Well, that was sooner than I expected. Time for some reactions before the books are even released!
It appears that, aside from the new characters in the Carrion Empire starter box, each army is getting a battletome, a scenery piece, endless spells, and that's it.
The Skaven release is about what I expected. New units were a long shot, but I'm satisfied with a book-only release. And it appears that the battletome is combining all the clans into a single army. Now the wait is to see how the unit warscrolls change, and if anything gets dropped from the army (or added). For a brief second, I had my hopes up that they might rework the warscroll for the chieftain with battle standard, but then I remembered that there's no model for it, so it won't be in the book.
I had feared that older items like Rat Swarms might get dropped, but there are swarms in the lower right corner of this image, so they're probably still included.
The old Skryre Acolytes are there too, but I don't see any Poisoned Wind Mortars. That's a bad sign, especially considering that the only place to get the mortars was the now-defunct Island of Blood starter set.
The Skaven scenery is neat, but it suffers from "I could make that" syndrome. I'm torn over whether I should buy the kit or just scratch build my own. Some of the details like the braziers and bells look like they were just imported right off the Screaming Bell CAD file, which is a little disappointing from a uniqueness standpoint, but if this set isn't too expensive it could be a nice way to get extra parts to "Skaven up" the other scenery on your battlefield.
It looks like the terrain set is made of three pieces, which is going to be a pain to drag around whenever I go play a game. I like the idea of army-themed scenery pieces –they ensure that no matter where you're playing and/or how sparse the store's collection of terrain might be, each player will have a cool-looking piece of scenery to put on the battlefield– but carrying a giant collection of scenery everywhere is a little cumbersome. It's like having to bring a display board for your army any time you go out to game, rather than just when you go to a major event.
The endless spells are neat-- I really like the floating warpstone and the crackling bell. As I predicted, there is a "Vermintide" spell, but the amount of rats on the base is pretty underwhelming. The base should have been covered in swarming rats; I'll definitely be filling it out with my spare rats.
GW have teased a few items from the battletome– There will be a lot of different allegiance abilities, magical artifacts, and two spell lists. I noticed there is a new keyword Skaventide, which will probably be used to include the different clan units under one heading.
Overall, the Skaven release looks very promising. I'm excited to finally be able to field an entire Skaven army as a unified force, and consider my entire collection of models when constructing an army. I'm just holding by breath to see which units are dropped.
I had begun writing this before GW posted their Flesh-eater Battletome preview, but today's Warhammer Community post seems to have confirmed my fears– It looks like they haven't added anything to the Flesh-eater Courts. None of the photos have any models other than the existing kits, which is a shame.
The scenery piece is a little underwhelming. While I like the aesthetic of a throne of bones, it just feels out of place. It should be in the ruins of a castle or in the heart of a catacomb, but in many games this piece will just be plopped on the battlefield, in the middle of an open field. Narratively, it will appear as though the Ghoul King found a random ruined stairway and built a throne on it.
I hope the rules for the throne specify that it needs to be set up in the army's deployment zone, because it really should be situated where the army has amassed, not halfway across the battlefield between them and the enemy force.
The endless spells look great. The horses are some of the coolest looking models GW has ever produced, and it's a shame that they are a spell and not a regular unit, because that means I'll paint them, bring them to the battle, and then they'll just sit on the side as I wait to cast the spell, and maybe never make it into the game.
(I've got a real problem with painting beautiful centerpiece models, including them in your army and then not putting them on the table. The Celestant Prime falls into this category– A gigantic, beautiful model that you'll spend forever painting... and his rules reward you for not deploying him on the table?!)
The horses might also be great as alternate cavalry mounts, I could imagine two of these pulling a Corpse Cart. But at least one of them doesn't have any back legs, and their body halves might have components that are molded together making it difficult to separate into four fully-formed horses. I can't wait to see how the model sprue is broken down.
I think I'd prefer the fence to be part of a scenery kit rather than a spell that pops up one random fence somewhere. If a Ghoul King is going to summon a barricade out of the earth, it should have been made of bones or look like a giant rib cage. That's a missed opportunity.
Overall, I'm pretty disappointed in the Flesh-eater Courts release. If the battletome doesn't at least add in more of the existing and appropriate units like fell bats and bat swarms (even as allies) I think I'm going to pass on this one.
The Flesh-eaters range is so shallow, it doesn't seem like it even warrants a new battletome at all. Maybe we'll get some new alternate builds out of existing models, but I think they've already squeezed everything they can out of the three plastic kits. (Maybe Crypt Horrors with one wing and one arm as a homage to this guy?)
I've seen some people say they're happy just to have a new battletome, that they'd rather get the book now and then get new stuff later. But to me, a new Flesh-eaters book means one of two things: Either we get a battletome and are stuck with the same limited range of models until the next update (maybe three or four years from now). Or we get new models in a year or two, which will have to be accompanied by another battletome, and we'll have thrown away $40 on a book that's obsolete after a year. (For the record that will have been two wasted battletomes for the Flesh-eater courts before they receive a new range of models.)
Personally, I'd rather stick with the existing warscrolls and the allegiance abilities in the General's Handbook for another year and then get a fully fleshed-out army release. For me, the excitement comes from new models to build and play with, not new rules for the same old stuff, particularly when the same old stuff is already so limited.
The Nighthaunt release did it right by creating an entire stand-alone faction, half of which could be included in a Legions of Nagash army. Since the beginning of Age of Sigmar, the Flesh-Eater Courts have been segregated out from the rest of the Death Grand Alliance, and it will be a shame if we get a new battletome only to have it remain that way.