In part 2 of our Skaventide review, we take a look at the new Core Book and the Fire & Jade expansion book. We examine the structure of the rules for the 4th Edition of Warhammer Age of Sigmar for accessibility. From a casual player’s perspective we share our thoughts on the new edition and the new Spearhead game mode. And: Can the presentation of the books match the quality of the previous edition?

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The new Skaventide box can be preordered from Saturday, June 29, 2024. It is in stores July 13, following a two-week preorder window. Please note that there will be only one production run, so it’s available only while stocks last. With the recent 40k and Age of Sigmar launch boxes, however, Games Workshop was able to provide sufficient stock, so the boxes didn’t sell out immediately.

Skaventide box contents
© Copyright Games Workshop Limited, used without permission.

In this second part of our review, we take a closer look at the new Core Book for the 4th Edition of Age of Sigmar, as well as the new game mode Spearhead, which is included in the expansion book Fire & Jade. For a detailed look at the models in Skaventide, and our score for the box, check out Part 1:

The Age of Sigmar 4. Edition Core book

The new Core Book is a hefty, hardbound tome with 274 pages. The book starts with an 8-page introduction to the hobby, then moves into an extensive lore section. It starts with the ongoing narrative surrounding the Vermindoom, first depicted with large-format artworks, then with some pages illustrated in a more sketch-like manner, which stylistically stand out.

Warhammer Age of Sigmar 4th Edition Core Book contents page
Warhammer Age of Sigmar 4th Edition Core Book contents page

The Mortal Realms, with their eight realms, are presented over nearly 40 pages. Unlike in previous books, the realms themselves are described from the perspective of their inhabitants, and the accounts are frequently interspersed with little anecdotes, letters, and notes. This gives this section a fresh breeze and offers some new perspectives on the Eight Realms. However, while reading, it was not entirely clear whether this comes all from the mouth of an overarching narrator or not. A certain Hanniver Toll is quoted, but we do not learn anything about him, so the narrator remains rather vague. Additionally, a vintage font is used for the narrative passages, which, combined with the decent but not outstanding print quality, makes for poor readability.

Following this is the history of the realms, starting from The Age of Myth and The Age of Chaos, then tracing the history of Age of Sigmar from the Realmgate Wars through the Soul Wars and the Era of the Beast. This section is again presented in Games Workshop’s typical deus ex machina style and makes up about 20 pages. The lore section is rounded off with an introduction to all the factions over nearly 100 pages. Each of the four Grand Alliances is introduced with several pages of model photos, and each faction is given a double-page spread of text and artwork.

The rules section

The rules section includes the core rules, advanced rules, the Path to Glory: Ascension campaign battlepack, the Matched Play: First Blood battlepack, and a very good glossary.

Warhammer Age of Sigmar 4th Edition Core Book rules section
The rules section intro page

The revised core rules span 22 pages. The rules are numbered paragraphs, just like in the previous edition. The writing style, as has been typical of Games Workshop for several years now, is very precise but also quite convoluted. Some rules read more like Magic or Yu-Gi-Oh cards and are semantically demanding. However, there are short summaries in red boxes in the margins, as well as designer’s notes in grey boxes, which help to alleviate this somewhat. The explanatory graphics and diagrams are also well-chosen and very clear.

Then follow the advanced rules on a mere 13 pages. Here, commands, terrain, magic, army composition, command models, and battle tactics are explained.

The Matched Play battlepack has only been allocated 3 pages. It provides three simple battleplans to get you started, but the book clearly refers to the General’s Handbook as the way to go for matched play.

The Path to Glory battlepack is more extensive, spanning 30 pages. It includes a complete campaign system with 6 battleplans and 6 quests. Additionally, heroes can either follow the Path of the Warrior or the Path of the Leader to acquire additional abilities. Wizards can folow the Path of the Mage, Priests The Path of the Devout, while non-hero units can gain experience on the Path of the Attacker or the Path of the Defender.

From July 8, Games Workshop will make the core rules, advanced rules, Spearhead rules, terrain rules, and glossary available for free download, as well as Spearhead reference battle profiles and a Quickstart Guide. This means that the exclusive content in this book will mainly be the lore section and the Path to Glory battlepack.

The key take-aways

With the 4th edition, the design studio has given the rules of Warhammer Age of Sigmar a complete overhaul for the first time. For a detailed analysis of all the changes, you can find more on other websites and channels. Here, we only highlight what we see as the most significant innovations.

Firstly, each phase of a turn now has its own colour. All actions and unit special rules are classified as abilities and colour-coded according to the phase in which they occur. This is supported by icons that indicate the type of ability. This is absolutely brilliant, provides clarity, and is super intuitive. I expect that many other tabletop games will adopt this approach in the future.

