This article will detail the Kharadron Overlords army starting from its lore, describing the main units and their roles, how the army plays and finally our personal opinion of the army.
For a complete run-down of the different armies available in Age of Sigmar, consult our Age of Sigmar army overview article.
In this article we will refer often to Matched Play and other technical terms like allegiance abilities, command points, army roles in building a list, core battalions, Endless Spells/Invocations, etc. We assume the reader will be knowledgeable with those terms, otherwise please refer to the relevant guides for more details.
Overview of Kharadron Overlords Army
When the Age of Chaos arrived and the duardin gods did not answer the plea for help of their followers, the duardin resorted in what they know best to survive. They harnessed the power of Chamon and, thanks to the aether-gold, built entire cities floating in the skies while all their arsenal protected them shredding to pieces any adversary including the flying demons that tried to follow them. That way, the Kharadron Overlords were born, now ready to assist the other mortal races for the right price.
Kharadron Overlords have a definite steampunk style quite unique within the setting of Age of Sigmar. They represent the second duardin faction to be fully explored (after the Fyreslayers) while going in a complete different direction. They are experts of ranged warfare that translates in an extremely powerful shooting phase, but they can also transport their units across the battlefields in a much better way than the limited teleports available to other armies. In a nutshell: flying ships and guns galore.
As one of the first brand-new armies in the game, their range is completely new (2017), but will also not find anything else similar in the same setting making them a clear stand-out hopefully to be expanded in the not so distant future.
They are a strong army that often made a bang when their battletome was released, and the third edition book is not different having them flying high on top tables of many tournaments.
Lore of Kharadron Overlords Army
The duardin of the Khazalid Empire happily lived in their mountains ignoring the struggle the other mortal races were having with the resurgence of chaos in the Mortal Realms. Convinced that their holds were more than enough to prevent any enemy invasion, they let themselves be corrupted by greed and when the Lode-Griffon was killed and havoc was spread across Chamon, the Realm of Metal, was too late.
The entire fabric of reality was torn apiece by Tzeentch daemons flooding Chamon, while every other realm witnessed a similar experience with chaos daemons invading the Mortal Realms with renovated vigour. So the Age of Chaos began, and the duardin asked for help to their own gods. No one answered however, with Grimnir that previously committed suicide in a battle he could not have won against Vulcatrix, and Grungni abandoning them to help Sigmar in different matters.
Betrayed and battered, the soon-to-be Kharadron Overlords resorted to the only thing they had left: their inventiveness. Renouncing their ancient tradition whose origin predates the Mortal Realms, they invested all their energies in technology, creating anything that could be used to survive the daemonic onslaught.
At the beginning, airships were created to attack the chaos forces from the skies, but they soon found how to better manipulate the aether-gold, a realmstone extremely light, that allowed them to make entire docks float giving birth to the first sky-ports.
Then, the Kharadron Overlords had to contend the skies mostly to flying Tzeentchian monsters and after a centuries-long war, they finally had the best becoming the lords of the skies. They moved to other realms and offered their services to any civilization who was able to pay them. Trading has always been the core of duardin economy and the Kharadron are no different, only now they can expand their trade routes to the skies of all Mortal Realms.
With the ritual of life completed by Alarielle that undid what Nagash tried to achieve with his death energies, a resurgence of life spread across all the realms, freeing Kragnos from his prison and driving crazy beasts and greenskins alike, the Kharadron are now faced with new dangers and their trade routes are once again at risk.
Because of this, Grungni finally reappeared, first as a familiar face that would give suggestions or resolve situations here and there while remaining anonymous, then making sure all duardin knew he was back. Most Kharadron, still hold a grudge against their former deity, furious they have been abandoned when they needed him most. Others accept that they would have never achieved what they did under his protection and are somehow thankful.
Whatever the reason Grungni is back, he is now ensuring all duardin, Dispossessed, Fyreslayers and Kharadron collaborate with each other. He is also busy helping Sigmar by reinforcing the armour that makes the Stormcast Eternals so that they are not blocked anymore by the curse that Be’lakor, the first Daemon Prince, launched to the sky of all Mortal Realms.
