Sunday, 7 December 2014

The End Times: Khaine - Review

Whilst it took considerable time and effort to obtain Glottkin, I managed to get hold of Khaine with relative ease. Continuously refreshing the GW website every few minutes in the early evening wasn't all that fun but my patience was rewarded. This was the book I most excited for as my first proper GW army was the Dark Elves and seeing whether their final attempt to fulfil their destiny would be successful or not could only ever be a roller coaster of heroism, betrayal and revelation...


If you haven't read my other End Times reviews yet you can read them here:
The third End Times volume is roughly the same length as the Glottkin book and the same price, as ever quality and presentation remain high. The first book is 145 pages and the second is 56 pages.

I will write this review much like the other two, discussing the background then the rules before moving onto whatever random musings and comments I can think of. 

Book 1: Fluff

Whilst Glottkin followed on from Chapter 4 of Nagash, Khaine begins just before the events of Nagash and finishes at the same time Glottkin does. Karl Franz striking down the triplets as Malekith and Tyrion duel it out on the Isle of the Dead. It has only two chapters, probably because there wasn't a better way of dividing up events, the first being before the drawing of the Widowmaker and the second being the war after the event. Lots happened but I will try to summarise as best as I can.

After Naggaroth is badly mauled by the armies of Khorne, Malekith decides to abandon his northern kingdom and risk everything on an all-or-nothing final assault on Ulthuan. Morathi believes he is doomed to fail but the Witch King moves on regardless. Meanwhile Ulthuan has successfully recovered from a Daemonic invasion due to the heroics of Tyrion and Teclis despite Prince Imrik keeping Caledor out of the war. Little does Tyrion realise that Teclis and Imrik have both been contacted by the goddess Lileath and have decided to back Malekith in his bid for the Phoenix Throne in order to bring unity to the elves. 

Malus Darkblade leads an attack upon the Eagle Gate and despite his initial failures the gate is taken when Malekith and Imrik arrive ahead an army of Dragons. War rages between the elves and it is soon revealed that the Phoenix King Finubar is dead. Tyrion is named Regent and with Korhil set out to defeat Malekith. It is during this campaign that Tyrion feels the death of his daughter in Nagash's resurrection and is taunted by Tullaris Dreadbringer about it before Tyrion kills him and Malus Darkblade. In his grief Morathi comes to Tyrion and basically convinces him to draw the Widowmaker. 

Malekith takes his army north to the Blighted Isle and manages to largely overcome its defenders, he is first to reach the shrine but is stabbed by a mind-controlled Shadowblade under the spell of Morathi. Tyrion, Teclis, Caradryan and Alith Anar then all reach the shrine. Tyrion duels the injured Malekith and gets the better of him, Caradryan then stands in Tyrion's way and Teclis tries to talk everyone down but Tyrion draws the sword of Khaine. Alith Anar tries to cheap shot Malekith but is stopped by Teclis who magics himself, Malekith and the captain of the Phoenix Guard away.

Probably not the best idea...
Tyrion then begins gathering an army of both high and dark elves who all feel the blood-lust unleashed by the Widowmaker. Malekith meanwhile is told by Teclis that he was destined to be Phoenix King all along and that Asuryan had caused all the other kings to go mad or meet violent ends so no other dynasty would establish itself. The only thing stopping him was Malekiths own weakness the first time he entered the fires. Teclis urges Malekith into the fires and he emerges as Pheonix King as the island sinks. 

Also during this first chapter we see Araloth venture into Nurgle's Garden with the help of Lileath in order to rescue Shallya, the human goddess of healing, to ensure Aldorf does not fall. He manages this with the aid of a few strange characters he meets in the realm of Chaos: a knight, a sorcerer and a scholar whom I can't help but feel aren't just random characters but are referencing some old lore I am unfamiliar with. I did read on a forum that the knight could be Draigo from 40k which would be a bit weird. It was a bit of a weird random aside but did help reinforce what happened in Glottkin. The pages were also different to the rest of the book, done in a nurgle style which I thought was a nice touch.

Chapter 2 then deals with the war between the Aestyrion - the blood-crazed warriors led by Tyrion and Morathi, and the Host of the Phoenix King - high and dark elves who accept Malekith as their ruler. The high elves under Malekith take a lot of convincing but are won over by Teclis and Imrik and we begin to see Malekith begin to rule more as a Phoenix King than as the tyrannical Witch King. His dark elves are overjoyed as they believe that they have basically won their 6000 year war now that Malekith is Phoenix King. 

