Welcome back to another Optimal Game State episode.
Today we are looking at the 4th and final Warcry warband in the most recent release, the Vulkyn Flameseekers. This is a fantastic looking warband of Fyreslayers that I think has done more to shake up the Fyreslayer faction in Age of Sigmar that any other release we’ve seen. This brings two massive innovations for the Fyreslayers, kilts and woman, things only whispered about up to now.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Fyreslayers, they have the roots in the old world. Before we had Age of Sigmar we had Warhammer, and in Warhammer Slayers were dwarves who due to a great shame swore an oath to die in heroic battle. Typically these were called Trollslayers. They probably have their roots in the Norse Berserkers. They were always shirtless, often had big axes, and giant orange mohawks.
When GW brought out Age of Sigmar, they gave them a full faction all to themselves, but as cool as it sounds you can only do so much with semi-naked Dwarfs with Axes and Orange Mohawks. In the story, these were the dwarves who followed the god Grimnir, a warrior god of fire and fury rather than the more traditional dwarven god of Grungni who was a god of metal and crafting.
While Grungni lives on, Grimnir the god of the Fyreslayers perished while destroying Vulcatrix a Godbeast known as the Mother of Salamanders. The giant Magmadroths that the Fyrelslayers often ride are descendents of Vulcatrix, and the Ur-Gold they collect are the shards of their god.
The Fyreslayers society is divided into Lodges, which are groups of familes bound together under a single chieftain. This particular warband comes from the Lofnir Lodge. We know this because they wear the Lofnir symbol of a Salamanders head in green, possibly an image of Vulcatrix. That’s because these Fyreslayers venerate Vulcatrix as an equal of Grimnir and worship them both. They see the Ur-Gold not just as the shattered parts of Grimnir, but the mingling of Grimnir and Vulcatrix their powers combined into something great.
The warriors of this lodge are considered fanatical, and leave only ashes in their wake. If you look closely at the models you’ll see they’ve marked the hands black something this lodge does with tattoos or soot as a reminder of their rite of passage which is to walk across a bridge of fyresteel while carrying a magmadroth egg. This symbolises the battle between Grimnir and Vulcatrix where Grimnir’s form began to sear from the intense heat coming from the Ur-Salamander. Nice touch by the GW painting studio.
If you check out the current range for the Fyreslayers you’ll understand why this new warband is such a breath of fresh air. A single Fyreslayer looks very cool, but an entire army of them somehow looks
This new unit still sticks to the classic formula, but the models feel like there’s a bit more of a story behind them. That’s due to the little elements like the Lodge symbol, the magmadroth cloak on the thane, the sensible kilts, the ladies, even the dumb Egg shoulders on the Drothmaster. Notice that the mohawks all have a distinctive pattern that you do not see with the rest of the Fyreslayer range. Honestly, this design knocked it out of the park and I only hope we get to see each of the lodges given this love in future.
Alright, that’s enough about the background. Lets get stuck into so Warcry.
The box has a total of 9 fighters. In the middle we have the Runefather who is the leader of this warband. To the left of him is the Drothmaster with his shoulder eggs. Below the Drothmaster we have the Thane who I guess is the most Berserk of this entire faction of Berserkers. At the bottom we have the Kyndledroth which is an adorable name for a baby Magmadroth. That leaves 5 fighters, who are all Scalebreakers and can be equipped with a two handed axe or a polearm.
As this is already up for pre-order we can see the sprues on the GW site, and it does look like you can build all with Axes or all with Polearms whichever you prefer.
Heading over to the plot we can see fighters range from 95 to 170 points, so no really chaf and no real elites. Damage is looking decent for the Axe and for the Thane but not really for much else. Interestingly, all the dwarfs have a thrown axe profile which is identical regardless of the points cost. That’s actually pretty nice.
There are 4 warband wide abilities. The first is their reaction Runic Flare which only the Dwarves can use. If they use the reaction before an attack is rolled against them, then 2 crits count as normal hits. Personally, I quite like defensive reactions like this as typically you’re only going to give up your action when you think you’re going to die. This doesn’t completely negate the crit, but changing even one crit to a hit can keep your fighter up forcing your opponent to spend another action to kill them.
