No longer Standard: Time Spiral

Hey everybody!
We’re going back in time for another game day blog here at spalanz.com, and another look at one of the classic sets from Magic the Gathering. Today, it’s time to return to 2006, and Time Spiral block!

Time Spiral

Time Spiral is the fortieth expansion set for Magic the Gathering, released on 6 October 2006. It is the first set in the Time Spiral block, the twelfth block set for the game. The set was notable for being the first to include a whole sub-set of cards, much like we’ve seen in recent years with Masterpieces – this time, it was a set of 121 “time-shifted” cards, which were reprints of cards from Magic’s history, using the older card frame but with a black border, and featuring a purple rarity symbol. The idea behind these cards was to represent the past invading the present, as there have been some horrible things happening to Dominaria on the whole.

Two hundred years previously, Phyrexia invaded Dominaria, but was eventually defeated, leaving the plane in ruins. It’s a thrilling tale, if a little on the bonkers side, and definitely something I’d like to feature here on the blog once I’ve managed to get my head around it! One of the important things to know is that Teferi managed to save his home by phasing it all out of reality, as you do, and has now returned to find the rest of the land a salt-sown wasteland. It’s time to get help from his fellow planeswalker Freyalise and sort things out!

Consequently, there is an element of despair to the artwork across this set. The basic lands look really quite grim and forlorn, with rotting forests and desolate plains, swamps filled with the rotting Phyrexian hulks and so on. We also get some factional warfare in the return of Rebel cards, which represent the three factions from the plane of Rath, first explored in Magic‘s third block, the Tempest block (part of the Weatherlight Saga, of which Time Spiral block is considered a continuation). Again, this is a really intriguing storyline, so I don’t want to go into it here, but suffice it to say, there is a real sense of eking out a living in the shadow of the apocalypse, something I always liken to the Midnight expansion for Runebound – while evil didn’t win on Dominaria, it was defeated at such a cost as to leave utter devastation in its wake.

Mechanically, the set gives us a massive eleven keywords, including eight returning keywords from historical sets (that time/nostalgia theme again), two brand-new keywords, and a keywording of Flash. The two new mechanics are Split Second and Suspend, two quite flavourful mechanics that seem to have become quite commonly-seen in formats like Commander, for reasons I’ll go into now.

Split Second is a keyword found predominantly on Instants and Sorcery cards that basically stops the Stack – while the card with Split Second is on the Stack, other spells cannot be played in response, though mana abilities, triggered abilities and special actions can still happen. A common way around Split Second is to un-Morph a creature such as Willbender, who can counter a spell when he is un-Morphed in this manner. It helps that Willbender was included in the set as a time-shifted card, too! Perhaps the most famous card with Split Second is Krosan Grip, though the keyword does occur in all five colours.

Suspend is a mechanic that proved confusing when it first appeared, due to timing issues of when such things could be played. Suspend is keyword that almost acts like an alternative casting cost: rather than paying the card’s mana cost, you can pay its Suspend cost and exile it with a number of time counters on it; when the final counter is removed, it is then cast. It can be confusing because cards with Suspend cover almost the entire breadth of card types, but you must be able to cast the card at the time you exile it – so you can’t Suspend a creature card in response to having to discard a card, say, unless you have an effect in play that would allow that (and Time Spiral gave players just such an effect by keywording Flash, such as with Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir). Furthermore, some Suspend cards don’t actually have a mana cost, but must be cast via Suspend – they aren’t considered to be “free” to play. An example of this is perhaps one of the more notorious Suspend cards, Living End. The Professor has an example Modern deck based on this card, which you can take a look at here:

Returning keywords and mechanics were plentiful, due to the nostalgia theme. Of course, having so many keywords in a set means there’s a lot to keep track of, and I think having Storm return in the set feels like a step too far!

Time Spiral storage lands

An often-overlooked part of the set, in my mind, is the Storage Lands. These are a cycle of allied colour dual lands that can tap for colourless mana when they appear, but you can pay 1 and tap them to add a storage counter to them. In later turns, you can pay 1 and remove X counters to add X mana in any combination of the dual colours. Cumbersome, for sure, but with effects like Proliferate from subsequent sets, these lands can fit into decks where counter-manipulation is part of the strategy for a nice additional bonus.

Planar Chaos MtG

Planar Chaos was released on 2 February 2007, and brought a few more keywords to the party, including Kicker and also Vanishing, which works almost like a reverse Suspend mechanic, in that it enters the battlefield with a number of time counters on it, and when the counters have gone, it leaves. A revised Fading, a lot of these cards are creatures who have effects that trigger when they enter and leave the battlefield, which can be quite useful if you can find a way to remove tokens quickly.

There were, in addition, a subset of 45 ‘planeshifted’ cards that are meant to function as part of the set, rather than being reprints of older cards. In Planar Chaos, these cards represent an alternate-reality present rather than the past catching up with the present, and consist of colour-shifted cards – the focus here is on cards that grant a colour an ability it wouldn’t normally have, but still denoting a path the colour could have had from the beginning – perhaps the most infamous being Damnation, the black boardwipe spell. Of course, there is a link for each card to the colour they are printed in – while boardwipes are generally the province of White (and, to some extent, Blue), it does fit into the Black theme of direct removal.

