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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Tyrant Zaadesh Conversion Commission

Here's another conversion commission, this time it's Skorne Tyrant Zaadesh. The client wanted the model posed like this image from Privateer Press:

 

 

The model's original position lent itself to the pose, but only if it was mirrored. The client was fine with this, and here is the result:

 


 

The model was cut and the positioning of each part adjusted and pinned into its new pose. I repaired the detail around the new joins, which involved sculpting the belt and the upper arms.

 




 

The sword hilt was replaced with guitar wire, with either end pinned into the blade and pommel. The hands were then sculpted from scratch over top of the new hilt.

 


 

You can see some pictures of the painted model on the Draconic Awards site: http://www.draconicawards.com/pastevents/?p=viewentry&eid=1010&etID=350


In other news, I've been making steady progress painting my Skaven Stormfiends (and they've been crushing it on the battlefield). Hopefully I'll have them finished soon. I'll post some pictures when they're done.


'Til next time!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Results Are In! Is THIS what GW Wanted?

There was a pretty good turnout on the poll. Thanks to everyone who voted! We had around 155 on each of the first two questions and 133 on the last question. So, what does it all mean?


First question: "If you are a CURRENT Warhammer player, what are your plans now that Age of Sigmar is here?"


I got a lot of comments about the choices, mainly asking why there wasn't an option for playing both 8th Edition and Age of Sigmar. The only answer is that I was thinking in terms of one's main game. So, what would your main game be: Warhammer 8th or Age of Sigmar?


Out of 154 people, 11 said they don't play Warhammer and don't ever plan to. Of the remaining 143 votes, we have:


23 are happy to update and play AoS.

17 are playing AoS because it's current, but wish GW had stuck with 8th or introduced a proper 9th edition.

51 are sticking with 8th or an earlier edition of Warhammer.

3 are shelving their Warhammer models for a while and playing a different GW game.

29 are shelving their Warhammer models for a while and playing a different NON-GW game.

1 is quitting Warhammer altogether and not playing anything else.

19 are not a current players, but are going to start playing AoS.


So, to add a little analysis to the data:


There are 59 people who will be playing AoS, 19 of which were not current Warhammer players, they are either people getting back into the game after a hiatus or totally new players. But 17 people said they are only updating because it's what's current, and they would have preferred 8th or a new 9th edition.


84 people, however have said they will not be playing AoS. 54 are sticking with an older edition of Warhammer, 3 are shelving their models to play a different GW game (not necessarily lost customers in those two categories; people playing 8th edition Warhammer could still continue buying GW's models), but 30 are not going to be playing any GW games after leaving Warhammer.


So, out of those 143 people, in a strictly "what are you going to play" sense, 19 are new or regained Warhammer players (but not necessarily new customers; for example, they could have already been playing 40K), and 30 are lost customers, people leaving to play non-GW games. In total, 101 players are dissatisfied with The Age of Sigmar, but not all of those have stopped playing Warhammer. At the end of the count, GW is down 11 players.



Next question: "For people who are playing or planning to play AoS, which of these categories best describes you?"  

 

Essentially, I was trying to find out how many people are going to play Age of Sigmar, and how this might relate to sales for GW.


Again, of 155 people we have 5 who said they never played Warhammer and never will. 31 people no longer play Warhammer and 26 quit because of age of Sigmar. The remaining 93 voted as follows:


25 currently play Warhammer and buy GW models, and either already have, or soon will be, updating to AoS.

20 haven't played Warhammer in a while, but will be getting back in using AoS rules and ONLY their old GW models.

27 haven't played Warhammer in a while, but will be getting back in using the AoS rules and a mix of old and new GW models.

8 haven't played Warhammer in a while, but will be getting back in using the AoS rules and a totally new army of GW models.

11 never played Warhammer before, but will be playing AoS now with GW models.

2 never played Warhammer before, but will be playing AoS now with 3rd party models.


This one can be looked at from a customer gain/ loss and from a sales potential. 93 people will be playing Age of Sigmar, but 26 people say they quit because of Age of Sigmar. So here we have GW up 67 Warhammer players.


Of the total 93 players, 22 plan to play using their old GW models or 3rd party models, which translates to no new sales for GW. But 19 people are playing with a new GW army or are new to Warhammer and will be starting AoS with GW models, which means completely new sales from these players. 27 are returning to Warhammer via AoS, and will be using a mix of old and new models, which can translate to some new sales. 25 people currently play Warhamer and buy GW models and will be playing AoS. Presumably, their buying habits will remain the same.


So out of 93 Age of Sigmar players, 46 will potentially generate sales that weren't there before. New Warhammer sales are new Warhammer sales, but some of those customers could be existing 40K players, and their monthly hobby budget (ie: the amount of money they give to GW each month) doesn't necessarily double just because they are playing two games. They might progress with each a little more slowly. Could this be a robbing Peter to pay Paul situation?


The Averages*


The results can be more or less averaged together. Each poll had a turnout of about 150 people total. Each one yielded close to 50 people that are getting on board and potentially generating varying degrees of new sales for GW via Age of Sigmar. And each poll had about 30 people quitting because of Age of Sigmar, plus the rest that seem generally disenfranchised by the state of affairs and are staying with the older edition, or playing AoS but not generating any new sales, etc.


Was it worth it? I guess time will tell. 

 

*I realize this data is purely anecdotal, and it was hardly collected or analyzed with any scientific accuracy.  What do I know? GW will probably make gangbusters on Age of Sigmar.


