Saturday, 28 April 2018

Order: Idoneth Deepkin Part 3 - Traits, Relics and Spells (Warhammer Age of Sigmar Battletome Review, 1st Edition)

With the units finally out of the way, we can move onto the last leg of this review with the secondary elements which help to define the Deepkin on the battlefield. Like most of the recent armies, the books have pushed to make them as diverse and varied as possible. At least in theory. Like a few others, the book does suffer from a few repeated ideas and reworked concepts from previous battletomes. You can expect those to be addressed as we go along.

Battle Traits

Forgotten Nightmares: This is a rather useful one in many regards, as it only allows enemy missile weapons to target the nearest Deepkin units. This is obviously the closest one to the shooting unit in question, and it only applies to those with this specific battle trait. This can be used to force your opponent to only target the unit you want them to, however, and to maintain a level of protection that ensures the bulk of your army will get into battle. Well, unless you're facing someone like the Overlords who have enough firepower to wipe out units one at a time with a few good dice rolls. Overall, however, it's an interesting ability which does alter the dynamic of the game.

The others are linked into the Tides of Death table below:

1 - Low Tide: This allows all units with this trait to count as if they are in cover. It's good, but there are a few ways to disable or overcome this one, meaning against some armies its effect can be negligible.

2 - Flood Tide: This is a very interesting one as it allows all units present which run to shoot or charge in the same turn. They cannot do both, however, and this does mean it's likely to be on the receiving end of an errata at some point. I can see how this could be utilised to quickly maneuver an entire army.

3 - High Tide: Noticing a theme yet? This one is a bit more useful in many places, as it allows the Deepkin units with this trait to immediately go first in melee that turn. This overrides almost anything else, and you prioritize those with this benefit before moving onto the others. It's very situational, and it's not something you would want in the early turns, but in mid-to-late-game, this could be very beneficial to weakened forces or the much more lightly armoured units of the army.

4 - Ebb Tide: This is the other half of the Flood Tide, but it only grants the same effects to those in retreat. It's not a bad idea in question but it's so extremely situational and works with certain key moments, that you would be lucky for it to truly come up in a worthwhile way.

5+ - Repeat the above.

Overall,, not that great. We have seen better and while I do personally like the ideas behind a few of these, they seem as if they need more refinement and reworking to better use in games as a whole. It just needs to be less of something that only arises once in a while.

Command Traits

1 - Merciless Raider: The Command Traits are often where you see general bonuses and benefits arise, and they tend to be the one most repeated from book to book. As such, when this one introduces a re-roll run and charge option, it's not all that much of a surprise. I do like the fact that it covers run as well, so it's not useless with non-melee leaders, and it can work with a wide variety of choices. That said, I wish we had seen something a little more original.

2 - Hunter of Souls: Re-roll wounds of 1 for the general. Same comment as above, though I am left wondering if this stacks with other benefits to allowing multiple re-rolls. If not then it's something which is a superfluous addition to the leader in question.

3 - Unstoppable Fury: Far, far too situational again, as this only works a small faction of the time. The leader gains two attacks with any weapon in melee, but it only works on a round where High Tide is in effect. So you might be lucky to get this off once or perhaps twice in a game, and even then you might not be in melee at the time.

4 - Born From Agony: Increases the wounds of your leader by 2. Definitely much more useful and, while a little bland, enhanced survivability is nothing to ever look down on. Especially when it offsets the like of Mortal Wounds somewhat.

5 - Nightmare Legacy: Subtract 1 from the Bravery stat of anyone hostile within 12" of the leader. On the one hand, this is again something that the Deepkin have plenty of, and it's not entirely clear if this stacks with other abilities at work. On the other, so many of those come with a note that they do not work on Deepkin, whereas this one lacks that specific shortcoming. So, in some battles it might prove to be a very beneficial attribute in forcing troops to break in a fight.

6 - Lord of Storm and Sea: Add 2 to the Bravery stat of friendly Deepkin units within 12" of your leader. Definitely the best of the lot, given how fragile many of the Deepkin tend to be and how thin their numbers can become. Against a smaller but much better armoured force, this could be enough to truly turn the tide.

As above, there are one or two good ones in here, but a fair few are quite flawed. It definitely needed to be reworked somewhat for overall use in the game.

Akhelian Artefacts 

1 - Sanguine Pearl: This first one is a basic save, which allows your leader to shrug off blows with an additionally beneficial roll. Each time you take a wound or Mortal Wound in melee you roll a dice, and on a 5+ it's ignored. Given how many various units can easily inflict mortal Wounds, it's a good fall-back option to try and ensure your leader's survival.

2 - Potion of Hateful Frenzy: This is a one-shot item, which can only be utilised on the hero phase of a game. For the rest of that turn, your leader gains +1 to hits and wounds throughout the rest of the turn to all situations. However, your leader promptly suffers from a single Mortal Wound in the following turn, meaning that this is somewhat akin to the combat drugs typically used by the Dark Eldar.

3 - Ankusha Spur: A curious one to be sure, the spur adds an additional 3" to your leader's movement while also allowing them to re-roll 1s when his or her mount attacks a foe.

4 - Armour of Cythai: Going from previous works, you're probably guessing exactly what this one does from the outset. Well, you're not entirely right. This isn't a direct improvement to their save or even limiting them to taking only one wound per turn, but it instead forces enemy units targeting anyone with this armour to strike at a -1 result. This isn't a bad addition due to the fact it doesn't override your normal save or usual defenses of any kind. So, you can still have a heavily armoured nightmare of the deep but he's much more difficult to hit.

5 - Bio-Shock Shell: No, sadly, this doesn't turn your leader to fire bees from his hands, but it is a rather nice addition to the army as a whole. This carries the same usual bio-electric attack that the Deepkin mounts retain, inflicting D3 Mortal Wounds on any enemy unit within 3" of the person holding this, but it can also double up on that.

6 - Abyssal Blade: It's a weapon with +1 Rend, with the blade's stats sharing that of one weapon carried by the leader. Plus it has an additional point of damage to any unit which is aligned with Slaanesh (well, has that keyword anyway).

On the whole, this is more along the lines of what we should have had for the traits. It's a way of offsetting certain key weaknesses and giving them more of an edge in terms of their capabilities.

Idoneth Artefacts

1 - Rune of the Surging Tide: This is another one-shot creation which can only be utilised on a single occasion per game. Once it is activated, you need to state whether you're creating a stream or riptide, as they have different effects. The former adds 1" to your movement and those of all friendly Deepkin models. The latter removes 1" from the movement to all enemy units. Not bad exactly, and it has a few uses, but it's one most will likely pass on for obvious reasons.

2 - Black Pearl: This is, unfortunately, a somewhat worse version of the Sanguine Pearl. While it isn't limited to melee, it offers only a 6+ save compared to a 5+ and only works for the bearer. It's worth skipping this in favour of most of the others.

