This week our On The Tabletop report is on Wizkids' Warhammer Age of Sigmar The Rise and Fall of Anvalor. Wizkids are best known for their Heroclix and Dicemasters products. Up until now, Games Workshop licensed board games have been set in their original Warhammer Fantasy Battles setting, so it's interesting to see products starting in their current Age of Sigmar setting.
On The Tabletop first impressions articles are preceded by an Off The Shelf preview of the product, you can read the Off The Shelf - Warhammer Age of Sigmar The Rise and Fall of Anvalor article here for full details of what's in the box and how the game plays. This article will be a walk through of our first few games, followed by feedback from the On The Tabletop team.
As a note, I've recently moved house and we're setting up a new On The Tabletop team, so members may move around for the next few articles until we settle on a new team dymanic.
The On The Tabletop play-through articles catalogue our initial experiences with the game; as a result, mistakes will be made. On The Tabletop should also not be taken as a full review. These articles are simply our first impressions of a game.
On The Tabletop
For our first venture into the Rise and Fall of Anvlor, we decided to battle the forces of the Skaven as our chosen enemy, taking the three player tab to slot into the enemy details card (Update - the tab is actually a difficulty level and can be played with any amount of players to increase or decrease the toughness of the enemies). Kit quickly snatched up the Fyreslayers and Moray decided to keep things Dwarf by selecting the Dispossessed. I decided to take the Anvils of the Heldenhammer, purely because reading through the rules previously, they had some solid draw mechanics. We each selected our ability card and I chose Archaic Customs because having that extra card to start with, along with a larger hand overall appeared quite powerful.
We started off cautiously, until Kit decided that we needed to see what battle looked like. With the other enemies, units can build up around the edges of the board, but the Skaven swarm quickly and rolling a 5 means that you get an assault regardless of how many units are there. We had a single Verminlord Warbringer smash across the start of our board, laying waste to several buildings and units. We did initially forget that dice explode, so that there's always a chance of defeating an enemy if you roll the highest numbered face on a dice.
After that, our forces placement was a little more thought-out, with each player now slightly weary of his neighbour. Several assaults happened quickly, with a Skaven Warlord constantly appearing to boost the masses due to his ability to return to the pile after being defeated, rather than discarded. There are several incredibly thematic cards, the Doomwheel and Warp Lightning Cannon are great fun, and overall the Skaven feel very thematic. We were able to fight off the final assault reasonably well, but we did make some mistakes by forgetting the Skaven ability to return units to the stack, rather than discard them.
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Moray took the first win, by building city buildings tactically for points and also doing well fighting off the Skaven threat.
For our second game, we chose to fight against the force of the chaos god Khorne, upping the ante by taking the 4-player insert for the enemy card (Update - the tab is actually a difficulty level and can be played with any amount of players to increase or decrease the toughness of the enemies). We decided to use the other three factions to see how they play, with Kit chosing Order Serpentis and Moray the Free Guild. I was left with the Hammers of Sigmar and automatically took the Soul of the Stormhost ability that allows you to return any unit defeated to hand. With 10 units in their deck, this could be incredibly powerful if your units are wiped out in an assault, allowing you to quickly play more. Moray took an incredible ability for the Free Guild, allowing him to play a unit for free after an assault.
This time, while we were still playing as a team, understanding the rules, you could almost feel the tension as each player pushed their own agenda.
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We discovered quickly that the Khorne units are tough, and their ability to advance before battle starts, means that range and support isn't adequate protection. Rolls automatically failing on a 1 or a 2 made beating them incredibly difficult at the start and we all suffered a few times. The Free Guild's and the Stormhost's movement abilities suffered as the board filled up and we were repeatedly attacked by powerful units.
In the end we were all able to get some very powerful combinations on the board, and with a full board, the final assault from the forces of Khorne failed against out combined efforts.
I took the win in the final game by 1 point over the Free Guild, having been able to get 14 victory points very early in the game with some lucky attacks against large enemy units.
Player Thoughts[gallery ids="264469,277587,277982"]
Adam - I was shocked by how much I enjoyed The Rise and Fall of Anvalor and how thematic it felt. Every faction feels unique and has abilities to match their setting and the enemies feel exactly like they should. Wizkids have done an incredible job getting this across in a board game simply with mechanics and tiles.