The first double is Blazing Impetus, this will probably see a lot of play in the first turn. After making two move actions you can use this ability to get an extra move. This is a dwarf warband so we’re expecting move 3, this is a double that will give them another move. It’s an extra 3 inches when the universal Rush would give them an extra 2 inches. So it’s an upgrade but only a minor one.
The second double is Ignite Weapons. This lets you count one miss in the next attack as a crit instead. That’s pretty nice, depending on the weapon it could be an extra 3 or 4 damage. Given that the worst case scenario is you hit with every attack dice, that’s not such a bad situation to be in.
As a double, we do have to compare it with Onslaught, and this is things gets messy because the math of Ignite Weapons is a little strange. Ignite Weapons is a better against high toughness targets as you’re more likely to miss, that also means it’s better when more dice are rolled. It does increase average damage, but does so by increasing the low damage and leaving the max damage the same.
Onslaught on the other hand is better when your base attack has less dice. It’s also better when the target is lower toughness because it’s more likely to hit. I’ve tried some numbers and you can find a link to them in the description. To try give you an easy way to remember, I’d suggest the following: If you have one attack, always go for Ignite Weapons. If you have two attacks and your target has lower toughness than your strength go with Onslaught. Otherwise go with one ignite weapon attack and one normal attack.
Then last for the warband wide abilities, we have the quad. As always never plan for quads but enjoy them when the arrive. This is a straight damage quad which is interesting. You pick a target within 3 inches and roll 6 dice, for each 2+ you do damage equal to halve the value of the ability. Lets assume you are perfectly average on the 6 dice and 5 of them are 2+. With a Quad 1 or 2 that’s 5 damage, Quad 3-4 does 10 damage, with 5-6 doing the max of 15 damage. It’s not crazy, but it is reliable and it does ignore toughness.
The leader of the warband is the Vulkyn Runefather who can have a Greataxe or a Bokaz which seems to be a type of polearm. Damage for the two of them is pretty close, with the Greataxe better against T3 targets and for 5 points more the Bokaz is better against T4 or higher, although that T4 is pretty close. No difference in runemarks and weirdly no leader only ability. Both the melee weapons have reach which is nice, and both profiles have a that thrown axe weapon which is across all the dwarfs. The damage is pretty tiny at 1.6 average, but it’s a nice option to have.
At 22 wounds, this a little above the 20 I would have expected for the points. Toughness is a chunky 5 which means most fighters will be looking for 5s to hit. We do have that classic move 3 however which is going to be a problem for this warband. That extra move from the double is going to help as is the reach and ranged attack.
Since Ignite weapons turns a miss into a crit, I’d be tempted to go with the Bokaz. Then you’re rolling 3 dice, worst case scenario you miss with everything and turn one into a crit, so minimum 5 damage. The next worst case is all 3 dice hit for 6 damage. That’s pretty nice, it’s very reliable. Weirdly the slightly lower strength on the Greataxe and 4 dice would make it more likely to trigger, but the crit damage is lower at 4. I don’t have an answer for which is better, so unless you can work it out, go with whatever you like the look of and don’t worry about it.
Our next fighter is the Drothblood Thane. Numbers are similar enough, 3 move, 5 toughness and 20 wounds. Damage goes up but you lose the reach. The points are significantly lower at 140 making those wounds and damage good value.
The ability is Berserk Rampage, which is similar to the Quad ability but a Triple. You pick a target and roll 6 dice. Every roll that matches the value does damage equal to the value. All others do 1, so at worst it’s going to do a straight 6 damage. In theory it could max out at 36 but that would be insanely lucky. It’s a fine ability, it ignores toughness and has a minimum which is nice. I will saw from a pure game play perspective, I really dislike that you look for the number of the value. Why not just stick with crits on 6s like every other mechanic in the game? Anyway.
The Thane isn’t particularly exciting, but is a fun looking model and if it does connect will get some work done.
Next up we have the Drothmaster. 125 points for 3 move, 4 toughness, and 20 wounds. Again, great value for the wounds. Average melee damage is 4 which is decent for the points and it is with a reach of 3 which is great. We also have the thrown axe as a back up just in case.
