Haven't played AoS, have read the 2nd edition book and a handful of other things so that is my only real point of comparison, as well as stuff I have randomly run into online.
Anyway, far from an expert appraisal.
The cover is fun, but not exceptional.
Games Workshop - credit your artists.
Printed end papers have a moody B&W version of an interior piece.
The title page before the contents has one of the best art pieces in the book and whoever did this is fucking amazing. I think they also did the marginalia inside, which is also great.
|I'm keeping this small so I don't get sued, but its very good.|
So this is an army with a bunch of not-that related factions and races in it;
"Well might their enemies wonder what could unite such anarchic beings into an army capable of conquest and slaughter on a grand scale. For the answer, one need only look to the darkest corner of the heavens."
That darkest corner being the Games Workshop Project Development Meeting Room;
A - "We need to re-do Night Goblins for AoS."
B - "Yeah! Fanatics! Mushrooms! Hoods!"
A - "Oh and we need to re-do those spider riding goblins at the same time."
B - "Ehhhh, they don't sell enough to be worth it."
A - "Yeah but I still kinda like them though, even though the models are old. Plus we need to keep selling the Arachnorok."
B - "Shall we just lump them in together?"
It's not really quite that bad. They are following a MOON. And most of you will know I am a terminal lunaphile. Most of the models do end up with aesthetic and perceptual unity but the Spiderfang Grots are a little bit of a red-headed stepchild in this book. They tend to creep in at the end when everything else has been considered.
Ok onto the interior.
- Necroquake is still a terrible word.
Here are some words and phrases I did actually like;
- "Danksome destruction"
- "Heralds of the Everdank"
- "To the Gloomspite hordes, the realms will only be returned to their proper state when the Bad Moon waxes fat on high, and all the lands lie draped in pale shadow beneath it...."
- "Grots seized by the Gloomspite feel their minds spinning with mean-spirited schemes and ambitions of 'teachin' da surface gitz a lesson'. Shadows crawl and churn around them like teeming insects, and strange fungi sprout spontaneously before spewing hallucinogenic spores." - This is almost literally my D&D players, and player characters. And me.
- "Loonstone, madrock, loonystone and badstone."
- "Of course such charms nearly always backfire; the bearer is forever thinking devious thoughts of their own, leading to their loonstone pendants glowing constantly and driving them into the depths of frantic paranoia." - Also my D&D players. And me.
- "The Evercrawl"
- "Trog Holes"
- "Skrappa Spill"
- "Glowey Morkeyes"
- "Gangle-legged git grabbers"
- "Boingob - Godbeast father of Squigs"
- A sub-heading on 'Bottlethieves' about the mass theft of alembics.
- "Unstoppable Idiocy"
- "Loonwar" (about two moons fighting in the sky)
- "Driven to sate their hedonistic desires, the Slannesh worshippers fall upon the mushrooms and are plunged into a state of psychedelic bliss. Yet as the Bad moon rises over the vale, their euphoria turns to nightmares."
- "The Badsnatchers"
- "The Coast of Dullards"
- "The Infamous Overbounder"
- "Sneaky Snufflers"
I like both the prose and conceptualising in this a lot more than in most of the other AoS stuff I have read. There could be a few reasons for that.
Gobbos are allowed to be a little bit silly and throughout the book there is just the slightest edge of it almost making fun of the more serious aspects of the setting. The "Everdank" being one. This works because it fits the mindset of the Grots, it probably wouldn't work the same way for a more 'serious' race.
The Edge of Ridiculousness, or just growing familiarity and ability with the form they have chosen, allows the UNCREDITED writer(s?) to combine standard, rather starchy (and to me, rather meat and potatoes; 'Necroquake', 'FyreSlayers') Age of Trademark language in a way that opens up some of the more interesting phonetic possibilities producing this sense of rather fecund liveliness and mania which feels more like Lewis Carrol rather than the home of the Stormcast Eternals.
It might just be that they got better at it, or put better people on this one. Or maybe all the AoS battletomes are this good, I haven't read them.
