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Hello, TechRaptor readers. Now that the initial furor around the release of Warhammer: Age of Sigmar has finally settled, I’d like to take deeper look at the game to see how it’s been fleshed out over the past few months to see what Games Workshop did right, what they did wrong, and what I’d like to see in the coming year. If you need a brief primer on the game, go take a look at my review here.

The best way to summarize the initial launch of the game is the simple phrase “What did you do!?”

The first hints of the drastic path Games Workshop was going down came in August of 2014, with the release of Warhammer: Nagash, the first book of the End Times series that would ultimately culminate in the complete and utter destruction of the Old World at the hands of Mannfred von Carstein’s sabotage in Warhammer: Archaon released in March of 2015. Warhammer Fantasy fans were in a state of limbo for the next four months wondering if their collections that had taken years, if not decades, to build and paint would be utterly worthless. Games Workshop was, as usual, utterly silent on the matter.

On July 4th, 2015, the initial pre-orders for the Warhammer: Age of Sigmar starter set were announced, and everyone was introduced to the worlds of the Mortal Realms and the titanic battles held therein. The announcement came with a free copy of the base rule set and rules for existing armies to allow players a chance to try out the replacement for Warhammer Fantasy Battles.

The player response was … less than enthused, to say the least. And here is where we come across Games Workshop’s first big mistake. No, Age of Sigmar was not their first.

The free rule set contained the bare essentials to play the game, including maps and terrain setup. It did not, however, include a single battleplan. Most players went over the new rules and tried them out with a traditional battle line mission: each player sets up their armies on opposite ends of the table, runs towards each other, and whoever is still standing at the end wins. And to be completely frank, the game simply doesn’t function properly when played this way. The entire game quickly dissolves into a muddled pile of models bashing away at each other in the middle of the table with little coherency or structure to it.

Players were understandably frustrated with the game, quickly and vehemently letting their frustrations and disgust loose upon the Internet at large. Forums were inundated with thread after thread and post after post decrying Games Workshop for “dumbing down” their game and leaving veterans in the proverbial dust. One former Warhammer fan even went so far as to record a 20 minute screed of a YouTube video filled with so much teenage angst I could feel my fingernails getting a coat of black nail polish while Linkin Park played in the background, culminating with the guy arranging a sizeable Dark Elf army neatly in his back yard and setting it all on fire. It’s all kinds of cringey to watch, but it’s a surefire way to get you into the right headspace to fully enjoy something like Hatred. The fire starts at about 8:40.

Had Games Workshop included a handful of battleplans (or even one, for that matter) that highlighted the more narrative-driven aspects of the game, this response would’ve been severely lessened. As it stands now, however, that bad first impression left a bitter taste in people’s mouths and drove them into the arms of their competitors. The biggest recipient of disaffected Warhammer Fantasy fans migrated over to Kings of War, who happily embraced their new customers and quickly went to work adding rules to allow them to use their existing armies in Kings of War games. I’ll be touching on this in an upcoming review in the near future.

A week after the release of the starter set, we got the first of the Realmgate Wars, further expanding on the worlds of the Mortal Realms and giving us more scenarios to enjoy. The battleplans, in my opinion, are what really make the game. While each one is written to follow the narratives from their respective books, the rules specifically state they can be used with any army, offering a great deal more in mission variety than Warhammer Fantasy ever did. It also helps explain away some of the more strange match-ups you’d see in your FLGS. It was unheard of to see an army of Wood Elves fight off a Tomb Kings force in an arctic wasteland in the lore, for example, but not in the FLGS. In the world of Age of Sigmar, however, it could happen quite easily. It goes a long way in handling incidents of ludonarrative dissonance and brings the player more into the story that’s unfolding on the tabletop.

Future releases also continued the saga of the Mortal Realms in a way completely unheard of for Games Workshop. And by “unheard of,” I mean “at all.” Yes, Warhammer 40K, I’m looking at you and your “2 minutes to midnight” timeframe you’ve been stuck in for the last 25+ years. Each campaign book added in new armies, new units, and moved the story along. It also showed some problems with the way warscrolls were handled.

