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Death Alliance Formation Overview

Malisteen

Master Necromancer
True Blood
Joined
Sep 23, 2009
Messages
2,134
#1
I wrote up an overview of the Warscroll Battalion Formations available to the Undead in Age of Sigmar as part of a discussion elsewhere, and I figured I'd re-post it here for reference.

Right now there are 8 Total formation scrolls available to the undead, Only 4 of which can be found in the App, the rest you kind of have to go hunting for a bit. They include:

Legion of the Dead:
Included in the Grand Alliance: Death book, or separately purchasable on the app (warning! as of time of posting it's listed twice in the app? I would avoid spending money on it until they work that out, you don't want to end up buying it twice, or buying it and getting something else instead or whatever). This formation includes:
  • 1 Wight King (non specific, so can include black axe wight king)
  • 1 unit black knights
  • 1 unit of Grave Guard
  • 3 units of Skeleton Warriors
Benefits: The formation grants bonus movement for units near the wight king (including the wight king itself), and can revive an extra model from units near the king (not including the king, obviously) during your command phase.

My Opinion: The benefits aren't bad, particularly for the otherwise slow infantry. However, the formation just requires too many units, particularly since skeletons want to be fielded in few big units, not many small ones. Would be a much nicer foundation for an army with two units of Skeleton Warriors instead of three. As it is, one to consider in larger games, but... meh.

Neferata's Blood Court:
Found in Balance of Power, or separately purchaseable in the app. This formation includes:
  • Neferata, Mortarch of Blood
  • Vampire Lord on Zombie Dragon
  • Coven Throne
  • 2 units of Morghast Archaii
Benefits: Neferata gains a reroll of her choice per turn, and can choose for either the vampire lord or the coven throne to fight harder that game. The archai prevent enemy units within their 3" control range from targeting Neferata with attacks.

My Opinion: a strong formation, but because it requires three big hero/monsters and two of our faction's most elite unit, this is just not a formation you're going to get to use in most games.

Spirits of Fellblood:
This is the Start Collecting: Malignants formation, and curretly cannot be found outside of that box set. This is easily my favorite formation currently available to the Undead in Age of Sigmar. It includes:
  • Mortis Engine
  • 1 unit of Hexwraiths
  • 1 unit of Spirit Hosts
Benefits: During your command phase, you may select either the hexwraiths or the spirit hosts. Remove the chosen unit from the table and re-deploy it near to the mortis engine.

My Opinion: This formation may not add a lot of power to the included units, but it does add a tone of tactical versatility. Deploy your ghosts way to one side to trick your opponent to deploy their counters opposite, then deploy the mortis engine somewhere else and recall your spirits to leave those counters in the middle of nowhere. Pull your units out of unfavorable match ups. Call in bodyguards to protect your engine. Position hexwraiths for their flyover attack. Lots of stuff you can do. It doesn't hurt at all that the units in the formation are all pretty good, and the formation itself is small, letting you use it in a variety of game sizes.

My only complaint is that it isn't really a good way to 'start collecting' undead, given that ghosty stuff lacks good synergy buffs, while the mortis engine wants to support casters that aren't included in the box, and that themselves want to buff units that aren't included in this box, either.

Arkhan's Skeleton Guard:
This is the Start Collecting: Skeleton Horde formation and can only be found in that box. It includes:
  • Arkhan the Black, Mortarch of Sacrament
  • 1 unit of Black Knights
  • 1 unit of Skeleton Warriors
Benefits: the same bonus movement rule as from the Legion of the Dead, centered on Arkhan.

My Opinion: This is a very disappointing formation compared to one from the Malignants box. No where near as interesting, being something another formation already does. It doesn't do much for the black knights, either, who, if they want to stay in range of the effect, aren't taking advantage of that movement anyway. Plus, if anything, it's an even worse way to start a collection than the Malignants box, having not nearly enough skeletons to be at all effective (let alone to call them a 'horde'), plus arkhan is a character that really depends on having other casters with buffs to steal and big units to caste them on, and this box has neither. It's a nice bargain if you're looking to get a mortarch anyway, but this is a box to cap off an existing army, not start a new one, and the formation, again, is just kind of disappointing.

Royal Legion of Chariots:
One of the two Tomb Kings Compendium formations, it can be found in said pdf compendium or for free on the Age of Sigmar App. It includes:
  • Tomb King on Royal Chariot
  • 4 units of Skeleton Chariots
Benefits: bonus to hit for skeleton chariots, plus a chance of inflicting a mortal wound for each model in the formation that ends a charge move within half an inch of an enemy unit.

