Misconceptions Regarding Age of Sigmar

Okay, I have a feeling this one is going to start an argument or two…

That is not my intention. If you have looked at Age of Sigmar and thought ‘urk, big armoured guys in fantasy, not for me!’ or something similar, that is just fine. Plenty of other games out there.

What I am saying is that if you have decided that you do not like Age of Sigmar, then it is just possible that some of the reasons you do not like it are wrong. Somewhere along the line, someone has told you something about the game that is simply not true.

The following are points I have seen made about Age of Sigmar on a variety of Internet forums and they are either not correct, or are based on some shaky foundations.

It is not my intention to provoke anyone. All I am saying is that if you have found yourself saying anything like the comments below, you may have been mis-informed.


All my favourite characters are gone!

Just about all Chaos characters are still present. The Chaos Gods took their favourite servants and moved them to the Mortal Realms. Your Glottkin is still working hard for Nurgle (and doing a damn good job, as it happens, seriously kicking Alarielle’s rear end).

Obviously, Alarielle is still around, and she seems to be significantly more powerful. Tyrion and Teclis are still a thing.

Speaking from an artistic point of view, Gotrek had to die. Of all the characters from the world-that-was, he was the one who was always going to be killed…

We don’t yet know the full extent of who survived the End Times and while many have gone, there are still strong links to the Old World.

Manfred, for example, has just popped up…


Age of Sigmar is failing

No one (except a few at GW HQ) knows anything about how the game has been selling. One store, or even a bunch of Internet forums, do not a firm basis make for this conclusion. The first clue we will get will be next year in GW’s financial reports, and we may not really know for 2-3 years.

It really is okay to wait and reserve judgement for later. There is no requirement to make a decision on this immediately!


There are no tactics in Age of Sigmar – just dice rolling

You have not got to grips with the game. If you really believe there are no tactics present, you have made that judgement too quickly. I’ll give some brief examples;

Age of Sigmar is a very mobile game, with a lot of movement and units exerting ‘zones’ of control (effectively, everyone has a 3” area around them that ‘traps’ enemy models). This makes movement very important, and leads to the ability to bait enemy models and block their own movement.

The randomisation of who goes first in a turn (and the possibility that you can have two turns in a row) is a big deal, and it will catch you out when you first play. However, once you get a few games under your belt, you start to figure out how to compensate for it. Basically, you can no longer march up your rock hard close combat unit and be ready for a charge – there is every chance you will be the one charged, and you need to pre-plan how you will counter that. Pre-planning is a basic definition of the use of tactics…

Another example; retreating. You don’t see this done too often in AoS, and that is because it can be quite hard to pull off. When you retreat a unit out of combat, you are basically ensuring it will not fight that turn and, even if you run, it is probable that the enemy will simply charge again and catch up with you. The trick here is to feed the enemy someone else, tying them up (remember the zones of control!).

For example, your elite archers get charged – this is bad news because even though they can theoretically shoot in close combat, many dedicated ranged units get bonuses to firing if the enemy is not right in front of them. So, if you stay there, you will be firing less effectively, and likely getting torn up by a unit that can fight well in close combat. If you just retreat, the enemy will soon catch up and finish you off, and barely miss a beat in doing it.

However, if you retreat your archer unit, and then charge in with your cavalry, the enemy will be unable to follow up, and your archers will be able to reposition themselves and keep firing in the next round.

This sounds simple, but with everything else going on in a turn, it is not always that easy to pull off.

And I have not even touched upon the synergies between units which are far, far more important than they are in Fantasy Battle or 40k…


Shooting in close combat makes no sense

Sure it does. It is a different type of fighting to what you might be used to. I’ll give an example using 40k, as everyone will be familiar with that – feel free to substitute for Bloodreavers and Stormcasts.

A Dark Angels Tactical Squad charges the remnants of an Ork mob cowering behind a barricade, determined to shift them and claim this flank of the battle. One Tactical Marine leaps over the barricade, and kicks an Ork in the chest, leaving it flat on the floor. Stamping on its head with an armoured foot, he turns as another Ork rushes him with a massive cleaver. Raising his Bolter, he fires three rounds which tear through the alien’s chest. Giving praise to the Emperor, he continues firing as the rest of the Orks flee from the assault of the Dark Angels.

