Bonjour everyone! I have returned from a long campaign of presidential fighting in France and now that I have won, I am ready to get back to my true goal in life and that is to write articles about Warhammer Gaming.
By now I hope every single reader here will wonder if I am the French President, which I am not, but might as well since being French means that I have inherited the same level of self-pontification so associated with my national identity. I also have not been doing any form of campaigning at all in France or in the USA, I just thought it would a cooler story for my return than just “I got bored with 7th edition and started playing Age of Sigmar because I like it a lot”. Yes, Age of Sigmar is an awesome game thanks to the General Handbook and not because of just of Points but because of its mission design and rules enhancement. The new post General Handbook Battletomes have maintained such a new quality that I think the future is bright for this game even if a lot of the 7th Ed AoS Converts flip back to 40k 8th edition. Though while I could write a long winded post about why AoS is great, I will stick to my more natural French tendencies to talk about where Age of Sigmar is starting to see some fissures. “But why would you rain on your own parade TFL?!?” “Because life is sh!t and the pursuit of perfection is a dish best served with overall smugness and negativity”
Back on track! Reason I wanted to pick up the proverbial ‘typing keys on a board’ Quill for this article is that it’s time for Age of Sigmar to start steering that air balloon boat into some better heading. Since General’s Handbook came out, these following Battletomes have come out: Disciples of Tzeentch, Stormcast Eternals, Blades of Khorne, Squats OPlords, oh sorry Kharandon Overlords. (Where the hell is a Death Release or even a Destruction Release GW?). Out of the 4 sub-factions they have released, a slew of new cool battalions and models have been released but for this blog post, we shall focus on the changes these books created to the type of lists a player will see at a Matched Play event. On the first glance if you knew of Warhammer Fluff or played a bit of Age of Sigmar then you could see that Stormcast Eternals and Blades of Khorne are just updates to the original factions while Disciples of Tzeentch and Overlords are newer additions and from a fluff and mechanical point of view the first two are basically brawler foot slogging armies while the others are move mobility and ranged armies in terms of design. The reality is that the new Stormcast Eternals models and book actually transformed the traditional Stormcast army from said brawler army to a Lightning Strike ranged monster (for you 40k players, think Skyhammer Annihilation Force but deadlier) not to say the brawler Stormcast armies got worse, they are still very viable but now their Vanguard brethrens are adding to the list of ranged armies. The Disciples also have some really powerful ranged combos in the form of their dominance in casting (thank you GH for the Rule of One, no casting the same spell for the army in the same turn) and also through regular shooting in the form of Kairic Acolytes and Tzangor Skyfire. The Overlords are a dedicated ranged army unlike all of the previous armies which had some elements in terms of melee presence, for the most part the Overlords are a ranged centric army. Some of you might be asking where I am going this, but much like a delicious buttery croissant, you will have to wait until I finish my cigarette and coffee before I sell you any of my baked goods.
I will give a few examples of Lists using these books and explain why the following point I am trying to convey matters for the future of Age of Sigmar Matched Play. AGE OF SIGMAR NEEDS MORE LINE OF SIGHT BLOCKING TERRAIN and/or ADOPT THE SHOOTING AT CHARACTER RULE FROM 8th EDITION WARHAMMER 40k. The Design team of Games Workshop has done a bang up job at trying to balance ranged units over non ranged units by making them more “costly” but in the field, that balance might not be enough. In Age of Sigmar, there is a lot of Force Multiplying effects from Characters and the game is brutal and hard hitting when it comes to killing your opponent’s model and one of the ways one can counter that brutality is by “sniping” out your opponent’s force multiplier characters and in Age of Sigmar, all characters are rarely squishy against any decent elite unit or horde of common infantry man. They will get dragged off their horse and beaten to death by their own horse, you could counter such a thing by using walls of infantry aka “Bubblewrap” and if you had a decent save and or cover, it was hard for some of the older armies to straight snipe out characters through ranged unless of course it was a Kunnin Rukk with its darken the skies arrows or a Free People/Dispossed/Moonclan/Grots that spammed nothing but cannons or spear chukas. The only two armies that could consistently do this Skaven Clan Skryre with is Tunnelling Mortal Wound death machines or Sylvaneth if they spammed Kurnoth Hunters with Great Bows. (Though I am sure I am forgetting a few other examples).
