Wherever the stench of death rises from the earth, there you'll find the thrall of Nagash, the tyrant god of death. As one of the "big baddies" in the Warhammer Age of Sigmar pantheon, Nagash has - in the current storyline - been humbled by a stunning defeat from the aelves, driving him back into his realm. As the resonant energies of death clash with an upswell of life energy, an era of primal destruction envelopes the realm. This is the Era of the Beast, and it has shaken the mortal realms to their core. But that doesn't mean the Nagash is gone, or that his legions lie in slumber and defeat.
I've recently taken a look at new releases for Khorne and Slaanesh armies in Age of Sigmar, and even went into the 41st millennium to check out the new Wrath of the Soul Forge King big box release for Warhammer 40K. This week, Games Workshop shared with me two new battletomes of Death-aligned armies: The Ossiarch Bonereapers and the Soulblight Gravelords, as well as new models for each army, so follow along as we preview both!
Warhammer Age of Sigmar - Ossiarch Bonereapers Battletome Lore
Let's start by taking a look at the skeletal hordes known as the Ossiarch Bonereapers. Unlike other undead armies of Nagash, the Ossiarch Bonereapers are fashioned to be a strong, resilient, unquestioning army that grinds the world before them down into dust.
These are not simply clacking skeletons. Hidden in deep caverns that spread beneath the empire, a priest-caste known as Mortisans use fell magic to reshape bone into hardy war materials and new members of their legions. Once one of these warriors is created physically, a mixture of soul fragments - shards of personality from multiple different souls - are blended together to breathe “life” into the being.
To gather these resources, the Ossiarch Bonereapers demand a Tithe of Bone from the living they descend upon. First, they will demand this tribute be paid without use of force. The living can rob graveyards, perform ritual self-mutiliation to remove their own bones, hold a sacrifice lottery, or any other means to provide the bones. If the Bonereapers receive what they asked, they move on. But if they’ve been denied, or feel they’ve been shorted, they’ll take the bones they require by force.
How Has The Era Of The Beast Impacted The Ossiarch Bonereapers?
With the flood of primal energy now overrunning the realm, the Ossiarch Bonereapers have seen their precious building materials - bones of men and beasts - behave differently than they’ve become accustomed to. Each bone they harvest from primal beasts retains some of the savage energy, and that has resulted in some of the Ossiarch built with these bones to behave erratically. Charging into battle before ordered to, going on rampaging killing sprees, accepting a Tithe of Bone and then, even though the Tithe was paid, immediately attacking a village - these are the marks of the raw, primal fury that lays dormant in their repurposed bones.
Warhammer Age of Sigmar - Ossiarch Bonereapers Battletome Rules
There are numerous subtle and not-so-subtle changes and additions to the Ossiarch Bonereapers in this new Battletome. Perhaps most impactful (and easiest to explain briefly here) is the "Deathless Warriors" army-wide ability, which states that all friendly Ossiarch Bonereapers units have a ward save of 6+ - meaning a wound scored agains them is never truly guaranteed. There are also new command abilities, artifacts of power, and so many other little tweaks to make this army feel current and vital.
Warhammer Age of Sigmar - Ossiarch Bonereapers Mortisan Ossifector
The Mortisan Ossifector is the new unit added to the Ossiarch Bonereapers with the release of this Battletome. Incredibly cool looking (though a bit tricky to put together), the Ossifector is all about buffing and helping your larger constructs and monsters in your army. They're a wizard who can attempt to cast and unbind one spell, and their special ability, "Refined Creations," says you can pick 1 friendly Gothizzar Harvester, Mortek Crawler, or Morghast unit wholly within 12" of this unit and give them an augmentation. These could be to improve the target unit's rend characteristic by 1, negating the first wound or mortal wound given to them, or let one of those target units score 2 hits on an attack roll of 6, instead of the normal 1.
