Going into 3rd Edition, I was pretty worried about my Varangur. Most of the minis in my collection were from GW, and the army fluff from Mantic leaned pretty heavily on GW's Chaos Warriors, with violent and sturdy human tribes in the frozen north vying for the favor of a dark god... There was some concern on how the army would be handled with Mantic trying to blaze their own unique fluffy trail, concerns which only increased with the Northern Alliance releases in 2019. Fortunately, Mantic has done a great job all around!
The Northern Alliance is a little awkwardly named (why not go with the Frozen Pact or something?), but fabulously executed as an army. They are a a bit of a jumble of other Mantic products (Elves/Naiads/Dwarfs ... and now a human line as well), making them a great way to showcase Mantic's product line and be pretty enticing for casual folks to pick up and expand over time. (Hobby on a unit of dwarves, then elves, oo neat! frosty merfolk, then wow bear cavalry?!? Oops, I have an army now...) Fluff-wise, the Alliance is good-aligned, with lofty ideals.
The Varangur are still around; a theme army building off of the Northern Alliance list. They exist in parallel, but reject the kumbaya approach of the Northern Alliance, opting for violence and service to Korgaan, their ancient, malevolent god.
I missed this entirely in the original Second Edition fluff, but Mantic also has the Varangur rejecting the Abyssals with vigor, for they oppose Korgaan too. In Third, they spell it out a little more, and the Varangur cannot ally with Abyssals, Abyssal Dwarfs or Twilight Kin. This obliterates the fluff for my evil triumvirate plan (Tanky Varangur; Speedy Herd; middle-of-the-road Abyssals), but that's fine by me. I'm likely never going to see all three evil armies on the table at once anyways to make the triumvirate an actual "thing", so making them more unique is fine by me. It's good fluff.
So, design-wise, very interesting choices with Northern Alliance and the Varangur. Most of my sprawling Varangur collection (a little upwards of 7400 points, excluding the old Ogre allies) successfully transitioned into Third Edition, which is very nice!
With Mantic's tweaks, some things didn't make it. Horses are largely absent in the Northern Alliance. The Varangur have some, but Lords and Skaalds don't deign to ride such fragile creatures in the frozen north I guess? Very nice fluff choice, but obviously it's a bummer that a Chief and several Skaalds have been made obsolete. Fortunately, the heroes can be run as a Cursed Son on a horse now. It won't inspire, but I can still use the model if I wish, we'll see. The Skaalds were fantastic to have around for cheap Inspiring, so it stinks to lose those sources, but I still have several Lords mounted on Direfangs and some Lords and Skaalds on foot.. I should be fine.
The Warbands also don't look to have made the transition (though I could easily ally them in as KoM Shield Wall and Pole-Arms Regiments). It's a bit of a shame. I wasn't a big fan of the GW Marauder models, but being from Wisconsin, I really liked the idea. After a frigid winter... I've seen dudes bust out shorts en mass and college girls sunbathing juuust as the snow beings to melt. We're a weird bunch here, so I did like the idea of a bunch of lightly-clad soldiers running around because it was just sooo warm. In game, they functioned as my chaff, so it stinks to lose them. The Varangur may try to go full-elite mode and play without chaff in 3rd...
Lastly, the Devourer doesn't look to have an entry. The Varangur were a little heavy on the monsters... so I'm ok with this. They still get the Cavern Dweller (via the Northern Alliance list), and their own Jabberwock. I'm fine with this. The Dweller and Devourer were pretty similar design-wise, and I'll find another use for my big worms. The Jabberwock still has the awesome Frenzy special rule, and can now take a small ranged attack reminiscent of the old Devourer options, so it'll be a solid choice.
Into 3rd Edition
All in all, about 1000 points of stuff didn't make it into 3rd. While that's a big chunk in terms of points, and about 1/7th of my army in context, and includes several sources of Inspiring... it's not too bad. The bulk of the army is still intact, and I have dozens of units of evil armored guys to field still.
One of the interesting things to me is the large points reductions across this army. The Mounted Sons (and our Lords) in particular got huge decreases, greatly offsetting the handful of units (Direfang Hordes; Fallen; Reavers) that went up by a handful of points. Fielding more things in-game is great! All in all, I'm saving a few hundred points, and my collection of viable units sits juuuust over 6000 points going into 3rd Edition.
Previously, Mantic went with something similar to GW's Marks of Chaos: Gifts of Korgaan. Worthy units were able to pick from several options, each granting a keyworded special ability. Unfortunately, this didn't seem too balanced internally, and taking the one granting Fury was the overwhelming favorite from what I saw online, even after it was nerfed to only grant Fury and not both Fury and Headstrong.
In Third, Mantic is taking a more intricate approach. While the gift options are still there and still varied, most units are only able to "choose" from gift; take it or leave it. It's a neat approach honestly. It seems a little subjective (which units get which upgrades; which unots can even take them), and will be hard to balance, but overall I like it. Korgaan is one god (as far as we know), so it would be nice to see a mix of gifts on the field. We'll see how it pans out as Third progresses!
The last noteworthy change going into Third is a new unit for the Varangur: the Draugr, which I was quite surprised to find was a thing in Nordic folklore. These guys are subbing in for the old Warband, serving as the light infantry for the Varangur. They seem very cool. Fluff-wise, they are atypical zombies; disgraced dead raised to fight again, rather than whatever was just lazily sitting around the cemetary. Their stats are slightly worse than your typical zombie; the usual 5+ melee and 3+ Defense but only 4 speed. That said, they do not have the Shambling keyword, and even gain both Iron Resolve and Wild Charge. Very unusual and very cool. I may need to pick up some new minis!
Overall, the Varangur are looking very good going into Third! They should be fearsome opponents on the battlefield, even more so with all the cheap Mounted Sons I can bring now. Despite the minor shifts, the core of the army is still around, and they continue to be a tanky, formidable army. I can't wait to see them in action!
...And so wraps up my thoughts on how 3rd is impacting my armies. As stated in some recent posts, KoW has proven to be quite difficult for me to get consistent games in over the years and I'm in a bit of a hobby slump with the edition change coupled with winter weather and other responsibilitues. However, as mentioned throughout the blog, Kings of War is a great game, and here's hoping for a vibrant 3rd Edition for the community! I'll do what I can to contribute.