Pretty much all of these cards can be considered colour-shifted reprints, such as the aforementioned Damnation (in black) for Wrath of God (in white), or Brute Force (in red) for Giant Growth (in green); colour references in some may be shifted around to fit, but broadly speaking they are direct call-backs. However, they aren’t technically reprints, but new cards. As such, these cards were considered part of the main set, and so have a more general distribution.

MTG Planeshifted Cards

These alt-reality cards are reflected in the story, where Teferi allies with the half-elf Radha and the artificer Venser to attempt to close temporal rifts that have been opening across Dominaria. In order to close the rift above Shiv, Teferi loses his Planeswalker spark, though this will later prove to be a temporary loss.

Planar Chaos also introduced a cycle of Legendary Dragons in the three enemy “wedge” colours that form something of a mirror to the cycle of Dragons from Invasion (in the allied “shard” colours). These Dragons are notable for being the only way to play Commander in these colours until Tarkir block finally went deep into the wedge colours.

Planar Chaos dragons

There’s a pretty interesting article up on Channel Fireball from earlier this year, where author Josh Silvestri describes Ravnica/Time Spiral Standard as the best Standard, though precisely how much Ravnica contributed to that decision is possibly an interesting article of its own!

At any rate, Planar Chaos was followed by the third set, Future Sight, on 4 May 2007, and in keeping with the time feel of the block, included a subset of 81 ‘future-shifted’ cards that are printed in a completely different border, and often include extremely weird mechanics. The idea behind the future-shifted cards was to represent cards that could be featured in later sets of Magic – much like Time Spiral reached into the past for its time-shifted reprints, Future Sight was reaching into the future for a glimpse of what might be to come with these “pre-prints”.

The border on these cards was one of the most controversial changes in the game, supposed to represent the possibility that the card frame might change again (as it had in 8th Edition), although Wizards have since confirmed that the Future Sight border will never actually be used. It’s almost a similar story with the plethora of keywords introduced in Future Sight. In addition to pre-existing keywords such as cycling, dredge and hellbent, we saw Lifelink, Shroud and Reach become keyworded. The fun begins, however, with the catalogue of entirely new keywords, over a dozen of them, some of which have indeed become actual keywords on cards in present-day Magic.

Delve returned in Tarkir block as the mechanic of the Sultai, allowing you to remove cards from your graveyard to help pay for a card’s cost, while Poisonous was later re-worked as Infect in Scars of Mirrodin block; these are the most successful of Future Sight‘s possible new keywords. Gravestorm (allowing you to copy a spell with Gravestorm for each time a permanent was put into a graveyard this turn), Aura Swap (allowing you to swap an aura on the battlefield for one in your hand), Fortify (equip for Land cards), Fateseal X (the “hate scry”, allowing you to look at the top X cards of your opponent’s library and put any number on the bottom) and others have not yet returned, although sometimes I think it might be fun if they did bring one of these back!

Famously, Future Sight also features a couple of cards that include references that basically had no meaning within the scope of the game at that point. Steamflogger Boss with its allure of being able to assemble contraptions is probably the one that always leaps to mind, but at the time even the famous Tarmagoyf had reminder text that referenced the still-to-come Planeswalker card type.

In the storyline, the planar rifts continue to wrack Dominaria, with Freyalise giving up her own spark and her life to close the rift linking the plane with the alternative Dominaria (the one full of Phyrexian nasties). The only solution appears to be sending Karn, the only planeswalker known to have traveled through time itself, back to stop the original rents in reality by preventing the archwizard Barrin from casting the spell that obliterated most of Tolaria back in the day, when he was attempting to prevent the Phyrexians from moving on Urza. Finally, the planeswalker Jeska arrives seeking her mentor Karn, and her anger at the situation unwittingly allows her to bring back another of Magic‘s formidable enemies, Leshrac. But that’s a story for another day…

Time Spiral block

Time Spiral block is quite fascinating to me, dealing as it does with this after-the-apocalypse sort of storyline. It forms almost a lynchpin between old Magic and new Magic – the next block was Lorwyn, which of course brought us the original five Planeswalkers that formed the basis of the new heroes and stories. Names like Teferi and Freyalise would still loom large, for sure, but now it was all to be about Jace and Liliana, Ajani and Chandra. Interestingly, Future Sight was actually supposed to feature the new Planeswalker type of card, but the set already had so much going on, and the new type of card wasn’t going to be ready in time.

