Soulblight Gravelords Battletome Review – Warhammer Age of Sigmar
The effects of the Necroquake may be ending, however the Soulblight Gravelords and their Vampiric commanders are marching to war across the Mortal Realms in the latest Warhammer Age of Sigmar battletome.
Up for pre order on Saturday is a whole host of new miniatures to reinforce their undead legions and the brand new battletome containing the rules to use them on the battlefield. We have been lucky enough to receive a copy from Games Workshop a little early to review and share our thoughts on, so grab yourself a fresh brew and sit down to check out all the goodies within.
If you would like to support the site then why not order through our affiliate Element Games and save yourself 20% too?
Would you rather read than watch? Well our full video review of the new Soulblight Gravelords Battletome is available on YouTube very soon!
Death Battletome: Soulblight Gravelords
The last battletome in an edition is always a strange one to judge, they are written with the knowledge of what is coming in the next edition, but still have to be compatible with the previous one, even if it is for only a short period of time. And it’s with that in mind that we come to the final Age of Sigmar 2nd Edition Battletome with Soulblight Gravelords. It doesn’t take too long to see a couple of things that already seem set up for 3rd edition. Firstly, the points values are in 5 point increments. Previously all Age of Sigmar points were in 10’s (and if we go back in time to 2016 the first General’s Handbook was in 20’s!) and this is a shift towards allowing more fine tuning closer to the model by model points values of 40k while keeping the Age of Sigmar simplicity of buying units rather than models with your points. We also see an absolute truckload of command abilities in this book, far more than you would currently be able to use realistically during a game. We already know that the way command points work will change greatly in Age of Sigmar 3rd Edition with many more being available to spend per turn, so this is something that may hinder the army a little until 3rd drops later this summer. This does however mean that this book will be going straight into the next edition with little maintenance needed, something I reckon we will see with the other recent releases to tweak them for the next ruleset.
While some things may seem a little odd at the moment, I’ve looked at this book bearing in mind that big changes are coming to the game and how we view these units may be a lot different in a month or two.
In a nod to the vampire bloodlines of old, the Soulblight Gravelords are descended from 5 different Cursed Bloodlines, each with their own associated allegiance abilities:
Legion of Blood
The Legion of Blood have some cool abilities, firstly they ignore all negative to hit and wound modifiers on Deathrattle units – this is ace as still allows you to put positive modifiers on them! Next they increase the number of models that fle from failed battleshock tests near to Legion of Blood vampires. The Legion of Blood also unlock Black Knights as battleline
They get access to 6 traits and 6 artefacts, granting abilities such as rerolling charges, subtracting bravery from nearby units and locking enemy heroes out of combat for a turn.
Legion of Night
The Legion of Night is a more sneaky bloodline with their main mechanic being based around bringing in units from the board edge rather than deploying them normally, you have to have 1 unit set up normally for each that you bring in this way, but your relatively slow units can get across the board quicker using this. In the first battle round your zombies and skeletons also have +1 save making them a tab more survivable. They also gain Vargheists as Battleline
Again they get their own list of traits and artefacts including things such as ignoring battleshock and increasing the attacks characteristic of nearby models (Brilliant on things that do mortal wounds such as zombies!)
The new kids on the block and the same faction as the adversaries from Cursed City, these are very very good with a passive +1 to wound on all your zombies and skeletons within 9″ of friendly vampire heroes. They also get to reroll spells which is great if you want to fish for those 9+ casts. They too get their own artefacts and traits, my favourites being the ability to move deadwalkers in the hero phase and the ability to summon Dire Wolves!
This is your cavalry heavy army with Blood Knights as battleline, and all vampire units gain buffs as they kill units. Killing a hero gives them +1 damage for the rest of the game, killing something with 3 or wounds that isnt a hero or monster gives them +1 wound for the rest of the game and killing something with 2 wounds or less gives them +2 to run and charge moves. I really like this as it almost gives them a questing knight vibe, with them going out of their way to take out all three unit types to get all the buffs! They also get the ability to ambush in the same way as Legion of Night
Artefacts and Traits are good, with the ability to give all nearby vampires one of the above buffs in the first battleround and improving the wound of nearby units by 1 if the general slays something.
