of magical lines that bind the Mortal Realms together. To better protect the nexus points of these lines, some fleets of temple-ship landed, creating defensible temple cities. The decedents of these Seraphon eventually took on more corporeal forms and a more savage nature. These Coalesced are pretty much regular flesh and blood creatures, or more along the lines of the "traditional" Lizardmen of the Old World, where as the Starborne bleed starlight and magic when wounded. The temple cities turn the surrounding landscape into sweltering jungles using arcane means, such as the Realmshaper Engines, to better suit the Seraphons' needs and also hide the cities from prying eyes and provide natural protection from interlopers. 

Where magical nexus points were settled by other races of Order, the Slann would send down forces of Seraphon to help bolster the defenders in an uneasy alliance. In the Age of the Beast they have a vested interest in the Dawnbringer Crusades succeeding, since many of these are settling on nexus points. The humans are often wary of the Saurus helping them guard their township, but will accept the assistance. When it comes down to it though, the Saurus will do what needs to be done to guard the nexus points, not the citizens of the newly formed city. Speaking of cities, many of the larger Cities of Sigmar also host Seraphon ziggurats inside of their walls, as a sort of embassy, headed up by a Skink Starpriest.

The Age of the Beast has also seen several unforeseen consequences for the Seraphon. For starters, the bestial energies surging across the realms has many of the Coalesced feeling a bit more "bitey" than usual, which is worrying to the Slann. Several hatcheries of eggs that have lain dormant for centuries have also suddenly hatched, infused with those same energies. This has given rise to the new Raptadons, Aggradons, and Spawn of Chotec. The Slann are also concerned about the rise of the Incarnates. They're actually split on how to deal with these, with half of them wanting to destroy them, while the other half, including Lord Kroak, see them as part of the Great Plan and feel that they must be bound to their will. There are a couple of other cool bits mentioned, such as strange, underwater Seraphon encountered by the Deepkin, temple-ships landing on the underside of the realms to avoid Be'lakor's Cursed Skies, and Saurus who became overwhelmed by the bestial rage of Ghur and slaughtered all of the Skinks in their temple city.

We also go into all of the individual units, the four main sub-factions, or constellations, and even a few of the more prominent Old Ones. This is particularly cool, since they've barely been touched upon since entering the Age of Sigmar, even though some of them are name dropped quite a bit, like Sotek. Speaking of Sotek, the Fangs of Sotek are one of the coolest constellations to me. They're comprised of the infamous red crested Skinks, known to be much more fierce than their regular Skink cousins. They're also apparently much more deceitful, as they're often the ones acting as emissaries to the Cities of Sigmar. They do this so they can more easily manipulate the warm-blooded races of the realms, and also root out any Chaos corruption there through any means necessary. Meanwhile Koatl's Claw were the first of the Coalesced, with their temple-ship crashing into the Realms long ago after a Skaven invasion. Unfortunately their Slann Starmaster was incapacitated, meaning the Saurus took control, leading to a more brutal society. They founded the city of Mekitopsar and are led by an Old-Blood named Gar (Kroq-Gar?). They're also said to be the only constellation that hatched Aggradons before the Era of the Beast.

It also goes into more detail on how the Seraphon society is organized in a general sense. Again, if you're familiar with Lizardmen lore than a lot of this will be familiar. The Slann are the leaders of the race, though they're often detached from the day to day and can often only be understood by their Skink attendants since they tend to speak in riddles. Beneath them are the Skinks. They perform the role of civic leaders, priests, engineers, and the general citizens. They're also able to speak the languages of other races, though with some difficulty. Think of them as the normal "people" of the race. They make up the bulk of the Seraphon and keep the society functioning. The Saurus are the warriors of the race. They're bred solely for war, with their leader being expert tacticians and generals. Lastly we have the Kroxigor. Though ferocious in battle, they're actually generally more relaxed during peacetime. They're the laborers of the race, building the vast temple complexes. They also have a rather symbiotic relationship with the Skinks. These groups are the only sentient members of the army, with all of the various dinosaurs being more akin to tamed and "domesticated" animals in a human army. There's a bunch more I didn't cover here, but in general they're a really awesome faction.

