Warhammer: Age of Sigmar is the spiritual successor to the old Warhammer Fantasy Battle, and came out back in 2015. If you were unaware, the latter has been discontinued now; the days of pushing massive regiment blocks of cavalry around the table and engineering flanking manoeuvres and all that good stuff are well and truly over in the Games Workshop world after a solid 20 years on the go. Essentially, it didn't make enough money. Warhammer accounted for about 10-15% of sales compared to Warhammer 40,000, and only 1-2% of those people actually played the game, yet it still made up 50% of most of the shelf space in stores and development. It was immensely difficult for new players to get started with, thanks to a 300-odd page rulebook. As such, Gee-Dubz decided to shitcan it and release something entirely new that was more appealing to all. This sparked huge outrage amongst many that their complicated game had been annihilated, but the new version is much better so it's all good. I'll explain why.
Warhammer: Age of Sigmar
Warhammer: Age of Sigmar
Interesting. What is it?
Age of Sigmar (henceforth known as AoS) is a fantasy tabletop wargame, similar to but still distinctly different to Warhammer 40,000. It has a rulebook that is 4 pages long, and it is very, very simple to play. It is easier than Warhammer 40,000, yet just as enjoyable in its own right. Even better, all the rules for all the models are available for free, in a form known as warscrolls - these contain all the information about a unit or model for you to use it in a game. You can get them through the Age of Sigmar App, through the various army books, or from the Internet. Simply look at a unit/model you like on the GW website, click on the rules tab and download them. Easy.
An example Warscroll.
Great. How do you play the game?
You start by choosing your army, building it and painting it. You then find an opponent, and decide what type of game you're going to play. Games Workshop release yearly a book called the General's Handbook, which contains an absolute wealth of information on different ways to play, these being Open Play, Narrative Play and Matched Play. The annual game update is a great addition. Open is just chuck stuff on the table and go for it. Narrative is re-creating story driven battles. Matched Play is designed for competitive, more balanced play, and used points. The points system for AoS is greatly simplified compared to Warhammer 40,000, you just pay a fixed amount for a fixed amount of models, regardless of what weapons you give them. 10 Black Orcs, for example, is 180pts. Once you've chosen what, how and why you want to play a game, you can get stuck in and deploy your forces. You roll a dice to see who deploys a unit first. You then alternate deploying a unit at a time, until you both finish. Whoever finished deploying first gets to choose who goes first.
The game itself is divided into five phases. First, is the Hero phase. Any 'special' ability a unit has can be used in this phase, such as casting spells, or using a command ability. Each model able to cast spells has access to specified spells, which have a cast value. You roll two dice, if you equal or beat the value, you cast the spell and immediately resolve or apply its effects. Command abilities can be used if the model using it is your general. All the abilities, what they do and how to use them will always be printed on the Warscroll, so you never need to look it up somewhere else.
Once you've done all that business, you move on to the Movement phase. Here, you can move all your stuff up to its specified move value. You can choose to run, which adds D6" movement but means you can't shoot or charge later in that turn. You can move up things, down things largely as you please, unless you and your opponent specify something is impassable. You cannot move through another unit, nor enemy units, unless there is sufficient space to fit your models through. You cannot end your movement within 3" of the enemy, as that counts as you being in combat. If you're already in combat, you can move out of it, but it counts as a retreat and you can't shoot or charge later that turn.
Once you've moved around a bit, it's time to lob arrows and other projectiles at each other in the Shooting phase. Any unit that has a missile weapon can shoot, unless it retreated or ran in the previous movement. Any unit can shoot at any enemy unit, even if you're in melee range of the enemy already. You can still shoot. You can shoot at a unit other than the one you're fighting, you can shoot a unit that is already engaging your own troops, you have pretty much free reign. You need to be able to see the unit you want to shoot, however. Units that are entirely on a terrain piece count as being in cover and get +1 to their save (a 3+ becomes a 2+, etc).
