Friday 18 September 2015

Why I Like The Age Of Sigmar

I’m enjoying the Age Of Sigmar. It’s been a breath of fresh air for our group, and, like my chaos Dwarfs, it’s seen many old projects come out from the cupboards of hobby shame and onto the battlefield. We’ve all been talking about new projects and the wild possibilities of the new system (An army of Giants? Why not? Empire pegasus knights? Sure! Chaos undead? Yes, please!)

Now, to put it mildly, AoS has also come in for some serious criticism, and this has gotten me thinking why it works for us. This isn’t attempt to change the doubters’ minds or answer their legitimate concerns; it’s just an attempt to set my own thoughts straight and work out what I want from the game in the future. I can’t speak for the rest of the group, but I’m sure they’ll chime in if they want!  

Dancing Is Encouraged

I aspire to have my games play out as a moving diorama where the whole story isn’t know at the start. I’m not interested in proving that I’m a better player than my opponent, nor am I interested in finding the most efficient or flexible army. The rules, the dice and all that are just to help, for the want of a better term, develop a narrative. This approach needs co-operation between players. It needs to be treated not as win-at-all-costs sporting competition but as a dance with a partner. Sure, war-games are different from a dance in that there can be a winner but this should just be seen as the final destination of the game, like the final position in a dance, not the raison d'etre for it. You don’t win a dance. You dance because it’s fun and can be beautiful. 

From this perspective a couple of the reasons AoS has been canned so roundly on-line are not important. The lack of points and the lack of balance that supposedly creates isn’t a big issue because if you are co-operating with the other player there is not the need for two evenly matched forces; you can change things as you go or set up a scenario where relative power isn’t the key to the outcome. 

Thinking about it I’ve decided that points have been a crutch for most of us for too long. With points we’ve felt that we could just throw two even pointed armies on the table, play “until you kill ‘em all” as a “scenario” and think that both players would have a satisfactory experience. This isn’t true though. We’ve all played games with points were, once we see the other players army, we know we can’t win and it will not be a fun couple of hours rolling dice. Having “even” points let us feel that crushing our opponent was ok because they had just as much chance to win and have fun as we did. Taking points away makes people think about how to set up their games and what they want out of them again, and it should lead to better experiences for those that embrace it. 

After having said that, there is a place for points systems, competitive play and army lists, it’s just that is should not be the default way of playing. One of the exciting thing of having no points system given to us from on high is the possibility of different comp systems for different events. We are already seeing this with points based systems like the UK Independent Pool and wounds based ones like Clash Of Empires. It all adds variety to the game and means that things stay fresh.  

The biggest thing that struck me reading the new lore was how restricted we had been in the Old World. One of the great strengths of the 40k universe is its staggering size, it’s millions of worlds, it’s thousands of battlefronts and untold number of combatants. It is easy for you to make your own story in it and not have to bump against the cannon —remember, whatever you do you will not me missed —, easy for you to make your own marine chapter or fortress world. In the Old World this was much harder. You couldn’t make a new province of the Empire or your own elector count. And all this was wrapped in a veneer of late medieval or renaissance Europe. Some things fitted, some could not. 

The Battle Of Issus by Albrecht Altdorfer 1529

With the new Nine Realms there is no restriction. Each of the realms is bigger and more varied than the World-That-Was. This encourages you to do whatever you can dream up and not feel like you are disrespecting the lore, and, as the whole “universe” has been created from the ground up to incorporate fantasy and magical elements, you can go really wild. Rivers of liquid metal are fine, fighting from one floating mountain to another can happen. I realise that this isn’t the Warhammer World we had and I too miss some of the grimDarkness of The Empire and it’s riffs on old Europe but the possibilities for us to create what we want make up for that in my mind.

Less Brain Strain
AoS is really just two pages of rules (The first two pages are all set up/scenario stuff that we haven’t been using, but there are also the war scrolls, of course, which takes the page count right up). I don’t have to memorise a hundred odd pages of rules and spend much of the game checking them anymore. It means that there is less strain the playing the game. I had to work myself up to a game of 8th edition and found it a real mental drain. For me shorter rules leads to a more fun game and a more pleasant time around the table. It gives me room to make a narrative and to have the moving diorama experience. It’s easer to dance..

That’s it. Sorry it turned out to be huge wall of text but my feelings were complex and need some teasing out. Thanks for getting this far. I’d be interested to hear your perspective if you are so inclined to comment.

Dance on, brothers.


  1. Interestingly, in historical gaming army lists and point values have typically been the exception not the rule (newer entrants such as Bolt Action are changing this of course....) so designing scenario based balance has a long successful pedigree.

    1. I remember reading somewhere Rick Priestly said that army lists and points were initially introduced to Warhammer to give people a guide as to how their armies should look, to help create verisimilitude. I think that he was also against putting points in Black Powder and Hail Caesar. Did Featherstone ever use points?

      It just going to take time for people to get used to this new old way of playing.