Age of Sigmar: What’s the Point?

rage-of-sigmar

Hey everyone, it’s Adam from TheDiceAbide.com, and time for an opinion article! I haven’t done one of these in a while, so this will be fun. Right now, the internet is all ablaze with righteous indignation in response to the gall that Games Workshop should try something new to revive a good game that had abysmal sales. It seems that everyone agrees that something had to be done, just a lot of people aren’t particularly pleased with totally changing the game.

Against my better judgement, I spent some time browsing some forums to see what people think about this new game. Of all the mechanics in Age of Sigmar that people seem to get riled up about, it’s by far the lack of a unified point measurement system. Not only did people seem to think that without points the game would be impossible to balance, but also, if you self imposed any sort of limitation, you’re not playing “real” Age of Sigmar… which is really what got me to start this article.

What’s in a Point?

First of all, lets talk about points, specifically in relation to 40k (since that’s a readily available comparison). Points are simply a fairly standard mechanic of allowing players to come up with some sort of baseline limitation of their army composition before they start a game. Many games have points, and they seem to get the job done adequately enough. When you play a points-based system, players typically agree on some limit, then do their best to take the most effective army they can within said restriction (I’ll mention what happens if you don’t in a minute). After deciding upon their army, they’ll take it to the battlefield, assuming that the points mean that their armies will be suitably matched for a fair game… This however, is frankly just not the truth. Every army for every game (that I’ve personally encountered) that uses points, has it’s units that are winners, and losers, must-haves, and garbage. There are many units in 40k which never really see the light of day in a competitive tournament, because in an environment driven by points, efficiency is key.

One big limitation of using points as your basis for determining fairness is that they are not readily mutable. By that I mean, points remain consistent, even when they become a hugely incorrect assessment of efficiency. For example, Draigo, by himself, isn’t all that great for his points, similarly Centurions aren’t over the top either. When you take Draigo and put him with Centurions, their value can definitely be worth more than their cost. Using force multipliers is a big part of playing the game, and often times the army with the best force multipliers do well in competition. Another example is adding 25 more bodies to a unit of 10 cultists… you definitely don’t see this very often, and why should you? It’s not an efficient use of points. You get the picture.

Well back to what I mentioned above, what happens when you don’t take the best units?  I like Berserkers (and I also agree that they’re too many points for what they do),  but when I take them, I’m aware that against a more point efficient army, I am essentially at a point handicap equal to the difference in what their cost should be for their efficiency. There are tons of units like this in the game, and most people who do take them, are doing so knowing the implications. Points never have been a balanced solution, they’re just a quick and dirty way to get balanced-ish games. Sorry, but not all 1850 armies are created equal. Ironically, the most balanced way to play with points is for both players to take whatever they can make the most point efficient, forsaking units that might otherwise be fun. If one player takes a “fun” list against a “competitive” list, the game is not likely to be balanced.

scales-unbalanced-points

Morkanaut with KFF and riggers is more points than a Wraithknight with two wraith cannons. Yay points!

Culture of Restriction

Before you start a game of 40k, you probably have a whole pile of other implicit agreements. My local gaming group assumes all games will be made with Battleforged armies, consisting of 1850 points, with no more than 3 detachments, Forgeworld is totally allowed, as are most, but not all super-heavy vehicles, the base of ruins count as part of the ruins, and the list goes on and on, unless people agree otherwise. If you’ve been playing 40k long enough, you’ve probably encountered veteran players who are new to your group, and they have different customs and unspoken rules. In this case they’ll show up, have to change a little bit about how/what they play, and the next time they come, they’ll probably be prepared to play by those local customs. Those things don’t make either of your ways better or worse, just different, but in either case, there are going to be plenty of changes to just the “real” rules of the game.

Now, with Age of Sigmar, we have what is essentially an entirely new game. There are no long-standing traditions, or local rules built upon years of game play and evolution, and the game doesn’t use points as a limiting factor for army composition. So because of that, we shouldn’t play it, right? Or maybe we should take the army that we think can abuse the lack of a point system the most, that’ll be good. Since it is such a new game, it will take time for manners to develop, but you can be absolutely certain that gaming groups will self-regulate on what is considered acceptable practice in the game, just like they do with other systems.

