Broken Realms Be’lakor Review
The ancient entity known as Be’lakor has been bidding his time throughout the ages, readying for the time when he can finally make his move. With war and chaos erupting across the Mortal Realms, the First Prince enacts a plan to cover the realms with a daemonic storm. In Broken Realms Be’lakor, up for pre order today, we learn what the first daemon prince has been up to and the ramifications for his centuries of manipulation.
We have been lucky enough to get a copy of Broken Realms Be’lakor to review, share the gaming content and dive into the epic storyline. We will be digging into the full story, but that will be at the bottom of the post with spoiler warnings if you want to enjoy this story for yourself!
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Broken Realms Be’lakor Review
Regular visitors to the site will know that I’m a big fan of the Broken Realms books! From the epic revelations in Morathi to the grand showdown in Teclis, the Broken Realms series has pushed the narrative forward unlike any other Age of Sigmar release before it bringing with it the kind of seismic events that we had hoped to see in the Psychic Awakening series for 40k. Without going into spoilers, Be’lakor is worth the price of entry for the story alone! An epic narrative tale that kept me gripped until the very end, and just like the previous books it teases with just enough delicious plot threads that had me immediately diving into research to just what might have been revealed! As with previous volumes the book is gorgeous too, filled with new art, maps and glorious shots of miniatures. This series has been the gold standard of supplement books, and Be’lakor certainly doesn’t disappoint in that respect in what I feel is the most cinematic entry in the series so far! So before we dig into the story itself, we are first going to look at the gaming content contained within the book, starting with the campaign!
As with the previous books in the series we get considerable 20 page section of the book dedicated to recreating the events of the narrative, with a 6 battleplan long campaign strung together with consequences of battle that affect the next battle in sequence depending on who has won each game. While the majority of my gaming life I have mostly played standard matched play games, the narrative in these books has me really excited to recreate the events and I can’t wait for the world to get back to the point were we are able to do this!
As for forces represented, one player will act as Be’lakor and will need armies for Nurgle, Tzeentch and The Legion of the First Prince (The Be’lakor led Daemon army first seen in Wrath of the Everchosen and massively expanded here) with an enemy player with Stormcast and Seraphon armies. In addition, for some of the interesting multi-player games representing some of the epic moments in the narrative, a 3rd player with access to Nighthaunt and Eternal Conflagration and a 4th player with access to Cities of Sigmar and Kharadron Overlords is recommended. While this is a wide ranging assortment of armies, I think this should be doable within a gaming group – and the books suggests that if you do not have those forces available you can always substitute with what you do have access to.
We get some new Realm of Battle traits to represent a couple of the new locations in the book, The Genesis Gate in Ghyran, Dolorum in Shyish and Properis in Chamon. Each of these have some fun features and abilities that enrich the narrative battles, however they are not recommended for Matched Play games. I like the addition of these, and would love to see a set of cards or something alongside the final book in the series to gather them all together in one place for future use in your own campaigns.
Returning from Wrath of the Everchosen we also see some siege rules for Age of Sigmar! Siege games of Warhammer Fantasy were amazing fun, and I would like to see this perhaps return in a future supplement alongside a new fortress set! For the time being we have some rules here to represent the effects of the siege itself before the battle. Each side secretly picks a siege tactic with the attacker being able to cut off supplies to starve the enemy, demolish fortifications and mile under the walls, while the defender can gather supplies, rebuild structures or counter mine to stop infiltration. Based on the combination of choices the attacker makes a series of rolls to see what the effect of the siege is on the defences and the population within the walls! This is great fun and I look forward to seeing the double bluffing on the table during this!
We also get updated Coalition of Death rules allowing 3 or more players to play a game of Age of Sigmar, nothing too fancy here, essentially teams of combined armies on each side with an overall Warlord who has the casting vote for decisions in each coalition.
These above rules are used throughout the campaign with a nice mix of different style battles with up to 4 players. I feel the Warhammer team have really tried to capture the cinematic events of the battles within the book and render them in battleplan form. I can see a gaming group having an amazing time re-enacting these battles, and hopefully one day soon do so on the gorgeous boards at Warhammer World!
As with the other books, we also get a host of updates to battletomes to bring them up to date. This time they cover Be’lakor and the Legion of the First Prince, Nightaunt, Kharadrons, Seraphon, Tzeentch, Fyreslayers and Gardus Steel Soul for the Stormcast, so a nice mix of content across loads of armies. First we’ll start with the one everyone is excited about however, Be’lakor himself!
Be’lakor The Dark Master
While not the massive update that some people perhaps expected, The Dark Master has upgrades to represent his awesome new model.
