Morning. Here it is then, why I like Age of Sigmar so much, as promised. There’s a lot of “people think, but are wrong” coming at you, just so you’re warned. You know, in case you’re one of the wrong ones.
As I have said so many times here on this blog, I used to hate The Lord of The Rings Battlegame. I played it once or twice, and wrote it off as “whoever rolls the highest dice wins. Rubbish.” Years later, having fallen in with a bunch of gamers who loved it, I grew to appreciate the complexity that arose out of its seemingly basic nature, and still love it to this day.
I approached Age of Sigmar with a more open mind because of this experience, and I am glad I did. What, when viewed through the lenses of grief and suspicion, looks like the Thomas the Tank Engine Wargaming Rulesset, is just as complex, involving and rewarding as any wargame I have played, if not more so. And I have played a lot. Here’s my justification.
The rules are easy to learn, quick to reference, and free. When taken with the warscrolls, battleplans et al, the game is not that much simpler than old Warhammer. By abandoning “top-down” rules design and shifting the detail out of the rules and onto the warscrolls, it allows greater variation.
The way it looks
This is not a skirmish game. I’m going to say that again, not a skirmish game. I too made this mistake. When I was originally shown the models, I said, “Oh, I love skirmish games!”. Much shaking of heads and “Nononononono, not a skirmish game,” was the immediate response from various GW bigwigs.
And it isn’t. You can play it as one, because the game is designed to scale. But it’s at its best when you have hordes of models pounding across the table. No longer are units restricted into overly formal, somewhat absurd Napoleonic-era blocks of troops. AoS battles look like battles from epic fantasy movies, and that is damn cool.
I had some kind of nerd-related panic attack when I heard points were going, but oh my god it is so liberating. “What about balance, what about fairness, how do we know who has won?” Screw all that. POINTS VALUES WERE NEVER BALANCED. They were actually unfair. Warhammer devolved into an exercise where power-mad dice chuckers would spend every waking moment breaking the latest army book. “Well, the points are equal. Therefore it is fair,” they would say of their latest hell-combo, when quite patently it was not fair, and what they really meant was “This arbitrary system of points attribution provides a cloak of legitimacy to my frightening need to prove my validity as a human being by winning at toy soldiers.”
So these guys are the ones who now MIGHT just turn up with fifteen Kairos Fateweavers (or fifteen coke cans masquerading as Kairos) “because the rules say I can” and that means the game is broke! Nope. I didn’t like playing them before, and I won’t play them now. I’d rather game this chap with the lovely themed army.
And when armies are mismatched, a little gentleman’s discussion, and we can add or take units away. It works better than points values. BETTER.
I had one competitive gamer say to me “Every single game we play, we can say ‘If it weren’t for this or that, then the other side would have won.'” That is exactly like the old Warhammer then.
There is a gap for people who do want to play “competitive” Warhammer, I admit. I’m sure at some point someone will come up with a way to give that illusion of balance so that the power-gamers can get happily back to breaking that system and fixing it so they can break it again. Then we’ll all be happy.
The fun in the game comes with the delightful way all the various abilities work to enhance your troops. That the abilities come from heroes encourages gamers to indulge in heroic, movie-style duels of champions to knock out enemy buffs.
I can add whatever I want to my army, whenever I want. That’s fun too.
Despite what the detractors say, there are tactics, they are merely different to the old maths-hammer style gaming. Ability combos, battalions, troop numbers and so forth mean army selection still has its role. Outmanoeuvring your opponent is still important. What isn’t important is trawling the army books for weaknesses in the rules.
That’s my take on it, anyway. I love it. Give it a go if you haven’t yet. It really is loads of fun, and that it is surely the reason we spend so much time on such a peculiar pursuit in the first place.