Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Skaven Allegiances and the General's Handbook

I finally got my grubby hands on the 2017 General's Handbook.



In this post, I talk about the new Matched Play rules and see how the new Allegiance Abilities will affect my Skaven army.

There was a lot of hubbub about what the 2017 update will mean for the future of Age of Sigmar. The points costs and unit sizes have been adjusted across the board, and there has been an extensive errata for the Compendium warscrolls which drop most of the special characters and change keywords to prevent Compendium units from allying with "current" armies.

For example, the Tomb Kings no longer have a Deathrattle keyword, meaning that any abilities in the "Vampire Counts" Death factions that affect Deathrattle, won't work on Tomb Kings units. Likewise, the Skaven Chieftain with Battle Standard lost its Verminous keyword, so it cannot ally with either the Pestilens or Skryre allegiances.

The New Rules of One and Summoning

  • You can still only attempt each spell once per turn.

  • A natural 1 to hit, wound, or save always fails, and now a natural 6 to hit or wound always succeeds regardless of modifiers. It's important to note that a 6 to save is not included in this rule; you can never automatically pass a save roll.

  • Any extra attacks, hit rolls, and wound rolls can't generate further attacks, hit rolls, and wound rolls.

  • A new rule of one is that the roll at the start of the turn to decide who goes first can never be re-rolled or modified.

  • The final new rule is that no artifact of power can be duplicated in the same army.

All good stuff. There's no rule preventing Priest's prayers from being duplicated during the turn, which is odd, especially considering that there's no way for the enemy to stop them.

Summoning still works the same– you need to set aside a portion of your army's total points as reserves, from which you pay for any newly summoned units. Spells and abilities that add models to an existing unit are still "free" but cannot bring the unit above its starting size at the beginning of the game.

Another point that was added is that allegiance command traits and artifacts cannot affect attacks made by a hero's mount. Only the hero itself is affected.

Army Construction

We still have the same battlefield rolls: Leader, Battleline, Artillery, and Behemoth, but now a portion of the army's points can be allocated for "Allies." Allied units don't have to have the same keyword as the army's allegiance. The army's general and Battleline units cannot be chosen from allies, and allied units still count toward the army's maximums for the various battlefield rolls. The portion of the army that can be allies works out to 20%, so a 2000 point army can field 400 points of allies.

There's also a new rule that the army's general must be a unit with the Leader battlefield roll. This is easily overlooked tacked onto the end of a paragraph on page 77. I would have expected something this important to be its own heading or have a specific call-out.

Some units (mostly Battleline units) receive a points discount for taking the maximum size. There's no specific description or qualifier for a "Massive Regiment" other than a points break in the Pitched Battle Profile listings.

Allegiance Abilities

In addition to the four Grand Alliances (Death, Chaos, Order, Destruction), there are a number of other Allegiances for the sub-factions. When building an army, you first need to pick an Allegiance, and units qualify for an allegiance if they all share the same Allegiance keyword. Some Allegiances provide unique Battle Traits, Command Traits, and Artifacts. An army can include allies that don't share the Allegiance keyword without losing their allegiance abilities, and the allies they can field are determined by the army's faction.

There seems to be some confusion over whether a "faction" is the same thing as an "allegiance," so I'll try to clarify it as I read it in the handbook:

In the Pitched Battle Profiles, under each Grand Alliance are a number of factions. Each faction usually corresponds to a keyword, and the keywords on the actual warscroll determine allegiance. The faction headings in the General's Handbook list which other factions it can choose as allies.

For example, under Death, you have the Nighthaunt faction, which can ally with Deathlords and Soulblight. Meaning if you choose Nighthaunt as the army's allegiance, it can ally with units that have the Deathlords or Soulblight allegiance without losing its Nighthaunt Allegiance abilities. But those allied units can't benefit from any of the army's allegiance battle traits, and can't be given command traits or artifacts.

By the same token, all of the Death units have the Death keyword, and could be chosen under the Death Alliance without concern for ally restrictions. So, how does this all shake out for army construction...?

