The Mediocre Gamer on Age of Sigmar


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.

AgeofSigmar Khorne 1080

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.


About Reecius

The fearless leader of the intrepid group of gamers gone retailers at Frontline Gaming!

29 Responses to “The Mediocre Gamer on Age of Sigmar”

  1. Kwodd July 28, 2015 12:02 pm

    It’s a nice break from competitive 40k. I just hope they stay different as they are, I like my 40k dex and point values as unbalanced as they may be.

  2. Ghost Valley July 28, 2015 12:27 pm

    I heard it remarked once on a podcast that 90% of the hobby is thinking about the hobby. You can list build at work, on your phone, on the bus. You can read some Theory hammer article on a blog, or some quick forum posts when you have a couple minutes waiting for a friend – whatever.

    I’ve played Age of Sigmar. I bought the box. Its been fun. So is Eldritch Horror, Settlers of Catan, Chez Geek, Monopoly, Video games etc. I dont think about them, obsess about them, put together lists, potential unit combinations or stretch myself to find ways to fit in a unit or weapon combo I like when I’m not playing them. I just pull the games out, play, and put them away.
    What keeps me obsessed, involved, and completely absorbed in the hobby/game is that it can infiltrate my free time at any time.
    Yes there is game time, and hobby time…but it is the list building and tweaking that keeps me coming to forums and reading blogs and going for the high score on Army Builder. It is the function that keeps me always engaged…without it, like with AoS, it becomes just another game for me. A way to kill a couple hours here or there, but not worth real in-depth pursuit.

    But that’s just me

    • fluger July 28, 2015 2:44 pm

      It’s not just you, I’d agree that this is also me. That was a post that hits at the heart of why I play 40k. Thanks for putting it into words for me.

      • Ghost Valley July 28, 2015 4:13 pm

        Glad to help!

    • Reecius
      Reecius July 28, 2015 4:12 pm

      I agree with you, Ghost Valley. The hobby immerses your mind in it. A board game, does not.

      • Ghost Valley July 28, 2015 4:17 pm

        For sure.

        What I don’t understand is why GW can’t do both? Have a game with 4 pages of rules that you can pick up and play with whatever tots you have, but also expand the rules and complexity with a more advanced system for the rest of us.

        I don’t see how selling models and games to all types of gamers would be a bad business strategy?

        • Reecius
          Reecius July 28, 2015 4:39 pm

          I agree with you. Hopefully that is what we get. It’s still very early to tell.

    • Prindlehaven July 28, 2015 7:46 pm

      Agree 100% with Ghost Valley. I was excited about Age of Sigmar, and enjoyed the one game I played, but without a system to focus on, to try and work around, I simply don’t think about the Game very often. When I do, I think, “gee, I sure wish there was some kind of format so I could write up some army lists”, and then I forget about AoS and go back to 40k, because, despite all it’s flaws, 40k has a working system for list building. Until AoS has something similar, GW will not get my money for the box set, or the “rulebook”.

  3. Anvil
    anvilward88 July 28, 2015 12:55 pm

    I’m speaking purely from a casual perspective, not from a competitive one, and I’m not saying everyone should like the way I do things.

    I like my list building, my pregame planning, my combos, working with my limitations, etc. At the same time, I like the idea of buying whatever models I want at whatever pace I feel like, knowing that I will be able to play it in 100% of my games. I can add on to the army for any reason, whether it’s because I see a really cool model and I want to paint and add it to my collection, or because I am consistently doing poorly against several players, and adding some to my army will help balance it out against them. I can’t speak for everyone’s store, but at mine, we have the most fun when we consistently have close games. If it’s a stomping one way or another, neither of us enjoy it. We have actually been warming up to the idea of just using whatever we have in our collections to play. The only limitations we are starting to sort of enforce is “no proxies” and “at least have your models somewhat painted”. We are lenient towards new players, but we are really trying to encourage seeing more painted armies at our store.

  4. Chris July 28, 2015 12:55 pm

    That article is a mirror of my own thoughts towards the hobby and its coming from an unsuspected source which makes it all the more striking. Sometimes I wonder if youd find harsher words for the things happening in 40k if you wouldn’t run a store AND the most important competitive league.

    I love everything about AoS for the very reasons you lay out here. Its only problem is that it’s not 40k with its wealth of background. I would play a sigmarised 40k in a heartbeat, if there were any players left to play it with.

    I think all the new 40k stuff is a middle finger towards the competitive community. It’s the same thought rapped in a different, polar opposite paper. It doesn’t really matter if you strip away all the points or make stuff so powerful that the whole system becomes a total farce, the end result seems to be same.

    On the other hand the community embraces that toxic crap with open arms. Just look at this website. Theres an article on how to minmax the already stupid new SM formation stuff.