Can you see that happening in your head? It is a more cinematic approach to combat but, whether it is your cup of tea or not, it is one that works.


There is no balance in Age of Sigmar

There is, but it is in your hands.

Even if we leave the ‘dick issue’ to one side (basically, don’t be one, and have as much consideration for your opponent’s fun as your own), there are now a handful of points systems available for AoS, and they are all community-made. As time goes on, they will become more accurate and more balanced. They are there and available for your use right now.

It is no secret that you don’t have to go far on a gaming forum to see people complaining about points imbalances in Fantasy Battle or 40k, and in these rants someone always bemoans the fact that GW does not engage in community-led pointing for units. After all, if thousands of people are submitting results, and points costs are updated, they will be far more accurate, right?

Well, that is what you have, right now, for Age of Sigmar. What is more, if you do not agree with one system (a certain points value for a unit will not be agreeable for everyone, you can be sure of that), then there are already others to try.

If competitive gaming is your thing, tournament organisers are now free to pick the points systems they feel work for them best – or simply come up with their own…

Given time, what can be more balanced than that?


But they could have added a points system, and all those ‘narrative’ gamers could have just ignored them – then everyone would have got what they wanted

This is true (leaving aside the benefits of community-pointing for a moment). However, there is another problem and, speaking as a games designer, this is a very real one.

If you put a points-based system in, 99% of all players will use it to the exclusion of all else. Yes, they could just ignore points. But they won’t. Gamers just won’t.

How a game presents itself has a direct effect on how it is played, generally speaking. And this, I know, was a very real issue for the guys at GW in the past. During the days of 3rd Edition 40k, to cite an example, the vast majority of games played used the Dawn Assault mission because, for some reason, people had got it into their heads that it was the ‘fairest’ mission. They also tended to default to 1,500 points.

The problem for the designers is that they have all these other types of battles, and worlds, and models to show you, but if you are just playing 1,500 point Dawn Assault games, you are not getting any of it. You are missing out on a massive amount.

If you are the games designer responsible, that is a big issue. You are creating all this wonderful material, and none of it is getting used. It also means the game is going to stagnate – at some point, you will get bored with Dawn Assault, but if you have been conditioned to think that this is the only way of playing 40k, you may not be looking for alternatives.

I know this sounds ridiculous. But it is a very real thing, and it is very common.

By taking the points out of Age of Sigmar (and by the way they present scenarios), there is no ‘standard’ way of playing. You are being forced out of the comfort zone, and this is where the designers want you. They want you to experience Warhammer in a variety of formats that will keep you gaming for, well, forever.


The free rules are a marketing trick. GW wants you to buy the big, expensive hardback books

Umm, yes. Of course they do. GW need to make money every month or they go bust, and then you will get no more Warhammer, of any flavour.

You can play Age of Sigmar with just the free materials (and, with the ‘legacy’ Warscrolls, there is a lot available for free) and go a long with just that. However, there is a lot more out there – eight entire worlds, in fact.

The hardbacks will give you new ways to play the game, via the Battleplans and Time of War sheets. However, their other purpose is to give you the story behind Age of Sigmar. The background behind Age of Sigmar is at least as important as the actual gaming system – and by this, I mean it is important to the structure of the game as a whole. It might not be important to you personally, as you may find mechanics to be the over-riding component necessary to you in the hobby. I know players who, when they get a new Codex, turn straight to the army list and it may be months before they read the background chapters, if at all. Age of Sigmar, as it stands, may not be for them.

The hardback releases (and those from the Black Library) are the direct driving force behind Age of Sigmar and, I imagine, always will be. If you are not into the storyline, then Age of Sigmar may not be for you. But the free rules are not a trick – the storyline is a fundamental component of the game.


“AOS is still for simpletons & peons. Enjoy your crappy game.”

This is an actual quote from a forum. The level of disrespect present in this comment towards other people (forget other gamers, people in general), is simply breath taking. It would be nice to simply assume he is a maladjusted teenager but, unfortunately, he seems to be in his thirties.

If the guy who said it does not really believe this, then he was being disingenuous at best. If he really does believe what he says, then he is a moron, with no room in his tiny, tiny world for anything other than his own point of view. I can imagine he spends most of his time in a state of bliss.