 

Playing it “Real”

Back to what I said in the beginning about playing “real” Age of Sigmar. This isn’t something people do for any other game, why should they do it for Age of Sigmar? If you’ve ever gone to an ITC event, you’ll notice that there is a 19 page document of FAQs and rules changes, on top of playing 6 custom built scenarios! Does this mean we’re not playing 40k? Sure, I give Reece a hard time whenever they change the rules for their events (boo, Destroyer nerf!), but that doesn’t make those tournaments non-40k, it’s just the expression of the wishes of the people playing the game.

standing-on-soap-box

I’ll get down now.

With or without points, it is always up to the players to decide what they think is fair for the game they want to play. People will come up with agreements or systems that they want to use to come up with quick approximations of a balanced enough game, and that’s totally fine. This isn’t all that new of a concept, it just now means my Cygor is no longer 100 points more than it should be.

PS – iIf you want some good laughs, check out the Rage of Sigmar Facebook group, where I borrowed the masthead from.

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About Adam

Cofounder of RUMBL – player finder for Miniatures Wargames. I also run a little blog called TheDiceAbide, check it out.

26 Responses to “Age of Sigmar: What’s the Point?”

  1. Reepy July 24, 2015 12:53 am #

    My main issue with missing points is not the balance issue. It’s list building. I spend a lot of time building my lists at home or at work and it is a lot of fun for me. How would that happen when playing AOS?

    Further more, will this happen immediately before the game? That would mean I will have to take more then I will use. As most wargaming players know this is not a favorable situation (figure cases have limited space).

    If it happens way before the game (before you prepare your case) would that mean I can play with just the player I talked to? You cannot pre-balance your army for all-comers without some kind of a system.

    • Adam
      Adam (TheDiceAbide.com) July 24, 2015 6:39 am #

      Yeah, I totally agree about list building, it’s my favorite past time on the loo. Though I assume before long, there will be a set of organized rules that your group will adopt and you can get back to list hobbying.

      Have you ever shown up at a new club with your 1850 army to find out that they play 1500? or 2000? I see it all the time… I don’t get furious and stomp out the door because I brought too many models, I just use less models and change my list a bit, or they come down to play the points I brought, then the next time I go there, i bring what’s more appropriate for their environment. It won’t take long for clubs to adopt their own social norms.

      If you have an army of miniatures that you roughly know you want to play with, maybe bring a couple extras and go out and play, if they’re vastly mismatched with what your opponent brought, you should be able to come up with an amicable solution pretty easily, you just might have to use a few less minis, or they might… it’s really not the end of the world.

  2. felix July 24, 2015 4:04 am #

    This is a Redcutio ad Absurdum argument. Just because Games Workshop is historically bad at point costing their units appropriately, does not mean points are a bad system. Points are a tool to help players achieve the level of balance they desire. Even if a tool is poorly constructed, it is still better than no tool at all. If a pointing system has errors, players can discuss those outlying situations. With no point system, players have to discuss each and every model they want to put down, and eyeball how they compare. Personally I don’t want to spend that much time trying to figure out the game balance every game. I would rather use a prefigured point system, discuss any discrepancies I think exist, and then move the conversation on to something more interesting, like the opponents painting skills, or the fluff they have built for their army.

    I will give the author one thing. Games Workshop is so bad at balancing a game with points, that maybe the players are better off without them even trying.

    • Adam
      Adam (Thediceabide.com) July 24, 2015 7:29 am #

      It’s funny how many people come out now saying if you don’t like how points were previously assigned that you were more than welcome to change them… Where was this in the last 2 decades of playing? I certainly not once saw an argument to change point values when people were yelling about something being over or under powered, instead it was always, well hopefully they fix it in 4 years when they redo the book.

      GW is by far not alone in this, I’ve played over a dozen war games in the near 2 decades I’ve been in the hobby, all of them have had their units that are over/under powered, if not entire factions. Points are the basis for a VERY rough approximation regardless of the system, it has always been up to the players to add external changes to the game to create competitive environments. Do I think that all games should scrap points? Nope, but I am optimistic that communities will come up with their own standards for what’s fair, and that excites me.

