Sunday, 22 February 2015

The End Times: Thanquol - Review

This End Times book managed to melt the GW webstore servers when it went up for pre-order, everyone evidently in a rush to grab one before they went out of stock like Glottkin and Khaine did after not even an hour. With hardback books not being sent to stores this meant that there was actually plenty for everyone and the book remained in stock in the UK for a few days afterwards before becoming available in soft back only. I was one of those who sat constantly refreshing for about an hour, crawling towards the checkout bit by bit between server timeouts. Whilst my efforts were ultimately a bit overzealous considering it didn't go out of stock in ten minutes, it was a very stressful evening and I was overjoyed when my order was confirmed. 


If you haven't read my other End Times reviews yet you can read them here:
The fourth End Times volume is slightly longer than the Glottkin and Khaine books and was the same price, as ever quality and presentation remain high. The first book is 233 pages and the second is  63 pages.

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

Book 1: Fluff

Basically it really sucks if you play Lizardmen or Dwarves in particular as Skaven wreck just about all your stuff. Brettonia appears totally spent and every other human faction besides the rapidly declining Empire seem to have been totally destroyed by the Skaven. If you thought the other End Times books were destructive then this one is quite apocalyptic with entire civilisations wiped out. The Skaven in this book seem to quite nicely tie up any loose ends or fringe factions and set up the final book though they do come across a bit like a Mary Sue at times. 

As far as I can tell the first half of this book takes place at the same time as Glottkin and Khaine whilst the second half surpasses Glottkin by detailing the next steps of Archaon's invasion. The book follows the three theatres of the Skaven war on the above-world: Lustria, the Dwarf Holds and the Empire. 

The introduction to the book nicely sums up the Skaven race: their politics, religion and current status. We see the fall of the Grey Seers from power, their spell to draw Morrslieb closer to the planet and their ritual summoning of a Verminlord. I quite liked the opening as it gave non-Skaven players such as myself a quick TLDR introduction to the politics of the faction, much like the dramatis personae at the beginning of the Khaine book. 

Chapter 1 sees the Clan Pestilins attack on Lustria which is ultimately unsuccessful but does see the destruction of two Lizardmen cities, the death of several Slaan and sets up a lot of key concepts regarding the end of the world and the nature of the Skaven which are followed up in subsequent chapters. Overall a strong start but nothing overly mind-blowing. 

Chapters 2 and 3 follow Queek Headtaker and Ikit Claw's war against the dwarves which sees the Skaven finally take Karak Eight Peaks and the poisoning of Karak Kadrin leaving the Slayer King without a kingdom. Following massed battles against the dwarves and the greenskins, the Skaven manage to drive Skarsnik from the mountains and Queek personally kills King Belegar. Not in the book but in the associated Black Library novel we also learn of the tragic death of Gobbla which is one of the saddest pieces of fiction I have ever read. Someone posted the excerpt on Warseer if you care to look for it. 

Chapter 4 is when we finally see the eponymous Thanquol take command of the siege of Nuln which sees the city destroyed and its technology stolen. The Grey Seer sinks the industrial centre of the city using a series of bombs for teams to loot and send the booty back to Skavenblight whilst his armies attack the surface from the sewers. This chapter unfortunately felt a lot like the previous chapters with regards a seemingly unlimited number of Skaven simply overwhelming their enemies page after page, the only real difference being the addition of a screaming bell this time. A nice touch though was seeing the perspective of a highly suspicious Imperial Captain trying to convince his superiors of the existence of the Skaven and the brief mention of Tamurkhan was a nice nod to the Forge World book which I am reading at the moment. 

Chapter 5 sees the Great Lustrian War resumed by Lord Skrolk and his Verminlord Corruptor allies as well as Clan Skyre's successful attempt at destroying Morrslieb with a giant Warp Lightning Cannon. As the battle for Lustria rages around the Lizardmen many of them take to the skies in space-ship exodus engines whilst Mazdamundi uses all of his powers to divert continent sized chunks of the falling moon from hitting the planet. Largely successful he dies and Lord Kroak finishes the job by limiting the impact of the warpstone meteors to Lustria and the Southlands, sparing the rest of the world and making sure the Lizardmen exodus engines manage to escape into the stars. 

