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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.