      • WestRider July 24, 2015 11:10 pm #

        Seriously. The complaining you see about the modifications to D-Weapons, Invisibility, re-rollable 2+ Saves, List Building Guidelines, etc., is NOTHING compared to the furor that I’ve seen arise when TOs or others have suggested altering Points Costs for something.

    • marandamir July 24, 2015 8:44 am #

      The author’s point is a valid one. Point systems are just an attempt to create a game mechanic to balance play. If a point system fails to achieve balanced play, is it really needed? I agree with the author. Point systems need to be tuned and universal for them to work, and GW doesn’t have the diligence to properly tune the system. They instead use it as a marketing tactic to promote products they want to sell. They got 100k Wave serpents on the shelf, lets undercost the wave serpent and watch those boxes turn into $ as they fly off the shelf.

      I do agree with the author, but I still think balance needs to be enforced. If you omit points, then what do you replace it with? I personally like points, but I think the effort to properly tune them is unreasonable. The author made a good point about model effectiveness changing when you make combinations, but point costs remaining static. This alone in my mind makes it impossible to truly balance a point system. As soon as you make a change or add in another combination, you break it again. It’s a tuff topic, that is for sure.

  3. wellspokenman July 24, 2015 4:30 am #

    *Stands up on box*

    What irritates me about both sides of the Sigmar debate is that this came has been out for two seconds. The only reason we are talking about it at all is that it was made by Games Workshop. There more than a dozen games that have established game mechanics that have provided a lot more entertainment for people than AoS. This cuts both ways. Fantasy is dead. A grieving period is understandable, but AoS is a new game that is just borrowing fantasy’s minis for a while. All AoS has done to bother you is exist. Hate the company not the game and quit harrasing the people that play it. On the other hand, the GW fanboys need to recognize that not everybody wants to play make believe with their little plastic men. AoS just doesn’t so und appealing to a lot of people, including myself. It doesn’t appear to have the depth of a well crafted skirmish game like Malifaix or Infinity or the scale of 40k. The strategic part of a game is in the list building. That’s the part of the game you can “play” without other people, in your spare moments while your sitting on your own golden throne. Some of us like the part of the game as much as actually pushing the little men around. Not having points cripples that aspect of gaming. Some of us like a little strategy with our tactics, or we would just play chess.

    Live and let live. Quit telling everybody how much you love/hate the game and let it earn it’s own reputation. If you love it that’s awesome, but not everybody wants to hear about it. Just like your religious/political affiliations or what color your poop was this morning. If you hate it, well, that fine too I guess, but I don’t really need to hear about that either. There is enough negativity in the world without having to listen to people complain incessantly about little army men.

    /my $.02

    • Adam
      Adam (TheDiceAbide.com) July 24, 2015 6:34 am #

      Well, I did start off saying this was an opinion article in the first sentence, and the title clearly implied Age of Sigmar. If you’re not interested in reading other people’s opinions about Age of Sigmar, as you stated in your conclusion, I would suggest not reading one which tells you that’s what it is from the get go. 🙂

      • wellspokenman July 24, 2015 7:06 am #

        It’s not about you personally, and I was not directing that post directly at you. It’s just a sentiment that has been building for weeks now. I assume that GW has created AoS to appeal to people who are not already fantasy players. Therefore, since I am a wargamer with disposable income, I assume that I am in the group that they are trying to appeal to. For some reason though, whenever I say I am skeptical about AoS, someone evitably tells me I am bad person who doesn’t know how to have fun. I’ve found this frustrating and it has led to AoS fatigue. I’d like to hear someone say something about the game beyond “fun’ and ‘freedom” or I would just like people to talk about something (anything) else.

  4. Dom July 24, 2015 5:03 am #

    While I see some valid critique on points systems as in 40k here, it seems the article just stops right in the middle.
    How does it solve any problem if you leave out a flawed, yet somehow working system, and just replace it with – nothing?