There is the sense of Magic‘s history that comes out of the set which, when you look through the list of subsequent expansions, is largely quite absent. Up to this point, the game had previously had a storyline that was set on the plane of Dominaria, told through multiple sets and featuring a cast of heroes and villains that had become quite well-established, if not well-rounded. Following the new card frame in 8th Edition, the game jumped around some planes, taking in Mirrodin, Kamigawa and Ravnica before stopping off once more on Dominaria for this block, before moving off into the multiverse and exploring such amazing places as Zendikar, Innistrad, Theros and Alara. It wasn’t until the 25th anniversary of the game last year that we finally had a return to the plane, and caught up with Teferi, Jhoira and the others. It’s almost like the design team wanted to swing by the original plane just one last time before they headed off into the vast potential of new and different planes.

For that, it’s almost a bittersweet set. I really like it for the flavour, whether people think the block has any power or not. There are a whole load of interesting cards in this block, and it’s definitely worthwhile taking a look beyond the handful of cards that keep coming up time and again in Commander or Modern.

Getting Started with Blood Bowl

Hey everybody!
So after a bit of a false-start late last year, I’ve decided once again to try my hand at Blood Bowl. Well, to tell the truth, I’ve been convinced to try my hand at Blood Bowl following the news of a campaign of sorts coming sometime in October. How much of this campaign I’ll be able to take part in, I have no idea, as I’m expecting the arrival of the heir mid-month, but we shall see.

However, I’ve been trying to find out a bit about the game online, and I’ve not really found a great deal of useful information, if I’m honest. It’s also confused with the fact that some info out there is dating back to the old version of the game, and it’s unclear (to me, at least) whether the rules etc are all compatible. So I thought I’d create a sort of sub-blog here on my blog to chronicle this fine journey, as I seek to find out just what on earth I’ve let myself in for!

What is Blood Bowl?
In the game of Blood Bowl, the roar of the crowd and the chance for glory brings together players and spectators from every race in the Old World. On the pitch, tactical finesse meets wanton, brutal violence in a game where anything can happen (and often does!).

That’s how the official site puts it, and from what I’ve learnt so far, that seems to be pretty true! The game was initially produced in 1986, with rules by the legendary Jervis Johnson, and was basically a parody fusion of American Football with Rugby. There is a typically 80s over-the-top vibe from the game, with references to ridiculous violence and outlandish cheating.

Blood Bowl went through four editions up until 2000, at which point the “living rule book” concept took over with updates running through to 2009, bringing some significant changes, mostly along the lines of official teams being added to the line-up.

In 2016, Blood Bowl became the first game to be produced by the newly-established Specialist Games division. Plastic Orcs and Human teams from the starter set have been followed by all manner of classic Old World races, from Dark Elves and Undead to, most recently, Halflings and Wood Elves.

There is a lot going on with this game, it feels. I know a few people who have said it’s like no tabletop miniatures game they’ve ever played before, which is an intriguing prospect for me. I suppose one of the defining aspects of the game is the “turnover” mechanic, whereby a coach’s turn is over as soon as an action they have attempted fails.

Blood Bowl teams, as far as I can tell, have been released alongside team dice, card packs and thematic pitches, all of which were one-off releases. I find this utterly bizarre; it’s a similar situation to the Necromunda gangs, which came out with cards and dice that have since been discontinued. It feels odd to me that they wouldn’t want to keep these sorts of things in stock, and available to gamers.

I’ve picked up the Shambling Undead team to get started with, seeing as how I’m currently on a bit of an Undead kick in AoS. While I’ve managed to pick up the cards and pitch for a team that was released last winter, I’m still a bit bummed that I couldn’t get the dice. The fact that I can’t get products like the pitch, cards and dice for teams like the Dark Elves has left me thinking that I won’t bother picking that team up now. Putting aside the foibles of the collector, it’s slightly annoying that the pitches and the card packs contain additional rules for the game – rules that cannot be accessed by players coming to the game late.

It’s a rant, I know, but never mind.

There is a lot that I don’t understand about Blood Bowl, and I’m planning to be back here with updates as and when I get through playing the game!

Hobby Happiness: Mortarch of Nagash

Hey everybody!
This past weekend was a little nostalgic for me. I recently moved house, and so was trying to find the best location in which to do my hobby stuff. (For those who are interested, it happens to be the dining table, as the whole room is flooded with natural light and is awesome).

I also spent a good few days building up the amazing Mortarch of Nagash kit, which comes in the Start Collecting Skeleton Horde box, and is the third time I’ve bought this model! Back when the End Times were going on, I picked one up alongside the rest of those releases, but promptly sold it off for one reason or another… I then picked up the Start Collecting box when I had grand plans for a Tomb Kings army, but sold it off when I got rid of all of my Age of Sigmar stuff about two years ago. But having started with Nighthaunt at the beginning of this year, I’ve decided the time was finally right to build up this bad boy and make myself a Legions of Nagash army!

This model brings me immense happiness to finally have it in my collection. Sure, it’s only built, and I still need to paint it – fortunately, Arkhan isn’t actually glued in place, as I feel that would have been a silly thing to do.

