Age of Sigmar Review: First Taste

Outside, the sky is grim and tumultuous. Spears of lightning split the heavens, and in the distance, bestial roars echo in unending challenge. Greetings Wargamers, and welcome to the Age of Sigmar.

Age of Sigmar

By now I imagine innumerable gamers have had an opportunity to see the game of Age of Sigmar and unit rules that have been made available for free so far by Games Workshop (thanks GW for this, it has made a big difference to my openness to the new system), and more analytical minds than mine will have run trillions of optimisation algorithms to try and dissect the nuances of Age of Sigmar – and in some cases give opinions about its perceived flaws.

My approach to discussion about the Age of Sigmar will not be one of trying to compete with the Math-hammerers (is that even a valid term any more?). My approach will be that of a gamer, pure and simple. I think I have at least entry level experience of gaming by this point in my life, and of the preceding incarnations of the games set in the Warhammer setting, twenty two years and counting, so let’s see if those two and a bit decades have given me anything in the way of depth perception on the topic.

I have to admit I was skeptical to say the least about Age of Sigmar that now seems has replaced ‘Warhammer’ as we have known it up to this point. It is indeed a huge departure from the established format, and more than that for me, it is an almost complete departure from the game setting that I have both grown up with and invested a lot of time and emotion into. No more the Old World and the New, no more the Southlands and Ulthuan, and no more the wish listing over many years that eventually we might see armies march forth from far Cathay and Ind. It’s all gone. No more tales of derring do across the lands of Bretonnia and the Empire, no more battles in the ever contested Border Princes. All the character and army fluff I wrote over the years is now in the distant past. Worse, no more Gotrek and Felix.

Seeing such huge changes in the established fluff has been the hardest thing for me with Age of Sigmar. After all, what I wanted to see was a conclusion to the End Times series (which started off amazingly well, but got crazy as the world started to come apart at the seams) which perhaps saw a state of all out war across the world as 9th Edition dropped, with Archaon and the Skaven on the offensive, but still retained the map we had. This of course isn’t what we got.

I can deal with the rules changes in Age of Sigmar because the rules have never been the primary draw for me, and after having played two games so far with different forces, I think the rules set works pretty well even with a couple of clarifications required, but at the moment everything feels quite detached without a solid established setting to base everything in. I guess I need to start forking out for some of the new novels and books for Age of Sigmar and start my research. Knowledge about the setting of Age of Sigmar will come with time, and we all know that Games Workshop can put out killer fluff, we just have to accept that it will be different to what went before. Not a complete replacement, but an evolution. Just far more evolved than anyone may have envisaged at the end of the End Times Nagash book.

Onwards and Upwards

A couple of other things I wanted from Age of Sigmar: I wanted to be able to use my existing five Fantasy armies – check. And I wanted to avoid having to rebase all my miniatures – check that as well. The only thing I have to wait and see now is whether the cross over Warscrolls Games Workshop have provided for all the old style armies stick around, or whether they get replaced by something entirely new which invalidates a lot of the older models. I can deal with having updated fluff for my armies, and I can deal with reorganising how the army fits together and works in the game, but if I find myself with a whole swathe of models that just can’t be used in the game anymore without major league proxying and ‘counts as’, I will not be a happy bunny.

I guess Games Workshop will have to be at least a little cautious, because of they do end up invalidating my armies, there are now plenty of other rules sets that I can use those models for, and we could of course continue to play 8th edition, which was the best edition to date in my opinion, and I have played them all from 4th onwards. I know people will say that Games Workshop’s intention is to try and draw in new players with Age of Sigmar, and they don’t care a jot about the existing player base, but I can’t see it being as simple as that. They can’t draw in enough new players fast enough to replace all the existing players if they suddenly rule the old style armies out of the game, and I have no plans to buy a whole new army at this stage. The armies I have don’t get enough attention as it is.

Added to that is the fact that if someone is looking at new games to start investing their hard earned cash in, it can’t be good publicity when a big chunk of the player base are spewing out a torrent of negative feedback about it. I for one would certainly tend to avoid games that are getting a lot of hate online when I try to find out more about them. We no longer live in an age where people have to take the manufacturer’s word on how good a game is, there is a whole world of gamer feedback out there for us to draw on.

No. As long as generally speaking I can use my existing models, I am quite positive about Age of Sigmar at present.

Let’s continue.

Age of Sigmar Games

Many of us now have a few tales of our early experiences playing the new rules set, and I am hearing all sorts of things from people all over the place. At least it means people are playing Age of Sigmar. I have played twice so far. Game one was using the contents of the starter set. I used Chaos and my opponent obviously took the Stormcast. As we had heard numerous times from others who had already played that the Stormcast out powered the Chaos forces in the box, we agreed to add a unit of two Chaos Spawn and another five Khorne Warriors into the mix to even things out. I think this gave us a fairly balanced game, and although the Khorne forces won, the Chaos Lord had only one wound left by the end. The only model left on the Stormcast side was the Relictor. Good job we decided not to add a Giant in on the Chaos side as well!

