Age of Sigmar
In the deep and distant past, I used to play Warhammer Fantasy Battles (WFB). I even had several armies, of which Brettonians were the largest. Then the lure of historical wargaming took me, with a passion. Okay, that’s not the whole story, I collected and started to paint a lovely Bretonnian army and it was eaten by a Dark Elf army complete with hero on dragonback (who did 99% of the damage). So the army languished in a box until it reinvented itself as a Medieval French army for Warhammer Ancient Battles (WAB). It was basically the same game but without the uberness (okay, without SOME of the uberness) and no magic!
As Warhammer Fantasy has slowly diverged from 5th edition (the ‘core’ basis of WAB), I’ve been keen to take note of the changes in Warhammer Fantasy with an eye to seeing if it had any relevance to WAB - perhaps an improved mechanism - sadly there were none. I’m also keen to see ‘how things work’. So it was with some interest that I saw the latest incarnation of Warhammer being unveiled called ’Age of Sigmar’ (AoS). This in my opinion is definitely an effort to refloat the Fantasy franchise which was commanding less and less of GW sales (only 15-20% according to my sources). Some are calling AoS the death knell of fantasy, others are embracing it with open arms. I had an opportunity to read through the rules Wednesday last so here’s what I thought.
The first major change is the round bases. WFB ones were square for ranking up your troops so round ones strongly suggest this is a skirmish game. While there is a proximity rule (models have to be within 1” if they are a unit), that’s it. Goodbye rank bonus and flanking. The turn sequence has also slightly changed, it’s still IGO UGO (players take alternative turns). Heroes have a phase (for magic and inspiring units), followed by movement, shooting and then charging (a random 2D6). Terrain now has special effects, which can be both good and bad. Some can inspire a unit to great deeds while others cause physical casulties to your unit. At least some terrain offers cover from missiles. This is quite odd but necessary in a skirmish game - otherwise why would you bother taking any as it has no effect on unit movement? Terrain is supposed to hinder movement.
Another major change is the ‘to hit’ and ‘to wound’. The sequence is the same (hit, wound, save) but all the tables have gone. You now have a standard unmodified roll to hit and another to wound for each weapon. So a lowly bowman will hit on a 5+ (regardless of movement) and wound on a 4+ (be it a skaven or dragon). All models in a unit can shoot and all models within 3” fight. At the end of combat, all units which have suffered casuaties have to make a bravery test or lose a number of models (to fleeing) by the amount the test was failed by. Bigger units have some resilience to this.
Even the faction names have changed! Elves are now Aelfs, Orks are Oorruks etc. I suspect this is to allow GW to tighten their Intellectual Property (IP) even tighter. While there are lists provided online for the ‘old’ existing factions, there are no points costs. I suspect a magic supplement and army list books (with points costs?) will follow and the inevitable changes in army lists with new IP copyrightable names. The lack of army lists is both interesting and scary. Some players have called it liberating, as you actually have to decide with your opponent what’s fair (… some guidelines would be nice though!).
While I’m sure the much streamlined AoS (the rules fit on four pages) is a good game, it’s more like 40K now than the old Fantasy battle I once knew. A wise man once said to me “If you’re going to change a game, you need to make enough changes to make it new and exciting to new players. Don’t change too much as you risk alienating your original fanbase.” Only time will tell with Age of Sigmar… The models are beautiful by the way… if I really needed a dozen Sigmarines. I don’t think I can use ‘em in Frostgrave… or anything else… Hmm maybe 40k with some a bolt pistol and backpack conversion, except I haven’t played 40k in over a decade.