For starters, every single unit that was mentioned either in the storyline or the scenarios has a warscroll entry. Makes sense, right? At first it does, but not when you consider the fact that many of these same warscrolls were already added in previous books. This just leads to wasted space in the already pricey books, but also added in the additional complication of having some warscrolls updated with new weapons and stats as well typically following the release of models bundled with the starter set, creating the potential for confusion for gamers in the store and tournament organizers trying to decide which warscroll from which book to use. The updated warscrolls are available from the Games Workshop site for final clarification, but it does increase the amount of bookkeeping players have to do both on and off the battlefield. Having to jump between book and tablet/phone/Internet connected device to find out the rules for either your or your opponent’s unit slows the game down.

Another area where Games Workshop stumbled in regards to Age of Sigmar is the world (worlds? dimensions? multiverse?) of the Moral Realms and precisely how they’re laid out. Are the Mortal Realms individual planets in the same star system? Are they physical manifestations of the winds of magic? What exactly are they? And where are they? A simple map showing the overall layout seems like a no-brainer, but it’s conspicuously absent thus far. While it can be easily explained away with the “writers don’t want to lock themselves down so early with so much creative freedom” bolthole, even a basic map showing where the major landmarks are would be a long way to bringing more people into the game universe and getting them invested in the storyline.

As to what we can expect in the future, it’s hard to say without venturing into the chaotic wilderness that is the Games Workshop rumor mill. It’s all too common for people to either purposely invent tales of future releases and accompanying rules simply to troll people, or for a wish list of what a player would like to see be taken as near gospel by opportunistic clickbait bloggers eager for more traffic and ad revenue. That’s the main reason why I don’t post any rumors here on TechRaptor; the signal to noise ratio is atrocious.

My guess is that Games Workshop will continue to build upon smaller groups within each race and build them up to give players even more choice in just how they want their army to look and feel. We saw this with the releases of both the Sylvaneth and the Fyreslayers, and I don’t see any reason for this trend to stop. I just hope Games Workshop gets around to the Death faction soon and gives me more cool undead models like, say, a unit of all-Vampire infantry. Get on it!

Image courtesy of Games Workshop

Not that I’m biased or anything.

Overall, however, I think the changeover from Warhammer Fantasy to Age of Sigmar has been for the better.  The game is quick and easy to play, quick and easy to teach people, and requires a much smaller investment of time and money to get into and enjoy. As the current generation gets older and life begins intruding more and more into gaming and painting time (I absolutely and unequivocally refuse to use the word “hobby” as a verb like too many people in the Warhammer scene are wont to do) this becomes a serious factor. There have been some stumbling blocks, to be sure, but I’m excited to see what the next year brings.

Michael Johnson

Staff Writer

I'm one of the tabletop writers here at TechRaptor as well as an IT security analyst and full-time geek. If I'm not actively playing, I'm either painting something, enjoying burying my nose in a book or arguing on the Internet.

  • Tom Evans

    I swore off GW after the jump from 6th to 7th edition 40K. 6th Edition had tons of neat Suppliments and the New force Org chart was really cool for making tons of neat configurations. 6th edition was less than two years old before 7th came out then codexes were getting popped out fast. It felt way too soon after spending $100 not even a year beforehand on the core rules and a codex.

    I’m considering getting into frostgrave since it’s $20 and can use a wide variety of figures from pretty much any company.

  • xyzdude0

    7th edition is pretty dope though. I like the rules a lot more and if you ignore the two more broken factions(eldar and tau) and play the new maelstrom missions its pretty good. The random objectives help balance the game since it incentives you to bring a more varied list.

  • Tom Evans

    I’ve heard a few good things. But a two year span for an edition with codecies is way too short when other games can make a 4+ span out of an edition. Even discount shopping that is way too much.

    I’m sure it’s fun, I can’t say 7th is bad as I barely know much about it. I can say that I can spend less on books for other systems and get a lot more mileage out of it. I love 40k’s fluff, I just wish every other move GW made wasn’t anti-consumer.

  • webkilla

    Sad to see Warhammer Fantasy end up this way. GW has completely lost the ball here.

    I can only hope that the future of 3D printing will resurrect it one day.

  • Pansergrateng

    It’s not just Tau and Eldar being broken though, the same goes, more or less, for Orks, Nids and CSM, only in the opposite direction.

