2020 AOS Wishlist and Predictions: Battletomes

BAM! 2019 smashed into you with a relentless tide of huge releases, and the early signs are that there will be no rest for the wicked. 2020 will be coming at you like a freight train, and with two new books already announced, the metagame is showing no signs of slowing down any time soon.

Let’s take a look at what is likely to happen – and what we think would just be cool. This first part of a 2-part article will explore the Battletome releases we know to be round corner, then follow that up with a bit of speculation about what else we might see down the track.

I’m always more than happy to stick my neck out and have a punt, so we will be following up next week with Part Two, which will take a look at everything else 2020 could bring, including GH20 and a Merchandise Wishlist; be sure to check back in for that one!

Known Quantities: KO and Tzeentch

So we already know that Tzeentch and KO are getting their new books. I’m just going to come out and say it: the previous attempts at both books were monumental fuck ups. And that’s coming from someone who likes and seriously considered doing both armies.

The playstyles of both armies were utterly bleak to face. Enduring the drudgery of a full-blown Tzeentch Hero Phase would test the patience of a saint, and dropping down with a Clown Car to blast all your opponent’s key pieces off the board wasn’t a way to win games of Warhammer, it was a way to avoid the inconvenience of actually playing them.

Objectively, the evidence is right there: the sheer volume of magenta print (and entirely new Warsrcolls) that these books both generated in FAQs was surreal, to the extent that both printed books are essentially unusuable in their hard copy format.

It’s potentially intrinsic to the nature of both books that they are just bad armies to play against. Magic and shooting are to a large extent uninteractive, and can leave your opponent feeling helpless as you just point at, and remove, their key pieces.

However, I’m sure GW have got the memo on that, and given these great armies the focus they deserve. The early signs are there in the Karadron Overlords preview: boats counting as Garrisons is an indication that players will actually be encouraged to use them as transports (y’know, moving stuff around the board), rather than purely deep striking mechanisms.

On this theme, hopefully the Barak Zilfin “Battleline If” rules replace their deep striking, rather than supplementing it:

I’d love to see KO become a drag and drop army, where they boats offer shelter and mobility to fragile and slow (but lethal) troops. Each boat getting a pip of extra durability would certainly help here.

“OK, we need to get over there, and challenge for that Objective: all aboard!” How often do you currently see a gang of dwarves jump back onto a ship after disembarking, and zip across the table? Almost never: it’s just the ships dump the dwarves, the dwarves dump the payload, and then we see what’s left standing.

A ground-up reimagining of how to make the ships actually serve the purpose for which they were presumably intended could revolutionise this army. I do hope so.

Tzeentch is a little harder to reimagine, in the sense that they do not have a unique hook like the boats that could offer a whole new direction. It’s probably a safe bet to say that Changehost will be “looked at”, but what will make them strong without belting out a million mortal wounds in a drawn-out Hero phase, or clogging up the board with Horrors and then clogging it up again when they split?

The latest Community Article does offer some pointers for which way this army could go, and honestly, I’m concerned.

One of the great redeeming features of playing against Old Tzeentch was that when you got into combat with them, it could be so, so satisfying. The spell casters generally had weak armour saves, and if you did crashinto them and chop them into pieces, it was glorious payback for the misery you had endured on the way in.

Well, now they are -1 to Hit in combat, so rather than having an inbuilt, thematic weakness, it looks like we’re going full Mary Sue. Already off to a bad start.

Since Endless Spells are easy for Tzeentch to cast with all their bonuses, look out for Geminids to be a staple, putting you at -2 to hit. Oh joy.

Next, we’ve got Horrors. Anyone who played against the old splitting rules will be having flashbacks to the board-clogging shitshow of placing model after model after model after model straight into combat, strung out across the board and tagging new units as they go. It could be even worse now, because you can’t elect not to fight them in melee, so you can’t prevent them splitting.

