Arena of Shades – Warhammer Age of Sigmar Unboxing and Review
Har Kuron, formally the city of Anvilguard is under siege from the restless dead. Nagash, Lord of Death feels Morathi has stolen souls that are his by right, and so he sends his Nighthaunt to claim the souls of the Daughters of Khaine as form of payment.
Today, Arena of Shades the new Battlebox for Warhammer Age of Sigmar is up for pre order and we will be checking out the contents of the box, having a look at the new miniatures and dissecting the profiles in our full review and unboxing of the new set!
As ever, massive thanks to Games Workshop for sending us a free early copy to review and share with you guys! If you would like to support the site then why not order your copy of Arena of Shades through our affiliate Element Games and save yourself money too!
I have also done a full unboxing video of the new Arena of Shades set, so if you would rather watch this review than read it you can check it out below or over on YouTube
So as a tide of grim grinning ghosts descends upon the city of Har Kuron let’s see what the forces of the Daughters of Khaine can deploy against them in this brand new box!
Arena of Shades Unboxing
So just what do we get in this massive box? Well for starters a load of plastic kits! A rough estimate but there’s around £240 of models in this box making the ticket price of £115 not bad at all considering everything that’s in here – There’s a bit of a mixture of older kits as well as brand new ones so let’s take a look!
For the Daughters of Khaine we have a unit of Sisters of Slaughter, Khinerai Heatrenders and Doomfire Warlocks – yes these are all older kits now but certainly have a place in any Daughters of Khaine army!
They are still really fun to paint up too and can be knocked out pretty quickly with minimal effort too!
The first new model in the box however is the High Gladiatrix, and what a model she is!
Armed with a choice of two weapons and two different head options she looks brilliant leading an Aelf filled Daughters of Khaine army if you want something a little different to lots of snakes! I had great fun painting her up, and it was a surprisingly quick process with the curled whip not really getting in the way at all – it actually attaches to the bottom of the rock, which makes it a lot more stable when painting it!
Older kits included for the Nighthaunt include the Spirit Torment, Chainghasts, Myrmourn Banshees and the Bladegheists – while the box doesnt include any battleline options, it does give you a nice mix of different units with different aesthetics and silhouettes.
Personally the most exciting units for me in the box however are the two new Nighthaunt options! Firstly we have the Craventhrone Guard!
Spectral crossbow men and the personal honour guard of the Craven King, these guys just look really really cool! Regardless of their rules, these guys will be having a place in my army just for rule of cool!
The final kit in the box is another new model, the Scriptor Mortis!
This is another stunning model and an absolute joy to paint up! I thoroughly enjoyed working on him and I really want to paint up more Nighthaunt now to accompany him! With Nighthaunt getting their new Battletome soon it seems like a really good time to jump on a new project of them!
But that’s not everything in the box! There’s quite a stack of paper materials included!
First up is the Age of Sigmar Core Rules – this contains all the gaming rules you need to play a game of Age of Sigmar and is very handy to have in your event bag when you go to a tournament, or even to use to introduce a new player to the game before they decide to commit to the full hard back rulebook!
Also included is a sheet of tokens and range rulers, all of which are always really nice to have on hand and there’s a nice mix here covering various abilities of the units found within the box. For adding some interest to the banners of your Daughters of Khaine units you also get the Dark Elf transfer sheet!
Full assembly instructions are included for the contents, and as ever they are really easy to follow – showing in detail any build options you have. It’s worth noting here that while the book has rules for Sisters of Slaughter, if you want to instead build those models as Witch Aelves then you also get the full instructions for them (But no warscroll unfortunately)
Inside the box is also a 42 page Arena of Shades supplement that goes into the lore behind this battlebox while also giving us some narrative content based around the conflict and also full rules and points for everything in the box! It’s worth noting that each unit also comes with a warscroll card too, making it really easy to use the contents of the box – we’ll be looking at these shortly when we start digging into the units!
From a lore point of view, Arena of Shades follows the events of Broken Realms Morathi and the start of the Era of the Beast. In the Broken Realms series, Morathi annexed the city of Anvilguard and renamed it Har Kuron, an act of defiance against the God King Sigmar. In order to achieve her aims however she required the aid of the Idoneth Deepkin. Their fee for assisting in the taking of the city was their claim to the souls of anyone slain during the battle. Morathi agreed and so many, many souls were stolen by the Idoneth during the bloody battle for Anvilguard.
Nagash, meanwhile saw this as a great insult – those souls are his by right, and he felt this was a slap in the face from a hated rival of his. Had he been at the full strength of his power he would have marched upon the city himself, however since being defeated by Teclis he is currently licking his wounds and recovering his powers. So in his place he sends a force of Nighthaunt under the command of The Craven King and led by a Sciptor Mortis to take from the city an equivalent number of souls that had been denied from him. And so the Nighthaunt descend upon the Daughters of Khaine as they spar in the newly constructed gladiatorial areas that are now a focal point of Har Kuron
In addition to this new lore we actually get a series of missions that allow you to fight through the events of the narrative and new Realm Rules for fighting battles within Har Kuron itself – this has some cool gimmicks like the buildings in the city actually having non combat citizens who can hurl improvised weapons at the attackers, or the ability for the Daughters of Khaine to conceal any of their units in any building within the city. I’d love to see some more intact buildings for Age of Sigmar in the style of the old Fortified Manor House that would really make it easy to make a fun thematic board suitable to use these new rules on! The 3 missions use a combination of units out of the box, so combined with the core rules included this also makes this box a really nice way to introduce a player to Age of Sigmar and how the game works.