Their spell, Empower Ossification, extends the range and scope of this special ability, letting them target up to 3 friendly Gothizzar Harvester, Mortek Crawler, or Morghast unit wholly within 24" of this unit and give them an augmentation. All in all this unit is not a powerhouse by themselves, but if you're running a list with a lot of Morghast or other large units, throwing a few into your army could seriously allow you to overpower your opponent.
Now let's move on to our dapper deadly hosts, the Soulblight Gravelords.
Warhammer Age of Sigmar - Soulblight Gravelords Battletome Lore
The Soulblight Gravelords are another army under the sway of Nagash, the tyrant god of death. Tall, ornately decorated, with blood red eyes and sharp fangs, the Soulblight Gravelords go by many names, but they are, at the end of the blood-soaked day, Vampires.
Because they were created from living humans, they retain much more independence and personality than others under Nagash’s control (like the Ossiarch). Though Nagash is a petty, jealous, and tyrannical ruler, he must admit that the Soulblights, with their sense of dignity and independent thought, make for good leaders. And so he allows them their bit of independence (though he’s not afraid to destroy them the instant they get out of line).
Each Soulblight Gravelord is afflicted with the Soulblight curse - meaning that under their veneer of gentility and poise lurks a monster constantly thirsting for blood. Though they may act courtly and poised, they are deep down savage monsters.
How Has The Era Of The Beast Impacted The Soulblight Gravelords?
Though the Era of the Beast has stoked that savage monstrosity that lurks within each Soulblight, these vampires also see this as a time of great potential opportunity. With Nagash being driven deep into Shyish to restore his strength after his defeat at the hands of the aelves, the Gravelords can feel his grip on them loosen, and believe now is the time to strike out and create their own empire - even as the primal energies of the Era of the Beast stoke the bloodlust within them.
Warhammer Age of Sigmar - Soulblight Gravelords Battletome Rules
Like the Bonereapers, there are many new changes to the rules for the Soulblight Gravelords, including new spells, new monstrous and heroic actions, and more. But the one rule we really want to focus on is the newly revamped version of their ability: "The Hunger." This rule goes for all units in a Soulblight Gravelords army with the "Vampire" keyword, and states that each time this unit fights, after all of its attacks have been resolved, you can heal up to a number of wounds allocated to this unit equal to the number of wounds and mortal wounds caused by those attacks that were allocated to enemy units. In other words, for each wound you deal, you can heal that many wounds on yourself. This makes this army terribly hardy if you're running mostly vampiric units. The mind reels trying to figure out how to deal with them!
Warhammer Age of Sigmar - Soulblight Gravelords Ivya Volga The Outcast
Finally, let's end our journey through the realm of death with Ivya Volga, The Outcast, the new model released concurrently with this battletome. Much more an "in the thick of it" hero than the Ossifector, Ivya attacks with an heirloom axe and needling fangs as she stalks the realms with her trusty flock of bats, testing her strength against the deadliest creatures in the realm.
Her ability "Shrieking Swarm" lets her subtract 1 from hit rolls for attacks that target her, and in addition if she has any wounds allocated to her the Attacks characteristic of her Needling Fangs attack goes from 2D6 to 12!
Her "Behemoth's Bane" ability is also severe, showcasing her prowess against monsters. It states that if any enemy Monsters are within 3" of this unit, Ivya counts as 10 models for the purposes of contesting objectives. In addition, while an enemy Monster is within 3" of her, the Attacks characteristic of that Monster's melee weapons is 1.
This is a model that A. looks amazing with her swarm of bats and fur-trimmed garments and B. can absolutely begin carving a path through the enemy ranks (remember, she also has "The Hunger" ability we spoke about above). If your opponent was unlucky enough to bring monsters to the field against her, they're in for a long, slow slog if she can get into the mix.
That wraps up our preview of the new releases for Warhammer Age of Sigmar Ossiarch Bonereapers and Soulblight Gravelords! What do you think of these armies? Have you been waiting for an updated battletome? Let us know!
The products used to produce this preview were provided by Games Workshop.