    The objective cards might fix things somewhat, as long as you don’t mind how completely random it is.

  • Pansergrateng

    AoS was already dead at launch. I’ve yet to see or hear anyone ever playing it, apart from WFB players trying out the new rules. And if we’re to believe GW’s alleged words from the last stockholder meeting and all other rumours about the sales, it seems to be a huge flop everywhere outside of Britain.

    And with the increasingly ridiculous prices of the recent releases, it sure enough won’t do anything to entice new players into the game.

  • Yosharian

    Wow that army burning. That is horrific.

  • I don’t know which was worse: watching all those models burn up, or knowing that this guy will forever be known as the idiot who burned all his models in a titanic hissy-fit.

  • Scruffy, the Janitor

    Erm, i skimmed through but I cant find anything substantial. I know I can use old models, but I have 3500 points of Dwarves in my closet. Is it at all practical to use them? Artillery, the gyrocopter, and all that crap. Is it usable in a practical sense for this game?

  • Antoine Henry

    Just to be sure i read well :

    You explain in your article that
    everything from start to end, fluff is bad and rules are apart in
    scrolls/book/battleplan/ updates everywhere etc and expansive… In the
    end you conclude with “its a good game” with an easy entry. The costs is
    extreme for “few” things, you have to buy lots of different books
    for an overall “small” knowledge of what happens (before the Rulebook was enough and codices)… Yes of course, scrolls are free and you can play with the 4
    pages. Still, in the end, you should have concluded by : “This is a new
    games, that is actually in a bad shape but can be fun to play with your toy soldier and your so cool “appz””.

  • rem234

    Not really that i have seen. Dwarves especially since they lose most of their runes and whatnot, lose a lot of what makes them really useful and special.

  • Ben

    Oh please.

    If they simply implemented a warband system for Fantasy that would’ve made an influx of people to go and buy stuff. Also if they made the rules so that you wouldn’t need a whole giant army and just a small warband with a hero and a couple of dudes to fight another hero and his dudes, then it would’ve saved Fantasy.



    We can blame Kirby for that.

  • Ben

    We’re gonna need a whole lot of this if we want Fantasy back…

  • Right now, there are two main alternatives for people who prefer old-school Warhammer Fantasy to Age of Sigmar:

    1) Kings of War
    2) The 9th Age

  • Ben

    Well those are pluses.

  • Ben

    Heard Kings of War is a more mainstream Fantasy that is faster and more dynamic.

    9th Age…I need to look it up.

  • Kings of War has several advantages over old-school Warhammer Fantasy, in particular the “50% + 1” model requirement for units. If you want to field a unit of 50 zombies for example, you only need to habe 26 zombie models on the table. This makes playing larger games much easier and gives players much greater freedom in multi-basing and more scenic and cinematic units.

    The two biggest issues I’ve seen with the 9th Age is a lack of active players (in my area at least) and the attitude of a lot of the players online. From what I’ve seen, most players and proponents of the 9th Age are still very angry and bitter over what happened with Warhammer Fantasy and Age of Sigmar, and have no problem bringing up these grievances whenever the phrase “Age of Sigmar” or “AoS” is brought up in conversation. It’s hard to attract new players whenever the phrase “Age of Shitmar” is used whenever the phrase is uttered.

  • Ben

    Well that’s some useful info.

  • Vicent Martín Bonet

    That’s more a fault of CA than GW. Games usually take multiple years (around 5 or so for a team doing a AAA game or something on TW:WH’s scale). As they are different companies they most likely had little communication and, being the smallest of the two, GW couldn’t go and demand info on the progres. Think what could have been if they knew this “boon” could have been accounted for.

  • Vicent Martín Bonet

    Yeah, tell me another news. It seems to be doinf fairly well. Yawn, any more doomsday-saying?

  • It definitely had a rocky release, but the game has picked up dramatically with the release of the General’s Handbook. Had that been released at launch, things would have been MUCH better.

  • Vicent Martín Bonet

    Oh yeah, without a doubt. But then again, considering that GW’s usually take between 14 to 20 months in order to be made, I’d not be surprised that this was the very first measure that Rountree took once he stepped into CEO-ship.