Tabletop Review: Altar of War: Cryostorm (Warhammer 40,000/40K)

Altar of War: Cryostorm (Warhammer 40,000/40K)
Publisher: Games Workshop
Cost: $4.99
Page Count: 20
Release Date: 12/18/2016
Get it Here:The Black Library

There hasn’t been a lot this year on the Black Library Advent Calendar that I’ve wanted to buy. I was hoping for some Warhammer: The End Times stuff, but it’s all been 40K fiction and stats. I tend to find the 40K fiction to be poorly written so I haven’t picked that up and on the mechanics side the only things I’ve purchased have been the Dark Angels and Crimson Slaughter dataslates. I also picked up the base painting guide, but the dataslates were terrible for the price point and the base guide was helpful but again, short on content for the price tag. I did go back to the well for the fourth time today with the Altar of War: Cryostorm because I do want to build an ice world based board for my 40K armies. The $4.99 price tag seemed really high and the Advent Calendar has been one for three for me. I took a chance anyway hoping that the Calendar would be batting .500 with this purchase. Was it?

Altar of War: Cryostorm is twenty pages long – seventeen of which are pure content. The other three are ads and legal mumbo jumbo, so already, the book is off to a great start, especially compared to the data slates which had only a SINGLE PAGE of content. The ebook is divided into two sections – the first is an explanation of a Cryostorm and the second is a mission to play with your 40K armies. What’s here is extremely detailed and well worth the purchase.

The rules for Altar of War: Cryostorm replace those found in the core Warhamer 40,000 rulebook for “Mission Objectives.” This is because a Crystorm world is so vastly difference the core mission objectives simply don’t apply or can’t be used. So you need to choose one way or the other. You can’t mix and match the two. Well you CAN if you’re house ruling, but the rulessheet here specifically warns you not to do such a thing. To use the Cryostorm objectives, you’re going to need six objects – which is similar to most games where you are using mission objectives. Each of these get placed on the battlefield and are obtained/controlled through the usual rules found in your 40K rulebook. Tactical Objectives are similar in that you can either use the ones found in this ebook or the ones in the core rulebook, but you can’t mix and match. Another aspect of Tactical Objectives that changes with a Cryostorm battle is that you can not choose Tactical Objectives specific to a single faction. You can ONLY use the Cryostorm Objectives. You can however mix and match missions that require Mission Objectives and/or Tactical Objectives with the Cryostorm rules – it’s just you have to always replace both of those sections with the Cryostorm objectives.

At the beginning of each turn that you play in a Cryostorm battle, you will have to generate new Cryostorm Objectives. If you’re playing a specific mission designed for Cyrostorm rules, it will tell you how many you need to generate each turn. If it’s a mission you are adapting or creating for Crystorm rules, you and your opponent must mutually agree how many objectives must be created each turn. After you decide on the number, both players roll a d66 for their objectives. These roles and goals are made public so each player knows what the other is after. If you are unaware of what a d66 roll is, it involves taking two d6s, rolling them and putting the numbers together. So if you roll a 4 and 1, the result is 41, not 5. Hope that helps. Once you have your objectives rolled you play your turn. If you achieve any of them on the turn they are valid – you get Victory Points! The VPs obtained are instantaneous and you must take them. If your Objectives overlap in some way, you get points for all you achieve rather than just picking one of the successful goals. This is all pretty standard to 40K vets, but I want to reiterate that for less experienced players who might be reading this review.

As for the Cryostorm objectives themselves, they are all pretty awesome. Again there are thirty six total and each one has a real impact on the game. Some Objectives even let you discard a piece after obtaining it for a random roll on the enclosed Munitions Drop table. My personal favorites on this table are 4 and 5. Rolling a 4 nets your entire unit a +1 to their Ballistics Skill and 5 gives an entire unit a 4+ invulnerable save for the ENTIRE GAME. Not bad. Is it worth the discarding of the Objective Marker? It depends on and your ability to achieve them. If your entire Tyranid army is based around Genestealers, you’re probably not going to want an objective that is only obtainable through shooting things. Still, it’s a free bonus, right?

So there are thirty-six objectives as I have mentioned, but in fact, several of them are repeats. “Obtain Objective Marker 1: Munition Supplies” is both 11 and 21. This repeats for all six “Obtain Objective Marker X” pieces. Objectives 31-36 are the same but with Scour instead of Munitions Supplies. Here you get Victory Points for ensuring no one from the opposing army is within 3″ of the objective marker. 41-46 are “Seize Ground” goals. These range from ensuring you have a scoring unit with 12″ of two opposite table edges (Establish a Perimeter) to getting d3+3 Victory Points if you control every Objective Marker on the board (Absolute Control). 51-56 are “Purge” goals. Here you score a VP is an enemy unit was completely destroyed. The catch is HOW they were destroyed. With 51 (Overwhelming Firepower), they have to be destroyed in the shooting phase. With Blood and Guts (52), they have to be destroyed in the Assault phase. So on and so forth. There are even purge options for destroying transports or buildings but the big one is Secure the Area (54) which gets you d3+3 VP if there are no enemy unites with in 3″ of any Objective Marker. Nice! 61-62 are “Annihilation” goals which net you VP for killing a Warlord or an Independent Character. 63-66 are more Munition Supplies goals but they involve controlling multiple Objective Markers to get multiple rolls on the munitions table.

Finally we come to the mission itself. “Altar of War: The Coming Storm” is three pages of rules and mechanics for running a Cryostorm world. The primary objective is to obtain Cryostorm Objectives (you roll three per turn). The secondary goals are Slay the Warlord, First Blood and Linebreaker. Then you have the special rules. There are standard special rules like the Cryostorm Objectives we just discussed, along with the usual Mysterious Objects and Reserve rules found in the core 40K rulebook. What really sets things apart though are the new rules for the Cryostorm itself.

Disorienting Terrain means that all units placed in Reserve gain the Outflank special rule. You do have to roll on a Cyrostorm table to see where they enter the board from though. This represents the almost zero visibility caused by the wind and snow. Stormfront Approaching means that at the end of each game turn after the first you have to roll a d6. Add the game turn number to the result. If you get a 7 or higher, the stormfront has hit the battlefield. Once this happens all models gain either the Stealth or Shrouded special rule based on if they are the target of a shooting attack from more than 24″ away. With the stormfront in effect no one can shoot from 36″ or more away from their target. Finally, all non vehicle units must treat any open ground as Dangerous Terrain. Ouch.

So there you go, that is essentially the seven pages of content in Altar of War: Cryostorm in a nutshell. It’s a really interesting way to do a battle and it was worth picking up, but I have to admit the $4.99 price tag is a bit steep. Of course, most digital releases from games Workshop are overpriced, but at least this is one of the better Advent Calendar pieces this year. If you’re a 40K fan looking for a new way of playing a battle, this might be worth purchasing. It’s not a must have by any means though. Fun but forgettable. If I do make a ice world based board though, I know this will see a lot of use with my armies.

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