The End Times
I first got into the modelling side of Warhammer in the summer of 2014 – in fact, it was five years ago today that I placed my first order on the Games Workshop website. By September of 2014, the End Times had begun, starting with the release of that awesome kit, Nagash:

Of course, I have recently picked up Nagash, as I really fancy having him as an army centrepiece (though at 800 points, I can’t see myself including him very often in an army list!) However, this blog is about the Mortarchs, specifically Arkhan the Black, who will be much simpler to slot into a list.

I just really love these models. I think I’d originally wanted to build up Neferata, because I really love her lore and think the model just looks so incredible and badass, but following my Tomb Kings experiment, I had started to look at Arkhan the Black more as my Mortarch of choice.

While a lot of people didn’t appreciate the End Times for blowing up their world, I suppose I didn’t have that level of hobby investment at the time to feel I had to burn my entire army and post the video up on youtube (well, I didn’t have an army yet, so there is that). Instead, I was kinda bowled over with excitement for how awesome these new models were, and really got quite caught up with the whole thing in a good way. As such, I always look back quite fondly on the End Times, as being the real start of my hobby adventure.

The actual End Times themselves didn’t really culminate until late spring 2015, so I still had the best part of a year to enjoy my time with Warhammer Fantasy, so I do still look back on the Old World with some nostalgia, mainly for the lore rather than the game of Warhammer Fantasy Battles.

The Model
Holy buckets, this model is amazing! It was a real joy to build up from start pretty much through to the finish. (Unfortunately, the reins on my model were broken on the sprue, and as this part is so small and delicate anyway, it has left them pretty much unusable. Luckily, I still plan to also have a Neferata model at some stage, so I’m thinking I’ll just use those when I come to it, as the two Mortarchs don’t share those parts).

That’s not to say it wasn’t fiddly, as there were several points during the building where I felt a little bit at sea. Also – Arkhan has a sword in its scabbard on his back, Zefet-kar, the Tomb Blade. The scabbard is part of the cloak, but the grip and pommel are a separate part. And they’re tiny! Well, at least his beard wasn’t a separate part, also.

He looks amazing, though, and the dread abyssal Razarak is actually quite sturdy and able to support its own weight really well, given that it is only held aloft on that skeletal tail-thing. Don’t get me wrong, it does wobble a little bit, but it doesn’t seem like anything is about to collapse!

Painting Plans
Now, I’m probably not about to go down the route of all that non-metallic metal on the armour that the studio has. I do want to do a deep blue scheme though, so have been considering using the new Night Lords Blue colour on his armour. I don’t know what to do about the rest of him though – in all honesty, I’ll most likely just end up following the studio scheme of pale bone and pale turquoise skulls. I do want to try out the contrast paints on him, though, so I think that might be interesting.

There’s a real presence about this model, though, and I am really looking forward to painting him up! I started painting two mortal followers of Khorne at the weekend, really because I wanted to try out the contrast paints again, but also because I want to try to get back into painting properly, and trying to get good at it. With moving house, it feels like it’s been a while since I’ve had the time to consistently sit down to paint in an effort to get better, but I’m hoping that I’ll be able to get back into the swing of things now, and hopefully get somewhere near “decent”!!

And now, Wood Elves!

Hey everybody!
In a move that will no doubt shock nobody at this point, I’ve found myself thinking about painting something completely different to what I’m used to, and feeling the need for – not a new challenge, as such, but just feeling like I want to try painting something different… and so I’ve been thinking about new armies, and looking at different stuff online, and have returned to an idea from a few years back now: the Wood Elves!

Wood Elves don’t really exist in Age of Sigmar. They were a faction from the Old World that encompassed the new Sylvaneth alongside their elven counterparts. I think this is the aspect of Wood Elves that appeals to me the most; the image in my mind of some tree-spirit creatures like the Treelord and Dryads, alongside their “mortal” followers, the Eternal Guard and so on.

I don’t honestly know enough about the elves (or aelves, as they are these days) to know if they’re worthwhile in an Age of Sigmar army. I still think I’d like to try and put together a small number of miniatures though, simply because I love the appeal of walking trees alongside elf hunters!

There seems to be an interesting mix of units available to the Wood Elves, which is another appealing factor. Of course, I’ve not looking into it in any great deal, so I suppose this could be equally true of any other faction, but I do like the fact that there are a lot of utility units, and nothing really seems to be too wasted. Of course, there are a lot of units that do their own thing, but then it isn’t simply reliant on heroes to then buff those units.

One of the units that first drew me to the army was the Wildwood Rangers, hooded and masked warriors wielding these massive two-handed draichs. I have previously picked up a box of these gents, in an effort to kit-bash them into plastic Incubi for my Dark Eldar army. Unsurprisingly, that was a project that ended in obscurity (well, ebay).

Of course, there have been so many new model releases that are just awesome for the Sylvaneth side of things since Age of Sigmar first launched, I think anybody would be hard-pressed not to want to include these in any such army! The exciting thing now, of course, is that we’ll hopefully be able to do exactly this, with the upcoming Cities of Sigmar battletome that was previewed at the weekend!

