Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Lores of Magic: The Lore of Nehekhara

Two posts in one day?? Well, I promised some time ago to review this Lore, so it's now well overdue. Let's have a look and see what the Lore of Nehekhara has to offer...

In the previous army book, Tomb King magic used to be the defining characteristic of the army. It behaved differently from other Lores of Magic and could be largely unstoppable if the player built his army right. It allowed Tomb King units to charge with impunity in the magic phase, and completely changed the dynamic of the game. Those times are past, however. The new book contains a Lore that is more in keeping with the game as a whole, and most notably it does away with the magic charges (which are now all but extinct in 8th edition).

What does it do?

The Lore Attribute of the Lore of Nehekhara is The Restless Dead. Units affected by augment spells from the Lore immediately regain D3+1 lost wounds, in addition to whatever effect the spell has. The Restless Dead is now the only way for Tomb King units to regain lost wounds or models. This is both a good and a bad thing. The upside is that you no longer need to dedicate some of your magic specifically to raising stuff back, as it happens anyway as a side-effect of your other spells. In effect you get two spells for the price of one. There is no one spell that your opponent can plan to block in order to prevent your raising - so long as you still have an augment spell remaining, you still have a chance to raise.

The downside to the raising being restricted to the Lore Attribute is that there is no way for you to make a concerted effort to save an endangered unit. No matter whether the spell is boosted or not, the affected units will only ever regain D3+1 wounds. The other downsides are the limitations I have not yet mentioned. Animated Constructs may only ever regain a single wound per phase from The Restless Dead - regardless of how many augment spells may be flung their way. This is a very harsh limitation, and means that choices like Ushabti are slightly less appealing. One wound per turn will never compensate for a concerted amount of punishment from the enemy. Furthermore, characters and their mounts will never regain wounds from this spell. So you can't heal Tomb King characters. This is a significant disadvantage compared to Vampire Counts (the other life-challenged army out there), who are still able to prop up their characters.

Khsar's Incantion of the Desert Wind is the extremely long title for the Lore's Signature Spell. It's an augment spell that targets all unengaged friendly Tomb King units within 12" (24" when boosted). Affected units may make a free move (not marching or charging). You can't use the spell to move a given unit more than once, however they will still regain lost wounds thanks to The Restless Dead. The casting value of the spell is not overly steep, requiring an 8+ (or 16+ if boosted).

A Tomb King Liche Priest
Compared to the previous army book, Tomb Kings are an extremely slow army. The ability to hurl units around the table and charge them into enemy flanks using magic is something that old-school TK players will miss immensely. Nowadays they can never march, even with the aid of magic. This is another disadvantage when compared to Vampire Counts, where units near the general get a speed boost. Khsar's Incantion of the Desert Wind effectively means that your units can march, but only if you get the spell off. You have slightly more flexibility in some regards, such as your units can move backwards or sideways twice at half speed, where normal units can only do it once. But if you're going forwards, there is no real advantage here for units other than chariots (who can never march), although you may benefit from the Lore Attribute. This spell will help you close the gap with the enemy or shuffle slightly further away, but you're not likely to run circles around your opponent.

Djaf's Incantation of Cursed Blades is another augment spell, however this one only ever affects one unit. It has a range of 12", and is cast on a 7+ (it can be boosted to 24" for 10+). The target gains Killing Blow in close combat for one full turn. In addition, if the unit already had Killing Blow or Heroic Killing Blow, this now works on a 5+ instead of a 6+. 

Enhanced Killing Blow for Tomb Guard has potential
The effectiveness of this spell will probably depend upon your army composition (and that of your opponent - an Ogre army may not care about Killing Blow at all). There may often the the opportunity to take a cheeky shot at an enemy character with some Killing Blow-enhanced Skeletons, but in general Skeletons will be outclassed by their opponents regardless of whether they have Killing Blow. On the other hand, an army with a decent number of Tomb Guard, Necropolis Knights and other units with Killing Blow will become quite lethal with the 5+ boost. As a rule, Tomb Kings do not excel at armour penetration, but when a third of all hits ignore armour altogether, these units will start to wade through Knights at an alarming rate. The ability to boost Heroic Killing Blow also has potential for a Necrosphinx, or even more so a Tomb King armed with the Destroyer of Eternities.

