Reviews: Warhammer Age Of Sigmar

Age of Sigmar. Please don\'t listen these two below.

While the title seems inflammatory, it's a justified statement. Both reviews date from 2015 and in the meantime there's been changes so radical that they don't hold on any longer: we have points and the "joke rules" automatically activate, without a need of making the silly part. That's just the begginning of it but ANY of the complaints mentioned below has been solved in one way or another (and virtually all of them are for the better... like 99.9% of them)

So with making clear that the other arguments don't hold weight any longer, let's get into the setting and gameplay.

Setting wise, Age of Sigmar draws from two sources and has a certain undercurrent: one is norse mythology (the nine realms, Sigmar looking like the lovechiled of Odin and Thor, etc.) the other is Moorcock's works (as per usual in GW's works, and even more hardcore than in other titles). The current undercurrent is a colonialist (late XVIII-XIX vibe) that is starting to appear in these last books and event. While the setting is a bit more straightforward, the gray morality is still existant (if not as prevalent). The Old World, known now as the world that was, is held in reverence as the stuff of legends (and in fact, a few of the surviving members' backstories HAVE become legends). Stormcasts are basically the Order/Sigmar's version of the Warriors of Chaos. Beneath those armors? Regular men and women, with blessed and magic gear, just like the chaos counterparts.

Gameplay wise, the game is very rewarding and has its fair share of tactical depth. Matched play doesn't allow you to win via tabling the opponent, so just packing the biggest punch possible won't win you victory. Misions' requirements are fun and varied, forcing players to effectively take TAC lists since the objectives require so. As a result of this, the points system being extensively playstested, and an adjustment of the units' abilities, there's an extremely smoother power curve than in WHFB and 40k. There's still differences in power but at a casual or semi-competitive level they are almost unnoticeable.

All in all, and despite the very rocky start (my recommendation is that you don't read the two first books, instead start with the mortarch of night and knights of vengeance series if you want to begin reading the lore) the setting is flourishing into something we will end up holding as dearly (if not more) as the World that Was.

Age of Sigmar

Games Workshop's bold new re-imagining of their original fantasy property might look at first glance like a gutted product: the Old World, a classic setting with a unique charm that belies its superficially derivative appearance, is gone. Points, the mechanic that made any kind of competitive play (or for that matter, standard army sizes and easy pickup games between people who don't already know each other) possible, are gone. Square bases are gone, and with them flank & rear attacks and the whole tactical element of movement.

It might seem like a bleak picture, but Age Of Sigmar has a secret weapon: the new mechanic blame-shifting. If Ao S' nonexistent balancing leads to bad games, confusion or arguments, blame-shifting lets you move past this by realizing the problem is with your friends and gaming group for being filthy powergamers. If the impossibility of competitive play puts you off, blame-shifting will show you that you shouldn't have wanted it anyway - it's your fault for wanting to play an actual game instead of horsing around with your friends (or if your friends want to play semi-seriously, for not having better, funner friends). If the lack of tactical depth (or just tactics, full stop) is a problem, blame-shifting can lead you to realize that if you look at certain mechanics in a very specific way, they seem almost like semi-meaningful choices, and if you don't buy that, maybe you're playing for the wrong reasons anyway?

Blame-shifting really is a gem of a game mechanic, a swiss army knife for redefining any problem, no matter how punishingly stupid, with the rules as a problem with the players. After a few arguable failures Games Workshop have struck gold with a game that literally, physically cannot fail - it can only be failed by its players.

Games Workshop is dead to me now

Age of Sigmar is probably the least functional product Games Workshop has ever released. It is just incredibly, unimaginably bad.

As a gaming product, while I applaud the free changeover PDF's and core rules, it is weak. There is no such thing as a pick up and play AOS game, because there is no way to balance forces at all. Equal Wounds don't work, because a Savage Orc and a Night Goblin both have the same Wounds value, and there are no points values, unit size limits, unit number limits (like the old "0-1 Black Orcs" restriction) or force organisation charts, meaning that getting a fair contest will require psychic powers or a degree of expertise that the game will not reward you for earning.

As for the changeover rules for your old armies, they're terrible.

Let me put it this way. You know how, when playing a game, occasionally jokes emerge spontaneously because you're having fun? AOS tries to force that by making several units, including both special characters and some regular units, encourage you to dance, shout battlecries, pretend to ride a horse, have a moustache, bribe your opponent to throw the game...basically, it takes the jokes you may have made while playing the game, when you were having fun, attempts to make you make those jokes, and then expects fun to come out of that. They are trying and failing to force memes. It is embarrassing to read, and I actually like yelling "WAAAAAGH" when charging with Orcs.

This is without getting into game balance issues. For example, the High Elf Repeater Bolt Thrower needs to be rewritten so it doesn't look like it gives you 72 shots per turn. Night Goblins have no incentive to turn up with any melee weapon other than nets because nets are functionally spears with 3 attacks each, and while the warscroll says "a few" have nets there are no actual hard and fast limits.

I will confess that I haven't actually played a game yet. That's because I'm not sure how, given that I cannot, more or less by definition, construct a fair army for it.

I'm sure there will be fans of it, although probably not enough for GW to survive its incompetent management. But to me, this is Warhammer: Bad Youtube Poop edition. It is taking a game I loved and turning it into a not particularly amusing joke. Avoid at all costs.
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