Last week I got my copy of the new Soulblight Gravelords Battletome for Games Workshop’s Age of Sigmar. This is the first major update to the ‘classic’ Death forces since the end of the game’s first edition – and is just in time for the start of the third.
For the unfamiliar, armies in Age of Sigmar belong to one of four ‘Grand Alliances’ – Order, Chaos, Destruction, and Death. Second edition was very kind to the Death Grand Alliance overall; Legions of Nagash came out at the end of first edition, with Death magic becoming a key driver of the storyline as Nagash, Supreme Lord of the Undead, sought to claim all souls in the Mortal Realms for himself, provoking the Soul Wars. The launch of second edition saw the arrival of the Nighthaunt, a faction of ghosts and spirits; an update to Flesh-Eater Courts which made them a solid competitive choice; and a fourth, all-new army of sentient bone constructs in the form of the Ossiarch Bonereapers.
But all of this left the old-school undead – the vampires, skeletons, zombies, etc of the Vampire Counts from Warhammer Fantasy – in a pretty bad place with few options to compete against newer armies. Having spent most of today looking over the new rules, their reincarnation as the Soulblight Gravelords definitely changes things. The book gives a lot of options, and I’ll do a more in-depth review once I’ve played a game with them. For now, I’ll go over some ideas I had for a list, which I’ll be using in a game next week.
The new Battletome requires you to choose a bloodline when you create your army. Neferata’s Legion of Blood and Mannfred’s Legion of Night are still here (the Legion of Sacrament is gone, as Arkhan the Black is now part of the Ossiarch Bonereapers faction – Soulblight Gravelords are now exclusively vampire-led, except when Nagash himself turns up). The other options are the Vyrkos (new wolf-vampires), Avengorii (monster-vampires), and Kastelai (closest to the Soulblight sub-faction in Legions of Nagash).
They all have a different emphasis – Legion of Blood is your go-to option for all things skeletal, Legion of Night is a good all-round option with zombies and skeletons for bait while your elite vampires ambush from off the table, Vyrkos is good for zombies and dire wolves especially, Avengorii pushes you to taking as many terrorgheists and zombie dragons as possible. One thing they all have in common is a need for several vampire lords to come along to get the most out of your undead thralls – this is nothing new, but seems to be much more embedded in the new rules, offering useful synergies.
My existing collection lends itself to building a Kastelati Dynasty list. They are a bit of an exception as their rules encourage a vampire-only list, relying on Blood Knights in particular but also Vargheists. Their Battle Traits give Kastelai Dynasty Vampire units lasting combat bonuses for killing enemy units of different types, and their Command Traits and Artefacts of Power are all geared towards maximising getting into contact with the enemy, hitting them hard, and weakening their ability to hit back.
As my collection includes two zombie dragons, I wanted these to be the focus – one will run as Prince Vhordrai, whose Command Ability allows you to pick another Soulblight Gravelords hero wholly within 12″ and fight in your hero phase. Used on a generic Vampire Lord on Zombie Dragon and this is potentially lethal. The VLoZD is still the combat monster it always was, but getting to fight twice gives some serious potential – combined with the Might of the Crimson Keep Battle Trait, it can kill what it’s already fighting in the Hero Phase, get whatever combat bonus as a result, then move and charge later in the turn, which gives a bonus of 2 Damage and 1 Rend to attacks with its Deathlance, for a potential 12 damage at -2 rend before the zombie dragon itself gets stuck in. Although, if you’re like me, pulling this off requires 1) remembering to deploy Vhordrai and the VLoZD somewhere where they can actually do this, 2) keeping them alive long enough, 3) remembering to use the combo, and 4) rolling decently. Easier said than done…
Otherwise, the force is based on Blood Knights (Battleline for Kastelai) and Vargheists – 3 units of each, leaving 60 points leftover. As the only Command Ability option is Vhordrai’s I don’t think it’s worth paying for an extra Command Point and so I’m including an Emerald Lifeswarm endless spell to help keep the vampires (un)alive.
Now, this is not a competitive list (and I’m not a competitive player), but it should be able to deal a fair bit of damage. The big issue is it’s an 8-drop army, which isn’t much of a change from Legions of Nagash with its lack of decent Warscroll Battalions to allow fewer deployment drops, but means it’s less likely to give me the choice of taking first or second turn. Luckily the new Battletome includes some interesting Battalions; once I’ve converted a Coven Throne, I’ll rework the list around the Red Banqueters Warscroll Battalion, losing the Vargheists and bringing in the Coven Throne, Vampire Lord on foot, and maybe some Fell Bats to round out the list. Another alternative is to replace Vhordrai and the VLoZD with foot Vampire Lords, and include a Fellwing Flock Battalion with the three Vargheist units for a 2-drop army.
I’ll write another post after the first game to see how my rather clunky list does. I have a box of the new Blood Knights to put together beforehand, to add to my existing conversions – the new ones are a lot bigger and on larger bases, so I’ll aim to get three units over the next few months, and maybe use my current ones as Black Knight proxies in a Legion of Blood list…