A quick recap of the third and final question: "To everyone who IS playing AoS, what attracted you the MOST?"


First off, there were 66 people who said they are not playing AoS. The remaining 67 votes fell along the following lines:


15 like the fact that the rules are free.

14 like the actual rules and warscrolls and would have paid for them if they weren't free.

14 like the fact that they don't need very many models to play.

5 like the fact that they can mix and match any factions I like.

2 like the new models and armies.

5 like the new story and setting.

12 like nothing in particular, and are just updating to the current version of Warhammer


I think the new models and story are the clear losers there. People seem to like the rules though.


And even though I've only played one game so far, I must admit, other than the fact that the battle seems to devolve into a disorganized clump of models in the center of the table (and I'm not the only one to make that observation), it plays just fine. I find myself thinking about army builds and new ways to use units, and I think Age of Sigmar could make for an interesting game.


I haven't even been bothered by the Stormcast's appearance since I made the visual connection between their armor and Balthasar Gelt's golden halo mask (the new boltstorm-bolter-gaussbow cannon notwithstanding). I think the golden armor and death masks look pretty nice.


But here's something else to consider:


I've been playing Warhammer since the 5th edition, and I can't think of any edition that underwent such a drastic house-ruling –practically out of the box– to the degree that Age of Sigmar has. Even 8th edition, which people will argue "ruined" Warhammer, was played pretty much verbatim. Believe me, 8th has its issues, but I never encountered anyone who actually house ruled the magic section and spells, or a store who disallowed the Horde formation. I think the closest we came was the Swedish Comp System, which didn't alter the way the game played at all, it merely provided a scale on which to grade armies, and gave a handicap to the after-game scoring for tournament games where a particularly hard army went up against a soft one. It didn't change points, game play, or add any hard restrictions.


The internet, however, has been deluged with ideas for Age of Sigmar composition, point costs, and house rules. Essentially, even the players who have enthusiastically moved on to the Age of Sigmar seem to be dissatisfied with how the game plays to the point that they are rewriting the rules to make it "work." It's as if they are only playing because it's there, because it's the new, official version of Warhammer. Even to these people who "like" and "want to play" Age of Sigmar, at the end of the day the game is apparently just not good enough.


Which is a shame because I would want to try the game as it's written and make that work, but any place I go, I'm likely to encounter a completely different set of house rules:


Some stores or groups do not allowing summoning unless you already have the unit on the table. Some require having a preset pool of "reserve scrolls" that you can summon from, while others have outlawed summoning altogether. (Yes, really!) Army composition attempts come in the form of restricting the total number of wounds in a unit or in an army, the total number of characters or monsters, not duplicating certain units. Rule modifications include changing the shooting rules to disallow shooting at or with units that are within melee range of the enemy, adding a "Look Out Sir!" saving throw for character models.


And the worst part is that many units in the game already have rules that come into play under those specific circumstances– shooting penalties when close to the enemy, bonuses in combat for units over a certain size, etc. The game is less than a month old and people are already trying to over-complicate it to the point of making it unrecognizable. (I wonder how many of them are the same ones who complained about the difficulty of introducing new players to Warhammer because they needed to read the rules, and the army book, and all the FAQs and errata. Yeah, I guess negotiating a million different, conflicting sets of house rules is much easier.)


I guess one could argue that taking the game and making it your own is exactly what GW wanted by creating a system without points or army composition, or structure. But it seems to have just fractured the Warhammer gaming community. Was that part of their plan too?


'Til next time!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Poll Time!

I've seen a lot of talk online about people rage-quitting Warhammer, or refusing to update to Age of Sigmar, and even people who didn't like the change at first being turned around once they tried it. Others have been out of the game for a while and Age of Sigmar has gotten them excited about Warhammer again.
 

We've all had the rules for about a week and the starter set has officially dropped, so I'm curious to see where the community at large stands on the matter. I think we have enough readers here that if everyone answers the three poll questions below, that should give us a decent sampling. So let us know what you think, and feel free to elaborate in the comments section! (Scroll down for the polls.)

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Age of Sigmar, The Best Edition of 40K Yet!

Flippant title aside, in my last post I made the prediction that GW would soon be adopting the Age of Sigmar rules system for Warhammer 40K. After playing a game, I think Age of Sigmar will be perfect for 40K. But I'll get to that in a minute...


My buddy Jay and I got together to play a game the other day. I fielded my Vampire Counts, and he used his Chaos Daemons. Thanks to Jay for the pictures he took during the battle! 

 

We brought the following forces:

Necromancer (General)
Cairn Wraith
20 Zombies
25 Skeletons
12 Skeleton Archers
Corpse Cart with Balefire
5 Dire Wolves

Herald of Khorne (General)
10 Bloodletters
Skull Cannon of Khorne
Herald of Tzeentch
10 Pink Horrors
Burning Chariot of Tzeentch

 

 

I'm not going to get into a full-blown battle report, but here it is in a nutshell:


Jay had the Sudden Death option and chose the large rock on the left as the scenery piece he needed to take at the end of round four. My skeletons wiped out the the bloodletters on the right. The wolves killed Jay's herald of tzeentch and damaged the chariot enough for my zombies to get in and finish it off. The skull cannon moved forward and killed my corpse cart, necromancer, and archers. The zombies pressed forward into the pink horrors, who summoned a new unit of bloodletters. With my characters dead, my units lost a lot of their fighting bonuses and eventually dwindled to nothing.


