Brace yourself people, it’s the End Times. Oh, wait, actually, we just had those.
Okay, a different End Times. The usual End Times that comes about whenever Games Workshop unleash a new edition of one of their games upon the world. This time, it’s Fantasy’s turn. Great, yawn, whatever. More blocks of identical infantry nudging up against each other. Except it’s not that now. Now, it’s something a bit… different.
So let me get you up to speed if you’ve been under a rock for the past year. Warhammer 8th. Decent-ish, apparently. GW goes LOL ADVANCING THE PLOT and releases the End Times, aka Monster Mash Funtimes with big new plastic kits and stupid-expensive hardback books. Lots of significant characters die, or go Super-Saiyan (or both), the elves all kiss and make up, the Lizardmen fuck off to space, the Skaven eat most of not-Spain and not-Italy, Archaon goes RAAAAARRRRRRR, fucks the world with his spiky Chaos murderboner, and the Ruinous Powers win. Sort of. Except not, because one of the elven goddesses preserves a fragment of the Old World and uses it to create a new world. Skip forward, and now we have the Stormclad Eternals (above) who are NOT SPACE MARINES but are instead power-armoured demi-gods who are servants of the God-King (see it’s new because Kings are totally different from Emperors!), and everything’s on round bases and it looks all skirmish-y and the community is losing their fucking minds, because of course they are.
Let me get this out of the way and I’m actually on board for Age of Sigmar. I like the look of the Stormclads (or Sigmarines, as the Internet has dubbed them), and I’m utterly in love with the boss-man on his drake/griffon/Battlecat thing. Some are saying that aesthetically they don’t look like “Warhammer” but honestly, “big dudes in armour” is not exactly ground-breaking stuff for Warhammer as Chaos Warriors have been around ever since this time known as forever. Also, as for things not looking like they “belong”, does anyone remember robo-horse? Or daemon-mecha? Or Apache helicopter? But yeah, no, you’re right, dudes in magical armour is obviously crossing the line. Anyway, so, yeah, bit of a shake up, and not just in terms of a new faction and new rules. A lot has changed, the most surprising of which is GW’s business model. Now, as previously shown, I’m not exactly the biggest fan of GeeDubs, so it takes a lot for them to impress me, and would you know it, they actually have! Yes, GW have dragged themselves kicking and screaming into the 21st century and have seemed to acknowledge that other gaming companies give out rules for free! What does this mean? An end to army books! Now all units will have what’s called a War Scroll, basically like a unit card from Warmachine which gives their stats, special rules, etc. These will be completely free and ready to download as PDFs from the GW site on the same day that AoS drops. It’s okay. Take your time. It’s a lot to take on board; GW giving away something for free. The promise is that nothing is being obsoleted; you don’t have to rebase your dudes on round bases, you don’t have to eBay your 9,000 point Beastman army… everything will be there, including the new Stormclad stuff. Sure, it’ll be arranged into the new factions – all of which, by the way, have had their names tweaked to ensure easy trademarking (Aelf instead of elf, Seraphon instead of Lizardmen, Orokk instead of orc, etc. Kinda dumb but I also understand the reasoning) – but it’ll be there. It’ll exist.
So, the new rules, which are four pages. Yep. Four. To say it’s been streamlined is an understatement. But we have what we need; rules for moving, shooting, fighting, morale, and a bit of magic. Gone is the venerable M/WS/BS/S/T/W/I/A/Ld array, something I’m actually glad of. There’s no more comparing your Weapon Skill to an opponent’s in close combat to determine what you need to roll to hit, or comparing Strength to Toughness to determine what you roll to wound; now models have set To Hit and To Wound, regardless of what they’re fighting. Of course, I’m sure some models will have special abilities to modify this mechanic. The one thing I’m concerned about is the rumour at there won’t be points values, or even some other kind of alternative list-building mechanic. There’s certainly no points values shown on the example War Scrolls for the Stormclad guys. If rumours are to be believed, you’ll just plonk down whatever models you like and go at it. We’ll see how that turns out. As many people online have said, other GW starter sets like Dark Vengeance don’t include points values, so… yeah. I imagine that’s one of the first things that the community may house rule, just to preserve some balance. It does leave a rather sour taste in the mouth though if it’s true; even checkers, the most basic of tabletop games, has a balancing mechanic!
The starter set looks absolutely ace. Stormclads versus Khorne Warriors, hell yes. The Stormclads have He-Man on Battlecat, ten of the basic Sigmarines with hammers, some funky Thanagarian-Hawkman dudes, and even bigger Sigmarines with big ol’ smackin’ hammers. The Chaos dudes… well…
Yeah, they’re pretty cool as well. Chaos Lord, twenty Marauders, some Warriors, and a big ogre/troll/daemon monster which actually looks sort of goofy. The downside is that the starter set will probably run in the region of £75, which is definitely enough to make me think twice, especially when I’ve been eyeing up Mantic’s Deadzone and umm’ing and aah’ing about that for what seems like forever.
As you can probably tell, I’m finding it all very exciting, because it’s actual genuine innovation from a company who have always had a history of, well, not innovating. I can fully sympathise with the people who don’t like it and who’d rather have a new game similar to 8th… but then what would be the point of that? It would be a 40k 6th to 7th deal; minor tweaks, a load of new problems (I mean, Jesus, Malefic Daemonology, wtf), and you’re £80 poorer after buying the new big rulebook and the new version of your army’s Codex. Age of Sigmar is the shot in the arm that Fantasy needed; it was dwindling when compared to the tumescent monstrosity that 40k has become. Even when I used to frequent my FLGS back in my old hometown when Ian and I were in our early twenties, no-one played Fantasy; people thought it was boring and complicated. GW may have gone too much the other way with Age of Sigmar. Like I said, the Internet backlash for this is mental. They’ve definitely created the most Marmite version of the game; you either love it or hate it, there’s no in-between. People are comparing it to D&D 4th edition in how divisive it is, which scares me; I used to like 4th, and then I realised what a monster it really was… hmm.
Regardless, I’m psyched enough about the whole thing to pop into my local GW next week and have a demo game. Gotta hand to those lads in Nottingham; I keep pulling away, and they find ways to drag me back into their sweaty clutches.
– Gareth Some pictures courtesy of Bell of Lost Souls.