My Opinion: Unfortunately, Skeleton Chariots are kind of lackluster in Age of Sigmar, which is disappointing given that they're such an iconic unit for the Tomb Kings. This formation helps a little, but having to field so very many chariots to do it really hurts, restricting this formation to larger games than are generally played. If this were a smaller formation - say two units of chariots instead of four - then it might be more workable, but as it is, even with the formation bonus you really don't want that much of your army to be given over to skeletal chariots in most games.

Tomb Legion:
The other Tomb Kings Compendium formation. Again, it can be found in the pdf or on the app. It includes:
  • 1 Tomb King
  • 1 Liche Priest
  • 2 units of Skeleton Warriors
  • 2 units of Skeleton Archers
  • 1 unit of Tomb Guard
  • 1 unit of Skeleton Chariots, Skeleton Horsemen, Skeleton Horse Archers, or Necropolis Knights.
Benefits: Models in the formation gain bonus attacks if they roll a 6s to wound while their unit is near the king, and models in the formation that die roll a die and on a 6 ignore the wound that killed them if their unit is near the priest.

My Opinion: Despite being the larger of the two Tomb Kings formations, this one feels much more viable, and is probably the best of the 'entire army in one formation' type battalions available to the undead generally, particularly if you take necropolis knights as that optional unit. Unfortunately, it IS a lot of units to be fielding, and that does restrict it to relatively large games. Overall, though, it's one of our better formations.

Deathrattle Horde:
This is one of the two Vampire Counts compendium formations. These formations can no longer be found in the app, but can still be found in the Vamp Counts compendium pdf, which can be downloaded from the GW web page. It includes:
  • 1 Wight King (this is from before 'wight king with black axe' was an option, so whether it's legal with that unit is iffy)
  • 1 unit of Black Knights
  • 1 unit of Grave Guard
  • 3 units of Skeleton Warriors
Benefits: The entire formation can choose to run 4" instead of rolling, and can re-roll save rolls of 1 for any unit in the formation that is close enough to another unit in the same formation.

My Opinion: The Legion of Death basically replaces this formation outright. The Deathrattle Horde includes the same units and so suffers the same drawbacks, but the benefits are a little bit less good. The only reason to use the Deathrattle Horde is if you don't want to spend money on the Grand Alliance: Death book or buying the Legion of Death rules on the app, in which case it's again an ok, but rather lackluster formation given how many units you have to take.

Charnel Pit Carrion:
The other Vamp Count formation, like the Deathrattle Horde it's no longer found in the App, but can still be found in the pdf. It includes:
  • 1 Ghoul King (whether on foot or on a terrorgheist)
  • 1 unit of Crypt Horrors
  • 3 units of Crypt Ghouls
Benefits: pick a terrain piece to be their home, units in the formation gain extra attacks with their melee weapons when fighting near their home. Units in the formation also gain an extra point of armor for the rest of the game if they wipe out an enemy unit in melee (limit one boost per unit per game)

My Opinion: This is a solid formation for ghoul lovers, though, as with the skeleton warrior requirements in the deathrattle and legion formations, three units of ghouls is one more than fits comfortably in most lists. Still, a decent formation overall in games large enough to comfortably run it.
 
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Oppenheimer

Crypt Horror
Joined
May 26, 2013
Messages
556
#2
The very first time I read over AoS I thought the formations would be a good way to balance the armies. Two armies field their formations and since they're preapproved batches of units they will allow a balanced game. Then I realised the formations are pretty much random assortments of units with no rhyme or reason to them and also don't give bonuses that are worth the cost of all those models. They're really disappointing and unnecessary addition to the game. Our ones in particular no less so.
 

Menkeroth

A Knight of Blood
Joined
Nov 11, 2013
Messages
934
#3
I disagree. This idea comes from 40k and here is even more useful, it's an interesting and quite fresh method of playing. Without them it wouldn't be better.
 

Malisteen

Master Necromancer
True Blood
Joined
Sep 23, 2009
Messages
2,134
#4
Honestly, I have mixed feelings about formations in general. I like the overall concept, but the execution in 40k has been progressively more terrible as time has gone on, making that game a tangled mess. I don't think we're at that point for AoS yet, but we'll see where it goes.
 
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Menkeroth

A Knight of Blood
Joined
Nov 11, 2013
Messages
934
#5
Of course, it could be made worse, but I agree on the concept too, and it's a good way to create our own.
 
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