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
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
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!