Now, without proper Line of Sight blocking terrain, pretty much any characters that you have are likely to be shot through their proverbial eye without achieving anything of glory which diminishes the game’s fantasy feel in my opinion but the historian in me fully acknowledges, this is not far from the actual truth to medieval warfare. A famous Japanese Swordsmen once said, and I am paraphrasing here because who bothers to check facts in this day and age, that fighting with a sword against a man with a spear was almost suicide but fighting against a man with a bow and arrow was assured suicide.
But this isn’t the entire problem altogether, “sniping” characters at ranged is powerful in itself but surely an army designed to do that should not be able to also be devastating to large blocks of infantry at ranged. Well that’s where you are wrong, I can have your characters, your hordes of infantry, your large elite units and cake. (Thanks Marie Antoinette! That gal has her head screwed on right.)
I will showcase some armies for 2,000 points Matched Play games that take some serious advantage of shooting. Lets start with the Overlords, the new kid on the block who for argument sake should probably be the best ranged army for Order in Age of Sigmar because they are literally by designed meant to be a shooting army.
“Double D-ecker OPlords”
Overlords Allegiance: Barak-Zilfin, The Windswept City with “There’s no Trading with Some People”
3 Aether-Khemist (1 is General with Command Trait Fleetmaster) (I recommend 2 of them to have Staff of Ocular Optimisation)
Iron Sky Squadron Battalion:
3 10men Arkanaut Company (Battleline Requirement) (with Skyhooks and Command)
2 Arkanaut Frigates (1 with Ebullient Buotancy Aid and the other with Aetherspheric Endrins Great Endrinworks)
1 14men Grundstok Thunderers (10 Aethercannons, 4 Aethershot Rifles, Sergeant, Honour Bearer)
1 10men Grundstok Thunderers (10 Grundstok Mortars, Sergeant, Honour Bearer)
2 3men Skywardens (Aethermatic Volley Gun, Drill Cannon, Custodian)
Summary of abilities, these Overlords from Barak-Zilfin gain the following abilities: Reroll Hit and Wound of 1 if Target has Fly, when a skyvessel runs it is considered a roll of 6, Once per battle in your hero phase one of your skyvessel can immediately move (but cannot run), Allows for the Aetherspheric Endrins to be taken. The last two are fairly crucial to the army and that is because the entire army you see here is a 1-Drop Deployment Army. For you non Age of Sigmar players, that means that you can deploy your army entirely on the first unit deployment because you can deploy a Battalion all at once and additionally, if you choose to have any units ride in the Skyvessels such as Frigates or Ironclad, they are considered deployed at the same time as those as well. Yes, this means that none of the Arkanaut Company are riding in their Battalion Frigates. The 14men Thunderer and 1 Aether-khemist unit will deploy with the Aetherspheric Endrins Frigate; that Great Endrinwork allows for the Frigate to arrive in any of your Hero Phase of your choosing by deploying at least 9” away from your opponent unit and your Thunderer can disembark at the same time as long as they are 9” away from your opponent units and they cannot move that turn in the movement phase. The 10men Thunderer and the 2 Aether-Khemist are deployed in the other Frigate with the Ebullient Buotancy Aid; that Great Endrinwork allows for the Frigate to half the penalty to movement from being overburdened meaning that instead of suffering a -2” to movement, it suffers 0 movement penalty (rounded Down). Fleetmaster Command Trait allows for you to redeploy 1 Skyvessel after your opponent has finished deploying following the deployment rules of the mission. So what does this all mean?
