Age of Sigmar – Initial Response

Age of Sigmar Logo

So, I finally got around to reading the Age of Sigmar rules (yes, it’s only four pages long but, as silence ’round these parts might indicate, I’ve been busy) and the Skaven and Empire warscrolls.

I’ve tried to remain objective about it all.  I got into this hobby painting Skaven over twenty years ago, and I’ve liked each new edition of Fantasy better than the last… so I’ve got a lot of love tied up in Fantasy.  But, I also recognize that it’s been known for quite some time that Fantasy hasn’t been doing as well as GW wants it to.  We’ve known that GW had to and was going to do something drastic.

It’s a scary, really.  That company was built on Warhammer Fantasy, and it’s such a mainstay that the idea it could just go away is more than a little terrifying. I saw (and am unable to relocate) a great post that threw down about the Age of Sigmar response in the context of the five stages of grief.

So, like I said: I’ve tried to stay objective about it and try to take the game for what it is and not try to smother it with expectations for it fueled by WHFB.

Anyway: I’m not sure.

The rules don’t look awful.  They look a little simpler than I’d like.  I have a feeling that they’re missing a thing or two, but I need to actually roll dice around them before I can really have an opinion.  It’s the only way I can really learn rules.

The warscrolls like they more or less captured the flavor of the units they were converting. I’m nonplussed that every unit has a couple of special rules.  I’ve grown to dislike that sort of them.  They’re not so involved that they seem exhausting (which was my response to Malifaux, 1E at least), so that’s a point in their favor… but the same rule works differently for different units.  Musicians let this unit Stand and Shoot, that unit counter-charge, and this other unit shoot or charge if it runs.  That bugs me.

People have cherry-picked goofy rules out of them.  Congratulations: you can read!  Things like that are definitely the exception and not the rule: there’s 1 or 2 of them in the Empire doc, out of over 30.  They’re not a thing worth getting het up over.

Army construction is a topic that’s been done to death.   I have nothing to add beyond that I’m looking forward to at least little more structure.  In theory, we’ll be getting that.  I’d like more guidance around options.  The Description sections bug me.  Some of them read like they were optimized for running through Google Translate.  Others are verbose to the point of being a challenge to make sense of.  Look at the Stormfiends section: that all could be expressed with “each may be equipped with one of the following: – Ratling Cannon and Clubbing Blows, – Warpfire Projector and Clubbing Blows, – Doom-flayer Gauntlets and Warp-laced Armor” etc. That’d be a heck of a lot more clear and succinct than “some guys take X and others take Y and maybe if they feel like it, they could take Z but we’re not going to really opine whether or not you can take X and Z or Y and Z or only Y and Z or maybe just Z alone but that’d be silly.”

Also, it seems pretty clear to me that multiple models in a[n infantry] unit may be Standard Bearers and [Musicians].  “Models in this unit may be Standard Bearers.  If the unit includes any Standard Bearers, it can retreat and still charge in the same turn.”  (Clanrats)  Now, one thing we do know about the game at this point is that it relies on as little assholery as possible, and the idea of taking multiple standard bearers in a unit seems like a move contrary to that “don’t be a dick” spirit the game calls for… but there’s an unambiguous plural there, and “there may only be one standard bearer per unit” is, fundamentally, a WHFB concept and may not be appropriate to W:AoS.  What I’m trying to get at is: I’d like there to be more guidance around what should be taken and when: one standard bearer per unit? Per 10 models? Per 20? for example.

So: it doesn’t look bad, but a few things seem rougher than I’d like.  I need to get a few games in with it before I can have a truly informed opinion… but that’s going to be tricky with Historicon this week (so pumped!) and our first move in a decade(!) going down immediately afterwards.  Hopefully I’ll get the chance to play it a couple of times before everyone else has had the chance to play it, the newness has worn off, and they’ve moved on.

Fluff around the setting is a completely different subject: I haven’t read what comes with the box yet, and the book obviously isn’t out yet. What little we’ve heard feels incredibly designed-by-committee and is boring as heck, but that amounts to so little: that might mean nothing.

Anyway, those are my initial thoughts.  Shades has a reaction that is, I think, more negative but more cogent that’s worth a read.

  • Scott Simoneau

    It’s unfortunate that “It doesn’t look bad” is a relatively positive review at this point. But, I still want to give it the good ole’ college try myself. I haven’t abandoned all hope yet.

    • You’re not wrong, although I’m pretty convinced that everyone’s approaching it from a “This is garbage, prove it isn’t” perspective rather than a “This is a thing, prove that it is good or bad” one.

