In recent years a huge part of my interaction with Age of Sigmar and the community has been championing custom factions, conversions and battletomes to expand the setting far beyond what the studio could have ever concieved. Acknowledging that your dream faction probably will never align 100% with the visions of the design team and being willing to take part in fan-creation for it is a beautiful amalgamation of hobby and community interaction.
I have, in my own humble opinion, created some of the best supplements and fantomes available for Age of Sigmar (See Downloads section) as I am a firm believer that rather than complaining about how things are, trying and showing another way for the game to be is always better. Whilst I lack the community Oomph required to get these accepted at matched play events (or even some narrative events) I firmly believe that the creation and the way it lets you interact with games design is a hobby unto itself.
Designing a Battletome, Event Pack, Scenario or Warscroll can be an unbelievable headache to get feedback on, the community is better equipped to tell you about colour choices or painting tips as its a broad part of a niche hobby, when it comes down to games design it can be far more of an uphill struggle though there are places that people generally are receptive to giving feedback on such things (Mortal Realms Discord, The Great Weave Discord to name a couple)
THE MALEVOLENT SELLSWORDS
MERCENARIES IN THE AGE OF SIGMAR: THE OVERVIEW
Having recently finished off my Abyssal Fleet (Undead Pirates) unofficial battletome for Age of Sigmar I was content to hand the baton of unofficial games design to another for a while, letting my hobby roam wild and free (I painted two, TWO whole Treelords during this frolicking time). But somewhere amidsts my frolicking I got to thinking on the concepts of Mercenaries (or to use a WFB term Dogs of War) as an army for Age of Sigmar.
I know of a couple of hobbyists out there seeking to make/remake a classic style Dogs of War force, a natively Order (Grand Alliance) but highly mercantile force, and though my talents are plentiful and mysterious I dislike trampling on the work of others in order to find my inspiration. So I opted to go down a different, far darker road for my army theme.
With the introduction of Kruleboyz (Skinny Orruks (AoS Ork)) we got to see the first resurrection of Hobgrotz, a maliciously tall and underhanded Grot species who encapsulate the very worst elements of society and mercantile nature. They are cruel, capricious, and undeniably evil, making their living selling slaves and souls to Oathbreaker masters in exchange for weapons and armament. They encapsulated everything evil and undeniably bad that I wanted to radiate from my evil Mercenary army, and form a beautifully narrative backbone to an otherwise quite ecclectic mix of units.
With the core concept solidified it was time to pick a name, so whacking a godlike thesaurus down on my desk with a due amount of pomp and ceremony I searched many synonyms for evil, bad, cruel etc before setting on the grand and fantastical Malevolent. As Age of Sigmar factions like a two word name, the first as a descriptor or race of origin and the second a role within the setting Sellswords became the obvious choice.
The name tells you everything you need to know.
And they're Mercenaries.
With the name down, and a loose concept I moved onto thinking about how this works as an army. A big thing for me is not writing too many new warscrolls for the faction and instead letting the hobbyist truly go nuts on some of the best looking models across a huge scope of factions to depict their mercenaries.
Being Mercenary a big part of your allegiance is determined by who is currently paying the bills, this gives a chance to look into elements of the darker underbelly of civilisation to those who would hire such an underhanded force.
But such choice should have drawbacks, those Mercenary units outside of your Hobgrotz backbone are only there for the money and outside of that would abandon their bonds as quicky as they forged them. Bringing in the "In it for the Money" rule really helps encapsulate this as a concept, you cant inspire mercenaries with anything except cold hard cash.
THE MANY MASTERS
"When making a Malevolent Sellswords army using the Servants to Many Masters rule you must select one of the following additional allegiances for your army depicting their current employers in the Mortal Realms. Though one force may serve many masters in their lifetime they may serve only a single one per battle.
"All Hobgrots Units in your army benefit from your chosen Allegiances Primary Benefit"
"All Mercenary Units in your army benefit from the Secondary Benefit,"
Oathbreakers were the first and most obvious choice for Hobgrotz and their mercenary legions to serve, there are existing bonds there through their work with the Kruleboyz and the Oathbreakers seldom leave their mountain forges making a bond with the Sellswords a natural and benefitial arrangement.
Though eeeeeevil the Oathbreakers are Duardin, Forgemasters to the Legions of Chaos and this should be showcased in the benefits they confer both to Hobgrots and in a lesser faction to the Mercenary units that travel with them.
Runic plate, even if the runes do align to a darker god provides robust protection for the otherwise fragile Hobgrots. Catering to their egos and naturally cowardly nature having this level of protection on the field of battle is a prize many mercenaries would (and have) kill for.
Whilst the benefits are shared to the Mercenaries as part of their payment what they receive is more akin to rejected scraps of runic plate, able to take one solid blow before the magic fades and little more than dented and beaten metal remains.
