Age of Sigmar – whats the fuss about?

Uncertainty.

Its as simple as that.   We’re at the release point where rules for all the old WFB models have been released, as have the core ruleset … and we still don’t really know how the game is pitched, and are relying on rumours and extrapolations.

Let me give a few examples:

  • The warscrolls for the old WFB miniatures contain lots of funny rules and a light hearted touch.  The warscrolls in the starter set are quite serious.  Is it a light hearted beer and pretzels approach to the game, or a light hearted farewell to the history of Warhammer, and a serious game going forward?
  • What will the miniatures look like?  The aesthetic from the new box set is much more like 40K.  40K minis sell, so that makes sense, but is this new high fantasy approach going to run through the whole line?  If so, what will beloved races like Elves look like?  Are the older models effectively obsolete in anything but the very short term (especially in light of the first point?)
  • Is the game pitched for scenario play?  Or will there be army building rules?  At the moment, neither option is really covered in any depth.

These will all settle out, but not having any formal indication or roadmap on how things will go is definitely worrying people, especially existing WFB players.

I understand the need to protect IP, but the names of the races are just a bit silly.  I’d have been more impressed if GW had just said “We do the best models in the world.  We don’t give a damn if someone else makes a Ork on a Dragon.  Ours looks better.” rather than calling them Orruks, which sounds more like a burp.  And honestly?  GW minis generally are the best in the world at 28mm.

In addition to the uncertainty, though, there are 2 very polarised views dominating the shouting.  We have the “I am excited for the new game, so I will not hear any word of cynicism at all”, and we have the “I loved WFB, this is different, the world is ending, Rage Quit, Rage Quit”.  I think most people actually sit in the middle, are cautiously optimistic but are aware there are a lot more game options available these days, so aren’t going to buy in blindly.

Honestly, between the two views, I have some sympathy with the latter.  The Old World was part of my hobby since I was 10.  Destroying it entirely for a fresh start?  Well, that hurts a little.  Of course, it belongs to GW, they can do what they like with it.  But it feels like the Queen decided to rebuild Buckingham Palace as a glass skyscraper and demolish the historical building.

I think people would be less polarised for the new game if it was genuinely new.  Why Sigmar?  Why not a fresh rising god?  Its totally different anyway, and people would have fresher eyes.  The same with Nagash ruling the Realm of the Dead, for example – why?  Powerful worldly beings are now rising to the level of the Chaos Gods or above, and from a broken world?  Why not start fresh, and use Chaos as the linking theme?

I’m sure a lot of this will be explained as the fluff begins to expand beyond the basic introduction in the White Dwarf, but again … its uncertain.

I can also understand people being upset at being saddled with armies that have little real world value now.  Before, if I got out of the hobby, I could sell off my Dark Elves and recoup a reasonable chunk, maybe 50% of my investment.  Now?  I’ll be lucky to get back 20% of the value at best.  Its less of an issue with 40K with a more thriving social gaming scene.  With WFB, I’d generally have to play in store, or in a tournament – both options that will be vanishing with the loss of the old system, so the refrain of “Well, you can still play the older edition!  Your books are still there!” doesn’t ring quite true.  Its particularly upsetting if you’ve followed the advice from enthusiasts to hang on to your army until you see what happens.

I’ve tried the game myself, if only briefly, and you know what?  It’s genuinely fun.  It plays well and smoothly, though I have a few quibbles with the initial release rules:

  • Everything is measured model to model.  I hate, hate, hate people prodding my carefully painted minis with measuring sticks or tape measures.  The old base measurements avoided that.  I think it avoids a lot of game problems, but heck, my paint!
  • The older models, especially those on flying bases, are just not designed for the new game.  I’m excited to see the new approach (I suspect we may see multi level bases to change flyer levels), but the older models have some issues.
  • Although you roll off for who goes first in a turn, you still do everything in a game turn, then hand off to your opponent.  Game systems where you have alternative activations at a unit level keep both players more involved, though the apparently intended skirmish size stops this really being a problem.
  • The rules seem more designed around the new models.  If I field night goblins against dark elves at the moment, the dark elves will probably get sudden death advantages against troops they could quickly stomp anyway.  Its a nice mechanic, but aimed at planned scenarios or models in a more even playing field.

These are just quibbles, and almost everyone is solved by newer models coming out, and playing small games rather than massed armies.  The game is fun, and I’m cautiously optimistic, though I probably won’t buy into it until I see my beloved Aelves!  Is it fun enough to get people playing this instead of Malifaux?  Or Warmachine/Hordes?  I must admit, At the moment I could see myself playing this with my brother over a few beers.  I don’t see myself going down a club to play it – I’ll get my Warmachine or Malifaux out.  But I have high hopes for a complex scenario structure and more serious warscrolls going forward making it much better for pickup games.  I can understand why some people who were more invested than me in WFB being upset though.