Age of Sigmar: Detriment or Improvement?

Games Workshop launched Age of Sigamr in 2015, replacing Warhammer: Fantasy Battles amidst great controversy. It has however stood the test of time and with second edition just around the corner bringing a host of new rules and abilities, I thought I’d take take a look at AoS so far. Its successes, failures and areas in which I believe it could stand to improve.

AoS rule book

Let’s start with the rules:

It is indisputable that AoS made massive improvements to the accessibility of Warhammer, streamlining hundreds of pages into a four page document. While this represents only the core rule set, this has resulted in the hobby being easier to pick up and play for everyone. It has also given a new lease of life to players while they battle their forces as it is no longer necessary to pause a battle and spend time rifling through a huge rule book for the rule that is contested. This has made playing the game, quicker, easier and more enjoyable, it is after all much easier to role play when you aren’t constantly breaking character and consulting the ‘WFB Bible’.

That being said, I do wonder whether or not they over simplified. Take being able to shoot whilst in combat on your own turn. It just doesn’t make any sense that your archer, however heroic, would have time to draw, knock, aim and shoot whilst an Orc wanted them dead.  Suspension of belief is as always required in these scenarios, but I personally believe that things like this push that boat out a little bit far. Still as a Slyvaneth player I’m not going to complain that my Kurnoth can continue to rain hell on my enemies. (Well, not too much anyway) It is also worth considering that WFB was a different game with a different focus, AoS focuses more on small scale skirmishes involving handfuls of heroic troops whereas WFB was much more about large scale battles and the ordinary rank and file.

The rules for units have also been made more accessible, each box you purchase containing that units stats and abilities inside the assembly booklet. While this can certainly get hefty if you cart them around in the form they arrived, a pair of scissors can make you a handy set of unit cards, that will have you playing the game in no time. For those of you who are technologically savvy they even come with a barcode that you can scan in an AoS app to download the rules to your phone. In this respect AoS is certainly superior to WFB as before you would have the units but no rules to play them with, without further outlay.

A direct consequence of this change to the rule system is that the cost of playing has changed. AoS while it has editions is a living and evolving game, with an annual supplement called the generals handbook rather than the three to four year wait for the new edition. This can mean a jump in cost should you purchase the new and updated Handbook, but honestly you can ignore it unless you are someone for whom the trappings of matched play and tournaments are important. Now you can pay £25-£30 for an army book without worrying about the £40-£50 pounds of the full sized rule book followed by the £30 pound army book. In this respect the hobby is now in someways more financially accessible to new players, which can only be a good thing.

Stormcast Eternals

Personalising your army:

There are a number of important things to consider when collecting and role-playing your AoS army: colour scheme and backstory being at the forefront. In WFB the lore of each faction was heavily detailed in most cases stretching hundreds of years, with a host of heroes and named characters filling a vibrant universe. The problem with this of course is that it is hard to role play when that much of the world is heavily prescribed. A player with any knowledge of Lore could potentially dismiss your armies awesome backstory because it didn’t fit into the WFB world  as it had been built. AoS has no such problem, while certain factions have colour schemes suggested such as the Stormcast Eternals in the How To Paint Citadel Miniatures: Stormcast Eternals guide.

How to paint Stormcast Eternals

The world is still in its infancy. If I wanted, all of my Seraphon Stegadons could be blue because a Slann was colour blind. If I want a rogue faction of Slyvaneth to be lost in another realm battling to return to Alarielle having reclaimed lost Soul Pods, I can write that back story. (Barktholemew and friends, an epic tale in the making) There is nothing that disagrees with that. It is possible however that this freedom will not last as AoS progresses, WFB had over twenty years to build and expand the world it was set in and AoS could follow suit. I personally think that there is a happy balance to strike here. Named heroes are awesome and collecting Teclis for example, to use his special abilities was a feature of WFB I enjoyed, but at the same time it can be quite stifling to creativity to have too many of them.

Grand Alliances: 

This was and remains my favourite change in AoS. Grand Alliances have at least partially removed the idea that you have to collect one faction or build a whole new army. Provided you follow the reinforcement points costs for matched play any unit from any faction in your Grand Alliance is field-able. Is your Seraphon army lacking in ranged clout, why not take some Kurnoth hunters or artillery from the Ironweld Arsenal. Is your army lacking in berserk little people with violently orange hair? Solution, pick up some fyre slayers. But asides from this it adds some variance to narrative play with themed armies and hobbyists representing a grand alliance as well as a faction. Things like the FireStorm campaign currently being run at my local GW wouldn’t work quite as well without it.  Overall I love this addition to AoS and hope to see some more narrative campaigns based around it running soon.

Legions of Nagash

A moment of silence for those that didn’t make it:

AoS made a clean break with WFB. It had to and for those of us who were there when WFB was retired it was always going to be a rocky transition, new rules, new races, new lore etc. One of the areas I feel that could have been better handled was the remodeling of factions to fit the grand alliances. I’m not talking about the name changes or the loss of heroes but the way in which whole units were wiped from the game. Yes there were unit stats provided in online PDF’s to make old armies playable in AoS but that doesn’t change the fact that a lot of the models are simply no longer available to buy. As a High Elf player in WFB it was painful to see how few units they had kept for AoS. I do however have hopes that eventually GW will do the decent thing and flesh High elves out like they have the dark elves with the Daughters of Khaine update or the Slyvaneth separating from wood elves to be their own playable faction.  High Elves of course aren’t the only faction that took a hit but I’m gonna stick with what I know rather than speculate on factions I don’t collect.

Temple Guard

Balance:

This is the biggest talking point of any competitive game so I’ll prefix this section with the caveat I never expect Games Workshop to get this one hundred percent right, that’s just not going to happen. I do however expect that they are already looking at and tweaking balance in the interests of making this an enjoyable tabletop experience for players of all factions.  Some factions are stronger than others, whilst I cannot necessarily speak from personal experience, watching factions like the Beast Claw raiders plough through any and all opposition online and in person being one example. I hope that what doesn’t happen is some factions get left in the dust as they did in WFB and other factions with more regular updates simply come to outclass them.

Touching briefly upon my previous point about armies that have been somewhat phased out, I have found that they are becoming less and less viable in the AoS meta game. My High Elves have been rolled over in most engagements with new or updated races. I’m willing to accept that some of that was bad strategy but it honestly felt like my units just couldn’t compete with some of the new rules or abilities that have come with AoS. As I said above no balancing is perfect but I would like to see GW address some of these issues in future updates.

Skaven

Closing thoughts:  

In conclusion AoS is far from perfect but I think it has had a solid start, leaving itself lots of potential avenues for improvements and expansions.

So what do you like or dislike about AoS are you excited for 2.0? Let me know in the comments section below.

Thanks for reading

Hugh.

 

Author: Hugh Mccormick

My personal blog, expect some gaming news, book reviews, excerpts of my writing etc...

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