Hello all, AgentP the Medicore Gamer here with some thoughts not on 40k this time, but Age of Sigmar – my new favorite game.
I first picked up some GW models back in 1988. My buddy and I had a rough idea of the rules, and a random assortment of models. We’d throw down some models on a kitchen table, or the floor, use some stacked books as hills, and commence the battle. There was no comp, heck there wasn’t even an army list. We had no idea of list creation, tailoring, min/max, optimization….none of it. We just threw down models and rolled dice. I do not recall ever having a bad game back in those days.
After college I lived in a house with some gamers. We’d bust out both 40k and fantasy a lot. The games had evolved, and we now had a sense of list building. But in the end, it was never formal. If someone wanted to field a particular model, they did so, and points be damned. Half the time the battles were just whatever we had recently painted and wanted to try out versus whatever the other person liked at the moment. And again, I don’t recall ever having a bad game.
Fast forward many years, many editions of the game, and a whole lot of community change, and we arrive at Age of Sigmar. This game is a direct assault on what the internet has brought to wargaming. Net lists, min/max, emphasizing competition above all, this is what Age of Sigmar rejects. And that is why the internet is having a collective freak-out.
There are no points in Age of Sigmar. There is no list. You simply bring some models you want to play, and then you may, or may not, actually set them on the board to play with. The entire enterprise of list construction is gone, and with that goes the raison d’être of so many websites, forums, and discussion threads. How many people do we all know who rarely paint or actually play, but obsess over list optimization in their spare time? I venture we know a lot. I’ve done it. We’ve all done it from time to time. And therein lies why AoS is so threatening to people. It’s like an intervention for the dysfunctional gamers we may have become.
Age of Sigmar recognizes what we’ve forgotten. War isn’t always equal. Battle isn’t always fair. The measure of success in a general is not tailoring a list and fighting an exactly equal number of points on planet bowling ball. It’s making due with what you have, and doing the best you can in that situation, in that terrain, with those resources, against that foe. Scenarios are critical to play, not something to be read in a supplement but never tried. And Age of Sigmar forces us to recognize something else we may have forgotten – that the measure of a good game is not equality or outside balancing, but what we subjectively bring to the table and how we treat our opponent.
Anyway, all that theory aside, I can relate that every single game I’ve played in AoS so far has been a blast. Some have been close. Some have been blowouts. But all were fun and possessed a dynamism to the battle that old fantasy lacked. The game has surprising depth and a lot of tactics. Placement and movement must be considered with an eye towards several turns ahead. The choice of which model to pull due to wounds can affect the entire battlefield. Interestingly, you never know the order of turns. Your units can very likely be left hanging in the wind, and this imparts to battle both the idea of momentum, as well as unpredictability. It’s great. Games are quick, bloody, and the outcome is never a foregone conclusion regardless of the army compositions. It’s simple to start, but complex to master – precisely what game design aims for.
So what does all this mean, and why am I writing this? I write to encourage people to give this game a try. It’s worth your time. It’s an excellent beer and pretzels game and when people actually play it, they seem to nearly universally like it. May it need tweaking in the future? Perhaps, sure. Can a community come together and make even a good thing better? You bet. But does that need to happen before we can enjoy it? Absolutely not. For now, I’m enjoying simply playing it out of the box, as is. It’s fun. It’s making myself and others pull models off the shelves that have gathered dust. It’s invigorating the hobby with new blood – my daughter loves the game and for the first time ever wanted her own army. And it’s making me remember why I enjoy just hanging out and rolling dice with little plastic dolls. That alone – the return to the fun heart of gaming without points, list building, mix/max, and list feedback forum threads – is worth the price of admission.