Monthly Archives: July 2015

Age of Sigmar – Fantasy 9th Ed in Disguise?

Quick note on this article before you read! I’ve received more hits to this article than any other in the history of my humble little blog. It looks like it’s been cross-posted to a few sites. I’m really happy that people are enjoying it and that it is sparking some conversation. I want to make it clear that I am not trying to sell anyone on this game. I’m not even sure how I feel about it at this point. I happen to own a bunch of Fantasy models that I haven’t used in a while and am trying to approach this Age of Sigmar thing with an open mind. I’m sharing what I find as I go. Nothing more. Thank you for visiting and I hope you enjoy. On with the article!

Now that we have the preamble on Age of Sigmar out of the way, let’s move on to more in-depth thoughts on it. I played my second game last night.

It’s still very early days with this, so I’m not going to start gushing just yet – but I think GW might have just snuck something clever in right under our noses. It’s entirely possible that my gaming partner and I are just dense, but during our second game, we noticed a ton of things about the rules that we played wrong in our first game that add quite a lot of depth to Age of Sigmar.

It’s funny. The rule set is a big departure from the old one. When you’re learning a new game that shares similarities with an old one (and, indeed, is produced by the same company), there is a tendency to make assumptions about rules instead of playing them as they are actually written. Well, we paid close attention to the rules for Age of Sigmar on our second go round, and when you play them as they are actually written and not as you assume them to be based on what you know of GW’s other games, there are some pretty cool little easter eggs in there.

I’ll go down a list of things that we played wrong in our first game, what the new rules actually are, and what it means for the game.

Combat between units does not take place simultaneously.

What we assumed: Each player takes turns choosing a combat to resolve. For example, Player 1 elects to resolve a combat involving his Greatswords vs his opponent’s Chaos Warriors and Khorne Lord. There is no initiative mechanic in AoS, so we assumed that all units involved on both sides resolve attacks simultaneously in any given “combat”. Then the next player chooses which combat he would like to resolve. This seemed like the “makes sense” solution based on what we knew of GW’s other games. This is incorrect.

What the rule actually is:  The player whose turn it is picks a unit to attack with, then the opposing player must attack with a unit, and so on until all eligible units on both sides have attacked once each.

This means exactly what it says. You choose one of your units to attack with. It attacks. Your opponent does not get a chance to respond to this with an attack of his own until you are done. You may kill five of the models from your opponent’s unit with this attack. Those models are dead where they stand. If they did not already attack this combat turn, they will never get to attack. This adds a very tactical dimension to combat. Instead of combats being resolved according to some arbitrary Initiative statistic, you need to make some tough decisions regarding which combats are urgent and which are not.

Let’s say you just charged some Chaos Ogres with a full-strength unit of Empire Knights who get some nice charge bonuses and you want to make sure you get all of their attacks in. On the other hand, you have a combat going on over on the other side of the table involving a unit of three Greatswords against three Chaos Warriors. You have a dilemma. Which do you attack with first? If you attack with the charging Knights first, they will do a great deal of damage before the Ogres have a chance to blunt their charge by killing models. However, if you do that, it’s possible that your opponent will choose to activate his Warriors and kill off your Greatswords before they even have a chance to attack. Which do you do first? Tough decision.

You are not “locked” into combat.

What we assumed: Once your unit has charged or been charged, or once your unit has come within range of an enemy and made an attack, it is then “locked” in combat and may do nothing but fight until the bitter end.

What the rule actually is: This will require slightly more lengthy explanation, but the idea here is that nowhere in the rules does it state that you are not free to move in your own movement phase simply because an enemy is nearby or you are “locked” in combat. In your own movement phase, you are free to move as you please. Here are the rules regarding moving when you are “locked in combat”:

Units starting the movement phase within 3″ of an enemy unit can either remain stationary or retreat. If you choose to retreat, the unit must end its move more than 3″ away from all enemy units. If a unit retreats, then it can’t shoot or charge later that turn (see below).

Disregard whether you were charged in the previous turn and whether or not your unit participated in combat. That is immaterial. What this rule says is that if your unit begins the movement phase within 3″ of an enemy unit, it has two options. 1) Stay where it is. 2) Move as it pleases. If it moves, this is treated as a “retreat”. If it retreats, it may not then shoot or charge in those subsequent phases this player turn. Hello, flee mechanic! We thought you were dead! I see. You just got a facelift. One that makes you look much better, I think.

Check out what happened in our game last night.

