Tabletop Review: Khaine (Warhammer: The End Times)

Khaine (Warhammer: The End Times)
Publisher: Games Workshop
Cost: $66 (Completely sold out. Look on the secondary market)
Page Count: Special (See below)
Release Date: 11/29/2014
Get it Here: Games Workshop (When the softcover re-release is made in 2015)

Games Workshop has had a fantastic year. 40K has gotten some excellent boxed sets like Shield of Baal: Deathstorm and Stormclaw. Space Hulk was re-released in board game form. We’ve gotten some great licensed video games like Space Hulk: Ascension, Warhammer 40,000: Armageddon and Mordheim. However, the big winner has been Warhammer Fantasy now (temporarily?) called Warhammer: The End Times. Although I have been a longtime fan of Warhammer Fantasy as the years have gone own, Games Workshop (and gamers in general) have treated it as sort of a redheaded step child. It’s been ten years since my Bretonnians have gotten a new army book for example. However, The End Times has revitalized the game, in terms of not only mechanics, but storytelling and popularity as well. The first book set for The End Times, Nagash, was a complete game changer (especially for someone like myself who has a Tomb Kings army) and the accompanying novel The Return of Nagash is the best gaming novel I’ve read all year – and I usually dislike Warhammer fiction, be it 40K or Fantasy. The next release Glottkin did very well too. However no one was prepared for the success of Khaine. The book sold out in ten-twenty minutes online. Even I couldn’t get one through my usual GW connections and ended up having getting one of only four copies my local Games Workshop store got in. Thanks so much to Tower Center for being kind enough to ensure I received one, otherwise we wouldn’t be having this review. I already reviewed the accompanying novel The Curse of Khaine and I loved it. Note that if you can’t wait for Games Workshop to do a reprint of today’s subject, the ebook version of The Curse of Khaine is still available, it tells nearly the same story and it’s a LOT cheaper. So if this review makes you at all curious about The End Times or Warhammer in general, that’s a less expensive way to dip into this hobby. Now, let’s talk Khaine.

Khaine is a two book collection focuses on the three elven armies in the Warhammer Fantasy world. For those new to Warhammer, you have the Wood Elves, High Elves and Dark Elves. By the end of Khaine however, the thousands of years of Elven civil war has come to an end and there is one, united race of elves. That doesn’t mean that two sects of elves are obliterated and killed off, but that Elves from all three sects come together under one of two banners with one final great war to decide once and for all the destiny (and ruler) of the Elvish race. The story that unfolds in these books is a great one. I mean, I don’t own or play an Elvish army (I’ve occasionally considered Dark Elves as a fourth though), but I still was glued to every page of the story being told in Khaine. I loved see the rise, fall and redemption of the various characters that showed up here. Make no mistake, a lot of longtime big name main event characters die in Khaine. I’ll try to avoid spoilers even though the book has been out for a week and a half, but suffice to say, this is another huge game changer similar to all the characters killed off in Nagash and Glotkin. This gives Games Workshop a chance to push some new name characters (and possibly models) while letting others finally finish their story. I’ll admit I was sad to see some characters go but at least a few have an out since there was no body found (unlike others who were dissembled and/or beheaded). The end result is that there is one united from of Elves, seeking to stem or even outright stop the stem of Chaos and prevent the end of all things. It’s an exceptional read and well worth getting if you’re a fan of Warhammer lore, especially the large battles.

The two core leaders are Tyrion of the High Elves and Malekith of the Dark Elves. Of course, things aren’t that cut and dry. Khaine is the story of Tyrion’s fall into madness and bloodlust and the redemption of Malekith. Well, as much as he can be redeemed considering his personality and that this is GRIMDARK TERRITORY. Regardless, by the end of Khaine, Tyrion is a tragic villain instead of a hero and Malekith is an anti-hero rather than a cut and dry villain. It’s a fascinating double turn and it’s equally interesting to see which elves side with each leader. Tyrion’s own brother, Teclis the High mage allies with Malekith and Malekith’s own mother Morgathi sides with Tyrion. There are so many new alliances forms, combined with backstabbing, mind control, assassinations and more that every page brings a new surprise or “Holy shit!” moment. It’s a great read and unlike The Curse of Kaine which is completely devoted to Malekith’s perspective through this storyline, Khaine covers all sides of the plot. So you’ll see things from the High Elves perspective, the Wood Elf POV and even how Dark Elves other than Malekith are viewing the situations that unfold. Of course this means there are somethings in Khaine that are not in The Curse of Khaine and vice versa. For example, in Khaine you clearly learn that Marcus Darkblade has a demon in him and how that ends up for him. In The Curse of Khaine, Malekith merely suspects that Marcus has made some kind of demonic pact, but is unsure what and we get a funny scene where Darkblade arrives naked to a meeting. As well, in The Curse of Khaine, Marcus and Drusala just kind of stop appearing and Malekith speculates as to why. In Khaine, you see firsthand what happened to them. Both books offer different perspectives and slightly different events, but overall you will get the same core story from each. I preferred the writing style in The Curse of Khaine but loved getting a bigger picture from Khaine. Khaine also has fantastic art and shots of expertly painted miniatures acting out scenes from the battle.

