Review: Thanquol (Warhammer: The End Times)

Thanquol (Warhammer: The End Times)
Publisher: Games Workshop
Page Count: Special (See Below)
Cost: $74.25 (Hardcover)/$39.99 (ebook)
Release Date: 01/17/2015
Get it Here: GamesWorkshop.com

So this is interesting. Unlike the previous three End Times releases, Thanquol did not sell out right away and you can still get the hardcover two weeks after its release date. Compare that to Khaine, which sold out in ten minutes. Of course this time around, Games Workshop was prepared and produced a lot more of these treasured tomes in addition to limiting Thanquol to one book per order, effectively stopping the people who were buying it en masse to sell it with marked up prices on third part reseller sites. Good for Games Workshop. Don’t let the fact that the book is still available belie its popularity though. Within ten minutes of this going life, the traffic to Games Workshop’s store was so intense it crashed the website. I managed to put my order in before the havoc and got the book and also those Skaven Warpstone dice I reviewed on release day. Now that I’ve had two weeks to read the books and compare the reality to the rumours building around this thing for months, it’s time for the review. I can say that Games Workshop has created another amazing product with terrific production values, incredible art and a lot of shock value moments that will leave longtime Warhammer fans with their mouth agape.

Like previous End Times volumes, Thanquol consists of a two book hardcover set with a slipcover casing to house both titles. The slipcase is extremely sturdy and each side showings a piece of everyone’s favorite Skaven riding the new and improved Boneripper. Size-wise, Thanquol is a tad shorter than Khaine but also a bit thicker. Of course, it’s nowhere as thick as Nagash, but I don’t even think the fifth and final End Times volume will be that big. Book 1 of Thanquol is 233 pages long. This book is pure story/fiction. Now, unlike The Rise of the Horned Rat novel which covers only two of the battles from Thanquol, this book covers a lot more content and happenings. At the same time, the coverage is also less in-depth on the two battles you’ll find in the tie-in novel. There you have nearly four hundred pages devoted to Skaven vs. Dwarves. Here you have 233 pages devoted to dozens of conflicts. So it’s give and take. The Rise of the Horned Rat is a LOT cheaper than Thanquol, so if all you care about is the fall of the Dwarves, you should just pick up the novel. Book II is only sixty-four pages long, but it is here you’ll find new mechanics, stat blocks and playable adventurers for the game. Book II also only features pictures of miniatures painted by highly skilled artists where Book I is all hand drawn art.

So let’s talk Book I first. Like with previous books, The End Times is really shaking up Warhammer Fantasy. A lot of name characters that have been around forever have died and strange alliances have formed. Nagash and his Undead Legions for example, have been allying with the Empire and Bretonnia to stem the tide of Chaos’ forces. In Thanquol the unusual alliances stem around the fact Skaven are actually working together for once (more or less) instead of the constant infighting and backstabbing they are known for. In fact, by the end of the book Thanquol himself has brokered a major alliance with Chaos and the Everchosen so that the four chaos gods and their weird cousin, the Horned Rat are all on the same page – for now. I can totally see the Skaven betraying Archaon at a pivotal moment, leading the forces of order to victory, but who knows? Maybe this really will be Chaos’ victory and the world is destroyed leading us to the rumoured Pokehammer that 9th Edition is supposed to be. God I hope not, because Chaos is perhaps the least interesting army to me in Warhammer Fantasy after the empire. There’s a reason the fans revolted around the first time GW planned to make Archaon and Chaos lay the smakethdown on the world in Storm of Chaos. This time however, it seems like they have learned their lesson but we’ll have to wait for the fifth and final volume of The End Times to see if Games Workshop has learned…or made a second massive screw up for Warhammer Fantasy. Obviously I’m optimistic right now because of how good the narrative has been in The End Times even if the three armies I play (Bretonnia, Tomb Kings and old metal Lizardmen) are totally screwed by this campaign. Eh, at best, 9e will invigorate the armies or leave them combined with other decimated factions to give the game a face lift. At worst, I just stop playing and will finally get all my armies 100% painted. It is what it is.

Storywise, Thanquol is essentially the rise of the Skaven and the complete decimation (one might even say genocide) of the Dwarves and Lizardmen. Now some of you reading this may be skeptical that the Skaven could pull off this type of onslaught in the fluff or in the actual game, and you’re right. The Skaven hold their own, but they don’t really win. Rather the Dwarves beat themselves through arrogance, stubbornness and pride. The Lizardmen take losses but pretty much beat down the Skaven. In fact they only lose because the Slaan sacrifice themselves to save the world from the exploding Chaos Moon which…was the Skaven’s fault. Huge chunks of Lizardmen and their Lustrian jungle are saved Pokeball style and set into the air, free from meteor based doom. So as a Lizardmen fan it sucks that my entire army list is completely devastated by the fluff in Thanquol, but I appreciated the dinosaur army essentially getting wiped out in a fantasy version of our Earth’s “Extinction Event.” Also, you know some Slaan are still out there and I am amused by the rumours that the Lizardmen will be moving to 40K. That might actually give me an army to care about in that game other than the returning Harlequins. Now that’s not to discount what the Skaven accomplish in this book. They do a great deal of damage and this is the most successful and dominate the Skaven have ever been. I’m just highlighting the fact that their opponents were just as much a source of their own near-extinction as the Skaven. There’s also a bit of Deus Ex Machina (Rat Ex Machina) in the book too, in the form of Deathmaster Skitch killing Thorgrim in a way that is both somewhat unbelievable (even for a fantasy story) and impossible in the game, so some people may raise their ire over it. I’m fine with the deaths, even those of my beloved Slaan because it is a good story. Now it all just depends how my armies will be affected going into 9e because I am NOT investing in a fourth army. Ever.

