Initial Thoughts on Age of Sigmar and the Potential for Organized Play

Hello all!  Rawdogger here to give my initial impressions of the yet to be released Age of Sigmar.

The introductory boxed set is due to be released this coming Saturday and for the past few weeks the 4 page ruleset has been leaked (released) for the general public’s perusal.  The game features a simplified ruleset where unit’s stats to hit and wound are based on their own abilities and are not modified by the opposing player’s unit’s stats.  There is some damage modification stats from different weapons in the game or abilities from the units themselves but in general the roll needed to wound a dragon will be the same needed to wound a goblin. Games Workshop has tried to offset this seeming imbalance by giving characters and large monsters a high wound count to offset this mechanic and in general units will be hitting on 3’s or 4’s and wounding on 3’s and 4’s.  Please keep in mind that these are just my initial thoughts and I have not gone through the rules or each unit’s warscrolls with a fine tooth comb.  Speaking of Warscrolls, each unit from the factions in the now defunct Warhammer Fantasy were given Warscolls that allow them to be played in the new system, albeit with severely toned down powers and abilities.  Yes, some of the scrolls include silly rules such as riding and imaginary horse or talking to your models for bonuses to hit and wound but there aren’t many of these and honestly I don’t see anything wrong with a bit of silliness when playing a game of army men with other grown ass men.


The 800 pound elephant in the room that everyone IS talking about are the complete and utter lack of points in the game system.  I’m not as well versed as some when it comes to knowledge of other game systems but I don’t believe there to be any other major miniature game systems that have no point costs.  Point costs go a long way in balancing a miniatures game and with Games Workshop not only leaving the point costs out of Age of Sigmar but emphatically stating that there would NEVER be any point costs included in the game they have certainly doubled down on their statements that they are a models company first and a miniatures game company second.  Now, there ARE some balancing factors in the initial release with the Sudden Death special rules.   Basically, if a player is outnumbered in model count by their opponent they can choose from a list of objectives on the Sudden Death table that will allow them to instantly win the game if they complete the objective.  This is nice but kind of leads to even further imbalances such as the outnumbered player choosing a relatively weak single Warscroll character to kill and win the game instantly.  There has been some talk of a books of scenarios that will let players know exactly what they are allowed to take and if that is the case we could see some type of game balance coming into play from GW.

One of the biggest complaints regarding Age of Sigmar is the seemingly impossible task of having organized play (i.e. tournaments) with this new game system.  I think this was the intent of the development studio as Age of Sigmar was clearly written as a true beer and pretzel game to be played with your friends and there is NOTHING WRONG WITH THIS.  Every game does not have to be playable in a competitive organized manner.  Does this mean that a set of organized competitive rules couldn’t be developed by the community to cater to the segment of the customer base that WANT to play in that environment?  Of course not!  Here are some ways that Age of Sigmar might be balanced to the point where organized competitive play would be possible.

Wound Count – This is one of the more prevalent ways that people are talking about balancing the game.  Both players would have an agreed upon amount of wounds that they were allowed to field.  This would make the decision of taking a 10 wound dragon over a 10 man squad of archers much more tactical for players.  The drawback to this method is that most 1 wound models are not equal in abilities and stats, i.e. a Goblin is not the same as a Chaos Warrior, etc.  People would also use this method to abuse the Sudden Death mechanic and take high wound low model count armies.

Warscrolls – Pictures from an email printed in Word Pad that are reportedly from GW themselves to game store owners (we didn’t receive one) have been floating around for a couple days in which the rep states that a good way to balance the game for competitive play involves limiting each player to a number of Warscroll types.  This would work if Games Workshop didn’t get greedy and leave unit sizes open ended which encourages model sales for large units.  Even if a unit cap is implemented we fall into the trap where an apple doesn’t equal an orange and a unit of 20 Goblins is NOT the same as a 20 man Chaos Warrior unit.

Point Costs – Something that has not been getting a lot of dialogue would be implementing an unofficial point cost to all models in the game system.  This would be a lot of work and would constantly have to be updated, as well as being COMPLETELY unofficial in nature.  A combination of using Warscroll limits (FOC) as well as point costs would be the most effective way of making the game system playable in an organized setting but would involve the most work and would incur the most negative feedback from the community.

I want to end this article by stating that there is nothing wrong with playing Age of Sigmar the way Games Workshop intended, imaginary horse riding and all.  There are many other game systems available for you to get your competitive rocks off with so why not have one game that you can enjoy being silly with while having beers?  Also, traditional Warhammer Fantasy players are rightfully upset and should not be jumped on for venting their frustrations.  Imagine if this happened to you 40k players and the game system you knew and loved was gone overnight?   I’m not saying that Games Workshop should be given a free pass for dumping Warhammer Fantasy and I’m also not saying that Games Workshop should be vilified for creating a simple tabletop wargame that plays differently than other traditional tabletop wargames. What I am trying to convey in this article is that personally I think Age of Sigmar looks to be a fun game that is meant to be played with friends but can definitely be modified to be a competitive organized tournament game as well, but it will take a lot of hard work and unity from the community, which is sadly a hard thing to come by in our hobby.