It means that both Skyvessels can be effectively used for a first turn alpha strike in Unison. The Aetherspheric Endrins Frigate basically can land where ever you so choose delivering its deadly payload of 10 Aethercannons which have 12” 1 Attack, 4+ to hit, 2+ to wound, -2 Rend and D3 Damage stat line while your aether-khemist can choose to increase their ranged attack by 1 for the ranged weapon of your choosing in the unit basically giving you now 20 Aethercannon Attacks. I chose to keep 4 Aethershot Rifles for its slightly longer range for just pickling away some wounds at characters and perhaps trigger the There’s no Trading with Some People which causes any enemy unit that took a wound in a phase to suffer D3 Mortal Wounds at the end once per battle, as the rifle has a decent stat line in itself 18” 2 Attacks, 3+ to hit, 4+ to wound, -1 Rend and 1 Damage though making them all Aethercannons is not a bad option either. Your second frigate is loaded with 10 Mortars and 2 Aether-khemist, after being redeployed to make sure you can support your other frigate and pick the perfect flank to hit or maximize on your opponent mistaken deployment, you can also use your once per game Hero phase movement to start your Frigate 10” into no men’ land and most likely within proximity of your other Frigate, at this point you can either choose to use your Aether-khemist to further buff the attack stats of your Aethercannon Thunderers or the Mortars. The Mortars have a great stat line with 36” 1 Attack, 4+ to hit, 3+ to wound, no rend and D3 Damage. Nothing like hammering your opponent midfield or backfield untis with 30 Mortar shots while your 20 Aethercannons clean up the flank you choose to hit. Keep in mind that in AoS, you can split your attacks across various targets really making those units stellar at being efficient. The Aether-Khemist ranged attacks are not horrible as well, boasting a 10” 3D6 Attacks, 4+ to Hit, 4+ to wound, -2 Rend and Damage 1 (3+ to hit with the staff) while buffing the Thunderers and also providing a defensive aura in that enemy models within 3” of them reduce their attacks by 1 to a minimum of 1 (with 3 of them next to each other, it is hard for melee characters to effectively kill them and also have to get past the layers of Thunderers and Skywarden).
What of the other units? Well it the above was not enough, the Frigates also get 1 extra shots of their weapons on the first turn from the Iron Sky Squadron Battalion, adding their guns to the already deadly alpha strike chorus. The Skywarden will arrive with the frigate of your choice when you deploy them and the Arkanaut Company are really going to be a great way to feint a flank or hold objectives or provide mid to late game support to the Thunderers.
I chose to explain in details this list concept as a point that Age of Sigmar is entering a metamorphis where ranged will not just become a supporting element of any army as it was seen before but a major component if not the only component of any army. Additionally there is something to be said about the stacking of Aether-Khemist on the same units’ weapon, there has been a lot of rewriting by Games Workshop in some of the newer books to remove stacking rules but it seems that the Overlords where not privy to that. The fact this army could deploy entirely on its very first drop basically guaranteeing them the option to go first or second if they won the roll off to deploy (If they faced a similar army in terms of deployment, then whoever deployed first would get that choice) allowing them to deploy 30 arkanaut and 1 Frigate, see their opponent deployment find the weakness in it, redeploy basically both Frigates with their deadly cargo and choose to either go first and neutralize threats or go second because of the low probability of their opponents countering or destroying the first Frigate while giving themselves a chance of a double turn by going second turn 1 and winning initiative on turn 2. I cannot stress how important forcing line of sight blockers will be, but while it will enable you to a certain extent to hide small units or heroes from the alpha strike, it does nothing for your large units. Now we are off to the wonderful world of Sigmarite!
