Hey all, in this bumper week for Age of Sigmar, I now have my Flesh-Eater Courts battletome review. In this review, we will cover the new battletome, the Flesh-Eater Courts allegiance abilities, artefacts, spell lores, summoning and some early potential army builds. As always, the opinions in this battletome are predictive and subject to any changes that come in the two-week FAQ. We’ll come back and revisit the book after its had a couple of months out in the wild. If you want more, you can check out all the preview coverage from Games Workshop compiled in one place here, or check out the awesome Facehammer show.
I’d just like to thank both James Page and Shaun Tubman of the Notorious Age of Sigmar podcast, two of our top local Flesh-Eater Courts players, for contributing to this review and sharing their comments and insights with me.
And, as always, check out Dark Fantastic Mills for great 3D printed terrain perfect for wargaming. Its super versatile and light so worldwide shipping is inexpensive. Use the “aos shorts” discount code for a further 10% off the already decent prices.
So what’s the postcard assessment of the Flesh-Eater Courts battletome? This is a significant power increase for Flesh-Eater Courts and I can easily see this army regularly getting 5 wins at events. It has a tools for dealing with the current popular armies (Legions of Nagash, Daughters of Khaine) and has a scary amount of speed and combat damage output. If playing against the army, make sure you bring sufficient quality ranged damage to take out key heroes on the first turn and have two or more decent chaff lines in place to screen your army. This is an army built for melee damage output with some strong support spells and situational ranged damage as well.
What’s changed with Flesh-Eater Courts?
Flesh-Eater Courts have now really been brought into the world of AoS 2 and the command point resource game. This is a significant change for an army which previously had limited uses for command points outside of summoning. The book also now has its own magic lore, more delusions, a custom terrain piece, a variety of command traits and artefacts as well as a range of competitive list builds. Finally, the Flesh-Eater Courts now have an equivalent to Stormcast Eternals Stormhosts, or Daughters of Khaine temples with the Grand Courts (which provide a combined package of abilities, traits and artefacts).
On the other side of the coin, the army has lost the previous crusading army delusion and the majestic horror command trait. Many of the battalions have been toned down (again in line with the prevailing them of recent books).
Strengths and weaknesses of the new Flesh-Eater Courts
Let’s have a quick run down through the strengths of the new Flesh-Eater Courts army:
- several efficiently costed heroes because of the free summoning or re-generation
- Sufficient bodies and movement for strong board control
- An option for multiple small unit summoning builds
- Several strong combat monsters
- Strong spells on the warscrolls of Flesh-Eater Courts heroes and multi-cast wizards to take advantage of Endless Spells too
The army’s strongest weakness is its reliance on heroes that can either be brought down with early ranged damage from lower drop armies or whose spells can be unbound, and combos stopped, by a strong magic opponent.
The key stand-out features from the book are:
- Abhorrant Ghoul King on Royal Terrorgheist: a flying wizard with summoning, a ranged mortal wound attack, and devastating combat output thanks to the ability to dish out substantial mortal wounds (with no opportunity for a save of any kind). Further, when combined with allegiance abilities (Gristlegore, Feeding Frenzy, Gruesome Bite), the unit can pile in and attack multiple times before the enemy gets to hit back. Expect 1 (or 3) in every army.
- Abhorrant Archregent: the new character in the Carrion Empire box set is great at 200 points. It is a 7 wound, 2 cast and unbind wizard with free healing each turn. Once per game it can summon either 1 COURTIER, 1 unit of up to 3 KNIGHTS (Crypt Flayers or Crypt Horrors), or 1 unit of up to 20 Crypt Ghouls. This ability gives great summoning flexibility – you can have bodies for objectives, Horrors for dealing with hordes, Flayers for combat output, and Courtiers for healing. Finally, the Archregent has the amazing Ferocious Hunger spell which dramatically increases the attacks of your main combat threats. Many lists will have two.
- Gristlegore Command Trait and Abilities: The Command Trait allows your general (Ghoul King on Terrorgheist) to fight at the start of the combat phase, before the players pick any other units to fight in that combat phase. The Peerless Ferocity ability says that if the unmodified hit roll for an attack made by a Gristlegore HERO or Gristlegore Monster is 6, that attack inflicts 2 hits on that target instead of 1. Make a wound and save roll for each hit.
- Feeding Frenzy: you can use this command ability after a friendly Flesh-Eater Courts unit has fought in the combat phase for the first time and is wholly within 12” of a friendly Flesh-Eater Courts hero, or wholly within 18” of your general. If you do so, that unit can immediately make a pile-in move and then attack with all of the melee weapons it is armed with for a second time. You cannot pick the same unit twice in the same phase. A great combo with Gristlegore.