3 - Lliandra's Last Lament: Try saying that three times as fast. This is another single-use option, and one which does actually have an odd benefit to it. This is activated during the Battleshock phase, and immediately prevents all friendly Deepkin units within 18" from having to take battleshock tests for that turn. As such, it requires planning, prediction, and timing to make use of it - and has the downside of requiring your spellcaster to stand close to the front lines - but it means you can keep engaged at close range and offset the downside of more than a few abrupt losses.

4 - Terrornight Venom: It's poison. You re-roll wounds which have a 1 result, and remove one from the Bravery stat of enemy units.

5 - Cloud of Midnight: Yet another one-shot creation, this prevents the figure which activates it from being targeted for spells. While I do think that this one, above all others, should have had a 6-8" radius to it, this is still an extremely powerful option. The downside is that the hero himself cannot do anything save move during this phase, but that's a small price to pay in some regards.

6 - Whorlshell: Once per battle (AGAIN!) you can have the bearer use this item. If they are within 9" of an enemy hero, then you roll 2D6 and see if it exceeds their Bravery stat. If it does, then all hits are at -1 for the rest of the turn for that hero. Not bad, and I do like the use of an additional mechanic to get it off, but this feels like it should have had more impact. There are more than a few which have similar effects but without that same risk of failure, and it seems weighted in favour of use against weaker targets.

I'll say simply this - I like one shot relics, as they require more skill to know when to use them. This was going a bit too far though.

Isharann Artefacts

Yes, there are more than two sheets of artefacts to keep track of in this book. Four actually, which is likely intended to give players more options to help cover all their bases for a fragile army and work to offer them a multitude of options.

1 - Steelshell Pearl: Welcome to another version of the Sanguine Pearl. It's 5+ once again and this time it only works with missile weapons. Given you want the Isharanns to mostly stay out of combat, that's hardly a bad thing.

2 - Mind Flare: At the start of a combat phase - once per battle - you can force a unit to strike at -1 to hit if they are within 3" of the bearer. Pass.

3 - Dritchleech: This is one of the better defensive options on here, despite one issue. It has an 18" range, and if an enemy wizzard is within that then they are subtracting 1 from all rolls to cast spells. This seems as if it should have been slightly longer range, and while I like the idea it seems as if it would take most of the game to actually get within range and use.

4 - Auric Lantern: At the start of a shooting phase, you can pick an enemy unit within 18" and for the rest of that turn they do not benefit from cover saves of any kind. This is a good one to have, especially if you can pair it up with a rapid assault of some kind.

5 - Disharmony Stones: Once per battle (How many more of these are there!?) you may activate this within the hero phase. This only works if you have one to two enemy heroes within 12" of the person carrying it. Interestingly though, it does offer a multitude of possible outcomes or options on how to proceed:

- Roll a D6 for each hero picked. If you get a 3+ result, then they immediately suffer a single Mortal Wound.
- Roll a dice for each hero picked, on a 5+ then they suffer D3 Mortal Wounds each.
- Each hero picked suffers D3 Mortal Wounds, then roll an additional dice. On a 4+ then the bearer suffers D3 wounds.

This could work well if you are facing down multiple melee based enemy heroes at close range.

6 - Brain Barnacles: At the start of your hero phase, you pick out a hero within 12" of the bearer and roll 2D6. If the roll is equal to or better than the range rolled, then the enemy hero is afflicted by this horrifying creation of the depths, and operates at -1 to hit in shooting, melee and casting spells. This is the best of the lot, as it works for the rest of the entire game.

Arcane Artefacts

1 - Arcane Pearl: Again, it's the Sanguine bloody Pearl, but it only works on Mortal Wounds at a 5+. Something tells me that the original one was the best.

2 - Sands of Infinity: Guess what? Yep, it's another once per battle option on here. In fairness there's a good reason why with this one, as if it were spammble then it would be broken. Before casting a spell where the effects normally last until your next hero phase, you declare that this is in play. If you get the spell off, then it lasts until the hero phase after next. Given how many buffs, benefits and effects spells offer, this is easily one of the most useful of the bunch.

3 - Coral Ring: Re-roll a failed casting roll for the bearer. This is only once per battle though. This can also be done for unbinding a spell if you failed the roll. Interestingly, the wording implies that it's once for each, meaning that it's a bit more useful than a few other options here.

4 - Bauble of Buoyancy: The bearer can fly, and the results of running are immediately doubled. Awesome.

5 - Kraken Tooth: This can be used within the shooting phase and has only a 12" range, so long as they are within sight of the caster. If this is possible, then roll a dice for the following results:
1 - The item backfires and the one using it suffers from D3 Mortal Wounds
2-5 - The enemy unit suffers D3 Mortal Wounds. 
6 - Pick one model within the enemy unit. If they have less than 10 wounds then they are instantly slain, or 2D6 mortal wounds if they have ten or more.

6 - Augury Shells: So, want to guess what affect this has attached to it? Yep, it's another one-shot item. At the start of your hero phase, roll 1D6. You can then use that result as that of a casting roll for the bearer, or as the result of an unbinding roll for an enemy wizard when attempting to unbind the spell. You must specify which before enacting its effects though.

Spells (The Lore of the Deeps)

1 - Steed of Tides (Casting value 5): If cast then pick a hero within 6" which isn't monster. Remove that modle from the battlefield and teleport them 24" from its previous location, so long as they are 9" away from enemy models. This counts as their movement. It could be useful for teleporting someone powerful behind enemy lines, to cause havoc among artillery units.

2 - Abyssal Darkness (Casting value 5): All friendly Deepkin within 9" of the caster count as being hidden behind cover until the next hero phase.

3 - Vorpal Maelstrom (Casting value 6): Pick a point within 18" of the caster which is visible to the spellcaster. Roll a dice for every unit within 3" of that point, and if the roll is less than or equal to the number of models within it they suffer D3 wounds. Useful against blobs of Stormcast Eternals, and it has no fail result. Good on the whole

4 - Pressure of the Deep (Casting value 7): Pick an enemy model within 12" of the caster, then roll a dice. If the result is greater than the model's total wounds characteristic, then it is immediately slain. It's powerful, but thankfully difficult to pull off for obvious reasons.

5 - Tide of Fear (Casting value 6): Pick an enemy unit within 12" which is visible to them. If your spell is successful, then they suffer a -1 to hit and -1 Bravery until the next hero phase.

6 - Arcane Corrasion (Casting value 6): Pick the closest enemy unit within 48" of the caster. As you might guess from the extreme range, how close the opposing unit is to them influences the strength of the spell in question. however, it actually gets stronger the further away it is:
0-12" - Inflict 1 Mortal Wound.
12-24" - Inflict 2 Mortal Wounds.
24-36" - Inflict 3 Mortal Wounds.
36-48" - Inflict 4 Mortal Wounds.

This is the sort of creativity and mixed up workings that Age of Sigmar works best with, especially when they so frequently favour fast-paced skirmish games.

Isharann Rituals

These are the prayers of the army, and they have a few interesting effects as a result of this.

Ritual of Erosion: This again removes the benefit of cover from enemy units, leaving them open to charges and ranged attacks.

Ritual of Rousing: The ritual in question is a fairly useful one, as it heals a wound on the local Eidolon, and allows you to re-roll their hit and casting rolls.