“Vengeance are Arrows”
Stormcast Eternals Allegiance
Lord-Aquilor (Command Trait Staunch Defender, Armour of Silvered Sigmarite, Steed with Keen Clawed)
2 10men Units of Liberators (2 Grandhammers, Warhammer and Sigmarite Shields) (Battleline)
Aetherstrike Force Battalion
Knight-Azyros (Lantern of the Tempest)
2 5men Units of Judicators (Skybolt Bows and Shockbolt Bow) (Battleline)
1 6men Unit of Vanguard-Raptors with Longstrike Crossbows
1 6men Unit of Vanguard-Raptors with Hurricane Crossbows
2 3men Units of Aetherwings
Summary of these abilities, the Stormcast Allegiance allows me to deploy my units in the Celestial realm meaning that they can be deployed 9” away from any of my opponents units during the movement phase on a roll of a 3+. For 40k folks, this is basically Drop Pod Assault or the new Ulthwe Strike Force except you roll reserve from turn 1 onwards. The Aetherstrike Force is the epitome of shoot, shoot then ask questions with the whispers of more shooting. Effectively, during your hero phase one unit from this battalion can choose to shoot as if it was the shooting phase at an enemy unit of your choice as long as it is within 12” of either your Knight-Azyros or Aetherwings from the battalion. Additionally, if any units from the battalion dies to an enemy unit then one of your units in the battalion can choose immediately to shoot at the unit that destroyed it as if it was the shooting phase. To give you an example, and this is from one of my games how good this is, in one Game Turn, I had my 6men Vanguard-Raptor with Hurricane Crossbows shoot 4 times or 216 attacks. While those attacks are 18” 6 Attacks (9 if did not move), 4+ to hit (3+ for Sergeant), 4+ to wound, no rend and 1 Damage the amount of shots meant I destroyed two large blocks of undead infantry very quickly. The Vanguard-Raptors with Longstrike Crossbows are nothing to laugh at either, they are the definition of “sniping” as they are 24” (30” if did not move) 1 Attack, 2+ to hit, 3+ to wound, -2 Rend, 2 Dmg and any 6 to hit is resolves as 2 Mortal Wounds instead. The Judicators are no slacks either in shooting as most players have already experienced with their Skybolt 24” 1 Attack, 3+ to hit, 3+ to wound, -1 Rend and 1 Damage and Shockbolt 24” 1 Attack (On a Hit you get D6 Dmg Rolls), 2+ to hit, 3+ to wound, -1 Rend and 1 Damage.
While the army can effectively not have to deploy the battlefield at all, it becomes a dice roll to get the units your need unlike the Overlord list but it does mean you can bring your screening units with you in which is what the Liberators are for. They are effective the Sigmarite shield wall to protect all their ranged brothers from the counter attacking advancing enemy. The Lord-Aquillor functions in the army as both a mobile cover aura (from command trait) and you can use his command trait to redeploy the Vanguard Raptors should you need to for late game objective grabbing or to get out of combats. The Aetherwings function as sacrificial units purely to trigger your ability to shoot again. They can also move during your opponent charge phase if a charge is declared 12” from a Vanguard-Raptor unit, not only to help you make that charge harder to connect but also to try to get them killed to trigger another round of shots. I have often charged them into suicide merely to trigger one of my units to shoot, your opponent can choose not to attack them but it usually means that they won’t be to charge if they retreat from them. Aside from having a 10” Aura that allows your own ranged units to reroll 1 to hit if the enemy target is within the aura of the Knight-Azyros, the Lantern of Tempest provides your own units a defensive aura of 6” that forces your opponent to reroll hits of 6 or more when targeting your units during the shooting phase. His key mechanic is to give you that 12” shooting an enemy unit during your hero phase. While you may not be able to benefit the first turn you land from the celestial realm since you arrive during the movement phase versus the hero phase, you are not necessarily losing much as they odds of your opponent even being that close turn 1 to benefit is almost none existent.
Though if your opponent did force you to play first, you could use the Lord-Aquilor command ability to redeploy 1 unit of Aetherwing to be within 12” of a choice target and with 30” range from the Longstrike Crossbows, you could potentially get some turn 1 Hero Phase free shots if you feel it is important to have it.
I would say the army is just as deadly as the Overlords I wrote up earlier and has similar play characteristic but what this army brings to the table over the Overlord is more staying power in terms of unit durability and a more flexible playstyle since you can bring your shieldwall with your shooting units assuming you at least pass 1 3+ roll. My opinion is that the battalion might be a bit too over the top, I would try to limit how many times in a phase the vengeance mechanic can trigger for 1 unit, at the moment you could have 1 Shoot 6 times in 1 phase if they destroyed every other unit in the battalion and where in range at the same moment.
Time for some change! Disciples of Tzeentch!
