Thoughts on Age of Sigmar and How to Balance Games

Hello all!  Rawdogger here to talk about my first impressions playing Age of Sigmar and the simple house rules I think will go a long way towards quickly balancing your forces.


This past weekend I played my first game of Age of Sigmar with a mix of apprehension and excitement.  Apprehension from reading all the negative reviews and comments online and excitement from the fact that we finally had a cool skirmish level fantasy game with really cool looking models (the new releases at least).  As I said I had been going off of the mostly negative to lukewarm feedback I’ve been reading in the forums and blogs so I tried my best to at least approach the game with a positive and open-minded attitude. We decided to play a scenario from the first book and used wounds as a quick n’dirty balancing factor and got busy playing with our plastic army guys.  I must say that I actually had a pretty fun time playing the game. The turns went quickly and smoothly and there were a lot of laughs at some of the more off the wall rules mechanics with Daemon models.  There were, however, a couple moments that caused me to pause and think of ways that a mechanic could be toned down by house rules.  After a couple nights of thinking about the game and what worked and didn’t work I’ve come up with some basic house rules for Age of Sigmar that we will be using at the Martinez store to make things go a bit smoother on Age of Sigmar nights (currently Fridays from 4-8).  So here is what  I came up with.

Rawdogger’s Age of Sigmar Quick N Dirty House Rules

Wound Balancing – Players are limited to the same amount of wounds per army.  It’s not a perfect system by any means but it’s the easiest and quickest way to quickly set up a game.

Limited Command Ability – Command abilities from your army’s general can only be used once per game.

Warscroll Limitations – Players are limited to 2 Hero, 2 Monsters, and 2 Wizard warscrolls in their army.  Models that have multiples of these traits count against all totals (i.e. Nagash is a Hero, Monster, and Wizard so he would take up 1 slot of each category).

Summoned Models Cannot Summon – This came up in our game and my opponent was quickly able to summon double the size of his starting army.  Nothing wrong with summoning but it has to be held in check.

I think by implementing these basic house rules everyone will have a much more enjoyable experience playing Age of Sigmar.  Yes, people can still game the system but to be honest they would only be able to pull it off once before they have a hard time finding another game.  I truly do believe that the game will eventually get it’s legs underneath it but it is up to us as a community to balance the game ourselves since Games Workshop is moving further and further away from writing balanced rulesets and focusing instead on making quality models.


So what are your thoughts on the game so far?  What kinds of house rules has your local gaming community implemented to try and bring some sort of balance to the game?

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.

20 Responses to “Thoughts on Age of Sigmar and How to Balance Games”

  1. Anvil
    anvilward88 August 20, 2015 5:39 am #

    At our store, we run all of those except for the Warscroll limitations, which doesn’t sound ridiculous at all to apply. For Summoning, we have the limitation of “You can only summon models and units that were on the table earlier in the game.” So say you have a unit of 10 skeletons, they get wiped out, and you attempt to summon with Nagash. You roll very well, with the potential to summon 40 skeletons. Well, you only get to place those 10 skeletons from earlier on the table. Even if you were to play the game the way it was intended, by using all of your models, and you attempt to summon a unit, where are you getting those models from? They’re all on the table already, so you can’t really summon anything until something dies. So it’s more of a limitation that is there to keep it consistent with the original design of how summoning was intended to be used: to replace lost forces.

    • Adam
      Adam ( August 20, 2015 8:15 am #

      That’s an interesting thought actually. If you think from the perspective that GW intends you to play with your whole collection, you couldn’t possibly summon more skeletons than you own… So really the comp is around what collection you’re bringing to the game. I think I like that.

    • Avatar
      SacTownBri August 21, 2015 9:13 pm #

      We play slightly different but with the same intent. You play your models. It doesn’t matter what you start with on the table. If you have 100 zombies waiting to summon in then they still count as your army. In most cases that prevents summoning going crazy if you don’t want to give up a sudden death victory condition.

  2. Avatar
    Truesight August 20, 2015 6:12 am #

    Trying to create house rules for Age of Sigmar is just trying to polish a turd. Jump over to Kings of War, the water’s warm.

    • Anvil
      anvilward88 August 20, 2015 6:50 am #

      Thanks for invite, gonna pass this time.

  3. Avatar
    Dom August 20, 2015 7:16 am #

    Not even getting into all the details on how an AoS game can be balanced and whatnot, it just doesn’t seem like a fun game to me. Every match seems to end up in a gigantic clash in the middle and endless rolling of 4+,4+,3+,5+,4+ in the middle of the table with little to no movement, strategy, anything involved. Just endless dice rolling.

    On the other side, I’m having all kinds of fun with Kings of War as well, which turns out to be one of the most satisfying tabletop experiences I had in the last years. Right from the get-go, that is.

    • Anvil
      anvilward88 August 20, 2015 8:05 am #

      I can understand that 🙂 Not every game appeals to everyone for different reasons. You gave it a shot, it didn’t work for you, you found another game that you enjoy. That’s what matters. I do sincerely hope that you find more players in your area to enjoy the game with!

    • Avatar
      420blazer August 21, 2015 3:14 am #

      You got to be careful speaking the truth of the middle of the table mosh pit….people on this forum will accuse you of negativity and never having played the game Lolz. Our flgs still has the 4 copies sitting on the shelf that they were strong armed into purchasing. I just don’t personally see the point in buying a game with a half finished rule set when there are so many other quality games on the market right now.

      • Reecius
        Reecius August 21, 2015 8:26 am #

        You get accused of negativity here? That’s odd, we’re pretty open minded and definitely don’t try to stop people form sharing their point of views, even when they can be a bit controversial.

