Age of Sigmar breaks Warhammer Fantasy, but it's worth it

July 19, 2015

Age of Sigmar grabbed the Warhammer Fantasy rulebook, tore it apart, and threw the remains into the fire. I love the game that came out of that, even if there are some significant negatives to this event.

From simulationist roots to casual narratives

Warhammer Fantasy has long been the strategy-heavy cousin to the tactical-heavy Warhammer 40,000. The rules up until this point focused on maneuver and regiments, positioning and thinking ahead. Warhammer 40,000, on the other hand, has always been about skirmishes and characterful, tight battles. Where Fantasy relied on its movement trays and slower pace, 40k allowed for a lot of narrative to come through the gameplay. Age of Sigmar one-ups 40k in this regard. Yes, Age of Sigmar has a lot of holes in the rules. Someone who delights in using rules-as-written against his opponent is going to have a field day with Sigmar. But that’s not what this iteration of the game is about. Age of Sigmar seeks to bring casual gaming to the fore. The rules explicitly encourage, via its Most Important Rule, house-ruling and collaborating with your opponent to set up the battle.

Play any army you come up with

One of my favorite things about the rules is its encouragement of creativity in army building. There are no points or required force organization. While this can obviously be abused by asocial types, for those of us that enjoy narrative battles, it’s a godsend. I can mix Seraphons (Lizardmen) in with Stormcast Eternals and Exile Aelfs (Dark Elves), and that’s perfectly legitimate. If I really wanted to, the rules allow me to field Chaos Warriors alongside Sylvaneth (Dryads) and Duardin (Dwarfs). I can’t imagine the scenario where that would make lore sense, but you could do it. All of this makes for some fantastic battle and lore possibilities.

My God, it’s beautiful

The miniatures in the starter box set are absolutely gorgeous, and make the collector in me very happy. The Lord Celestant in particular is a beautiful model. With his triumphant pose and intimidating Drakoth mount, he makes a fine addition to any army. The Khorgorath model on the Chaos side is really ****ing creepy. It’s made of blood and skulls of its victims are pushing their way through its skin.

There’s a free app for army building

This is a big one. I bought Army Builder ages ago to help me build 40k armies, but Games Workshop is notorious for never releasing anything for free. Privateer Press released a free app awhile ago for its Warmachine and Hordes games, and while you need to pay for your specific army, it does have the benefit of being a first-party app. Now, GW has released the Age of Sigmar app that includes an army builder and the Warscrolls for all existing models for free. The one thing that pisses me off about this app is that I don’t get the Warscrolls for the starter box units, despite having shelled out $125 for said box. There’s no way to redeem a product code or anything. The only way to get those Warscrolls in the app is to buy the Age of Sigmar book through it, which would be an additional $50. No thanks. But it’s GW, so I’ll give them points for the progress they did make.


Yeah, the Age of Sigmar rules pretty much break any possibility of having tournaments without extensive house-ruling. That’s a problem for people who’re really into the game. I’ll admit to being a little hesitant about this. I’ve never played in a 40k tournament, but I think it’d be fun to try. I can’t imagine playing in an Age of Sigmar tournament, though. The rules aren’t geared for that.

What about the people who enjoyed the old game?

Games Workshop’s move to completely get rid of the old rules and cease supporting it in their stores is a bad one, despite the good game that Age of Sigmar is. The community that built up around WHFB is not so easily dismissed. For some people, their local Games Workshop store is the only place they could play the game they’d put a lot of time and money into, and I’ve heard rumors that GW stores are disallowing WHFB matches now. That’s a terrible policy. Mantic Games has their Kings of War game, which keeps very closely to WHFB’s roots. They just released a second edition, and have been inviting WHFB players left out in the cold to join their community. This is a great move on Mantic’s part, and I really hope it works out for everyone. From what I’ve seen, Mantic cares a lot more about community than GW does.

So is it worth getting?

Yes. Especially since the rules are free, and the Warscrolls - the rules for individual units - are also free. You can get them on Games Workshop’s site. In my opinion, the starter box is also totally worth the $125. It has wonderful minis, and the books are great too.