In line with the Greater Daemons he now stands as tall as, Be’lakor has been given a wounds profile of 14 and still has an unmodifiable save of 4+ making him much more survivable than his old incarnation. To keep his wounds topped up he still has his Lord of Torment ability healing him D3 wounds when a unit fails a battleshock test, but this now has a extended range of 12″. He has also gained extra attacks and rend allowing him to put out a total of 20 wounds a turn compared to 12 in his previous profile.
He also still has his The Dark Master ability, however this has changed somewhat completely shutting down a unit on a 3+ at the start of the phase rather than rolling each time they make an action. Previously this target unit had to be picked in secret before the game, but this is no longer the case allowing you to use this when most needed.
He is still a wizard able to cast 2 spells, and Enfeeble Foe is still the same as his old rules making a target unit -1 to wound
While more a re-imagining of this profile rather than something completely new, he is also not too expensive at 380 points when you factor in the other new abilities he gets as part of the Legion of the First Prince.
The Legion of the First Prince
Be’lakor’s personal army The Legion of the First Prince was introduced in Wrath of The Everchosen, but it has been massively expanded in this book with some ace abilities that fans of Daemons will love! Firstly, in order to use this army every model must have the Chaos and Daemon keywords, locking out most of the Slaves to Darkness book, however this does give him access to every Daemon unit of each god giving you quite a lot of tools to work with! First Damned Prince returns but with some improvements, Be’lakor now rerolls hits if he is within 18″ of a unit of Bloodletters, Horrors. Plaguebearers and Daemonettes. This is a great change, previously the 8″ bubble made this difficult to pull off due to lack of room for all those bodies, now with an extended range he can surge off ahead of them if he wants to – But you might want to stay within 9″ of one of those units, as before you allocate a wound or mortal wound to him, on a 4+ it is passed to one of them rather than him! And if a wound does manage to get through this then fear not, as every model in the army has a 6+ wound and mortal wound shrug. This effectively swells his wounds pool and survivability making him very hard to kill, especially if you stick him next to a big blob of horrors.
What’s more, at the end of each battleshock phase you roll a dice for each unit of lesser daemons (including furies) and on a 3+ they regain D3 slain models. This used to be a command ability, but making it a battle trait is a great change that really helps Daemon armies. Combined with a banner this can keep your lesser daemons in the fight much longer than they would in an army of their patron god.
Starting to run out of units? No worries, you also get to summon a unit of lesser Daemons at the end of each movement phase! You pick a hero and roll 3D6, if you get 10 or more you get a free unit! If you have any doubles you take a mortal wound and and trebles D3, but this is easily mitigated with some of the above abilities.
The spell to make units fight after they are killed returns too, making people think twice about taking out your daemons with fragile fast moving units.
We also get 3 Command traits, however as you will usually want Be’lakor as your general these are not going to get much use – unless of course we get a way in the future to allow other heroes to take these! They are pretty good too, one allows you to add +1 to the summoning roll, another allows units to reroll charges with 12″, but the very best is Ruinous Aura which turns their 6+ wound shrug into a 5+ one in a 8″ bubble.
Finally we get a trio of artefacts, the Fourfold blade which causes D3 mortal wounds on hits of 5+, the armour of the pact which allows save rerolls and a Saintskin banner that has a -1 bravery aura. Stick the blade on a hero with lots of attacks seems the best bet to me, though there may be value in playing with bravery to keep Be’lakor topped up with wounds!
I really like this allegiance, and as a huge fan of Daemon armies I really hope we see this expanded into it’s own Battletome in future, as currently you need 5 books including this one to get access to all the units!
Nighthaunt get quite a few updates in the book with two “processions” that are sub-allegiances that can be chosen from in addition to the standard Nighthaunt allegiance abilities.
The first of these The Emerald Host is based around Hexwraiths and gives them 2 cool new abilities, firstly an extra attach on all weapons when they charge bumping them to a total 6 attacks each! Secondly they can take wounds or mortal wounds allocated to the general on a 2+, really like this one as a way of making Hexwraith cavalry armies more fun!
Secondly we get Reikenor’s Condemned which is based around Chainrasps and Stalkers. They get to reroll hits while within 15″ of Spirit Torments and Chainghasts and also return an extra D6 models when affected by Spectral Lure or Temporal Translocation – keeping these units in the fight for a lot longer.
Dreadscythe Harridans get a new profile with 1 in 5 now being a Crone and the Bloodlust now making each hit of 6 cause 2 hits.
