Flesh-Eater Courts: What You Need to Know for the New Release
Flesh-Eater Courts has long been one of the strangest factions in Age of Sigmar, since its inception as a full-fledged faction in 2.0 with only ~4 boxes to its name (aside from Endless Spells & Terrain), to the skill-testing boogeyman of early 3.0, flexing its aging game design as a competitive selling point. I’ve been following this faction since I started playing AoS, as it was one of my top choices when considering my army. Though I eventually decided on Beasts of Chaos, these noble knights hold a special place in my heart. In this article series, I’ll be diving into the background & history of Flesh-Eater Courts as a faction, and then using that information to help hypothesize what the new range could bring. Games Workshop has shrewdly trickled out new rules for a few units throughout the course of Dawnbringers, and when comparing those to what currently exists, there’s some clear gameplay considerations made which will impact the faction as a whole. Given this series will span multiple weeks, there’s a good chance further information will arrive sooner rather than later, which makes it all the more intriguing to see how these predictions play out.
Tracing back their roots as far as they go, the army known as Flesh-Eater Courts originated as a 2006-2007 plastic range release for the Strigoi bloodline, for the 7th edition of Warhammer Fantasy Battles. This release spanned multiple years, but included every ‘classic’ kit we know today — Crypt Ghouls, Crypt Flayers (Vargeists) / Crypt Horrors, Zombie Dragons / Terrorgeists (which includes an Abhorrant), and the metal Vargeist. Until we saw the new models previewed this past weekend, there had never been a more recent model refresh for the line, only additions. Age of Sigmar 1.0 made it seem as though these models were surely going to be bundled into what was then called the ‘Legions of Nagash’, which eventually became the Soulblight Gravelords, but at the dawn of 2.0, they remained independent.
FEC’s 1.0 Battletome
This has always been a curious decision, given the extremely thin model line, and the fact that so many individual 1.0 armies were bundled as the 2nd edition rolled around. Wanderers, Darkling Covens, etc became Cities of Sigmar, and Beastclaw Raiders & Gutbusters became once again a single army, and other such examples. Some factions which even received individual books in 1.0 were rolled together, something that had never happened, and yet the army with a mere 4 kits to its name remained distinct — This was where Flesh-Eater Courts developed. Their 1.0 book, released on May 7th, 2016, was well-regarded, and helped establish their lore in the setting, as a delusional gesture towards the now-defunct Brettonia.
Here we saw something many feel is the single strangest gameplay choice for the army — the Courtier system. Due to the fact that the army had so few boxes, Games Workshop allowed each non-Monstrous troop choice to use one of its models as a Hero, a ‘Courtier’. These often provided buffs to their respective unit, summoned more, or otherwise provided a modicum of leadership to a rather messy horde faction. Crucially though, in order to run a Courtier, you’d have an understrength unit from the rest of the box (either 2 Horrors/Flayers, or 9/19 Crypt Ghouls). While this was legal, it was objectively subpar to do so, which meant FEC players quickly became accustomed to scouring Ebay for singles of their key units, to buff out a list. The only Courtier at this time not to draw from an existing kit was the now-resin Vargulf Courtier, which due to being resin was arguably more of a headache.
FEC’s 2.0 Battletome
Moving on from their initial 1.0 incarnation, the 2.0 book for Flesh-Eater Courts holds the record for the single Age of Sigmar Battletome with the longest continuous lifespan, releasing on February 9th, 2019. That means, if we go by the normal release calendar GW puts forth, this book will have been legal for a whopping ~1,773 days, and that’s if you’re counting the Flesh-Eater Courts Army Set’s Battletome as a legal copy. With that in mind, let’s take a look at how, for over ~1,500 of those days, FEC was a top 10 army in Age of Sigmar.
For starters, the army benefitted from about every change 2.0 brought to AoS: It Summoned countless Serfs, made great use of an overall undercosted edition, and gained the most well-known iteration of their signature ability, Feeding Frenzy. Moreover, Blisterskin, their best subfaction, not only rewarded you for playing the best units in the range (Crypt Flayers), but provided unparalleled movement; in the hands of a skilled pilot, you could dish out more Mortal Wounds on average than nearly any comparable list, and come out with minimal net losses. Also in 2.0, FEC got three new plastic kits…sort of — like most 2.0 releases, they received faction terrain in the form of the Charnel Throne, three largely unplayable Endless Spells, and a new foot-bound leader in the form of the Abhorrant Archregent.
Despite these meager boxes, any time FEC was losing ground in the meta, Games Workshop seemingly propped it up. There was someone there who believed in the faction, giving stronger rules to the Charnel Throne in White Dwarf 477, reducing their points costs, or providing them a rare new kit (Such as with the Royal Beastflayers in 3.0, which somehow released with the Serf keyword). The army, like wine, got better as it aged, one of the specific facets I feel is important to talk about.
FEC’s 3.0 Battletome
The things that kept FEC competitive in 2.0 became rare commodities in Age of Sigmar’s 3rd edition, namely rerolls, out-of-sequence double fighting, and summoning. In factions which normally had painless access to such tools, such as Slaanesh’s peerless summons, Beasts of Chaos’ rerolls, and Daughters of Khaine’s Hero Phase shooting, these options vanished (or were priced-up). Playing against FEC in 3.0 has always felt like someone quite literally playing a different edition of AoS than you, which to me was the coolest aspect of the faction on the tabletop. Obviously, such things have gone away with the release of Dawnbringers, and likely even more in the new tome, but it’s my goal to ensure the army’s history is known.
Off of the tabletop, FEC was something special — a relatively inexpensive horde army, in a Games Workshop game. Horde armies get a well-deserved bad rap for being both time-and-money-consuming, with recommendations of Knights, Gargants, and Custodes being the usual suspects for new players on a budget. Yet, due to the value of Start Collecting: Flesh-Eater Courts, and their thin model line, you could genuinely have a full 2k for roughly the same price, especially on launch. With an initial MSRP of 75 USD, this box had inside every plastic kit in the line, minus 10 Ghouls. What this meant in practice was that you’d get 3 Flayers, 10 Crypt Ghouls, a Terrorgeist, and Abhorrant in the box, being a genuinely perfect starter army, and still great in multiples. Telling an aspiring horde player to just grab 3 or so of this box was standard, and it’s among the last Start Collectings still on store shelves.
In any case, next week we’ll be diving into how this faction’s history may affect its future, and using rules clues from the FAQs, unit details, and more to speculate how their next release might go! I know there’s a lot of people excited to jump into the army now that it’s got a range update, but I hope this article was able to convince you FEC was always cool, maybe even if you didn’t know it.
Which new model excites you the most? Do you plan to include ‘classic’ FEC models in your new armies, or will you play with just the modern range? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so go ahead and leave a comment below!