Secondly, the rules are divided into modular components. For example, Spearhead only uses the core rules and the Spearhead battlepack, but not the advanced rules. Path to Glory, on the other hand, uses the advanced rules but not the battle tactics, while the General’s Handbook adds additional season rules.

I find the modular structure with rule modules and battlepacks a very good concept on paper. Anything that makes rules more straightforward and communication easier is a positive step in my view, as Games Workshop tends to release more and more additional content over the course of an edition, in the form of books, White Dwarf articles, and downloads. I just wish that the core book would explain the modular approach in more detail. There was a very good post about this on Warhammer Community, with graphics illustrating how the different modules interact with each other (see above). Unfortunately, exactly this is missing from the Core Book, which for me is the only weakness of the otherwise exemplary rule section.

Spearhead and Fire & Jade expansion book

Perhaps the third major innovation in the 4th Edition of Age of Sigmar is the new Spearhead game mode. Compared to its counterpart, Combat Patrol, in the 10th Edition of Warhammer 40k, Spearhead feels even more like a fleshed-out standalone game system.

This is partly because the unit profiles for each Spearhead seem more balanced and optimised than what we’ve seen in 40k’s Combat Patrol. For example, certain units in Spearheads with a higher or stronger model count only arrive in later rounds, while units in weaker Spearheads can return as reinforcements after being wiped out. Additionally, Spearhead uses only the core rules without advanced rules like magic; instead, these effects are integrated directly into the unit profiles as special abilities.

Spearhead also thrives on its peripherals. Skaventide includes a special game board that matches the size of the familiar Kill Team and Warcry boards. One side is dedicated to Ghyran, while the other side represents fiery Aqshy. What makes it stand out from other boards are the printed mission objectives, with different layouts for each side. There is also a deck of battle tactics and twist cards for both realms, which complement the Fire & Jade battlepack.

All of these design choices make Spearhead a more cohesive gaming experience. However, it also means that, unlike Combat Patrol, you will need to acquire the corresponding game accessories. This is likely a deliberate decision by Games Workshop in order to move more product.

A look into the Fire & Jade book

Games Workshop has given the first Spearhead battlepack, Fire & Jade, its own 176-page expansion book instead of a section in the Core Book.

Fire & Jade Spearhead expansion book from Skaventide, contents page
Fire & Jade contents

After a brief introduction, the book contains the Fire & Jade battlepack, which primarily consists of a step-by-step guide on how to setup a Spearhead game, and a single special battle plan. Unfortunately, the content of the battle tactics and twist cards is not printed in the book, which means you need to have a deck of cards. That’s really daft, because the Warcry books, for example, have the contents of their cards in printed form.

The book then includes the rules and unit profiles for 25 Spearheads. Each faction has rules for their current Spearhead box, and the Skaven and Stormcast each receive a second Spearhead based on the contents of Skaventide. Since Ironjawz unfortunately do not have a Spearhead box at the moment, they are not included in this book. What I particularly like in this section is that they had each Spearhead newly painted by a studio member instead of recycling older photos. These army shots have also been shared on Warhammer Community in the faction focus posts. Unfortunately, the images are somewhat small, as some armies have really beautiful and original colour schemes I would like to inspect more closely.

Finally, the book has a reprint of the core rules with a glossary. This is limited to just the core rules without the advanced and terrain rules, but it makes sense, as these don’t play a role in Spearhead games.

Do you need the Fire & Jade book to play Spearhead?

Spearhead is being promoted as particularly beginner-friendly. But do you absolutely need the contents of Skaventide to try out the new game mode?

Regarding the rules, Games Workshop will make the complete core rules, including advanced rules and Spearhead rules, available for free download from July 8, 2024. In the following days, the faction packs, which will also contain the unit profiles for Spearhead, will be released for download. However, it is still unclear whether the digital Spearhead rules will include the Fire & Jade battleplan. If they do, you can essentially skip buying the Fire & Jade book unless you prefer having a printed reference. If not, you will ultimately need the Fire & Jade book just for the one battle plan, which would be a pretty annoying paywall. I will update this post once we know more details.

Age of Sigmar 4th Edition Core Book and Fire & Jade from Skaventide
These books were kindly provided by Games Workshop. Thoughts and opinions are our own.

Apart from the battlepack, you will need the terrain, game board, and the battle tactics and twist cards to play games of Spearhead. Games Workshop has announced a Fire & Jade Gaming Pack, which will contain the terrain, board and decks, which, as of now, is the only way to get the tactics and twist cards apart from Skaventide. Looking at similar boxes, e.g. Kill Team Bheta-Decima Box, I fear that the Fire & Jade Gaming Pack will see only limited availability. Of course, you could also use similar terrain and a regular Warcry board if you have suitable objective markers (6″ diameter with a 40mm centre) and measure out their positions. But that doesn’t solve the problem that the decks are not available on their own (yet), and their rules are not included in the Fire & Jade book, as I mentioned above.

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