Maybe there are restrictions on the placement of split models that we’re not hearing about (I do hope so), but at face value, the info we have in the Community article is pointing towards these things being awful for the game (again):

Summoning Horrors straight into melee always reminded me of stringing 30 Dryads out from a Wyldwood to steal an Objective. The player doing it invariably smirked as if they were being very, very clever, but it was actually a zero-skill move masquerading as ingenuity.

The only glimmer of hope I have with Horrors is that we have a clear implication that Horrors are not Battleline:

So it could be quite hard to build an army, right? Well, not when you get the sexy stuff for free.

Another feelbad aspect here is that Tzeentch benefits from their opponent casting spells. Using your own stats against you can be thematic, but it’s also a negative play experience, in the same way that Slaanesh sucked all the joy out of running multi-wound models.

So all in all, we have multiple warning alarms going off about this release:

  • Horrors summoning straight into combat was busted, and it looks like it’s coming back
  • Tzeentch now comes with Negs to hit in combat, removing a thematic weakness of the army
  • Unpointed rules (Chambers) are boosting mechanics that are already difficult to balance (summoning)

Honestly, I can already guarantee that I’ll cop some heat for having an opinion on this that isn’t overwhelmingly exuberant. All I would say there is that I’m not a serial moaner, and the reason I’m concerned is that I think the game is currently in fantastic shape, so I don’t want to see that undermined.

I’ve stuck my neck out and predicted that KO will nail it, which is already pretty bold; and anyone who follows the blog will know that when Gotrek came out (for example), and the internet in general went into blind panic about how OP he was, my own take was much more pragmatic.

I’ve articulated specific reasons why I am nervous about this release, and what it could mean for a meta that is currently in fantastic shape. I genuinely hope I’m wrong and GW nails it, but based on what we’ve seen, I think the indications are that it’s more likely to be a problematic release.

Please prove me wrong!

The Call:

Let’s be clear, these are both high risk releases. After the Winter 19 FAQ, the game is in the best shape I can remember, and there’s a real chance that one or both of these books could blow the whole thing up.

Both books could easily have some wild oversight that makes a mess in the short term; those issues are generally fixed in short order, however. The bigger challenge with both of these armies is the broad design rather than fine detail in the unit stats or specific rules interactions, and that’s an area where I’d back GW to get it spot on. For that reason, I’m very optimistic that KO will nail it, and an extensively reworked book will provide a more satisfying experience for all concerned.

Tzeentch I’m a little more cautious about. Whereas I think KO will be thematic and engaging, I fear that Tzeentch will be thematic and busted, but I do hope I’m wrong about that.

I’d honestly love it if GW can deliver the books that these great armies deserve.

Solid Bets: Seraphon and Stormcast

Poor Seraphon! Leapfrogged yet again, by more armies who already have books.

Surely their time is bound to come in 2020? I hope so, because these guys are iconic, and from a business perspective they are an unique IP.

My best guess is that they were put on ice because they’re getting the full works, with a substantial new models to update the range. Kroak knows the range needs it – boy, are some of these models tired!

In one way, they were lucky: when AOS first dropped, for some reason they escaped the shattering into tiny subfactions that blighted most armies. So they do have a huge range of kits to choose from, even before the expected new releases (which in some cases are likely to be replacements rather than strictly new units). They can compete in every phase bar devastating combat output, which honestly is fine. I’d expect them to lean into the teleporting and summoning side of this army, and I do hope Bastilodons and Skinks remain just as big of a pain in the arse to deal with.

From a design standpoint, I believe that the theme and structure of this army is sound – it just needs an update and refresh. New spell and prayer lores, some good artefacts, 2 wounds for Saurus Guard, and we’re off to the races.

Remember when everyone was sick of Stormcast hogging all the new releases? Thank fuck they eased back on that for a while, and gave the rest of the range some attention. If there’s one thing that the Stormcast release schedule has proven (as well as Primaris Space Marines), it’s that playing the poster boys doesn’t make you immune to having your toys rendered obsolete.

