Tabletop Review: Warhammer: The End Times V: Archaon

Warhammer: The End Times V: Archaon
Publisher: Games Workshop
Cost: $85 (Hardcover/$75 (Softcover)/$50.99 (Digital)
Page Count: Special (See Below)
Release Date: 03/14/2015
Get it Here: Gamesworkshop.com

…and so Warhammer, Eighth Edition comes to a close. Although the planet went kablooey and pretty much every faction went extinct, there is still hope that some races and named characters will make it onto Ninth Edition, which is released later this year. I discussed the final leg of The End Times story in my review of The Lord of the End Times by Josh Reynolds, which is essentially a novelization of the first book in this collection. The Lord of the End Times is only $15.99 for a digital copy or $30 for a hardcover, so it’s a lot cheaper than Archaon. if you’re just looking to read the events of the final days in this version of Warhammer, you’re probably best off going that route. If you just want to know who might have survived onto 9e, go read my review as it’s spoiler-ridden. Otherwise, continue on and we will talk about the contents and quality of Archaon.

Like all of the “premium” End Times collections, the hardcover set is comprised of two different books and an extremely sturdy slipcover. The hardcover versions are definitely the way to go, as they are certainly the best looking option and are only ten dollars more than the softcover. The hardcover sets for The End Times are easily the best looking releases this side of the industry has seen in a long time, if not forever. The production values are through the roof, with the best paper, binding and covers I’ve seen from any RPG/Wargame company in the past decade (or more). Of course, the hardcover version is extremely limited, but there are copies of Archaon in this format left, so it’s better to buy them now than deal with the third party market down the road.

The hardcover case for Archaon covers both books easily and is extremely durable. The materials are excellent and it is gorgeous to look at, to boot. The front has a picture of The Everchosen while the back has a version of the same character shrouded in mist. Writing on the spine and front cover is done with a glossy laminate and the entire thing just screams classy. Games Workshop has really hit it out of the park with these slipcovers and I can’t recommend them highly enough. Sure, $85 for two books and a slipcase sounds expensive, but honestly, for the size of the books and the materials they contain, it’s actually not a bad deal.

Book I of Archaon is all the fiction and fluff for Warhammer: The End Times and how it well, ends. Again, you do have a much cheaper alternative in The Lord of the End Times, but I happily picked up both. This is because both books tell the same story, but each has details the other leaves out. Archaon for example has a lot more build up to the council of the Incarnates and far more battles. The Lord of the End Times focuses more on five specific moments from Archaon and goes into extreme detail and characterization instead of doing a faster, less informative analysis of events. The Lord of the End Times also has the epilogue to the final events where you can see some characters still standing and a hint as to who is responsible for the rebuild world/Ninth Edition. Guess what – it’s not Sigmar. Meanwhile, Archaon is jam packed with some fantastic art where The Lord of the End Times has cover art and…a picture of Teclis. Both options are terrific choices though and reading them together gives you an ever better look at some subtle foreshadowing as to Ninth Edition – as well as giving you a terrific story. Sure many of us are bummed that Warhammer as we know it is over, with many of our favorite characters/races/factions dead, but remember, you don’t have to move on to 9e if you don’t like it. At least give it a try though. Then, if you think the new rules and factions suck, just stick to a previous edition. Hell, I still play 5e.

It’s also worth noting that at 258 pages, Archaon: Book I is the second largest of The End Times fiction books. Only Nagash is thicker and Archaon is nearly twice as thick as Khaine‘s fiction half. That’s crazy. So you’re definitely getting your money’s worth with Archaon is page count is important to you. Finally, remember if you want a story overview, to check out my The Lord of the End Times review, as I’ve already covered the plot of Archaon there and don’t want to repeat myself and/or bore those who have already read that.

Archaon: Book II is where you’ll find all the rules and mechanics for actually playing The End Times in Warhammer Fantasy, along with images of painted miniatures, be they a close up of a single figure or a wide view of gigantic armies. This book is eighty pages long, making it the longest of the Book II‘s from the five End Times collections and everything in this book is pretty awesome. Perhaps the most interesting/important is that army restrictions are completely removed. So you don’t have to have your 25% of your army being comprised of three or more core units. You can go completely crazy and build whatever you want as long as it uses all the points allotted you’re your match. So if you want an army of nothing but Dark Elf Hydras and Lizardman jungle swarms, you can do that. If you want an army of nothing but name characters, you can have that. If you want to mix and match undead, Empire, Bretonnia, Dwarves, Elves and Orcs into one giant cluster of an army – YOU CAN! This is pretty neat and it will be a lot of fun to see what people build because of this. Of course, the book does say to stick to a single army book unless it is a scenario, but some of the sample armies in Archaon Book II combine three or more armies so take that with a grain of salt.

There are twelve scenarios in Archaon: Book II that you can play out with your friends, seven of which can be linked together to form a “Lord of Battle Campaign.” For those unfamiliar with the phrasing, think those boxed sets GW did in Fifth Edition, where you would have several linked battles and the results of the previous one influenced the next. Of course, to do any of these scenarios, you will need to own multiple armies, have a lot of friends who play Warhammer Fantasy so that you can combine and make the super armies, or you just have a lot of disposable income to build for one or more of these scenarios specifically. I mean, I have three armies (Bretonnians, Tomb Kings and Lizardmen) and I can’t actually play any of these. It will take a lot of coordination, trust and money to make any of these scenarios playable, so hopefully you have a closely knit Warhammer Fantasy gaming group at your local store.

Besides the battles, we have nine new battlescrolls (Specific army builds that get you bonuses), a new “Grand Legion of the Everchosen” army which combined demons, beastmen, Chaos Warriors and Skaven into a single giant army. There are also unit stats for the three new Bloodthirsters, Skarr Bloodwrath (worst name and design for a GW figure in a very long time), the skullreapers and wrathmongers. There are also new stat builds for longtime miniatures who have been around for a while but have gained new powers/allegiances and the like due to the events of The End Times. Here you’ll find a Nurgle based version of Isabella (Poor Vlad…), Incarnate versions of Tyrion, Grimgor, Balthasar Gelt and Caradryan, along with a crazy roided up version of Archaon for his Marty Stu status. There’s something for everone here, even if it might not be entirely playable by the majority of Warhammer Fantasy fans.

So Archaon is a fun read and well worth getting if you are a Warhammer Fantasy fan. Of course, most of the battles in Book II aren’t really playable unless you have a lot of local friends that play the game or a lot of disposable income. A lot of people might be upset about how things end, especially since it’s GW shoving Chaos down everyone’s throat…again. You would think they would have learned after how badly Storm of Chaos went over and how fans actively revolted against the idea of Chaos winning (or even being able to). Alas, all Games Workshop learned from that is to not let fans have their say (or just ignore what the customers want) and make the story unfold the way they want it to. There is good and bad from that approach and we have seen that throughout The End Times. Now many people are excited for 9e and many people are honked off at how 8e (and all of Warhammer ended). Only time will tell if GW made the right move and if 9e will be a success. As a fan of Warhammer fiction, I’ve really enjoyed all of The End Times fiction and how things went down. Actually playing it has been a mixed bag due to the sheer money and time involved to make anything related to the books possible. You really do need multiple friends, each with their own army, to make a lot of the scenarios playable. Still, it’s been one hell of a ride and Archaon was a great way to end the storyline and decades of history.

Tags: ,