Remember though, Khaine is not just a simple oversized hardcover Warhammer narrative. It’s a two book collection wrapped in a fantastic hardcover slipcase. The slipcase is exceptionally sturdy and features a wraparound image of a certain Elven fire god in all his glory. This thing is just beautiful. We’ve already talked about the first book, which is 145 pages of pure Warhammer Fantasy fiction done right. However, we can’t forget about the second book in this set either.

Book II of Khaine is similar to the second book in Nagash is that it is all mechanics and missions for the actual GAME of Warhammer. This book clocks in at only 56 pages, but oh man is there a ton of content to be had in here. The book has three chapters, with the first being “New Warhammer Rules.” This will tell you about the Magic of the End Times and new spells that Level 3 Wizards can cast in addition to their normal repertoire. There are twenty two spells in all, one for each school of magic. My personal favorites are Storm of Renewal from The Lore of Life (so much healing!), Return of the Golden Age from The Lore of Nehekhara (Tomb King Melee buff!) and Nikkit! Nikkit! From The Lord of the Little Waaagh! (damage and item theft!). The Lore of the Vampires and the Lore of Nurgle have some excellent summoning spells too. These spells should be a lot of fun although they’ll really only see play in larger armies. There’s also a section on Magican Lodestones and Arcane Fulcrums which can boost your Wizards offensively and defensively.

Chapter Two is “New Armies and Units.” Here you will find the new army lists that come about because of this book. You can see what troops are legal with Tyrion’s Host of the Aestyrion and Malekith’s Host of the Phoenix King. There is also a third super army list for the combined elves forces that exist at the end of the Khaine narrative – the Host of the Eternity King. It’s an amazing mix and all three armies have some pretty impressive special rules that make it hard to not want to field one of these three – even if you don’t already play some sort of Elves. You also get new stats for some long time characters. Malekith gets two different stat blocks, one of which makes him a Level 5 Wizards (Yes, as powerful as Nagash) and costs 1,000 points to field. Tyrion’s new stat block lets him raise undead and costs 700 points. Imrik and Minaithnir the dragon gets some changes to their stats as well. Finally Alarielle the Everqueen gets two stat blocks as well – one of which makes her a Level 5 wizard as well. Crap. It’s all pretty impressive but to field several of these all three Phoenix Host characters (Malekith, Alarielle and Imrik) you’re going to need to have a 4,000 point army and your Lords/Heroes part would just be those three characters. INSANE!

Chapter Three is called “Narrative Scenarios” and it is here you can find seven battles from the first book of Khaine to play out with your own armies. Out of the seven, six require Elves on both sides while one is High Elves with Chaos Demons. So if you want to play these battles, hopefully you and your friendly have a lot of elven miniatures lying around. The battles all seem like a lot of fun and it’s interesting to see how you and your army will fare in place of the one that fought the battle canonically. Of course I have three armies – Lizardmen, Bretonnia and Tomb Kings, so I can’t do squat with any of these. That said, even just reading the scenarios was a lot of fun and I could easily picture the battles playing out in my mind. Oh the temptation for an Elven army now. Dammit.

Overall, Khaine is another homerun for Warhammer: The End Times. it’s a fantastic two book set and it’s easily my second favorite miniatures book of the year (after Nagash). If you want to see why Warhammer is in the midst of a renaissance, then track Khaine down and get inspired to start playing the game again. If you’re new to Warhammer, start with the novels The Return of Nagash and The Curse of Khaine. You can get both for less than either of the oversize tabletop books (combined!) and you’ll still get one hell of an exciting story to read. If you do spring for the sold out hardcover two book set, you will NOT be disappointed because it is fantastic from cover to cover (both of them) even if you don’t play Elves of any faction. Now, here’s hoping Lizardmen or Bretonnia get their time in the sun next (Really, the Slaan don’t have a Level 5 Wizard yet???)…but it’s probably going to be Skaven first, which is another fun choice at least. Warhammer is having its best year since like Fifth Edition nearly twenty years ago so there’s never been a better time to read the books or start a small army of your own. Give it a try today!

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