Thursday, July 9, 2015

Age of Sigmar - Thoughts After Two Games

Holy hell the world has officially ended.  I mean, I know that the WHFB world technically ended when the last End Times book came out but wow does it seem like it has ended now.  Yet, reborn it is as “The Age of SIgmar” heralds in a new era of peace and prosperity.  Well, not really…  Wow was the internet a crazy thing to check out over the last two weeks as not only more and more rumors, pictures and theories flooded but as the rules were eventually released.  The amount of blind hate spewed from people who play and love Warhammer was unreal.  It literally hurt me a little inside seeing the community fracture like it has which is really quite unfortunate as that will probably be the worst thing to come out of Age of Sigmar while some would argue that the worst thing is Age of Sigmar itself.

I’ve now played two games of Age of Sigmar (AoS) and while I have begun to form many opinions, each time I play something a changes a little bit.  Here and there I see pieces of strategy and planning come into it.  Then it will do a 180 on me and I’ll simply be left wondering what on earth GW was thinking.  I get the need for a reset, I really do.  WHFB was a flagging game system.  It wasn’t pulling its weight and that has a lot to do with many customers including myself.  Many of us who have been in the hobby for years own so many armies that we don’t buy a lot of new stuff.  Those of us who do keep building armies tend to go and find it second hand, often as not.  Personally I do a little of both new and used.  When kids (I know people are railing against this whole kid’s thing right now) come into the store they see WHFB and 40K and think they both look amazing.  The whole barrier to entry through money thing exists in both systems although I do agree that 40K is probably slightly less.  Something had to be done to get people to walk in, see this and say “I must play that!”.  Now whether Age of Sigmar achieves this goal or not will remain to be seen but GW has gone a long way towards giving it the college try.

Kids can now walk into a game store, the store employee can say, “Oh, you like the look of that box?  Get a box, a hobby knife, some glue and I’ll print out these 100% free rules for you from their website and you can play right now!”.  Sounds a lot better than “Oh, you like the look of that box?  Well, you’ll have to get that, this book, that book, about 20/30 more boxes, glue, knife and then read the 200 page rulebook (probably twice) before you can really get to it.”.  Woof…  I mean the barrier to entry for AoS is now actually less than 40K and that is for sure saying something.  GW appears to be ready to push this system and hard at that for which I applaud them.  They did their best to bring the old guard from WHFB along by giving us all of our rules for our older existing armies from day 1 and if those that don’t want to make the transition go away I’m 100% certain it doesn’t bother GW in the least.  Frankly they may be better off for it at that.  The old guard appears at least to me to be the ones burning the internet down over the last couple of weeks.  People who’ve not even tried the game are exploding over broken or unstructured rules, silly in game effects and the utter lack of clarification by GW.  I am at least willing to give it a college try before bashing the dog snot out of it, so let’s get to my opinions on the game as it stands.

Remember, this opinion is formed from only having played two games.  I plan on playing at least five before I really make my decision on whether I will continue to play AoS in the future or not.  GW released the rules for all these armies and I was like a kid at Christmas, excitedly reading all my rules.  I thought the tongue in cheek humor of talking to models and grumbling like a Dwarf were funny and a nice tip of the hat to the old fluff.  I didn’t view them as childish or ignorant.  In fact (and I don’t take credit for this statement because someone else on a forum said it first but I agreed) I already to all that crazy stuff during a game of Warhammer anyway!  I always talk to my models, belittle my dice and make crazy noises; it’s part of the fun!  One of the biggest issues is we still don’t have an army building comp to work with and so my first game was run very simply.  We chose to use formations from the back of the army rules up to 60 wounds.  I fielded a small army of Dwarf units, nothing larger than 10 models, no war machines and obviously no magic.  My friend ran a Minotaur Herd with a Gorbull, three units of Minotaurs and one of the big giant guys (I can’t remember what he was).  The game wasn’t so much a game as it was a 30 minute testament to me not rage-quitting.  Multi wound, multi attack, multi damaging models are insanely good and he trounced all of my models off the table while I removed only two of his.  From there, my opinion immediately shifted to all of my armies being useless as infantry are terrible.  This was fueled partly by the fact that there is no army structure and there is no reason not to field only the best models in an army that can do things like the Minotaur’s did.