Jay was unable to take the objective, but eliminated my forces in round six. The whole battle lasted about three hours, but we were referencing rules and flipping through warscrolls. If we were more familiar we probably could have played in half the time. We each summoned a new unit, and my undead regiments were replenishing their losses, so each of our forces grew beyond their starting sizes.


As I suspected, the game rules play fine, but they do not deliver what I want from an army-scale, regimental wargame.


On The Subject of No Point Values


The fact that models do not have any point values is a shock to be sure. Rumors abound that there is a large rulebook coming, and that it will have a way of organizing and balancing armies. Other rumors claim that there will never be any points. Games Workshop plans projects years in advance. If they were planning a big rulebook, they would have been working on it before Age of Sigmar even went to press.


If the book in the Age of Sigmar starter set doesn't refer players to a large rulebook, or even mention it, I'm confident that I can call B.S. on the rumors of a formal rulebook. We may see a campaign book, and it might have scenarios with specific army lists for the scenarios. It may contain more battlescroll formations, but even those don't offer any balance because they only list what units are in the force and in no way address the size of those units.


So, where does that leave us? I guess gamers need to have a conversation with each other before every game about the size and, more importantly, the type of game they want to play. But I don't yet see any way to balance it. Model count or total wounds aren't viable because five Skeleton Warriors is not equal to five Skaven Jezzails, when the Jezzails can potentially inflict 10 wounds from 30-inches away in a single round of shooting.


With regard to how victory is counted: You need to completely eliminate every enemy model to claim a major victory. If the game runs out of time (as will be the case more often than not if people play in timed settings), you can count a minor victory if you suffered a lower percentage of casualties than your opponent. Here's the problem with that:


Models added to your army through summoning and such do not count toward your total army size, but do count toward your percentage of casualties suffered. So, if Army A starts with 10 models and summons 10 more, it only needs to suffer 10 casualties in total to have lost 100% of its starting number of models. If his opponent, Army B, began the game with 20 models and didn't summon any more, and loses 19 models over the course of the game, he wins. Even though Army A has 10 models still in play, and Army B only has 1, Army B wins based on how the casualties are calculated.


Perhaps this is intentional to help keep summoning in check? It seems really skewed, though. Another example would be taking a powerful model like Nagash. And only Nagash. He will presumably be outnumbered by a third, and will have the Sudden Death option of simply staying alive for six turns, summoning other powerful models to fight for him. Now, if the game runs out of time, Nagash will lose if the enemy has managed to kill one model (100% of Nagash's starting size). Even if Nagash has eliminated 90% of the opposing force.


The game that Jay and I played was, I think, nicely balanced. Knowing what I know now, I could have played a little differently and pulled out a victory (I had forgotten to run in some of the earlier turns and should have focused more attention on his pink horrors). Neither of us were trying to "game" the system, and that resulted in an enjoyable gaming experience.


I think the way that the rules are written, they will work just fine for friendly games or games where the players set up a specific scenario. If people want to play a hyper-competitive game, not so much. Or at least, the competitive circuit will get out of control really fast. GW's Most Important Rule needs to change from "roll a dice to resolve rule disputes" to "don't be a dickhead."


I perceive the lack of points as being the most problematic issue with setting up and playing a game. Gone are the days of calling up your friend for a "2000-point" game, writing your list and simply showing up ready to play. I much prefer having a standard by which to build an army, rather than bringing my entire collection and letting deployment determine the size of the game.


On Warscroll Rules


I think the rules in the warscrolls look pretty solid. I haven't read them all, but I gave the Vampire Counts a good look over. I like the way the skeletons and zombies are differentiated by how their attack bonuses add up. Skeletons get more attacks in larger units, and zombies get better hit and wound rolls in large groups. And both gain bonuses for being close to a character or corpse cart. Multiple zombie units can merge into a single group, which is kind of neat. I think the flavor of the Vampire Counts has been maintained, but I wish the characters had more options available to them. Other than the Strigoi Ghoul King, it seems that the variety from the different vampire bloodlines is all but gone, which is disappointing from a rules standpoint, but I can still model my vampires to look like whatever bloodline I imagine them to be. I'm not forgetting the lore, even if GW has.


I'm not going to comment on the "wacky special rules." If anyone doesn't already make "pew pew" and explosion sounds, and have their models scream in agony when they die, they're doing it wrong. I do agree that that sort of stuff doesn't need to be codified in a formal rule, but we're all adults here; I think we can come to a rational consensus when we're playing with our little toy men.


Many of the units have options for command models: standard bearers, musicians, and champions. Where in the past you might leave out a musician in favor of spending those points on another trooper, now there is literally no reason to not take full command for all of your units because the command options cost nothing. That's fine; I've often considered units without full command to be nothing more than rabble anyway. And to people who think that they should take units of only one model so that the model can be a champion, and never take Battleshock tests, I say that you can't take very many units of a single model. Which leads me to my next point:


On Game Size


Last time, I mentioned how the consensus seems to be that Age of Sigmar is supposed to attract players because of the low model count. I don't know how accurate that's going to turn out to be. Most of the units have minimums of five or ten, and some get bonuses for having larger sizes. Skeletons, for example, gain +1 attack if the unit is 20 or more, and +2 attacks if the unit is 30 or more. So, players are encouraged to field large units if they want all the bonuses.


