I Can Age of Sigmar and So Are You!

Hello all,

Jason here to talk about one of my FAVORITE talking points from the past few months, Games Workshop’s Age of Sigmar.

Oh my, I believe I just heard the sound of thousand rolling eyes followed by the collective groaning of hundreds of outraged readers but please, give me a chance to speak!  Won’t you let me make my case that Age of Sigmar is a refreshingly simple take on the familiar tabletop wargame?  Will you not stay your click of the back button? Brothers and sisters PLEASE! Lend me your attention just for a single moment and I promise to take you on a journey of discovery and new found passion for a game without a points structure.


Throughout my journey through annoyance, slight interest, and finally hysterical enthusiasm for the game I’ve noticed that there are a couple key points to keep in mind when first trying a game of Age of Sigmar that will lend themselves towards making the experience and enjoyable one for you and and your friends.

  1. It is not Warhammer 40k – I’m not sure about you but playing 40k has become such a chore as of late.  Let’s face it, the game has become a mini-Apocalype with cover ignoring this, invincible deathstar that, its a whole thing.  One of the largest complaints about Age of Sigmar is that the rule system is simple and doesn’t go into detail regarding complex game mechanics i.e summoning, shooting in and out of combat, etc.  Well, I hate to break it to you but Warhammer 40k is also full of questionably written and wholly ambiguous rules.  If Warhammer 40k is a game that is not written for a tight tournament format than that goes double for Age of Sigmar.  The game is purposefully written to be simple and bring new gamers into the wargaming (and Games Workshop) community.  I would like you to try an experiment for me next Friday night. Let’s face it, you’re not going out anyways so I know you have the time.  Try to teach your significant other or a close friend how to play Warhammer 40k.  After an hour of frustration, break out some Age of Sigmar models and play a quick game.  Now write up a quick 1000 word essay on which one was easier for the other person to learn.  I expect the essays on my desk Monday morning.
  2. Play With Scenarios – This one I can’t stress enough.  Without playing a scenario based game, either one from the many campaign books that have been released or one of your own creation the game will get REALLY boring REALLY fast.  In truth I have found that even the scenarios in the campaign books released for Age of Sigmar all have the same objective, kill all the enemy units, but at least the scenarios have some kind of other objective for you to try to achieve during the game.  Play to within a round limit as well, which will encourage a sense of urgency with your tactics.  You can create your own scenarios like we’ve done here by modifying the ITC missions to better suit Age of Sigmar.
  3. Structure Your List Building – Another of the major complaints leveled at the game, and with good reason, is the fact that Games Workshop just went all in with their idea that the models will drive the game and put absolutely no effort into telling players how to structure their games.  The rules literally tell you to just bring whatever models you have and set them onto the table until you either run out of models or your run out of space in your deployment zone.  Well, that doesn’t really work and in a lot of cases does not lead to an enjoyable experience for both players.  The typical scenario is a player will show up to their FLGS with their newly painted Skaven Warlord and unit of Clanrats and their only opponent will be a sweaty guy with a Nagash model and summoning Vampires.  There has to be SOME sort of list structuring so that there is an element of balance between the opposing forces.  Whether that is by using wounds or warscroll caps or using one of the many awesome and completely fan made comp systems out there you should plan out how you will be structuring your army lists with your friends or club before bringing your models to the table.
  4. Play at a Skirmish Level – In my humble and correct opinion, the best way to play Age of Sigmar is on a 4×4′ space with no more than 30 wounds total.  This really gives your games a narrative feel and you’ll have enough for a medium sized big bad dude along with a hero model and a unit of red shirts.  One of my favorite themed warbands at the moment is Captain Korhil of the White Lions, a unit of White Lions, and  a White Lion Chariot.  Keeping games to this size not only allows you and your friends to get in multiple games in an evening but also really makes you think about positioning of the models, when to attack, etc. There IS strategy when playing Age of Sigmar, I promise you!  Of course, if you and a friend want to throw down a couple hundred models a piece and make a day of it go ahead!  Just make sure you have objectives in place or the game will just become a fight in the middle of the board.
  5. Create a Narrative Campaign – When getting a group together one of the best ways to keep interest alive in a new game is to have a narrative campaign that expands as time goes on.  You can start with something simple, like everyone puts together a Warband consisting of 25 wounds worth of models with a single Hero warscroll to lead them.  It’s best to have everyone stick to a theme such as my High Elf warband referenced above because if you don’t then Steve will show up with his Nagash model and a Giant and scare off the rest of the players in your group.  Starting small and growing gradually allows everyone to collect, assemble, and paint their models in a reasonable amount of time.  Perhaps after a month you go to 50 wounds and allow another Hero, etc.  The group will talk and discuss the best ways and the best times to grow.  I would certainly keep track of everyone’s wins and losses so that rivalries occur and there is a real reason to come back week after week to continue playing.