- Blisterkin Command Trait and Abilities: not only does this Grand Court boost your movement, and farms extra command points, but the command ability allows you to retreat and charge with your main combat units.
- Chalice of Ushoran: cast on a 6, and at 40 points, this is an amazing value Endless Spell providing great healing to your units and big beasties. You keep track of the number of models that are slain within 12” of this model each turn. At the end of each turn, roll a dice for each model that slain within 12” of this model during that turn. For each 4+ heal 1 wound allocated to 1 Flesh-Eater Courts model within 12” of this model, or return 1 slain model to 1 Flesh-Eater Courts unit with a Wounds characteristic of 1 that is wholly within 12” of this model.
The generic Flesh-Eater Courts allegiance ability remains the 6+ wound or mortal wound save if wholly within 12” of a friendly Flesh-Eater Court hero (or colloquially the 6+ Death save). As already mentioned, the Feeding Frenzy command ability is crazy, crazy good.
Building an army
In terms of building the army, your main battleline choice is Ghouls. While you can take Ghouls in large units and replenish them with Mustering (the new name for resurrection type abilities), they are still a tad overcosted for their role. So let’s take a look at the conditional battleline options:
- Royal Terrorgheist and Royal Zombie Dragon are both Battleline if in a Gristlegore army
- Crypt Flayers are battleline if the general is a Crypt Infernal Courtier (or if the Crypt Flayers are in a Blisterkin Grand Court)
- Crypt Horrors are battleline if the general is a Crypt Haunter Courtier (or if the Crypt Horrors unit is in a Hollowmourne Grand Court).
I can see people using either the big beasties or the Flayers as battleline depending on the army build style that the player chooses to run.
Grand Courts and Delusions
You can choose to either align your Flesh-Eater Courts army to a Grand Court or pick a delusion. You can’t have both. Both apply only to friendly Flesh-Eater Courts units (so won’t apply to allies).
Both Blisterkin and Gristlegore are standout options and worth taking. Morgaunt may have some viable list options, but I don’t see much demand for the Hollowmourne.
Gristlegore Grand Court
- Peerless Ferocity – The Peerless Ferocity ability says that if the unmodified hit roll for an attack made by a Gristlegore hero or Gristlegore Monster is 6, that attack inflicts 2 hits on that target instead of 1. Make a wound and save roll for each hit.
- Command Ability – Call to War – situational – you can use this command ability in the combat phase if a friendly Gristlegore hero or Gristlegore monster that has not fought in the phase is slain while it is wholly within 12” of a friendly g hero (or 18 if general). Before that model is removed from play, it can make a pile-in move and then attack with all of the melee weapons it has. You can’t stack it on the same model.
- Command Trait – Savage Strike – amazing and no real opportunity cost because it is far better than any of the standard command traits. This general fights at the start of the combat phase before the players pick any other units to fight in that combat phase. This general cannot fight again in that combat phase unless an ability or spell allows it to fight more than once. Add Feeding Frenxy and the Gruesome Bite and watch the damage mount up.
- Artefact – Ghurish Mawshard – once per battle, at the start of the combat phase, pick 1 enemy model within 1” and roll a dice. If the roll is greater than the Wounds characteristic of the enemy then the enemy is slain.
Blisterkin Grand Court
- Blistering Speed: Add 2” to move characteristic of Blisterkin units
- Command Ability – Lords of the Burning Skies. Use at start of the movement phase. Pick 1 friendly Blisterkin unit that can fly and wholly within 12” of a friendly Blisterkin hero or 18” if general. Remove that unit from the battlefield and set it up again anywhere on the board more than 9” away from enemy models. That unit then can’t move in the subsequent movement phase.
- Command Trait – Hellish Orator – if your general is on the battlefield at the start of your hero phase, roll a dice. On a 4+ , you gain an additional command point.
- Artefact – Eye of Hysh – subtract 1 from hit rolls for attacks made within missile weapons that target a friendly Blisterkin unit wholly within 6” of the bearer.
If you don’t take a Grand Court, then you could run a Crusading army with the Completely Delusional command trait, allowing you to switch from high movement to the free pile in trait when needed.
Of the delusions, the two stand out options are:
- Crusading Army: add 1 to run and charge rolls for friendly Flesh-Eater Courts units.
- The Feast Day – once per turn, you can use the Feeding Frenzy command ability without a command point being spent.