Ritual of the Tempest: Enemy models cannot fly for that turn. Yep, simple as that.

Whereas the spells are more useful as they serve as more direct methods of offsetting direct weaknesses, flaws and tactics which are most viable against this army.

The Verdict

There are a few steps back here and a few forward. The sheer volume of one-shot items and throw-away abilities is frustrating, as it means that there is no second chance for the player to attempt the same tactic twice. More irritatingly still, as mentioned above there are a few key rules are repeated multiple times throughout the book and have been put in place of something more creative. The Deepkin definitely show promise, and they will definitely be quite competitive against most armies, but they definitely need to be refined in the future.

Friday, 27 April 2018

Avengers: Infinity War (Film Review - Marvel Cinematic Universe)

So, here we are. The Marvel films have been adapting and expanding their universe for some time now, with success after success, and at long last we are here with the third major instalment. This was going to be a gamble, more so than any other, and however calculated and careful it might be the Russo brothers were going to face an uphill battle. I am happy to say that they largely succeed, and Infinity War is unlike any Marvel film which has preceded it. It's not without its flaws, but there is vastly more good than bad at every turn.

The Synopsis

This is the big one. In the wake of the events of Thor Ragnarok, Thanos has begun to make his move. Focused entirely on attaining the infinity gems which might grant him limitless power, he is making his way to Earth. Even as the heroes attempt to counter him and unite once more, it is clear that he is a foe unlike any other they have confronted before.
The Good

Let this be made clear above all else - This film utterly gets its sheer sense of scale absolutely right. Whatever problems it might have, the directors, producers and all involved were facing a near Herculean task of balancing out countless figures. The prior Avengers films were both challenges in this regard, but the immensity of events present here completely blows them out of the water. This could have easily collapsed under the sheer ambition, so the fact that it not only worked, but succeeded in so many places is already a major point in its favour.

Equally, another point many might miss is the success of the cinematography here. While this will likely not stack up with some of the legends among Hollywood for one reason or another, one fact needs to be maintained: So many of the films retain different themes, styles and overall direction. Try to place Captain America and the Guardians of the Galaxy in the same scene, and their very nature will clash due to how their series have evolved of late. This is one of the major benefits of such a diverse setting, as it allows them to cover a variety of different themes and concepts. This makes uniting them all the harder, so to have a singular visual direction which not only doesn't clash, but so easily fits many of them is stunning in its own way. 

This is only enhanced further by the appreciation for visuals that the Russo brothers have, with still frames and singular images telling far more than the over-stylised designs of many other creations. They are capable of displaying dramatic events in vast sweeping motions, running battles and engagements with a multitude of people, but also retaining tight control and telling a story in as few shots as possible. It's an odd capacity to adapt their style to so many varied settings and characters which made them perfect for this.

When it comes to the story as well, it's evident that the creators knew exactly who they were dealing with. The plot keeps you updated at a few key points, introduces figures and offers an initial scene or two, but it always works on the assumption that you generally know who these people are. Not every detail perhaps, but things like the recent conflict between superheroes and the Winder Soldier's deprogramming and the like. This allows it to hit the ground running with many characters and to quickly move onto developments, story progression and (best of all) interactions.

The initial Avengers film was praised for all the scenes of so many bold, big and bright figures contrasting and working with one another. While Age of Ultron may have lessened this somewhat in order to focus more on the core story, it's evident that lessons were learned from this and the film adapted accordingly. While the grim state of the galaxy is always evident, the film always does everything it can to work in more discussions, character interactions and quips. This proves to be especially brilliant with Star Lord and Thor, and moments like Doctor Strange meeting Spider-Man in the trailer are just a hint of what it is capable of utilising. Better yet, it never makes the Thor Ragnarok mistake of having this humour and key moments undermine the drama and it (mostly) moves between drama, action and comedy without any issue. A few of these even offer some brilliant moments fans were hoping to see for some time now, and they do not disappoint.

The MacGuffin and motivation of the characters could have easily been a throwaway element within the story, but there's often a great deal of dramatic weight to them. This is due to how the script, performances and scenes are able to convey hints of something greater, while tying into some previous events. This is important as it also allows Infnity War to make better use of its source material and retain its own identity over simply being a mash-up of various heroes.

The focus of the film is divided between a few choice groups. Through this, it is able to constantly convey the scale of events without overburdening the plot with too many details. It's especially important as this isn't simply bound to Earth but is a galaxy-spanning event, with Wakanda, Nowhere and a few major previous locations all playing a key part. It's definitely a story many should return to and examine for any future cinematic universes, to see just how a few talented people can manage something on such a huge scale without losing focus or wasting time at any point.

Plus, obviously, there are the fights. Dear lord there are the fights. The past Avengers films have always done an excellent job at having every major character sticking to a set of identifiable skills and a fighting style, but the events here overshadow that entirely. It's not simply that so many varied figures are able to show off their skills one at a time, but few among them lack a specific "money shot" or spectacular moment to truly stand out. No matter who you think of, no matter who comes to mind, something creative, engaging and often spectacular will immediately spring to mind when it comes to their involvement in this. Even relatively new additions to the film, namely as Thanos and his backup dancers, put in a good showing here amid the titanic final battle of this piece.

So, overall, the visuals, characterisation, story and direction all work here. Unfortunately, a few only somewhat work, which leads us into the negatives.

The Bad

(Please, keep in mind that this section addresses a general spoiler moment of the film. The events will not be directly addressed, but their impact and results need to be discussed. Please skip the paragraphs in red if you wish to avoid spoilers entirely.)

The obvious negative point is something more than a few people will likely hold against the film: It's clearly overstuffed. It's a display of why the likes of Return of the King's adaptation opted to streamline certain events over incorporating many of the book's plots, and at times the involvement of a few people can seem a little superfluous. They thankfully never feel unnecessary, and it does a solid job of justifying their presence at key points. That said, this leaves them with limited screen time and in a few cases, it can seem as if the directors were having to tick off a checklist to keep everything balanced out. As a result that sadly led to a few supporting characters being all but completely omitted from the film, and one founding Avenger isn't in this. Seriously, where is Hawkeye in all of this?

Matters are made worse by one incredibly irritating comic book factor coming into play here: B-list fodder. A large number of characters are bumped off during the events of the film, to the point where one major Marvel race might have been rendered completely extinct. This is intended to rack up the drama and make the audience realise that anyone can die in the film. The problem is that, this not only ends up upsetting the ending to Thor Ragnarok and a few films which directly precedes this, but it feels cheap. 

Many of these characters have lacked the spotlight to make this feel like a real punch to the gut, or were just deemed unnecessary and wiped off of the face of the earth while keeping the important ones in play. That would be bad enough, but a sizable number of those bumped off were also those set up to be major figures in the future. So, not only is the impact of this limited, but it's fairly clear that this is going to be reversed.

