So here goes.
With all of the drama, wailing and gnashing of teeth about Age of Sigmar, the freshly-minted replacement for the venerable Warhammer Fantasy Battle. I’ve been tossing up writing a little about it myself – I’ve certainly participated in some of the discussions, and frankly, I’ve found the extremes of both sides rather amusing. On one hand you have the WHFB faithful – angry, ragequitting, and simply not willing to play a game that’s been replaced and discontinued. On the other hand you have the new converts – so enamoured by the (lovely) new models and provision of free, simple rules that they’re overwhelmed by the new shinies and can’t wait to move on.
In the middle, there are an awful lot of people wondering aloud about whether they should rebase their existing WHFB armies, wondering how the tournament scene for AoS might work, and unsure about what to do.
As for me, I gave away WHFB years ago. I started in 3rd edition – now enjoying a renaissance as “OldHammer”. I gave it away during 4th/5th and HeroHammer since I hated the dominance of heroes and magic (and magic items). I wanted to play a game of fantasy troops, war machines and monsters with Heroes and Wizards acting as support. So I’ve got no current attachment to the game, but I do have an attachment to the background and fluff. From WHFB3, Slaves to Darkness, Zaragoz and Konrad through to Bill King’s books and (almost) everything produced for the FFG edition of WHFRP. Not to mention a shitload of the miniatures. So with that, I am sad. I’m sad to see the 30 years of world building flushed away, but more importantly, I’m sad that many of the models I’d have liked to purchase will be discontinued and become more difficult to source – even via eBay.
On the other hand, the published materials still all exist. They’re all still available, both through retailers, eBay, the secondhand market – and of course, “digital” sources – should it come to that. That’s how and why 3rd – aka Oldhammer is still a thing. And to be frank, I don’t know how important it is for us to receive any new background and fluff for the Warhammer world. The whole thing about The Old World is that it’s a melange of many other sources and inspirations anyway – and it’s pretty much complete. If anyone wants to run Cathay or Nippon, there’s nothing stopping any one of us from combining some real-world history with Warhammer-ish fiction for our own army background. People have been doing the very same for role-playing games for decades, and it’s still done on a daily basis for people’s homebrew Space Marine Chapters.
So… much like Mordheim, Necromunda and Blood Bowl – if you enjoy WHFB 1-8 or any combination of them – there’s no reason to ragequit or throw the baby out with the bathwater – just keep on playing! (Though I’m looking out for nicely priced /ragequit armies!) With AoS retaining much of the WHFB catalogue, at least in the near term, and an increasing preponderance of fantasy-friendly army figure suppliers out there (Shieldwolf, Mantic, Avatars of War, Reaper, Perry…) there should be no problem building Warhammer armies for years to come. We’re not in an EPIC 40,000 or Battlefleet Gothic situation here, where appropriate figures might be difficult to get hold of. Necromunda. Blood Ball. Inquisitor (28). Mordheim. “Oldhammer”. Even GorkaMorka. All discontinued GW games that live on easily through easily-accessible models despite the lack of “official” support. The thing that will hurt the tournament scene is if players stop playing – and let’s be honest, that was becoming a thing for WHFB anyway.
If you’re in the fence. Interested in AoS but still want to play WHFB. Too bloody easy. The rules don’t ask you to rebase your models, so unless you really want to do so for aesthetic reasons, there’s no need to do so. In AoS you (oficially) measure from the figure – not the base (though I’ll be house-ruling that particular bit of silliness!)
If you’re over Warhammer 8th due to Workshop’s shenanigans – that’s ok as well. There have never been more options on the horizon for fantasy players. Obviously, there’s Kings of War (my personal game of choice). Shieldwolf is working on a set of mass battle game rules with square bases and casualty removal. the WHFB3/Oldhammer community is (mostly) welcoming of new players even if their models aren’t all 25 years old. For skirmish, the pot is already deep – and about to be even deeper. There are rulesets like Celtos and Wrath of Kings available right now. SAGA and Lion Rampant – both historical rulesets but ones that work well for fantasy warbands – and Dragon Rampant (December) and a rumoured Fantasy variant of SAGA on the way. Mordheim, as mentioned before is still very much a thing. Song of Blades and Heroes (and its umpteen variants). This is just off the top of my head and without getting into “maybe one day” rulesets like the ones mooted by Red Box Games and Minion Miniatures and so forth.