So what are your thoughts on bringing balance to the Age of Sigmar?  Unnecessary? What’ the best way you can think of to balance the game to allow organized play?


About Jason

Raw Dogger, aka, Phat J Sleaze (formerly of the Booty Boyzzz) is a highly opinionated, questionably skilled 40k enthusiast. When not working at Frontline Gaming, he can be found down on Jabroni Avenue.

24 Responses to “Initial Thoughts on Age of Sigmar and the Potential for Organized Play”

  1. Void Talker July 9, 2015 11:43 am

    Points aren’t an issue for friendly at home games for me.
    I suspect problems may arise in stores between strangers and people crying “no fair”, and sadly justifiably so.
    I wouldn’t mind someone putting together an army of favourite models, hey I’m going for Screamers and Burning Chariots led by Chariot Heralds, but I would be irritated at someone with the Fateweaver and Screaming Bell combo I’ve heard talk of. Or someone who played Nagash, Glotkin and eight Bloodthirsters. There’s fun, and then there’s being a moron.

    So yeah; no points no problem among friends who are reasonable and agree. But a BIG problem for in store games.

    • pinkyandthebrain July 9, 2015 2:15 pm

      Not convinced that the lack of points makes a difference in store games. The points system is not balanced, you bring 1850 of a normal army and your opponent brings a top tier tourney 1850 he will ROFL stomp you. The lack of points actually makes it fairer as it is easier for you to say look it is not a fair game between my army and yours we need to change something as their is no arbitrary number saying you are wrong. Self policing on army selection already exists in nearly every gaming group and store with their own level and meta.

      If you want points the fact that everything hits and wounds on a set number makes it easier. Take average turn damage output vs 4+ save on wounds add wounds multiplied by 7-armour save. Then add a few points for various abilities, like spells take again average damage output and factor that in. It would be a chunk of work but not that much longer than goes into setting any major tourney comp.

    • tag8833 July 10, 2015 4:37 pm

      I think points are an important part of “friendly at home games” for most people. What you are basically saying is that you use an informal comp system, and don’t call it a points system, but in order for it to be a game there must be some balancing mechanic.

      If my buddy and I play every Tuesday, and every Tuesday I win, my buddy isn’t going to want to play for very long. So what ends up happening is that we prenegotiate our lists, and create balanced lists based on our mutual conception of the valuation of units, which could be called “a points valuation”.

      It is like the difference between bartering, and using money. Everything still needs a valuation to function. The net result of money over bartering is more trades with more people (economic activity). The net results of points over informal army comp is more games with more people.

  2. Chosen of Khorne July 9, 2015 12:05 pm

    If GW is not interested in being a rules company (only a model company), I wish they would just outsource the “official” rules of the game to a third party so they can focus on their model making. They do this with their video games, board games, and RPG. A third party focused on the rules would hopefully do a better job and pay more attention to balance, FAQs, and updating the rules as needed. GW doesn’t seem inclined to do this, so why not let someone else? I know that I have no intention of buying any of their sigmar models with the rules as they currently exist. A better rule set or a scenario supplement might change my mind, but not this framework for a game.

    • Vercingatorix July 9, 2015 12:14 pm

      That’s a good point. I just don’t know what kind of third party they could contract with that wouldn’t be a competitor. Not that there is anything wrong with contracting a competitor but it does take balls to “admit defeat” and pay another company to do something your comapny has been doing for 30 years.

      Although the gaming community would love GW if all we had to go on was there model quality. I don’t think many people dislike that.

      • Alex Yuen July 9, 2015 12:38 pm

        Well. that already happen. the rules is call Kings of war by Mantic. Kings of war cover most models and races from GW. If you have an empire army then Kings of war human army pretty much the same as your gw empire army with cannon, spear etc. and your circle knights

    • Raw Dogger July 10, 2015 7:14 am

      The problem with that and the reason it will never happen is because the rules definitely influence the sales of models which GW would want complete control over.

  3. Jack Shrapnel July 9, 2015 12:21 pm

    We’ve been testing “regimental comp”

    A warscroll wound size is based upon it’s ability to be taken as a regiment. If a unit has a regimental bonus it can have up to a number of wounds equal to 10 over it’s highest regimental bonus. ie: goblins can have up to 40, savage orks up to 30. If a unit does not have a regimental bonus (ie: black orcs and other “elite” units) it can have a maximum wound count of 20. Big multi-wound models (ogres, morghasts, etc.) can likewise have a maximum wound count of 20 per warscroll.

    Now you limit how many warscrolls you want for the battle, and you now have a relatively balanced system that rewards taking “chaff” units and balances them out against elite units.

