Full Disclaimer: This is a reprint of a review I wrote for the Garagehammer forum.
The Quest for Ghal Maraz is the first of Games Workshop’s “Realmgate Wars” campaign books. The story picks up where the Warhammer Age of Sigmar book left off: In the Realm of Chamon after the Stormcast Eternals’ battle at the fortress of Ephryx, a mage of Tzeentch, and also in the Realm of Ghyran shortly after the Stormcast Eternals arrive. In fact, easily half the narrative has nothing to do with the quest for Ghal Maraz and instead focusses on the Stormcast Eternals’ race against the Skaven and the forces of Nurgle to locate Alarielle, the embodiment of Ghyran.
The Quest for Ghal Maraz is approximately the same size as the Age of Sigmar book, but the tales within are not painted in such broad strokes. Some areas are detailed quite thoroughly with callout boxes containing actual dialogue. It feels like there is a lot more narrative content here than in the first book. Even so, I am not sure all the storytelling is necessary. The Black Library is releasing novelizations of the Realmgate Wars, and those tales can go into much greater detail. Perhaps the campaign book narrative can be scaled back to just a thrilling summary, like in the Warhammer Fantasy Army Books? I’m not sure the massive campaign book narrative is going to do the Black Library any favours in the long run.
For gaming, there are eight new battleplans, based on the battles fought. Many of them are really quite clever – a personal favourite is the one that splits the board between earth and sky, giving flying units a separate place to fight far out of reach from the ground forces. A few are not quite as universally appealing as the rest but clever players should not have much trouble adapting them to their own stories.
Age of Sigmar Rules are included in the back, and even though they’re available from the site for free I think having them within the book is a good idea. In fact, there is no reason why GW shouldn’t include the rules in every single Age of Sigmar publication. Also – and this was the case in the last book – it’s very important to read the Hints and Suggestions section at the beginning of the warscrolls chapter. These are not formally labelled as rules, but they do address issues like when unit powers are used, especially when movement is involved.
One surprising thing is missing: Though this is a campaign book, there are no campaign rules. There are Time of War rules which add some flavour for playing in the Hanging Valleys of Anvarok (Chamon) and the Rotwater Blight (Ghyran), but players will have to create house rules for the long-term effects of casualties, morale and supply issues on troops.
This book also does not have the much-rumoured army-building rules that Games Workshop is supposedly going to produce at some point.
There’s also nothing here for players of any armies other than Stormcast Eternals, Sylvaneth, Chaos and Skaven (though at least the Skaven are prominent throughout the book). It’s coming up to two months since the Age of Sigmar launched. Games Workshop needs to offer something to the players of all the other armies.
As with the Warhammer Age of Sigmar, the writing style has a more simplistic feel than the Warhammer Fantasy books yet the vocabulary is dense. There’s a strange lack of depth beginning to show in this vocabulary. It’s not just this book, but also in the Age of Sigmar book and the publications from the Black Library. The same words are being used over and over again, like “cerulean,” “clarion” and “fug.” I never in my life thought I would say this, but the GW writers need a thesaurus.
My biggest complaint is about the organization of the book. Both the Quest for Ghal Maraz and the War of Life progress through alternating chapters. Interspersed within the narrative are the Battleplans and the Time of War setting rules for both engagements. There is a certain logic to put a battle scenario right after the narrative that describes the actual encounter, but from a practical perspective this is just going to lead to a lot of flipping back and forth. I’d prefer a more linear approach: First the narrative, then a solid rules/battleplan section, then the warscrolls and battalion warscrolls.
Speaking of warscrolls, there really is no reason to include these in any book (unless GW is going to produce army books again). There is nothing presented here that cannot be downloaded for free from the Games Workshop website (though you may need to do some searching), except perhaps for some of the Stormcast Eternals and the Khorne army units. Even so, nearly all of these units appeared in the first Warhammer Age of Sigmar book as well as the starter box set. Surely they don’t need to be reprinted here?
There is another puzzling inclusion as well: Four two-page “painting guides” that offer very minimal guidance (especially when compared to White Dwarf or the actual painting guides). As with the rest of the content, these are spaced throughout the book and not even grouped together in a “hobby” section for convenient reference. These pages could have been used for something else, or just dropped from the book entirely.
So, is the book worth the price tag? …No. Even though this book feels like it has more content, there is little beyond the battleplans and Time of War rules that would draw a player back to the book once the stories of the campaigns are read. As with the Warhammer Age of Sigmar book, I really wish I could answer differently. I read the book and found myself thinking again that I would have been happy with less: distil the book down to its essentials. Make it the size of a Warhammer Fantasy Army Book–and price it the same way.
What the book does well:
- Feels like there is more content. There is definitely more depth to the campaign stories.
- More good stuff for the Stormcast Eternals, Sylvaneth, Chaos and Skaven. The beastmen get some mention as well.
- Excellent illustrations. Sigmar still looks fabulous.
- Clever battleplans.
- Time of War rules for the Hanging Valleys of Anvarok (Chamon) and the Rotwater Blight (Ghyran).
What the book does not do well:
- It could have been better organized–and there’s still no index to look up specific items or rules.
- No actual campaign rules.
- Unnecessary inclusions bulk out the book without really adding any value (warscrolls, minimal painting guides).
- The other Warhammer armies need some love.
- Simplistic yet verbose writing style that is beginning to show a lack of depth.