That game was pretty early after the rules released; in fact, the day after.  I’d read them but there were plenty of little pieces that were missed and we didn’t give the armies much thought other than adhering to the formation at the back of the PDF.  We played diametrically opposed army lists which were just begging for me to be on the losing end.  This was no fault of either of ours.  I looked at the armies I had and made something, while my friend looked at his and did too.  Turns out a formation of Minotaurs is just better than a formation of minimum sized Dwarfs without war machines.  I talked myself off the ledge by realizing that if I’d had machines that did multiple wounds I could’ve probably been ok and had a chance by removing models before he got to me.  Plus each day as I continued to read I found more things that were there to help infantry survived.  Standards and Battle Standards for many armies give a radius of effect that let you ignore wounds or ignore Battleshock or at least have a chance of not leaving the table from Battleshock which is about the same as ignoring wounds.  I refreshed and opened my eyes a little wider.

The next game would be three days later when I would field my Skaven against my other friends Ogre Kingdoms.  We decided to use the most popular comp idea running around right now which was 100 wounds and restrictions on how many heroes and monsters you could take as well as an overall limit to the number of units.  Having knowledge gained from last game I made sure to bring some machines as well as a BSB.  Skaven happen to have a lot of weapons that conduct “mortal wounds” which is to say a wound with no regular save unless your rule specifies it saves against this type of wound.  I think it blew my friend back for a second when the machines started hitting and he was removing Ogres.  Then however the combat started and wow.  Turns out infantry, when used correctly with the right synergies of buffs and characters helping out can be awfully deadly.  The game ground on as we took unit after unit off, a combat not usually going more than a single round.  The one exception was my Stormvermin who ended up in a large multiple combat after killing a Giant.  They found themselves fighting a Tyrant, a unit of Leadbelchers and Ironguts.  Because of the BSB and General nearby letting them ignore Battleshock they held long enough for me to bring the Plague Monks over to assist.  By the time the game was over I’d tabled the Ogres but had myself lost 43 of 54 models which to me really speaks of a close game.  Afterwards since both of my friends I’d played were present we sat and discussed many things about the game that we did and did not like.
I suppose we’ll start with what I found appealing.  The gameplay is faster, no doubt about that.  It’s still a game and the fact is I enjoy gaming.  Other than my average Skaven list my Dwarfs and Empire lists will on average fit into the current composition that is being used by many on limiting wounds and scrolls.  I can see the shiny parts.  I can see that there is some strategy in the game and as people start to pick up on it the games will get more serious and probably scenarios will go a long way towards increasing that as well.  Things I don’t like.  Models die so damned fast.  Sure, things have many more wounds now than they used to.  Ogres have 4 wounds, most monsters range between 8-14 but my god once we hit combat the Abomination and the Giant went down in a single round of combat never getting a chance to swing back.  Magic seems completely forgettable because you only have a couple of spells, unless of course you’re playing a list that can summon which brings up the fact that oh my god why!?  I can summon on 2 dice units, monsters and characters.  Not to mention if I’m not a dingbat and I keep my caster far enough from yours you can’t even try to stop me?!  People said the game is unbalanced because of no list building restrictions and this just takes it too far in my opinion.  Measuring model to model leaves way too much open to be taken advantage of as far as modeling for advantage.

So all of that said I don’t mind the game.  The internet is on fire because people say how there’s no semblance of balance or it’s so easy to build broken and over powerful lists.  Yes, yes it is.  If you try to break this game I can guarantee that you will.  The game is too open to fail at that attempt.  GW left the game up to us, the gamers to decide what to do with it.  They’ve been saying for ages that they don’t’ make the game to be a competitive tournament game and boy did they embrace that full force.  While it would certainly be nice to have some more information about how to try and build a balanced army its really up to you and your opponent to decide before each game.  Nobody is going to cry about a game if they come into it knowing that they playing silly lists or strong lists or fluffy lists.  Just discuss it before hand and you should all be fine.  As for those of you who are complaining without trying.  Stop being so butt hurt about it.  If you hate it and want to play a different game, go for it.  Stop complaining; take your toys and go.  Nobody minds, honestly.

1 comment:

Mark said...

Hi Joe,
Just like to congratulate you and chuck on another great podcast, it was good to hear a balanced and thoughtful response to the new Warhammer game which covered some of its good and bad points.
Looking forward to seeing how things progress and I do hope that something can be salvaged from the Tournament scene as this does seem to be where a lot of the passion for the game comes from.
And I'm looking forward to hearing how those other systems turn out (Kings of War etc) as I've always thought a mono system podcast was a hard thing to keep going in the long term.
So thanks again and keep up the good work.