Whatever shape it takes, the golden boys are due an update. The last chamber that opened up seemed a little rash: they played two aces simultaneously (artillery and magic), which always looked like one more than was necessary.

Will they get new models? Almost certainly. Will they get a new chamber? Very likely. It doesn’t really feel necessary (their range is already bloated, with multiple units competing for the same roles), but it is historically how GW have done new Stormcast books. So even though I don’t think it’s required (or even optimal), that doesn’t mean that GW won’t go back to the well.

One thing of note here is that GW dangled a storyline with Gordrakk laying siege to Azyr…then left it hanging. If we do get a full-fat Stormcast release, I’d love to see that plotline developing further, with an accompanying Stormcast vs Destruction box along for the journey.

If we went down that path, these boxes often include a new, exclusive hero. What could we possibly include as a new model on the Ironjawz side of the box? How about, erm…A Megaboss on Gore Grunta? HINT FUCKING HINT!

And let’s take the opportunity to get a new Warscroll for Big G while we’re at it, one that is finally worthy of his stature. We’ve had two attempts now, both of which were chronically undercooked. We’ve had years on end of that shit now, so for once, don’t be scared of making him “too good”, and let’s just enjoy The Beast Unleashed!

On the Stormcast side, a “Siege Chamber” would tie in nicely with this storyline. They would prevent you getting cover saves against them, since they are dominant in siege warfare and experts in digging out entrenched enemies; meanwhile on the defensive side, units could get extra bonuses for garrisoning buildings.

Indestructible shit isn’t fun to play against (although it does seems to be the rules writers’ flavour of the month), so I’d like to see some aggressive bonuses for being in cover, such as +1 damage to melee attacks to represent the troops fighting like cornered tigers. This could all be backed up by a new Battalion that creates a proper Phalanx when units work in concert, acting as a modernised and improved exploration of design space already covered in the Thunderhead Brotherhood. None shall pass!

These guys would be Sigmar’s answer to the Imperial Fists, who stoutly defend Holy Azyr against insurmountable odds, before finally getting their fucking heads ripped off and smashed into the dirt by the all-conquering greenskinz. Wishful thinking I know! But honestly, I’d just take Ironjawz being relevant to the main storyline for a while.

Now having blasted out all that wild speculation, I should say I’d personally like to see a relatively minor new book release with the existing Chambers fleshed out a little, rather than a new Chamber opening up. Keep that one up your sleeve for the 3rd ed box in another 18 months’ time, maybe?

Something very cool to accompany this kind of release would be more named characters from Not Hammers of Sigmar. There are some really cool characters already well-established in the Lore who deserve representation on the tabletop; Hamilcar Bear-Eater springs to mind, for one. Maybe splashing out one new Hero per Stormhost in the book would scratch the Stormcast itch until they see a full-scale release next time around.

The Call:

Seraphon will finally get their book, and it will be huge release from a modelling viewpoint. Rules will be a refresh and update, improving their quality of life rather than radically altering their playstyle.

Stormcast will get another book towards the end of the year. It will most likely follow the template of opening a new Chamber and bloating the list of units ever further, but I’d love to see a smaller release that focussed on putting unique Heroes from a range of Stormhosts beyond the goldenbois onto the table.

Having a Punt: Something Totally New

2016: Ironjawz

2017: Kharadron Overlords

2018: Idoneth Deepkin

2019: Ossiarch Bonereapers

The pattern of releasing one all-new faction per year, every year, is consistent and well established.

Will this be the case in 2020, and if so, who will it be?

Honestly, there are loads of realistic options.

Rumours of Light and Dark Aelves have been knocking around for a good while now. Personally I couldn’t give two fucks about Tyrion, Teclis or Malerion; I’d rather leave their detritus floating through space, and focus on new characters and stories.

But I’m not the target audience for this (potential) release, and Warhammer Community dropped a very strong hint that Light Aelves could be incoming. I wouldn’t bet against it.

