Pages of Sigmar: What you Need to Know about Tome Celestials Part 1
Age of Sigmar has had a tumultuous history in terms of its factions, going from over 30 during its launch, consolidating them into about half that many, and finally today, ending on 24, with more sure to come. However, ensuring each of these factions is represented in every edition, with Battletomes that are both balanced and stuffed full of flavor is a tall order, even for a company like Games Workshop. So, in the interim between a book’s release, and its next edition (usually ~2-4 years later), many of these fantastic forces receive mini-Battletomes in Games Workshop’s White Dwarf magazine, called Tome Celestials. In this edition of Pages of Sigmar, we’ll be going through every modern Tome Celestial, to see how they impacted their respective army!
The first of the truly ‘modern’ Tome Celestials was for Seraphon, the scaly-skinned dinosaur warriors of the setting, which established the general trend for Tomes going forward, beginning in White Dwarf 469. In their update, they received Mount Traits (which would become standard in these updates), as well as tools for both Open & Matched Play, although nothing in this specific article boosted the faction beyond what they were already doing. Rather, because Seraphon were already one of the top tier armies in competitive play, remaining so up until the recent changes, this update sought to establish the basis for future Tome Celestials, and round out one of the fan-favorite armies with interesting tools in their kit. Overall, this ends up being one of the least interesting Tome Celestials, although that’s certainly up for debate, but that doesn’t stop it from being a landmark in how Age of Sigmar handles Battletomes that are aging faster than the game can keep up with newly printed editions.
Next up are the Cities of Sigmar, the average citizens of the realms, spanning the races of Human, Elf, & Dwarf. In White Dwarf 470, their update ended up being a footnote in the overall magazine, though its competitive power should not be forgotten, providing Mount Traits to Cities, with anyone on a Griffon getting the ability to resurrect on death the first time they die gloriously, and Black Dragon riders spewing out horrific Mortal Wounds with greater potency. For Cities, this meant quite a lot, as their army is heavily dependent on their Warlord surviving, and both of these traits enhanced mounted generals quite a bit. Aside from that, their Bannermen in units got another way to accrue points, and the army overall saw some interesting development in their Open Play rules. While small, the Griffon change especially impacted Cities quite a lot going forward, and Generals or Wizards on Griffons became more commonplace.
Soulblight Gravelords came after Cities, in issue 471 of White Dwarf, hot on the heels of their new Battletome, being the first army to receive their new book & Tome Celestial so close together. However, some might argue these vampiric lords of Shyish needed it, as certain variants of their armies suffered, especially those not led by a mounted Warlord, or a Vengorian Lord. So, to change this, Games Workshop implemented Deadly Coordination, which allows non-monstrous heroes to inspire their undead rank-and-file to strike in concert with their own swords. This was a welcome addition, but overall had little impact, given the Soulblight heroes were slow, and trekking them across the table ended up being strictly worse than their monstrous counterparts, especially given this Tome Celestial also provided Soulblight with mount traits. On the whole, this Tome Celestial ended up being a bit of a wash, as we saw many of its core rules have no impact on the faction’s performance, with it winning worlds off of the back of Belladonna Volga, without using virtually anything this update provided.
Ossiarch Bonereapers, often called OBR, are the legionnaires of Death, built from the bones of the finest warriors to meet their grisly end. And, it makes sense for such a faction to be based on giving orders, and working like a true Roman-esque legion. Despite this, their core gameplay of Relentless Discipline simply does not work in the modern game, and this update did little to fix that. For those not aware, Relentless Discipline replaces Command Abilities, now extremely central to AoS, but has not seen a real update since its printing, falling behind Command Abilities with each new change to the game. Even with the tools provided in this Tome Celestial, found in White Dwarf 472, the army remains poorly positioned, feeling truly old, despite being a faction that’s overall new to AoS as a whole, not being a carryover from Fantasy.
And now, the big one: Beasts of Chaos, in White Dwarf 473. For some background, until this point, Beasts were a laughingstock of the game itself, being consistently placed as the worst army, despite having a large model range, and well-developed army identity. That all changed, however, when this Tome Celestial Dropped, providing them everything they needed to now be a Top-10 army in the game, vindicating those who’ve played them since launch, like myself. This update changed the Herdstone itself, providing universal -1 Rend on melee to the army, with it growing to -2 Rend by turn 3, as well as both scorable Battle Tactics, and a Grand Strategy the army could consistently pursue, in Protect the Herdstone. Not only this, but the unique Monstrous Rampages provided here allowed Beasts to generate their summoning points every Charge phase, nearly doubling their effective summoning power over the course of a game. It cannot go understated how powerful this update was, for Beasts, and it’s mostly why I decided to do this deep-dive into Tome Celestials, to see how the others stacked up to this ‘beast’ of an article.
That’s all for Part 1, finishing strong with the monumental change that was the Beasts of Chaos Tome Celestial. Next time, we’ll be covering all of them up through the newest one, with Khorne, Kharadron Overlords, Slaanesh, and Flesh-Eater Courts, as well as a retrospective on where Tome Celestial might go, moving forward. As of right now, there doesn’t seem to be any planned Tome Celestials past the FEC article, and Gloomspite Gitz (who notoriously needed one) simply got their rules update in an FAQ, so who knows whether this may be the end of an era.
Which armies do you think deserve their own Tome Celestial? Do you think Games Workshop may simply be moving their intended effect to non-magazine sources? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so go ahead and leave a comment below!