The final bloodline is your monster mash army, with the ability to take dragons and terrorghiests as battleline! As you would expect all their abilities are keyed around monsters, with them getting to pick a mutation for one of their beasties at the start of the battle (these include a 1 use run and charge ability or an aura that makes it harder to cast spells). They also have -1 to wound on all their monsters making it harder for them to be harmed. Finally once per turn you can select a monster to fight using it’s top profile even if it has been degraded.
Command traits and artefacts include increasing damage caused by your general and mount and the ability to cause mortal wounds on the charge
I really like this mix of different bloodlines and feels it will give us some variety in the armies that we see, though I do think at the moment Vrykos looks the strongest of the 5
As with the previous Legions of Nagash book, the army still gets gravesites, these can be used to deploy units to if you choose to leave them off the board at the start of the game, and also provide a deathless minions save. Deathless Minions allows a 6+ wound shrug when a unit is wholly within 12″ of a hero or gravesite.
All the Vampire heroes get wounds returned to them when they slay anything, and this has been increased to D3 wounds compared to the old book. Deathly Invocation has also changed a little, you select a hero and can restore wounds or models to summonable units within range, but there is no way of stacking this to heal up more.
There is also a way of returning half a destroyed summonable unit back to the battlefield – you roll a dice for each enemy unit you have destroyed and on a 5+ you can bring back half of one of your units – nice way of repopulating an objective!
Finally all the zombie and skeleton based units also have a passive -1 bravery debuff, stacking to -2 if an enemy is in range of two of them – this is pretty good for making things such as terrorghiests get their abilities off easier.
The gravelords get 2 new spell lores plus a generic healing spell “invigorating aura” which works similar to Deathly Invocation – Each spell caster in the army gets this in addition to a spell from their relevent lore table. Nagash gets all 13 spells. If any of the spells from the lore tables are cast on a 9+ then the caster gets to use the effect of the spell twice, which is really cool – especially in Vyrkos with their rerolls!
Lore of Vampires
Blades of Shyish – has an aura doing a mortal wound to everything in 12″. Not the greatest damage output but can certainly do some splash damage to weaken things, especially if it goes off on a 9+
Spirit Gales is basically a terrorgiest attack, if slightly less efficient – can be good on low bravery armies though
Soulpike is an interesting spell, essentially making a target unit potentially suffer a number of Mortal Wounds equal to its charge roll. Stick it on your opponents big offensive unit and watch them agonise about charging or not
Amethystine Pinions is a nice spell that gives the caster +6 to their movement, which is great considering some of these casters already have a decent move value!
Vile Transference is a heal that is based on the half number of wounds the target unit has, with each roll of 6 giving you a wound back
Finally Amaranthine Orb draws a 9″ line causing D3 mortal wounds on a 2+ for every unit it crosses
Lore of Deathmages
Overwhelming Dread gives a target unit -1 to hit which is pretty handy
Fading Vigour reduces the attacks characteristic of a target unit by 1
Spectral Grasp is cool – you choose a terrain piece and all movement within 3″ is halved
Prison of Grief is a nice counter to the Lumineth Wind Spirits making it that every time they want to move on a 5+ they cannot – as this lasts until your next hero phase this can trigger on annoying out of phase movement!
Decreptify is a great anti-hero spell that reduces both their wound rolls and damage by 1
Finally Soul Harvest only has a 3″ range, but every unit affected takes D3 mortal wounds and heals the caster for each wound suffered on a 5+!
So on to the Warscrolls, a lot of stuff in this book is very similar to the Legions of Nagash, however there are some important differences and points adjustments (Sadly mostly increases, but I imagine this will be true of all armies in 3rd edition)
The new centrepiece model in this wave, Lauka Vai is an awesome mix of vampire and dragon giving us something monstrous looking to lead our armies! As with a lot of the other named characters in the book, she counts as being general in an Avengorii army even if she is not selected to be the general. She has some nice impact hits, giving you a chance of mortal wounds to a target based on the charge roll and lessens rend in a 3” aura. She also has a fun rule where as the game goes on it becomes more likely for her to be able to run and charge at the expense of being able to use command abilities, representing what scraps of control she has ebbing away over the course of the game. Her command ability keys off her monster heavy dynasty really well, giving monsters +1 to hit against a target unit. Finally she has a nice way of making herself and nearby units immune to long charges and pesky deep striking units with her spell that halves charge moves within 12”
The generic version of the horrific new vampire-dragon-thing, the Vengorian Lord has a similar profile to the named version with a decent combat statline, a -1 rend aura and the chance of being able to run and charge at the cost of not using command abilities. Speaking of command abilities, their Festering Feast is a nice way of topping up the wounds of your monsters as it restores D6 wounds to any Soulblight Gravelords unit that has destroyed and enemy units. Finally their spell Clotted Deluge gives you +1 to wound against a target unit. As someone wanting to dabble with a monster mash list, I really like this guy!
