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Warhammer: Age of Sigmar

Updated on August 25, 2015

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Warhammer: Age of Sigmar

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What happened to Warhammer Fantasy Battle?

Warhammer Fantasy Battle (WFB), which was in its 8th edition, is no longer officially supported by Games Workshop, as of July 2015.

Warhammer: Age of Sigmar is a very different game and it has replaced WFB as Games Workshop's current range of fantasy miniatures and rules. This doesn't affect Warhammer 40k, which is their sci-fi range.

The Warhammer 'Old World' was destroyed in the background story during the events of 'The End Times' and its inhabitants were all killed, displaced or sucked into the warp. The timeline has now advanced thousands of years and a new era has begun in a new setting.

Games Workshop has released rules (free on their website) for all existing WFB armies, so players can use their old collections using the new Age of Sigmar ruleset (also free on their website). Nothing is stopping anyone from continuing to play any edition of Warhammer Fantasy Battle, but no new rules will be released and it may become difficult to find other players.

Some Warhammer fans have starting using the Kings of War rules with their old models, or started developing updated versions of the 8th edition rules, such as The Ninth Age. It's not yet clear whether these rulesets will be widely adopted.

What?! Why?!

Warhammer Fantasy simply wasn't profitable enough (compared to 40k). The veteran players already had huge painted armies and were only buying the odd model here and there. Potential new players were put off by the cost and effort of building a viable army from scratch. Starting players could easily buy someone else's army off ebay, so didn't bring much revenue to GW. Other companies were also selling compatible or similar models. It wasn't worth holding all the stock of hundreds of different model types when they just weren't shifting.

It seems that GW wanted a new game with a lower barrier of entry and simpler rules to attract new players, while pacifying old players by allowing them to use their old armies.

Why has Age of Sigmar caused such controversy?

The Age of Sigmar rules are massively streamlined and simplified from WFB 8th edition. The game is designed to be easy to learn but difficult to master. However, some fans feel the rules are too simple and less strategic in comparison to earlier editions of Warhammer, amongst many other complaints.

Particularly controversial changes to the rules include:

  • addition of novelty rules that require players to shout, dance, stare or compare moustaches at certain points in the game;
  • lack of any points system for army composition;
  • deployment rules that suggest players just keep deploying models until they both decide to stop;
  • sudden death objectives as the only balance mechanism to prevent one player from deploying too many models;
  • generous magic summoning rules that allow players to constantly summon reinforcements;
  • the apparent loss of 'rank and flank' tactics, charge arcs, and manouvering unit formations;
  • certain 'broken' unit synergies or tactics that allow one player to spoil the game.

Many fans are also upset about:

  • the destruction of the Old World, which had been the focus of the hobby since the early 1980s;
  • the move from square bases to round bases;
  • the potential discontinuation of their armies in future;
  • the short lifespan of the End Times rule books before they were superceded by AoS;
  • the aesthetic of the new faction (Stormcast Eternals, seen as fantasy versions of 40k Space Marines);
  • the currently shallow and patchy backstory;
  • the move from battling with ranked blocks of troops to looser groups of skirmishers;
  • the renaming of races and armies in the game seemingly for reasons of intellectual property enforcement;
  • the apparent targetting of the game at new and younger players rather than older Warhammer veterans.

What are the positives?

Rules are Streamlined: There are only 4 pages of rules, which significantly lowers the barrier for entry into the game and encourages new players to give it a try. All models and units have their own rules and abilities on self-contained 'Warscrolls'. Previous editions of Warhammer had hundreds of pages of core rules in the main rulebook plus multiple army books containing rules for each army. You no longer need to compare stats of your models such as Initiative, Weapon Skill, and Strength/Toughness with your opponent's unit before rolling the dice. The problem of constantly having to cross-reference rules in various books has been eliminated, thus speeding up the game dramatically.

Rules are Free: The core rules and Warscrolls for every existing Warhammer race are available free from GW.

New Models: Regardless of personal tastes, the new range of Stormcast Eternal models and Khorne models are technically very impressive. Individual models also look better on big round bases than small squares.

New Background: This means new realms to explore, narratives to forge, characters to develop, factions to be built, as well as remnants and survivors of the Age of Myth and even the Old World to be unearthed.

Power to the Players: Games Workshop has relinquished responsibility for balancing the game to the players and tournament organizers. Expect to see various forms of army composition rules emerging and the best ones gaining traction with the Warhammer community. This is much better than having to shelve one of your favourite units for 10 years until a new Armybook comes out because it is too weak for its point cost. It also means the death of the 'netlist' of optimum units for each army, so expect to see much more variety in opponents' armies.

Works on a Smaller Scale: Age of Sigmar is designed to be fought with smaller warbands and to scale up to epic battles. This allows new players to get started without requiring a huge investment in models.