The Rules

If you're familiar with the rules for the Seraphon from before, they actually got a bit of a substantial revamp. They're still split into Starborne and Coalesced, but a lot has been realigned. If I had to pick one word to describe the Seraphon play style as an army, it would be variety. They have a ton of different warscrolls to pick from, as well as the Starborne and Coalesced status, which opens up almost every form of army you can think of. You can go magic heavy with Slann and Skinks, tricksy and elusive with a Skink heavy list, super fighty with a Saurus list, very big and stompy with the Thunder Lizards, or a healthy mix of all of it for an all-comers style army. This will also allow you to continue to add and tweak your army over time without getting bored of playing it.

As mentioned, you do have to pick whether you're going to be Starborne or Coalesced at the start. The Seraphon as a whole don't actually have any battle traits, they're all locked behind one of those two choices. The Starborne represent the Seraphon that still reside in High-Azyr, and as such are much more magic heavy. You'll have 2 unique heroic actions to pick from that rely on your Slann, but the big draw here are the Cosmic Power Points. You earn these each time you successfully cast, unbind, or dispel. These can then be spent on army wide abilities, like healing units, dealing mortal wounds to enemy units, or increasing the ward save you get from your Realmshaper Engine. The other thing you can spend the points on is summoning in new units. This was a key feature of the army ever since they first got Allegiance Abilities in AoS first edition, and they've maintained it here. There are 3 Command Traits for Slann, 3 for Skinks, 4 Artifacts for Slann, and 3 for Skinks, and then 4 spells for Slann, and 3 for Skinks. As you can notice, nothing for Saurus.

You then get to pick one of two sub-factions to be, Dracothian's Tail, or the Fangs of Sotek. Dracothian's Tail lets you set up half your army in reserve and then teleport them in later in the same way as summoning units. That's pretty cool, but my favorite are the Fangs of Sotek. This lets you be extra sneaky with your Skinks. It lets you use redeploy up to 3 times in your opponent's movement phase, and the first 2 times you use it on a Skink unit, it doesn't cost any command points!

Where the Starborne are all about magic, the Coalesced are all about raw power. To start with, you add 1 to your bite rolls for your Saurus and Kroxigors, then you also subtract 1 from damage suffered to your Saurus, Kroxigors, or monsters. To finish it off you have 4 unique Monstrous Rampages to pick from, 1 for each of your big dinosaurs. The Carnosaur can eat a model for instance, while the Bastiladon can swipe its tail through a unit causing a bunch of mortal wounds. You then get a whole new set of traits, artifacts and spells for the Coalesced, except with the traits and artifacts being split between the Slann and Saurus. The Skinks still get a spell lore to pick from.

The two sub-factions, or constellations as the Seraphon call them, that you can pick from here are Koatl's Claw and Thunder Lizard. Koatl's Claw adds 1 to wound rolls for Saurus and Kroxigor when they charge, while Thunder Lizard lets you do 2 Monstrous Rampages. You also unlock Kroxigor and Stegadons as battleline respectively.

As always, I'm not going to spend a ton of time on the warscrolls, as they're be available for free soon and lots of other sites will cover it better then me. Almost everything got a substantial revamp though. To start with, Saurus now have 2 wounds, making them a lot beefier. One of my favorite new rules is on the Skinks warscroll, where each time they redeploy you can roll 2 dice and pick the highest. Couple this with the Fangs of Sotek rules and you can really run rings around everyone with them. The Bastiladon also got a re-work, and the Ark of Sotek looks like it might actually be worth taking now! It's just one warscroll, but depending on which load out you pick the points cost varies. It's gone up in wounds, but its save is now a flat 2+ with no degrading damage table. The Solar Engine now only has 3 attacks, but -3 rend and 3 damage, so still pretty good. The Ark is what really caught my eye though. It does 20(!) attacks in melee and 6s to hit do mortal wounds. I loved the old Spirit Host warscrolls for essentially doing the same thing.

