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Age of Sigmar Kharadron Overlords Battletome review

The Kharadron Overlords are skyfaring dwarf merchants, pirates, and profiteers - their new battletome updates them to Age of Sigmar third edition

Age of Sigmar Kharadron Overlords battletome - picture by Games Workshop of an arkanaut frigate

Our Verdict

The latest rulebook for Age of Sigmar's skyfaring dwarves uses backstory and rules alike to convey their unique character. This is more like a refit than a brand new vessel, with small and considered changes that - for the most part - make it lighter and easier to steer.

The third edition Age of Sigmar Kharadron Overlords battletome finally brings the skyfaring dwarves up to date with the other factions of the Mortal Realms. With an iconoclastic take on Dwarven lore and remarkable airship models, they’re a flagship race that sets the game apart from its predecessors and competitors.

The rules engine inside the Kharadron’s battletome has been stripped down and rebuilt, a few redundant systems kept out to save weight. Some warscrolls have been optimised, making the units feel more distinct. In other places the tinkering just reveals how a particular component is a bad fit, no matter how much the workshop works on it.

If you’re note sure that Kharadron Overlords are exactly what you’re looking for, make sure to check our full guide to Age of Sigmar armies to find the right one for you.

Age of Sigmar Kharadron Overlords battletome - picture by Games Workshop of the battletome covers

Kharadron Overlords battletome lore

The Kharadron Ovelords lore in the new battletome explores their civilisation and society more closely than we’ve seen before. There’s a history of their first flight into the sky, a closer look at the infrastructure of their improbable sky-cities, and ruminations on how their different ports are responding to the return of the ancestor God Grungni after he abandoned them during the Age of Chaos.

The Kharadron are distinguished from conventional steampunk dwarves by the vaporous aethergold that powers their devices. Up ‘til now that was essentially a magical maguffin with a made-up compound noun name.

The new battletome explains the heavy industry behind aethergold extraction and refinement, as well as the many other filthy alchemical industries polluting the ground beneath their floating cities. These additions do a lot to ground – or rather, anchor – the Kharadrons as a believable civilization.

Age of Sigmar Kharadron Overlords battletome - illustration by Games Workshop of a Kharadron fleet

Kharadron Overlords battletome army rules

There’s been a welcome simplification to some Kharadron Overlords army rules. Previously, Kharadron units went to battle with a share of aethergold, representing their bounty for participating in the fight. They could spend it to temporarily get a “triumph” ability, or hang onto it for a leadership bonus. That’s gone now. It wasn’t a bad system, but nor was it very interesting. Good riddance.

The lists of Command Traits and Artefacts of Power have also been reduced to just six each. The Spell in a Bottle is still there – a stoppered Endless Spell that cannot be unbound, nor controlled by your magically inept sky-dwarves. The ‘Drakk-hobbler’ Mag-bolas looks like a very rude answer to centrepiece models: this 12″ range attack hits on a 2+, and strips one dice from the charge rolls of a target monster for the next turn.

Age of Sigmar Kharadron Overlords battletome - picture by Games Workshop of a Kharadron fleet

Kharadron Overlords battletome – the Kharadron Code

The Kharadrons still Stick to the Code. This Kharadron Code is the (im)moral core of Kharadron society. It’s also a DIY army-wide buff you’ll construct for your force, choosing a permanent Artycle, once-per-turn Amendment, and once-per-game Footnote. The wording on these abilities have changed – never trust a Kharadron contract, even after the ink is dry.

On the whole, the Code looks a lot more powerful and impactful than it did before. The Artycle Settle the Grudges grants your whole army +1 to wound against a single enemy unit you nominate at the start of the battle, a perfect cure to a pesky Lumineth Realmlords Teclis or Idoneth Deepkin Leviadon centrepiece unit.

There is one Artycle that looks decidedly weak. While a defunct choice is palatable in a large list, when there’s only three to pick from that’s a problem. Honour is Everything upgrades your Rally command so that models return to the unit that receives the command on a roll of 4+ instead of 6+.

It’s tempting to picture a sudden turnaround as scores of your models return to the table, but how often do you a) have a unit that’s suffered casualties and isn’t engaged by enemies in your command phase, and b) no better use for your CP? It’s not a bad ability, but can you justify picking it when Settle the Grudges will let you relentlessly bully your enemy’s centrepiece unit?

Age of Sigmar Kharadron Overlords battletome - picture by Games Workshop of a Kharadron fleet

Kharadron Overlords battletome Sky-Ports

Kharadron armies are drawn from one of several Sky-Ports, which grant you an army-wide buff. They’re all small, simple, and impactful: for example Barak-Nar heroes can all generate additional command points on a roll of 4+; Barak-Zon Skyfarers get +1 to hit and +1 to wound on the turn that they charge.

The ancestor-worshipping Barak-Thryng might be the most interesting. Allied Duardin priests gain a new prayer which grants a friendly Arkanaut Company or Grundstock Thunderer unit the ability to generate mortal wounds on to-hit rolls of six. Not game breaking, but a nice incentive to experiment with a themed army of grizzled Duardin traditionalists.

The Sky-Ports have lost the unique command traits, enhancements, and interpretations of the Code they enjoyed in second edition AoS. I’m in favour of cutting away bloat from Battletomes, so thumbs up for this trim.

Age of Sigmar Kharadron Overlords battletome - picture by Games Workshop of an Ironclad

Kharadron Overlords battletome Sky Vessels

Kharadron’s signature units are the Sky Vessels that carry them to war. The way these function has been tweaked just enough to trip up old players, so let’s cover them here:

Kharadron infantry can embark on Sky Vessels. This is a lot like garrisoning – you take the models off the table but they still count as being present and in cover inside the vessel. They can fight, shoot, use command abilities, but don’t contest objectives.

