When the Age of Sigmar arrived in its first edition, fans of the Warhammer Fantasy setting saw their world literally crumble and become reborn with higher quality models, simplified rules, and a play structure that felt much faster than before.
With tweaks and rule adjustments AOS has firmly placed itself into the expansive Games Workshop lineup; therefore Soul Wars, the second edition of the tabletop miniature game had to do a lot in order to improve on this, which is why it gives me great pleasure to state that it does in nearly every aspect.
To begin, the set comes with not only the Core Rules book, dice and measuring units to get you started, but 2 finely detailed armies which showcase the new printing techniques that GW are pushing out in every model. The Nighthaunt units look especially beautiful with their ethereal cloaks and nightmarish design, and while all look like they would snap quicker than a Orruk's temper, are actually resilient and lightweight. I’ve seen some people put extra packaging to transport these in fear of breaking them in transit but I’ve managed to take mine from coast to coast without issue!
The design of the box itself is sleek and really pushes the impression that care and attention have gone into every facet of its creation. After all, GW are aware that this second edition will be met with questions of value for money (the set retails at £95) so needed to knock presentation out of the park. There’s even clever touches that make this appear more accessible to all demographics; the simple push fit models will appeal to younger fans, and the inclusion of a female Stormcast on the front and centre of the rulebook indicates an approach to diversity within the playerbase.
The rulebook itself is clearly laid out and the narrative that’s presented which establish the world transcend a simple title like “fluff” as this feels like the real history of the different realms, all supplemented with fantastic art. If you were to pick this up and read from page 1 up until the core rules section you’d be getting everything you need to not only explain what’s going on but also WHY you should care.
The Nighthaunt themselves are a fantastic addition to the Legions of Death range and bolster it in so many ways that any followers of Nagash will be able to add their spectral legions with sadistic glee. I’ve picked up this army with vigor and now play havoc with my enemies from afar with spells and then chuckle as I reanimate models again and again in close quarters.
While some might groan at the idea of Stormcast Eternals in another boxed set, these models actually make narrative sense AND also provide a great deal of variety for the golden Sigmar lovers, with powerful new spellcasters allowing for tactics other than “let’s bash some heathen heads”
The armies contained within this box are varied and large, with a general, heroes, wizards, war machines and a good dose of grunts of varying skills, meaning that right out of the box you’re going to be able to apply many different tactics on the tabletop. I will say however that the unit sizes are not sometimes the best, for example, you only get 4 Grimghast Reapers when the unit box you can buy separately contains 10 (arguably the minimum you should run with).
It’s these slight inconsistencies that have been done to keep the forces feeling balanced that might seem like an off-putting feature to some, but in actuality what this offers is a pick and mix affair, allowing burgeoning generals to take what works for them and expand on these units, or for many, uses as a core army and simply add new heroes into the mix at a later date. Games Workshop have also included the points value for the models you get in the box as is, so you can still use this in a pitched battle (points allowance) just fine.
Each unit is gifted a warscroll meaning you don’t have to sift through the rule book for stats, which is a massive time saver and keeps the flow of games constant. It also ensures that the core rule-book doesn’t become outdated as was the case with the first edition, where tweaks to units stats weren’t easy to change.
Playing the game feels snappy and the new rules, such as the 3-inch pile in now allowing units to wrap around rather than just move forward, create much more immediate battles, with you moving troops into the thick of things while also trying to not leave them spread too thin. I found that moving from hero phase through to battle shock AKA the whole turn order was made so much more simple thanks to the warscrolls and each battle I partook in felt unique thanks to the varied troops. Basically it’s exactly what you would want from a starting out kit.
So what do you get for your money? A brilliant selection of fantastic models which add variation to armies new or already existing, A core book which has been lovingly crafted to fill you in on all the lore as well as clueing you up on how to play, and a game which has been tweaked in all the right places to run smoothly for veterans and newcomers alike. Therefore in short, you get a lot, and more Warhammer is never a bad thing.