Warhammer Arena of Shades Image: Games Workshop

Review

Warhammer Arena Of Shades Review

April 2, 2022

By: Giaco Furino

 
 

Tonight, the brutal Aelven city of Hur Kuron will burn balefire blue! The lord of death, Nagash, has set his petty sights on the city ruled by the militant, bloodthirsty Daughters of Khaine. Jealous of the souls the aelves have stolen from what Nagash believes to be his rightful claim, the god of death unleashes his legions of undead onto the streets of Hur Kuron, and as spectral Nighthaunt warriors clash with the war-crazed Daughters of Khaine blood (and spectral miasma) will flow. This is the stage set in the new Warhammer Arena of Shades box set, up for preorder this weekend from Games Workshop.

What's Included in Warhammer Arena of Shades?

The new Warhammer Arena of Shades box set includes a collection of units for both the Nighthaunt and Daughters of Khaine armies, as well as a compact copy of the rules, warscroll cards for all included factions, and more. But let's get into the specifics before diving further into each of the armies represented in the box.

 

Warhammer Arena of Shades Box Contents. Image Courtesy: Games Workshop
Warhammer Arena of Shades Box Contents. Image Courtesy: Games Workshop

Warhammer Arena Of Shades Box Contents:

  • 40 page Arena of Shades book containing lore, a painting showcase, missions, and warscrolls
  • 56 page Warhammer Age of Sigmar Core Rules book
  • Token Sheet
  • 10 warscroll cards
  • 1 Daughters of Khaine High Gladiatrix model
  • 10 Daughters of Khaine Sisters of Slaughter models
  • 5 Daughters of Khaine Khinerai Heartrenders models
  • 5 Daughters of Khaine Doomfire Warlocks models
  • 1 Nighthaunt Scriptor Mortis model
  • 5 Nighthaunt Craventhorne Guard models
  • 10 Nighthaunt Bladegheist Revenants models
  • 1 Nighthaunt Spirit Torment model
  • 2 Nighthaunt Chainghasts models
  • 4 Nighthaunt Myrmourn Banshees models

Warhammer Arena of Shades Daughters of Khaine Models

The Daughters of Khaine units included in the Warhammer Arena of Shades box set pose a formidable force on the battlefield. Striking fast and piling into a fray with ease, the Daughters of Khaine are the kind of army you want to rush into battle as quickly as possible.

 
 
The Daughters of Khaine charge into battle with a fervent bloodlust.
The Daughters of Khaine charge into battle with a fervent bloodlust.

Let's start with a look at the new Daughters of Khaine model included in the box, the High Gladiatrix. With her barbed whip wrapping around her, the model itself is a graceful balance of elegance and brutality. She, like the Sisters of Slaughter we'll cover in a moment, comes with the Dance of Death ability, meaning she's eligible to fight in the combat phase if she is within 6 inches of an enemy unit (instead of the standard 3 inches), and can pile in an extra 3 inches. With her 3 inch range whip that boasts four attacks and hits and wounds on a 3+, she's a powerful presence in the middle of a fight. Add to this her Killing Stroke ability, which allows her to roll to attempt to auto-kill a hero, and she can wreak havoc to enemy forces. Her 6 wounds make her hardy in a fight, but like all Daughters of Khaine her defense is rather weak (she saves on a 5+), so it's best to play her as a fast-attacking unit you bring in to finish the job.

The Sisters of Slaughter unit included in this box serve almost as "mini High Gladiatrix" units. They hit viciously with their 2 inch range whips, but if they're not equipped with Bladed Bucklers which add one to their saves, then their 6+ save roll means they can quickly be wiped out by an opposing force with any rend at all.

 
 

The Khinerai Heartrenders are winged beasts, who can run and shoot their barbed javelins in the same turn thanks to their Fire and Flight ability, and can be set up in reserve to represent them flying high above the battlefield, circling and waiting for the right time to strike. With a 14 inch move, they're a truly mobile unit.

Finally for the Daughters of Khaine included in this box are the Doomfire Warlocks. These male (!) aelves are spellcasters and ranged fighters on horseback, and come with the spell Doomfire which can deal a blast of damage to enemies up to 12 inches away. They also sport a 14 inch move, and with two wounds a piece they can survive a bit longer than most other Daughters of Khaine models.

All in all, this small but mighty force of Daughters of Khaine units that come with the Warhammer Arena of Shades are built to move quickly and stay mobile on the battlefield. If they can get the jump on your enemy forces by focusing on leaders or other high priority targets, they can quickly turn the tide of battle in early rounds. But they are easily slain, and if they're overwhelmed by enemy units and unable to retreat, they're as good as dead. If you like an army that does best when it rushes in and finished the job quickly, then these units would make the start of a fantastic Daughters of Khaine army.

Warhammer Arena of Shades Nighthaunt Models

The Nighthaunt models included in the Warhammer Arena of Shades box set are a flexible force that can be hard to put down, and this box includes two brand new units for the army. On the whole, the Nighthaunt are a legion of undead, ghostly phantoms, and all units included in this box can fly and are ethereal, meaning they ignore any modifiers to their save roll (making the weapon stat Rend useless against them). Let's start with a look at the centerpiece model of this box, the Scriptor Mortis.