As for Age of Sigmar – I’m certainly willing to give it a go myself, and from the couple of YouTube reports I’ve watched, it looks like it could be a bit of quick, easy and simple fun – nothing wrong with that at all. And I have to admit that I like the SigMarines – they look perfect for use as KoW Basileans in some form, I’ve seen some amazing conversions using them as a base, and to be quite blunt – I like them on their own merit as well. They’re not Empire, but then they’re not supposed to be. Similarly, I’ve always had a soft spot for much of the overdone chaos and Khorne stuff GW has created, so I’m keen to get my damn dirty paws on those as well. I’ve got a pair of boxes winging their way to me still. Hopefully they’ll be here before August. The thing is I’m thinking I might need another 2 boxes on top of that to sate my desire to have fodder available for 40k conversions as well as ones to use as intended. Hm… maybe next pay.
My main concern with the AoS rules (and it’s a big one) is the lack of any kind of balanced points or other method of creating equal armies. I’m all for friendly games with Marouda and my friends who come over, but even then I don’t want to be horribly outmatched, and I certainly don’t want to outmatch her. Because a Goblin ≠ a High Elf Swordmaster and I have both on my shelf and want to have the freedom to use them all quickly and easily – and above all – fairly.
Should I end up playing around with it, some rules – like measure from the model and not the base will simply be ignored wholesale from the get-go – but even that description shows what I think of AoS – I’m happy to play it if we can balance it, but won’t take it in any way seriously. Not that games are SRS BZNS anyway, but this seems to be on a par with Munchkin in terms of taking it seriously. It’s certainly not going to be on a par with a WHFB or KoW or SAGA – which is of course why we have angst and /ragequits in the first place.
For people affronted by the “silly” rules found in many of the free BattleScrolls but otherwise interested in the game – just ignore them. I had a back and forth with a gamer who self-describes as having ASD, and he was rather upset to the point of feeling personally affronted at feeling required to kneel, or fart, or dance, or compare moustaches in order to play. You can always opt out of the silly stuff and just use the mechanics. It seems to me though, that most people spending their time grousing about the silly rules were just using them as an excuse to bitch about AoS, when I can’t personally think of anything more easily ignored.
As to why they’re even a thing – it’s obvious. The silly amateur-theatre rules are there for the sake of in-store sales in GW retail. Simply put, they are “WAAAAAAGH” writ large. If I were the right age and mentality to go into a GW store for demo games, I’m sure that these silly rules with an (over) enthusiastic redshirt GMing the game with a bunch of other like-minded young’uns would combine to create an amazingly fun experience. GW may proudly boast that they do no market research. but they clearly have enough marketing staff on hand to understand psychology and sociology in retail. Which miniatures do you like the look of? Those Demigryph riders? Those Orc Big’uns? Those Daemons? Sure, you can use them together in a game. Nope, you don’t need any of those boring looking humans in pantaloon pants to have the Demigryphs. That’s why our new game is so awesome!
I just got my copy of Lion Rampant two days ago, and I’ve already paid for/preordered my copy of Dragon Rampant. Frostgrave may or may not be something I add to my rules collection. Celtos and Wrath of Kings are both just sitting around here, and I’ve got a copy of someone else’s Kings of War PDF because I’m still waiting on Mantic. I’m not short on rules to use with my models. having said that, AoS will probably get played precisely [i]because[/i] it is so simple – at least through the scenarios in the book. Though I have the feeling that I’ll ultimately be treating it like Munchkin in terms of taking it seriously or frequency. Something to have a quick muck around with occasionally and a bit of fun before moving onto the main event of the gaming session.
Mostly though – I’ll be playing SAGA for skirmish – probably with fantasy figures to get started while I work on my Vikings and their little mates, and KoW for the big battles using everything from AoS figures to Citadel to Mantic to Reaper to Shieldwolf to Rackham prepaints and Schleich animals. And everything in between.
If you’re looking for a new game, I obviously recommend trying Kings of War since it’s my game of choice, but if you’re not at all interested – that’s cool as well. Keep playing 8th. GW can’t stop you, after all.