So, I managed to bag me one of the Age of Sigmar starter box sets. I came to this game somewhat neutral, having played through the PDF rules with old Fantasy Battle armies – overall, I liked the rules (see the battle report on this site) but could see some issues with balancing, larger forces, model compatibility and a host of other things. So, interested to see what GW is planning with the new game but not yet ready to dive in. This was my starting point.
As you will likely know already, the box set comes with a 96 page book (above), a rules sheet (the actual core rules, on 4 pages!), and 47 models split between Chaos (Khorne) and Sigmar’s own Stormcast Eternals.
The models, it has to be said, are all kinds of awesome. They may not ring your bell, but there is no arguing with the quality GW has put into these plastics. Last night was spent putting together the Stormcast Eternal force.
The models themselves went together very easily, with the basic Liberators (the core troops of the Eternals) bring just two parts, plus head and shield. Takes longer to clean them up than to actually put together.
The exception was this chap, the Lord-Celestand on Dracoth, the leader/Big Bad of the Eternals. The Dracoth’s body is a sort of box structure and I had a bit of a ‘mare putting it together and getting everything to fit properly. Now, this is probably more down to me than the model, as I have had similar issues with Drop Pods, but you will want to be using Liquid Poly for this model, not superglue. Trust me.
I am not too sold on the gold paint scheme used to promote this force but the book comes to the rescue, pointing out that there are untold numbers of Stormhosts, each with their own paint scheme. I decided to go with the Hallowed Knights, who have a silver scheme with blue shoulders and shield, with gold lining. Gets the angelic feeling across nicely (you can see a picture of a painted Hallowed Knight in the latest White Dwarf.
As well as the leaders/heroes, you also get two ‘special’ units, the flying Prosecutors and the double-handed hammer wielding Retributors.
Absolutely no idea how they do on the battlefield, as I am a bit of a stick-in-the-mud when it comes to playing only with fully painted models. However, I am putting the Chaos force together this evening and should have them all painted relatively quickly – look out for a battle report in a couple of weeks or so, going through the battleplans in the book.
Incidentally, the Stormcast Eternals look like they were designed to be painted in double-quick time, much like Space Marines. Sure, you can spend time on all the details but, if you are like me, you will be able to get them onto the tabletop very quickly.
So, those are the models, and we had a look at the rules last week. What about the setting? After all, it does not matter how spiffy a rules set is or how pretty the models are if we cannot get our teeth into the background. This is, after all, what Games Workshop games are all about. Am I going to be as into the Hallowed Knights as I am my Dark Angels?
Well, I read the book thoroughly last night, from cover to cover. It is not especially wordy, I think it took me 30 or 40 minutes to go through it – a bit quicker than I expected for a 96 page book, but I do not raise that as a downside. This is a starter set, after all. In terms of background, it is a primer.
The basic idea is that Sigmar, with the core of the old Warhammer World, was flung through the void and the Mortal Realms were created, each more or less allied to an old Wind of Magic. Sigmar and his crew live in Azyr, the Celestial Realm/Realm of Heavens. Chaos came along and started a big ruck, the races of Order allied and fought many wars. This is not a sudden thing after the End Times, it is portrayed as having happened for thousands of years, so these realms have been around for a looonnnngggg time.
Sigmar gets a bit cross about Chaos, and creates the Stormcast Eternals, humans filled with the power of Sigmar lightning, armoured in Sigmarite, and eternal. Kill one, and his spirit goes back to Azyr to be reborn. The starter set introduces the first battles these Eternals take part in.
There is a big ‘war in heaven’ vibe to Age of Sigmar or, at least, to the Stormcast Eternals, but it is viewed through a ‘Warhammer lens’ so don’t expect straight parallels. Think of it this way; Stormcast Eternals are to angels what Space Marines are to monks. Yes, you can make a direct Stormcast Eternal = Space Marine comparison, but that is not exact and I would expect the gap to widen as they continue to flesh out the Age of Sigmar background.
