Warhammer Fantasy Battle is dead! Long live … Well, what is the heir to WFB’s crown? 2 games really stand out – its replacement, Age of Sigmar, and it’s competition, Kings of War.
Age of Sigmar is the new approach taken by Games Workshop. It focuses on individual models, to a much greater extent than Warhammer Fantasy Battle ever did. Indeed, it goes further than 40K does, and that was always more of a skirmish feel than Fantasy ever was. Individual base shapes and sizes don’t matter at all, allowing individuals to have fantastic bases and poses.
Kings of War is the fantasy battle game produced by Mantic. It focuses on units, to a much greater extent that Warhammer Fantasy Battle every did. Each unit is largely governed by the base size. Individual models don’t really matter, not even being removed as casualties (which allows a unit to have great fixed dioramas and poses).
Both games are designed to run significantly faster with streamlined rules compared to the classic WFB model. In my test games, Age of Sigmar seems to play better with smaller forces than a traditional WFB game, while KoW scaled up better – the system stayed elegant, while AoS got increasing clumsy. On the flip side, AoS gets more interesting as forces shrink, while KoW doesn’t scale down well – the use of units as integral models stops being effective with one or two units on a table.
Tactically, the war of manoeuvre that was present in Warhammer Fantasy Battle is much more present in Kings of War. Flank or rear attack an enemy unit, and you are truly going to cause some damage – facing doesn’t really matter in AoS at all.
On the flip side, the presence of mages and heroes are much more vibrant and present in AoS (to the point where many wonder why its worth taking a unit!) Spells, powers, there is a real range and uniqueness to the individual characters – in KoW, heroes and mages are pretty limited. Units and warmachines are kings of the field – much more like historical gaming with Roman or Greek armies.
At the end of the day, I think it really depends on which aspects of WFB you enjoyed most. Mass army tactics? Kings of War is probably your choice. Varied models and more fantasy magic and powerful heroes? Then there’s a lot in Age of Sigmar to enjoy.
Both system offer core rules for free – Kings of War has slightly limited army lists but the points system makes pickup games and tournaments easy to play, while Age of Sigmar seems to rely more on scenarios for balancing games, and you’ll need to invest in books to get these.
I am fascinated by the two opposed approaches to simplifying the game of playing out a fantasy battle. The model, or the unit? Magic, or strategy? I do like the original WFB editions … but I remember how long a game could take. I think simplifying the core rules is the way forward, and time will tell which approach was correct.
There are lots of other games out there, but few are in direct line to succeed WFB. Warmachine and Hordes are amazing games, for example, but they are definitely more based around skirmish level encounters, and individual models, and focussed on a tight tournament play style. They aren’t an obvious replacement to WFB using similar minis.