Also included are full rules for the units in the box – so let’s take a look at them next!
First up we have the Scriptor Mortis the new Hero choice for the Nighthaunt. He has a really cool mechanic that could prove to be absolutely lethal – basically, in your hero phase you can choose to write the name of an enemy non-Death hero in his book, then at the start of each following turn you roll a dice at the start of the hero phase and if you roll under the current battleround number then the target takes 2D6 mortal wounds. So for example – in the first Battleround you could choose Teclis to be written in the book. Then at the start of your 2nd Hero phase if you roll a 1 then Teclis takes 2D6 mortal wounds. Then you toll again in the 3rd turn, this time him taking the wounds on a 1 or 2, and so on until you get to the final turn and it activates on a 1-4. As you can see this gets more powerful as the game goes on, and if you are very lucky you could potentially kill multiple heroes by doing this. If you had spare points you could potentially take a pair and have them target multiple characters between them! I think in practice this will probably only activate in the last couple of turns of the game, but there’s still a chance of killing a couple of heroes over the course of the game!
Next up we have the Craventhrone Guard and I have to admit I’m a tad disappointed at the weapons compared to some of the crazy shooting we see from other armies in the game! Maybe this is a sign that those weapons will be toned down in future? What we get is a 2 shot 12″ range crossbow that hits and wounds on 4s has -1 rend and 1 damage. While not amazing it does have a couple of interesting mechanics like being able to shoot without line of sight, meaning that with clever movement you could potentially use them to shoot at someone from behind a large piece of line of sight blocking terrain. They also ignore the benefit of cover making them pretty good for flushing out units from within terrain. While the range is only 12″ they do have movement 8 giving them a little bit more of a threat range. I suspect we might see some things in the new Battletome that works in conjunction with these to make them a little scarier!
The Spirit Torment has had a bit of a revision, now faster at movement 8 and a flat 2 damage on his weapon (I wonder if this is things we might see on multiple Nighthaunt units in the new book) His captured Soul energy ability is now a lot better – if any Nighthaunt unit kills a model in melee then the Spirit Torment can heal a summonable unit within 12″ 3 wounds or return 3 wounds worth of models!
Sadly the reroll hits aura has gone now however
Like their spooky brother, the Chainghasts also get increased movement and their weapons have had some tweaks now changing to D3 attacks and rend -2 on the melee flails
The big change is now that they give all Nighthaunt within 12″+1 to hit as long as the Spirit Torment is alive – they no longer have to be near him to active their ability!
Bladegheist Revenants are much the same, however sadly have lost their reroll hits ability!
Myrmourn Banshees are the big winner and have suddenly become one of the best anti-magic units in the game! They can now affect every spell that has not been unbound and affects a unit (Friend or foe!) wholly within 12″ – All the need to do is roll 2D6 (+1 if they have 3 or more models) and if they beat the casting value then the spell is unbound! There is no restriction to how many times they can do this a turn, and it’s worth pointing out they do this based on the casting value of the spell, not the casting roll made – so it doesn’t matter if that spell with a casting value of 6 went off on an 11, they still only need a 7 to stop it!
I can see 2 units of these being very useful for Nighthaunt players, one near your main battleline to stop incoming damaging spells and another unit harassing your enemies key units to stop them getting their important buffing spells
Daughters of Khaine
The new High Gladiatrix is a great way of buffing nearby units of Witch Aelves and Sisters of Slaughter as she makes their weapons have a wound characteristic of 3+ (This is a change to the profile, not a +1 to the dice roll, so this can be stacked further too!) and makes them rend -1 which makes bit units of both flavours of sister very very scary again!
Her other ability is also very good – at the end of the combat phase she can pick a hero within 1″ and roll a D3 – if this added to the number of wounds allocated to that hero beats their wounds characteristic then they are slain! A really nice way of finishing off a hero that just manages to survive combat!
Khinerai Heartrenders get a couple of changes, firstly their melee range has dropped to 1″ and their shield has now been folded into their base save (but the reflecting mortal wounds on 6s is now gone!) however they now can always move 6″ after they shoot and retain their ability to run and shoot – making these able to cover very long distances, make a potshot then slink off towards an objective!
Finally Doomfire Warlocks and Sisters of Slaughter retain their current profiles.
So what do I think of Arena of Shades and is it worth the entry price? Personally I think this is a great box – I have both Daughters of Khaine and Nighthaunt armies and this box has been a brilliant way of both bolstering the units I had for them both while also adding some brand new options for both armies!
The new models in particular are outstanding and are worthy of your time painting them up regardless of what rules they have, and I suspect when available separately these would cost similar to a large chunk of this box. The deal is sweetened further by ton of other plastic kits that are all useful for their respective armies!
There’s some interesting rules changes here too, and I’m very excited to learn what is in store for both of the Battletomes when they are finally released!
All in all, this is a great battlebox and I suspect we will see a lot of people picking up these forces in the near future!
Arena of Shades is up for pre order today and is released Saturday 9th April
Games Workshop provided Sprues & Brews a free copy for review purposes.