Monday, August 24, 2015

Review: Age of Sigmar

At the request of a reader, here's my thoughts on Age of Sigmar. It's kinda long, so I've labeled sections in case you want to skip to specific parts.

Disclaimer:
First, let me say that I had played 1 game of 8th edition (which I can't say I was particularly fond of), and prior to that, had only played maybe 1 or 2 games of Warhammer Fantasy from some long ago edition around 20 years ago. I used to play a fair amount of 40k back those 20 years ago, but beyond that, my GW gaming experience is limited to all the fringe games like Space Hulk and Warhammer Quest. Thus my review here is more based on me primarily being a Warmachine player, so take it all with that context.

Actual Gameplay
For the 1 game I played, I played Skaven, only because I have a bunch of Skaven models. We actually played a starter scenario right before this as well just to get a grasp of the rules. But for the main event I rolled out a huge mountain of Skaven models. As you probably know though, there's no point amount for it. I think it amounted to something like 12 war scrolls worth of stuff deployed. My opponent (the fun and gracious Henry) played Orcs. During deployment Henry eventually stopped putting stuff down and chose the Sudden Death option where if he wiped out my Skavenslave horde of some 70 models, then he instantly wins.
The game was brutal, with a few ranged attacks before melee happened. Honestly, I was really impressed with the ratio of casualties due to melee vs ranged. So called "gun-line" armies might work in this game, but from what I can tell it's the grand melee that really gets things done.
During the course of the game it became obvious that if I left my mob of slaves in combat that they were going to easily get wiped out, so I executed a careful removal of casualties from the front to get them disengaged. Then I executed a tactical retreat with them and closed in the gap with my Rat Ogres and Clanrats. Eventually the tide of battle turned and I had the Orcs severely on the run by the time the game ended. I was victorious!

What I Didn't Like:
* Pointless Warscrolls - Skaven slaves as an example. The lack of a point system does make things weird. I'd NEVER take slaves again if I played. There are a number of war scrolls for units that are essentially useless in the game as far as I can tell.
* Warscroll options - It's still a bit too complicated in terms of options on a warscroll. Things like "do these rats have 1 reach weapon or 2 short weapons" or whatever configuration. I get the whole "model accurate" thing, but there's also options that are not represented by models. Lots of notes needed and it's complicated. And again, no points, so why wouldn't I just load up every option?
* Ambiguity - There's definitely some ambiguity in the rules when resolving certain things like wound assignment to multi-wound models, or having multiple different types of banners. Maybe this will all get tightened up later.
* Measuring - Yeah, not using bases to measure is just dumb. I'm sorry, but it just made the game more complicated rather than easier.
* Initiative - I'm still not sure whether I like the way you roll each round for initiative. It can cause a pretty hard sway. In generally this is a bit of a preference thing for me though and I just haven't played as many you-go-i-go type games.

What I liked:
* Placement - The whole taking turns putting additional stuff on the board is an amusing dynamic. I could literally write a whole article about why I think this is a brilliant system. It becomes a combination of list building and deployment all at once. It gives you the option to adapt to what your opponent is placing to thus have a more balanced game. You have to make hard decisions quickly. It steers the game away from "playbook list building" and more towards an adapt-on-the-fly strategy game which I really love. This is hands down my favorite thing about this game. Or perhaps tied for my favorite thing...
* Hellpit Abomination - Straight up, totally fun on the board. It wrecks the shit out of things. The big models like that really shine as fun in this game format.
* Rat Ogres - Cause like, they are crazy amusing. They have lots of features and flexibility. It was fun crashing them into Orcs and watching massive chaos ensue.
* Clanrats - Cause nothing says amusing like a massive mob of 50 Clanrats all together getting big bonuses. Seriously though, I do really enjoy the whole "it's a huge mob of models moving in something resembling a formation" thing. This is one of the pieces of Warhammer that always appealed to me. I can totally see people continuing to use movement trays for big units and just house-ruling their usage in this new game system.
* Moar dice - Rolling tons of dice is pretty amusing. This game is great for it when you get to melee.
* Close combat - The game really gets epic when you're piling in huge amounts of stuff and the close combat trade offs turn into a game of chicken. This actually becomes a pretty important aspect of the game in that choosing when to activate something can make or break your whole army if you aren't careful.
* Strategy - There's definitely some tactical aspects to the game in knowing when to withdraw/feint and when to commit or reposition. More on that below, but I think this is easily overlooked.

Barriers to Playing:
So let's talk about this. Switching from Warhammer 8th ed to this has a barrier in that it's a clearly different game requiring a whole new mindset. Also because the war scrolls aren't balanced on a point system it's a whole new way of approaching what to include in your army. Previously you'd build (assemble/convert/paint/etc) your models with a plan of building a specific list. Now when you show up for a game, you likely need to bring your entire model collection to be well prepared. Yes, that's my opinion here: To play "competitively" you need to bring every model you have so that you can have appropriate things to counter what your opponent puts on the table.
What are my personally barriers to playing this? There's a few and I'll admit that lots of these are just cause I'm stuck in my own little bias.
1) I'm heavily financially invested in Warmachine/Hordes already.
2) I prefer games with really tight rule sets. This game is not nearly as tight as I prefer.
3) There's no way I'm painting hundreds more models for this game. I can't even catch up on the other games I play.

Why All The Hate??
Honestly I don't get all the hate for this new game. Let's review a few points:
* The rules are free, and there's an app. They've made it accessible.
* It plays relatively smooth and quick, in my opinion.
* Every model that existed before is still playable.
* Nothing is preventing players from playing the existing 8th ed game also!
Seriously though, I think when you step back and look at it, this is actually a pretty good game for what it is. I personally think this game is better than 8th edition was, admittedly based on 1 playing of each. But in the end, AoS is it's own game, and should be treated that way.

Overall Summary
Do I like AoS? Yes.
Will I play it again? Maybe, but rarely.
This game could fill a miniatures gaming niche for me of large scale strategy battles which I don't have a game for today. I honestly felt like there's a good opportunity for proper strategy in this game after pulling off a feint with my slaves. Games that enable more proper strategy rather than just "I rolled a 6 on this spell and your unit blows up" are good in my book. I like strategy and planning in my games. In any case, I had fun and it was definitely worth trying out.

1 comment:

JP Chapleau said...

Thanks for the honest review.
I would add cost of models as a definite barrier for those seeking to start getting into this game

JP