    As a Blood Angels and Dark Eldar player I already play in the age of sigmar. I can’t just have a pickup game. I need to talk to my opponent and hope his expectations towards the game align with mine.

  5. Hotsauceman1 July 28, 2015 2:06 pm

    I think you are looking through nostalgia goggles and failing to look beyond your situation.
    Those situations where you can game or so with your friends in your house with mutually agreed rules is not available for everyone.
    The reason people like balance is that you can pick up the game with someone, have it equal between the two of you and enj9y.
    yeah, war isn’t equal, but fun is.
    I’m sure people are not gonna have fun if I bring a nuke to a knife fight.

  6. IndigoJack July 28, 2015 2:27 pm

    “War isn’t always equal. Battle isn’t always fair.” This is not a good argument for why a wargame doesn’t need balance. It’s a game first, and games should be (reasonably) fair.

  7. fluger July 28, 2015 2:46 pm

    I like the idea of Age of Sigmar as a gateway drug to bigger and more complex games. I think GW was very smart to key into the emotions you’re talking about here. I could easily see using it to get my kids into wargames.

    That being said, I think Ghost Valley hit it out of the park with his comment. A game without the depth of 40k is just a game like Settlers or the like. Sure it’s fun, but it will never be a hobby in the same way 40k is.

  8. droozy July 28, 2015 4:46 pm

    I agree. I think AoS has somehow drawn a proverbial line in the sand. Competitive players think it’s too damn simple and silly while those of us who love wargaming but don’t have the time or money to purchase and paint the new hotness every week are getting burnt out on 40k and looking for something different. I love it, but I can’t play 40k as a career so I’m stuck running that army that has taken me a year to put together and is now a joke on the table. That fucking blows. It feels like a waste of time because all that preparation has led to unenjoyable games. I want to believe that it doesn’t have to be one or the other. One doesn’t have to discount the merit of a game because it’s not their cup of tea. Maybe we can all enjoy AoS for what it is: not 40k, not a board game, but something in between. Something fun for the sake of fun. Is that so crazy? Why can these things not coexist together? Yes, WFB is dead. It’s dead because it wasn’t enjoyable enough of a game to justify the buy in or to keep players loyal. Why would GW replace it with a reboot of the same failed game system? Kudos to them for going for it and creating something new and different. Maybe it will never be a competitive game. But there’s something to be said for that. Like it or don’t play it. No reason to take offense to it’s existence. I’m looking at you internet.

  9. 420blazer July 28, 2015 5:20 pm

    Just loving the rumors coming out today. This needs to happenASAP!

  10. 420blazer July 28, 2015 5:21 pm

    *should put in for those who haven’t read them…. Rumors of 40k getting AoS treatment.

  11. Ageofturdmar July 28, 2015 5:33 pm

    The only reason “the internet” is taking offense at its existence is those of us who don’t like it, and were perfectly happy with the progression of the WFB game system, are now shit out of luck. This completely unbalanced “beer and pretzels” crap has replaced our competitive rules heavy hobby that so many of us loved. Its been made clear that system will not come back.

    “Don’t like it don’t play it” is not exactly a “fair” scenario for those if us who have invested in the time, effort and hobby that *was* Warhammer fantasy.

    Age of sigmar is not at all anything I am remotely interested in playing unless there is some kind of points system in place, frankly wounds is a hilarious way to try (10 goblins VS Bloodthirster huehuehue so balanced huehuehue).

    This is the source of “the Internet” ‘s anger and resentment. It is in ever way justified.

    If they do the same to 40k, I will never spend a cent or invest any time into their products again, and I am sure there are MANY people who share this sentiment. I’ve been a GW fanboy since 2nd edition 40k, and am very deeply disappointed in the direction of both this hobby and the company as a whole.

    • Jmanj July 28, 2015 6:54 pm


    • Jet July 28, 2015 9:28 pm

      First off, there has been no reason for them to ever change 40k to how age of sigmar works. The reasons AoS came about is because fantasy was dying and it could not hold itself up any longer. It doesn’t matter if people were supposedly happy with how Fantasy was working. They were losing players and not gaining anything new, so that statement you made is clearly false. Even with end times the amount of people they got into the hobby was sad at best.

      40k on the other hand is the 400 pound gorilla of wargaming. They also made the statement they they were making tournament rules. The fact that you are judging everything that will happen based on hate and rumors is saddening to me. The rules are all for a starter set. When has a starter set every had super tight rules? I think AoS is getting us ready for a completely different rule set and it is doing a good job at that.

