Sunday 19 July 2015

What you need to know about Warhammer: Age of Sigmar

Arguably the most popular tabletop miniatures game, Warhammer Fantasy Battles, has just had a radical makeover with the advent of Age of Sigmar, opening up the game to a wider audience. The previous editions had grown stale and with the market slumping it was high time that Games Workshop did something drastic to keep itself relevant. The brand's solution was to overhaul Warhammer Fantasy by cutting the fat, revamping the lore and offering a game that is more streamlined and accessible to new players.

Down with the old lore

Over the years the Warhammer world had become a bloated behemoth that all but the veterans could decipher. With eight editions under its belt, roleplaying games, board games and hundreds of novels, Games Workshop had nurtured a living, breathing world with its own intricate history and characters. Age of Sigmar has expunged the backstory in a not-too dissimilar way that Disney cut the fat with the Star Wars expanded universe, and replaced it with something more unique and less grim Tolkien.

The new story revolves around Sigmar, who, after the events of The End Times, found himself hurtling through space on the dead husk of the old world. He was found by the great drake Dracothion, who helped him form the Mortal Realms with the use of Realmgates, creating a utopia for all mortal beings. However, corruption crept in through Chaos and the Age of Chaos began. Sigmar retreated into the Celestial Realm and formed an army of the greatest mortal warriors and named them the Stormcast Eternals. The starter set deals with these so-called Realmgate wars, as Sigmar's Stormhosts battle the forces of Chaos. Stormcast Eternals are basically fantasy Space Marines and form part of the starter set, along with Chaos.

Races like Skaven have also returned to the fore, along with similar races who have had slight name changes. Elves have become Aelves, while Orcs are now Orroks, Goblins and Grots and Ogres are Ogors  - presumably so they can all be trademarked.

The new mechanics

If the fresh new fiction wasn't enough, the game itself has been almost completely altered. Miniatures are now on round bases, akin to Warhammer 40K, with an emphasis now on small-scale skirmish games rather than sprawling battles. That's not to say this can't be done - Games Workshop insists that you can still use all your old figures, just don't expect army building to be the same. Gone is the points-buy system, replaced with advantages to diminished forces to keep things balanced. This means that getting minis to the table will be a lot quicker, but whether it works just as well remains to be seen.

Each unit now has four stats and combat rules have been somewhat streamlined, although the familiar 'to hit', 'to wound' and saving rolls are still present. Instead of comparing stats against the enemy on a chart to find out your target roll, you instead roll against your own weapon stats. For instance, to hit you have to roll equal to or above your weapon's To Hit stat. This works exactly the same with with wounds. This presents an easier rules-set for new players, but I'd imagine that some veterans might not take too kindly to such a revamp.

What's more interesting is that the rules have been cut down so much that they now fit on a four-page document, which is freely available from the Games Workshop site as well as included in the starter set. They have also released a free set of compendiums called Warscrolls that help players with existing armies use them for Age of Sigmar.

The price of war

If you want to dive into the game, then you'll need the Age of Sigmar starter set which is going to set you back £75, which is a little steep but the miniatures do look absolutely fantastic. For your hard earned cash, you get the following?

One Lord-Celestant
One Lord-Relictor
Three Retributors
Two units of five Liberators
Three Prosecutors
One Mighty Lord of Khorne
One Bloodsecrator
One Bloodstoker
One Khorgorath
Five Blood Warriors
Two units of ten Bloodreavers
A ninety-six page Warhammer Age of Sigmar
A four-page rules set (this is everything you need to know to begin playing);
A pack of twelve dice;
Two range rulers;
Enough transfers to apply to all of the included Stormcast Eternals.

Not a shabby package, to be fair.

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