In addition, every army has the option to summon more models to the battlefield. So even a game of 20-30 models can find itself with 50 or more models in play. If players were attracted to the game because they don't need to buy more models, they are going to find themselves missing out on tactical advantages unless they buy more models.


So, GW has created a game with no balance and a situation where whoever spends more wins. Which is... exactly what dissenters of Warhammer have been waiting for?


Model Posing and Movement


It's been said that you should model your miniatures with arms outstretched so they get extra reach, or leaning back to make it more difficult for them to be charged. Measurements are taken from the model, not the base, so positioning doesn't really play into it when measuring. The front of the model is the front of the model whether it's the model's torso, arm, or sword. You are always measuring from the same point. Some people seem to think that you could move your model up and then turn it so its outstretched weapon is closer to the intended charge target, gaining a bonus of a few inches when it comes time to measure the model's charge distance. That is simply not the case because, as the rules state, "no part of the model may move further than the model's move characteristic." Which means, that sword can't have moved more than the model's move value.


However, that means turning a model at all can be problematic. This wolf, for example, can move straight forward, measuring from the tip of its nose. If it turns to the side, however, the tail will have moved too far. If players want to move and turn a model, they need to measure from the back, and the total distance at the front of the model will be shorter than its total move value.


Imagine the white line represents the total move characteristic for the model.

 

But turning a model really doesn't matter because models no longer have any designated front or arc of sight. So a model can simply move or charge sideways. How someone models their miniatures isn't going to give them any advantage when it comes to measuring movement and charges, so it's really a non-issue.

 

 

The model's facing is completely unimportant except for aesthetic value. But it can lead to situations like this, where long models are better served advancing down the field sideways. This corpse cart, for example, can have more range to buff the units around it, and a wider area in which to charge enemies in front of it if it's positioned sideways.

 

 

When it comes to weapons, this is where an actual modeling advantage can come into play. Models with long weapons (as Jay and I found with the gigantic swords on his bloodletters) can reach between their comrades when determining who is in range to attack enemy models! In fact, modeling spears angled forward, rather than vertical, allows the back ranks to be within melee range after piling in to attack. (Spears have the added benefit of being able to attack enemies within two inches of the model. In this case, that's two inches beyond the tip of the spear.) These melee rules also make it a little awkward to see and count how many models are actually in range to attack since a random sword, arm, or hat feather might make all the difference.

 

 

Welcome to the age of truly modeling for advantage. With this regard, and with regard to measuring when moving models we'll really need to refer back to the new Most Important Rule: "Don't be a dick." I can't tell whether GW is actively trying to discourage or attract power gamers.


To Tray Or Not To Tray


People have asked about keeping their regiments on movement trays, and you certainly can. But there are no rules for moving in a block, and there is no such thing as "ranks" anymore. In my game I discovered that trays are fine for deployment, but become useless the moment the unit gets in combat:

 

 

As soon as the unit piles in for its melee attacks, it spreads off of the tray to envelop and get as many models as possible within striking distance. (Look, we can "lap around" again!)

 

 

Then, the enemy piles in when they attack...

 

 

Once the fight is over, the unit doesn't reform in any way, so it's spread out and scattered. Movement is based on the individual model, so in order to maintain forward momentum, the unit stays scattered unless you hold the lead models back and let the ones in the rear catch up and reform using their actual movement.

 

 

That may seem more realistic from a movement standpoint, but it makes for games that are a cluttered mess. Here's a shot of our game, somewhere around turn five:

 

 

Remember the 6th or 7th edition rules where Skirmishing units moved as a "clump" of models in whatever shape you wanted? In Age of Sigmar, every unit moves like that. Even if you try to keep them ranked on trays, they will end up in a loose formation, as I described above. Warhammer was always a nice looking game. Even if people played with unpainted models on crummy terrain, the game still looked neat and clean. Not so much anymore.

 

That's not my casualty pile in the corner, that's my army.  In play.


Something else I noted is that GW has managed to eliminate the use of unit fillers– those scenic blocks some players use to artificially bulk up their regiments. Where it would be fine to have a 60mm base with a miniature diorama creating a scenic graveyard element in the middle of a unit of skeletons, that scenic piece isn't really a model. So, what used to count as a 25-man regiment, is now only playable as the 16 actual skeleton models around the perimeter. Very clever, GW.


On The Rules and Gameplay


All this is not to say that the system is without it's advantages. There are a lot of things you don't consider until you try it in practice, offering new tactical challenges:

 

For one thing, units can adopt square formations, or zig-zag formations. Remember the dreaded scenatio of units being "drawn into combat" because they were too close to the charging unit? That's back because any models within three inches of an enemy get to fight. A unit with spears could be formed right behind a softer unit in front, like archers.The spearmen will be within three inches of the enemy in front of the archers, and so will be able to fight.


Models are never stuck in combat. During movement, a unit can freely move away from enemy models (called retreating, if they start their move within 3 inches of an enemy). The unit cannot retreat and then shoot or charge another unit, but it does allow players to get a unit out of combat (if it's an important character, or is outmatched) and get one of their more "killy" units in there instead. This also means the end of the traditional "tarpit" unit, since nothing can ever be stuck in combat.


One Idea I had was regarding my dire wolves, who get a bonus on turns when they charge. I could have a couple units of wolves, charge with one and then, in the next turn, pull them back and charge with the second unit of wolves. That would keep a rolling charge bonus going as the dire wolves took turns tearing apart whatever they were fighting. This would work out nicely if I get two turns in a row. (You heard correctly: You roll to see who goes first in each battle round, so you could potentially go second in round one, and then first in round two getting two actions from all of your units. Sounds great, right?)