Army rules for the Kharadron Overlords
But how does a Kharadron Overlords army play on a tabletop? First let’s go through the main rules for this army.
The first choice to make is your sub-faction, those are called Sky-ports and there’s six of them:
- Barak-Nar, the first floating city. Receive an extra command point on a 4+ for each hero. Unlocks Thunderers as battleline.
- Barak-Zilfin, home of the best pilots. Pick an extra Great Endrinwork. Unlocks Frigate as battleline.
- Barak-Zon, from where the best Arkanaut hail. Add +1 to hit and to wound for Skyfarers unit in the turn they charged. Unlocks Skywarden as battleline.
- Barak-Urbaz, where business means everything. Pick another different artycle. Unlocks Gunhauler as battleline.
- Barak-Mhornar, relocated to Ulgu to continue their shady businesses. On a 5+ prevent a command ability from being received by enemy units within range of yours.
- Barak-Thryng, the most traditionalist, welcoming Grungni back. Allied Duardin Priests know a prayer that allows Arkanaut Company and Grundstok Thunderers to do mortal wounds on unmodified missile hit roll of 6.
The most complicated rule for the army relates to the way they can transport troops, but before that let’s define two important keywords: a Skyfarer is basically any troop that is not a ship, while Skyvessels include all ships (Gunhauler, Frigate and Ironclad). Only Skyfarer units can embark and each Skyvessel has a transport limit of models it can carry.
Embarking can happen either during deployment or in any movement phase if the Skyfarer unit ends within 3″ of the Skyvessel and neither is already engaged with enemy units. Embarked units get +1 to save (from the cover rule) and -1 to hit. They cannot contest objectives but they can still shoot and fight. If the Skyvessel moves, the unit(s) inside are considered like they performed the same move.
To disembark, the vessel must not have moved yet that round. Then all disembarking models can be placed within 3″ of the vessel but 3″ further than enemy models and can still move afterwards. If the vessel is destroyed, first you roll a dice for each model in the ship and for each 1 rolled a model is slain. Then you need to disembark, and if a model cannot fulfil the 3″ rules above, it is slain.
Kharadron’s closest thing to religion is their passion for The Code and this exemplifies with a list of different rules and exceptions that each army uses. When creating your list, you can choose an artycle, like Honour is Everything that allows to Rally a unit on a 4+ (command ability that can restore slain models), amendments like Prosecute Wars With All Haste that allows one unit per turn to run 2D6 instead of D6, and footnotes like Without Our Ships, We Are Naught, that permits a Skyvessel to receive 2 command abilities in the same phase once per battle.
The following list of command abilities can be issued by Arkanaut Admirals or by Skyvessels to themselves in the movement phase:
- Combat Landing: allows a unit to disembark from the targeted vessel but can’t move afterwards.
- Fly High: allows a Skyvessel to teleport anywhere on the battlefield 9″ away from enemy units at the end of their movement phase if they were not already engaged.
- Disengage: allows a Skyvessel and the units inside to retreat but still shoot in the same turn.
Kharadron could not miss their own list of enhancements starting from command traits for your general with options like Ex-Grundstok that unlocks Grundstok Gunhauler and Thunderers as battleline and allows to issue once per turn a free command ability to those units.
The artefacts of power contain, between the others, Phosphorite Bomblets that can destroy a unit one mortal wound at a time as long as your Endrinmaster keeps rolling 2 or more and Spell in a Bottle, the iconic Kharadron artefact that allows an Aether-Khemist to cast without being unbound by any non-faction Endless Spell.
Unique to the Kharadron there are the Great Endrinworks with 3 lists, one for each type of Skyvessel. One is included in the list building, or two if you choose Barak-Zilfin. For example, Arkanaut Ironclads can be used as a battering ram with Zombarcorp ‘Dealbreaker’ Battle Ram that allows, after finishing a charge, to roll as many dice as the charging roll and for each 4+ allocate a mortal wound. Arkanaut Frigates (but also Ironclads) can be equipped with Prudency Chutes that prevents rolling to see if any model is slain while embarked on a Skyvessel that is destroyed while permitting them to disembark already engaged with the enemy. Finally, Coalbeard’s Collapsible Compartments transforms a Gunhauler in a transport vessel allowing up to 6 models within it.