Back in the day, I was leaning heavily into Sylvaneth after I’d grown tired of painting Stormcast Eternals in the gold-and-purple scheme I’d been using, and had picked up several kits in an effort to build up a second force. The Tree-Revenants I later decided would be used as Mandrakes for my Dark Eldar, and I painted them up to match the main force:

I had also been painting Dryads, the first unit that I was building up for my Sylvaneth army, using the winter colour scheme from back in the day:

Warhammer Age of Sigmar Sylvaneth Dryads

I also had the big daddy himself, the Treelord that would form the centrepiece of this collection of living trees:

I really like the Sylvaneth. I suppose part of it is because it takes me back to my early days in the hobby, where I would buy all kinds of random stuff and build and paint while the youtubes was on in the background. Back then, I used to listen to Joey Berry a lot, whose videos would chronicle her own beginning journey in the hobby and served as a nice sort of mirror. Given that Joey was a Wood Elves player, a lot of that has stuck with me down the years, and it’s a nice way to look back on my hobby “journey” (if that doesn’t sound too corny) and reminisce!

It was a wrench when I eventually sold all of this off a couple of years ago, thinking I would concentrate solely on 40k, only to then fall right back into it when Soul Wars came out and I found myself picking up more and more fantasy stuff once more as 2018 rolled to a close. I suppose thinking I would just stick to 40k was a bit disingenuous, as it was fantasy that got me into this wonderful game, and back in the day, I was actually really into Age of Sigmar and all the rest of it.

I’m probably not going to go wild with this project. I’ve definitely been thinking a lot about that Treelord miniature, and wanting to get one so that I can paint it up and enjoy it. Having a small band of miniatures adjacent to that would be just lovely, I’m sure, and making them a nice mix of tree-folk and elves is the dream.

I’m probably still going to stick to my plans for the Nighthaunt and Legions of Nagash being my main AoS focus, with Chaos being a close second. Sylvaneth have some beautiful models though – there is just something really pleasing to me about painting fantasy miniatures. It was the same when I was painting up the Nighthaunt, something that just strikes a chord with me, and takes me back to my early days in the hobby. I think this could be a really fun side project though, so stay tuned for some (hopefully) exciting updates to see where I go with this for the rest of the year!

Age of Sigmar Open Day!

Yesterday was the Age of Sigmar Open Day over at Warhammer World, and perhaps unsurprisingly, the main focus was on Warcry, which is due out in a scant fortnight.

There were demo games, the beautiful models were on display, and folks were getting to paint up Iron Golems left and right.

I wasn’t jealous at all…

At any rate, Warcry wasn’t the only thing going on over in Nottingham…

The next two Battletomes were announced, one of which I really didn’t think we’d ever see! The Orc factions getting amalgamated into their own book was a nice touch for sure, as it’s good to see the formerly-splintered armies finally coming back together in a sensible and cohesive way. This is especially true of the old Empire faction, which was hacked apart, much like the old elves, into several tiny factions which, overall, it seems was done simply to then eliminate portions from stock. Cities of Sigmar is promised as more than just the Empire re-imagined, however, as it instead re-forges the Empire, the Elves and the Dwarves into a single book!

Cries of “Soup!” might well be warranted, but I’m hoping there will be solid plans in place to allow for an intelligent combination of these forces into a single cohesive army.

each City of Sigmar can enlist units from Battletome: Stormcast Eternals into their main force, while Tempest’s Eye and The Living City can draw on aid from the Kharadron Overlords and Sylvaneth, respectively, as full members of your army that share your allegiance abilities.

This has gotten me really quite excited, as I’ve been thinking for some time about trying to combine some of the old Warhammer Fantasy units with some of the new Age of Sigmar kits. Come back tomorrow for some of my thoughts on this!

Legendary Slayer Gotrik Gurnnisson is finally getting the model that he deserves, standing atop a pile of dead Skaven. Nice.

Speaking of new models…

I did not expect this to ever happen! A plastic Ogre Tyrant kit?! He looks wonderfully menacing, as well, which is really good. Alas, I’ve cleared out all of my Ogres, so don’t have any need to buy this one, but if I were still collecting the fat dudes, I’d definitely be picking this chap up!

Exactly how he’s going to be packaged, though – I’m guessing it’s going to be something along the lines of Looncurse and Carrion Empire from a couple of months ago. Bring out a new Leader for a faction, bundle it up with a bunch of older kits, and watch the money come rolling in!

Feast of Bones – the new battle box coming for Age of Sigmar! Maybe…

Meanwhile, Warhammer Underworlds is gearing up for season three, and I still haven’t played a single game! I’ve got stuff all over the place for this (I blame moving house, but still) so I think it really is time I tried the game out sometime soon. It seems to have a good following at my local store, at least, so that’s a good start!

Centaurs? Could we be seeing entirely new factions for Age of Sigmar here, or simply new models for existing factions? Who the hell knows!

