When I say a lot of of folks have weighed in on this, I mean almost everyone with a blog or unsoiled piece of toilet paper and a half decent command of the language has said something about the latest rendition of Warhammer fantasy.
To say some are upset about the recent changes could be labeled as a bit of an understatement, I fully understand the feeling of having the rug pulled out from under you. The idea of investing so much into one particular system, not just money, but hours, days and years of your life into your passion. Only later to have it swept aside for the new hotness.
I am not one of those people. Namely because my investment in fantasy prior to AoS consisted of a lizardmen army book and a handful of well-read Gortek and Felix novels. So in that regard I am not nor have I ever been a fantasy player. Complex rules and high model counts with miniatures from a genera I have long since lost interest in kept me at arm’s length for a good while. This time around, the promise of free rules and smaller games brought me back to the worlds of swords and sorcery, well that and a few unopened Christmas gifts sitting on my hobby pile.
What I found upon my return was a game that was very accessible, with a large model range and a play time of just over an hour. For all the vitriol and venom being aimed at the game, it is undeniably playable and engaging. This is not to say it is any better or worse than WFB, they are two completely different games from my perspective and while AoS is a great many things, it is equally lacking in several other key areas.
Before I get to into things, I would like to take a moment to review the AoS app expirence. One of the really appealing things about Age of Sigmar is the fact that it is a hybrid of digital and traditional formats, there were almost no physical rule books involved with the game I played, just an iPad and the rules insert from the box set. The app itself performed well, though on the iPad I could not (and as of this article being published still can’t) access the rules section, granted I am using an old 1st gen iPad 2, so that may play into it, on my iPhone 6 everything worked fine. GW also released PDF’s of all the units as well and I did download a few of those when they launched, but having everything organized and in one place is much more convenient for me. There are no real lists in AoS, the “my battle” tab is decent enough and keeps all the relevant stuff in front of you, having to switch back to the scrolls screen constantly is a bit annoying though, I wish you could just scroll through your current units as well. They also didn’t include pictures for most of the unit entries, they have a small preview thumbnail on the home screen, but not on the actual scroll. This was probably done to keep the file size down if I had to guess, they may update them later though. Those minor issues aside I have no real qualms with the app, it’s basic and functional but it doesn’t need to be much else. The fact that you can play this game using just your phone, a tape measure and the models (digital dice roller since competitiveness is no longer an aspect) could be very appealing to the younger generation who is being raised on Minecraft and iPads and would not normally be looking at table top games.
While the combat system of Sigmar flows well and pushes the game pace forward, it is not the type of system that high minded folks would enjoy. What I mean by that is the almost total absence of strategy involved with actually playing the game. There is some strategy in AoS, much in the same way there is some strategy in checkers. If you are playing AoS straight out of the box it’s pretty much “I punch you, you punch me and then we punch each other while the Celestant kills everything else” Eternals really are just space marines with spears swords magic hammers axes dragon horses. When you start looking at the data slates warscroll’s for the other armies you see a little more granular control over unit deployment and positioning, but it’s almost negligible. While I have not read all of them, most of the spells/magic abilities are not that different, common thread is, one buff, one offensive one heal/shield. Lizardmen have some pretty interesting abilities, namely they can spawn blobs of skinks seemingly on demand, up to 20 per turn if I read that right, which with AoS’s already dodgy list building/model count setup is a little broken in my own opinion.
For those reasons and more the Fantasy community of old has taken all their toys and left the sandbox, at least in some have. There is a growing faction of WFB players that and I quote “don’t mind the change” To the best of my knowledge this group is mostly made up of newer or the more casual players who are not part of the competitive core. Competition and strategy was what attracted so many of the original WFB players to the game, it stood apart from 40k for decades in that regard when it came to tournament play. Outside of historical systems, there were very few games out there that could match the depth and complexity of Warhammer, only recently have we seen games like Warmachine and Kings of War show up to offer any sort of real alternative.
That is the real issue (from my perspective) that’s driving the rage behind the Fantasy community railing against AoS, GW essentially took everything that the players loved and threw it in the trash (and pee’d on it) So yeah, peeps be justifiably upset.
But what about the game? Age of Sigmar is a good game, there I said it. It is not a great game and it is certainly not going to be my first choice, but I will play it from time to time. Call it a guilty pleasure, there is something in the mindlessness of the game that is appealing, it’s like a palate cleanser after a rough bought of 40k, you throw dice stuff happens, nobody’s arguing about rules, you roll some more dice. All wrapped up in a neat little package. It’s easy to get caught up in the simplicity of it, which I am sure is a big selling point for younger players, but it lacks the level of complexity that excites me. So personally, it’s going to be a once in awhile affair.
What of Fantasy players and the tournament scene then? Well early rattling suggests that the aforementioned “Kings of War” ruleset from Mantic games is going to be the top choice for tournament play, that or Warmachine. Call me dorky but there is a great line from the first Harry Potter book that pretty much sums up my thoughts on the matter.
“They have enough stored up to set their affairs in order and then yes, they will die”
People will still play with the old rules and there. are more than a few tournaments coming up that are still using 8th, but with no new army books and no new players being drawn into the system, a long slow death awaits WFB. Unless of course AoS is just the precursor to a more advanced version of the game, which some have hinted may be the case down the line, only odd rumors at this point though, so only time will tell on that one.
Final thoughts, play it and decide for yourself. If your looking for a casual skirmish game its not bad, its pretty bare bones and as stated, not very strategy driven. It’s not the fantasy we knew, but it got me working on my lizardmen again, I’ll leave it at that.
BH Senior Pixel Herder