Apologies for the poor pics. Notice the large unit of Greatswords looming at the top of the table and also the Empire Knights off to the left. They didn’t have enough movement to make the charge against the Chaos battle line this turn, so in the Empire player’s turn, the Pistoliers charge the Warriors to tie them up.

In the Chaos player’s phase, a unit of Khornate Knights comes around the flank and charges the unit of Empire Knights, tying up that charge threat and also gaining the nice charge bonus for their glaives.

Well, look at this. Because the Pistoliers aren’t “locked” into combat, they’re free to simply leave. And in the Empire player’s movement phase, they do just that. They run (add D6 to their move) to the other side of the battlefield where they are needed – but of course they cannot shoot or charge this turn. Meanwhile, the Greatswords move in to charge range. Notice the Khorne Lord standing slightly forward of the Chaos Warriors. This is kind of important.

Now, the rule says specifically, pick an eligible unit and roll two dice. It doesn’t say anything at all about declaring a charge target. The Empire player wanted to charge the Warriors, but, as it turned out, his roll was just short of them. However, because of my careless placement of my Chaos Lord (red circle), he was able to fulfill the requirement the first model you move must finish within ½” of an enemy model by moving to within half an inch of the Chaos Lord. “When you pile in, you may move each model in the unit up to 3″ towards the closest enemy model”. There are no restrictions on movement during the charge phase other than that you must end the move within half an inch of an enemy model. So he arranged his Greatswords in such a way that the Warriors would be “the closest enemy models” during the pile in phase, and then he piled into them. Voila. Chaos Warriors charged. If you leave your nose out like I did, you may be leaving yourself open to a charge you didn’t want.

But the point of this is: Tactics! Age of Sigmar has them! This little charge, counter charge, flee, counter charge game is something that would have taken place in Fantasy. I personally find this system a lot more elegant, streamlined, and flexible and it produces the same (arguably better) result. No more being locked into combat until the bitter end is a great thing and opens up a lot of really cool options.

Flank charges exist

What we assumed: Combat is just a willy-nilly 40k style scrum in the center of the table in which you “pile-in” wherever you like and everybody gets to attack everyone and it’s just a big dumb giant love fest and this rule set is so dumb and GW is totally dumbing this game down for the dumb kids like everyone has been saying for the past 80 years.

What the rule actually says: “When you pile in, you may move each model in the unit up to 3″ towards the closest enemy model.” Oh. Hello again. You’re very clear and straightforward, aren’t you? You are saying I can’t just run around any which way I like in a mad dash to strangle my enemy. I have to… follow a rule. In addition, looking at the rules for Moving, it says “[A model] can be moved vertically in order to climb or cross scenery, but cannot be moved across other models”. Hrmmm.

ohaider flank charge! Nice to see you! We thought you were dead, too. Granted, this is kind of a weaksauce flank charge here with only one knight, but you see the implications. The “closest models” to the three Chaos Warriors on the right are the Greatswords. They cannot pull away from the Greatswords to help their buddy who has been charged in his side. They’re stuck where they are. Now just imagine if my warriors were… gasp! ranked up…. and… oh my. They got charged in the side by three or four knights. Think this through in your head with me, ponder the implications, keeping in mind you may only move toward the closest enemy model in a straight line and you may not move through other models, friend or foe. It’s just as much of a question mark for you as it is for me. I will have to play a few more games to get a better feel for it. But the scenario in my head plays out an awful lot like a game of Fantasy.

Also, if you’ve ever played Warmaster, you know that the primary benefit of a flank charge is the asymmetric nature of the attack. You are able to apply more of your units against less of your enemy’s. Just because you don’t get a “+1 to combat res” doesn’t mean it’s not a big deal.

ohaider again flank charge! Now I’m really glad to see you because this time it’s me flank charging and it’s with a giant! Oh, how I missed you. (And in case you are wondering, yes, these same four Chaos Warriors survived like, a million turns of combat)

Here is another implication of the pile in rules
(Again, sorry for the crummy pics). The Khornate Knight circled in red here is stuck behind his three buddies fighting against the Empire Knight circled in blue. To pile in, he has to move toward the closest enemy model and he isn’t allowed to move through models. He can’t reach the Empire knight without violating one of those rules. He is stuck here. At least until one of his buddies dies and he can move up to take his place. I should have thought of that when positioning my charge!