“The game plays like there is no difference between a goblin and a super warrior Stormcast”

Another direct quote, and it is a little bit troubling that someone actually thinks this. Of course there is a difference – that goblin is going to get stomped by the Stormcast in a stand up fight. In fact, a unit of five Stormcasts is likely to trounce a veritable mob of goblins unless they are well supported.


It is just stupid to stack models on top of one another

Yes it is. But it does not happen in Age of Sigmar.

This is something that cropped up early on forums when Age of Sigmar was released, the idea that models could be placed on top of the bases of others to help with getting more models into combat, and it seems to have stuck.

I need to be clear on this point: Nowhere in the rules of Age of Sigmar does it suggest you can do this. Nowhere.

But, someone might say, it doesn’t say you can’t!

The trouble with this line of thinking is that it also does not say you can’t jam two dice up your opponent’s nostrils, then punch him in the ears so they blast out of his nose. The writers at GW do presume a measure of common sense when writing rules. And I do not think that is completely unreasonable.

Bases are ignored for the purposes of measuring ranges. That is all.


So, if I have a model with a 12” base, no one can fight me, right?

Well, if you go down that road yes, sort of.

If you meet someone with a base like that, have a quick chat and sort it out. All it requires is the application of common sense. I am pretty sure this is why this is not in the rules sheet – the designers could not conceive of anyone seriously trying this loop hole and, to be frank, I agree with them.

They are not writing a set of rules designed to be resilient to all kinds of potential abuse. The assumption is made that both players want to have a good time and will play fairly. Now, you might disagree with that approach, but this is where they are coming from. They are expecting you to play your opponent, not to play the rules.

To put it another way, if someone places a model with a 12” base that makes it impossible to attack, they have clearly done it on purpose for that specific reason, and refuse to budge on any accommodation… walk away. Seriously, life is way too short, and if they have done that, it really will be the least of the issues you will experience while playing them.

I’ll put it yet another way – making a base like that would be like making yourself invulnerable by glitching yourself into a wall in Battlefield or Call of Duty. Yes, the ‘rules’ permit it. But what have you actually gained other than ruining the enjoyment of other people?

(Incidentally, if you think glitching into walls is legitimate, then Games Workshop games overall are probably not for you).


Games Workshop does not care about gamers

Games Workshop is a company. It is incapable of caring about anything.

However, having spent some time with some of the design studio at GW HQ in the past, I can tell you that there are individuals there who very much do care about gamers. They are extremely enthusiastic about games (and yes, they play games other than those produced by GW!), and they see their job as communicating that enthusiasm to you, the gamer.







15 Responses to “Misconceptions Regarding Age of Sigmar”

  1. Tony Says:

    AOS and the starter set got me back into fantasy gaming after absence of 20+ years , it’s brought the fun back into fantasy gaming !

  2. gameoftravel Says:

    good read. thanks for that. I might disagree with some points (I don’t like ‘no points’ system) and agree with some (I do not belive AoS is too simplified and for kids), but for me the major issue with AoS is its fluff. I was raised in Old World (my first RPG sessions of WH Role Playing were in 1993 or 94) and I’ll stick with older editions not because of the rules but the world and history behind it. I believe there few player like me who do not like AoS because of the same reason…

    • altsain Says:

      I get that, and it is not for everyone – the Mortal Realms are… shinier than the Old World. That said, if you are of a mind, I would recommend picking up one of the new AoS novels (War Storm would be the one I suggest), and giving it a try. It is quite cool 🙂

  3. Erm Says:

    This post looks like from someone working for GW or a big fanboy… Oh you were ?

    There is no tactics in AoS, Movement is important in every game and that is the only “tactical” situation in AoS that you can speak off. Synergy ? I tried at least 40 games of AoS yet, i really tried. There is no freaking synergy, there are power that makes other better like in any game (fortunately it has that). You can find synergy anywhere anyway… Thats it… Balance ? You can’t count on old armies either but You make it yourself ? Well, yes, that is AoS : create your own game with your own rules. Well that applies for everything in life then.. I will tell that to my boss, i do not want to be paid 1400€ but 5000€, that would be more balanced; not sure my boss would agree, lets roll a D6 then to settle it down ? What i am fired ? ok ok…

    This game just can’t be balanced, you had no argument there too. The only balance being your own-made rules and common sense with your friend. Try that with monopoly…

    The free rules… