A new game, with a completely new setting, means that we get boat loads of brand new stories and background. For someone who thinks the best slice of the Jervis Johnson Hobby Pie™ is fluff, I couldn’t be more stoked! So instead of diving right into the book review, we need some background. How did we get here, and who’s in the new world? Chaos won The End Times (again, the clue was in the name), and the Old World blew up, Sigmar clung to the metallic (hard)core, and was flung into the void. After meeting a celestial dragon, he founded a new realm of heavens/azyr, discovered that the 7 other winds of magic also had their own realm, and alliances were re-forged, plus there’s a 9th one for Chaos. Each seems to have remnants of the races from the old game, so there’s the narrative for you to use your existing collection. Anyway, as time is a flat circle, dudes fell out, Chaos went to war and conquered and corrupted said realms, so Sigmar went home, and locked the gates.
Which brings us the to this book, by the excellent Chris Wraight (author of Scars and Battle of the Fang) where we get inside the heads of each of the different units and characters included in the new boxed set, as this is a companion novel to the scenarios found within. Sigmar, with the help of Grugni, has forged an army of Stormcast Eternals, these are the new Sigmarines everyone is going crazy about, and they are at the forefront of the battle to reclaim all the realms from the foul grasp of Chaos.
So we see the vanguard strike, where our new heroes are sent to the realm of fire to open the first of many Realmgates that were sealed by Sigmar, and allow the legions to pour forth and smite the enemy. The great thing the author does, is not descend into your stereotypical combat narrative that can make you glaze over when you’re subjected to pages of what you’d call bolter porn in a 40K sense. You get a taste of everything thanks to the first person POV, from a fleeing tribe of mortals who are somehow clinging to survival in a hellish realm, to the pursuing Bloodreavers who are more than your frothing marauder or cultist. It would be easy to descend into the blood and skulls trope so easily attached to followers of Khorne, but you get an understanding of their gruesome actions, as it’s a dog eat dog realm.
Even more fascinating is getting into the minds of the new heroes. Who are they, how they are made, what is their motive and can they remember who they were? With the traditional 40K and Fantasy stories, they were grounded in a pretty normal or familiar setting, so you could relate to them, but here you’re starting from scratch, and it’s clever work to be able to identify with them. I was worried they’d be like Rubric Marines and animated suits of armour, but these guys are flesh and blood that have been considerably levelled up and have their own personality, history and motivations.
So, all in all, a great introduction to a new world, and one that I’m excited to read more about. There’s scope to write about the history of Sigmar’s journey and uniting the realms, the current story is unfolding, and lots going forward to be covered in campaign books like the End Times did. No longer bound by a static timeline and setting, there should be a wealth of material incoming, and if it’s anything like the Horus Heresy series, we’re in for a literary treat