The four Grand Alliance Allegiance abilities are mostly the same, but their special rules aren't quite as egregious as they used to be. For example, Destruction's Rampaging Destroyers trait used to be that they could automatically move D6 inches, every unit that was within 6" of the general or a Hero in the hero phase.

Now, you roll one dice for each Hero and on a 6, one unit within 6" of it can move. The general gets +2 to the roll, essentially making it a 4+ for his roll. That's a major reduction, but the moving unit gets to move a flat 6" (rather than D6) or it can charge if it's within 12" of the enemy, or make a pile-in move if it's within 3 inches. So there's a bit of a trade off in that fewer units will be able to move, but the moving units can do more.

The sub-allegiances, by contrast, are much more narrowly focused on the individual factions. The unit selection for many of them is a fairly short list, and this is further restricted by limiting which factions they can ally with. So, the result is an army that spams the same few units and characters over and over, but has some (mostly) cool allegiance abilities. In a 2000-point army, up to 400 points can be allies, meaning at least 1600 points needs to be units with the keyword for your chosen allegiance.

The Death allegiances (Flesh-eaters, Nighthaunt, Soulblight) are very restrictive in their allies (which is very disappointing, considering they all came from what used to be a single army (Vampire Counts). While I have upwards of 8000 points of "Vampire Counts" models, I can't put together 1600 points of just Flesh-eaters, Soulblight, or Nighthaunt, and their restrictive allies means that if I want to play any of those allegiances, I essentially need to build an entire army's worth of models to do so.

Granted, Vargheists, Crypt Horrors, Crypt Flayers, and Blood Knights; have always been the most cost-prohibitive and/or ugly kits, so I've neglected them all this time. I guess I had better get used to painting truckloads of them if I want to use any of the new allegiance abilities, eh? And as far as substituting Dragon Blades for Blood Knights– The horse bodies look great, but in person they always seemed a bit small, the riders still need to be replaced and the riders' legs are part of the horse bodies. But that's a rant for another time...

Unlike the undead, every Skaven clan faction has the ability to ally with every other Skaven clan. My rat-men are a little closer to being playable under the new allegiances:

The Clans Pestilens

This is how I envisioned my Pestilens-themed army shaping up, but only the monks, priest, furnace, and catapult are Pestilens units. They come to about 940 points, which leaves me 660 short of the 1600 would need to build a 2000-point Pestilens army.



Those new Clanrats I was building to accompany my Conclave of Corruption don't really help me get to 1600 points, because as Clan Verminous they need to be allied in. As allies, the two units of 40 come to exactly 400 points, but I think I need to use those ally slots for things that will better fill the gaps in my Pestilens Allegiance.

The command models for the Clanrats are converted, and everything is primed and sprayed. Now, I have to break my rule of never having unfinished Skaven projects, and set the Clanrats aside until I've filled out my proper Pestilens units.



That shouldn't be too much of a chore– One of the Skaven Pestilens Start Collecting boxes will do the trick. 


20 Plague Monks that I can build as Plague Censor Bearers (I don't have any of those, yet), another Plagueclaw catapult, a Plague Priest, and I think I'll convert the Plague Furnace into a third catapult so I can play around with the Foulrain Congregation battalion. I know that 200 points is a lot for a warscroll battalion, and there are better ranged options than the Plagueclaws, but using the Foulrain will eat up some points, allow me to take a second artifact, and deploy more quickly while I fill out those Plague Censor Bearers.

Skaven Pestilens Allegiance Abilities

Note: While writing this, I double checked the text, and it seems that a Verminlord Corruptor cannot be included in a Skaven Pestilens allegiance. Follow me on this: The name of the allegiance dictates what keywords are required to be part of it– Skaven and Pestilens. All of the Plague Monk stuff has both Skaven and Pestilens, so they can be part of the Skaven Pestilens alliance, but none of the Verminlords have the Skaven keyword. So the Verminlord Corruptor can't fulfill the keyword requirements for Skaven Pestilens, and therefore, despite being in the Clans Pestilens faction, can't be in the Skaven Pestilens allegiance. (Again, that's the difference between a faction and an allegiance.)