        • Avatar
          420blazer August 21, 2015 1:23 pm #

          Funny I commented on AoS in another post Adam from dice abides jumped down my throat….in fact I am not going to LVO because of it this year. A comment not even directed at him in any way and he lost his shit.

          • Reecius
            Reecius August 21, 2015 2:10 pm

            Well, fair enough, but Adam isn’t a representative of FLG, nor does he represent the site as a whole. That was a pretty isolated incident, honestly. That sucks you’re not going to the LVO as a result of that, but I think that may be overreacting a bit. I know Adam personally and while yeah, he likes to argue online, he’s actually a really friendly guy in person, as I am sure you are, too. I wouldn’t let an argument online prevent you from having a fun time at the LVO, but of course, you’re free to do what you think is best.

      • Mr.MoreTanks
        Mr.MoreTanks August 21, 2015 11:35 am #

        Don’t worry Reece, I got this.

        You are a terrible person and you should feel bad.

  4. Avatar
    Tomguycot August 20, 2015 8:36 am #

    Why bother? If GW can’t be bothered to release a non-broken product, I can’t be bothered spending my time playing it much less fixing it. There are so many other skirmish based games out there that one just pick up and play.

    A lot has changed over the past decade and GW isn’t the only game in town anymore.

  5. Avatar
    Beau August 20, 2015 9:51 am #

    GW meant for AoS to be a small skirmish game that goes quick. I have played ALOT of AoS so far and the bigger it gets the more rediculous it can get. Especially with summoning.

    Right now I have moved towards playing 50 wounds no summoners. That’s my only request and I have been using Glotkin, 8 Blightkings, and Gutrot. That is pretty fluffy, goes fast, and is actually pretty balanced (usually my opponents have cannons/archers out the ass). I always tell my opponent what I am bringing (since its been the same all month long) because otherwise Glotkin might be scary to deal with sometimes (he has totally died in 2 turns of combat with a block of chosen because of my fail saves).

    It’s a quick friendly game, but not one I will opt to play for $10 buy in gamer night. For that I will stick to 40k.

  6. Avatar
    LostChild August 20, 2015 12:02 pm #

    I’ve played quite a few smaller games of AoS and a couple large games, 250+ models, and these were my observations in the larger games

    Battleshock actually becomes a game changing mechanic. In a small game, it’s impact is mitigated by command abilities and the fact that units are smaller, thus never really able to hit a casualty threshold to matter or challenge the bravery stats. Simply, units get wiped, pass the test, or don’t even have to test.

    Unit formations and the actual shapes your organize your troops in become important for maximising your attacks and minimising your opponents. Examples would be :

    Defensive – a triangle with the point facing your opponent. Assuming your opponent doesn’t roll an amazing charge distance, they’ll make contact somewhere at the point. Pile In forces them to pile into the closest enemy model. At this point, that 20-40 model unit can only get, at best, maybe 8 models into range of their melee weapons. Combat priority shifts to you and your entire unit piles in (remove casualties from the point and middle so that second rank can pile in straight forward with out back models piling in around the outside of the enemy unit.)

    Offensive- arrange a unit in a W, with a Hero at the point of the middle. This requires you to get the charge off with both units. Make contact with the enemy unit’s broadest side if possible. Combat priority, select your hero. Combat priority shifts to your opponent, they pick their unit, are forced to pile in into the three contact points miniminimizing models in range. Priority shifts to you and your unit piles in.

    All of this then gets even more complicated when numerous combats are going on all over the place.

    There are numerous other opportunities in this avenue of tactical thought, even going so far as dictating your entire deployment, not unlike the openings in chess, where you literally develop an army wide formation of units supporting and buffing each other, all the while taking away time and space from your opponent.

    The last thing I really noticed was the sudden death victory cons become very viable when the model count is higher. In one of the two games, my Dark Elves were outnumbered 220 to 340 against my friend’s Orcs and Goblins. Now, in the smaller games, the sudden death wins are somewhat more difficult to achieve, as the resources available to you are just fewer. But in larger games, yes, I’m outnumbered by over a 100 models, but I still have a lot of resources available to me, to slow down units, control my enemy’s movement, to focus my attack power.

    Anyway, I’ve found the game does scale fairly well and doesn’t become a cluster morass in the middle. It definitely can, but it doesn’t have to.

    • Reecius
      Reecius August 20, 2015 12:49 pm #

      Thanks for the insights! That was a super informative post.

  7. Avatar
    Hotsauceman1 August 20, 2015 1:01 pm #

    I got in Idea.
    1:Pick up models
    2:Put in case
    3: Play Hordes

  8. Avatar
    Alex Yuen August 21, 2015 4:12 pm #

    why keep trying to fix the system when there is KOW to replace it. is not like anyone need to buy any new models or army. for any 8th players is really just a plug and play system.

    • Avatar
      SacTownBri August 21, 2015 9:20 pm #

      I am really enjoying the fact that I have three really fun options for my armies: 8th, AoS and KoW. All very different games and fun in their own way.

  9. Avatar
    bonesaww666 August 31, 2015 4:26 pm #

    In my area Age of Sigmar has been a resounding success, I and many others who haven’t played fantasy in some time are all very much into the spirit.

    I don’t find it particularly hard to balance games with a like minded player and if we can’t agree we have just been using the Warscroll builder ( ), but to keep in the Spirit of AoS I would recommend making a larger list then what you intend to play, for example 15 point games for a day at the club everyone makes a 20 point list and you can have a “sidebar” so as to prevent rock paper scissor match ups.

    The games have been really fun, tactically involved (unit placement and such has already been covered earlier) and I haven’t really had any dire situations with summoning BS as one thing to remember is that you only have to kill the amount of starting models, so if a smart ass decides to load up on horse shit summoner spam, you only have to kill x-amount of models to attain victory.

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