Units and their roles in the Kharadron Overlords Army
Heroes in Kharadron Overlords
Heroes can perform Heroic Actions, in addition to the other abilities they can perform. You do it in the hero phase and you can only do one heroic action. Here is the list:
- Heroic Leadership: on a 4+ (or 2+ if your general has been slain) get a command point only that hero can use.
- Heroic Willpower: one non-Wizard hero can attempt to dispel or unbind a spell for that phase like he was a wizard.
- Their Finest Hour: can be used only once by each hero to improve save and wound rolls by 1 for that turn.
- Heroic Recovery: a disengaged hero can heal D3 wounds if he rolls less or equal to his bravery with 2D6.
Brokk Grungsson, Lord-Magnate of Barak-Nar was the first named character to receive a model for this army. He is a warmaster, making him always a general even if he is not your first choice.
He has two main uses: the first one is to support the combat phase by providing +1 attack to melee attacks of Skyfarer units around him when he charges. He also does mortal wound damage at the end of the combat when engaged.
The second one is a command ability that can be received by up to 3 Skyvessels allowing them to run and still shoot or charge in the same turn and to re-roll the die to run.
Overall Brokk has a really defined role and can be useful when concentrating on that aspect.
The Arkanaut Admiral is the veritable leader of any Sky Armada. If he is the general in the army, he can pick an Ironclad or Frigate in the list to be his flagship, meaning every turn he can issue a command to it for free.
In addition to the standard commands to Skyvessels, he can issue the same one as Brokk but only to a single ship, or one that adds +1 to the missile attack characteristic of a Skyvessel that did not move or Fly High in the previous movement phase.
To any non Skyvessel unit, instead, once per battle he improves their rend on missile attacks. This can be quite a deadly volley if used at the right time! Apart from that he has average shooting attacks and a good melee profile.
Drekki Flynt is the protagonist of a series of novels and short stories from Guy Haley and one of the latest models to join the Kharadron roster. He is bound to Barak-Mhornar and in that army he can select a Frigate to be his “Aesling”, increasing its damage output and allowing re-roll of run and charge rolls while he is onboard.
He has also an ability that on a 3+ can permanently remove an artefact from an engaged enemy hero. It is situational, but can be extremely satisfying.
Overall he is an interesting character with a profile similar to the Admiral but with more shooting and slightly less melee power.
The Endrinmaster have two different profiles, both can heal a Skyvessel and be a good bearer for the artefact Phosphorite Bomblets that can evaporate a huge unit or hero with a bit of luck (1 damage each 2+ rolled and you keep rolling until you roll a 1).
The Endrinmaster with Dirigible Suit is the flying version that has also quite a shooting arsenal. In addition to his own healing, he can also buff the Endrinriggers healing making it a good option in a Skyvessel heavy army.
The Endrinmaster with Endrinharness is on-foot and melee-only, Before healing, he can attempt to crank up the power of the Skyvessel he is embarked with so that they can use the top row of their damage table. If he fails (on a 1) can’t heal the ship but rather damages it.
The Aetheric Navigator is the closest thing Kharadron have to a wizard: able to dispel an endless spell or unbind a spell each turn. He can also receive an artefact that gives a straight once-per-game unbound.
His ability is a bit random, having a small chance to either damage an enemy unit (and halve his Move) or allow a Skyvessel to make a short normal move. It is not reliable, but it’s a good support option and the only one you have to contrast a bit the enemy magic power.
The Codewright is the one that allows you to cheat a bit. First of all, when close to friendly heroes, he has a chance to provide more command points. But most importantly, he can change your footnote and amendments during the battle. You can’t repeat those already selected, but as footnotes are once per battle, effectively it gives you 2 more once per battle abilities, or to re-adjust your main strategy.
