Tomb Kings Review
All right, here goes!
If you’re reading this it will mean I’ve actually gone through with a plan for once and I’ll have finished the first of my reviews for Warhammer Fantasy 8th Edition.
Kicking off this series of reviews of Armybooks will be everyone’s favourite desert dwellers, the Tomb Kings of Khemri.
So how will this work? I’ll start off with describing how the army handles on the table, what its general strengths and weaknesses are, and how they are different from the other armies out there. Next will be a review of all the units in the book, as well as a look at magic lores and magic items. All fairly in-depth and with an aim to be useful to Warhammer players of all levels (just starting to true longbeards) and all skill levels (classic ‘beer and pretzel’ to ‘competitive’ <yugh, I hate that term>). Sounds ambitious? Well, it is. We’ll see how I’ll end up!
Off we go…
Tomb Kings can field a wide variety of units and army builds. They are only the second army that can field Chariots as Core, they can put down enormous units of infantry, they can do a cavalry army, they have great big monsters, and they have an assortment of other stuff to boot! In other words, Tomb Kings are what we can so far see as being a stereotypical 8th edition armybook. Lots of different builds means lots of ways to keep a player interested and lots of possible combinations to suit whatever play style you want.
Well, “whatever play style you want” might be stretching it a bit… There are some defining traits to a Tomb Kings army that will hamper certain styles. But then, there are plenty of ways left to make a decent army!
So, what are these defining traits, then? Well, let’s start by looking at the army’s special rules.
Nehekharan Undead: Being undead, all Tomb King units suffer/benefit from being Unstable, Unbreakable and causing Fear. On top of that, Tomb Kings can never ever march and are very unimaginative when it comes to charge reactions. Oh well, such is life after centuries in the desert, I guess…
Being Unbreakable is very nice, since you will never really need to worry about losing a combat (which will happen) and you’ll just be stuck there until you either win or your opponent wipes you out completely. This leads to Tomb Kings having one of the best tarpit units in the game, which can be great for disrupting your opponents plans, as we’ll see.
Of course, being Unstable can very well hasten the process of getting wiped out, since whenever you lose a combat, you’ll hurt extra. Not a terrible big deal, if you keep it in mind going in, but you should always keep track about how long it will most likely take your opponent to destroy the unit and, subsequently, when that part of your opponent’s army will be free to move again. Try and make sure your last model perishes in your opponents turn instead of your own because this will mean you’ll be able to charge your opponent with a fresh unit immediately after. The Nehekharan Lore Attribute is great for keeping a unit in a combat just that bit longer.
Causing Fear is a nice bonus, but don’t expect too much of it. If your opponent fails his test, great, because you’ll be able to stick around in combat that much longer. If he doesn’t, well, that’s ok too.
Being unable to march (ever) might make it seem as though Tomb Kings are a slow army. They’re not, really. Magic can boost your movement quite nicely and there are a handful of units in the army list that have a nice base movement or special rules that allow you to overcome your seemingly lack of mobility. Still, don’t ever think Tomb Kings are a fast army. That they are not…
Not being able to do anything but hold when you get charged limits your options somewhat, but, again, it’s not that big a deal if you keep it in mind. Don’t place units in a position to get charged if you do not want to be charged. Of course, with variable charge ranges this will not always work out as you might want, but getting charged is not that big a deal anymore anyway. You can still do some sort of diversion tactics, though this usually means sacrificing a unit and that is not something that’s always a good idea.
The Hierophant: A vital cog in the machine that is a Tomb Kings army, this is a guy you should try and keep alive as long as possible. You could design your army to be able to cope without a Hierophant (and this is a valid option, though you might not think it), but on the whole, keeping your Hierophant alive as long as possible is the best idea. There are a few ways of doing this, the most important of which are to give the Hierophant a proper ward save and to hide him, in a unit, away from the most obvious combat risks. A great place to be for the Hierophant is in the second line, following close behind the troops that will actually make it into combat, but close enough to support your army with his spells. If he is away in a unit it will make it that much harder for your opponent to shoot/magic him out, and if you keep him out of combat he should survive quite well. Of course, you should realise that your opponent will do everything he can to try and kill your Hierophant and watch your army start to crumble. It’s one of the first rules in any “how to deal with an undead invasion” books.