Command Traits are divided into two main sections, 6 for Royalty (for Abhorrant Heroes) and 6 for Nobility (for Courtier Heroes)
- Majestic horror – if this general is chosen as the model that uses a command ability that summons Flesh-Eater Courts models to the battlefield, they can use it without a command point having to be spent.
- Dark wizardry – add 1 to casting, dispelling and unbinding rolls for this general
- Completely delusional – Once per battle, if this general has not been slain, you can pick a new delusion in your hero phase to replace the original delusion you chose for your army. (Switch from Speed to Feast – or a particular tool needed)
- Dark acolyte – your general becomes a Wizard and can cast and unbind spells just like an ABHORRANT GHOUL KING (gives access to Black Hunger – cast on a 5, if successfully cast, pick 1 friendly Flesh-Eater Courts unit wholly within 24” of the caster and visible to them. Add 1 to the attacks characteristic of melee weapons used by that unit until your next hero phase) and presumably a spell from the Lore of Madness.
- Cruel task master – If the general uses a Muster ability you can re-roll the dice for this general that determine if slain models are returned to units (you must re-roll all of the dice).
There are 12 generic artefacts in the book with six in the Routan Treasury (for Abhorrant heroes) and six Noble Heirlooms (for Courtier heroes). I’ve set out my personal picks below.
- Splintervane brooch – subtract 1 from casting rolls for enemy WIZARDS while within 18” of the bearer
- Grim Garland – subtract 2 from the Bravery characteristic of enemy units while within 6” of the bearer
- Dermal robe – +1 to casting, dispelling and unbinding rolls for the bearer.
- Medal of Madness – once per battle the hero can use its command ability for free (even if the hero is not your general and its command ability would normally require the hero to be the general to use it)
- Flayed pennant – re-roll charge rolls for all friendly Flesh-Eater Courts units wholly within 12”
Outside the artefacts in the book, the most likely realm artefacts I expect we will see are Aetherquartz Brooch (for a command point heavy army), Doppelgänger cloak and Ethereal Amulet (still just as good on 3+ armour save models).
The Lore of Madness
Flesh-Eater Courts now have the Lore of Madness a custom spell lore available to all Flesh-Water Courts wizards. For me, the spell lore itself doesn’t exactly set the world on fire (with the exception of the stand-out Spectal Host). However, the two-cast wizards allow you to make the most of the excellent spells on the Flesh-Eater Courts warscrolls and Endless Spells (both army specific and generic spells).
Spectral Host is cast on a 6. If successfully cast, pick 1 friendly unit wholly within 12” of the caster that is visible to them. That unit can fly until your next hero phase. If it can already fly, until your next hero phase it can run and still charge in the same turn. If cast on a modified 10 or more, you can pick up to 3 friendly units to be affected by the spell instead of 1.
Flesh-Eater Courts Endless Spells
The Flesh-Eater Courts got three Endless Spells (the usual prescription of AoS2). A healing spell (Chalice of Ushoran), a flying mortal wound spell (Corpsemare Stampede) and a barricade board control spell (Cadaverous Barricade – #ghostfence). The standout is the Chalice.
The Chalice costs 40 points and is only a 6 to cast. It can be cast by Nagash and Abhorrants and is set up wholly within 24” of the caster (a real decent size range). The Soul Stealer rule asks you to keep track of the number of models (from either army) slain within 12” each turn. At the end of each turn, roll a dice for each model slain. On a 4+, heal 1 wound allocated to 1 Flesh-Eater Courts model within 12” or return 1 slain model to 1 Flesh-Eater Courts unit with a wounds characteristic of 1 wholly within 12”. A bargain..
In terms of the generic Endless Spells, Geminids and Chronomantic Cogs would both be popular (just as they always are).
Just like Stormcast Eternals, the Flesh-Eater Courts now have traits for both Terrorgheists and Zombie Dragons. There is a lot of good options but Gruesome Bite stands out for the sheer combo potential of Fanged Maw, Feeding Frenzy and Peerless Ferocity.
The Terrorgheist traits:
- Gruesome Bite – re-roll failed hit rolls for attacks made with the Fanged Maw
- Deathly fast – run and shoot
- Razor-clawed – increase rend of mount’s melee weapons by 1
- Horribly resilient – heal 3, rather than D3, wounds a turn
- Devastating Scream – add 1 to the Death Shriek values on the mount’s table
The Zombie Dragon shares many of these traits, but also has the ability to deploy off the board and at the end of your first movement phase you set up the Dragon anywhere on the board more than 9” away from the enemy.
Summoning, Mustering and the Charnel Throne
Flesh-Eater Courts have two ways to add new models and units to the army: Summoning and Mustering.