This is a major weakness the film has over its main inspiration, that of the Infinity Gauntlet saga. In that series, the action was focused, there was a concentrated beginning and end, but also it executed its same points with far more effect. Thanos stomping through heroes and wiping the floor with them was more engaging in the comic due to how it was staged, and the fact that there was far more of a character set-up for him. There are moments here which tries to flesh him out, and Josh Brolin is still an excellent Thanos, but it doesn't work nearly so well. All we have had of Thanos prior to this point was foreshadowing. A few suggestions, a few ideas and points, but mostly suggestion of what was to come. So, when he arrives, he lacks the commentary or characterisation needed to make him seem like more than just a powerhouse.

Without more moments which stop to engage with his motivations or see him speaking with others, he comes across more as a brutal and unflinching threat without any true depth. This makes one late-stage moment in the film all the more jarring as a result when, in-between fights, he is forced to sacrifice something. Thanos' reaction implies the character that he is, but it's so at odds with what was there before that you can easily be thrown off by it. Right after this point, he seems all the more invigorated by this supposed sacrifice, making it rather jarring.

Finally, and most pressingly, is how certain scenes tend to be rehashes of some previous events. For some this is certainly understandable - such as with Iron Man and Spider-Man's talk of being ready - as there's a different scale to events. With others, this can end up retreading old territory. This might serve as a refresher to bring people up to speed, but for every couple of scenes of genuinely great character pathos or development, there's one which can feel as if it is just going over the same song and dance as previous narrative arcs. It's well executed, and the dialogue usually wins out, but it's still irksome how some moments work so well while others seem to falter.

The Verdict

The first thing an audience should keep in mind is that this really is the first part of a bigger story. This is a crisis crossover in every sense, and it nails almost everything which made such comicbook events so spectacular. However, the odd closing choices, open-ended nature and a number of game-changing events all mean that it's not the out-and-out fun spectacle that the original Avengers was. There's more weight to what happens, and even as it starts to close out one saga it's clearly trying to open the way for a new one to take its place. It's also a great indication of how you can remain loyal to a setting's themes and ideas while heavily subverting them, rather than betraying them.

Even if you're somewhat out-of-touch with events you definitely owe it to yourself to see. It's a titanic monument to just how truly massive the cinematic adaptations of Marvel have become and how well structured their internal universe is. Plus, unlike many films (looking at you Godzilla) it doesn't let that immensity overwhelm events or force the director to try and actively avoid it to maintain a sense of drama. Just keep in mind that this really is a beginning as much as an ending.

Verdict: 7.9 out of 10

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Order: Idoneth Deepkin Part 2 - The Units (Warhammer Age of Sigmar Battletome Review, 1st Edition)

The Deepkin are another in the line of armies which emphasises speed and mobility over taking hits. We have had a fair few of these now, but to the credit of Games Workshop, few of them play in the same way. Afterall, everything from the Sylvaneth to the Overlords can count as this playstyle, and yet both of them have vastly different ways of winning their battles. That and one has arrows while the other has guns.

The Deepkin here maintains more of an emphasis upon mounted attacks backed by light infantry. This is largely evident thanks to the presence of flying sharks, moray eels, and the odd turtle, but it manages to avoid falling into the same niche as other armies. In broad strokes, it's akin to fielding a jetbike centric Craftworld Eldar army, with light infantry moving alongside them. There is much more of an emphasis placed on keeping the right unit in generally the right place in a formation over fast-moving assault lines or swarming individual squads one after the other. So, let's get into the nitty-gritty behind these models then.

Eidolon of Mathlann

The Eidolon serves as the single big gun of the army, the massive monster which can shrug off multiple blows and still dish them out. For the most part it does live up to this requirement, with a 3+ save and 12 Wounds granting it some much-needed durability, while Bravery 10 means it can serve as an essential gathering point for an assault. Plus, there's the added benefit of the fact it can fly. However, what is interesting is that there are two entirely different variants of the Eidolon present within the list, one emphasising melee (Aspect of the Storm) while the other places a greater emphasis on magic and support (Aspect of the Sea). Both are still capable of dishing out plenty of damage by direct means, with plenty of 3 attack weapons hitting on a 3+ and wounding on 2+ and 3+, but their abilities are notably different.

The Aspect of the Storm benefits from a notably stronger set of basic weapons with Fuathtar (a 2" spear) and the Crulhook (a 1" melee weapon) offer four attacks each. They hit at 3+ and 2+ respectively, with 2+ and 3+ to wound as well. Combine that with a rend value of -2 and -1 and you're going to be chewing through most things. Crashing Down Upon the Foe also grants the ability to re-roll results of 1 when you're trying to hit a target, and an extra point of damage to Fuathtar. This isn't noted to already be accounted for in the stats line, so until the errata you can be causing 3 damage with each strike. The ability to heal D3 wounds following a charge also means that you can keep it in the thick of battle.

Drench of Hate also allows it to grant its same re-roll rule to all friendly Deepkin units within 9" of it, while Pulled into the Depths means that it can subtract 1 from hit rolls against a single declared enemy hero within 3".

The Aspect of the Sea, meanwhile, swaps out Fuathtar and Crulhook for a Psi-trident and Deep-sea Sceptre. They fulfil the same overall role, but are notably weaker in terms of basic stats. Atop of this, however, it also gains the ability to use Blasts of Abyassal Energy. This is a 15" attack which can use D3 attacks, with 3+ to hit and wound, with -2 Rend and 2 Damage. So, it's going to inflict a fair bit of harm at range before you close in for fights. Meanwhile, Tranquility of the Abyss allows it to add 3 Bravery to every friendly Deepkin unit within 9" of the Eidolon.

In terms of its magic capabilities, you also have the benefit of Dormant Energies, where you can re-roll one casting roll for the model in each hero phase. Oh, and if you choose not to, then you can heal D3 wounds on the Eidolon. In terms of abilities, it can cast two spells in the hero phase and attempt to unbind two during the enemy hero phase.

Cloying Sea Mists is one of two unique spells to this model, which has a casting value of 6. This one is useful as it's a multi-purpose spell which can be targeted on both enemies and allies. On an allied Deepkin unit, it heals D3 wounds, while against any other force it inflict D3 Mortal Wounds. It's a nice general purpose option, and the 12" range means that you can use it to easily support anything close by. The second of the two spells is Tsunami of Terror, which has a casting value of 7. This promptly then hits every single enemy unit within 12" of the caster, and you then promptly remove 1 from their Bravery score and rolls to hit.

Oh, and atop of all of this, both have Stormshoal, which is a 3" attack which has 2D6 hits and a 4+ on hits and wounds. 

Overall, this model is much better at crowd control and support over all else. It's by no means a poor choice when it comes to being a hero killer or behemoth slayer, and it can cover a broad range of roles at once. However, it seems to benefit most when it comes to quickly inflicting a vast amount of damage across multiple units, weakening them and leaving them open to follow-up attacks from friendly options.

Volturnos, High King of the Deep

This is the only named character of the book, and he's a curious one to be sure. This is a figure with a 14" move value, 8 wounds, 8 bravery and a 3+ save. So, overall, he's going to be fast-moving and can still take a good number of hits. Better yet, his sword the Astra Solus inflicts 5 attacks in a 1" range, with 3+ to both hit and wound, and D3 damage atop of that. Oh, and this is further enhanced by its own special rule, which allows rends to strike at -5 rending instead of -1. So, most bigger multi-wound units are going to quickly fold once he gets within range.