      • jmanj123 July 29, 2015 9:53 am

        So, how are the rules just for the starter set if they released a full rulebook with the exact same rules as well? You talk about not assuming 40k is going the route of AoS, but also assume that the rules for AoS is the beginning of something bigger rules wise. I think that GW has no intentions of adding anymore rules to AoS except for supplemental stuff for campaigns and the like. Either way, we will have to wait and see. I am also interested to see where AoS sits with customers one year from now. I can understand trying to give the new system a try, but what happens when this is it. Are the current rules and the lack of an organized play system going to last past the five minutes retail sites like Frontline are giving them? What happens in August/September when 40k goes full swing and all of the hype is gone? I agree that Fantasy was dying, and as a player who has not played since early 8th edition, my fantasy miniatures will continue to sit shelved as selling them off isn’t worth the time/return. However, the more successful AoS is and the more it is embraced by current 40k players and people who left the game in the past, the more temptation there will be by GW to do the same to 40k.

    • Age of Move the F on July 29, 2015 9:40 am

      Just like many MMO’s, Fantasy met the end of it’s life. Just like many MMO’s, though, people can put in some effort to make an “emulator” of fantasy, and then build and expand and debug from there. It’s even easier than making an emulator for a game… No programming, and you already have all the “code” -the rules-.

      It sounds like you need better friends if you can’t find groups of models that can provide a close and exciting game.

    • Bainbow September 21, 2015 3:48 pm

      Well wounds is actually a good way to balance, I find. Sure a Bloodthirster will tear through fourteen goblins, just like an Arachnorok will tear through six Bloodletters (I think the spider has 12 wounds and the daemons have 2, but don’t quote me on that.) So you build your army to counter things like that, I find that I win all of my games because I think about how to counter things like that. I design an army that makes use of specific roles like Monster Hunters, Hero Killers, Tanks, Support, Damage Dealers, etc, and I win. A Bloodthirster will devour my Temple Guard, so I don’t put the Temple Guard in its path. I put my Monster Hunters over there instead.

      A major mistake that everyone makes with AoS is assuming that because the rules are simpler, there’s no need for tactics anymore. But I think that because the rules are more bendable now, you need even better tactics in order to account for the intense number of possible moves your opponent can make, made more unpredictable by the open rules.

      • Reecius
        Reecius September 21, 2015 3:51 pm

        I’ve been hearing that the game is more enjoyable when you have lots of units to choose form, too, so that you can adapt to your opponent as you deploy.

  12. Tommy July 28, 2015 8:23 pm

    Excellent article and one I wholeheartedly agree with!. Tried the battleplans from the book yet? Many of them are really great and will make you do some thinking on list and actually how much you’re bringing compared to your opponent. I haven’t played them myself yet but I will over the weekend.

  13. Thomas July 29, 2015 1:27 am

    At first I thought that leaving points out of the game would make it unplayable. But it doesn’t, it just requires you to take some time to talk with your opponent about what you field. It opens the game up and lowers the thresholds of starting up an army.

    I tried playing 40k with my kids (they are too young really but you got to hook em early on) but the game is just too complex, too slow and too big. Points and force requirements (cad, formations et al) make it hard and costly to start an army to field correctly. With Age of Sigmar we just spent a few hours (a couple of nights actually) browsing the GW webpage, looking at models before heading to the store and picking up a box each. It’s not much but it’s a start. It’s just that easy to get started. And the rules are intuitive and clear. Kids can learn them quite easily and understand, if not master, the game.

    GW even translated the rules into more languages than ever before.

    • Stainless Steel Rat July 30, 2015 7:57 am

      When my son was 8 he wanted to play 40K. I simplified the rules (some work but well worth it), kept the points count low and he loved it. Easy to understand and faster moving. We added more rules as he mastered each “level”. By 12 he was joining me at tournaments and we won our first pairs tournament that year. He has since gone on to become a formidable player in his own right with his own armies. So start young, with simple rules & low point counts, and keep it moving. They will soak it up like a sponge.

      • Thomas July 31, 2015 5:18 am

        I think Age of Sigmar is a good way of learning the basics of wargaming. Moving units, throwing dice, resolving damage etc. I will definitely play 40k with them aswell.

  14. SacTownBri July 30, 2015 4:08 am

    Great article. Very fun and competitive game when you play the scenarios. The new book is just awesome sauce. I disagree with with the comment that this is not a game to think and obsess about. Maybe others have not yet gotten the bug but there is still list building just like in WarmaHordes and Malifaux where you are looking for the best combo stacks. This release has motivated me to break out my Nagash and get a hundred zombies, a bunch of spirit hosts some wraiths and banshees ready to go. I can wait to start with nothing but Nagash on the board, summon a vortex, the let the games begin. And neither can the group I play with because they want to try and beat it. Especially now that Order and Destruction can pray to Sigmar and call down the Stormcast Eternals once per game to save the day. Ride the lightning!

  15. cruzcontrol39 July 30, 2015 2:48 pm

    When they come out with a point system ill play…