Scurrylords, or Skaven to those in Azyr accustomed to the diverse bestiary of the realms have little need for gold or coin. Their own society far more dependant on Warpstone from the Skaven Blight these fell master rats are no strangers to hiring others to do their bidding so they may remain within the shadows.
Leaning into the underhanded, lurking and scurrying aspects of the Skaven in looking to see how mercenaries acting in their name are adorned shapes how the Scurrylord aligned Sellswords fight.
Hobgrots come to battle clad in cloaked formed of the darkest shadow akin to those worn by the Eshin assassins cloaking them from view until it is too late.
Mercenaries are equipped with vials of smoke favoured by Skaven assassins to make good their escape, able to obscure their ranks in a cloud of stinging smoke and vapours to redeploy and confuse a foe.
Kruleboyz are an unnatural kind of Orruk for the mortal realms, spiteful and intellegent theirs is the threat far more subversive than the brute force of their Ironjawz kin. They have worked with Hobgrotz many times, and when battle comes have the presence of mind and strategy to appreciate the presence of another force to apply pressure to their foes.
Kruleboyz have a wonderful battle trait within their own tome that carries through to their Mercenaries within this one, the venoms of the swamp can overwhelm even the strongest of constitutions when refined so that even the slightest cut can prove lethal.
The Hobgrots of the sellswords see the full benefit of these Venoms, their own capabilities becoming equal to the Kruleboyz own soldiers. It vastly increases their potential damage output and lets a death by a thousand cuts approach boost your Hobgrot Leggionaires.
Other Mercenaries cannot be trusted with the good stuff, instead getting watered down venoms and toxins (in some cases quite literally) that wear off faster. Instead of dealing Mortal Wounds they may instead automatically wound on a roll of a 6.
Not every city is of Sigmar, nor are all open and welcoming to the concept of unified civilisations within the Mortal Realms. Many have carved out fell kingdoms of wealth and suffering in their own corners of the map, taking advantage of the constant war and rampaging of chaos to go unnotices as they claim more and more prized land in the name of their own seperatist kingdoms and waging coin on mercenaries to help them protect it.
Wealth, the power of money and lust to gain it defines these Kingdoms, it is all that seperates them from the ravaging tribes of Chaos and can make many mercenaries overlook transgressions these cultures have made against them previously.
Depicting Money in a wargame can be challenging, however reflecting it by way of Command Points given to Hobgrots within your army. This gives you tactical flexibility on the field of battle to showcase the wealth of supplies, scouting and weapons such currency can afford your force.
Mercenaries similarly find their pockets filled with gold, able to use it to enhance their own capabilities by way of triumphs akin to Kharadron Overlords throughout the battle.
MERCENARIES OF THE MORTAL REALMS
Below are the Mercenary warscrolls available to a Malevolent Sellswords Army in addition to those included in this Battletome. When selecting Mercenary units for a Malevolent Sellswords army each fall under one of four classifications, these denote how many may be taken within your army:
COMMON: Units that are common suffer no additional limitations to unit numbers
UNCOMMON: 1 in every 2 Units within a Malevolent Sellswords army may be an Uncommon Unit.
RARE: 1 in every 4 Units within a Malevolent Sellswords army may be an Rare Unit.
EXCEPTIONAL: Only a single unit in a Malevolent Sellsword army may be an Exceptional Unit.
Mercenary units in your army will gain the Malevolent Sellswords and Mercenary Keywords, allowing them access to the cool allegiance abilities that form part of this faction.
When making a Mercenary lists for the faction my key focuses were:
- Must be willing to fight for Money/Power
- Must be worth taking outside their own Grand Alliance
- Must provide something another unit doesnt
In truth there were near 100 warscrolls that fit that design criteria so it became a matter of trimming them down further and further until we had a somewhat balanced roster whilst providing fantastic opportunities for a stunning visual army on the field of battle.
COMMAND TRAITS: WARLORDS
Hobgrot Warlords are those seeking to garner power and wealth off the backs of lesser soldiers, they possess remarkable strategic accumen even for their kind and fill the role of Military Leader and diplomat in the Malevolent Sellword armies. Most of their buffs are for the Hobgrots side of the army, providing tactical and leadership support for the central elements of the army.
COMMAND TRAITS: PAYMASTERS
The Paymasters of the Malevolent Sellswords are Hobgrots who have grown fat and comfortable on the coin garnered from their Overlords. It is said the most prized trait of a Paymaster is an overwhelming lack of ambition, content to guard the wealth of their Warlord and revel in the fineries it affords them. Every Paymaster is catered to be dozens of Snotling Squires, their every duty from counting coin to cleaning the folds of their bloated fattened flesh falling to these "lucky" servants.