Even if you ignore this, he also has his mount's attacks to fall back on, with 2" ranges each and 3 attacks. Not to mention 3+ attacks and wounds, with 1 and 2 damage respectively as well. Overall, no matter what you are using, he will certainly still harm anything he gets into contact with.

His special rules also cover a wide range of buffs and modifiers, with Crest of the High King granting +1 Bravery to all units within 18" of him and Cealith, the High King's Shield, allowing him a 3+ save against all spells. This alone would be enough to make him stand out, but he also comes with the same re-roll 1s buff that the Eidolon's offered to other units, but this time with an 18" range. Oh, and he has a good chance to immediately inflict D3 Mortal Wounds if he ends up within 1" of an enemy unit at the end of a charge, provided you roll a 2+ on a dice first.

He doesn't stand out nearly so much as many other options in this game, but he's a good overall choice for a smaller and swifter melee option than most. Plus it helps that he flies.

Akhelian King

These are the leaders of the small Deepkin kingdoms and they retain a stats line very close to that of Volturnos himself. Save for one less wound, the two are more or less identical and they retain access to a wide range of weapons as well, from polearms and falchions. 

They retain the same D3 Mortal Wounds on a charge ability as the High King, the Deepmare Horn, and Akhelian Paragon is a 12" version of First Among Arkhelians, offering re-rolls to allies. Storm of Blows, meanwhile, is a simply counts as drawing its falchion while ditching its shield. As a result, it loses a point from save rolls while making these attacks in this turn. Equally, Wave Rider counts for drawing a polearm in combat, as it counts its Damage characteristic as 3 if the model charged on the same turn.

Honestly, i'm not a fan of this one. There are a few too many direct parallels with Volturnos which simply reduces him to a slightly more effective version of them over a legendary warrior. Furthermore, the variety of weaponry they carry is a good idea, but far too many special rules tie directly into them. They're not broken or poorly constructed by any means, but their design is notably uninspired in many regards. I can't imagine many will find this model ineffective by any means, but it could have been far better.

Isharann Tidecaster

The Tidecaster here is the magic master of the army, and the best option for a high magic output behind the Eidolon. While they, unfortunately, lack the flight and higher stats benefitted of their mounted superiors, they can still offer more than a few notable benefits to any force with them in. The foremost among these is the Spirit Guardians ability, which allows them to pull an Apothecary I.E. ignore the first effective wound directed to them each turn. While they only have a 6+ save, they make up for it somewhat with 5 Wounds and a Pelagic Staff. This is a melee weapon with 2 attacks, 3+ to hit and wound, and D3 damage.

Oh, and then there is their unique magical ability of Riptide, which has a casting value of 7. This has an 18" range and needs to be visible to them, but it allows you to immediately subtract hit rolls by 1 when it comes to them. Oh, and the unit suffers D3 Mortal Wounds atop of this in the next hero phase, regardless of whether or not the Tidecaster is alive it seems.

With only one spell which can be cast and one they can bind, not to mention a very limited range of options for spells, this isn't the Farseer some might hope for. Instead, it's closer to a Warlock in nature, where they can hold their own in close support, but cannot relentlessly debuff and modify the abilities of units wholesale across the board. Overall, it's a good choice for the style of play Deepkin favour, but a model you will want to keep heavily protected at all times.

Isharann Soulscryer

The Soulscryer here is a navigator of sorts within their lore, allowing them to highlight targets and guide troops to their destinations. They share the same basic stats line as the Tidecasters, but instead they have the benefit of a ranged weapon - the Scryfish Shoal. This is a potentially devastating power with an 18" range and 8 attacks, but it is limited by a 5+ to hit and wound with no rending capability. Furthermore, in melee they have a finger-claw which offers 3 attacks along with 3+ to hit and 4+ to wound. As such, they are very much a glass cannon but can still seriously hurt an opponent when the dice are on the player's side.

As you would expect from their role, Finder of Ways allows them to teleport units about the battlefield with up to two units joining them as they disappear off of one side of the board and can arrive on another. They need to be within 6" of the board edge and 9" away from enemy units, but it's an effective way of withdrawing damaged units from an engagement. In addition to this as well. Their Seeker of Souls ability allows them to pick out an enemy unit within 24" of them. You can then immediately add 3 to all charge rolls from friendly Deepkin units within 12" of the Soulscryer, with the added issue of the first model finishing within 1/2" of the target unit.

Overall, the Soulscryer are the much more useful magic option on here and a better supporting figure as a whole. While they lack the same direct methods of firepower as others, their teleportation capabilities and bonuses to charges makes them worth their weight in gold. Especially given this army's need to quickly engage in melee.

Isharann Soulrender

The Souldrender here is a much more of a durable option than the past two additions, with a 4+ Save and Bravery 8, along with5 Wounds. Furthermore, while they're not mounted, they do have a pair of fairly effective weapons to back this up as well. The Talunhook has a 2" radius and 2 attacks, along with hitting at 3+ to hit and wound. Furthermore, it has 2 damage and a -1 to rend. Their second weapon, the Rakerdart's Serrated Bill is a slightly different one, with 3" range, D3 Attacks, 3+ to hit and wound, -1 to rend, and 1 damage. So, you have a pair of decent damaging options no matter how you try to approach slaying foes.

Its unique abilities are tied mostly into supporting troops while serving as a speed bump/Hero killer option for the army. Lurelight allows them to bring D3 Namarti back to life from a unit within 12", and in addition to this it is further buffed by the model's own damage output. Every model killed by its Talunhook in that same turn adds another point to that D3 result.

The Hangman's Knot, meanwhile, is an ensnaring option which retains a 3" range in battles. On the result of a 4+ (or 2+ if the hero in question is a monster) then you have the option to re-roll Talunhook attacks in that combat phase.

It speaks for itself really, and it's overall a decent option for the most part. While this isn't the sort of figure I would throw headlong into a fight against another full hero, they are a good choice for keeping an enemy tied up in melee and slowing them down until the big guns get into combat. It's certainly a worthwhile option an will definitely prove its worth in the right place, but it's one best left as an additional purchase if you still have room in your army toward the end.

Akhelian Allopexes

This is the first of the beast mob found within the book, and they're probably the one most players will end up using as their vanguard choice. They're the sort you throw in at the forefront of the army to either soak up damage or rip apart a few initial units, as they have the stats to back up that role. As with the majority of beasts/riders in this army, the Allopex has a 12" movement value while also counting as a flying model. Furthermore, it has a 4+ save and 8 wound to back this up, with Bravery of 6 to ensure that it stays in the fight. Given how the Kings or Eidolon can easily buff that last stat, this means that they will rarely be running away in most armies.

