WIP Arkhan the Black eating some poor schmuck's soul!
What's up gamers!
NoName1 here again - after a long hiatus - to talk about my latest crush: Age of Sigmar!
Now, I get the criticism. I was right there with you, especially when the game launched with no points values or any other way to even sort of "balance" the game. I saw balancing by Wounds, balancing by number of Models, rough Force Organization Charts - but nothing really came close. It was either limited to a few specific armies, or just straight-up didn't work.
No, this entire post is about the state of Age of Sigmar (AoS) post General's Handbook. That sucker was (how can you not?) an absolute game changer (yeah I did!)
The addition of Points, Pitched Battle Profiles that include Force Organization charts/requirements and limitations not only for all factions, but with different numbers based on game size. The perfect framework for us to actually try the dang game.
Plus, the main book includes all the rules, and the points for *all* armies, plus those sweet Faction or Grand Alliance-specific bonuses and wargear. All for a measly $25 for the book - especially since the actual unit rules are free in the really quite impressive app.
If it sounds like I'm gushing, I am. I actually bought the GH just to read it, and to support GW in their new magical price-point. THEN I decided to try playing.
From a 40k player's perspective, here are the things I was most struck by:
1.) It's cheap.
Between E-bay and those rather excellent Start Collection boxes they've been releasing for AoS (you know, the ones where the models are actually discounted?) I busted out a full 2000 pts. for something like $200, including the book. No joke. Here's what I did:
First- Start Collecting Box "Skeleton Horde"
This is just a random shot of some of those pieces
Second- E-bay a lot of Skeletons; 40 basic Warriors, 20 of the old school naked Black Knight cavalry, and a lone Chariot. These are the ugly old models, but they serve.
Third- E-bay two Chaos Marauder Horses, and ten more Black Knights from the latest kits.
Fourth- Here's the secret sauce. In the Skeleton Horde box, you get a Mortrarch - I assembled mine as Arkhan because I love skeletons and Wizards, win-win. Then I took the other two riders, Neferata and Mannfred, and modded them onto the Chaos Marauder Horsemen. Voila! Two Vampire Lords, or Count Mannfred and a Necromancer. They came out terrific. Next I built the Skeletons, and assembled the Hexwraiths (fantastic models), and took the extra Black Knights sprues and put them over the horse bodies of some of the old Black Knights horses.
They look like they're doing the cavalry-equivalent of wearing flip-flops, but they wound up looking awesome painted. Also kit-bashed a Heinrich Kemmler/Necromancer from an Empire Wizard and some green stuff.
Fifth- I picked up a Cairn Wraith (you know, more heroes) and the Shattered Dominion Bases boxed set to re-base my Skeleton Warriors. After re-basing, I also had a bunch of sleek new Skulls that I used (with some Kings of War Elf Archer arms) to turn ten more old Black Knight models into Mounted Skeleton Archers.
You can see some of my "barefoot" Black Knights here, including front-and-center
That's just what I did for my army, but it went together super fast, was a blast to paint, and was both easier and cheaper than I'd ever dreamed going into it. It's a healthy 2000 pts with room for upgrades and a little proxying. AND I have a ton of extra bits - next project is to turn that lone Chariot into a Tomb King on Chariot!
Yes, that part was particularly rewarding :) and brings us to-
2.) The Models.
These are the same GW quality models we're used to from the latest 40k releases. Some of the recent Fantasy/AoS models are easily GW's best work. I would have gotten some of them just to paint them, but it's a major perk being able to get some play out of them too!
3.) It's Fast.
In terms of how the game plays, it's quick and brutal! A 2k game is still long, but with less rules-referencing and a set five-turn limit, I find my games go about half as long as a 40k game. With two players who know what they're doing, it's entirely possible to bang out a 2k in an hour.
4.) The Rules.
Playing off of #3 there, a big part of what makes the game fast is that it's simple, streamlined, and straightforward. It's not perfect of course, and it's no 40k, but I found that the rules for individual units and the scenarios worked to make playing with these rules every bit as fun and satisfying as the massive tomes that are 40k rules. Often even better. Here are the biggest Rules Wins in my book:
First, any piece can hurt any other. Every model has a set To-Hit and To-Wound threshold, no matter what they're fighting. This means you actually will run those basic Mook units (and some of them are the best units in the game. Skeleton Warriors, man!) and if you play them well, they can take down the biggest monsters in the game. Put in Chess terms, even a Pawn can take a Queen. Which I think is good for the game - it means everything is a potential threat, and you'll never be up against an opponent you can't hit or hurt. That kind of openness makes it a lot more flexible what units you can play, and means a "Bad Matchup" isn't an automatic loss. No Flyer Spam or Knights stomping on your poor anti-Infantry list.
Second, Heroes. Heroes are cool in this game! They feel epic, they feel like Heroes, but they also can never be part of a unit, so no hiding, no someone else soaking that damage for you. Heroes hit hard, but are very fragile on their own. But I really like that aspect, it makes them fast and flexible, but you have to be very careful with positioning. It also really sets off some of the more spectacular models :)
Third, Scenarios. Back in 5th edition 40k, GW knocked it out of the park with custom Missions and Scenarios in the Core book. This is the first book of theirs since then that I really enjoy. All the matches are Objective Based, but with different Deployment, and dramatically different ways to score them. For example, in one Scenario, only Heroes can hold Objectives - considering my Second point above, that makes for a very interesting game. In another, a minimum of six units hold an Objective, so you had to make sure to buffer your point grabbers, and couldn't poach a point with a small unit. In another, the Objectives arrive in a random table sixth on Turn 2, so no predicting where they'll be at Deployment. Lastly, there's one where you get one-third of your army's units (rounded up) each turn, starting with your Battleline - that made for a super awesome game!
In short, the missions are varied and interesting, and with different builds and opponents, they keep the game much more fresh than I expected. Top marks!
Is it perfect? Of course not. But man, it really is good :)
If you haven't, catch a learning game, try an Escalation game, split a starter box with a buddy - try it out. Even if it's just a short break from 40k during the Holidays, I bet you'll find it's just the thing!