Why I Love Warhammer Age of Sigmar
Written by Ben Porter
With the second edition of Age of Sigmar on the horizon, and considering my previous article was all about how disappointed I was by another game, I thought it was high time I waxed lyrical about a game that I thoroughly enjoy. In case it wasn't already clear, that game is going to be Warhammer Age of Sigmar.
Out with the old, in with the new
I was there when the Old World fell.
Seriously, though. When GW first decided to blow all of fantastical existence to hell when Archaon – Supreme Edge Lord and Grand Marshal of the Apocalypse – finally made good on his promise to destroy the world as we knew it, I was quite happily blasting away at my friends' armies with my dwarfs. But when it became apparent that everything we had known and loved about the background against which our wee dudes battled it out was to be wiped away, I was not happy. I even took a bit of a huff and stopped buying the End Times books after when it was leaked that there were no dwarfs on the Council of Incarnates (the Warhammer Avengers) for the final book.
BUT, GUYS! EVERYTHING WAS OK!
Long story short, some of the prominent heroes and deities of the Old World (now The World that Was) form a new pantheon which presides over a new setting called the Mortal Realms, which are essentially eight bubble realities that exist alongside one another and are suffused with the essence of a particular type of magic. Each of those types of magic is styled after one of the eight magical lores from the Old World.
Boom. Continuity everywhere.
As far as playing the game went, we got a 3 page rulesheet. With no points values. For anything.
We could still use all of our old stuff! The dwarfs exist in this place too, guys! But they're Dispossessed. And they're duardin now. Because legal reasons. (Orcs became orruks, elves became aelves, etc.)
So, it was a time of mixed emotions, to say the least. And, of course, there was the introduction of the – at least initially – divisive Stormcast Eternals (AKA Sigmarines). Borrowing from the success of Warhammer 40K, GW decided that their fantasy miniatures game also needed a poster boy. There was a difficult balancing act of trying to make a fantasy game that had lower barriers to entry, would appeal to shiny, new players, whilst at the same time trying not to piss off existing players and collectors too much.
Anyone who has ever created anything ever will know that it is impossible to please everyone. One guy so enraged by the changes enacted poured lighter fluid over hundreds of pounds worth of Dark Elf miniatures and set fire to them. And filmed it. Then uploaded it to YouTube. Seriously.
And then another group of players were so averse to Age of Sigmar that they got together and decided to make their own game, now known as 9th Age.
Not being an idiot or a particularly tournament-focused player, I remained hopeful. The idea of realms that were essentially infinite in size really appealed to me as somebody who is a big fan of creating my own stories and narratives. No longer would I have to shoe-horn an army into a little pocket of a map that was essentially a slightly tweaked map of Europe populated by wizards and dragons – I could do whatever I liked. And there was talk of two new dwarf – sorry, duardin – factions coming soon. Add to that the fact that the internet had come up with a bunch of points systems to use with the game, I was sold. I still have my little Stormcast pin for being one of the first to buy the Stormcast Eternals vs Khorne Bloodbound boxed set at the game's inception. It's the little things.
If I like something, I have a tendency to amass large quantities of it. My long-suffering wife often jokes that her flat is being taken over by wee, plastic men. This is not so much a joke as a statement of fact.
GW products are often joked about as being “plastic crack”, and it's not far wrong. They produce some of the most fantastic-looking models in the industry today; they certainly produce the best dwarf models out there. And as a self-proclaimed dwarf enthusiast, this has seen me amass a huge amount of the wee bearded dudes over the years. Over the past couple of years I've been collecting Fyreslayers in particular.
Joking aside, I love the fact I can participate in Age of Sigmar without actually having to sit at a table and play the game, and collecting is just one facet of how I can engage without having to go to an event or a FLGS to play out a battle.
As a child, I always had a bit of an artistic streak, and painting miniatures provides an outlet for this. There is something uniquely satisfying about watching a model slowly begin to take form and colour, to have that model take to the field or sit in pride of place in a display cabinet or shelf. It certainly helps when those models are just so awesome.
Fire-breathing lava monsters.
Tattooed, mohawk-sporting murder dwarves.
Those sorts of mental yet fantastic creations really push the boundaries in terms of painting skill. You just can't paint things like that in a boring way. And again, returning to the 'participation without playing' philosophy, there is a whole, huge community of painters out there that ranges from little kids taking their first artistic steps, to renaissance-level, award-winning studio painters. The internet is often the butt of many jokes these days, but it is also a source of immense encouragement and inspiration if you know where to look.
It has often been said that games like Warhammer 40K and Age of Sigmar do not lend themselves particularly well to tournament play, and while that may or may not be true, they most definitely shine in narrative-driven play. This is clearly evidenced from the fact that both systems now include a whole format known as 'Narrative Play', which emphasises use of story-driven scenario and rules and linked games known as campaigns.
Many players spend hours devising names and backstories for their characters and the units they command. Friends that regularly play together even incorporate rivalries between their respective heroes into their “fluff” (slang for lore or backstory). I myself have a blog dedicated to chronicling the exploits of my Fyreslayers. In my opinion, it is Narrative Play that offers the richest experience for a game like Age of Sigmar, with an experience akin to a roleplaying game crossed with a wargame. And now that GW regularly updates the lore with new chapters and story arcs, new opportunities for storytelling are always opening up with the game.
Do you want to blast holes in a lightning-breathing dragon with a daemon-possessed cannon?
Maybe have a cabal of birdman sorcerers rain magical hell down upon your friend's preening elves?
Or would you prefer, like myself, to have at all of the above with an army of flame-haired, axe-wielding maniacs?
Guess what? You can do all of those things in Age of Sigmar.
Some of my fondest memories of gaming have been playing Warhammer Fantasy and Age of Sigmar. The mere spectacle of two huge armies, backed up by artillery, monsters and wizards, on a massive table, covered in scenery, makes anybody stop and look. And as much as I enjoy writing stories of my heroes' exploits and painting my dwarfs, there is something uniquely awesome about playing out an epic clash between two intricately crafted forces. Yes, games can be time consuming, and I know that rolling buckets of dice is not everybody's cup of tea, but there are few games more cinematic. Ask anybody who plays a miniature game regularly and they will tell you that those models take on personalities of their own on the table; the Danny Dyer orc who looks “proper 'ard” and always gets his arse kicked, or the grizzled, old engineer who manages to pull off that ridiculously difficult pistol shot to bring a massive golem tumbling to the ground.
Writing stories is fun, but there is something to be said for watching them unfold on the table in front of you. And that's why I love Age of Sigmar.