Chapter 6 sees the Battle for Middenheim, Archaon moves south into the Empire and is greeted by Thanquol and Verminking who offer the allegiance of the Skaven to the forces of Chaos. Boris Todbringer leaves on the eve of battle to hunt Khazrak One-Eye whom he believes is behind all the ill  omens. He kills the beast lord but is in turn slain by the warherd, thus ending one of the greatest tales of nemeses in the Warhammer world. It is then left to Valten and Gregor Martek to defend the city from the combined Chaos/Skaven horde. Just before the battle commences we see Teclis appear deep below the city, stealing the true flame of Ulric and dooming the city to its fate. The dying essence of Ulric lends it's power to Gregor but it isn't enough to save Middenheim which is swiftly overrun. Malagor the Dark Omen is killed but other than that the Chaos horde suffer no significant losses. Archaon duels Valten, overpowering him before a Verminlord Deceiver comes in for a cheap kill-steal. The Lord of the End Times is not overly pleased and settles for just killing Gregor Martek instead. He then sets up camp in the ruins of the temple of Ulric, counselled by Kairos Fateweaver he sends Villitch the Curseling with a Tzeentchian host to lay siege to Averheim, the Emperor having abandoned the ruins of Altdorf following the invasion by the Glottkin and siege by the Skaven. Archaon vows to slay the Emperor himself and offer up his skull to Khorne. 

Chapter 7 is the final assault upon the Everpeak Karaz-a-Karak by Queek Headtaker and Ikit Klaw. Rather than sitting behind their walls and attempt to weather the siege the High King charges forth from his halls to bring the battle to the Skaven. He manages to slay Queek Headtaker and with the timely arrival of Joseph Bugman and Ungrim Ironfist the Skaven are routed. It is revealed that upon entering the now dead Karak Kadrin Ungrim Ironfist has become the Incarnate of Fire and for a short time it appeared that the wind of Metal was briefly bonded to the Throne of Judgement, lending Throgrim its strength during the battle. 

In the epilogue we see Thanquol and Skreech Verminking watch as Deathmaster Snikch slays Thorgrim Grudgebearer as he is busy contemplating the fallen; the verminlord promising Thanquol his head and a seat on the Council of Thirteen. The Skaven end the book with Clan Pestilens broken, Clan Skyre humbled and Queek Headtaker dead, but beyond that they have managed to destroy Lustria, break the Dwarf holds and secured an alliance with Archaon. The Skaven as the true children of Chaos will rise rise up and inherit the world, turning it into a decaying ruin through which they can scurry and revel in the detritus of civilisation. 

Book 2: Rules

The rules section open with rules for games in Lustria and for running campaigns. The Lustrian rules are very much like those for underground fighting which we see in the first book, simply a few more tables and modifiers to further customise or complicate your game. The campaign rules are quite interesting however, the introduction of stratagems being very much like Warlord traits in 40k (which I think is a pretty cool idea) and the rules for running a campaign seem to be a refined version of previous attempts GW have published over the years such as in 'Blood in the Badlands' or 'Tamurkhan' which makes me think this style of campaigning will probably be adopted properly into the main ruleset next edition.

Skaven get a lot of love with rules for Thanquol and Boneripper, the new Stormfiends with all their weapon options, and five different Verminlord variants. The Stormfiends in particular are borderline broken having virtually no drawbacks whilst Thanquol and the Verminlords seem fairly costed for their power. Dwarfs also get updated rules for Ungrim Ironfist as the Incarnate of Fire, it is nice to see the dwarfs getting some small amount of love from GW though it seems that even this is going to be taken from them in the next book. No single model in this book however reaches the power levels of Nagash, Karl Franz Ascended or Malekith the Eternity King.