Next up we have Neru's Incantation of Protection. It's an augment spell that grants a 5+ ward save to the target for a full turn. It targets a single unit within 12" for 9+, or all units within 12" if boosted for 18+. This spell is far less situational than the previous one - a ward save on a unit (or a whole cluster of units) is almost always useful, unless you're fighting some sort of strange pacifist opponent who doesn't want to hurt your warriors. One of the great dangers for Undead units is combat resolution, and getting thrashed in a round. The resulting crumbling from the Unstable rule can see units vanish in a cloud of broken bone. In a marginal combat, the addition of a 5+ ward save will probably see a potential loss turn to victory. However, for Tomb Kings it could be just as important to grant the save to a unit of Skeletons about to be pounded by your opponent. Each 5+ passed will effectively save 2 models thanks to the improved combat resolution, so it could go a long way to preserving your troops. 

Ptra's Incantation of Righteous Smiting is the last of the augment spells available in the Lore of Nehekhara. As you can see there are a number of them there, meaning there could be quite a lot of opportunities to regain wounds or models thanks to The Restless Dead. Of them all however, Ptra's Incantation of Righteous Smiting is the spell that tends to have Tomb Kings players rubbing their hands together with glee.

The spell targets a single unit within 12" for a 9+, however the boosted version targets all units within 24" for 18+, which is a massive area. Affected units get +1 Attack for a full turn, and units with bows and great bows gain the Multiple Shot (2) rule. These are both significant. The Attacks increase is not just +1 per model, but +1 per element of the model. So a chariot would gain +1 Attack for each crewman, as well as +1 Attack for each of the steeds pulling it. That adds up to a lot of attacks over the course of a whole unit. Likewise, a Warsphinx will get an additional Attack, as will each of the 4 Tomb Guard crew on the back - so the model as a whole just gained +5 Attacks.

Double shots? Yes please...
The shooting bonus is potentially more significant. Most races would happily take the option to fire twice at -1 to hit (Dark Elves, anyone?) but of course Tomb Kings benefit from their Arrows of the Asaph, and don't suffer the penalty to hit. So they will rain down a terrific number of shots on the enemy, and still always hit on a 5+. This is where the firepower of some Tomb King armies will go from considerable to overwhelming, and lightly armoured targets will simply vanish. 

There will frequently be a good target for Ptra's Incantation of Righteous Smiting, be it an important unit in combat, or a regiment of 30 or so Skeleton Archers (or even a decent unit of Ushabti armed with bows). The ability to affect all friendly units within 24" will frequently prove irresistible to players however, and that is probably the version of the spell you will most often see cast.

Usirian's Incantation of Vengeance is a hex spell with a range of 18", which can be doubled to 36" if you boost the casting cost from 10+ to 13+. It knocks D3 Movement off the target for a full turn, and the unit counts as always moving through Dangerous Terrain. This spell will often be of limited usefulness, although it may force a cautious player to waste a turn with a key unit, especially if it contains a character on 1 wound, or chariots are involved (which suffer a great deal more from a failed Dangerous Terrain test than most units do). As a rule, most units will not care overly much about 1 model in 6 taking a wound - certainly not enough to stop it attempting an important charge. Of course, the -D3 Movement may be the difference between making and failing that charge - but you won't know until all the dice have been rolled. As is often the case in Warhammer, all you can do is try to stack the odds further in your favour. When all this is said and done however, I don't think you will see Usirian's Incantation of Vengeance cast all that often. There will normally be better places for the player to spend his power dice.

Usekhp's Incantation of Desiccation is the second hex spell in the Lore. It has a range of 24" and is cast on an 11+. It reduces the target unit's Strength and Toughness by 1 for a full turn. Alternately, the spell can be boosted to a 22+, in which case it reduces the Strength and Toughness by D3. Spells such as this are incredibly effective ways of swinging combats in your favour. It's sometimes surprising to see how a potentially dangerous unit becomes nearly harmless once it loses a point of Strength, and knocking a point of Toughness off can turn make your questionable combat units look a whole lot more dangerous. 