(Post-publishing note on the above – I agree with some who say there is a lack of clarity surrounding whether the rule works this way or not. At the moment I’m about 80% in favor of the “directly toward” interpretation and about 20% in favor the “end movement closer to the closest enemy model than you were” interpretation. I do concede that it is unclear enough that GW should probably FAQ it at some point because it does have a huge effect on the way the game is played. In the meantime, come to an agreement with your opponent before you start playing or dice off for it)

It’s almost like how things were when… units were ranked up in formations… on movement trays. Hey, wait a minute! Or… maybe I could have positioned my knights in a wedge formation… and the lead guy could have come within half an inch of an enemy on the charge… and then the other four guys could pile in three inches, and none of them get into each others’ way. Huh. Formations? Tactics? What sorcery is this?!

I had this inkling that the game still played more or less like Fantasy in my first skirmish size game. Now I really feel like it plays like Fantasy. I dunno. Take a look at this picture and tell me, does it look like a game of Fantasy to you? With battle lines and all that stuff?


I found myself wishing I had movement trays…

That leaves us with the question of balancing games and the absence of a point system and all that… I have a lot of thoughts on that which I would like to save for another post, but, the long and the short of it is – I think it’s brilliant. It allows you to play the game as casually or competitively as you like. Think of the Magic: The Gathering model. Think of Warscrolls as cards. Now think of the different restrictions in place for the various Magic tournaments. Restrictions on deck size, the number of copies of the same card you can take, sideboard, etc. Think about how often someone will bring their four million dollar uber-meta-tailored deck against a new player or someone just looking to play casually. Not so often if he wants to keep finding people to play with, right? Now also think about how even the best decks will still have a bunch of commons in them. Now you’re getting an idea how Age of Sigmar will work going forward.

More on that later.

Age of Sigmar First Game and Thoughts

Alright, I gave a little bit of background in my last post where I shared pics of my super intimidating face paint marauders. I played Warhammer Fantasy a great deal back in 7th edition. I liked it, for the most part. I always felt that people took it far too seriously, but still, it was fun.

8th edition rolled around and while I was skeptical about some of the changes, I approached it with enthusiasm. Without going into great detail, however, a handful of things turned me off after only two or three games. The random charge distance was too random. The Steadfast rule meant there was almost no incentive to go for flanking maneuvers (but lots of incentive to BUY MORE MODELS!). The Winds of Magic rules were very poor and way too random. Certain spells seemed game breaking and made very little sense to me.

But the main issue was that I simply was not willing to buy and paint dozens of new models to keep up with the ever shifting meta. I’m really not one of these guys who is always grumbling on forums about how GW is a money hungry child killer, but this blatant cash grab on top of shoddy rules was beyond even my liberal threshold. I wasn’t angry. I just wasn’t interested. And so the mighty Warriors of Chaos have been on the shelf for the past five years or so.

Enter Age of Sigmar. The more rumors I heard, the more interested I became. But before I get into all of that, I want to get this out of the way – I know there is a lot of emotion surrounding the transition from Warhammer Fantasy to Age of Sigmar. I understand and respect that a lot of people are upset. GW just killed your baby and that’s not cool. I want to set that aside for now, however, and share the reasons I am excited about this.


The main thing I am excited about is that there is no point system. A lot of people are thinking the sky is falling over this one and zomg what are we gonna do about all the power gamers lurking behind every corner who are gonna plonk down 80 Bloodthirsters?!? Well, what you’re gonna do about jerks is what we’ve always done about jerks – ostracize them. Don’t play with them. I’ve never had any problems finding jerks to put on my “DO NOT PLAY GAMES OF TOY SOLDIERS WITH” list under any rule set or point system. I’m certain that they will remain on that list even in the Age of Sigmar. So, nothing at all has changed here.

What has changed is that the jerks will no longer be able to hide behind a point system that has never been anything more than an illusion of parity. The game is no longer about finding the best way to exploit a broken system. Gone are the days of “well, hey, it’s in the rules” and “it doesn’t say I can’t” and “yeah, sorry, I know the rules for it are broken, I just like the model so much I wanted 90 of them”. Now everyone will be able to see them exactly for what they are and tell them to go stand in the corner and come back when they’re ready to sit at the adult table.

The main thing, though, is this – this is how I like to play. Sandbox style. I don’t like anyone dictating how I can and can’t use my little plastic dudes that I spend a lot of time and money on. I know that no one has ever truly dictated how I can use my models, but when your local meta operates under that paradigm, it becomes yours by default as well. But now I can actually buy a box of 5 Skullreapers simply because I like the models and want to paint them. And hey! I can actually use them in a game now. Sure, I know it’s silly; but the question “can I actually use these five models somewhat effectively in the game or will it turn out I need to spend a million dollars for twenty of them?” is a factor in deciding to spend $55 on five little 28mm models. Now I can buy them and feel secure that I can make use of them. This is a win / win for me and GW.