Lord of Change (Command Trait: Incorporeal Form, Baleful Sword, Additional Spell: Tzeentch’s Firestorm)
Gaunt Summoner of Tzeentch (Additional Spell: Fold Reality)
3 10men Unit of Chaos Marauders (Full Command, Barbarian Axes, Mark of Tzeentch)
1 Tzaangor Shaman (Wellspring of Arcane Might, Additional Spell: Shield of Fate)
2 Tzaangor Shaman (Aspect of Tzeentch, Additional Spells: Glimpse The Future & Bolt of Tzeentch)
1 3men Unit of Tzaangor Enlightened (on Disks)
2 6men Units of Tzaangor Skyfires
Now if you haven’t seen this kind of Tzeentch list yet hit the streets then consider yourself lucky but let’s break down these abilities a bit. First up is the Tzeentch Allegiance which enables you to start the game with 9 pre-rolled dice pool called Destiny Dice you can exchange for Casting, Unbinding, Run, Charge, Hit, Wound, Save, Damage and Battleshock after rolling the initial result. Managing this pool correctly allows to unleash devastating shots from your Skyfires and I will explain later. The army can generate a large amount of Mortal Wounds very quickly, though a combination of Casting and shooting with Skyfires. First thing you should know when facing Disciples is that most of their casting are limited to 18” range until that is the Gaunt Summoner of Tzeentch summons his Balewind Vortex and sit happily on top in his cover giving perch of death. A Balewind Vortex allows the caster to double the range of his spells and add +1 to cast in addition to allowing to cast an additional spell (even the turn in which he cast the initial spell to summon the balewind). His signature warscroll spell is basically death to any large units and fairly destructive to elite units as well, the spell called Infernal Flames must be cast a visible enemy unit within 18”(36”) and every model in the unit suffers a mortal wound on a 4+ and versus Monsters or War Machines, the spell resolves as 3 dice rolls. Now picture having a large unit of Plague Monks with 30 models with 1 wound get hit by that single spell turn 1, averages will tell you that the single spell will remove 50% of the models in the unit and to add some grease to that sweaty palm of yours when you see that spell resolve, you might even snipe out command models in the unit. At this point, you must be wondering, well at least the spell must be hard to cast! Well not at all, its natural cast value is 8 which is within the realm of possibility but with the Balewind giving him a +1 and the command ability of the Lord of Change giving him an additional +1, you are effectively casting that beast on a 6 which on 2D6 says the odds are in your favor. But in case you roll badly you can use one of your sweet Destiny Dice to guarantee that cast after you witness your dice fail you. The Additional spell you can give him called Fold Reality is used when you need to restore some of your Tzaangor to their units after losing any models. It has a casting value of 7 which is negligible which allows you to restore D6 models to a daemon unit but on a roll of 1, the unit is removed from play. Fairly risky but when you are down to 1 or 2 Tzaangor Skyfires or 1 Tzaangor Enlighted, I don’t see the gamble being too risky.
The Lord of Change, the big bird himself, gains -1 to hit for the enemies targeting him in the combat phase from his command trait and retaining his command ability to buff all friendly casting by +1 within 18” of him and is able to change one of his cast roll die to match the other die when casting basically making him one of the best casters in the game. His Signature spell called Infernal Gateway is another mortal wound generating machine basically allowing him to roll 9 dice and depending on how damaged he is, causes mortal wounds starting at 3+. He can cast two spells per turn, allowing him to supplement his lethality with an Arcane Bolt or Tzeentch’s Firestorm which is small version of his own Infernal Gateway in which you roll 9 dice and on any 6s the target unit suffers D3 mortal wounds. His melee profile with the Baleful sword is nothing to laugh at either.