It seems that the only way a Corruptor could be in the allegiance, is if it is included as part of the Virulent Procession warscroll battalion, because the battalion does have the Skaven Pestilens keyword, and thus grants it to all the units that are part of it. Otherwise, you cannot include a "loose" Verminlord Corruptor in a Skaven Pestilens allegiance. (Am I wrong?) And the Virulent Procession is nearly impossible to take because it requires you to include two other warscroll battalions, so it will cost 460 points before you even pay for any models! I've posted this on the TGA forums to see if anyone there has an answer. Anyway, on to the review...

Battle Traits

When taking battleshock tests, Skaven Pestilens units add +2 to their bravery rather than +1. Great for the Plague Monks and Censor Bearers, but won't help any allied Clanrats or Stormvermin; they'll have to make due with the standard +1 for every 10 models.

The other Pestilens battle trait is the ability to manifest the Great Plagues. Any time a Pestilens Priest rolls an unmodified 6 for one if his prayers, once per turn, one of five Great Plagues can manifest:

  • The Neverplague adds +1 to the prayer rolls for all Pestilens Priests for the rest of the battle. This is a great choice for the first Great Plague, because it will the prayers easier to pull of (although it won't help with manifesting the Great Plagues).

  • The Undulant Scourge causes the nearest enemy model within 13" to suffer a mortal wound, and every other model from its unit within 3" also suffers a mortal wound. Save this one for when units are engaged in close combat and bunched up. One of the front-line troopers will be afflicted, and the number of mortal wounds increases if he's got other troopers crowded around him.

  • The Crimsonweal Curse causes a mortal wound to the nearest enemy unit within 13" and then it and any enemy units within 1" of it suffer a mortal wound in each of your hero phases for the rest of the game. Pull this one off early in the game for maximum damage. If you can put it on a character, he might drop dead before the end of the game!

  • The Bubonic Blightplague causes the nearest enemy unit within 13" to suffer D6 mortal wounds. If the unit is destroyed, then another unit within 6" suffers D3 mortal wounds. It continues to bounce like this as long as it keeps wiping out units. The enemy can mitigate this by making sure the last model pulled from a destroyed unit is more than 6" from any other units. And, of course if it doesn't wipe out a unit, it just ends. This won't be too useful against horde armies, but every mortal wound helps!

  • The Redmaw Plague affects the nearest enemy Hero within 13" and causes him to attack his friends if he's within 3" of any friendly models and no enemy models. I'm not quite sure if the effect is supposed to last for the remainder of the game, or just once. It says "in any combat phase" but the plagues are also described as being temporary, and can only manifest once per battle, so it could be a one-and-done kind of thing.



Command Traits

The six command traits are bonuses for the general, which would be a Plague Furnace or Priest (Possibly a Verminlord Corruptor).

  • Malevolent: Re-roll wound rolls of 1 for the general. This is only worth taking on the Furnace or a Corruptor; if my Plague Priest general is in combat, I've made a horrible mistake. And the trait is a little redundant with the Priest and Furnace prayers that allow similar re-rolls. Can't re-roll a dice that's already getting re-rolled!

  • Fanatical: Add 1 to the attacks characteristics of the general's melee weapons. Again, this is one I don't want for my Priest, and on a Plague Furnace it's only going to affect the Priest's attack with his staff, not the machine.

  • Master of Rot and Ruin: If the general is a Priest, he gets +1 to the roll for his prayers. If he's not a Priest, he gains the Plague Priest's prayers ability. Unless there's a way I'm overlooking that you can get a Verminlord Corrupter in the allegiance, this ability is completely useless because the only other Leader options are already Priests.

  • Diseased: If the general is within 3" of an enemy unit in your hero phase, on a 5+ he can inflict D3 mortal wounds on one enemy unit. This one is also a miss for me unless it's on a Furnace. But the 5+ prevents it from being very reliable.