Having produced the preview article for the game, I thought that Anvalor would be interesting, but felt that the depth was lacking. How wrong I was. The dice rolls do make the game slightly swingy, but ability combos can be used to offset this slightly, so it's not an incredibly tactical game in that sense, but it is a blast to play. I really enjoyed both games we had during testing and now really want to play more using the other factions.
The different ability options that each force has does change up the game slightly and it would be interesting to play some high-level games with players who are experts with their faction to see how tactical it can be. It takes a game to get into the rules, and there is still a lot on the table to keep an eye on rules wise. Some of the rulebook wasn't clear and we had to spend some time discussing how things worked, but once they were settled, we were off.
The Rise and Fall of Anvalor is a great game, even without knowledge of the Age of Sigmar setting, but beware, it might make you want to explore the full wargame.
Adam is the righteous leader of the On The Tabletop Team and is an experienced tabletop gamer. He has played physical and online CCGs to a very high competitive level. He also has a background in roleplaying, board and wargaming and has playtested and produced content for several companies. A veteran tabletop writer who's favourite games include Dark Souls the Card Game, The Legend of the Five Rings LCG, Shadespire and Bushido. You can read his work here on TechRaptor and follow his exploits on Twitter - @StealthBuda.
Kit - When I first saw the box I had misgivings. I’ve been burned before by games that just use the Games Workshop license and just don’t deliver the meat. However, I was very wrong about this one.
Even though the board and pieces were simplistic the game is quite the opposite. It claimed to be co-operative, but with the first run through I was using the Fyreslayers and both Moray and Adam made it into my book of grudges. I played Dwarves and Dark elves in the second game, and both forces played very differently and had the “feel” of their respective factions. Even the enemies we faced both felt like the armies and factions they represented. Skaven had a lot of mutual buffs or worked in a horde, and Khorne were just all about smashing into our lines, you could almost hear the zealots scream “Blood for the Blood God”.
Although the game had the feel of a castle defence game it was so different, in short I liked it not only as a Games Workshop fan but also standing alone as a board game.
Kit is the owner of ABZ Games, Aberdeen’s gaming community hub. He has been playing board/card/war/role-playing games for near on 25 years. Currently his favourite game is Wild West Exodus by Warcradle.
Moray - Coming in to the game I didn't have high hopes. My initial impression was this was semi-coop tower defense and I couldn't see that working well. The first game was little rocky with quite a few references to the manual and learning how the mechanics came together. There was an Eureka! moment as we progressed and I saw that while I could rely on my opponents units for support this was a purely competitive game where I want to be in a position to reap the sweet influence points while incidentally placing advancing hordes to hinder my opponent infrastructure. The second game went very smoothly and coming in at around the hour mark felt about right.
All the forces, both player and invading forces, fit thematically. My Dispossed Dwarves were effective builders and my units felt solid and defensive while the Free Peoples felt numerous with synergy between units. There are some lovely touches like the different shaped tiles for each faction and Wizkids have made use of the GW library, picking out suitable art for all the units and characters.
The game does suffer though from a rule book which isn't the most user friendly. In addition there is quite a big juggle in terms of information and it's quite easy to forget a special rule in play.
There is a high degree of variance including your draw, face down enemy tiles and reliance of dice in the mechanics. It isn't too uncommon for you to blown out by a bad roll. I didn't find this undermined my interest but it does mean it isn't going to appeal as much to those who favour more strategy in their games.
Overall I enjoyed the game and I would play again if offered. It's a bit chaotic and random, but short enough that I can forgive that because it's also thematic and fun. If you are a fan of the source material and lighter games I would recommend giving it a look.
Moray is a self-proclaimed tabletop omnigamer. Having started with Heroquest he has come full circle and mainly plays board games now, but previously has been involved with RPGs, miniature gaming and CCGs. He spent many years selling and promoting games across the globe and still works trade shows in his spare time for Asmodee as part of their demonstration crew.
This copy of The Rise and Fall of Anvalor was provided by Asmodee UK.
Are you a Warhammer or Age of Sigmar Fan? What do you think of The Rise and Fall of Anvalor? How thematic does it look to it? Is theme or mechanics more important in games? Let us know in the comments below.