Magic has really been simplified. A Wizard simply rolls two dice to beat the casting value of his spell. An enemy wizard can unbind the spell by beating the casting roll with his two dice. And that's it. But, in order to unbind a spell, the dispelling Wizard needs line of sight to the casting Wizard. So, by keeping your wizards hidden behind buildings, they can cast completely unhindered. They won't be able to see any enemy wizards to dispel their spells, however.


Models can now shoot at enemies in combat, and can shoot even if they are in a combat themselves. They can also shoot, then charge into combat. I think that change works really well for creating the illusion of Space Marines firing their bolters as they rush across the battlefield and into hand-to-hand combat. It also addresses the question "why can't my marines fire their bolters at point-blank range in combat?" Well, now they can. Or at least, they will be able to soon.


The Verdict


I think the Age of Sigmar rules– while not appropriate for Warhammer– will be great for Warhammer 40K. I read the 7th edition Warhammer 40K rules, and they just seemed unnecessarily convoluted with regard to how to remove casualties and calculate cover saves. I think getting into a transport is covered in three separate special rules, rather than just one special rule that scales for model size. Fliers, snap shots, rapid fire... Ugh.


A rule set doesn't need to be complicated to be enjoyable. I'm not at all put off by a 4-page rule set. I think these rules work just fine, and the unit rules on the warscrolls aren't bad. I don't even mind the loss of comparing Weapon Skill, Strength, and Toughness. Most of the time that boiled down to a 4+ anyway. But these rules are clearly more appropriate for 40K than they are for Fantasy.


I'd be curious to know what a 40K player thinks of the Age of Sigmar rules being applied to that game, and the codices being replaced with datasheets. (I think we'll all know what they think soon.) Other than streamlining things, I don't think the game would really change that much. That would get me back into 40K.


I'd like to try a few more games of Age of Sigmar before I completely write it off for Fantasy. I'm finding myself thinking of strategies, and list builds (such as they are) that I'd like to try in that format. But it just can't replace the splendor of a ranked mass-battle system. I'll have to stick with 8th edition for that or hope something better comes along. I don't really participate in tournaments anymore, or get many (or any) pickup games at the local shop. But I would like to someday and, if my gaming group and other groups all migrate to different systems, that seems even less likely to happen.


I guess traditional Warhammer is now officially a historic miniatures game– set in a finite period of time, with a set of house rules, played only by people with a particular affinity for that setting and rules. The consolation is that the setting spans the 2500+ years of the Old World. The armies and battles can take place anywhere in that world, any time.


I still have a lot to explore with the Legion of the Infernal Skull– Marduk has only just returned to the realm of the living. Nagash is barely reconstituted. The armies of the Tomb Kings of Baltizzar have yet to awaken, their land has not yet been scoured from the earth and conquered by Nagash. Nieman Kimmel and Korak the Grim are ascending in power. And none of it will be going on round bases.


'Til next time!

Friday, July 3, 2015

The Age of Sigmar, God Help Me

And to think that only a year ago I was concerned about putting my ghouls on regimental strip bases, just in case they went back to being a skirmishing unit in the next edition of Warhammer. Ha!


I was going to hold off on this post until the weekend, but the full rules and some of the warscrolls for the units in the starter set have been leaked online, and I'm tired of repeating the same thing in forums, chats, and on Facebook, so I'll just get into it here.


First, I'm going to point out a few good things about the situation, and then point out the things I don't like, and then close with something positive. A "compliment sandwich," if you will. The positives are the bread and the negatives are the meat in the middle.

 

This week's rant brought to you by the Carnegie Deli!  7th Ave at 55th Street in New York, home of the best and biggest corned beef sammiches you ever saw! (Temporarily closed for building code violations.)

 

The Models


First off, the models in the box look just fine. Everyone can shut up about how terrible they are. GW's miniature engineering, tooling, and plastic kits are beyond reproach. Every company has good sculpts and bad sculpts, but the quality of GW's plastic kits is always there. I think the Chaos models are particularly nice, and will fit into an existing Chaos army as Khorne-marked warriors or Marauders. That Hellbrute-looking thing could represent a Chaos Spawn, or could be converted into any of the other giant monsters in the Chaos bestiary.


The Sigmarites (we now know them to be called Stormcast Eternals) do look a bit like the Blood Angels Sanguinary Guard– Actually, holy crap... they look exactly like the Sanguinary Guard, right down to the golden masks and halos! (And the wings on some of the other models.)

 



I know GW has certain recurring design elements across their entire range of models, but I mean, come on! Otherwise, I think they are nice models. Balthasar Gelt wore a similar golden mask and halo, so it's not entirely out of place.

But I think some of the backlash over the appearance of the Stormcast can be attributed to recent rumors claiming that the starter box would contain Empire models. Even when we heard that they were called "Sigmarites" that sounds like they belong in the Empire. If the rumor had just said the starter contains a completely new faction, and no other information, maybe the shock wouldn't have been as severe. Other reports had spoken of models that looked like "anti-Chaos," and "good guy space marines," models wearing unique armor like nothing we've ever seen in Warhammer, so those were pretty accurate.