In any case, I had a very hard time convincing anyone from the local crew to give this game a spin with me. I was discouraged by the negativity surrounding it and worried that I might not be able to find consistent gaming buddies going forward. But, one of them was up for it and we played our first game this afternoon.

Our text conversation to set the game up went something like this:
“How do you want to do this?”
“100 wounds each?”
“Yeah, but your 100 wounds may not be as badass as my 100 wounds, and that wouldn’t be fun”
“Hmm. What about we do like five Warscrolls plus two baddies?”
“Maybe. Or you know what? Bring whatever you want. You wanna put down 200 models? Come at me bro! I’ll kill them all!!”
“Challenge accepted! I’m bringing the whole damn box!”

Suh-weeeet. This is what wargaming should be, in my opinion. What ended up happening is that he brought all of his Beastmen over and we figured out roughly balanced forces on the fly. Did we get it just right? No! We didn’t understand how things worked yet. But that’s totally ok. We had a great time anyway. About halfway through the game, it became clear that I was badly outgunned, but I didn’t care. You ever heard of a fair fight? Neither have I. Sack up and do your best anyway.

On to the game. It took us a while because we had to keep digging up Warscrolls and rules, but that’s to be expected. We kept terrain simple and sparse, and didn’t use any of the magic spooky haunted house terrain or whatever it’s called. I always thought that was goofy in any case. Setup was easy. We were both surprised by how far apart the forces start. We shouldn’t have been, I guess, but you start 24′” apart. We did that kind of diagonal deployment and were also surprised by how small the deployment zone is. Something to keep in mind for deployment shenanigans later!

Oh, the forces. Think it was something like:

3 Chaos Ogres
5 Chaos Knights
10 Chaos Warriors
10 Marauders
3 Beastmen Minotaurs (that’s right, I can mix n match and use these models I bought and painted now!)
1 Nurgle Lord on Demonic Steed

3 Minotaurs
3 Minotaurs
3 Minotaurs
1 Gorgon
1 Doombull

He took them as a Warband or Formation or whatever it’s called, and the buffs that it gave his units were incredible! I think he got some kind of first strike gore attack on the charge and some extra attacks. It was pretty nasty! I didn’t run my little dudes as a Warband so got no bonuses.

We talked a lot and shared thoughts as we played. Regarding the Warbands, we’re pretty sure that going forward, GW is going to sell the game as a Warband vs Warband type thing instead of using a point system. This is only speculation, but my guess is that they might have “tiers” for formations or “suggestions” regarding the relative power levels of formations. And guess what? Those formations will require MOAR MODELS! This formation box set MAKES A GREAT GIFT!!!! And instead of being the quick and easy skirmish game I was looking for, it will be a 300 model per side clusterfuck like Fantasy 8th ed.

After a moment of cynicism and talk about “GW screwed us again! We shoulda known better than to trust those scoundrels!”, we settled down and realized – “dude, if you take a badass formation, I can just take more models than you or use badass units of my own”. So, again, it basically boils down to communicating with your gaming partner and making things fun for both of you.

In general, we were pleasantly surprised by the rules. The streamlined stat profiles are very welcome and speed the play along. The bravery mechanic works a lot better than we thought it might. You don’t actually lose models to failed bravery rolls as often as you might think. And I personally have always felt that simply removing models to represent broken morale was far more elegant than the weird fall back and rally drill in Fantasy.


Multi-wound models that do multiple wounds of damage and have -2 rend are really tough. His Minotaurs with great axes were mauling me with that rend. Also, halfway through the game, we figured out that when a Minotaur hits and does 3 wounds against a unit of Marauders, for example, that means he has wounded 3 Marauders! Not simply that he hit one Marauder and inflicted 3 wounds (two of which simply disappear into the warp). That’s three dead Marauders per hit. So, big monsters just tear through throwaway units. This is great. No more tarpitting powerful units with a handful of throwaway skeletons. And the idea of huge Minotaurs cleaving through hordes of lesser enemies by the dozen is appropriately dramatic.

Going back to the Bravery mechanic as it relates to big baddies – although they tend to have low Bravery values, because they have multiple wounds they won’t lose whole models as often. Which means they often will not have to make Battleshock checks in the first place. And even if they do, they’re likely only looking at a small modifier.