Summoning vs Mustering
Summoning is adding an entire new unit to the army and is done by using a hero’s command ability and spending a command point (usually). The new unit must be set up at the end of the movement phase on the table wholly within 6” of any board edge and more than 9” away from enemy units.
Mustering is the revival of slain models to an existing unit. It doesn’t allow the addition of more models above the unit’s starting size. Revived models need to be set up within 1” of another model in the unit (revived models themselves count for this) and can only be set up within 3” of the enemy if any models from that unit are already within 3”. So this means you can’t “tag” or lock new units into combat through Mustering but, depending on the base size, you may be able to encircle them to stop them retreating.
The Charnel Throne is the Flesh-Eater Courts terrain piece. After territories have been chosen, but before set-up, set-up the Throne wholly within your territory, wholly within 12” of the edge of the battlefield and more than 1” from any objectives or other terrain features. If both players have terrain to set up, you dice off and the winner chooses the order.
So what does it do? The Charnel Throne is treated as inspiring for Flesh-Eater Courts units and Sinister for others (increase and decrease to Bravery). It also has the Ruler of All He Surveys rule.
Ruler of All He Surveys: An Abhorrant Archregent that is within 1” of this terrain feature can use the Summon Imperial Guard command ability without a command point being spent. In addition, an Abhorrant Ghoul King (unclear if includes the Terrorgheist version, expect an FAQ) that is within 1” of this terrain feature can use the Summon Men-at-arms command ability (once per battle, summon 1 unit of up to 10 Ghouls) without a command point being spent.
So how will it play? If you pack all your heroes around the Throne to maximise summoning turn 1 then you may find you’ve sacrificed board position or left your key heroes vulnerable to an area of effect counterattack (Comet, Heraldor etc).
So what options can you summon?
- Ghoul King on Terrorgheist – 1 unit of 3 Knights (Flayers or Horrors)
- Ghoul King on Zombie Dragon – 1 Courtier
- Abhorrant Archregent – 1 Courtier, or 1 unit of 3 knights, or 20 ghouls
- Ghoul King – 10 ghouls
The rules around the set up of summoned units mean that you won’t be summoning defensive chaff screens in front of your army. Instead, you’ll be summoning bodies to hold your home objectives (if you have a low model count build) or using Horrors and Flayers to threaten the enemy backlines. By having the option to summon to your opponent’s board edge, you ensure that your opponent needs to take this into account when deploying and moving through the game. No one wants a large number of bodies popping up in their backfield late game in Knife to the Heart. Plus a unit of 3 Flayers/Horrors will take out a support hero or small objective holding units like Judicators.
Flesh-Eater Courts summoning used to be limited by the constant need to use command points to summon the extra troops using high points cost heroes. Now you have cheaper heroes and several abilities that allow you to summon without spending command points. Now Flesh-Eater Courts can summon what they need and have some command points left over for other plans.
From a sheer points value perspective this is a bargain. A 200 point Archregent can summon a 200pt unit of Ghouls for free. A Ghoul King on Terrorgheist at 400 points is going to give you a nice unit of Flayers as well as being an incredibly cheap and versatile killing machine. .
Mustering works (generally) by rolling 6 dice in your hero phase for each of the qualifying heroes in your army. You then have options to add slain models back to units depending on the results. So what can you Muster?
- Varghulf Courtier – 1 slain model to Ghouls (for each 2+) or 1 slain model to Knights (for each 5+)
- Crypt Ghast Courtier – 1 slain model to Ghouls (2+)
- Crypt Infernal Courtier – 1 slain model to Flayers (5+)
- Crypt Horror Courtier – 1 slain model to Horrors (5+)
I need to consider it more, but at the moment I don’t think it’s worth building around maximising a regeneration build. It just feels like too much overinvestment given the other army builds available (which I’ll touch on below) and also pushes you towards taking the first turn to protect your heroes.
Flesh-Eater Courts Battalions
The Flesh-Eater Courts now have 9 battalions. They are in the style of the recent battletomes and are a mix of small and large battalions, but no real strong single drop army battalions. I expect the battalions we will see the most of are the Royal Mordants, Deadwatch and the Royal Menagerie.
- 1 Varghulf Courtier
- 1 unit Horrors
- 1 unit Flayers
- 1 unit Ghouls
In your hero phase, pick 1 unit from this battalion wholly within 16” of the Varghulf Courtier. Make a normal move in the hero phase.
- 1 Crypt Infernal Courtier
- 3 units of Flayers
In your hero phase, 1 unit from battalion within 3” of enemy can pile in and attack with all melee weapons.