There are two great kinds of art in this, the marginalia and the miniature photography.
Hopefully I won't get sued, I will try to keep images small to give you the general idea;
The main marginalia is this lovely dual pair of fungal pillars with smiling and frowning Bad Moon faces.
It shifts to more sparse margins for the highly referenced pages, but all the little details and elements are still lovely and very well done.
There are also many lively little fragments and drop-ins of art and text which work well, more on those below.
The mini photography alone is a multi-stage art;
> Conceptualising and designing and producing minis.
> Painting the minis by the worlds best mini painters.
> Arranging them in dioramas.
> Photographing this in a professional cinematic style.
So thousands upon thousands of hours of different kinds of talent have gone into each of these battle or display photos. You could write a book about each of these just individually and here they are being carried off together to a level as high as its ever been.
(None of these are credited.)
The 'art' art, the stuff you would consider the 'primary' art, like the two page spreads and the portraits of things represented by the minis in the imagined world, are consistently ok. This is definitely something a skilled person worked on and completed on schedule.
Pages 6 - 7 Squigs fight Stormcast.
Look, any time Squigs fight anything its mildly funny. It can't not be funny. They make any image better. Just the idea of a lightning powered superhero chaos basher being bitten in half by a fucking tooth fungus meatball thing is fucking great.
Again, squigs make everything good;
The fundamental skeleton is the same basic competence as usual (generally better than RPG design or more utility at least, but perhaps also facing less complex challenges)
GW haven't taken any giant leaps conceptually but they do deserve recognition for bringing those elements to the best possible quality and using them in the best possible way given the pre-existing format
Marginalia - magnificent and employed with correct intensity relative to page contents.
Drop-in fragments - colourful, fun and appropriate in a meta-context - the Gitz culture is meant to have a bricolage of life and lively fungification and wiggly things crawling up everywhere, its meant to feel a little dirty.
|These are also charming pieces of world-building.|
Digital cruft - this is kept under control, and, as with the fungal drop-ins, appropriate to the context of the piece. It's meant to feel a little dirty.
|A little example of the page-dirt. Unlike 90 % of books where this is used, here it feels alrgiht.|
It's also dialled back on the reference pages so they keep that Tufte-ian clarity.
B&W fade-ins - not sure what to think about these, they are... not terrible? They do not make me want to kill or murder anyone and they seem a reasonable solution to the problem of referability in the rules and stat based pages.
The balance of 'noise' relating to the referability of pages is good and well thought through, the less often you will need to read something in play, the more page noise there is, the more often you need to read it, the noise is brought down to a minimum and just provides visual texture, but is still well employed when it exists.
Really beautiful and look exactly like something from a dark childhood story. (Said that above, still true.)
The modern aesthetic is very slightly overpowered for my 90's tastes, with always a little too much detail. It's animated, ridiculous, fun. If you measure only by *skill*, new mangler squigs and squig herds (I was imagining a squig-only army, now possible for the fist time) are probably better. They have gained something but also lost something.
Too much in-form animation? They are more like frozen images now. The island of time each figure occupies is narrower. Compare the feel of main troops to new models. Old models seem 'boring' in some ways but *still*, *repeatable*, not busy or visually morphologically frantic. There to receive meaning, not impose it. They feel more general, less specific.
If re-done today, they would be full of individual energy and specific locked stances and lots of fun bits, but also busy, striking, frantic, anxious. A Hollywood producer feel, or social medial feel or marvel-movie whedoning feel. We cannot leave the audience to have their own emotions/responses - that is not what they are paying for. They have to be prodded - "see, it's a *GOBLIN*".
I'm being a little harsh on the models and that's probably because I am an old man with old tastes. They are works of art and very beautiful. I actually bought minis based on this book, which rarely happens.
A Note on Diorama photography
Diorama photography is the primary artistic vector of the book and communication of the model as action portrait is the main way they are perceived.
NOT as playing pieces, tessellated forms or 'toys' meant to be grasped. Even the smallest models form and generate their own highly particular world around them.