Characters can be hit or miss. I guess that hasn’t changed. I was bringing my knights around for a flank charge, and he broke his Doombull away to handle them. “Hold my beer”. He charges my knights with his Doombull and I’m thinking “pshh, whatever. I’m gonna wreck this dude”. Yeah, not the case. Knights aren’t as tough as they were. Three wounds apiece is nice, but 4+ armor being smacked by a -2 rend weapon that does 3 wounds a pop isn’t good for their health. The Doombull took care of them over the course of three combat rounds or so, and I think I put maybe three wounds on him in return.

On the other side of the table, my Nurgle Lord on Chaos Steed was stinking the place up. Both literally and figuratively. His command ability only works on units with the Mark of Nurgle. Um, which I forgot to bring. But in retrospect I guess I could’ve just nominated some units as having Mark of Nurgle once I read the rule in the middle of the game. I’m sure my opponent wouldn’t have had a problem with it (see, that good faith communication thing again). Other than that, his output is lukewarm. He gets three attacks that aren’t terribly powerful and he is fairly squishy. I’ll be sure to bring a real general next time.


The Sudden Death conditions are fun and exciting. Even though it turned out that his force was a lot more powerful than mine, I did outnumber him, so he chose the “Blunt” objective, and I nominated my Knights as the unit he needed to kill. As I mentioned above, his Doombull got the job done by about turn four, but we kept playing anyway just for the experience. When all was said and done, I ended up getting tabled. But I took a bunch of those bastards with me! And the only thing that matters are those pretty skulls for that skull throne, right?

The Verdict – this is a fun game. I enjoyed it a great deal, and so did my opponent. Again, I totally understand why people are pissed off about this big move. However, you would be doing yourself a disservice by not at least giving this game a try. Hey, keep playing 8th edition, too. No one is saying you can’t. Take a look around my humble blog, and you’ll notice it is nearly entirely devoted to a “dead” game (Epic). But when you don’t have four hours to set aside for a game, give this one a spin. You can even incorporate both Age of Sigmar and 8th Edition games into a league, campaign, or tournament.

No, it isn’t an incredibly sophisticated game, and if you’re looking for a serious tactical fix, Epic or Warmahordes is probably what you’re looking for. But it is fast, fun, and characterful. I know all the Serious Business people out there are up in arms about these silly rules, but having to grunt when rolling your Minotaurs’ attacks is a kick, and special rules like the Ungor’s “Attack the Weak and Injured” are flavorful and fun. Getting bonuses for shooting at units and characters under half strength as they hobble about the battlefield? So cowardly, so fun.

If you’ve got a Fantasy army already, quit being a stick in the mud. If you’ve always been interested in Fantasy but didn’t want to make the 500 model commitment to play, give Age of Sigmar a go. That new box set sure is shiny and it really is a great deal for fans. I’ve got some Skullreapers and Blightkings on the way for reinforcements. Might just have to get some of those new Goretide models at some point as well.

I’m excited about Fantasy and 28mm wargaming again!


Some Old Warhammer Fantasy Stuff

Last week I got into a conversation with a guy who started following my blog. I took a look at his blog and was really impressed with his work, especially his Chaos Marauders with face paint. I mentioned to him that I once had painted some face paint on marauders, and he asked me to post pics. I haven’t played Warhammer Fantasy since 7th edition, but I am slightly intrigued by this Age of Sigmar thing… might just dig these bad boys out of storage for a little tabletop bloodshed. We shall see.

Anyway, as I mentioned, these haven’t seen the light of day in years. I can’t believe it’s been six years or so since I painted them. Interesting how our skills and tastes evolve and change over time. Nowadays this muted palette wouldn’t excite me much, but at the time I wanted to invoke a sense of grim hopelessness with the gritty style. Like, these guys are here to crush you, see you driven before them, and hear the lamentations of your women. In any case, I painted 40 of these bastards and wanted to claw my eyes out when I was done. Big reason why I lost interest in Fantasy. Just couldn’t keep up with the painting demands. 8th ed rolls around and I’m already 150 painted models in… lolwut? I gotta paint 80 more models to stay afloat? No thanks /tableflip

Without further ado, here they are! The first 20.

And the next 20.

Some close ups

The close ups are all from the first batch. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like I have close up shots of models from the second batch. A shame, too, because that was the better of the two. Maybe if / when I dig them up, I’ll take some.

There you have it. If you’re interested in more of my 28mm work, be sure to check out my Flesh Tearers. I do enjoy working at the 28mm scale because there is so much more room for expression, but it is terribly time consuming and, unfortunately, I don’t ever see myself doing an entire 28mm army again. But maybe some one-offs here and there. If Age of Sigmar truly is playable at the skirmish level, I might just grab a handful of those shiny new Chaos models…. we’ll see!