The ability unique to this fighter is Creed of Flame. The target selection is a bit strange, rather than looking for someone close to you, it’s someone further than 6 inches from this fighter. The selected fighter can then take two bonus move actions or a bonus attack and if the target has the Beast runemark then they get all 3 bonus actions. That is pretty amazing and now we know what we’re doing with those triples on. The condition means you cannot use the ability on the Drothmaster himself, but you should have some good options. We’ll be looking at the Kyndledroth next who is obviously the intended target, but even on a target like the Thane it is going to be a 6 inch move which will get a lot of work done. You do need to move your target into combat with an enemy who has already acted or you’ll just end up giving your opponent the benefit as they’ll be acting next. There are a few order Beasts from the bladeborn warbands that you can get, but none of them seem worth it. It will work amazingly well with any big hero you ally in, the bigger the better. You could even proxy in a Magmadroth model as a War Hydra as the ability will work on a monster.
Then we have the Kyndledroth itself. Unlike the dwarves it’s 4 move which is nice. 10 wounds for 110 points is a little low, you’d hope for 12 or 13 but it’s not terrible. Average damage is good, 4.6 is great for those points. It’s interesting to compare this fighter with the previous one, who has double the wounds for just 15 more points. The little guy does not have the Elite Runemark, so doesn’t have access to the reaction. That means the Kyndledroths are likely to be the weakest in the warband and probably a good target to go after.
The ability unique to them is a double Kyndlebreath, you roll dice equal to the ability and each 5+ does 1 damage to the target an any fighters within 2 inches of them. It’s not too hard to set up a Double 6, that will on average just two 2 damage but if your opponent ends up clumping that could end up 6 or more damage which could be fun.
Despite being adorable, these are are similar to Gryphhounds which while fun aren’t amazing. A gryphhound is 5 points more for 2 more wounds, 2 more move, doing slightly less damage on average at 4. The Kyndledroth does have that extra range attack and works great with the Drothmaster. That triple is going to mean the little guy charges 8 inches across the board and will end up attacking 3 times for almost 14 damage which will definitely make an impact.
The last fighter we have is the Scalebreaker which has two options, Bokaz or Split Axe.
12 wounds for 95 points is fine, it’s what you’d expect for 100 points. The 4.5 damage of this Bokaz is good just slightly above the 4 I’d like to see. Again we get the ranged attack which is nice to have. We still have that 3 move which is unfortunately holding the whole warband back. This fighter is comparable to the bargain 50 point KO Company Privateer who has 1 less toughness, the same wounds and move. The melee damage is significantly worse, but the ranged profile is almost identical, just one less strength. So if you can’t get your Scalebreaker into melee then all those points are wasted.
The second profile is with the split axe. This trades a point of crit for a point of strength which means you do less damage at T3 but more damage to T4 and tougher. Both profiles have that reach which definite will help with getting to the target. In this case I think I prefer the Axe as I assume I’m facing into T4 all the time.
There are nine fighters in total in this box. When it comes to point, the only real option is to save 5 points on the leader and even then the box comes to a total of 1015 points. So there’s something weird about this box. Maybe there was a last minute points increase or there’s a typo and we’ll eventually see a discount in an FAQ. Unfortunately, the cat is already out of the bag so even if GW do make changes it’s not going to help someone who picks this up thinking it’ll be 1000 points. For our purposes it means we get to pick our favourite 9 fighters and pad the rest out with Diving Blessings. I’d probably recommend Swiftness which is 15 points to give a fighter +1 move.
Dwarf warbands have always struggled with their move of 3. In this case, almost all the warband has reach and if that isn’t enough, they can fall back on the thrown axe attack. They have a double that lets them squeeze out an extra inch and a fantastic triple that gives someone two bonus moves. When you do finally get into melee, the double Ignite Weapon is a fantastic ability that makes sure you’re doing good reliable damage. Those are some great tools, so I’m expecting this to work well.
I do think the Scalebreakers are solid, and the Drothmaster is super good with that ability. So I wouldn’t be surprised to see lists with the Runefather, Drothmaster, one or two Big heroes for the Drothmaster to use his triple on, and round out the rest with Scalebreakers.
If you are interested in this warband check out this months White Dwarf which has all the background and narrative rules for this warband.
I do think this looks like a great warband and look forward to seeing them on the table.
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