Scenario/Campaign Driven and Modular: The two hardback books "The Age of Sigmar" and "The Quest for Ghal Maraz" contain numerous scenario based campaigns set on different realms. There are different sets of battle modifiers depending on the time and place of the battle you are fighting.

It's FUN: Age of Sigmar is all about painting a beautiful collection of models and enjoying a fun game with your opponent. The new rules and warscrolls provide for plenty of entertaining and cinematic moments. Many units that never saw the light of day due to weak rules or high points costs are now viable.

Better than Nothing: WFB was not profitable enough for Games Workshop to continue developing the game and releasing new models. They could have abandoned the fantasy genre completely, but instead decided to take a risk in founding a new setting to try to reinvigorate the Warhammer franchise. At least they gave the Old World a good send-off with the End Times series.

What is the new background history?

After the destruction of the Old World In the End Times, we are now in a completely different setting where there are eight 'Mortal Realms' which are based on the previous eight winds of magic and represent the nature of each wind. So the Realm of Fire is all volcanoes and lava rivers, the Realm of Life is all forests and waterfalls, etc. The realms were all "born" from the maelstrom of the Old World but appear to exist in different dimensions or planes. After a period of peace and prosperity, all of these realms have now fallen to chaos, apart from the Realm of Heavens, which the god-king Sigmar controls. He has built a new army of Stormcast Eternals to free the mortal realms from the grip of chaos. There are three ages:

- The Age of Myth: When Sigmar discovered the Eight Realms, they were "still covered in the dew of creation, yet much within those fractured kingdoms was already ancient". Portals (Realmgates) exist between the realms but it's not clear who built them. During the Age of Myth, Sigmar travelled between the realms smiting monsters and finding enclaves of fairly primitive mortals struggling to survive. He led them to establish allied civilisations, and unearthed or awoke various deities from the Old World such as Nagash, Alarielle, and Gork/Mork. The details of this age have been lost in history, becoming myths and legends, but relics and crumbling architecture of the era can sometimes be uncovered. It is described as a Golden Age, a brief utopia, a time of cooperation, enlightenment and progress.

- The Age of Chaos: Led by Archaon, the chaos army attacked the Allpoints, a bridge that connected all Eight Realms to each other. Each realm held an Arcway onto this bridge, and Archaon attacked them all at once to get into the nexus and take control. The stalemate was only broken when Nagash betrayed the Great Alliance, letting chaos take the Shyish Arcway, and thus the Allpoints. All of the realms were then invaded by the forces of chaos, apart from the Realm of Heavens, which Sigmar sealed off before going into hiding to build his army of Stormcast Eternals. Many refugees fled the other realms to Azyheim, the only great city to survive the Age of Chaos. The civilisations from the Age of Myth were cast down and all that remained were fugitive enclaves and hidden strongholds. Whole ancient cultures were wiped out or enslaved. The chaos gods then started fighting amongst each other, allowing the last survivors in the Eight Realms some respite.

- The Age of Sigmar: The Stormcast Eternals ride bolts of lightning onto the mortal realms and begin driving back chaos to gain control of the realmgates and allow the full armies of Azyrheim to march through them. The various hidden groups of mortals, or free peoples, come out from hiding to join them. Sigmar also sends out messengers to the eight realms, hoping to reunite the old alliance between all races of gods and men. This first phase is called 'The Realmgate Wars' and is the present day in the Age of Sigmar setting.

What are the Nine Realms?

The character of each realm represents the strand of magic it is based on. As for what the realms are... they are like continents drifting in space. They aren't round like planets, but much more fantastical and abstract.

Azyr - Heavens

Aqshy - Fire

Shyish - Death

Ghyran - Life

Hysh - Light

Ghur - Beasts

Chamon - Metal

Ulgu - Shadows

Chaos

How did Sigmar survive the destruction of the Old World and discover these realms?

Sigmar clung to the burning core of the Old World as it drifted through the void, and was discovered by the celestial drake called Dracothion. This star dragon showed him the hidden paths to the realms and set the core of the Old World in the sky above the Realm of Heavens.

How long will Age of Sigmar be supported by Games Workshop?

Games Workshop have replaced the 40k logo and Space Marine statue at their HQ with an Age of Sigmar logo and Stormcast statue. It has also replaced Warhammer Fantasy on their webpage. All signs point to GW being heavily committed to and invested in the success of AoS.

The initial release seems to have attracted a good amount of interest, despite the backlash from some Warhammer players.

This isn't a standalone boxset like Space Hulk or Dreadfleet; it is likely to be supported for a long time to come.

How do I have a balanced game without official points values?