At the end of the day, this isn't something for my army, and I don't plan on collecting any Stormcast Eternals, so it doesn't affect me. Technically, they're an entirely new army, so it really doesn't affect any existing player. If you don't like the way the new army looks, don't collect that army. (I've never been a fan of the elven models, hence I don't play them. Simple, right?) But if you like the idea of Sigmar's demigods arriving from the heavens with flash of lightning, to smite the forces of Chaos and Undeath but don't like the models, you can convert them to your liking or or substitute them with a different model that looks more appropriate. (In past years, I have never liked any of the Warhammer necromancer models, so all of my necromancers are converted from other figures. That's the nature of the hobby.)

The New Core Rules

Before I go any further, there still seems to be some uncertainty online as to whether Age of Sigmar is the 9th Edition of Warhammer or a stand-alone game, or if there will be a "proper" 9th edition rulebook in the coming months.

There have been multiple reports from retailers speaking with their GW sales representatives, who have assured them that there is no 9th edition coming. Ever. Age of Sigmar is not a "side game" to play until the "real" game gets updated. This is Warhammer now. The End Times happened, the Old World was destroyed, and now this is where we are. Even though White Dwarf 74 saluted the history of the previous editions, the game itself hasn't defined itself by edition. The books don't have numbers, whatever the newest rulebook or army book is, is the book. So, Warhammer is now Warhammer: Age of Sigmar.

This new rules format seems to confirm something I had considered some time ago: That GW would eventually merge 40K and Fantasy into the same rule system. The Age of Sigmar turns are broken down into phases:

Hero Phase– Characters use their command abilities, spells.
Movement Phase– Units move, and can run an extra D6 inches.
Shooting Phase– Units shoot.
Charge Phase– Units charge into combat.
Combat Phase– Engaged units fight in close combat.
Battleshock Phase– Units that suffered casualties test their Bravery or suffer additional losses.

That's very close to the 40K turn sequence, and would work perfectly for both Fantasy and 40K with no changes other than swapping words like "spells" with "psychic abilities." All of the 40K models could get their own warscrolls (called datasheets) that would give characters their own command abilities and special rules. In fact, I would bet money that GW is going to adopt this same core rules system for 40K.

So, you heard it here first: I predict that Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 will eventually use the same 4-page core rules with the "fantasy" and "sci-fi" flavor added via the models' stats and abilities. I don't think the intention would be to be encourage playing Fantasy vs. 40K games, or mixing and matching Fantasy and 40K armies. It's just the obvious step going forward. It would certainly be less of a shock to the system for 40K players because they already use loose formations and employ the "move, shoot, charge" order of actions.

When I originally thought of this scenario, I was still thinking in terms of rulebook editions, and figured it might happen as 40K's editions were released faster and Fantasy's slower, with both of them converging somewhere around the 10th edition. Warhammer X, if you will. I also didn't consider how much shift needed to happen for the two to come together.

Now, as for my opinion of the rules themselves, Age of Sigmar looks like a perfectly playable game. But it's not Warhammer. It's not what I want in a game of Warhammer, and I'm not particularly impressed with the new setting and renaming of everything so far. (Are skeletons really going to be called "Deathrattlers?" I guess we'll see when the warscrolls become available this weekend.)

 

"You maniacs! You blew it up!"

 

So, Why the Change?

That's the question on everyone's minds. Why would GW ruin a perfectly good setting and game? Obviously to increase sales and attract new players.

There seems to be two types of gamers: People that want to play a competitive game people that want a fun, casual game. This applies to the kinds of tournaments we see, ranging from win-at-all-costs, no painting requirement tournaments geared at hardcore gamers, and tournaments where "soft scores" like painting, army composition, and sportsmanship, that factor in as much as a player's generalship. Gaming groups also range from casual players to hardcore "Math-Hammer" players. Often, the two overlap to some degree. Myself, I play games to win them, but I'm of the mindset that the experience should be enjoyable for both players.

And there are two types of hobbyists: People who like painting and playing with toy soldiers, and people who like the idea of playing with painted toy soldiers. I want a game that looks nice. The entire point of playing with miniature and scenery is to create a sort of "moving diorama with rules." And that takes a lot of work. Players who only see their models as three-dimensional tokens in a strategy game, are more likely to be put off by the costs of a model than someone who gets as much enjoyment out of building and painting a model as they do playing games with it.

I'm not trying to turn this into a discussion of painted vs. unpainted or how important winning should be. But it goes toward the debate over barriers to entry into the hobby. Those four factors form a sort of venn diagram, and everyone falls somewhere on the spectrum.

Anyway– All this gets to the gaming community at large and why people do or do not play Warhammer, and how or why it was failing and needed such a radical shift to get it back on track.

–Incidentally, if there was any question as to whether GW is a game company or a miniatures company, I think this confirms it. For the record, I've always been of the opinion that they make miniatures that you can play games with, not games that are played with miniatures. (See the difference?) The best example of this was Inquisitor. I was working for the company back then, and the opinion around the offices was that the game is essentially an excuse to make beautiful 54mm models. Anyway...

Here are some of the more prominent reasons I keep hearing for why not enough people play Warhammer. (I'm presuming these are based on the point of view that a person actually wants to play Warhammer and doesn't harbor a deep-seated hatred of GW and everything they stand for, and doesn't play for reasons like the following.)

"The models and books are too expensive."
"It's too much to collect or paint to be able to play a game."
"Games are too large and take too long."
"The game is unbalanced or outright unplayable."
"GW updates the game edition and changes rules too often."
"Armies or models get dropped from the game."

