Pages of Sigmar: What you Need to Know About Tome Celestials Part 2
This is my Part 2 of a deep dive into the various supplementary rules to factions in Games Workshops’ Age of Sigmar, so to bring you up to speed: Last time, we saw the birth of the column known as Tome Celestial, and its meteoric rise of meta impact, with the advent of the Beasts of Chaos article. With such a powerful, faction-warping release, the next few needed to be tremendously interesting to keep up the steady climb towards the relevance of Tome Celestials, but as we’ll see in this article, those following the new rules in White Dwarf 473 didn’t exactly live up to their predecessors.
White Dwarf 474 saw the release of new rules for Blades of Khorne, a notoriously mediocre faction among Age of Sigmar players, despite it being the second faction to receive a full model line, overall, in the game. Compared to Beasts of Chaos, the overall boosts that this Tome Celestial provided were essentially nil; the faction received an army-wide hatred for Endless Spells, a Grand Strategy they had no way of scoring, and three new Battle Tactics focused on killing units. That last section seemed promising at a glance, but given some opposing armies don’t run Wizards, Slay the Sorcerer meant very little, and given the current meta was greatly unfavorable to horde factions, killing 8 models for The Trial of Skulls wasn’t exactly achievable either. In total, this White Dwarf really only did one thing: Modernize the Skull Altar. Still, it didn’t come close to the renewed rules for the Herdstone, and Blades of Khorne remained a middling army at best.
Following the shrug that was Blades of Khorne’s Tome Celestial, Kharadron Overlords instead received a favorable suite of changes that certainly brought more life to these bearded privateers! In White Dwarf 475, there was one model that Games Workshop sought to modernize: The Arkanaut Admiral. Historically, this was an extremely flavorful pick for your general, but was overall regarded as middling in actual competitive play. However, to the benefit of the Overlords, not only did the Admiral see a rewrite, but also an expansion of rules that rivaled other toolbox-style leaders like Grimwrath Berserkers. Now, the Admiral could toss various boons across your army, and command the skyfleet of his dreams, including via new Battle Tactics for Kharadron that they actually could score; amidst the flub of Khorne, this White Dwarf did in fact deliver. Still, this Tome Celestial set the bar for the remaining articles, never again to reach the heights of Beasts of Chaos, for better or worse.
Few factions in Age of Sigmar rival the Hedonites of Slaanesh in their sheer number of essentially unplayable models; with minimal synergy across a variety of their choices, most lists are parades of named characters, often allied with Beasts of Chaos, or the menacing Be’lakor. Yet this Tome Celestial, found in White Dwarf 476, did not modernize any unit or terrain piece, unlike the prior, but instead simply gave the faction options during play, as well as a reward for holding onto their summoning points (a strategy they simply could not afford to do). Slaangor Fiendbloods remained unplayable, as did Hellstriders, and the Daemonic side of the army, which had seen gruesome success in the early years of 2nd Edition, now saw a sub-1% showing in tournaments, being used only for summons. Where the Tome Celestial for Beasts of Chaos took a truly unplayable army and made it whole, the Tome Celestial for Slaanesh simply further fractured its playerbase, with many growing tired of filling their ranks with non-synergistic islands of troops.
The last Tome Celestial we’ve gotten is from all the way back in June of 2022, with no word of further releases in future White Dwarfs. That said, as a last-hurrah for the column, this deep dive into the delusional Flesh-Eater Courts, in White Dwarf 477, is a solid note to end off on. The Flesh-Eater Courts have had an interesting competitive history in Age of Sigmar, mirroring another faction with a limited model line: Fyreslayers. Dedicates of these two armies occasionally swept through events unprepared for their strategies, and even some nationals (notably a few slavic Nationals in 2021) were taken by Fyreslayers, with FEC bringing up smaller event tops in the United States. However, as of 3rd Edition, the ghouls hadn’t seen a single scrap of competition, but this article was poised to change that. First, in-line with 3.0, Muster was made into a Heroic Action, allowing you to not bleed command points to do it, something FEC were notorious for, being hungry for resources to Fight Again via their Feast of Frenzy. Second, the Charnel Throne, previously just a pretty rock, now greatly assisted summoning in the army, on top of denying any form of Battleshock immunity around it; following this change, once you got a good look at the throne of bones, you were sure to retreat. Due to world events, there haven’t been too many showings of FEC at tournaments where they prior had success, and the rules in the General’s Handbook hurt their troop-focused playstyle, but I’m confident the Courts will once again rise, after the Winter rules updates.
Following the Flesh-Eater Courts in White Dwarf 477, there was silence on Games Workshops’ part, replacing the Tome Celestial section with War Hosts, a modeling & painting forum for Age of Sigmar. This came as a shock, given many armies hadn’t received their update, such as Ogor Mawtribes, or Gloomspite Gitz, leading some to speculate these armies were soon to receive a new core Tome later that year. Despite this, signs are pointing to Gitz still being bereft of a true rules update, a concerning place for a fan-favorite faction. As of writing this article, the three oldest legal Battletomes are Beasts of Chaos, Gloomspite Gitz, & Flesh-Eater Courts, in that order, with none of them truly looking to get an update until at least 2023; while Tome Celestial helped both the former & latter factions, nothing can truly make up for an old book, unless the rules are simply overboard (as was the case with Beasts of Chaos). Tome Celestial was a key part of the excitement of White Dwarfs, as an Age of Sigmar player, being some mixture of patch notes & set release, to put it into other gaming terms, and losing it has been a sore spot in the community since then.
Still, despite this, I’m on the optimistic side for rules releases. For Warcry, one of Age of Sigmar’s sister games, all the rules were provided freely to players, with no codes or purchase necessary, a first for Games Workshop. There’s a chance indeed that the removal of Tome Celestial from White Dwarf may be a blessing in disguise, depending on how generous AoS’s creators might be. It’s simply too early to say, although once the reveals for the 2 fall Destruction Battletomes come through, I think we might have a solid grip on the new policy going forward.
Did your army get one of the better Tome Celestials during the time the column existed? What’s your favorite addition to Age of Sigmar that got published in a White Dwarf? Feel free to comment your thoughts below, and thank you for reading!