Being the Hierophant also gives a nice little bonus to any unit he is in, who get a ‘free’ 6+ Regen save. Nothing great, but useful nonetheless.
If your Hierophant does die (and who are we kidding, it will happen more times than you’ll like), there are a few things to keep in mind when designing your army that can counter how great an effect his death will have. Firstly, make sure most all of your units benefit from the leadership of a character. This is why it’s important to make sure you Hierophant is not your general. A General’s leadership bubble is quite important to counter the worst of crumbling. For the units that you plan on taking outside of the Ld bubble, try and put a character in it for a personal Ld boost. Second, a Battle Standard Bearer will help. Being Immune to Psychology (Unbreakable) and never needing to take a break test might make it seem you don’t really need a BSB and while a BSB in a Tomb Kings army is not as mandatory as it would be in a, say, O&G army, when it comes to crumbling it will come quite in handy. Since crumbling involves a Ld test, being in range of your BSB means you can reroll it. Additionally, being within
12” of the BSB means you’ll suffer one less wound from crumbling anyway. Finally, there are a few units in the list who have a high enough Ld of their own that you can be reasonably sure they will not suffer too many wounds from crumbling (although keeping these units in BSB range helps!). Animated Constructs have the added bonus of already suffering one wound less from crumbling, and combined with a BSB means the effectively will have Ld 10 for crumble tests (with a reroll!). So they should be fine.
Speaking of which, Animated Constructs have a 5+ armour save as standard, and in addition to suffering one less wound from crumbling also take one less wound if they lose a combat. This, combined with their higher Ld, means constructs are units that can range away from either your General and/or the BSB. Of course they benefit from being close, but they can hold their own being away from them. How well Constructs do and what they are good at will be discussed in the relevant sections.
Arrows of Asaph is a great rule for Tomb Kings. No matter what you do, if your models are allowed to shoot, they’ll hit on a base BS roll. This greatly overcomes the army’s general poor BS and, combined with skeletons being equipped with volley fire weapons, means Tomb Kings can put out an impressive amount of firepower each turn even while maintaining a narrow frontage (btw, might as well mention it now: Hordes is bad for skeletons. Narrow frontage is almost always the way to go). Great, great rule. Oh yes, and Ushabti Great Bows have volley fire too, but when are you ever going to be able to use that?
Entombed Beneath the Sands on the other hand, is not that great. It’s fun, and it adds a certain random element to the army, but it’s not great. The reason for this is twofold. One, and this is a drawback of all Ambushers, you have no control over when your unit turns up. It could be turn 2, it could be turn 7. Sure, it is more likely your unit will turn up in turn 2 or 3, but you never know. There are already enough random elements built into the game as it is (charge, magic, to name the two biggest) that you don’t really need to play the game with part of your army dug in and waiting for about half your turns. Couple this with the second drawback, which is that the Entombed units enter during the Remaining Moves sub-phase and thus cannot do anything useful, like charge a warmachine or somesuch, and you’re basically wasting another turn when you use this rule. Sure you could march-block, but nowadays your opponent can just pass a Ld check and march anyway. So really what you are doing with your Entombed units is wait for them to turn up and then wait another turn for before they can actually do anything useful. Sure, some units, like Stalkers, can make a shooting attack, but is this really worth it? The only, slight, upside is that if the Entombed units do turn up on turn 2, you’ll have solved part of your mobility issue, somewhat, maybe. Although you should be careful about feeding your opponent your army piecemeal. Oh yes, and Entombed units scatter as well, giving you even less control over where they’ll end up.
Overall, this rule is a big improvement over what it was in its previous rendition, and it can be fun imagining Undead creatures clawing their way out from the sand to grab your opponent by the ankles, but it really is not that good or useful on the table. Really.
Here endeth part one…