It’s definitely time that I got my act together and tried this game out…

Finally – just what the hell is this all about? The Tithe of Bones? I’ve seen some speculation out there that the Tomb Kings will be coming back as a re-imagined AoS-style army, which would be incredible! Others think it could be Vlad coming back, or Krell. I’m not so sure, as I don’t think GW will be bringing back named characters anytime soon like this. So far, at least, it seems to have been mostly about creating new characters where possible, and the only named folks we’re seeing are the major players who came across at the very beginning anyway.

Re-imagined Tomb Kings would be so awesome. Death has got ghosts and it’s got zombies, and then there are the other bits within Legions of Nagash; it’d be really nice, in my mind, to have a faction of skeletons that forms a proper skeleton horde. Of course, TKs weren’t all about the skeletons and nothing but – rather, there were all of those constructs like the Necrosphynx and Ushabti. A skeleton army that features golem-like creatures could be really cool, and would allow for stuff like the Morghasts and Mortarchs to slot into the force quite easily.

Would it be too much to ask for a proper Deathrattle / Skeleton Horde? Possibly. I suppose only time will tell!


So there we go! I suppose for me, filtering out the Warcry stuff that was clearly the main focus of this event, the most exciting thing is this Tithe of Bones. I hope it’s basically a new faction release, and not the other half of that Ogres boxset that people have been speculating about!

Warcry up for pre-order

Hey everybody
It’s finally time for Warcry to emerge from the haze of the fairly bland internet previews and come up for pre-order! I thought this day would never come – I’d actually been growing a little bored waiting for the announcement, and had begun to lose faith it would be of any interest, given the complete lack of anything beyond previews of the models themselves.

Don’t get me wrong, those previews were showing off some pretty spectacular models, I just wanted to know more about what the hell the game is, and so it was with no small measure of joy that I discovered the “how to play” video finally uploaded yesterday:

Visual Appeal
The game looks amazing. I mean, I’m really blown away by the aesthetic that GW have captured here. The warbands included in the starter set have a totally unique look to them, and while there is definitely something to be said for the classic Slaves to Darkness look of the old Warriors of Chaos, these new models really capture the look of the classic Warhammer berzerkers of old. While it is of course set firmly within the Age of Sigmar universe, taking place at the Eight Points (more in a bit), there is still something very Old World about some of these minis. I think the Untamed Beasts warband in particular give off that Conan vibe that was almost the hallmark of old GW, pulling together and synthesizing so many disparate elements from classic fantasy into their own setting.

The terrain is just mind-blowing, though. I mean, sure, we’ve had ruins and archways like this before, most recently with the Azyrite Ruins set, these things are just phenomenal. I think the most impressive aspect we have here is that the terrain is designed to be multi-level, so we have all of these walkways, bridges and ladders that bring up the idea of Mordheim from all those years ago. Is Warcry meant to be Mordheim for the modern era? I have no idea, having never played the older game. But it has the feel of a classic in the making, with some fairly straightforward rules that should get you up and playing very quickly.

The Rules
Warcry uses a fairly straightforward system of rules, with some flavour from the current 40k set in terms of the strength vs toughness mechanic. The initiative is a very interesting idea, where you both want the duplicate rolls so as to employ powerful abilities within the game, but you also want to roll singles so as to give you a higher chance of going first. The additional die you get to add to your pool will lead to some pretty difficult tactical decisions, I’m sure!

The actual rules seem to be quite straightforward, and predominantly close-quarters focused. While there does appear to be some ranged combat possible, from what I’ve seen so far it does seem to be around the 3″ max range. Which is in fitting with the sort of skirmish game that a board densely packed with scenery like this would suggest…

All of the glyphs and runes that appear across the fighter cards really add something to the feel of the game, being as it is set in the realms of roving Chaos bands. It was a really nice idea to provide that additional feel to the game, I think.

First thoughts
There is a definite boardgame feel to this one, I think. People have been calling it Kill Team for AoS, including the designers, and I can sort of see that, but it also feels like much more its own thing. There are elements of Kill Team, though it feels a lot more like Necromunda to me – instead of gangs, we have warbands, but these are models that are specifically created for this game. I’ve heard somewhere on the e-grapevine that there will be rules for these warbands to be used as Slaves to Darkness stand-ins in regular Age of Sigmar games, which is cool and all, but I do like the idea that we have a distinct and separate game that is its own thing.

At first, I was one of those people a bit surprised that this was solely a Chaos vs Chaos game, and while there are rules to include other factions such as Stormcast Eternals, Idoneth Deepkin and Nighthaunt in the game, I get the impression that the design is really focused on these individual Chaos bands, with the six we’ve already had previewed as well as two additional bands that we have yet to see any models for.

Even the new scenery feels like it is intended purely for these Chaos warbands to fight over. The game is set in the Eight Points, what was once the Allpoints, the mystical crossing-point between all of the Mortal Realms, but that has since been captured by Archaon and fallen into Chaos and ruin. Warring factions now compete for the favour of the Everchosen, and that’s really what the game is all about. It feels almost weird to be bringing in Daughters of Khaine into this, though I must admit that the idea did cross my mind to pick up some models…!