If you’re still reading this and haven’t left to leave an angry comment on someone’s article where they express their opinion about the latest Warhammer 40k unstoppable uber-formation, I say to you congratulations.   You’ve just learned 5 excellent ways to ease gracefully into Age of Sigmar with your friends, or mates, as Reece likes to say when he pretends to be from England.  I’ve got your ‘brilliant’ right here, mate *obscene hand gesture and hip movements*!

If anyone is interested we’ve been working on a an FAQ/Errata system for Age of Sigmar that can be used in an organized setting. The goal isn’t to change the game too radically but really just fine tune some of the more contentious areas of the game as well as giving players a guideline as to how to structure their army list when playing against players they have not met before.  You can view the FAQ/Errata here. Please let me know what you think of what we have so far in the comments below.



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.

16 Responses to “I Can Age of Sigmar and So Are You!”

  1. Truesight March 17, 2016 1:29 am

    I appreciate the effort, but Age of Sigmar destroyed my local fantasy community, and now it is splintered into tiny groups of Kings of War, 9th Age and warmachine, all of which are withering on the vine currently.

    I know Fantasy isn’t coming back, but I wish nothing but ill upon the abortion that destroyed a huge section of Western Australian wargaming.

  2. Geg March 17, 2016 1:59 am

    I gave AoS a shot but found it to be plain dull. Mainly because the rules just aren’t very good – not because they’re towards the simple side (Ive got nothing against stream lined rules) but because they lack depth.

    I also really love to list build so this game offers me nothing there.

    And the pricing is pretty distasteful (3 horsemen for £60 – seriously?) and this new mono pose “non ranked + round bases give us freedom for exciting new poses but we’re gunna pose everything the same anyway” nonsense – makes it a pretty hard sell.

    So thats makes…

    Oh and the lore and ‘ip friendly’ race names (urruks and aelfs? REALLY???) is just garbage.

    So that makes AoS a complete non starter for me.


  3. Ytook March 17, 2016 4:43 am

    Valiant effort but I think without an official agreed upon method of structured play I don’t think the competitive 40K crowd will get into it.

    Personally I’m really enjoying AoS, it requires a very different mind set to 40K though. I was sad to see Fantasy go certainly but I hadn’t been able to find anyone to play Fantasy with for a loooooong time, AoS is much more popular round here. That being said I think an ‘advanced edition’ type thing to allow for more structured play would work wonders, it would only need to be a few pages of optional rules on top of the base just to add a bit of nuance.

    The FAQ is interesting but there’s a chunk of it I don’t agree with. One major one is having the same player have the first battle round every turn, while I completely understand why allot of comp systems do this I think it’s a big mistake, the interaction between movement and action in AoS means that not knowing the turn order is essential to forcing players to be more careful, otherwise it’s far too easy for a quick shooty army to run rings around another and never be caught, the variable turn order means you have to consider several turns ahead rather than simply skirt around and react to your opponent. I realise I’m on a losing battle with this one as the concept seems so weird to competitively minded players but it is an important part of the game, and known turn order actively imbalances the game.

    What we’ve been trying in my group is that once per game where you’re opponent would get two turns in a row you can force yourself to take the first turn instead, provided your general is alive and you sacrifice your command ability for that turn to do so.

    • Arrias March 17, 2016 5:01 am

      Have you tried doing alternating activation instead of full turns? Having the first move would remain an advantage, but it wouldn’t be nearly as crushing.