We also get a brand new model the Krulghast Cruciator, if it causes any unsaved wounds then it improves the Deathless Spirits save of Nighthaunt within 12″ to a 5+
Finally we get the new Battalion the Sorrowmourn Choir, this essentially allows other units in the battalion to take wounds for Olynder on a 2+ and also makes her count as the army general in addition to whatever model is picked as the general.
Interestingly, the Kharadrons get 6 unique triumphs they can pick from in addition to the main ones. Two of these we have seen below on Warhammer Community:
But we also get 4 more, one that lets them reroll unbind rolls, one that allows them to make a ship D6″ faster for a turn, one that increases wounds healed by Endrinriggers by 1, and one that allows you do detonate the magazines of a destroyed ship causing up to D6 mortal wounds to every enemy unit within 3″, a nasty surprise to anyone taking down a frigate in close combat!
They also get a battalion, and this one is pretty good, needing an Endrinmaster and 2 Endrinriggeror Skywarden units and incresing the movement of all units in the battalion plus a skyvessel within 3″ of them by 3″
The Seraphon get some additions in the form of bound versions of the Endless Spells from the Forbidden Power set, increasing the bound spells they have access to.
They also get a cool dinosaur heavy battalion consisting of a Stagadon with Skink Chief, a Bastiladon and a Engine of the Gods that can pick a target within 24″ to do up to 4D3 mortal wounds to them based on how many of your units are still alive. Not sure if this is worth the 140 points price tag, but could potentially snipe an important supporting hero.
I’ll also sneak the Tzeentch warscroll battalion in here, it basically increases the number of melee attacks horrors have by 1, which is pretty tasty!
The Fyreslayers get a tweak to a couple of their units, the Doomseeker and the Grimwrath Berzerker.
Both of these get improvements to their throwing axes making them a little better than on their previous profile:
In addition the Doomseeker gets a tweak to his Oathbound ability now allowing him to fight after he is slain
The Grimwrath Berzerker also gets some changes letting him pick one of 6 oaths to pick at the start of the game, 3 of which we have seen on Warhammer Community:
In addition to these he can choose to either add 1 to damage and hit and wound rolls when targeting priests, add one to hit when near to heroes not mounted on Magmadroths and take wounds for them on a 2+ or run and charge and reroll charge rolls.
Finally we get Gardus Steel Soul, who also has a gorgeous model out alongside this release, he is essentially a named Lord Celestant with some Hallowed Knights flavoured abilities. He has a 5+ wound shrug himself and gives Hallowed Knights within 12″ a 6+ shrug, and once per battle can make them reroll charges and add 1 to their attacks. Really nice model and an absolute badass in the story too!
The Story (Spoilers!)
And so we get onto the summery of the story, beware there are spoilers beyond this point! If you want to read this book yourself then don’t scroll past Be’lakor and his mini-me!
The book opens with Be’lakor readying his plans following the events of the first two Broken Realms books, it seems he has been pulling the strings in the background and has managed to manipulate everything that has happened so far, saving the stormcast from Morathi’s clutches in order to escalate a war between the forces of Order and taking advantage of the chaos following the battle between Teclis and Nagash.
His master plan is to destroy the Realm Gates in order to create a storm of chaos manifest to spread over the realms doing 3 things – stop realm to realm travel through the gates, create a tear in the fabric of reality to the realm of chaos, and stop the Stormcast from being able to return to Azyr when they are slain.
As a Silver Tower is intrinsically tied the realm gates, he suspects that the destruction of one would create such a magical backlash that wound destroy the gates themselves tearing open a way out of the Realm of Chaos for his Daemonic legions and causing untold devastation in its fiery death.
Over the course of the book he manages to allow Lord Kroak to know the location of one of the towers, Kroak understands the potential side effect of one being destroyed, but does not want to miss the opportunity to end one of the enemy’s most powerful tools. He sends a Seraphon army to assault the tower, which wisely escapes into space but not before a Seraphon armada ambushes it, causing enough damage for it to crash land in Chamon. I have to say, I wasn’t expecting a space battle in this book! Kroak orders an army of Bastiladons led by Iq-To to coordinate their solar beams into the ruins of the Silver Tower detonating the chaotic heart of the device with the Age of Sigmar equivalent of an atomic blast leaving nothing but a thousand mile wide crater.
While the blast destroyed the Silver Tower, it also caused Realmgate after realmgate in Chamon to explode into a vortex of chaos magic, and inadvertently putting Be’lakor’s plan into action.