The Future
I had kinda forgotten about this game. I’d certainly lost some interest in it, after waiting for months since the initial announcement with no news on what it was, beyond the fact it features Chaos on Chaos violence and had some very attractive miniatures. With the ability to add in regular AoS miniatures, the game will have a lot of traction, I’d guess, and while there does seem to be some mixed reactions overall, I think the general impression is a favourable one of the new miniatures.

With the two additional warbands – Spire Tyrants and Scions of the Flame – as well as the promise of further warbands for the game coming, I’d guess there will be a decent amount of life in this one. Kill Team has the benefit of having a wealth of miniatures to choose from across the entire 40k range, and so far GW have only seen fit to create two brand new teams for that game. As such, it has really taken off and flown with the number of expansions available for it already.

I get the impression the opposite may well be in store for us here. We’ve seen six warbands, making me think those miniatures are ready to go now, and it won’t be too long before all six of them are out in the wild (three of them are available for pre-order this weekend, even if the Wild Beasts and Iron Golems are stuck within the core box). A Kill Team-like approach has been taken with repackaging older terrain sets for this game, with the second such pack announced at today’s AoS Open Day, but I could totally see something like the Rogue Trader box coming out later in the year with those final two bands, side by side with some more terrain to supplement that from the core box, as well as maybe some rules tweaks or something.

Of course, there is always the possibility that we’ll see some rules, further down the line, that bring some of the Shadespire warbands into the mix. I’m not overly familiar with that game, though have been enjoying painting up a couple of those warbands, but from what I’ve heard, there is a similar feel to both – even down to the glyphs to denote the mechanics of the game. Shadespire / Nightvault (and the upcoming Beastgrave also announced at the Open Day) is also organised into these small-scale warbands, of course, and while some of them are perhaps on the smaller side (such as the Stormcast), bands like the Godsworn Hunt or the Sepulchral Guard have a similar feel as regards the model count, and the Darkoath models perfectly fit with the aesthetic of warring Chaos tribes.

Of course, if we do end up seeing a similar situation to that of Kill Team last year, we’ll be seeing all of that sweet new scenery, repackaged and expanded upon – that has got to be reason enough to want this to be the AoS version of Kill Team, right?! The terrain is already fantastic; I can only begin to wonder at how it could be expanded upon!!

At any rate, I’m really happy to announce that I think Warcry could well be the next big thing for me, and I’m really keen to get my hands on all of that plastic to get building, painting and playing!

Getting somewhere with Genestealer Cults

Hey everybody!
So the Codex has been out for a couple of months now, and I’ve been finding it a bit difficult to work out just how I want to build my Genestealer Cults army. I mean, there’s a lot going on here, with it being a new army with a whole slew of new models to try and get my head around and see how they work with the units that I was somewhat familiar with from leafing through the Index and stuff.

While I’ve been leafing through other codices, it’s usually my game-plan to start with a single model, or a single idea that requires a couple of models, and build out from there. With the Cult, however, I’m still at something of a loss! I think the first problem I encounter is always wanting to include the Broodcoven in my list, simply because of the coolness factor. The three HQ choices of Patriarch, Primus and Magus are something of a holy trinity, though, and I do feel like they should be at the forefront of my list. With that in mind, then, I suppose it’s time to try and build a Cult!

The Patriarch is a melee monster with some real psychic punch, as well. The Psychic Phase is not my natural home – I’m a Necrons & Dark Eldar player, after all! – and I think this could also be part of my downfall with these guys. Knowing when and how to use the best of the Broodmind Discipline is going to be a steep learning curve for me, I feel. The Patriarch knows two psychic powers and can attempt to manifest one per turn, though any familiars he has with him can lend him the power to try for a second. That could be very useful, I feel. He’s also something of a commander for both the Cult at large (allowing friendly models to auto-pass Morale if they’re within 6″) as well as adding one to the hit rolls for friendly Genestealer models within 6″. With 6 attacks of his own, he’s going to be up close and personal with the Genestealers, rather than hanging back with a screen of chaff to protect him (though that chaff will be useful, regardless!)

The Magus has a new model, I’m pretty sure we’re all aware of that by now, but I still love the classic model that came out with the first batch of miniatures for the army. The Magus is actually quite underwhelming as an HQ choice, I feel – he can allow units within 6″ to deny psychic powers as if they were themselves psykers, but if you’re not playing a psychic-heavy enemy, this ability is fairly redundant. He does know two psychic powers however, and can also benefit from familiars allowing him to attempt another one per Psychic Phase, which is quite nice. I’m guessing that’s where his main focus will be, either through buffing friendly units or else denying Overwatch with Mass Hypnosis. There are some more offensive Psychic powers in the Broodmind Discipline, but I think I prefer to keep my Magus further back than they perhaps require him to be…

A lot of Genestealer Cult players have been a bit miffed – and rightly so – that Purestrain Genestealers do not gain a Cult Creed. Indeed, I’m sure I’ve read somewhere that the Cult version of Genestealers are strictly worse than their Tyranid counterparts, though I don’t know a great deal about such things. At any rate, I feel like I can’t have a Genestealer Cults army without at least one squad of these little critters, and they do have the unique Stratagem that gives them a random buff that feels like it may go some way to compensating for the lack of a Cult Creed.