    There’s no alternative in Age of Sigmar and there’s also none proposed here, what would be the really interesting stuff.
    As of now, I’d say, slightly modifying a well-known sying: A points system is the worst solution – with the exception of all others. 😉

    • Adam
      Adam (TheDiceAbide.com) July 24, 2015 6:27 am #

      I actually don’t have a solution, nor do I want to sound like I do. I’m sure the community will come up with some sort of amicable solution for organized play, and I’m excited to see how they do it. ITC wasn’t devised in a week, nor were any major organized tournament’s systems, and even the new ones have their roots in decades of experience playing a game that has slowly evolved.

      If I were to claim that I had some amazing solution two weeks after a brand new game popped up, that would be rather egotistical. There are some people who have ideas that I like (working within the framework of non-points), some that I disagree with (people trying to use math to determine a new points system).

      In particular, I like this guy’s ideas: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8X_8q7aULpw

      Obviously, I’m a big 40k player, and I don’t intend on quitting because AoS has opened my eyes to a world without points, but I am very intrigued at the possibility of a game where my units aren’t inherently imbalanced because the manufacturer of the game has a financial stake in that unit being under-priced… *cough* Battle Company *cough* Excuse me. 🙂

  5. Anvil
    anvilward88 July 24, 2015 7:02 am #

    This is going to be a really interesting experiment to watch. I’m curious as to what different systems players are going develop for their games. I think one of the best ways this can go is different formats. You can have the general event/tournament where it’s the most common way of playing, with “points” or “warscrolls” or some other form of limitation. But there can be other formats, such as “Summoner Smash”, “Monster Mayhem”, “Hero Hammer”, “Wizard Wars”, “Priest….ummm…..Punching? “Armies of the Old World”, “Armies of the New World”, etc. Each with their own system of building an army.

  6. Funbug July 24, 2015 7:31 am #

    A points system is necessary for committed gamers, since, as Reepy says, list building is a fundamental and rewarding part of the 40k hobby. Because, as the article says, it’s the part that the hobbyist gets to do ‘on their own’, it represents a personal investment/commitment of time – something that GW’s legitimate financial incentives cannot change about their customer base. For instance, if you want, you can list build without having to purchase models. Furthermore, the hypothetical sensibility of list building potentially limits what purchases you’re going to make, as you strike off what models just aren’t worth the points (hello, Maleceptor) or decide on models or bits you already have proxying for something else.

    At this early stage, however, Age of Sigmar marks a conscious divergence from this emphasis on ‘commitment’, and I’m not sure they ever will introduce a points-value system to the game. This isn’t a bad thing, but it is disappointing for committed gamers, which are, however, a seemingly prevalent but singular kind of GW hobbyist. The few times I’ve played Age of Sigmar (with only the box set models, mind) it’s been great fun, but my Bloodbound dudes never feel like ‘mine’, because GW list-built them. And the fact that I am denied the points values for these models means that I can never build an official – and therefore credible – list. So if gamers want to play a balanced game, they must communicate. BUT: to do that in the first place means having already played a bunch of games, figured out what is good at what, and what works best combined with what. Chances are if this is the kind of consideration you bring to wargames, Age of Sigmar, at this early stage, is not worth it, because victory in the games I’ve played depended, mostly, on a combination of lucky dice and who got the charge. None of these games have been close, either. There was some strategy involved, but as far as I can see, this strategy will never ‘evolve’, since it’s all based on ‘formation’ special rules, limiting what I can and can’t do, so I will always try to use the same strategy. This, I believe, is the essence and future of Age of Sigmar and signifies an anti-competitive direction. Formation or detachment rules are the future of 40k, too, but I doubt GW will do away with points values because this fuels competition.

    If, like me, you’ve been seduced by all those lovely and relatively cost-effective collectibles and purchased Age of Sigmar, but could use a points-value system, what you do instead is take your conveniently 40k-looking Age of Sigmar models, convert them into actual 40k models, and either continue to play, or invest in, 40k. Age of Sigmar, I believe, is an unintimidating way to hook new hobbyist types – collectors, who’ll buy the models they like the look of, and gamers, who’ll ‘graduate’ to the complexity and scale of 40k.