Another new addition to the Gravelords, like with the other Vyrkos characters she counts as the general in addition to the army general. She’s pretty resistant with a 4+ wound shrug and the ability to fully heal if she kills a model in a phase making her pretty hard to shift.
The Rat Prince is another new Vyrkos character and again counts as the general in addition to the model chosen as the general. He is another slippery one with the ability to reappear when slain on a 4+and has a passive -1 to hit. Sadly we have no corpse rat profile to accompany him, especially since we have the gorgeous models from Cursed City.
Radukar The Beast
So it seems our old friend Radukar from Cursed City has been working out! We get a second profile for him representing his descent into a raging monster following the events of Cursed City, and I have to say it’s pretty cool! Fast already, Radukar can run and charge and is -1 to hit at all times, he also always counts as the general in a Vyrkos army even if not picked as the general. He also has the ability to do up to 12 mortal wounds if he gets lucky with his hits! His Call to Hunt ability from his “The Wolf” profile is still here giving all gravelords within 18” 1 extra attack, and he gains the ability to summon a unit of 10 wolves once per game! Really like this guy and look forward to putting together a suitably wolf themed army around him!
Another of the really nice new character models added in this release, Belladamma is the First of the Vyrkos and this is reflected in her suitably wolfy rules! Firstly, she can transfer any wounds or mortal wounds taken on her to Dire Wolves on a 3+ and with her command ability she can make Dire Wolves fight when they are within 6” and pile in an additional 3. She also has 2 really nice spells – Lycancurse deals D3 mortal wounds to a target unit and for each model killed a Dire Wolf is added to the army! As the new models are placed within 3” of the target unit this is a great form of disruption that could potentially swing numbers to take an objective. Her second spell is also very good, giving a target unit 2 hits on every unmodified hit of 6 – Probably needs an FAQ to confirm intent, but used on Zombies I read this as every hit of 6 would therefore do 2 mortal wounds! Even if this is FAQd to make the free hit not count as a 6 however it is still a nice combat multiplier!
Nagash is back with the same profile from Ossiarch Bonereapers, however he has had a considerable points increase! This version of Nagash does get both spell lores in this book giving him more utility, I’m just not sure it’s worth the points increase over his cost in the Bonereapers book (Though I imagine that too will be increased with Generals Handbook 2021 and 3rd edition drop!) Nagash does benefit really well from the ability to cast a spell twice on a 9+, though sadly this doesn’t apply to Hand of Dust as it is from his warscroll and not from the lores in this book!
Necromancer is slightly better in combat now with an extra attack! While that’s going to have no real impact in a game, he does have a couple of tweaks – for example he now passes wounds and mortal wounds on a 3+ rather than 4+ and Vanhel’s has been reworded to limit stacking
Mannfred Von Carstein
Mannfred has had some great improvements with both an additional wound and a 3+ save, he also now ignores the first wound or mortal wound suffered each phase rather than each turn essentially giving him more survivability! His Sword of Unholy Power is now really good giving nearby Gravelords units an extra attack if he kills anything with it. Mannfred is also tricky to pin down as he can teleport away at the start of the combat phase meaning he is only ever going to fight on his terms (Though a couple of abilities could stop this such as Be’lakor)
As with Mannfred, Neferata has gained an extra attack and an improved save, also her spell has been improved now ignoring just negative modifiers meaning that you can still improve saves, they just don’t get affected by rend! She also gets a chance of auto killing any hero wounded by her dagger on a 5+, which is a scary prospect for anyone facing her. Finally her -1 to hit command ability now has a fixed 12” aura
While the Breath of Vhordrai’s dragon is not as good as it was previously (Now doing D6 damage rather than 6) this is still a really good hero. His lance has had some upgrades too as it is now rend -3 and damage 4 on the charge making him a formidable fighter (especially if you can get his attacks increased by Radukar for example) His spell gives him +1 to hit and wound improving him further in combat, and his command ability allows a different hero (Sadly can’t use it on himself) to pile in and fight in the hero phase
Vampire Lord on Zombie Dragon
Pretty much the same profile as before, but they do now get a 3+ save. They have however lost their Chalice of Blood and their Dread Knight command ability, making them slightly weaker than previously. Dragon is still the same with the D6 damage being a little spikey.