    • Jason
      Jason March 17, 2016 7:59 am

      I think the ditching of the initiative roll to see who goes first gets the most push back from what we have been doing but honestly in an organized setting it just doesn’t work. When you have a shooting army and you go at the bottom of turn 1, shoot your opponent’s army to bits, then win the d6 roll-off to go first on the next Battle Round and proceed to again shoot your opponent’s army to bits is a good way of having the opponent not want to come back to play again. Same for fast armies, say they get the bottom of Battle Round 1, run up the field towards you, then get to go first in Battle Round 2 and are in your face assaulting before you even had a chance to try and get out of the way. It’s fun and engaging but in an organized game you really should be able to look at what your opponent has, look at the amount of rounds you have and what objectives you need to accomplish and plan the game out in your head. Just my two cents, the best thing about the game is there is NO wrong way of playing it!.

  4. Arrias March 17, 2016 5:08 am

    I was just starting to get into fantasy when it blew up. I had bought 2 boxes of clanrats and 2 boxes of stormvermin, a collection of leaders from the Island of Blood set, and the “codex” about four months before AOS was announced. Since then, I’ve sat and stared at the boxes. Maybe if I can find someone in the area who will play the small games like you mentioned I might get around to painting them up.

  5. Chris March 17, 2016 5:55 am

    They started a league around here using a slightly modified version of the dragons lair rules and its working well. There are 8 or so people regularly buying, building, and painting their models to get them on the table. Also I like their rules for hordes and such since some of them don’t really become good untill you get more than 30 in the unit. If you haven’t already you should check it out to see if there are things you could take from it and use.

  6. Adam
    Adam March 17, 2016 7:11 am

    Actually I’ve been thinking about AoS lately, and am starting to think it’s possibly the most successful game they’ve released, in terms of matching the vision of GW. It’s great for people to pick up and play with friends over a good beer, attempting to achieve some objective, and having a good time. Additionally, people have come out with their own point systems for more competitive play. It’s exactly what GW wants, a flexible rule system that players can use how they see fit. This has been their dream for years.

    • Anvil
      anvilward88 March 17, 2016 7:30 am

      One of the more interesting systems I’ve seen for competitive comp has actually been from Throne of Skulls. You’re limited to 30 models, take what you want, but then instead of counting the models, you count the wounds, and whoever has the lower count is the Underdog. If the difference is drastic enough, the Underdog gets additional objectives they can accomplish and they may be worth even more points, depending on the difference. The victory conditions give a hefty bonus to the player that wipes out the other, but it does not guarantee victory. Google for the free pdf! It’s very neat idea I’ll have to toy with on my end.

    • fluger March 17, 2016 11:33 am

      It is the most GW game GW has ever made.

  7. Anvil
    anvilward88 March 17, 2016 7:16 am

    #1 and #2 are definitely the biggest things for players to understand.

    #1: Rules are simple. Yeah, I’m not arguing against that. I actually like games that way, because we actually spend time playing the damn game instead of looking up rules. I know a lot of long-time players of D&D that, if given a choice between 3.5 and 5th edition, they wound choose 5th, every time, because it trimmed the fat from the rules, lots of unnecessary charts and things to keep track of. Simple =/= Bad, and Complex =/= Good, or vice versa. To me, it’s the flow of the game and the consistency between the rules that matters most.

    #2: Battleplans, aka Scenarios, make the game, hands down. When I test a new army, i’ll do a quick throw down to get a feel for what it does well. But after that, I push for battleplans all the time (unless they are also doing a quick test with their army) They bring balance to the game through turn limits, special rules to both sides, change up command abilities, positioning and reinforcements, etc. Plus, they have some very interesting battleplans, with rules that I would have never thought of before.

    Good subject points across the board, Dogger 🙂

  8. fleetofclaw March 17, 2016 12:04 pm

    #4 is what bums me out the most. The coolest part of WHFB was seeing people’s massive armies of infantry, monsters, and cavalry arrayed for battle, ready to charge into the fray. I appreciate that it now scales much better for smaller games to encourage newer players (I was working my way into WHFB, and even with WoC it’s a daunting effort), but the fact that large scale battles is a no go in AoS is a definite buzzkill.

    Good info though.