The other obvious use of this spell is to cripple a target's Toughness before raining arrows down on it, hopefully with Ptra's Incantation of Righteous Smiting in play. Unless they're protected by very good armour, most targets will wilt under this sort of treatment. 

The boosted version of this spell is spectacularly powerful, however it does carry with it a pretty steep casting value. If you can get it off and roll more than a 1, you should be able to pretty much guarantee success in nearly any combat. It's also pretty funny firing arrows at a unit with Toughness 1. It's less funny when you're the target, but hey - at least the pain will be over quickly...

The final spell in the Lore of Nehekhara is Sakhmet's Incantation of the Skullstorm. It is a magical vortex that moves an artillery dice multiplied by the caster's Wizard level number of inches, and inflicts a Strength 4 hit on everything it passes over. It costs 15+ to cast the spell, or 25+ if you want to use the large template.

Sakhmet's Incantation of the Skullstorm is an effective way to cull large, relatively poorly protected units. However, it lacks the sheer terror value that a spell that kills outright (such as Purple Sun of Xereus in the Lore of Death), or even one that does wounds without saves (like Dark Magic's Black Horror). Strength 4 hits will be even more effective against some targets, but there are others that can wear that sort of punishment, either due to high Toughness or a good armour save. Of course, if Toughness is all that's stopping you, you could always prep the target with Usekhp's Incantation of Desiccation first...

How will it be used?

All in all, the Lore of Nehekhara is a pretty good one. As with all Lores, there are good spells and weak ones. Usirian's Incantation of Vengeance is probably the most disappointing spell in the Lore, given you can't even use it to raise fallen models using the Lore Attribute. Djaf's Incantation of Cursed Blades is a bit situational, and Sakhmet's Incantation of the Skullstorm may struggle to scare some opponents. On the bright side, Ptra's Incantation of Righteous Smiting is a very powerful spell and Usekhp's Incantation of Desiccation is another that all opponents will want nothing to do with.

The Casket gives TK magic some real firepower
The Lore of Nehekhara is guaranteed to see at least some use in all Tomb King armies, given that the Hierophant must select it. This will often be a Level 4 Wizard, as the Hierophant must be the highest level caster in the army. However beyond that, it is in direct competition with the Lore of Light and the Lore of Death. The question then will be which Lore has the most to offer the particular army, and whether there will be any decent spells left in the Lore of Nehekhara once the Hierophant has made his choice. The Signature Spell is not exceedingly powerful, and the player may prefer the odd magic missile or direct damage spell, such as the other Lores have to offer.

The Tomb King army can muster a pretty fearsome array of magic, by the time a Casket of Souls and a Hierotitan start offering their bonuses. This means there may well be room for more than one spellcaster in the army, and the player will probably often choose to avail himself of the variety offered by the other Lores, rather than stock up on a second copy of Khsar's Incantion of the Desert Wind.


  1. You missed one of the best use of cursed blades.

    See that horrible unit of 1+ armour save cavalry, throw a unit of chariots into combat with them and then toss this spell on them. All of a sudden d6 impact hits per chariot with every 6 to wound being a killing blow turns the chariots into a devestating charge rather than a surefire way to lose a unit of chariots. But that's the hitch, you need to manage your magic phase to guarantee that spell, otherwise you've just suicided a unit of chariots.

    I've deleted whole units of chaos knights using this tactic for the loss of nothing seeing as a lot of the damage is before anyone swings. Sure 4 chariots only equates to 2-3 killing blows on average but you then get all the attacks from the charioteers themselves with KB too which will often net you another knight or two. Often well worth giving a go.

  2. You're right that chariots put out a lot of hits and attacks. They would indeed be one of the better targets for the spell provided you're looking to cull knights, rather than head-hunt characters in the ranks (where the impact hits won't make a difference).

  3. Thank you fine sir! I asked, and surely enough, it came. Exactly what I was looking for! Again thank you

  4. Yeah, it got there eventually. Better late than never...