The Aether-Khemist works better on the ground, far from the sky, as he can improve the rend of missile weapons of Skyfarers not embarked and gives a -1 to hit to enemies near him when is on the ground.
He is, also, the receptacle of the Spell in a Bottle, the only way Kharadron can pick a non-faction endless spell and throw it on the battlefield (they can’t control it although). He is a good support unit with a potentially devastating shooting attack (3D6 so a bit random).
Bjorgen Thundrik and the Thundrik’s Profiteers have their origin in season 2 of Warhammer Underworlds. While the unit has few attack profiles and can receive one command per turn free from Bjorgen, the greatest attraction of the warband is once per game chance to do mortal wounds on a 6″ range.
Monsters, Wizards and Priests in Kharadron Overlords
As an army focussed on technology, they don’t have any Monster, Wizard or Priest.
Battlelines in Kharadron Overlords
The Arkanaut Company is the main battleline of the Kharadron and a fair one at it. As most Kharadron troop units, they have several weapon loadouts to choose from, in this case 1 in 10 can get a special weapon, of which the Skypike with its rend and 2″ range one of the juiciest.
When not embarked they have +1 to hit (melee and missile) against unit contesting objectives, and don’t forget a specific amendment allows them to count double when contesting objectives, marking them as a great battleline option.
Conditional Battlelines in Kharadron Overlords
The Arkanaut Frigate is a Skyvessel and becomes battleline in Barak-Zilfin armies. Nimbler (and cheaper) than an Ironclad, it can transport up to 12 models. As transporting is now a battle trait, it was a nice touch to allow it (and the Ironclad) to use the same rules in any other army should they be allied in.
While the shooting options available (Sky Cannon for more splash damage or Skyhook oriented to damage monsters) are valid, the Frigate’s best action is to charge towards an enemy unit, do mortal wounds in the process and disembark its units already engaged with the enemy unit and with strike-first applied for an impressive display of brute force.
And when not charging, it can trod happily above enemy units dropping bombs below (no effect on flying units and the amount of bombs depends on the damage received).
It is a Behemoth, has a damage table and counts as a monster when contesting objectives (5 models) but is not a monster.
The Grundstok Gunhauler is another Skyvessel and battleline in Barak-Urbaz or if the general takes the command trait Ex-Grundstok. It is the smallest of the group, and only a specific Endrinwork (unique enhancement) allows it to carry up to 6 people.
It is a really interesting option providing 6+ ward to Frigates and Ironclads in close proximity, a once-per-game flat +6″ movement, bombs when passing over non-flying enemy units and the option between a rend -3 single cannon shot, or more balance
,. shooting attacks. Definitely worth considering.
The Grundstok Thunderers become battleline in Barak-Nar lists or if the general takes the command trait Ex-Grundstok. They have multiple optional replacement weapons, including an aethercannon with -2 rend and 3 damage (but single shot).
They have a sort of mini-game where they can give -1 to hit to an enemy unit if the sum of a 2D6 roll and all wounds allocated to that unit and not negated is greater than their bravery. They are probably better used on top of a boat firing to anything that moves and their conditional battleline can unlock some interesting lists without locking yourself in Barak-Nar.
The Endrinriggers are battleline if any Endrinmaster is in the army. They also have different optional weapon loadouts, but really, the main profile with guns and saw, is probably the best. Use this unit as a melee unit, maybe ramming an enemy with a Frigate to hack them to pieces afterwards.
They are also able to heal (repair?) Skyvessels in proximity as long as there’s no more enemies (not a problem if they charged through and hit first). An Endrinmaster with Dirigible Suit can even augment the chances of success of this operation.
Generally speaking, if you are looking at a melee option in this army, you have found it.
The Skywardens are battleline in Barak-Zon lists. They are a bit less efficient than Endrinriggers in melee, but they have the advantage to be able to retreat (while damaging the enemy unit) at the end of the combat phase, preparing themselves for a Rally the following turn. For the rest, they have the same optional alternative weapons as the Endrinriggers.