Besides the fall of the Dwarves and Lizardmen at the hands of the Skaven, you also get to see the formation of the Skaven/Chaos alliance and how that combined army tore apart the Empire. You also get to see a battle between Valten and Archaon end in a Vince Russo style run-in from a Verminlord, letting Chaos triumph at a pivotal moment and also make Valten’s death comicall bad – especially after all the build up the character received…AGAIN. You have a cameo from Nagash and some other major players, but the book is essentially “Skaven vs. Dwarves, Skaven Vs. Dwarves Vs. Goblins in a three way dance and Skaven Vs. Lizardmen.” So if you don’t care about Skaven at all, this probably isn’t going to be a worthwhile purchase for you unless you are an End Times completionist. I know that I loved reading the story even though I don’t play Skaven. The writing, narrative flow and characters all made this a worthwhile purchase and I really enjoyed the fiction, even as I have said, my favorite army was curb stomped worse than my second favorite army had been in Glottkin. So you might not like how events turn out in this book, but the journey is well worth the price tag and hours you spend reading the story. Because it IS Skaven focused, Thanquol also has some very funny moments – a harken back to when Warhammer had a nice bit of comedy and satire attached to it rather than being pure 100% GRIMDARK. See also – Shadowrun first and second edition. It’s a rollercoaster of a ride with famous Skaven, Empire, Beastmen, Lizardmen and Dwarven characters all dying spectacularly, leaving the playing field wide open for the final battle coming later this year.

Book II is far less dramatic, but for those that care about playing Warhammer rather than just reading the fiction, this is the book you’ll want to peruse. The book gives you new rules for playing is Lustrian jungles, which is a bit funny considering what happens to Lustria in Book I. I wish they had come out with these rules a long time ago because they are fantastic. You get a nice idea of why Lustria is all but impossible to assault and the rules make for a lot of fun to play a game with. I’m not just saying that because of my unabashed Lizardmen love BTW. It makes me wish I had some jungle tiles to build a map with. The book also gives you rules for constructing your own Lords of Battle Campaigns, whicha re essentially linked narrative battles that play off each other. The rules are easy to follow and remind me a lot of the very cool narrative battle boxed sets Games Workshop used to put out for Warhammer Fantasy back in the days of Fifth Edition. This is perhaps the highlight of Book II because you’ll definitely get a lot of use out of these ideas if you play Warhammer Fantasy regularly. The different stratagems and ways things can unfold might make writing a Lords of Battle campaign as much fun as playing through a battle itself.

The second chapter is where you’ll find stats for all the new models like the Verminlords, Stormfiends and Thanquol. Of course, you could have gotten these stats from recent issues of White Dwarf too. The only non-Skaven and Book II exclusive is Ungrim the Slayer-King in his new Avatar of Fire form. Of course, he only gets a new statline and not a new miniature, which I feel he sorely needs. The chapter includes the introduction of Battlescrolls, which are essentially the Fantasy version of 40K’s Dataslates. A Battlescroll basically gives a specific formation some special minor bonuses when you take them as part of your army. There are five Battlescrolls included: two for Skaven, one for Dwarves, one for the Empire, and one for Lizardmen. None of the bonuses are gamebreaking but they are fun. First Clawpack of Clan mors probably has the best bonuses of the bunch but the Dwarf battlescroll is quite nice defensively. The Lizardmen one is a bit sucky. +1 WS to all Skinks in the formation and an extra die of damage for the two Bastiladons. Meh. Disappointing as the fate of the Lizardmen in Book I.

The final chapter of Book II is “Narrative Scenarios” and it contains six different battles for you to play out with your own armies to see what happens. Obviously, all six require Skaven to play so if you don’t have an army of ratlings and the specific models these battles call for, you really can’t play them. If you do have a large Skaven collection, gather your Warhammer friends together as these battles sound awesome. The first battle is Skaven Vs. Lizardmen with an attempt to save/kill as many Slaan as possible. The next two battles are Dwarves vs. Skaven. The first is a regular battle with a lot of special rules to represent fighting in a dark rickety cave. The second is essentially Warhammer tower defense, but with figures instead of a video game. The fourth battle pits the Empire against Skaven in a pretty wide open battlefield (representing a marketplace). The fifth gives us Lizardmen and Skaven duking it out once again, this time in a jungle ambush type deal. The sixth and final battle returns to Skaven Vs. Dwarves playing out the last battle of both Queek Headtaker and Thorgrim Grudgebeard. Some fun stuff, but again, you’ll have to know a lot of different Fantasy players to use this section.

Overall, Thanquol is another excellent entry into The End Times of Warhammer Fantasy. The fiction is fabulous and the mechanics in this entry are a lot of fun. Thanquol is definitely worth the asking price of either the physical or digital version and is a huge game changer for multiple Warhammer armies. With only one entry in The End Times left, I’m excited to see how things play out and who comes out on top. Of course the end result will no doubt delight as many people as it pisses off and so I’m even more interested to see the fallout and what this means for the eventual release of Warhammer, Ninth Edition in the second half of this year.

Tags: ,