The model itself comes equipped with a wide range of weapons, as it has a trio of melee weapons (well, teeth and barbed fins) while also two ranged attacks to inflict damage as it closes in. While the latter might seem like a concession or even a one-shot option they are actually remarkably effective for what they are. One is a Razorshell Harpoon Launcher which has a range of 24", 3 attacks and counts as 3+ to hit and wound, and with a damage of 1. The other is a net launcher, which has an 18" range, 1 attack, 3+ to hit and wound but a damage value of 3. Sadly that latter one is not noted to ensnare or pin down units as they close in.

In melee meanwhile, you have a series of 1" attacks, which offer a variety of benefits and can be used against a multitude of targets. Barbed Hooks and Blaes has 5 attacks, 3+ to hit, 4+ to wound and a single point of damage. Allopex's Ferocious Bite (yes, really) has only a single attack, but 3+ to hit and wound, a -2 to rend and a damage of 3. Then there's the scythed fins, which have 4 attacks, 3+ to hit and wound, -1 rend and one damage. Then, if that weren't enough, they also have their Bloodthirsty Predators rule, which allows them to re-roll charges if they are within 12" of any unit which has taken wounds. Obviously it has to be toward that unit, but there we go.

The main downside of the Allopexes, and the one thing which helps keep them balanced, is that they are somewhat surprisingly fragile Their size makes them an easy target during most battles, and despite their ranged weapons, a barrage of attacks from devoted heavy damage weapons can inflict some serious harm at long range. Overall though, they are likely something we will see appearing a fair few times in the years to come as a mainstray of this army.


The Lotann here is about as far from the previous model as it is possible to get, as they are not mounted, have only a 6" movement, a 6+ save, Bravery 7 and 5 wounds. They are relatively fragile, and their main benefit is Catalogue of Souls - which grants +1 bravery and re-rolls to hit for Deepkin and Nnamarti within 12" of it respectively - but they also have a surprisingly large number of weapons to fall back on. Along with the Bone Quill (cue pen is mightier than the sword jokes) which offers 1 attack, hits at 3+, wounds at +5 and does 1 damage, they also have several bonuses thanks to their guardian celephopod.

Ochtar's Cudgel has a 3" range, 1 attack, 4+ to hit, 3+ to wound, -1 rend and 2 damage. Ochtar's Blade meanwhile has a 3" range again, 1 attack, a 3+ to hit, 4+ to wound and -1 rend along with 1 damage. Then its tentacles have the same range again but 6 attacks, 4+ to hit and wound and 1 damage each. Why that wasn't buffed to 8 given its usual number of limbs is a bit of a mystery, but balance is likely the reason here.

The Lotann isn't a bad option and in lower points value games or where you just need something cheap to offer quick buffs it does its job quite nicely. While like the Soulrender, it's admittedly a fall-back choice it does still fill out an important role within the army. So, overall, it's one well worth considering when building an army.

Akhelian Leviadon

This is the big one which tends to draw eyes on the tabletop and in the promotional materials, the gigantic killer turtle which has ballistae mounted on its shell. As a result of that, as you might imagine, it's difficult to bring down and can soak up no end of damage. Along with a 3+ save, there's also the 16 wounds it has and the Bravery score of 7 to keep it going. You might think that the big bow weapon on its back means it's a slouch in melee, but it still has plenty of ways to hurt creatures in combat.

The model's movement value is dependant on how many wounds it suffers, starting at 12" and going down to 7" as it gradually takes more and more hits. Furthermore, this same issue applies to its attacks, with the hitting value of its Crushing Jaws and damage of its Scythed Fins gets steadily worse as it slowly dies in battle. Nevertheless, it thankfully takes more than a single wound for it to start losing its total effectiveness and it remains fairly effective even after taking nine wounds.

Its main methods of attack are a Razorshell Harpoon Launcher (see the Allopexes for the stats of that) and also a set of Razorshell Harpoons. This has a 1" range along with 4 attacks, 3+ to hit and wound, and 1 damage each. The Crushing Jws have the same close range, 1 attack, a changing hit value, 2+ to wound, -2 rend and D6 damage. The Scythed Fins have a 2" range, 4 attacks, 3+ to hit and wound, and 2 damage. Then there's the twin-pronged spear, which has 1" a range, 4 attacks 3+ to hit and wound and 1 damage. So, you have no end of options to inflict serious damage with, although Crushing Jaws tend to be a good go-to option in most engagements. There's a good reason for that atop of the great stats, as its Jaws of Death special rule means that any roll of a 6 means that it inflicts 6 Mortal Wounds on its target.

The Void Drum special rule also helps to cover one of the big weaknesses of the army, in that it hides many of the nearby units. All Deepkin units (friendly ones, mind you) within 12" of the Leviadon count as being in cover while being shot at and attacked. This, unfortunately, makes the Leviadon a bigger target, but it does mean that your light armoured infantry won't be shot to bits while getting into close range.

Akhelian Morrsarr Guard

Besides sounding like the result of a drunken bet on who can throw the most syllables into a unit without resorting to Lovecraftian means, the Morrsarr Guard are another cavalry option, but much lighter and faster than those previously discussed. For one thing, they have a 14" movement value, while also retaining a 4+ save and have only 4 wounds each. This is also another unit with Bravery 6, so keep that in mind when fielding them.

Their attacks are once more divided between what the rider wields and what their ocean-going mount is capable of, with the Voltspear counting as a 2", 2 attack weapon with a 3+ value to hits and wounds. It only does 1 damage, but that's made up for by the Fangmora (their shark steed) with its own abilities. The Fanged Maw is a melee only ability again with a 1" range, but it offers 1 attack, 3+ to hit and wound and D3 damage. The Lashing Tail, meanwhile, then offers a 2" Range, D3 attacks, 3+ to hit and wound, and 1 damage. That might not sound much on its own, but keep in mind that unlike the previous riders, these units tend to travel in groups of 3 or more. They also have the benefit of hitting much harder when charging into combat thanks to their Wave Riders Special rule, which grants the Voltspears a -2 rend and 2 damage value in the turn that they charge.

Their final special rule, that of Biovoltaic Blast, allows the eels to discharge energy into battle and do a bit more damage as a result. This needs to be done at the start of the combat phase, and requires the roll of a 3+ to pull off. However, if you accomplish this, it allows them to inflict a Mortal Wound on a enemy unit within 3", or D3 Mortal Wounds if you rolled a 6 at the time. 

As you might have guessed from that little outline, the Morrsarr Guard are a force which works best when moving in and delivering a couple of rounds of serious damage. They can take hits, better than some of the other unit options in the Deepkin roster, but their main benefit is being used as a jousting cavalry of moving in, hitting hard and then withdrawing for a brief moment. Do this right, and they can seriously hurt or quickly finish off most things they run into battle against.

Akhelian Ishlaen Guard

This is another counterpart option, as they ride the same Fangmora Eels as the above unit, have most of the same stats and benefit from the Fangmora's own attacks. However, the rider's weapon and how their abilities work has been notably changed, with the Helsabre being the most obvious among these. While it's an inch shorter in range than the Voltspear, it benefits from 1 more attack than that weapon while sharing the same overall stats line. Furthermore, their ability of Biovoltaic Barrier allows them to ignore Rend attacks against them when making saves. Plus it boosts their save to a 3+ while charging, which robs them of some of their immediate damage, but means that they can withstand the worst of a powerful unit's counter-attacks.