- 3+ Terrorgheists or Zombie Dragrons (in any combination)
In your hero phase heal up to D3 wounds allocated to each model from this battalion within 5” of any other model from battalion.
If you are running this bestie army you want as few drops as possible to ensure you get your alpha strike and all your big death birds hit and pile in twice turn 1.
Potential Army Builds
So what are the core building blocks around which you’ll be making lists? Many of these should be familiar from the review so far. I’m going to focus on two builds: the Gristlegore Monster build and the Blisterkin Royal Mordants Flayers build.
Gristlegore Monster Build
The Ghoul King on Terrorgheist and Abhorrant Archregent are just such powerful choices with Feeding Frenzy, the Fanged Maw not allowing any save at all to its 6 mortal wounds, the Gristlegore pile in and extra hits abilities, the spells which add attacks to all of a unit’s melee profiles (+D3+1 attacks) and the Gruesome bite (re-roll failed hits) that many people will be building armies around this build. That is a ridiculous amount of damage once they hit. The army looks great on the table too with the big beasties.
These builds will all be about maximising the damage output and survivability of the big beasts while relying on summoning to bring on bodies. Supporting these builds will be things like the Mortis Engine, Corpse Cart, and Cogs to lower the risk your key buff spells don’t go off.
The decision points will be around whether you take a Ghoul King on Terrorgheist and 3 Terrorgheists, if you swap in a Zombie Dragon, or if you just go for 3 Ghoul Kings on Terrorgheist. The Ghoul King is a massive force multiplier that he is worth the extra points in my view. The Ghoul King on Terrorgheist plays the same role as Alarielle but is 50% cheaper. It summons more, has strong healing (like Alarielle), is fast, flies, has a ranged attack and good combat power.
Blisterskin High Movement
Before Flesh-Eater Courts were slow, now they have several ways to make them fast. Whether it comes from +2 inches across the board from Blisterskin, the Royal Mordants battalion allowing a unit to move twice in one turn, a spell allowing added movement equal to the wound characteristic up to 6 or the delusion that adds 1 to run and charge rolls or hollowmourne allowing run and charges and giving +1 to both (a command ability that can be stacked) or the spell which lets flyers run and charge. That is a whole lot of added movement options that which many of them can be stacked together where required.
For me, Blisterkin Royal Mordants lists are going to be Flayer-heavy and make full use of that improved warscroll.
As with most things from this release it will be about taking only what you need without hindering other tactical elements such as damage or defense.
Flesh-Eater Courts Allies
Flesh-Eater Courts can take allies from Deadwalkers, Deathlords, and Deathmages. The most likely ally choices I expect to see are for supporting casting (Arkhan, Mortis Engine, Corpse Cary) or to add cheap fast chaff into a monster build (Dire Wolves).
Concluding predictions – how will Flesh-Eater Courts do with the meta?
So me and the team here have tried to make some predictions of how popular Flesh-Eater Courts armies would do in the current and upcoming tournament meta.
- We expect the army to be strong against Gloomspite Gitz and Sylvaneth (especially given the changes to the Flayers scream which will be devastating against Bravery 6 Dryads).
- The army can play equally well with the choice of the first or second turn but there are viable low drop builds which will beat most armies (with the exception of the older one-drop books).
- Against the higher performing armies such as Legion of Nagash, Daughters of Khaine and Stormcast Eternals, it is going to be about ensuring you have the right tools for the job.
- Daughters of Khaine: your monsters allow a unique advantage vs some of their defensive abilities such as Sisters of Slaughter’s abilities to rebound mortals on save rolls of 6. This really isn’t going to do much against monsters with lower amount of attacks but high damage. Flesh-Eater Courts can be also much faster than Daughters of Khaine allowing Flesh-Eater Courts to choose which fights it takes.
- Legions of Nagash: you are going to be faster and have more damage output in most cases allowing you to pick your fights once again, if you can overwhelm Legions of Nagash with board position then you should do ok. However, you need to be careful your main supporting spells don’t get unbound.
- Stormcast Eternals: could be a much harder army to face for Flesh-Eater Courts given the ability to re deploy and take out key units (depending on what flavour Stormcast Eternals is being run of course -an Anvils of Heldenhammer shooting list would cause trouble). Flesh-Eater Courts is largely reliant on its heroes to stay alive for all its potential if these go down you are left with units that really lack any ability by themselves.
- The army is likely to be weaker against strong ranged damage armies: Stormcast Eternals, Kharadron Overlords and Disciples of Tzeentch.
Phew. So that’s the review for now. I can’t wait to see how the army gets on when the world’s players get hold of it and get some games in. We’ll revisit the book in a few months and see how it is holding up.