    Just my opinion. Sorry that was so long.

  7. iNcontroL July 24, 2015 7:39 am #

    I enjoy your opinion good sir 🙂

    • Adam
      Adam (TheDiceAbide.com) July 24, 2015 8:37 am #

      I’m glad you like it!

      PS – I demand a rematch against your war convocation… just as soon as I have some damn time! Wedding planning is the worst thing someone could do for their hobby, hahaha.

  8. 420blazer July 24, 2015 7:48 am #

    GW could literally sell horse crap in a limited edition box for $500.00 and the same people defending AoS would be telling us how amazing it’s color, texture and smell is. GW had literally the opportunity of all opportunities to hit a home run with this release. Instead we get no points, 4 pages of half written rules, dancing a jig before rolling dice, and fantasy space marines. I apologize that I give zero sh**s about this game and have no desire to play it.

    • Adam
      Adam (TheDiceAbide.com) July 24, 2015 8:38 am #

      And that’s fine! I can tell you would have been a peach to play against!

      • 420blazer July 24, 2015 8:53 am #

        Funny you weren’t this much of an ass to me when I played in your beer hammer. That’s my opinion about GW, how that makes me a good or bad opponent is laughable. Try listening to some podcasts some of the best 40k players are highly critical about GW.

        • Adam
          Adam (TheDiceAbide.com) July 24, 2015 10:28 am #

          I applaud you for having the good taste to play Beerhammer!

          Your opinion was expressed in such away that you honestly didn’t come off as a pleasant person. A lot of times peoples perception of you will be based on how you choose to speak about things, even if you don’t like it, being crass and rude isn’t going to make you look like a good sport. I apologize if I offended you, but really, if you want people to have a positive perception of you, you might want to start with how you choose to express yourself.

          • 420blazer July 24, 2015 4:03 pm
            #

            Ironic…..

  9. Stainless Steel Rat July 24, 2015 8:31 am #

    Realistically WFB was a “tear down”. Sales were a disaster and it was costing money to carry inventory that wasn’t selling. Like most tear downs that means you might be lucky to save the foundation and rebuild from there. That seems to be what they have done. The armies are still there so established players don’t have to lay out big bucks for new minis. Beyond that it’s a complete rebuild with a different kind of focus from what I can see.

    While some veterans of WFB are screaming about how to make this a tournament game they also seem to be missing (or ignoring) an important question. Namely, “Was this ever intended to be a tournament game?” My impression is “No”. And why should it be? There is no good reason that I can think of as tournaments don’t drive sales. They appeal to a relatively small percentage of customers in a what is overall a niche hobby. As a former manager for retail operations with other companies I can tell you that stores and local communities do far more to drive sales. Perhaps GW will feel pressured by the tournament players to come up with tournament rules. Given their history of not feeling pressured by any of their customer base I don’t see that happening.

    I agree with wellspokenman that this system is only days old so let it build it’s own rep as it finds it’s feet. It will crawl, walk and then run. Or it won’t. The current hysterical internet shrieking won’t do anything but waste time and energy.This is not an “immediate gratification” situation and it is foolish to treat it as one. I for one am willing to wait, watch, and see how it develops. If it fails, try a comparable system like Kings of War or others. There will always be options out there.

  10. marandamir July 24, 2015 8:51 am #

    I only play 40k and i’m glad this topic has come up now with AoS. The reason is I visited the local GW store and inquired about how the game was doing. The consensus was the game was easier and better than the old one. The example they had was they played a ‘roughly’ 8000 point game (by old fantasy battle costs) and they finished in 3 hours. There was NO rules arguments or debates. Things went smoothly and the game was fun all around.

    The second reason it was doing well was sales. If a new player comes in and wants to play 40k, he has to buy some models, a codex, and the core rulebook. A new player comes in and wants to try AoS, they just buy models and everything else is free online. This is a GIANT LEAP in right direction from GW. The rules are lose and easy to follow, and GW isn’t gouging their customers for every penny they have just to start playing.