Now stuff has died to arrows/rocks/trebuchets/cannons/muskets, it's time to charge in and beat stuff up in the Fight phase. This starts with you declaring charges. You don't have to declare a target, you roll two dice for an eligible unit, and the result is how far that unit can charge. If your intended target isn't in range but another one is, you can charge that instead. It's not fixed, like in 40k. Once you've declared all charges and moved all units their charge distance, you pick a unit to start fighting with. Once you've picked a unit, the models in that unit can all make a 3" 'pile-in' move to get them closer to enemy models to attack. You resolve your attacks, and then your opponent gets to pick a unit to attack with. Pile-in, attack, and then you get to choose. This alternating factor makes it very difficult to choose which unit you begin your attacks with, as your opponent will respond somewhere else on the battlefield by smashing up a unit you just charged with. To fight, you add up all the dice for all the attacks you have, roll to hit, roll to wound, and then your opponent makes an armour save. The attacking weapon's rend characteristic affects this save. A 3+ save getting hit by a -1 rend will instead be saving on a 4+, -2 on a 5+, etc. If you fail your save, you take the specified number of wounds that weapon causes. Remove the dead and put them to one side, same for your opponent.
Once everyone has had a punch-up, you enter the Battleshock phase. Any unit that has taken casualties throughout your turn is subject to a Battleshock test. To take the test, you roll a D6, and add the number of casualties that unit suffered. For every number over that unit's Bravery value, you lose 1 model, regardless of how many wounds it has. For example, a unit of 20 Chaos Marauders loses 3 models to enemy shooting, and then loses another 2 in combat for a total loss of 5. In the Battleshock phase, I roll a 4. Marauders have a Bravery of 6. 5+4=9, which is 3 over my Bravery. I remove another 3 models from play, who either flee from the fight or panic and are cut down by the enemy.
That ends your turn. At this point, your opponent gets a full turn, and then that is the end of the battleround. You now have to roll to see who goes first in the next turn - it's not always you again! It is possible to 'double-turn', and some people actively bank on this occurring. They will opt to go second in the first battleround, banking on winning the roll off to mean they get two consecutive turns. It certainly makes things interesting.
All sounds fairly manageable. Is it any good?
The game, I hope has become apparent, is very simple, but really is good fun to play. The range of miniatures are arguably some of Games Workshop's very finest, with a wide range of armies, and thanks to the yearly balancing of points and warscrolls in the General's Handbook, there are very few 'death star' lists that trainwreck everything. The game can be played in so many different ways, and utilising the Open War cards set (£8 from GW) to quickly generate a game, objectives and an interesting twist can mean you don't need to trawl through a book to generate a scenario.
Sweet! Is the boxed set worth it, and what's the best way to get started?
Games Workshop have created 4 entry points to the game, essentially. It's a very clever tactic. The picture at the top is of the full Age of Sigmar boxed set, which I think is £75 currently. You get about 800pts in each army, but it's more in the favour of the Stormcast (the gold ones) by a fair distance. There is a £50 option, called Thunder and Blood, which has about 3/4 of the models from the above sets, with a little game board to play on and the box doubling up as scenery and dice and all that good stuff. There is also a £25 option, containing a handful of miniatures, shown below.
The cost of getting started is literally the cost of a unit and the Skirmish book, so £25. Alternatively, the small set shown above with the Skirmish book for £31 is plenty good enough for some decent intro games. Obviously if you're wanting to create a 2,000pt army designed for AoS in its grandest form on a 6'x4' board, you're looking at ~£200-300, but there's no pressure to play at that level straight away.
Age of Sigmar is probably my favourite tabletop wargame at the moment, even though the new Warhammer 40,000 edition is great. It's simplicity of play and wide ranging, interesting game types make it hugely enjoyable whatever the game size. The miniatures are great, and each army feels unique and has interesting ways to play it, with nearly any army composition being viable, and Games Workshop are putting a lot of time and effort into supporting it. A shame all the lore from the 'Old World' was cast aside, but as for the game itself, it's a lot better than its predecessor with a much greater player base.