    Thus far it seems to work.

    You can add a limit to monsters too if you find them too overpowering, but shooting usually diminishes their effectiveness fairly easy we’ve found.

    • Jet July 12, 2015 9:03 am

      I actually really like that balancing. I think I will use it with the basic army comp that they sent to a store. I think they can work really well together. I tried out their comp and it worked out really well. It made for a fun game. I am going to try out this method as well.

  4. Anvil
    anvilward88 July 9, 2015 12:40 pm

    We’ve been going by Wounds so far in order to make use of as many of the rules as possible. Basically it should play the same way as a larger game, but scaled down a bit. This method still allows our players that have Elite armies to take advantage of Sudden Death.

    We’ve also ruled that for Summon spells, you can only Summon units that are part of your army that you did not place on the table or were wiped out earlier in the battle, again to keep consistent with the larger game (if you are able to put all your models on the table, meaning that you don’t have any more models in reserve, and attempt to Summon a Unit, where does that Unit come from? From either a unit that was killed or you on purposefully left off the board). Monstrous creatures have advantages over units of equal number of wounds in that they don’t test for Battleshock and don’t have to worry about other models behind them not getting attacks in, but most of them start losing attacks or not hit or damage as well as they take damage themselves. We’re still figuring the kinks out, but so far has been working pretty good.

    One thing I would like to point out is that when it comes to Sudden Death, if you choose Assassination or Blunt, the opponent gets to choose what the target for that victory is, so it’s something that a player has to keep in mind. If the opponent has a Chaos Sorcerer and Archaon, and you choose Assassination, the opponent is likely to choose Archaon for his durability. Another Sudden Death victory might be easier to achieve than that.

  5. Maeglin July 9, 2015 12:51 pm

    Just so you know, the target of the sudden death condition for killing a model or unit is chosen by the owner of the unit. My army is 100 Skeletons and Nagash. Yours is 30 Chaos Warriors (Example). You pick assassinate as the sudden death condition. I get to choose if you need to kill the skeletons or Nagash.

    • Maeglin July 9, 2015 12:52 pm

      nevermind anvil beat me to it!

  6. Jural July 9, 2015 1:53 pm

    Honestly, using total wounds (Army wide, and perhaps per warscroll) and no duplicate “named” characters seems like it’s enough to get a fun beer and pretzels night in

    I do like that I can actually break out some of the cool characters now.

  7. Nova star July 9, 2015 2:49 pm

    Chaos warriors have two wounds now Rawdog, so you’d get 2x the goblins :). no points is still a stupid fail of GW

  8. bnb July 9, 2015 2:53 pm

    A comment for raw dogs ego.

    • Reecius
      Reecius July 9, 2015 5:30 pm

      Lol, nice!

  9. Tomguycot July 9, 2015 4:00 pm

    What would it hurt to have included point costs? It’s always an option to just throw all your models on the table and battle yet it doesn’t really work in reverse. All it does is limit your potential audience to kids and super casual play only. I just don’t get it.

  10. CNitram July 9, 2015 4:59 pm

    Is it weird that all this AoS hype has made me want to start an 8th Ed. style Army? I’ve been snooping eBay for any cheap army books and models lately…

  11. Hotsauceman1 July 9, 2015 5:54 pm

    My suggestion
    Classify certain units are “Elite Units” and “Core Units”make something like this, along with wound restrictions
    0-2 Hero units
    1+ core units
    0-3 Elite units
    0-2 monster units
    0-2 war Machine unites

  12. Maeglin July 10, 2015 2:09 am

    All I know is my Dogs of War pikemen are going to be awesome. Use as Empire spearmen, measure from the nearest point of the model to see if in range to attack and voilà!

    I’m not modelling for advantage, I’m just using the same models I’ve been using for years.

    • pinkyandthebrain July 10, 2015 12:54 pm

      Why does the length of the spear make any difference? The model is still bound by deployment and movement which are also model measured. It can help cram in models for strikes if using big units but that doesn’t seem to be what AoS is about (big units that is).

      • Maeglin July 11, 2015 5:00 am

        Empire State troops get bonuses for large units as do plenty of other War Scrolls such as Glade Guard.
        The length of the pike also means it’s easier get within charge range (work against as well though) and also I don’t actually have to always declare a charge, if I’m within 3″ I can just attack anyway. That great for supporting an existing combat.
        Plus for example only five of your models can fight due to the 1″ range of their weapons. My unit could have 15 fighting back.

  13. Richard July 16, 2015 1:01 pm

    So instead of having to come up with home-grown unofficial rules to make this game into something it isn’t intended to be, why not just play another game? There are other rules sets out there that will allow me to utilize my GW Fantasy figs (Saga, Kings Of War, etc.). Not giving GW any more money.

  14. Peter Pienczuk July 16, 2015 3:36 pm

    Perfect time to make your own rules !!!!