    • Anvil
      anvilward88 March 17, 2016 12:39 pm

      It works for both large and small games. Playing the game with the rules as-is works, especially when both sides take up about the same amount of space. Some battleplans work better with smaller forces, and others with larger forces, but it will really depend on what each player brings. When you reach 50+ models, games can take a while for sure. When you get to 100 models, like the rules have stated, expect it to be an all day thing (at least 5 hours).

  9. Occasionally called Tim March 17, 2016 2:18 pm

    The End Times saw a rejuvenation for the Fantasy players, then AoS dropped and they all went into Kings of War instead some months after the release. There were attempts to create a point system, but in the end they just left, and considering the way some of them built their new KoW armies, they are not willing/able to come back smoothly, even if AoS do get points as rumoured.

    And after seeing the Fyreslayers, I sure as hell wont start anything new with my dwarfs. Not after what happened to Tomb Kings and what is about to happen with brettonia.

  10. thelnorn1 March 17, 2016 11:21 pm

    I was very excited to see this topic pop up. Locally we had a very large Fantasy league. With the release of AoS, they gave it a try but a imposed lot rules. Many of them are used to a larger tournament scene. We were only halfway through the first league and the league quit. I found it very disappointing as I enjoy the novel concept of the new rules set. It was not just 8th going on 9th.

    Fast forward to the winter, a few guys, other than myself and a friend, started playing again in the store. Sadly it is not a large enough group to start up a regular league, but I’ll keep at it.

    I think rules packs like these can help bring people to the table to play. I have found no problem playing with the rules as written, but your opponent has to buy into the “don’t be a Rick” idea. Placing units by unit back-and-forth allows you to respond to your opponents Army and any rules the scenario has. Include a quick discussion on how summoning maybe be use as part of the game and your ready to go.

    How the different Conventions handle AoS Will give us a clear picture of what a tournament scene might look like. When this all got started I was hoping the Swedish Comp System would be adapted to the game. Its method of judging the army as fluffy or tough based on model combinations really matches the possible synergies of the different forces. i.e. Fielding 10 witch elves alone is rubbish, but getting over 20 of them adding a Death Hag and the Cauldron of Blood makes them a force with much greater potential.

    BTW the Forums are still down

  11. Colin Hawkridge March 25, 2016 1:42 pm

    As a professional soldier, I can tell how important movement and flanking your opponent is. I played none or two games of AoS when it first came out and I honestly couldn’t see where those two very important elements of warfare were represented in the game. Honestly, every game I saw pretty much ended up as a cluster fuck in the center of the board with no actual earned advantage to either side that I could personally see.

    Wargames throughout history have had these elements, the most successful being chess. The whole point of having models is so that a: you can see where your troops are, b: who is in combat, and c: to know Which way they are facing (because trust me, if you are facing the wrong way in a fight, you WILL die).

    What’s the point of having exotically detailed (and priced) models if it doesn’t matter what way they are facing? You may as well save the money you would have spent on the models, and use counters instead.

    My other problem with it is the fact that they give melee weapons a range. I can understand it for certain things where in reality this would be an issue (pikes and spears for example) but not for things like swords and hammers. And the only way a pike or spear actually really worked in history, was when it was used by trained men working together IN RANK AND FILE! Saying that people didn’t fight like that is a misrepresentation of the facts. I understand that this is a fantasy setting, but what made warhammer fantasy special, is it attempted to represent things taken from history enough to make it likeable.

    Another point, I looked at what is supposed to be the new wood elf army and looks to be just a bunch of trees and bushes… WTF….

    Final nail in the coffin is the price. What twelve year old is going to get £60 for 5 models? A damn rich one, that’s what. By making the models so expensive GW is just narrowing their target market down to rich kids and adults with money and time to burn.

    Before I finish, just a quick comment on the lore. To me it appears to be a rip off of the bible. Angels from heaven fighting demons from hell? Don’t we get that rammed down our throats enough? Maybe a bit stolen from Marvels Thor? Also, let’s face it, the Sigmarites ARE space marines. I didn’t like the style of 40k so this doesn’t strike a chord with me at all either.

    Sorry for the long comment, but if you enjoy AoS then good for you, but I feel some things just have to be said…

    Rant over!