      I don’t think I know of anyone who’s gone into this without some degree of anti-Age of Sigmar sentiment… so maybe getting to “it doesn’t look bad” is actually a notable achievement.

      Still: I know I can’t have any sort of informed opinion on the game until I’ve played it a few times. Until I do, nothing’ll actually sink in.

  • Sean Parker

    I’d been waiting for you to do this. Glad I checked this morning.

    “It doesnt look bad” isnt a bad reaction actually. IT plays a lot better than it looks. I’ve been playing WFB off and on since 3/4e so I’ve been around the game for a good chunk of its existence. I was really leery about all the rumors before AoS dropped, and I am still a little leery.

    The rules themselves are simple, fast, and easy to play. There are some deceptively interesting rules and how they add some tactical depth to the game. I’ve only gotten to play once, but I enjoyed the hell out of it more than the last two editions of WFB combined. It could be more the fact that as I get older, my requirements for simpler rules has become mandatory… These really do fit the bill nicely.

    I dont think we’re seeing the whole game yet. There seem to be some missing rules here and there so I will be curious to see how the game progresses. I’m kind of saddened to see so many people jumping ship so quickly without giving the rules a chance. No, its not Warhammer. Not by any stretch of the imagination. Not the one I’ve played since the early 90s. It doesnt mean that the new game is bad though.

    I think moving forward there will be a bigger gap between The World that Was armies and the Age of Sigmar armies. I dont think they are going to be very compatible as time goes on, and I think more and more of the Before Time will fade out of existence as the new stuff comes out… This is the big thing that bothers me somewhat as I had just bought $1,000 worth of plastic dwarfs… I dont know how much of that is going to translate into the new Age of Sigmar… While I can still play them as a The World that Was army, it will be interesting to see how thats going to work with the new Age.

    Sorry, this seems more stream of consciousness than intended. I’m actually surprised at how excited I have been over AoS. Its a bit of fresh air.

    Now, if only Battletech would redo its aging 31 year old rules and scrub out and redo all their mech designs (with REAL artists, i.e. MWO), I could die happy.

    • Sean Parker

      One of the things I like so much about AoS is no points values… I find it totally liberating. I no longer have to play the minigame of list optimization before I can play the real game. I am a fluffbunny anyway, so taking the army I see in my head is so much more enjoyable than worrying if my points are spent wisely… I have quickly grown to hate the restrictions of points over the years… List building was always the part I hated most about gaming… Same goes for min/maxing a character sheet and the RPGs that required it…

      And, for those that go on and on about taking 5 Bloodthirsters… Here is Mr Sock-full-of-dice, he’d like to say hi…

      That’s not a game system problem, its a people problem. If you cant see past your own fun, then you shouldnt be playing games…

      Sorry, that’s just something that’s been eating at me for a while now, and something I feel really passionate about. These are social games which means there is a social contract involved. People seem to have forgotten how to do it on their own and think its the responsibility of the game designers.

      • I waffle on this. I’ve started playing a lot more scenarios with Bolt Action, where points don’t matter past a vague indicator of force strength, so in a lot of ways, I’m okay with moving past them.

        But, where I’m finding scenario play with BA far more interesting, I cannot for the life of me find any enthusiasm for Warhammer scenarios. “Here are made up forces in a made up situation dealing with made up constraints” is not very engaging.

        In the context of pickup games: it falls flat. Some choices are simply going to be better than other choices: War of the Ring proved that, which means that the guy who acknowledges that X is better than Y will just do better… without having to go to the extreme of being the guy who takes 5 Bloodthirsters (never mind that that’s apparently a really dumb, poor decision).

    • It does seem to be missing some rules (rules, not just scenarios), but if that’s the case they flubbed this release even more than I thought they had.

      I still haven’t had the chance to play it (I’ll either get a chance this week or I’ll have to wait until August), but I’m going to continue to try to keep an open mind about it. I got the box for the Khorne minis, but have put together the Stormcast: I like them a lot, even if there are some very poor choices in their design (who puts a gap through the middle of a giant pauldron!?).

      As to your dwarves: I know the CGL people (who are twitching and frothing with RAGE over this with a fervor that makes AM talk radio seem calm and considered) are moving to Kings of War. Should work for you, too.

      • Sean Parker

        Actually, Kings of War bores me to tears… reading it is like reading a text book… My friend got 2e, so I’ll probably give it a go at some point… but ugh… those rules are bland… Not for me…

        • I’m not a fan of KoW, but if I’m honest with myself I’m not giving it a fair shot. I’m still a little bitter that I’ve got two armies of their regrettable minis for it from their first KS in the closet.