So, if the idea is that existing Warhammer players aren't spending enough to support the system, and the community isn't attracting enough new players for the reasons I mentioned, I don't understand how scrapping the rules and creating a completely different game is supposed to solve any of those problems.


Cost and Game Size Issues

Prices aren't going down. Models are going to cost as much as they ever did. Not having to buy books helps, but that's missing out on the source of the richness of the Warhammer world that also helps to attract players and inspire people to build their armies and gaming terrain.

Players don't need to buy as many models to play the game, so GW has gone from current Warhammer players only buying a few models here and there, to attracting new players who only buy a few models here and there, and disgruntled veteran players potentially buying nothing. To me, that seems like a net gain of zero where sales are concerned. More players with fewer models = Fewer players with more models.

It would be nice to have both options (and veteran players definitely do have both options). People can play Age of Sigmar if they want or continue playing 8th edition/ End Times. The problem is that only veterans can play "classic" warhammer; GW has pulled all the books, so they don't acknowledge that as a viable option. It certainly won't attract many new players to that format when the only way to get old books and rules is through the secondhand market.

Then there's the issue of games requiring too many models to be able to play (being too expensive, and requiring too much work to get "table-ready"). Now people can play with as many or as few models as they want! But they could do that before. I don't think anyone starts playing a vast miniatures game by spending thousands of dollars on hundreds of models. If they do, of course they are going to suffer sticker shock and burnout. This is a hobby, it needs to be built up gradually. One starts off playing small games with a unit or two, gets them painted and then expands. People don't decide they like football and then sign onto the NY Giants with a Nike sponsorship. They play street games with five or six people per side, no referees or penalties (hardly NFL regulation!) And then maybe they play high school or college games.

But nope. Gamers need instant gratification. They expect their first game to be with a competitive, tournament-ready 2500 point list. Unfortunately, that's not how a hobby works. But, if so much of the community thinks that the game sizes are too big, to the point that it's cited as an entry barrier, then they should organize events that cater to smaller games.

The community reaction to Age of Sigmar seems to indicate that a lot of people are going to get into it because they can play smaller games. But there was literally nothing stopping them from doing that before. And exactly what is the new standard size going to be for a game of Warhammer? 10 models? 50? A 50-model game is still going to cost $250.00 at Dark Elf regiment prices. And that's not 50 infantry models; there will be large monsters, cavalry, and mounted characters in there, each one more expensive but still counting as only one of the 50 models. So we're back where we started, except that now players have an "official" option of playing with just a handful of models.

Balance Issues

Now we come to the center of the shrubbery maze!

Hard-core tournament players want a balanced game system. Well, I don't think this is it. One of the most prominent complaints besides cost is the horrific unbalance (even complete unplayablity!) of the rules and that's why they don't play (or quit playing) Warhammer. Never mind that there are plenty of people who manage to play 8th edition games, both casual and tournament, with little to no issue with the rules. Do I think the rules have problems? Yes, but not to the point of making it a bad or broken game. It's mostly things that work just fine but could be done in a better or more streamlined way.

I can't imagine people who find 8th edition Warhammer "unplayable" finding this system any better or more balanced. Easier to play? Yes. Balanced and consistent? Maybe not so much.

I'm definitely going to be trying the Age of Sigmar rules and seeing for myself how it works but, from what I've read, I can't imagine the opponents of GW's way of writing rules thinking this will work in a tournament system as-is.

First of all, there are no point values for models. Nothing seems to indicate that there ever will be; there are no points on the warscrolls, nothing in the reported conversations with sales reps, nothing in White Dwarf, nothing in the core rules. It all goes by model count. One goblin is one model and Nagash is one model. That's a balanced fight, apparently.

 

"Squeek! This hardly seems fair-balanced."

 

Age of Sigmar accounts for this by using the "Sudden Death" rule: If one player outnumbers his opponent by more than a third, the outnumbered player gets a special victory condition to win the game, rather than basing it solely on casualties.


The system should work fine for friends getting together to play some fun games. But if someone's trying to play strictly competitively or in a tournament format, yeah, it's easy to break. Even the outnumbering mechanic has its limit: simply deploy one model short of outnumbering your opponent by a third. You'll have the numerical advantage and no sudden death for your opponent.


So, without points, there are no army lists. You and your opponent simply get together and deploy models until one player stops deploying. The other player can continue deploying as much as he wants. That allows people with different sized collections to play each other and the Sudden Death addresses the balancing.


But can't deployment quickly turn into a game of chicken? "If I stop deploying now, is my opponent going to be a dick and put out 5 Bloodthirsters?"


On the bright side, I'm intrigued by the concept of not having to compose an army list. That was one of the things I simultaneously enjoyed and dreaded. I could spend hours pouring over the options, calculating points, and re-thinking everything. To just be able to show up and start putting models out might be a nice change. It also eliminates the possibility of arriving for your scheduled game, with your list all ready, only to find out that your opponent hasn't even started his list yet.


Is It Too Simple?


It certainly appears to be. I find the elimination of Weapon Skill vs. Weapon Skill and Strength vs. Toughness to be really off-putting. I liked the idea of my skeletons being able to hit and wound goblins easier than they could a dragon. To Hit and To Wound is now based solely on the weapon of the model making the attack. So, since every model is still viable, I guess Stormcast Liberators can wound an Empire steam tank on a 3+. Maybe skeletons will wound on a 5+? If the skeletons can only wound the steam tank on a 5+ then that means they'll only be wounding other skeletons or goblins on a 5+ as well. Maybe the steam tank could have a special rule that states it can never be wounded on better than a 5+ or that the a weapon's Rending modifier can never modify its armor save below 3+? We'll see, but the concept of a static "To Hit and To Wound" was one of the things that turned me off when I read the first edition Kings of War rules.