Another interesting mechanic is the Primal Rage rule on the Aggradons. They start at 0 Primal Rage, and then at the end of each combat phase where they're still within 3" of an enemy unit you add 1 to a maximum of 3. This number is then added to the attack profile of the Aggradon's bites and talons. If at the end of a combat phase they're not near an enemy the score resets to 0. The new Scar-Veteran on Aggradon has a once per battle ability to add 1 to this score to all units wholly within 18" of him too. Speaking of bites, all of the Saurus and Kroxigor models have a bite attack. After you've rolled your normal attacks you roll a dice for each model in your unit and on a 6+ it does a mortal wound. Characters and larger models roll more dice per model. Then if you're Koatl's Claw you add 1 to this, and the Realmshaper Engine for Coalesced adds another 1 to it if you're within range, meaning you can be doing mortals on a 4+. It's pretty awesome. Both of the Raptadon units have abilities that play off each other, which are pretty cool, but I do feel like it penalizes you a bit if you're not taking both in your army since I'm sure those abilities were factored into their points cost. The Slann are pretty awesome wizards, and Kroak is still a monster of a model. All in all, there's a ton of awesome stuff here. The one thing I noticed I ran out of points really quick. Skinks are still fairly cheap, but a unit of Saurus Warriors is now 200 points. 

The Models

I mean, these models are just awesome, and with the most recent range refresh they're some of the coolest looking models in the game. The only models older than 8th edition Fantasy that didn't get updated are the basic Skinks and the Temple Guard. In my opinion those original Skink sculpts still hold up, so no problem there. The Guard are... well, I'll be converting some I think. They really pale in comparison to the awesome new Saurus sculpts. All of these new sculpts though, wow! It is worth mentioning that several older sculpts/units have gone away, including the Saurus Knights, Razordons, Eternity Warden, Sunblood, and Skink Priest. The Salamander is also gone, but the new Spawn of Chotec essentially replaces it. Basically anything that was still finecast and didn't get an update got retired.

The new Saurus are so dynamic and vicious looking. They finally reflect the artwork. They're also super easy to assemble, with most of them having 3 pieces for their toros/legs area, then the arms, head, and weapon choice. Most of the seams are hidden by scales too, so there's very little cleanup. One thing I really like about the whole range is how easily they take Contrast paint too. With all of the organic shapes, and penchant for bright colors you can really go to town on them with Contrast. All the texture makes them great for drybrushing. On my Saurus I used a combo of Contrast, Drybrushing, and more traditional colors and techniques.

There's also a ton of variety in the army when it comes to models. Just look at the picture above! You have the small, agile looking Skinks, the brutal Saurus, the even more brutal and taller Kroxigor, and all of the various actual dinosaurs. I personally love the Carnosaur, but you also have all the new raptor inspired dinos, the Bastiladons, Stegadons, and flying dinos. Not only do these give you a ton of variety in size and silhouette, but you can also easily paint all of them various colors and have it still look cohesive. On top of all of this you have the frog like Slann on their palanquins. I honestly think you would find it hard to get bored with adding models to this army.

As you can tell from some of my pictures here, I've already started painting some of the Seraphon that GW sent my way, starting with the Saurus. I'm really excited to add more to the army and I have plans to get at least 1,000 points of them done for Adepticon next year. I'm probably going to do Koatl's Claw since all of the Saurus are so cool. I can't wait to add some Aggradons in. Of course, what started as a quick scheme has become a little more involved on my end, but I really like how they're turning out. I'm also having a lot of fun making elaborate jungle bases for them using pieces from Make It Epic basing. I can't wait to see how the jungle plants look on the larger models. I'll probably even add some to my Realmshaper Engine. Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention their super awesome pyramid scenery. Who doesn't love pyramids?! You can make it really quick and easy to paint too with it being mostly stone. I rank this up there with the Ogors, Beasts, and Bonereapers as one of the best looking pieces of faction terrain.

As you can tell, I'm pretty sold on the Seraphon. To be honest, I pretty much I knew I was going to do an army of them once they did the first reveal of the new models. What do you think about the Seraphon? Are you going to try and help implement the Great Plan?

Until next time,

Tyler M.

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