  • Verminous Valor: A sort of "look out sir" roll for your general. On a 4+ he can ignore any wound or mortal wound and transfer it to a friendly Pestilens unit within 3 inches. This one is great for the Furnace, since you want it in combat, but would work for a Plague Priest on foot as well.

  • Architect of Death: Re-roll wound rolls of 1 for any ranged attacks made by Pestilens units within 6" of the general. This one is great to take with the Foulrain Congregation battalion because the machines will also re-roll failed hits (if one machine has already scored a hit on the same target), and gain +1 to wound, making them a deadly little trio.



Artifacts of Power

  • The Fumigatous inflicts a mortal wound on a 3+ to one enemy unit within 6" at the start of each combat phase. Note that's each combat phase– yours and your enemy's. And the 6" range means you can give this to a Plague Priest and keep him behind the fighting unit without getting him engaged.

  • The Brooding Blade gets assigned to a melee weapon and if that weapon inflicts a wound on the model but doesn't slay it, the model suffers D3 mortal wounds on the roll of a 6. That last part sort of kills this item.

  • The Bilious Bell causes each unit within 12" suffers -1 Bravery on the roll of a 4+ in the hero phase. This is one of the better items because of its wide range and the fact that it comes off on a 4+. It would also be a fun conversion to model a Plague Priest with a large bell on his staff!

  • The Living Cyst grants the bearer +2" movement and allows them to re-roll hit rolls of 1. The cyst will jump to a different Pestilens Hero within 12" at the start of each battle round however, so it will only be on one character if you keep him isolated.

  • The Liber Bubonicus is a classic Skaven item. The book allows its bearer to use Pestilent Prayers from the Plague Priest warscroll, or allows him to use them twice if they are already a Plague Priest. If you give this item to a Plague Furnace, it's not a "Plague Priest" so it will be able to use its prayers and the Priest's prayers, giving you more options from a single model.

  • The Vexler's Shroud simply grants -1 to hit for enemy shooting, always good for keeping your characters from getting picked off.


*Sadly, there's no such thing as a Clan Pestilens Warlord.


The Plan for my Conclave of Corruption

The core of the 2000-point army will be two 40-man units of Plague Monks and a Plague Furnace with the Liber Bubonicus. The book grants the Pestilent Prayers ability in addition to its Noxious Prayers ability, which allows it to use a prayer from each of those abilities each hero phase. They'll also be supported by another Plague Priest with the Bilious Bell to penalize enemy leadership. (I can take two artifacts since I'm including a warscroll battalion.)

I'll take a unit of five Plague Censor Bearers to fill out the third Battleline slot.

I'll also add the Foulrain Congregation warscroll battalion: 1 Plague Priest (who will be the general) and 3 Plagueclaw Catapults. The catapults already hit on 3+ with a +1 to hit units of 10 or more models. As part of the Foulrain, if one Plagueclaw hits, the others can re-roll to hit the same target, so we're looking at 2s to hit under most circumstances, re-rolling misses. The Plagueclaws wound on 3+ and get +1 if they are near the Plague Priest who will also have the Architect of Death command trait, granting them the ability to re-roll wound rolls of 1. So that's 2+ to wound, re-rolling 1s. Any saves are at -2 due to Rend, and if the unit has 10 or more models, the damage is 2D6. The Plagueclaws' 31" range should allow them to thin out any large units before they engage the Plague Monks. Three of them concentrating on one elite target should still dish out a fair amount of wounds, enough to kill a few modes or reduce the effectiveness of a large monster.

Finally, for allies, I'll take a Hell Pit Abomination. That leaves me with 120 points, enough for a pair of Weapon Teams, or a Packmaster to support the Hell Pit Abomination.



The great thing about the list is that I only need to build two Plagueclaws, 5 Censor Bearers, and a Priest before I can get it on the battlefield. We'll see how things shape up in the coming weeks. This post is running pretty long, so I'll talk about the Skryre Allegiance in part two.

'Til next time!

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