The wood elves then join the fray, Alarielle the Everqueen having taken the remnants of Isha from the dying Ariel and become ruler of the wood elves. She comes to Averlorn with an army through the world roots and is confronted by Tyrion who says that she belongs to him. Seeing her former lover nothing more than an avatar of Khaine and no longer the man she loves Alarielle rejects him and a battle breaks out in which Tyrion kills Orion after a suitably awesome duel. The wood elves are ultimately victorious and retreat through the world roots back to Athel Loren before coming to Malekith at Lothern and pledging their allegiance to him. 

The two sides then fight sporadically across Ulthuan with Malekith's forces facing a war of attrition they cannot win as more and more elves fall to the shadow of Khaine. Hellebron briefly comes down from the north and fights against Morathi. She gets Korhil, who has finally seen Tyrion's madness, to steal the Widowmaker and she confronts the forces Morathi has sent to reclaim it. The Hag Queen is defeated but I think she deserves a small moral victory as Shadowblade manages to permanently scar Morathi in revenge for her mind-controlling him earlier. The sword of Khaine is returned and Korhil is executed.

Teclis then reveals his master plan: to unravel the Great Vortex and bestow the eight winds of magic unto mortal champions to face the chaos gods. Malekith is initially skeptical but is convinced by Imrik. With the wind of death stolen by Nagash, Teclis believes he can bind the wind of fire to Malekith so that he can defeat Tyrion. The two forces then meet upon the Isle of the Dead for one final battle for the fate of elvenkind. 

It was pretty epic
Tyrion summoned the dead of Ulthuan to aid him but Malekith summoned the spirits of the Phoenix Kings and the great heroes of elven history to fight for him. The two of them then face one another in the midst of battle for a final confrontation. Tyrion went to kill Teclis but was knocked off his horse who finally realised that Tyrion was no longer in any part himself. The narrative of the duel between the avatar of Khaine and Malektih even says that it was simply too legendary to actually put into words. Eventually though Alith Anar turns up and shoots them both. Tyrion dies and Malekith is on the verge of death. Morathi goes mental at the loss of Tyrion, her lover Aenarion reborn, and attempts to ruin the vortex. She manages to draw the eye of Slaanesh but she is stopped by Caledor Dragontamer himself and both are consumed by the vortex. Teclis looses control of four of the winds of magic (it is heavily implied that Sigmar takes heavens and gives it to Karl Franz to defeat the Glottkin) but manages to bind life to Alerielle, shadow to the dying Malekith and Light into his staff.
As I understand it the winds of magic at the end of the book are thus:

  • Beasts - loose, seeking a host
  • Metal - loose, seeking a host
  • Fire - loose, seeking a host
  • Light - bound within Teclis' staff
  • Heavens - Karl Franz Ascendent 
  • Life - Alarielle, Life Incarnate
  • Shadow - Malekith the Eternity King
  • Death - Sylvania (planned to be absorbed by Nagash)

With the battle over and the vortex undone, Ulthuan begins to sink. The wood elves evacuate most of the elves via the world roots to Athel Loren but Teclis stays with the body of his brother. Malekith tosses the now useless Sword of Khaine into the seas and goes with his queen to a new future. He is crowned the Eternity King by Lileath and now leads all three elven nations from Athel Loren. Alith Anar says he will no longer be a threat to Malekith, content that the arrow still lodged near his heart will be enough daily suffering to serve as vengeance. The high elves are saddened by the loss of their homeland and are quite despondent, the dark elves are chuffed that they sort-of won and can go out terrorising Brettonian peasants whenever they want, and the wood elves aren't really sure if letting their weird cousins come live with them was a great idea even if they did help get rid of all the beastmen. 

Book 2: Rules

New rules for magic are basically a reworking of Storm of Magic. My main problem with it is if you use one of the Elven Host lists you have to use the crazy magic rules, obviously you can house-rule this if you don't want to but it seems a weird stipulation. These rules are in no way balanced and I can see some armies being almost totally destroyed after a single magic phase, definitely sucks to play dwarves as there is little chance of dispelling much. Unless you are playing 4000 points or above these rules don't really seem worthwhile as there is simply too much going on. This combined with all the chaos ascendancy random charts from the last book would make playing a game a horrendous mess of tables, randomness and utter madness. I cannot realistically see anyone having the time or patience to use all of these rules at once. Whilst I like that GW are giving us plenty of options and ideas this extra magic stuff sort of feels over the top. I can easily see them just adapting the Storm of Magic rules and throwing in a load of untested spells just to pad out the rule book now that they have committed themselves to this format and managed to come up with some fairly interesting and elegant rules for the first two books but ran out of fully-formed ideas for the third. I could be wrong and ultimately I would have to try it for myself but we shall see. If the next book does turn out to be Skaven I look forward to seeing what insane random tables they get as half their book is just lots of tables to roll on as it is. 