Engineered Power Creep?


One thing I noticed was the rules for the flying Stormcast Prosecutors. Normally, a model can only charge into combat if they are within 12" of an enemy, and they roll two dice for the charge range. The Prosecutors have a rule that allows them to charge if they are within 18" and they roll three dice for the distance. Sounds like a nice, simple rule for all flying models to have. Except that the rule isn't called something sensible like Flying Charge which could appear on the warscrolls of any flying models. It's called Heralds of Righteousness. I can't imaging my Fell Bats having a rule called Heralds of Righteousness. Maybe a rule called Death From Above that has the same effect.


But that got me thinking about how GW is writing the rules, and that they have set it up so there doesn't need to be any consistency from warscroll to warscroll and they don't need to keep track of any existing rules. There is no longer such a thing as a generic rule like Killing Blow that multiple models have. In the past, before giving a model the Killing Blow special rule, the model's points, stats, and place in the army would need to be considered. Now, GW can just make things up on the fly without any cross-referencing what's already in play. Two different flying units could have flying rules that allow one to charge further than the other. There's no comparing similar units because the only thing that matters is what the special rules for that particular unit state. It can create situations where it seems like an obvious rule might have been omitted, but could eliminate situations where the seemingly same rule functions differently for two different units.


Basically, GW has eliminated their responsibility to balance anything. Especially since there are no point values to compare one model as being more powerful than another. The model simply is more powerful (or valuable) because it has better rules. But both models are still equal as far as model size is concerned, because they are each one model. So if you are concerned about models becoming obsolete, it seems like that's going to be happening a lot as new models come out with better rules and there's nothing to balance them against inferior models. Rather than army book power creep, get ready for individual unit power creep. If you plan on playing a 10-model game, why would you ever have any skeletons, when you can field 10 Terrorgheists? I guess maybe because you can't afford 10 Terrorgheists. But whoever can, wins.

 

Now, this could be a stroke of genius on GW's part. By having such egregious balance issues, maybe they are forcing players to adhere to the social contract required to play a miniatures game. Having conversations with your opponent about the kind of game you want to play could become the wave of the future. Or maybe this will actively repel new players where issues of balance were their entry barrier.

 

For everyone who cited GW's frequent rules changes as their reason for not playing, this kind of proves their point, doesn't it? GW is not afraid to make radical, sweeping changes. If any of the people who dissented on the basis of edition fatigue starts playing Age of Sigmar, aren't they just going to feel like they got "suckered in" if another big change comes along? What if Warhammer goes back to being a large-scale game in a few years (lets say with Age of Sigmar's inevitable 2nd edition)? Shouldn't they have seen it coming?


In Closing


I guess I have to put a lid on this compliment sandwich. At the end of the day, Age of Sigmar looks like it could be a fun, fine game system. But it's not what I want out of a miniatures game. It's not Warhammer. It's a completely different game that you happen to be able to play with your Warhammer models. I just picked up White Dwarf 75, and I've got my Stormcast Liberator. I guess the free model is supposed to "liberate" us all from that game we love– wait, I'm supposed to be positive here...

 

 

As I said before, it's a really nice miniature. If anyone hasn't seen it, here's a close look. It's worth pointing out that he's not a "snap together" model like the ones in Space Hulk or the Dark Vengeance boxes. And that is, indeed, a 40mm base.




 

Here's how the Liberator sizes up against a Space Marine terminator and a human-sized skeleton. He might actually be a little taller than the terminator.

 

The system should work fine for friends getting together to play some fun games.  But if someone's trying to play strictly competitively, or in a tournament format, yeah, it's easy to break.  Even the outnumbering thing:  just deploy one model short of outnumbering your opponent by a third.  You have an advantage and no sudden death.

it's almost like deployment is a game of chicken:  "If I stop deploying now, is my opponent going to be a dick and put out 5 bloodthirsters?" 

I mean, I guess you could just have a conversation with your opponent about the kind of game you want to play, but who can be bothered.

 

To anyone concerned about the scale of the models increasing: It is not. White Dwarf specifically points out that the Stormcast Eternals are more than human and that they tower over mortal men. The fact that the entire range of Warhammer models is still in play should also attest to that. White Dwarf also points out that the bases do not matter at all, so there's no need to re-base anything. The actual model is used for measurement. You could put the Stormcast Eternals on smaller bases or square bases if you wanted.


The rules-pull out in the center of the magazine is one page folded in half, so it really is only four pages of text. It's a nice format to put in your case and take with you, along with the printouts of the warscrolls.


I'm hoping to try some Age of Sigmar this weekend and test it out before I come down on the rules too hard. I'll even try it with lots of ranked infantry and see how that works. But I'm not round-basing anything, and I'm hoping that a traditional Warhammer community stays alive. My gaming group certainly plans on keeping it going as long as we can. Age of Sigmar could be an alternative, small scale game for when we don't feel like making the time investment required to play a real wargame! Sorry, I know I promised... 


But Sigmarite?! The metal core of the Old World is actually called Sigmarite?!  


'Til next time!