That said, take a look at this page showing the organisation of a Stormhost;
That will appear quite familiar to anyone who has a recent Space Marine Codex!
The background beyond that is fairly thin (seriously, you will want to pick up the current White Dwarf, which has additional information on the city of Sigmar and the people who live there), though more information is provided on each of the units and characters in the box set, so you get to know the difference between, say, the Blood Warriors and Bloodreavers (the closest analogy, incidentally, would be Blood Warriors = Chaos Warriors and Bloodreavers = Marauders).
All the rules you need for the models in the starter set are included, along with two ‘battalion’ warscrolls – think formations in 40k. I don’t know how these two forces match up yet (wait for the battle reports) but I am liking the Thunderstrike Brotherhood – they effectively get a non-deviating Deep Strike for the entire army that they have a good chance of being able to assault from!
There are also some hints about what is coming next. In the background of the big Stormcast army picture, you can see some chaps (called Judicators, apparently). However, take a look at the Khorne army picture…
The wow thing is the Warshrine off to the right, but if you look closer, you will also see End Times era Skullreapers and Wrathmongers. And I think that is important…
Going through this book, it is clear (in my opinion – just my opinion!) that this is not a new Fantasy Battle. If you have huge Fantasy Battle armies, you are not going to be able to reasonably take your forces and use them in this game. Yes, we have all those free warscrolls so yes, we have the rules to use them. However, I also think GW is going to be trying very, very hard to convince you to start brand new forces and begin edging those old models out.
I think some will survive – those Skullreapers are a good example, and I would take a punt and say the current Treeman and Dryads will stay. However, I am also guessing that (for example) standard Dwarfs and Elves won’t have a chance in Hell of making the transition. There will be all new Dwarfs and Elves and in terms of both model quality and rules/army selection, you will be strongly encouraged to use them instead.
Just my opinion. But I really think that is going to happen.
So, Age of Sigmar. Is it any good?
Well, it kinda depends on where you are coming from. It is certainly a quality product, no doubt there. But will you play it?
If you have legions of Fantasy Battle armies, you are going to be running into issues. They will start small, but grow over the next few months. Models won’t quite match up with rules, new units you add will look radically different from your existing forces. Imagine being a Squat player in 40k after 1st edition. Or perhaps you were an Imperial Army player in those days – imagine how your force would change and morph through the Imperial Guard days into the current Astra Militarum. Your original troops would look somewhat odd next to the latest plastics and some units would just plain disappear (Imperial Guard Land Speeder, for example).
That is what will happen, at best, to Fantasy armies. I think. I imagine that, unless you have a very understanding group, you won’t be playing Fantasy Battle in a year’s time.
If, on the other hand, you are prepared to start a new force (hello, Stormcast Eternals) and a new game, Age of Sigmar may have a lot going for it. It looks like some of the nicer and more flexible options of 40k (formations, Allies, etc) are making the transition, and the rules set is one that is very clear with the minimum of confusion (there will be a lot less arguments round the table).
A lot depends on what happens next for this game. After all, this is just a starter box set. We don’t know how army balance or tournament play will take form, for example. However, next week sees the release of the 264-page rulebook which will have more of, well, everything, and they are already starting to release more units (the Liberator box set comes out next week, giving you more weapon options – warscroll for free in the current White Dwarf).
Come back here for a review and I will let you know how things are shaping up. However, I have a suspicion that this rulebook will not have all the answers and we won’t really know where this game is headed until we see the first army book.
Overall, I would give Age of Sigmar the thumbs up. It is a good initial start, in terms of rules, background and models, though a lot depends on what happens next. I am optimistic and looking forward to seeing the journey this game takes (I have a feeling Stormcast Eternals will be my ‘thing’) but that is with the giant caveat that Age of Sigmar should be taken as a completely new game, not a continuation of Warhammer Fantasy. Your own view of Age of Sigmar will, I think, be very heavily coloured by whichever side of that divide you are on.