There are three new army lists: the Aestyrion, the Host of the Phoenix King and the Host of the Eternity King. The first two being the main factions in the war whilst the last represents the survivors.  The Host of the Eternity King is basically just the three elven factions together, the only things missing are a couple of special characters. The other two are themed around the conflict and differ subtly is make up, the largest difference being that the Aestyrion lack any wood elf units. I cannot see the first two being used much but the Host of the Phoenix King is quite exciting simply in its broadness which could make some interesting themed lists as well as some horrific tournament lists. 

Special character rules for upgraded versions of Tyrion, Alarielle and Malekith are quite good and I can see the Eternity King himself being a match for the Glottkin and Nagash though I still think the latter is the most powerful in the game at the moment. We also see new rules for Imrik who has been lacking them for a few editions. He is basically a Prince riding a dragon on steroids and should be fun to put into themed dragon lists. It is a shame we didn't really get anything new, some rules for units of Khaine-lost elves would have been nice or units of dragon riders, which appear several times in the story, would have been quite cool. 

Misc. opinions and closing thoughts

Lileath turned up a lot in this book in person, the first god or goddess to do so in the series thus far. In fact in her various guises, amongst them the Lady of the Lake, she is perhaps amongst the most active of all deities in the setting. She has been the greatest manipulating force of the End Times and is indirectly responsible for the resurrection of Nagash, the defeat of the Glottkin and the events leading to the crowning of the Eternity King. It will be interesting to see if any other gods turn up, it certainly seems as though the Horned Rat is active though we are yet to see any details. 

I would also like to just take a moment to point out that Nagash and Glottkin are now both available in soft back. For those of you who missed out and are interested in the series you can now buy them from the webstore which is certainly a move in the right direction. I am guessing we will see Khaine in soft back form as well in the near future. If soft backs become popular it would be nice to see army books return to that format, whilst hardbacks are nice they are also more expensive than what they are usually worth. For example I still haven't picked up the new Dark Eldar book due to cost and having to spend money on the End Time books. Cheaper soft back options for books for both systems would certainly be welcome. 

More than anything I am surprised at the lack of new models for this book, Malekith and Imrik who both feature heavily are presented with their old models which does somewhat sorely tell when placed next to some of the newer plastic kits. Malekith in particular is quite surprising as he is the ultimate victor in this book and now Eternity King of all three united elven factions. The fact that he has a model that didn't even look that good several editions ago is quite saddening, especially considering all the cool artwork of him that has been produced over the last few years.

This, I wanted it in miniature form.
The death toll was also quite low in comparison to the other books. The main wood elf casualties were Orion and Ariel. The high elves lost Tyrion, Aislinn and Korhil whilst the dark elves lost Malus, Tullaris, Kouron and Morathi. All were major deaths but were limited in number and largely well done. I fully expect to see Malekith and Imrik bite the dust as well before the End Times are over, if they were going to survive they would have gotten new models by now. We shall see.

Overall I really enjoyed this book, far more than Glottkin though I realise I have a bit of an elven bias. The background in particular was really well done and managed to tie up all the threads of elven background quite nicely. The conflict was of legendary proportions and the inevitably tragic outcome well executed. I look forward to the next End Times book which will hopefully cover what some of the other factions have been up to whilst the Undead, Elves, Empire and Chaos have been fighting. The Lizardmen, Ogres, Skaven and Greenskins have barely featured thus far and I will be interested to see what their impact will be on events. Like Undead Legions before it I can see the union of the elves dividing the community. The Euphemism, my long term high elf playing nemesis, is certainly unlikely to be pleased. I however look forward to seeing where this all goes...

8/10 - Strong continuation of the series, much more happened than in Glottkin and the whole affair was suitably epic. Did consider giving it a 8.5 but a lack of new models and some dodgy magic rules held the release back. 

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