In one of my plans for 2016, I mentioned fantasy models, especially for Age of Sigmar, probably weren’t going to get a look-in, and hinted that the subject was worth a blog post in its own right. Its a very contentious issue, so first, let me spell out a few things.
These are just my opinions. You may love the game and models, or hate them – thats fine either way! I’m quite happy whether you play or not! In addition, I’m not really a fanboy type mentality – you can hate rules, but love the models, or love the game but hate the fluff. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Finally, get over Warhammer Fantasy – I loved that game, but it’s pretty much defunct except for occasional games with mates. Loving Warhammer Fantasy Battle doesn’t mean you have to love or hate Age of Sigmar – try to see it as a new game.
I see a game as being built from 3 main pillars. You have the background, or fluff. You have the rules for the game, and finally, you have the actual quality of the pieces or models. For a game to work for me, you need to have at least 2 of these (and often one spills over to another). I’m afraid that from my perspective, Age of Sigmar doesn’t pass that criteria.
First, the background and fluff could have been systematically designed to leave me cold. I’m a fairly traditional fantasy chap, and love the standard old races – your hobbits, wood elves, high elves and so on. In addition, I like magic to be something rare and unusual to your average citizen, rather than high magic settings where everyone is infused by power x from god y or artefact z. Everything in Age of Sigmar is superpowered – from god warriors of sigmar to god warriors of the chaos powers, through star demon lizards and elemental fire infused dwarves. It just fails to grab me. I’m fully aware this is a matter of personal taste, and I suspect those who grew up with World of Warcraft rather than Lord of the Rings will absolutely love it. The silly names, all clearly designed for copyright purposes, don’t really work for me either.
Second, I’ve tried the game more than once, and I really haven’t enjoyed it. The rules only cover 4 pages, but lack clarity, and lots of rules need specific knowledge of specific “war scrolls” or unit cards. Its a lot harder to get a feel for the overall game. The lack of points costs is something I’m a bit ambivalent about, but it doesn’t feel like there are many options apart from some scenarios to replace them. Its bloody difficult to work out what should be a fun game sometimes unless you’ve a lot of experience playing AoS or use home-brew systems. And the simplistic combat rules just leave me cold. Multiple groups of fast elves gang up on some slow dwarves, and just queue up to take turns hitting? Erk. I was hoping for a fun, simple skirmish system, and to be honest, it probably is. But people use it to play army encounters, and that gets sluggish and not really fun for me. So while I understand that some people enjoy it, and see the simple rules as a great way to introduce people to gaming, it doesn’t work for me. Its OK, I’d play a game if someone really wanted to, but I’d rather play something else.
And then finally the models. Age of Sigmar has, in theory, some utterly amazing models. For me, the problem is that they follow the fluff and all tie into the super-powered theme. So while I might grab an individual model here or there, I haven’t seen anything that makes me think “I want an army of those”. To put it in context, I think I can field 750-1000pts minimum of pretty much every 40K force (except the recent admech). And thousands of points of my favourites. I’m really their core audience for army buying, and I’m just not excited enough to even pick up the starter set.
So yeah, I fully understand why people love it, and the models are gorgeous in detail and design. But the underlying theme leaves me cold, and the rules aren’t good enough to counter that. Honestly, there are a fair few flaws in the 40K ruleset. But the fluff, theme and models are cracking, and carry my enthusiasm through the few games that get derailed by odd rules issues. That enthusiasm isn’t there for AoS, so it makes it much harder to get excited.
Of course, when they finally release Aelves, I’ll probably change my tune. I love pointy ears!