There are several options:

  • Follow the rules as written and select sudden death objectives for the outnumbered player.
  • Discuss with your opponent and agree on two armies that generally look balanced.
  • Limit the number of wounds in each army to eg. max 100.
  • Also limit the number of wizards, monsters and warmachines to eg. max 2 of each.
  • Use an unofficial detailed points system such as the Age of Sigmar SDK.
  • Use an unofficial rough points system such as the Louisville Azyr Comp.
  • Use an unofficial pool choice based system such as Clash of Swords Comp.

Which is the most powerful army?

This depends entirely on the army composition rules being used and other restrictions you decide to put in place. Early signs point to the Lizardmen (Seraphim) and Ogre Kingdoms (Ogors) being quite powerful.

What are the Stormcast Eternals?

The Stormcast Eternals are mortal warriors whom Sigmar hand-picked and teleported out from battles against chaos. They have undergone an arduous process that imbues them with divinity and lightning crackling through their veins. Their weapons and armour are made of Sigmarite mined from the core of the Old World. They are still humans inside their armour, albeit very enhanced humans. Some of them retain memories of their former selves. When they die they magically teleport back to Azyrheim to be reborn but lose part of their humanity each time. They are organised into Stormhosts, which have Warrior Chambers from which armies are drawn. They can travel from Azyrheim to the mortal realms via lightning bolts but cannot travel back this way, meaning they have to secure Realmgates.

There are many parallels with the Space Marines of Warhammer 40k.

Do I have to rebase my army?

Games Workshop has said that bases don't matter and you can even use a mixture of square and round bases. You measure distances from model-to-model, and there are no template weapons, so bases shouldn't be a problem.

In reality the consensus is to measure from base-to-base instead of model-to-model, to avoid a whole range of issues. It's fine playing with a square base army but it looks like most people planning on playing in the medium to long term also plan on rebasing to rounds.

Have prices gone up?

Yes.

Well the new models are pretty expensive compared to the old ones... but the old models repackaged with round bases seem to be about the same price as before.

How do I decide which army to use?

The best advice is to always choose the army which has models that appeal to you, that you will enjoy collecting and painting.

Currently the new hawtness is the Stormcast Eternals and the Khorne Bloodbound. You can pick up their models for cheap in the new Age of Sigmar box set and a range of new models has just been released. No other armies are guaranteed to get new releases or be supported in future, but many old armies can be seen in the new artwork and photographs. Some old units have been repackaged with round bases and feature in the new AoS books.

How do I build my army?

Choose one of the four Grand Alliances and stick to that. It's also better in the long run to choose one Faction from that alliance because some opponents/tournaments may not approve of your mixing factions.

You could look at the Warscroll Compendiums (http://www.games-workshop.com/en-GB/Warhammer-Age-of-Sigmar-Rules) and base your army around a Warscroll Battalion for your faction. These are fixed armies that give various benefits such as +1 bravery or special bonus rules.

There is also an App available for iOS and Android that lets you select and group warscrolls into an army.

Can I use my old army?

Yes. See the GW website for Warscrolls providing rules for all 8th edition armies. These can be found for individual units or models on their store pages or as compendiums for whole races. There are even rules for Chaos Dwarfs available from ForgeWorld. You can also form your armies into fixed 'Warscroll Battalions' for bonus abilities.

Which armies should I avoid if they are getting phased out?

Hard to say, but to speculate....

Tomb Kings don't really fit with the aesthetic of Nagash and the Mortarchs, which seems to be the new direction for undead, so could see little support.

The Empire and Bretonnians seem closely tied to the setting of the Old World and haven't made much of an appearance other than a few sigmarites in photos with the Stormcast. Seems they are out of favour.

It seems Lizardmen are kind of disconnected from the new setting, and just show up randomly and disappear for no clear reason, so their range could just be left as it is.

Elves seem kind of absent from the new setting, and dwarfs seem to be split into two groups. Both could be getting a whole new look.

What is in the Age of Sigmar rulebooks?

The scenarios in the 96 page rulebook from the Age of Sigmar boxset represent the invasion of the Brimstone Peninsula in the Realm of Fire by the Hammers of Sigmar, who eventually succeed in their campaign to reopen the first Realmgate.

The scenarios in the 264 page hardback rulebook 'Warhammer: Age of Sigmar' begin where the previous mini-campaign left off, with different invading Stormhosts linking up to push on and attack the Gate of Wrath, a second Realmgate, which connects the Realm of Fire to the Realm of Chaos. Their goal isn't to open this one up, but to shut it down.


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    • Arioch profile image

      Gordon D Easingwood 23 months ago from Wakefield, United Kingdom

      I have to say the lack of a points system seems to make it a difficult game to get into, also the victory conditions seem too abusable at the moment. Seems difficult to make the transition from 8th to AOS!