Speaking of which, I think I should probably talk about that for a moment, as well. All of my Genestealer Cults units painted so far have been in the colour scheme of The Bladed Cog, which gives an improved invuln save, and negates the penalty for Infantry units moving and firing heavy weapons. Which is alright, but given my thoughts of going heavily into melee, I’m wondering if The Pauper Princes might not be a better choice, giving re-rolls to hit rolls for melee weapons on the charge. For now, I think I’m going to stick with my original plan, because so often with chapter tactics-type rules, I feel that you really need to play them to get a feel for how good they actually are.

I definitely want to include some Aberrants in the list. I’d been keeping away from these models for some reason – I think I had in my mind the idea of a relentless wave of cultists, much like my plans for Chaos. With 2 attacks each, hitting on 3s and the potential to be dishing out some serious damage, they look like a melee powerhouse. Their Bestial Vigour ability allows them to reduce the damage they receive, and also gives them a decent enough chance to shrug off wounds anyway.

It also gives me the reason I needed to buy the Biophagus, which is such a great looking model, but had firmly dropped off my radar because of the fact his only special ability is really to buff the unit.

The Primus is another useful HQ that will give +1 to hit in the Fight phase for units within 6″, as well as providing a useful buff for nearby units when they target a unit he has designated as the quarry. Very thematic, I like it!

When thinking about what to bring as a bodyguard for the Primus, I hear a lot of chatter about people using Acolyte Hybrids for their versatility. I’m not about to get all power-gamer and equip the whole squad with heavy rock cutters, or whatever the current meta has decided is the best weapon of the moment. Indeed, I’ve got a lot of Acolyte Hybrids from Deathwatch: Overkill that are bare-bones with autopistol and cult knife, and as a cheap troops choice, they’re pretty great for that!

Of course, a lot of Cult units are very squishy, with most of the hybrid Infantry being T3. This is perhaps where the mechanised portion of the list will come into play. I’ve had a Goliath Truck half-painted up for years, but I really want to add the Rockgrinder to the list, for that insane drilldozer blade! There are now some fairly good options for the Cult to get around the board, with the new bikes and the Ridgerunner. I’m thinking a lot of these things can be used to soak up Overwatch fire, which is always something of a concern for me with units like this. I do love the idea of mass-infantry, don’t get me wrong, and the thought of unstoppable waves of cultists just coming and coming at the enemy does have some appeal (I feel like I have enough miniatures that I could fairly well-replicate that idea, too!) but there are practical considerations to bear in mind!

Finally, I love the hilarity of the Tectonic Fragdrill, and would love to include it in the list. At 75 points, it should be able to find a home, and if for no other reason than it looks fantastic, I think I do need one in my life. As the centrepiece for the army, it really does look the part:

So I think I’ve been wittering on long enough now – I suppose I should actually share the list ideas that I’ve come up with!

This is something of an evolution of one of many, many attempts to make a Genestealer Cults list that I have been through so far this year! At 1500 points, I didn’t have the room for a Fragdrill, instead opting to go for more customisation on the Neophytes and take a second squad of Atalan Jackals to provide me with an Outrider detachment. While I do have four detachments in this list, I think I’m really only allowed to have three, and so there will be a number of things shifted into the main Battalion detachment, with then the Vanguard and Outrider providing the additional benefits.

While I was particularly excited about pretty much everything prior to the release, I actually ended up with just two of the new character models and a box of Atalan Jackals. These bikers really impressed me with how they can be customised, but I wasn’t sure if I was going to include them in the army from the off. Well, that soon went by the wayside! I’ve grown to love their dirt-bike aesthetic, and I think they’ll be really useful for harassing the enemy with their 14″ movement, as well as potentially tanking Overwatch as mentioned above.

It might just be me, but there’s almost a Wild West vibe that comes off these guys, as well. The name, plus the quadbike Wolfquad they use, as well as the tomahawk-wielding guy in the image above… it puts me in mind of prospectors out in the deserts, which I suppose is what the intention is – the Codex talks of these bikers using the cover of searching out new seams of ore in order to further the infestation of the Cult.

All gaming considerations aside, I think I am really in love with the Genestealer Cults as a faction, for the simple reason of their flavour being some of the strongest we’ve yet seen for any army in 40k. The idea of a band of everyday chumps forming a revolution against the Empire is terrific, and when paired with the idea of the Genestealer Cults preparing the way for the Tyranid invasion, I think it really leads to some of the best storytelling in the game. The new Elites choices that we’ve seen, from the vox-hacking Clamavus to the tactician Nexos, bring to life some of these fantastic elements from the army and it’s in-universe methods. All of the new models fit in seamlessly with the already-established mining aesthetic from the first releases back in the day, giving us one of the best, most fully-fleshed-out forces in the game right now.

I can’t wait to get started painting more of these guys!!