    The competitive scene is where the issues lie here and one we should work to solve because I agreed with the sales guy at that store. If AoS takes off and is as easy to play as they make it out to be, I think 40K will move in the same direction.

    • Stainless Steel Rat July 24, 2015 9:42 am #

      Unfortunately that move probably won’t happen until 40K sales tank like WFB did. And that won’t be any time soon I’m afraid.Though given the reaction to AoS, it does create an interesting mental image of gore covering computers as the hobby’s hysterical shriekers’ heads explode while they collapse the Internet in their final moments of life. Maybe GW would be willing to make the change in 40K just to see if they could accomplish that? Could they be that malicious? Stay tuned.

      • punchymango July 26, 2015 1:20 am #

        You could probably power a large metro area if you could harness the concentrated nerdrage that would bring about.

  11. SilverSaint July 25, 2015 1:55 pm #

    I feel your overall point to the article is defending that a lack of points for models can be a good thing. I just don’t see how a lack of a balancing mechanic can be defended from both a fairness sense as well as an ease of play. There is no way a lack of a point system is making the game easier to play. I mean how is making an army on the spot easier then having a pre-made army. Assuming I or my opponent are not an expert in 8th edition fantasy, how do we have any idea what a fair army setup is? How is carrying dozens of more models then I would normally bring to make fairer armies…easier?

    An obvious view is AoS is aimed at getting new players. If I am a new player, then ya bringing all my models is easy and just using them all is easy, I mean I only have a few. If my new 8th army fights your new 8th army, well we should be roughly balanced if we play similar stuff to the starter sets etc. A new player won’t remain a new player forever though and even a slight expansion creates problems. What happens when I get a new unit and you just have your base units. Do I just replace a unit with my new unit? What if the new unit is just way better in every way the unit I replaced? Well we better spend hours playing with this unit to find out something a point system could roughly of told us in 5 seconds.

    I also don’t see what stops you from creating a balanced game with points involved either. Yes some units are just worse. For instance I want to use my all cybork grot army (a long time ago with Grotsnik you could give anyone in your army a cybork body for that 5++). Let me tell you…this army loses to any tournament list, literally 0% chance of winning. So instead of going in saying, “Hey lets just both do 1500 pt lists”, it was more of a “Hey…make a super bad list, like 500 points vs my 1500 grots”. Even though the models are badly balanced you can essentially ignore the points or use them as an easier way to make a balanced game.

    That aside, if grots were to cost the same as ork boyz, why would you ever take them except for the LoLs? How would you even create an acceptable practice? If they are literally the EXACT same, except my grots have worse stats in every way how would a group ever self balance. Lets also assume my nobz, meganobz, etc all cost the exact same as my grotz…how do you create an acceptable practice? Even if we say, make categories and called grotz, orkz boyz, and shoota boyz all troops while the rest were…elites, there is still a discrepancy between each category now instead of the army as a whole. I mean you can make categories in AoS. Troops, cavalry, monstrous creatures, warmachines, etc, but when my phoenix guard are just as expensive as my pikemen….

    There is no reason to not have points. For a consumer there is literally no downside to a points system. The only reason its even occurring is because its GW. No other games company has a community so willing to throw money at them and do their job for them.

  12. SacTownBri July 28, 2015 6:13 am #

    Been playing the new mission book with some absurd armies and having tremendous fun. yesterday was Skaven vs Nagash (summoning) in the tower defense mission. Ridiculously cinematic moments as I summoned huge blocks of undead that could not win the game for me. They simply could not open the tower where I had to rush Nagash into by the end of turn three. Super high body count. By the end of turn three I had 100 zombies, 40 skeletons, a Banshee, a Cairn wrath, four Archai, a terrorgheist and a zombie dragon the on the table. My opponent immediately started summoning demons to keep up with me, pink horrors and flamers everywhere. The number of moves and counter moves was insane. I can easily see where this is dependenton the players. If you don’t have the models you would have had no chance versus my horde and starting off with just one model on the board I could have pulled the dick move of declaring a sudden victory condition. This game just gets more and more interesting to me, and way more fun than my 40k games.

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