Other units in Kharadron Overlords
The Arkanaut Ironclad is the biggest Skyvessel in the army, able to carry up to 22 models. Compared to the Frigate profile, it has many more guns with a shooting profile quite scary and a further option for even more splash damage, but rules wise, it has the same abilities: bombs when moving over enemies, counts as 5 models while contesting objectives and 2 out of 3 weapon options are pretty similar.
The main difference is made by its Supremacy Mine for a once-per-game D6 mortal wounds against an engaged unit instead of the much more useful ramming ability of the Frigate. It may be worth exploring this model to protect the units embarked within, if you are aiming to a shooting army.
Endless Spells, Terrain and Start Collecting in a Kharadron Overlords Army
Kharadron Overlords Vanguard box may be the biggest box of this type in Age of Sigmar! It contains 1 Arkanaut Admiral, 1 Arkanaut Frigate, a unit of 3 Endrinriggers, which can also be built as Skywardens and a unit of 10 Arkanaut Company. Basically you have one of the most authoritative leaders, the most cost-efficient Skyvessel, 1 battleline unit and some melee specialists that can also become battleline.
The Frigate can hold the 2 Arkanaut units and then be repaired by the Endrinriggers for a self-contained box with interesting options. A second set may be too much of a stretch although.
Kharadron don’t have endless spells nor faction terrain.
Tactics and Final Verdict on the Kharadron Overlords Army
The Kharadron Overlords join the third edition with another great book. They have a defined style, both from gameplay perspective and aesthetics. What this book changes is a reduction in the army complexity (although it is still a tough one to crack), good internal balance, and introduction of real melee power.
Let’s start from the complexity: the book is still hard to read. You have almost an entire page dedicated to embarking and disembarking. The same page that is valid even if the Skyvessels are included as allies in another army. The various changes to the Kharadron Code that allows each army to distinguish themselves, have been made more accessible: you now choose one item each from three lists.
You still have your classic enhancements like command traits, artefacts of power and a unique one for the Skyvessels. Not having spells or prayers it’s one choice less. Then you get to the weapon loadouts of the main troop units like Arkanaut Company, Grundstok Thunderers, Endrinriggers and that’s where the nightmare starts.
While on paper is not that complicated (some models can replace the standard profile with a specialised weapon), you still need to double check you have the right proportion between special and mandatory weapons. But once you are on the battlefield, you have to recognise every single one of those, calculate the range individually and throw the dice separately for each one of them. Each shooting phase can last hours (figuratively speaking).
Past this, we find an army that, while maintaining its strength in the shooting phase, it is not limited by it. They love command points and have a couple of options to ensure they have a steady supply (for example Barak-Nar or a Codewright) or ways to issue them for free. All of this brings to a combat phase where they usually struggled but now have some decent contenders with Endringgers charging on a Skyvessel a great option. Both the Frigate and the Ironclad, the latter through an enhancement, can allocate mortal wounds on a charge and the Frigate can even disembark its units already engaged with first-strike effect applied.
The identity of the army safeguarded, there are more options to explore and each hero has its own niche use. Admirals are great to handle Skyvessels, Endrinmasters can repair them, the Aetheric Navigator can dispel and unbind, and so on. It is not surprising that the army did really well on tournaments as soon as the tome was digested.
It is still probably not a beginner-friendly army, but there are things that can ease the learning process like sticking to Barak-Nar for the first lists. That is a good first sub-faction before moving to other stronger but more complex ones like Barak-Urbaz and the really niche Barak-Mhornar. The latter is the only part where is left a little bit of oppression to the opponent player by stealing their command points and artefacts, but overall, nothing too dramatic.
The final note goes to the future of the Kharadron Overlords. It is a strong army with its own aesthetics, currently separated from the rest of the duardin world, but it has been hinted more than once about Grungni whereabouts and the desire to unite all duardin nations. What does this mean and when and if it will happen, is all to be seen.
If you are interested in the competitive standpoint, when we talk about statistics, a tremendous effort is done by Rob from the Honest Wargamer, Ziggy and Tsports Network! in the AoS Stat Centre with precious information, constantly kept up to date.
Really good informative material is also collected by Dan from AoS Shorts.