The Ishlaen Guard is a unit which is going to be less useful overall than the Morrsarr Guard, but they do still retain benefits and a place in this army. The Helsabre means that they are more viable as a unit when it comes to sticking it out for a couple of turns longer in combat, while their benefit of a Barrier means that they can charge in, take the brunt of an attack or perhaps take down a potentially dangerous foe, and then allow weaker units to take over with fewer risks to themselves. They're not bad as a whole, simply not great.

Namarti Thralls

The Thralls here are the first of the two big mob units of light infantry which will likely be the backbone of most armies. They're the sorts which will die more readily than the mounted choices, but will be able to absorb those casualties without quite so much of a negative effect on their capabilities. The fact that they move in units of ten and up certainly helps in this regard. With a stats line of 6" movement, 1 wound, Bravery 6 and a 5+ save, you know what you are getting into here. What separates them from pure arrow fodder is a respectable damage output, with their Lenmari Blades. This has a range of 1", 2 attacks, 3+ to hit and wound, a rend of -1 and 1 damage. With ten of these hitting at a time, it's going to seriously hurt in most situations.

This is also backed by a good special rule, specifically Sweeping Blows, which adds 1 attack when targeting units with models retaining a single wound. If the unit or model they are fighting has four wounds or more, then it means that they gain an extra point of Damage in melee. I personally quite like this overall, and it gives them a bit of overall versatility against multiple targets and offsets their usual weaknesses without erasing them. They will almost certainly still die, but it means that they will rarely not go down without hurting something first.

Namarti Reavers

So, with the melee options done, now we have the ranged versions here. It's the same overall stats line with a movement of 8" over 6" and they have a variety of missile and melee weapons. Their Whisperbow (ranged weapon) retains two methods of firing on targets with Aimed Fire and Storm Fire as options, which is the difference between greater range and having more attacks. Aimed Fire offers each model an 18" range, 1 attack, and a 4+ hit and attack value with 1 damage each. Storm Fire has half of that range buy 3 attacks each. Keening Blade is a melee attack of 1" which has 2 attacks, 3+ to hit, 4+ to wound and 1 damage. The fact that the melee options are not a throw-away or truly poor alternative to their ranged fire.

The unit has two special rules to further benefit them. Well, one and something which is more of a throw-away line. With Swift Tide allows them to re-roll running (a good option for any squad with limited numbers and armour), while Fluid Firing Style just allows them to switch between Aimed Fire and Storm Fire. Yeah, that's it, and it seems like a trick was missed here. 

Still, for the most part, it's an alright unit option, and a good way of laying down supporting fire while keeping up with the cavalry.

The Verdict

The basic units for the Deepkin are pretty good on the whole. As with more than a few Age of Sigmar armies covered on here, they're functional, capable and well balanced internally. That said, it does seem like something more exciting could have been done with them in a few places in regards to their basic units in terms of equipment or power. They're a marked improvement over the Daughters of Khaine however, and it's enough to fill a specific niche within the game. As such it's difficult to truly complain about in this first step, but they do need something more done to them in the next army book. So, that was this lot done. We'll be finishing them off tomorrow with the remainder of the army's rules.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Order: Idoneth Deepkin Part 1 - The Lore (Warhammer Age of Sigmar Battletome Review, 1st Edition)

While the return of the aelves to the timeline was something celebrate, one section of the Daughters of Khaine battletome turned a few heads. Rather than the three direct descendants of the elves of the Warhammer Fantasy world people suspected we would see, instead, we ended up with four. This last one was mentioned only briefly, but those stories grabbed the attention of readers with mentions of an aquatic race of hunters who rose up to assail those on land in raids. 

Rather than keeping their readers hanging in a Blizzard style dragged-out affair, the book has instead been printed in record time right after it. Unfortunately, that seems to have been for both better and worse. The book is good to be sure, and it does contribute in fleshing out the new setting, but there are a few odd shortcomings which seem to be borne of a rushed production more than anything else.

The Good

The immediate strength of the Idoneth Deepkin stems from the nature of their creation. Like many other books, a great emphasis is placed on their history, development and why we have not heard nor seen them before now. The story is told in a usual manner, informative but with a quality which is trying to still utilise qualities of retold epics. What's interesting in this regard is that Games Workshop has been taking this a step further of late, and making sure that it covers details largely unique to the Deepkin.

The Deepkin themselves were among the first souls to be freed from Slaanesh's captive form, and were taught by Teclis to retake the mystic arts. However, their souls had a few odd qualities to them. The first among these was that they were those tied to the ancient god of the sea, Mathlann and this influenced their creation along with their time while consumed by Slaanesh. As a result, they appeared fine at first only for obvious imperfections and flaws to emerge as time goes by, forcing them to retreat into the depths and part ways with Teclis. This was far from amicable. That's the basic description, but the full version grants readers an immense amount of information in terms of events, actions and how they aelves have been adapting to this new world. The parts surrounding Teclis and Tyrion are of obvious importance, but the book emphasises only the parts the Deepkin themselves would be directly aware of. As such, many of the events surrounding Morathi covered in the Daughters of Khaine Battletome are completely absent.

What makes this such an interesting move is that it leaves several points in question. This isn't quite the whole War of the Beard style unreliable narrator with two intentionally contradictory terms. Instead, it makes it clear that every side only knows so much, and the obvious blind spots are to be delved into by other books. This makes the world much more expansive as a result, because you are not losing anything directly relevant to your faction of choice, but there are certain facts which can be fudged or missed. It also means that, while the book is working to create a single cohesive setting with some variation, rather than having everything set in stone.

Much like a number of previous releases, a great deal of emphasis is placed on establishing the faction's background. As a result there's a real sense of legacy, history and meaning to this faction. They're clearly a well-established part of this world despite their recent release, and the book does an excellent job of working them around many points such as avoiding the previous conflicts. More impressively still, their reveal carries all the impact you would expect. They are drawn further and further into the war upon their discovery and only align with Sigmar's lot out of necessity rather than a true desire to follow his new alliance. What's still interesting despite this is that the book manages to avoid the spiteful or self-serving elements you would expect from this. Several points note that the Deepkin attempt to bury the hatchet with those races they previously wronged, and there is not the inherent sense of malice you would expect to accompany their ruthlessness.

Interestingly still, their background has a storytelling quality to it that most books have struggled to fully capture in many cases. While it isn't the same directly informative works found in many 40,000 books or the overtly stylised versions Fantasy favoured, there is a sense of being a grand epic to it. The discussion of vast figures, powerful sorcerers, fallen gods and reclaimed civilisations really is Age of Sigmar at its best. This is less the low fantasy warfare of the past, and more akin to almost Conan-like works with entirely new concepts to them. It really helps to separate the two, and the style is a type of fantasy that Games Workshop has rarely attempted to examine before now. On the whole, this helps it to stand out, and it makes the Deepkin have a sense of impact to them.