No longer can take a Nightmare, but they are slightly faster and can now fly (The wings upgrade has been dropped) Their Crimson Feast ability gives summonable gravelords +1 attack making them a great way of getting some more mortal wounds out of your zombies.
Prince Duvalle and The Crimson Court
The leader of the Crimson Court has a fairly usual Vampire profile, but his spell is pretty good, giving a target unit +1 to hit. Sadly the rest of the Crimson Court are not that exciting. I was expecting a unit of heroes (Or maybe 4 different heroes that could be taken separately) unfortunately at a total of 4 wounds for the other 3 models I can’t see them managing to do a lot before they are taken off the board. I’ll be most likely using these as Vampire Lords!
Pretty much the same as the previous warscroll with the only real change being Scrying Pool now allowing a reroll once per turn rather than once per game – Still a decent unit though!
As with the throne not much has changed here – the Wail of the damned follows the same rules as the new Mortis Engine and a Fine Vintage now only affects vampires making this really only good for a more vampire heavy build.
The profile has now been split into two to represent mounted and unmounted. Beheading Strike now does a mortal wound on a hit of 6 rather than extra damage, with the mounted version doing D3 mortal wounds on the charge with a roll of 2+. Command ability is not as good as it was, now only allowing rerolls of hit rolls of 1 (Looks like there is currently a typo here too, as it states it is used in the hero phase and lasts until the end of that phase!)
Cursed City – The units from Cursed City sadly need to be taken as a single block for a fixed cost, and sadly they have gone up in points. Also we have no rules for the rats or bats, which is a massive shame as they are great models!
Radukar The Wolf
Radukar has been tweaked a little, he has lost his 4+ wound shrug but now instead passes wounds and mortal wounds to Kosargi on a 2+ (Which works quite well with their innate wound shrug). Other than this much the same, he still does mortals on hits on 6 and still has the ability to give nearby gravelords +1 attack
Thankfully nothing has changed for these guys! They still get extra attacks while near Radukar the Wolf, though again it would have been nice to get a unit of these added rather than just these 2 as part of the Cursed City picks.
Again the Vargskyr is another Cursed City unit that is pretty much the same, but has had something cool removed – it no longer reduces bravery of nearby enemy units. Again, this is a massive shame considering the cost of the Cursed City units has gone up!
Gorslav the Gravekeeper
Exactly the same profile as in Cursed City, can still resummon a unit of zombies that has been killed (at half strength) and can still pass wounds to zombies. As he now has the deadwalkers keyword he does have a passive bravery debuff aura however.
Torgillius The Chamberlain
I guess Togillius’ spell was too powerful, no longer deals mortal wounds and only has the -1 to hit debuff. This is a shame considering the considerable points hike for the Cursed City units.
Another unit that is not as good as their previous incarnation! They now have movement 10, which is great, however they no longer get a bonus to wound when attacking wounded targets and can no longer move through terrain as if they could fly
Watch Captain Halgrim
No changes here, Halgrim was probably the least interesting of the Cursed City heroes and i’d probably always gamble for a run roll than use his ability, so I’m glad they have not reduced him further.
The trusty old Terrorghiest is still as good as he has ever been with no profile changes, still doing those delicious 6 mortal wounds on a hit of 6 for it’s maw. However they have had a small 5 points bump in cost. Can now be taken as Battleline in an Avengorii army
As with the mounted version, the Zombie Dragon hasn’t seen any changes, however it is a slightly bit cheaper now! Personally I would still take a Terrorghiest over it however.
Both swords and spears now share the same profile and save has been improved to 5+. While they no longer get bonus attacks for large units they instead return a slain model on a 4+ making them very tanky.
