Full Disclaimer: This is a re-post of a review I wrote for the Garagehammer forum.
I was really looking forward to this release, and hoping for a hefty portion of new fluff ‘n’ stuff to start connecting the dots for this new game and ‘verse. While it is a very thick book, the actual background tidbits feel more like a Jenny Craig portion-controlled meal than the massive helpings the Warhammer Fantasy rulebook once provided. That’s not to say there’s no good in there – there’s definitely some delicacies – but I think a lot of appetites will be only marginally filled by this release.
The book is a history of the Warhammer universe since the end times. It is told in general narrative up to the start of the Realmgate Wars. From that point the history focuses in almost exclusively on the Stormcast Eternals and their first forays into the Mortal Realms.
It is very important to remember that despite the size, this is a campaign book, not a rulebook. It does include the four pages of core rules, but it does not broaden those core rules in any way (including explaining those rules vague enough to cause problems). Instead, however, it presents eight new scenarios, aka “battleplans.” Frankly, I’m beginning to view the free online rules as really only about 50% of what you need to play the game. Another 25% comes from the warscrolls, of course, but that last 25% comes from the battleplans. All of them add new command abilities, specific objectives for each side and even new terrain in some cases. (Oh – and the Watchtower is still there, for any of you who might be fans of that.)
The history as provided is painted in broad strokes, with a lot of attention paid to the Stormcast Eternals and Khorne. The rest of the races get little focus, with Sylvaneth topping the list as a participant in the second phase of the campaign and an army list. The other races get a page or two and most of that is filled with art. The Seraphon (Lizard Men) barely warrant half a page and two pictures – if you want to learn more of them, the only place at the moment is the short story Under the Black Thumb from the Black Library.
There are three army lists included: Stormcast Eternals, Khorne and Sylvaneth (basically everything tree-like from the Wood Elves army book). Unfortunately, there’s nothing new in these lists. The first two are essentially reprinted from the starter box, and the Sylvaneth list available for free as part of the Wood Elf PDF on the GW website.
The style of writing is an odd mix of simplified style and dense vocabulary. It feels as if the book was written for a younger age, but to keep it interesting for older readers a thesaurus was extensively used. I know this sounds a bit harsh, but I find it a bit jarring to read something with a “young adult” feel and yet have to stop every other page or so to grab a dictionary. The font size is larger, and there are illustrations on every page, which gives the impression that the book is a little light on content. This is a little deceptive – the book is thick enough to provide actual content to keep you reading for a while.
The art (including pictures of minis) is plentiful, though like the campaign focused on Stormcast Eternals, Sylvaneth and Chaos (specifically Khorne and Nurgle). Some of it is spectacular – the image of Sigmar on pages 74-75 comes to mind – while some is so cartoony it harkens back to the look of Warhammer 40K 2nd edition.
The book could have been better organized. The areas most likely to be used (e.g., battleplans, campaign rules) are buried in the fluff, and for some reason there is no index. If you can’t remember where you saw the rules for the Ruby Ring of Ruin, you’re in for a bit of a search. Even if there was an index, it would be hard to find certain things as there are no page numbers on pages where art goes to the bottom of the page.
Is this book worth the price tag? No, but due to the battleplans alone it will probably need to be purchased. I really wish I could give a different answer. This is a campaign book priced along the lines of a major rulebook release, but it has far less game-play content than an actual rulebook. I will be using the battleplans heavily, but I can’t see any reason to reference the rest of the book once it’s been read. I would have preferred that GW used less art, dropped the army lists and condensed the text to make this book more in line with a WFB army book (including price point).
Just as a summary…
What the book has:
- A history—though at times very vague—covering the periods that fall after the End Times until the current Age of Sigmar. It does, however, paint an interesting picture of the Mortal Realms setting and give the game some much-needed fluff.
- Description of the Mortal Realms, though again vague. More detail is provided in the campaign section than the general background, the focus is specifically on the Brimstone Peninsula in Aqshy (realm of fire) and the Greenglades in Ghyran (realm of life).
- Background for the Stormcast Eternals. If you had any doubt about whether or not these are Space Marines without bolters, you can now rest easy: they are.
- Lavish illustrations in a range of styles. The miniatures photography is also excellent.
- Battleplans/scenarios (eight of them in total). It’s become apparent that the specific scenario will have a huge impact on army selection and game play.
- Two pages of rules for campaign games on the Brimstone Peninsula, including details for “blood geysers” terrain and an alternate set of rewards.
- Two pages of rules for campaign games on the Greenglades, including details for “Sylvaneth forest” terrain and an alternate set of rewards.
- Army lists for Stormcast Eternals, Sylvaneth (the “wood” of the Wood Elf army) and a Khorne-themed chaos army list.
What the book does not have (but should):
- An index. This is a surprising omission, considering how well-documented major book content has been in the past. While there is not a lot of rules content to reference, it’s so buried in the narrative that direct page numbers would be helpful.
- Deeper background of most of the major races. Perhaps this is just my expectation, based on the old WFB rulebook fluff, but I was hoping for more history for the armies I play. There’s no real fluff buy-in for me yet.
- A hobby section with more than just pictures of miniatures, though I suppose this is now provided by the separate painting guide books.
- A Nurgle-themed chaos army list. The army that forms the opposition in the Ghyran portion of the campaign is not provided stats within the book at all.*
- A Tzeentch-themed army list. The army that forms the opposition in the Chamon portion of the campaign is not provided stats within the book at all.*
- Campaign rules for Chamon, the realm of metal. The third stage of the campaign takes place at the edge of this realm, but the region has not been given any detail rules-wise. I suspect rules will be provided in whatever book introduces the dwarfs/duardin.
- Rules for realmgates. Granted, these come with the model and can also be downloaded for free from the GW site, but considering these gates are the focus of the campaign they should also be included in the book.
*Full army lists can be downloaded directly from the Games Workshop website for free. At this time, no new units have really been introduced for either of these armies, so the compendiums will provide all stats needed.