Far more exciting was the “giant” hint buried in there. Could we be about to see a full-on Gargant army? Ohhhh, baby! Talk dirty to me!

Let me tell you: I would go crazy for this release. Giants rampaging through the lands and wrecking shit is what Warhammer is all about. I personally own a Bonegrinder and two Aleguzzlers, and I’m dumb enough to actually use them at competitive events occasionally. Please let this be a thing!

None of these would be truly new armies, since they could all make use of at least some existing kits that are out there, topped up by new models. Which makes me (greedily) hopeful that we will see some or all of these, and an entirely new army on top.

I have gone on record that I was sad to see Gitmob go, particularly because I was investing in the army right up until the moment GW pulled the pin with no warning. So you can imagine my delight when Rippa’s Snarlfangs dropped for Underworlds, with Gitmob all over the flavour text.

They currently have the Gloomspite keyword, but I’m not gonna lie: I’d have a fucking massive green boner if a whole new Gitmob army came out.

Imagine what they could do with the warmachines! Look at the step change from the old Black Coach to the current model, and let the possibilities run wild for what a new Doom Diver could be.

It would also be huge from a Destruction viewpoint because it would break up the underdog cycle. We had literally nothing for year after year after year, then BANG! BANG! BANG! three Battletomes in 2019. Unless we get a new Faction at some point, there’s a real risk that these books could all get outdated together, setting us up for some dark days while we wait for them all to be due an update again in quick succession a couple more years down the track. I’d love to see something like Gitmob, Gargants and maybe even Grotbag Scuttlers to intersperse the current Battletome cycle.

Kurnothi are essentially in the same boat as Gitmob: another Underworlds warband, currently sitting in Sylvaneth, and potentially poised to breathe new life into a defunct faction (in this case Wanderers). I find these a very interesting prospect, and I would guess that if we see one of these Warbands parlayed into a full army, we’ll see both.

The Call

Holy Moley, where do you start with all that? Realistically, it can’t all happen, but I’m hopeful that we’ll see a fair old chunk.

If I was sticking out my neck, I’d say Light and Dark Aelves are both a very strong chance, and I’d be surprised if we didn’t see them.

I am optimistic that we’ll also see Gitmob and Kurnothi, and I’d put those at 50:50, meaning that 2020 is shaping up to be another massive year with between 6 to 8 Battletomes in total.

Gargants? Nah. As much as I’d love it – and I’d REALLY REALLY love it – it ain’t happening.

Prove me wrong, GW! Prove me wrong.


So what do you reckon? I’ve chucked a fair few darts at the board there, so there’s bound to be a couple of bullseyes, but am I broadly on the right track, or flailing around wildly?

Will KO and Tzeentch be good for the game, or is it a shit storm waiting to happen?

Are Stormcast due? Will the lizards be smiling? Or should we all just save our money for Battletome Gargants which will be wrecking face before you know it?

Let me know what you think we’ll see, or just what you’d love to see, in the comments below or on Twitter!

Excelsior!

2 thoughts on “2020 AOS Wishlist and Predictions: Battletomes

  1. I’m more nervous about KO breaking the game with poorly thought through disembarkment and retreat/redeploy rules. If they do those wrong, it will break the game. I hope not, but have nervousness.
    I think what’s been announced about Tzeentch so far looks fine. I think the horror splitting will be constrained like recent undead – you cannot tag new units I to combat. I’d also like to see something about how models that come back have to be withing X” of a model from the unit that was on the table before the spawn happens – i.e no strings. Spawn strings in undead (or potentially horrors) are bullshit, totally non-thematic. Pink Horrors as non battleline, and more expensive points also fix.
    But yep, the -1 to hit faction wide was unnecessary….
    Overall – my prediction is opposite – KO will break the game due to rules gaps around movement/retreat/redeploy/shooting that force a major errata, whereas Tzeentch will mostly be a cleanup exercise of the existing mess.
    Fingers cross we are both wrong and all is good and balanced!

    Liked by 1 person

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