I think Zombies are the surprise winners from this book, while they have a rubbish combat profile they now do mortal wounds on any hit of a 6! In a unit of 40 with ways of upping the number of attacks they make there is a good chance to do some real damage here through weight of numbers. What’s more, every model they kill gets added to the unit as an additional zombie on a 2+ making these things really hard to chew through. Finally they now count as being in combat if they are within 6” of the enemy and can pile in an additional 3”. I can see big units of zombies absolutely swamping units, back them up with a corpse cart to make them harder to kill and have a Vampire Lord, Mannfred or Radukar near them to increase their attacks characteristic. And speaking of Radukar they fight even better in a Vyrkos army giving them chance to grind a unit down even if the mortal wounds don’t pop. As they have an innate bravery debuff built into the army rules these are also a great way of making an easy target for a terrorghiest. Let’s just say I may need to order a couple of boxes of Zombies…
Both versions of the Corpse Cart are back with some minor changes, the range of the Lodestone has decreased to 12”and it now improves the save of Deadwalkers by 1, while the Balefire makes enemy units within 9” get a -1 to wound penalty.
Blood Knights have had some nice updates, they are now Battleline in a Kastelai army allowing you to do an army made up of a core of vampires without the keyword restrictions in the previous book, the horses have got an extra attack each, the lances now do flat 2 damage on the charge and they get a really cool ability that allows them to make a normal move when starting within 3” of the enemy. Once they have made that move you roll a D6 for every model that moved over an enemy unit with each 2+ dealing D3 mortal wounds. As this is a “Normal move” I would say that this is intended to not be a retreat, allowing them to charge again or run. As with a lot of other things in the book I reckon we will see “normal” moves defined clearly in the new AOS 3rd edition rulebook.
Like with a lot of units in this book, the general statline is the same as they were however the banner now allows rerolls of 1 rather than a bravery debuff, and the charge now does D3 mortal wounds on a 2+ rather than improving wound and damage – this seems a bit of a hit to be honest and lessens their damage output somewhat.
Grave Guard look great in the new book, with their shields now giving them a 4+ save and every unmodified wound of 6 causing a mortal wound in addition to any other damage. As with the Black Knights the banner now allows deathless minions rerolls of 1. I think these are going to be very popular, just a shame the models are not as nice as the new Deathrattle!
Varghiests have had an improvement, now getting 2 hits on 6s rather than making a single attack when they kill a model, they also now can can be set up in the sky – coming down at the end of the movement phase anywhere on the battlefield outside of 9” of enemies. Other than that however have the same combat profile.
These are pretty much the same, just get a couple of rules tweaks, they no longer get +1 save near a corpse cart, but instead are now +1 to hit and wound on the charge. Are battleline still, and a couple of units in the book can summon new units of them
These have also had a few tweaks, sadly they no longer get their attacks increased to 6 when something is killed near them, however they do now get the ability to retreat and charge – I just worry with only a 6+ save and 3 wounds each they would not still be alive after something charges them.
This has had a bit of a change for the better, firstly the range of the wail of the damned has been increased by an additional 3”, and now each unit within range is hit on a 4+ rather than having to beat their bravery on 2D6. Unless you regularly fight low bravery armies this is a net improvement and even puts a threat on things such as daemons. With the extended range you’ll even have a chance of taking out support characters hidden behind screens with a couple of these advancing down your centre line! The Reliquary is also a little different with the chance of range spikes now gone, it just hits every enemy unit within 12” on a 2+ again giving you a nice mortal wound bomb to use once per game.
So what do I think of the new Soulblight Gravelords battletome? Well firstly, while it may not have super powerful units such as the Lumineth fox or Sentinals, I do think there is some decent stuff in here. Zombies in particular look like an outstanding unit, especially when combined with the number of buffs in the book. While a lot of these abilities are very Command Point intensive, I believe that this is something that will give the Soulblight Gravelords a bit advantage going into 3rd edition when these become a bigger resource with much more supply than we currently get. I also absolutely love all the new units added, especially in the case of the Vyrkos stuff – I really love the feral “werewolf” feel that they have and really hope that when we inevitably get the 3rd edition copy of this book that the stuff that was unique to Cursed City gets their own kits and full units- imagine having packs of Blood-Born as an elite unit for them, or Kosragi to protect your characters. Sadly as it is you are a little limited if you want to use the Cursed City contents without hamstringing yourself a little with the fixed block of point you have to spend.
I also think we will see some variety as there are a lots of different playstyles and lists I can see already from Zombie Hordes, to Vampire Cavalry and even a Monster Mash list all being viable ways to go.
As with any book we will need to see it perform on the battlefield first before we can jump to any conclusions, but I’m excited to expand my undead and gather together a collection allowing for multiple different army builds.
Battletome Soulblight Gravelords is released Saturday 22nd May – Games Workshop provided Sprues and Brews a copy for review purposes