Game two was last Thursday, and this time I faced a different opponent. The guys at the club had been looking around for some army building rules that have been posted online to try out and give us a starting point for agreeing our own set of house rules for list building for Age of Sigmar. I found the Michigan GT comp set, so we decided to use the army building element of this rules set for our game.

Both of us used ‘cross over’ lists, my opponent running Beastmen while I used Bretonnians. As with my first game of Age of Sigmar (and this opponents first), we decided not to bother with the rules for Mysterious Terrain to keep things simple, and we played the ‘long board edge’ set up. I managed to pull out a win for this game as well, mainly I think by making sure I was making the most of my forces wherever I could. I made sure both my Bowmen and Men at Arms were over 20 models to take advantage of their special abilities, and I also made sure they had a Paladin on foot nearby to inspire them with that extra +1 to their hit rolls. This made a huge difference with the Bowmen’s Arrow Storm, which I fired off as soon as I could before the unit was whittled to less than 20 models and lost their extra shot each – because triple shots just isn’t enough!

In addition, I made sure that the Knights of the Realm had 10 Knights to give them all their extra attack, and that the Knights Errant were within range of the Damsel to give them their re-rolls of 1 to hit. They had been dropped to less than 10 models before combat by a boulder thrown by a Cygor, so would only be able to re-roll ones rather than everything. I also tried to make sure that my Knights were making charges rather than being charged, which makes a difference that should not be underestimated – an extra +1 to Wound and +1 to their Damage with Lance and Sword allowed them to eat through twice their number of Gors in short order.

Age of Sigmar Game Review
The lines smash into one another! FOR THE LADY!

The hesitation in the Bretonnian’s glorious charge came when the two Bray Shaman in the Beastmen army managed to summon both a Ghorgon and a Giant in the same turn! And this was only a 125 wound game!

The Ghorgon came on behind my lines, and swiftly devoured the Damsel, and on seeing this the enraged Knights of the Realm turned and charged, skewering the bloody mawed beast with their many lances. Fair to say a unit of 10 Knights of the Realm hits like a ton of bricks…

And what were the take-aways from these first two games of Age of Sigmar? I think we agreed that once the armies started to engage in melee, the way the game played wasn’t a million miles away from traditional Warhammer battles to be honest, just with different stats and different rolls. The game seemed comfortingly familiar. I have been a little concerned after seeing some battles online that when we ended up with a multi-unit scuffle in the middle of the table it would look like a huge mess, and it did a little in my first game, but with this second game with a large portion of both armies being at least partially painted, it looked cool.

The only rules we ummed and ahhed over were the rules for multi-damage weapons, because although the rules as written made sense to us for melee attacks, it seemed strange for a stone thrower attack (the Cygor’s rock), to make the target take just one save, before causing D6 wounds, so we played it that the hit multiplied into D6 1 wound hits. I have since been told that, odd as it seemed to us, the single save before determining multiple damage is apparently correct.

That aside, I thought the rules worked very well. The Knights Warhorses were stars of the game, with their two attacks each, and that meant that every mounted model in the army was kicking out a shed load of attacks for a single miniature. The one thing we did find however was that there are a lot of special abilities scattered throughout the various Warscrolls, and remembering to use all those abilities takes some organisation, like a turn by turn tick list or something equally methodical. I am pondering the best way to deal with this, but I suppose like any new set of rules, it will come with time.

Army Structure and List Building

Now a word about army structure and list building for Age of Sigmar. For some considerable time before we got hold of the Michigan GT rules set, I had been working on a formula for calculating the value of a model, based on a whole host of factors. The tables I used to calculate the value are below.

Age of Sigmar stat rating tables
Age of Sigmar stat rating tables


The values I was getting looked about right to me, though eventually I got to the point where I decided that this kind of system of generating a model value was too convoluted, and would have to get even more so in order to work for every model in every army, not to mention having to generate a list which includes every model in the game, and then get my club mates to play test the values and feedback how armies matched up. Though I normally relish this kind of a challenge – I do love a nice complex spreadsheet with multiple ‘VLOOKUP’ formulae – it didn’t feel right trying to micro mange the list building in this way. The goal was to allow two armies to face off against each other with both commanders having a shot at victory at the start of the game, and as many other people have concluded, there must be an easier and less involved way of achieving this in Age of Sigmar.

As an example, the Michigan GT for Age of Sigmar puts a cap on total wounds in the army, numbers of Heroes, Wizards, Monsters and Warmachine Warscrolls that can be included, and a cap on individual Warscroll wound totals. I do think this works pretty well, and it is the way many people’s offerings seem to be put together, but I did suggest to my opponent that in future we consider an additional factor – we split all units in the game between Common and Uncommon units, along the same lines as the old Core, Special and Rare categories in the 8th Edition army books (Core units in 8th would be Common units in Age of Sigmar), and we use a minimum of 25% of the total army wounds to be spent on Common units, just like in 8th Edition.