Meanwhile, an Arkanaut Frigate commanded by an Endrinmaster Drongon Humboldsson sees the fallout of this magical disaster from 6000 leagues away and is convinced by a strange white bearded member of his crew called Gromthi (who he can’t actually remember ever seeing before) that it will be worth his time investigating…
In the second act, Be’lakor discovers that he has had a curse on him since he previously fought and defeated Lady Olynder. With the aid of Shadow Daemons of Ulgu (Potentially a nod to what we may eventually see with Malerion) he manages to get inside her inner sanctum and strikes a deal with her, if she helps him take down the Stormcast then the Nighthaunt can have their souls – She agrees to help, however reveals he has until the sands in the cursed spectral hourglass that she has bound to him runs dry to do so, and then she will take his life in battle when time is up. And so Be’lakor sends his daemons to attack every remaining realm gate in Chamon while the Nighthaunt attack each settlement as a distraction. One by one the realmgates fall and as each one does a dark storm spreads over the realm acting as a conduit to the realm of chaos. Eventually only one remains, the Realm Gate bound to Vindicarum, city of the Celestial Vindicators.
A massive battle ensues between the Sigmarite Brotherhood and the Legion of the Dark Prince at the site of the final gate, however Be’lakor not being one to take risks has also tasked a team of Skaven to detonate a Warpstone bomb in the heart of a second Silver Tower in order to recreate a similar magical shockwave as that caused by the Seraphon. The bomb goes off and while not destroying the Silver Tower entirely, it does accomplish it’s goal and causes magical feedback across every realm gate, finally causing the remaining one in Chamon to explode.
With the Realm Gates in Chamon destroyed and the skies dark with the malevolent storm, the Stormcast no longer have any way of returning to Azyr when they fall. A brutal battle between them and the united armies of Olynder and Be’lakor causes the destruction of the entire stormhost, their souls taken by the Nighthaunt when they die. Be’lakor assembles his forces for a final march on the last post of resistance in the realm, the city of Vindicarum.
Seeing the events happening in Chamon, the Kharadron ship from earlier returns to port and summons the entire Kharadron leadership in a council to decide what to do. The strange White Beard Gromthi manages to unite the Kharadron in order to save Vindicarum from their fate…
The final act of the book tells the talk of the siege of Vindicarum, and it is without a doubt one of the greatest Age of Sigmar battles written. We see the city besieged by an overwhelming army of Daemons while the valiant defenders fight to the last. Wall by wall, the defenders are fought back until just a handful of Celestial Vindicators and Hallowed Knights remain, Steel Soul forming the linchpin of the defence. Be’lakor doesn’t want the city, he wants each and every Stormcast Eternal killed and their souls tortured.
As all seems lost and just a handful of survivors remain, the entire Kharadron fleet made up from every available vessel from every skyport turns up to save the day – led by the strange White Bearded Duardin Gromthi. Angered at victory being snatched from his fingers, Be’lakor launches himself into the air to destroy each and every soul on the Frigate leading the fleet – however when he sees the dwarf there is a look of fear in his eyes.
What he sees is a dwarf, standing taller than he first looked, glowing with an inner power and holding a hammer with a mining pick on one side. Be’lakor recognises this individual and quickly decides that his plans had not accounted for the return of this entity and it would be better to retreat for now. And with that the city (Or what few survivors there are) are saved.
However while the siege has been stopped, it’s not really a win for the forces of order – Every realm gate in Chamon has been destroyed and the storm generated from their destruction is slowly spreading across the realms. One stormhost has been entirely destroyed and another 2 brutally decimated. This leaves the book feeling like the “Empire Strikes Back” of the series with the bad guys getting the upper hand and a dark future being set up for the next book in the series.
While it is never explicitly stated in the book, I believe Gromthi is actually the ancestor god Grungni returned to reunite the Dawi. The word Gromthi in the Dwarf tongue actually means Ancestor, which is a brilliant touch by the author. Be’lakor muses at the end of the book that he thought the white beard was a power long lost and it is too dangerous to engage him without knowing all the variables. He also knows there are enemies of “Gromthi” who will be very interested to hear of his return. I do wonder if this somehow ties into Malerion or Kragnos. With the Duardin getting united it also leaves open the chance of a future Duardin based book on the horizon perhaps bringing some more classic elements back.
Update – Some have pointed out this could also be Grombrindal, the White Dwarf! Either way, exciting Dwarf based things to come!
Broken Realms Be’lakor continues the excellent run of this series with another outstanding book, going in much darker directions than any Age of Sigmar book before it. I am really excited to see how this story line plays out, and hope that we get to enjoy much more of this style of narrative in whatever follows this series.
If you are a fan of Age of Sigmar I highly recommend reading this series, I have enjoyed every one so far and Be’lakor is up there as one of my favourite Age of Sigmar storylines so far.
Broken Realms Be’lakor is up for pre order today and out next Saturday.
Games Workshop provided Sprues & Brews an copy for review purposes.