The Arcanite Cabal is one of the cheapest and efficient battalion that the Disciples get: as long as 1 model from the battalion is within 9” of two other models from the battalion, they can attempt to cast an additional spell basically making allowing them to cast two spells a turn until a canny player destroys 1 shaman. 1 Shaman is the designated Master of the Cult which allows makes him more efficient at using Destiny Dice, meaning that when he consumes a Destiny Dice, on a 4+ you can generate an additional Destiny Dice. The Shaman’s signature spell has casting requirement of 7 and causes D3 Mortal Wound on a target within 18” and upon any model slain from the spell, you can add Tzaangor models to a nearby Tzaangor unit (Not the Enlightened or Skyfires). Due to a lack of Reinforcement point of this list, you will not likely see any models spawn from it but it is effectively another Arcane Bolt. Shield of Fate allows for a unit to reroll saves and gets worse as your destiny dice pool shrinks, you can reroll save rolls of 1,2 or 3 when at 7 to 9 Destiny Dice while only 1 or 2 when at 4 to 6 Destiny Dice for example but thankfully for you anytime you expend a Destiny Dice in your army, your two Aspect of Tzeentch allow you to generate a new dice to the pool in this fashion, expand a Destiny Dice, roll a die for each Aspects (2 dice if both are alive) and on a score of a 6 you can generate a new Destiny Dice. If that wasn’t enough than Glimpse The Future allows you generate another Destiny Dice on a casting roll of a 7. Bolt of Tzeentch is buffed Arcane Bolt that succeeds on a 8+ cast and causes D6 Mortal Wounds. Just in case having that +1 to cast from the Lord of Change wasn’t enough to get your spells or your Destiny Dice pool then the Wellspring of Arcane Might would allow your Tzeentch Daemon Wizards (Cough, all of them) within 3” of the bearer to reroll casting dice rolls of 1 but even if that’s not enough all of the Shamans can consume their Sorcerous Elixir once per game allowing them to cast an additional spell and reroll any casting dice when making their casting roll. Effectively this Cabal should be a unit for all intents and purpose with the overlapping rules and there is another reason altogether followed up in the following units.
The Tzaangor Skyfires and Enlighted units both gain a +1 to hit for their attacks (not the disk) and that is crucial. Let’s start with the Skyfires since apart from all the rampaging spells the army dishes out, they will perform a lot of the heavy lifting in the other phases. The Skyfires have a ranged attack with these stats: 24” 1 Attack, 4+(3+ for Leader) to hit, 3+ to wound. -1 Rend, D3 damage but on any roll of a 6 or more they resolve D3 mortal wounds on the unit and with the Tzaangor Shaman being within 9” of them gaining that +1 to hit means that on any roll of a 5+ they resolve their shots as D3 mortal wound and if you really needed those Mortal Wound, you could always use Destiny Dice on top on the initial rolls to hit to really “pinpoint” the pain. The Enlightened are no slouches in melee either with their Spears being 2” 2(3 for leader) Attacks, 4+ to hit, 3+ to wound, -1 Rend, 2 Damage and receiving a +1 to hit from a Shaman means they are fairly consistent and in case there is any enemy units within 3” of them already activated in the combat phase then they would get to reroll all hits and wounds including their Disk attacks in that case. Which brings up another great point about all the Tzaangors in this army on Disks, those things are pretty lethal just from their disks in melee with a 1” D3 Attacks, 4+ to hit, 3+ to wound, -1 rend and D3 damage. Don’t think for 1 second that the Shamans or the Skyfires are terrible in melee especially if the Skyfires activate in a combat before any enemy units have which allows them to also reroll all hits and wounds for their disks. Additionally the Battalion benefit aside from allowing for more relics slots and quicker deployment is the fact that they gain a 9” move during the hero phase allowing them to bring their range to bear earlier in the game and making it very difficult for other armies to hide.
The army can effectively cast per phase: 1 Infernal Gateway (6MWon average at full health), 1 Tzeentch Firestorm (1.5 D3MW or 3MW on average), 1 Arcane Bolt (D3 MW, 2MW on average), 1 Bolt of Tzeentch (D6 MW, 3MW on Average), 1 Arcane Shield (+1 Sv), 1 Boon of Mutation (D3 MW, 2 MW on Average), 1 Shield of Fate (Reroll Sv*), Glimpse The Future (+1 Destiny Dice), Infernal Flames (MW on a 4+ per Model in a Unit), Fold Reality (2+ Restores Daemons to a Unit). Aside from the Infernal Flames, the army dishes out almost 16 Mortal Wounds a Hero Phase on average. Moral of that story, don’t come within 18” of all of the Wizards.
I will follow up this article with a breakdown of the Ranged Armies pre General Handbook such as the Free People, Sylvaneth Kurnoth Hunter lists, Moonclan Grots Artillery apalooza and the infamous Kunning Rukk from Bonesplitterz.