A Note on Morphic Tessellation
Models used to be played with in ranks. Some were designed with repeating and interlocking patterns that show up in a particular way in a block of troops. In particular what come to mind is the Witch Elves with their flow of hair and dynamic dancing bodies, and the Chaos warriors and the repeated 'negative' spaces on their shields in ranks (these especially look like they still want to be in ranks).
This is not as prevalent in grots but the main line troops still use the old sculpts. It would show up harder with the spear-carrying grots as they looked cool in block but as more jumbled individuals would look odd. But they are on the cellar-relative list, still on the army list but made to stay out of the group photos, or kept at the back with spider-riders, loonboss in a squig and fellwater troggoths. Maybe because GW thinks the models don't quite work, or maybe to emphasise the New Hotness?
There is a kind of war of silence or hunger for stillness between millennial models and gen x models. When you see them together, they are living in very-slightly different aesthetics of time and sensation.
In modern GW, characters have stillness allowed to them, they are allowed to be perceived as if moving slowly or not at all, but the commoner models aren't allowed that as much I think. The masses must be seen to move.
Not an expert. Never played it. Seems exactly as complex as before, just in a different way.
I have the nagging feeling, common with modern GW rulsets that I am missing something in an unbought book, or generals handbook somewhere, that everyone else knows about.
It looks like a proper bitch to put together what I would consider a 'normal' game. In the old days, if it was in the book you could run it. Now there are grand alliances, keyword cultures, allies, battalions which you pay points for. I only read through the rules a long time ago - but it seems that the complexity has been displaced onto a series of command or bonus bubbles.
From this it feels like the game would be mostly about finding ways to intelligently stack relatively minor but compiling bonuses of just different enough quality that you can use them together but similar enough that they can work together to a particular goal.
The stats themselves are relatively simple but the escalating conditional special rules seem like they would be mind-wrecking and seems like the divide between medium and good players would be mastery of this capacious, point-based and ever-evolving meta-currency and para-economy of mild rules alterations.
I don't like the idea of this.
I haven't played it though so I don't really know.
CREDIT YOUR FUCKING CREATORS
- Rules Writers
- Model Designers
- Model Painters
- Diorama People
- Scenery Builders
- Whoever else
I realise this is a group effort, but so are films and computer games and they fucking manage it.
Cut lose your artists for the big scenes and mini-character shots. I mean, cut them loose as in allow them more freedom, not fire them.
You really don't need a 'house style' for this as the minis, rules, layouts, margins and everything else provides it. Maybe change the management structure around the from "Ok, who's getting the Gargant picture" to "Ok, who has any freaky image ideas for stuff from the Gloomspite battletome."
Also a laxening of the 'house style' means you could include images from your substantial library, may of which are very good.
Since these pictures are not the primary way people relate to the minis, you can relax the informational stranglehold and do stranger stuff and hopefully get better art.
Otherwise, well done.
This isn't High Art like Realms of Chaos, but its a respectable and worthwhile piece of industrial art. No-one involved with this should feel ashamed of themselves and if that sounds like mild praise then remember how much I fucking hate corporations and look at my shit personality matrix, I hate everything.
And Credit Your Creators.
MINOR PARACOSM WORRIES
There have top be some awkward discussions between Chaos dudes who are smashing stuff for Deep Spiritual Reasons and Green dudes who are smashing stuff to smash stuff.
Chaos is Evilll, and also Random.
The Bad Moon is Random, but also evil.
I'm imagining complex exchanges between Sigmars buff sorcerers in the magic gymnasium;
"The Bad Moon! It's actions are completely chaotic!"
"Wait, do you mean spiritually entropic and dedecated to the reality-eating demon gods?"
"Well, no... More just roulette table chaotic, plus fungus."
"Like Nurgles fungus of plaaaague?"
"Not quite like that no."
"Like Arielles overflowing fungus of liiiife?"
"More like a Jim Henson vibe.. but still Evil, or at least Very Bad."
Behold the Grand Alliances of Good, Evil, Dead and Very Bad.