 
 
The Nighthaunt in Arena of Shades stalk the battlefield
The Nighthaunt in Arena of Shades stalk the battlefield

The Scriptor Mortis is a deadly unit on the battlefield, but not because of his statistics or a prick from his Malicious Quill. What makes the Scriptor Mortis so frightening is his ability to seek out and destroy enemy heroes. His ability, Sentenced To Eternal Judgement, allows him to target an enemy hero visible to the Scriptor Mortis (yes, you read that right... no range limitations, just visible) and, on subsequent rounds, make a judgement roll. To do so, the Mortis rolls a d6, and if the number on that die is less than the current battle round, the target of this ability suffers 2d6 mortal wounds. This is a brutal ability, and if positioned in an advantageous (and protected) position, he can potentially spend the game picking off enemy heroes. Absolutely terrifying.

The other new unit included in this box set is a huge boon to the Nighthaunt army. Called the Craventhrone Guard, these crossbow wielding ghosts are a terror on the field at range. Not only are they one of the few ranged combatants in the Nighthaunt army, but their Spectral Bolts shoot through walls, ignoring cover and normal visibility rules for ranged attacks.

The included unit of 10 Bladegheist Revenants make up the rank and file of the Nighthaunt army, swinging their massive Tomb Greatblade, they deal impressive damage, and gain an extra attack if they charged this round. That means a full strength unit of 10 Bladegheist Revenants who charge in and attack are rolling 30 dice, that's a lot of chances for major damage!

Next up is the Spirit Torment and Chainghasts. While two separate units, they work well in concert together. The Spirit Torment is a single model hero unit with 5 wounds, and they have the ability Captured Soul Energy, which lets them restore wounds (or models) to a friendly unit if enemy units were slain during a combat phase. The Spirit Torment buffs Chainghasts, who have both missile and melee weapon options, giving nearby Chainghasts +1 to hit if they're within 12 inches of the Spirit Torment. Finally, rounding out the forces included in the Warhammer Arena of Shades Box Set, there's the Myrmourn Banshees, a group of hollow banshees that can essentially devour enemy spells, negating their effect even though the unit isn't a wizard itself.

All in all, the Nighthaunt units on display here are an incredibly potent battle force. They move easily through the battlefield, ignoring much terrain with their fly ability as easily as they ignore rend with their Ethereal ability. This is the kind of army that can take a few hits and keep slugging, as they have some interesting ways to combo with each other and get their units back on the table. If the Daughters of Khaine are all about striking hard and fast, the Nighthaunt are about swooping around the battlefield to get into perfect position before they hunker down and slam away at their opponents.

What Are The Models Like In Warhammer Arena of Shades?

I absolutely love the look of the new models included in the Warhammer Arena of Shades box set. They're dynamically posed and full of personality. The Scriptor Mortis, specifically, is a striking figure. Hunched over his floating desk and surrounded by dripping candles, he's one of the most creative-looking minis we've seen from Games Workshop in a long time.

The Scriptor Mortis and High Gladiatrix, two new models in Warhammer Arena of Shades
The Scriptor Mortis and High Gladiatrix, two new models in Warhammer Arena of Shades

The High Gladiatrix is also wonderfully designed, with her whip wrapping around the entirety of her body. It should be noted, though, as you may expect just from looking at both of these models, that they are incredibly fragile and fiddly. Properly gluing the Gladiatrix's whip was no easy task, and the Scriptor Mortis has multiple small, spindly pieces that could easily snap off (even if you're being quite careful). That's nothing new for either of these armies, but it's worth making a note of here.

The other new unit in the box, the Craventhrone Guard, are just so damn cool looking. Armed with their Soulhunter's Crossbows, I love the hulking, hunched over look of these models. And their varied poses make them look totally formidable when all lined up on the table. Though time almost never permits us to get these all painted before review, this is certainly a set I'll come back to to fully paint up in ghastly green-blue and freshly spilled blood red.

The Craventhrone Guard are a brand new ranged Nighthaunt unit in Warhammer Arena of Shades
The Craventhrone Guard are a brand new ranged Nighthaunt unit in Warhammer Arena of Shades

What Are Our Final Thoughts On Warhammer Arena of Shades?

From the models on display here to the fun missions included in the back of the book, this box absolutely gets everything right for our Warhammer needs. Though the forces aren't perfectly balanced against each other - either the Nighthaunt army is extremely strong, or I'm very bad at playtesting Daughters of Khaine (or both!) - the included missions usually give a slight leg up to the underdog, just as they did in the Warhammer 40K box, Eldritch Omens. With an MSRP of around $190 there's a ton of value in the box, as the models alone, individually priced, would likely creep toward the $380 range if purchased separately.

Should I Buy Warhammer Arena of Shades?

If you're looking to get into Warhammer Age of Sigmar, or are looking to begin building or add to a Nighthaunt or Daughters of Khaine army, you should seriously consider purchasing the Warhammer Arena of Shades box set. Filled with tons of models, it's one of the most cost effective ways to jump into the game. If you're not interested in either of these armies, then obviously this box set won't make the most sense for you. But overall, from the look and design to the lore, missions, and the power of the models themselves, we're thrilled with the contents of this box set.


The copy of Arena of Shades used in this review was provided by Games Workshop.

Review Summary

Review Summary

With two well-balanced armies and intriguing missions, the Warhammer: Age of Sigmar battle box Arena of Shades hits all the right notes