In second edition AoS a heavily encumbered ship was slowed down by the weight of models onboard – that’s gone now. Cram your holds full of dwarves, cap’n.

Sky Vessels can also Fly High, removing them from the battlefield and placing them down at least 9” from enemy units. Previously this was a native warscroll ability, but it’s now a Command Trait, albeit one that Sky Vessels can use on their own.

The restrictions on when you can Fly High have also changed: no matter how wounded or heavily laden a Sky Vessel is, if it’s more than 3” from all enemy units at the end of the movement phase, it can float up into the blue. A little more powerful and a little easier to remember.

Warhammer Age of Sigmar Kharadron Overlords codewright - image by Games Workshop of a dwarf in heavy armour with a small library on his back

Kharadron Overlords battletome new units

The only new unit is the Codewright, who has the distinction of being the first Kharadron not wearing a big metal hat who isn’t also a named character. He’s a literal rules lawyer, an expert in the Kharadron code who allows you to swap out your Footnote (and maybe your Amendment) mid-game.

The Codewright is a flavourful addition to the range, but he’s yet another support character. I empathise with any Kharadron players who are disappointed that he’s the only new addition. The Overlords have yet to receive any new non-character units since their army debuted in the first edition of Age of Sigmar.

There’s plenty of scope for new models: different tonnages of Sky Vessel, infantry in the exo-skeleton armour worn by the Endrineer, or whackier inventions from the Kharadron workshops. Still, these dwarves are doing a lot better than the poor Fyreslayers. Raise a glass.

Age of Sigmar Kharadron Overlords battletome - picture by Games Workshop of Grundstok thunderers


Kharadron Overlords battletome warscroll changes

Every Kharadron Overlords warscroll has changed a little in the new battletome, accommodating the systematic changes, or tuning them up to the current power level. I’ve picked out a few units I think are noteworthy.

Games Workshop just can’t get satisfied with the heavily armed Grundstok Thunderers, a unit characterised by a range of novelty guns which have a new and seemingly random assortment of special abilities every battletome.

The Grundstok Mortar’s attack characteristic is now equal to the number of models in the target unit (to a maximum of five), the Aetheric Fumigator hits automatically d6 times and can inflict mortal wounds in melee, the Decksweeper gains accuracy and another shot, the honking great Aethercannon now inflicts three rather than d3 wounds and has a chunky 18” range.

Thunderers used to have a bonus to-hit if your unit was equipped with the main instruments from the orchestra of guns, which is gone now. Instead they have the ability to inflict a to-hit penalty on enemy units with the Suppressing Fire ability. Roll 2d6 and add the number of unsaved wounds the target unit took – beat their Bravery characteristic and they suffer -1 to hit until your next hero phase.

These aren’t the only changes to the unit, and I suspect they won’t be the last. Thunderers are an elite ranged infantry unit with a kit that can be built with five different weapon options – stuck in a game built for massed infantry with identical weapons, that foregrounds melee. They’re fun little oddballs, but expect them to change again in three years time.

Age of Sigmar Kharadron Overlords battletome - picture by Games Workshop of an arkanaut frigate

One change that I welcome wholeheartedly is the Arkanaut Frigate. This is the middle-weight ship for the Kharadrons, a transport with space for a single unit and a reasonable smattering of guns. Compared to the flagship Ironclad or nippy flying artillery of the Grundstock Gunhauler, it always just felt like “the other one”.

Now it’s a combat vessel. The Assault Boat ability allows the Frigate to inflict mortal wounds on enemy units it charges, and also allows you to immediately disembark its passengers straight into melee.

Why would you get out of your nice safe metal box? Well, units disembarking via the Assault Boat ability benefit from the strikes-first effect, attacking before any enemies, while the Glory-Seekers ability of Arkanaut Company grants +1 to hit enemy units contesting objectives provided they’re outside a Sky Vessel.

Combine that with the +1 to hit and +1 to wound that units from Barak-Zon gain on the turn they charge and you’ve got the basis of a melee Kharadron army that will be… well, not intimidating, but functional, which is more than you could say before. Outside such a specialised list, the tweaked Frigate gives every Kharadron list a little more game in the combat phase.

The Arkanaut Admiral also feels more commanding. He can pick a Flagship to which he can issue a command each turn without spending a command point. That could be his unique Bring Every Gun to Bear command, granting +1 attack to every ranged weapon on a Sky Vessel that spent its turn stationary. Once per battle he can crack out the special reserve of expensive Grudgebreaker rounds, improving the rend of a nearby infantry unit’s ranged attacks by one.

The Overlords have always enjoyed a Star-Trek style command crew of specialised hero choices, and the Admiral’s overhauled abilities make him feel like the undisputed master of the fleet for the first time.

Age of Sigmar Kharadron Overlords battletome - picture by Games Workshop of an aetherchemist

Kharadron Overlords Battletome final thoughts

The third edition Kharadron Overlords Battletome is like an old vessel leaving dry dock – the changes are more than just a lick of paint, but the same iron bones are holding it together. The new battletome has shed weight, most of it low-value baggage, which should make it easier to use in your games.

Changes to units sharpen their identity. I have reservations that one or two army building options will overshadow others, but – with the regular shifts to points changes – that’s hard to predict.

Kharadron Admirals can be satisfied – their proud old vessel is in ship shape once more.