The race itself retains a number of very interesting qualities to them, and perhaps the most prominent among these is how they operate in and out of the water. Obviously trying to adapt any ocean-bound race to land was going to be an uphill struggle, but the writers work around this via a number of spiritual means, which draws a sense of this group being the AoS setting's Wild Hunt. A great deal of thought has been put into many of their powers and methods, and it manages to remain balanced without the typical problems of a single ability being too powerful or underwhelming. It's a good skeleton for the faction to work from, and the timeline offers a multitude of events where this comes into play and reshapes them.

Finally and most pressingly, the various factions here aren't the usual throw-away ideas you would expect. While it's true that more than a few of them still fall into the gimmick angle (one is best at controlling beasts, another has renowned archers etc) others go beyond this. There's a much greater sense of history to them, and it helps to subtly reinforce a few points about them - Specifically, the Greek visuals, in that they are a loose-linked alliance of various kingdoms which have split off from one another. There's more than enough to pick out one a player likes or even to utilise ideas from them to spawn a new kingdom, a-la Adeptus Astartes chapters and their successors. Plus, there's the added bonus of how the artwork depicting them is more than a simple recolour, and effort has been put into each one.

The Bad

There's no easy way to say this - The great failing of the Idoneth Deepkin is that they are this setting's Dark Eldar. This isn't some general comment on their archetype, role within the setting or even their visual concepts. This is a comment on how they are structured and their defining qualities. You have an army of elves who live far apart from the world of mortals and yet outside of that of magic, across multiple sub-realms linked by a magical gateway network. They emerge on occasion to raid other species, because their link to an ancient god means they must constantly feast upon the essence of other beings to sustain themselves. They are the dark mirror of the other survivors of their race, and their society is heavily divided into a caste system. Those of a natural birth are regarded as having greater prestige than those born with flawed and more artificial qualities. Oh, and then you have the whole beast-master trait as well.

Now, this isn't to say that having the similar sadistic corsair concept with them would be bad. Nor that more than a few elements from the other universes could not be lifted to make use of this. However, the problem lies in the fact that it never manages to push beyond those qualities. It's not so much a homage as a duplication, and while their history is the strongest point which separates them, little else here works. We know nothing of their society short of certain dietary and caste elements. Their nature, traditions, views of the world and many other ideas which might help to further define them are either too out of focus or go completely unexplored. As a result, the Idoneth Deepkin never feel like the Idoneth Deepkin. Instead, you read them and think "Ah, Fantasy Dark Eldar, got it!"

Even accepting the above, however, there are still more than a few other issues. In their own timeline the Deepkin have a noted lack of victories or true accomplishments. In much of their timeline, events either note them hiding from their enemies or losing battles so badly that they need Sigmar's warriors to win. Save for the odd coastal raid or an offer of aid, much of the time they are losing major battles or being overrun by their foes. It's an old issue when it comes of Elf/Eldar equivalents, but for the most part Age of Sigmar has been subverting this. Even with the Sylvaneth, with much of their history detailing a flight from an advancing foe and repeated losses, were given a chance to seriously turn things around and prove their power. The Deepkin lack this specific type of battle or two, and as a result, they come across as irritatingly weak in a number of ways.

The book also fails to truly provide the reader with more of a definitive impression on just how their everyday life works. As with more than a few other armies, the focus is placed on a few defining traits, in this case largely their hunger for souls, worship of a dead god, and predilection for raids. The problem is that these are notable aspects, but the book doesn't truly do enough to push past this or show them in any greater depth. A few certainly can get away with this at times, with the likes of the Fyreslayers or Daughters of Khaine being absolved due to their nature as a cult. However, the Deepkin are supposed to be a full civilisation, and it seems as if there is one massive thematic and detailed blind spot in regards to how they are envisioned in the reader's mind. Once it moves away from open conflict, there is little to truly sink your teeth into or get more of an idea of how they are supposed to behave as a whole.

Curiously, the book also has a distinct problem when it comes to offering the reader something of an essential aspect in most books: That of an internal perspective. We are told certain things, points known only to the Deepkin are outlined to the reader and the gradual creation of their civilisation is given a satisfying level of detail. With that being said, there are few additional touches or qualities to truly help this seem like an opinionated viewpoint from their own perspective. There are no quotes from their members, no tales of battles from the views of a member of their kind, nor even descriptions of their realms in a manner which makes it feel more real. This creates a sense of odd disconnect as a result, and it lacks a hook to make the work much more engaging as a result.

The issue of a lack of inner viewpoint can be best defined by how the book uses characters. High King Volturnos (the only named Deepkin of the book) is limited only to a small segment of a bigger page, which spends more time outlining his features over any personal quirks or accomplishments, while several are devoted to the Eidolon of Mathlann. One is a member of their species, a figure who can serve as a representation and anchor for a view of the species or civilisation. The other is an arcane creation built out of their history, souls and linked to their dead god, emphasising their religion. One offers a view on their people, while the other tries to comment on their culture. Neither is inherently bad, but the fact that the latter is prioritized over the former, it ends up suffering from the opposite of a usual problem cited in past codices. Were this emphasising an unknown quality such as with the Necrons upon their introduction, the Tyranids or even the Legion of the Damned it might have worked. The problem is that it still desired to make this race sociable and somewhat human, so rather than benefitting from this, it instead ended up stumbling. For a work which needs to make a strong impression from the very start, it misses several vital components as a result.

The Artwork

No matter what you say about any book these days, there's no denying that the artwork is almost consistently top notch. It's rare to truly find a failed book these days, and this Battletome isn't about to break that streak. The art present here is beautiful to behold, capturing the disturbingly elegant qualities of the Deepkin. Effort is clearly made to try and emphasise their distinctive visual qualities and separate them from almost any other army present and, while it typically sticks to more photo-realistic works, it isn't above the odd stylised piece here and there. Equally, while the book shows little of their domains, those which are shown are extremely memorable. From shimmering magical gates to the shadow of a vast creature with a city built into its back, it's enough to keep them in your mind.

Plus, it has to be said, the Greek inspired visual imagery of the army does work to benefit the art in many places. The design department went above and beyond with the design of these models, and many such as their spiritual incarnation (well, Avatar substitute) are perhaps some of the best creations in Age of Sigmar to date. Keep in mind that this is coming from a devoted Kharadron Overlords player.

The Verdict

As a whole, this work has promise but this first impression is deeply at fault. There are more than enough good elements to be found in here, and a number of great ideas which can work as an excellent unique basis. It's also a good depiction of just how to use a marine-based army without limiting them completely to water. However, there's no denying that the core of the work all too closely resembles that of another prominent army, from their driving force to the very way in which their society is structured. Some armies can get away with this for one reason or another, and a few have very closely skirted this territory before. However, the Deepkin are the first to have truly crossed a line, and the next Battletome definitely needs to flesh them out, moving them away from the Spelljammer style Dark Eldar. After all the Sigmarine jokes, it's honestly a surprise to think the company would try this.

So, that's the lore done then. Join us tomorrow when we move onto the rules.