We thought that with luck, this would go the extra step to ensure that armies were not composed entirely of non-Hero, non-Wizard, non-Monster, non-War Machine yet highly elite units. In other words, if I have the models, there is no incentive to take any kind of Knight other than Grail Knights in my Bretonnian army, as a Grail Knight has the same number of wounds as a Knight Errant, and therefore costs the same in most systems I have seen. We wanted that extra tweak that will make armies look like armies, and just nudge players to include those iconic ‘backbone’ units in a way that was consistent and didn’t require a lengthy discussion before every battle.

I think this will work, so this is what we are going to try next. As for my first impressions of Age of Sigmar; so far so good…

Thanks for reading – Eternal Wargamer.

What do you think of Age of Sigmar so far? Let me know.


  • I’m with you on the fluff. Games Workshop can spin some pretty awesome fluff. I’m not familiar with the Fantasy fluff but I can only imagine it’s just as elaborate and detailed as the 40K fluff is. I know I would be heart broken to see 40K fluff more-or-less invalidated. Still, as you said, I’m sure you’ll all get more of it soon enough and no doubt there’s a great big plan by GW regarding it. I feel it’s going to be a long while before the entirety of Age of Sigmar is realized.

    Glad to hear the games are working out. That would have been my biggest concern with the change, having a valid army. Nobody wants to see the army/armies they’ve worked hard on over the years just vanish. All that work, all that money, just disappear. It would have been the nail in the coffin for GW had they gone that route. To that end I also hope they continue to support the old armies. Seems the least they could do.

    Great writeup and review. You gave the facts, backed it with your feelings and opinions but let the information speak for itself. Well done.

    • Frank Ford

      Thanks Thor. It had been brewing for a couple of weeks, and after the game I played on Thursday, I was ready to give my thoughts.

  • Per Hagman

    I totally agree that what I miss from old fantasy is the fluff and background. The rules does actually not bother me much.

    • Frank Ford

      Yes. Now we just need to do what I have been doing for 22 years and trust GW to do what they do and give us a great game… #keepthefaith

      • I would have more faith in GW creating an amazing background than I would a solid set of rules. The fact that the rules are good already – or at least not bad, is a good sign.

        • Frank Ford

          Agreed. I’d rather have great background and decent rules than fantastic rules and abysmal background

          • A-fucking-men.

          • khorneinquisitor

            From what I have read and seen, I suspect that they realized that the world had been boxed in and it was becoming mired like 40k is….multiple editions and no time passing. So now the nature of the fluff IS time passing and so we will have the realmgate wars. I am excited to see what they do with the different armies and how they grow…oh, and I am so happy that a) Matt Ward is no longer writing fluff or books (he isn’t is he?), and b) no mention thus far of Draigo running around in Fantasy again and fighting off armies of daemons. Fantasy was gettting out of control fluff-wise. It was like game of thrones! Killing off major characters (see- Kroak, Lady of the Lake, Queek, Settra…yeah, the list goes on and on), and a handful of characters rise to Draigo-esque ridiculousness, and really I think the end times and the fluff reset was just what the stagnating fluff needed.

            • Frank Ford

              Heu Khorneinquisitor, thanks for your thoughts. I agree the fluff had stagnated, and the End Times was certainly a shake up. At the end of Glottkin I was buzzing with all the amazing new fluff. For me however I don’t think I was prepared for quite as big a change as we got. I have concerns that with everything we have seen so far looking very different to 8th in overall appearance, how long it might be before older miniatures start to look out of place. Never I hope.

  • Paul Graham

    One of the most positive reviews of AoS I’ve read, personally I feel reinvigorated by the game and don’t get the torrent of hate.
    Love how much it’s put the game back into the hands of gamers and am really looking forward to other army releases now!

    • Frank Ford

      Just goes to show as well how strong and positive the community can be

      • That’s why I’m glad to have you writing here. It bothers me when bloggers get up on their soap box to condemn something just because it’s easy and they have an audience. Those who try and give fair information, whether positive or negative, are the people I enjoy reading and follow. Being positive and not jumping on the hate bandwagon is something I pride this blog on so you’re fitting right in.

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  • Gnaleinad

    I don’t understand. The best thing about AoS is the scenarios. The Battleplans. And you haven’t tried any. And you are giving it this late into the release. Yet no battleplan???? How can this be considered a good review?

    • Frank Ford

      Hi Gnaleinad, I think you may have misunderstood, the post was about my first impressions of playing the game within my local gaming group and not a full review, which of course you would expect to include comments on all of the battle plans and armies available.

      Even now this far after the release I think a full review would be difficult for anyone to write unless they had played all the battle plans from all the books with a variety of different forces, and even using multiple different composition systems. With the rate at which new releases are coming out I think that might be a struggle for anyone.

      Have you tried it yet? What are your thoughts on the game and the format? What about Games Workshop’s interaction with the community over it?

      Thanks for joining the conversation.

  • Phil

    I’ve never played warhammer before, but got in with age of sigmar. I like it.

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