We also see the introduction of what appears to be the fantasy version of formations, which have existed digitally before now but to my knowledge it is the first time they have been in print. I find it somewhat surprising that it is only now we see these formations as there were plenty of opportunities for ones in previous army books, indeed before every battle in the background we have a quick rundown of the forces involved and I could see some of them translating well into formations.

The emergence of formations in fantasy and 40k is quite interesting, the bonus rules they provide at no additional cost a great incentive for structuring your army in particular ways, an excellent way for GW to efficiently channel your spending in certain ways whilst promoting fluffy armies. In a way it is a bit of a win-win scenario even if it can limit list creativity to a degree.

I would also like to take a second to talk about the latest Dark Eldar Codex (trust me this is relevant), I have only just gotten around to buying it and the first thing that struck me was the combination of the bestiary and army list  which I didn't know had started happening in books; the last codex I bought before this being Astra Militarum. It is probably more efficient but I did quite like the illustrated bestiary. I wonder if this will be how future fantasy books will be structured as well, indeed we have begun to see it in the End Times books: background followed immediately by full rules and points costs. I had initially assumed that this was because it was only four or five models getting new rules but I can easily see whole army books being thus formatted in the future.  

Misc. opinions and closing thoughts

The Skaven got some really nice models this release, the Verminlords in particular are pretty cool models to replace something that was beginning to look quite outdated. The many different variants are a nice touch for those who want to maintain themes throughout their army. Just a shame the Verminlord Warbringer variant barely appeared at all beyond a brief mention in the background book. The Stormfiends are nice models, not keen on the paint job GW have given them and they are perhaps a little too sci-fi looking for the setting as it is but I can appreciate them being the logical advancement of Skaven technology. Thanquol and Boneripper is a wonderful, characterful model; my only complaint would be that without claws or similar attachment he can't actually do much physical bone ripping. Thanquol also has horns made of Warpstone now for some reason which isn't mentioned at all in the background, his bestiary entry nor his rules.

So many happy Skaven players...

Not really sure if this book should have been called Thanquol as though he was around for most of the book, beyond his starring role in chapter 4 he just sort of popped up with Verminking in textboxes showing him wandering around the other theatres of war to watch as Verminking made vague but threatening pronouncements. However there wasn't really another candidate for the name of the book unless they had taken the Khaine route and broadly called it 'The Horned Rat'. To remedy Thanquol being largely absent from most of the book and not really being a prime mover of events they could have had him participate in the battle of Middenheim which would have been nice as well as somewhat logical seeing as in it was he who made the allegiance pact with Archaon on behalf of the Skaven race. 

With regards the colouring of the books this is yet another black/green cover which really makes Khaine standout being red whilst the other three are green. Hopefully the rumoured End Times: Archaon with a focus on Khorne will have some red on the cover to balance it out a bit.

7/10 - Same quality as the other End Times books; conveniently and somewhat dramatically begins to draw distant threads together for the finale whilst eliminating any awkward fringe characters/factions. The Skaven were a bit repetitive and predictable however, unlimited numbers and Stormfiends seemingly able to solve any problem. 

I would also like to just take a moment to talk about the 9th edition rumours that emerged just before and partially eclipsed the Thanquol release. Should they be true this would be the greatest shakeup of a system and setting GW have ever attempted with the community already divided over talk of round bases, bubbles and other such rumoured madness. I remain cautiously optimistic about the whole affair but I must admit I am somewhat ruffled. Talk of dropping armies and radically changing everything seems beyond madness, I really hope that the End Times aren't some kind of last hurrah before the Warhammer we all love is replaced by something that ruins its legacy.

One of the biggest problems I have seen in parts of the community is a bit of a hobby paralysis with people unwilling to buy or paint miniatures in fear of them being totally invalidated or needing rebasing in only a few months. This has to a degree affected me and all plans for army expansion have ground to a halt. I am however continuing with my End Times Elven Host project as this is composed largely of miniatures I already own, but beyond one or two additions to round this off I won't be buying anything until I see what is going on with the new edition. 

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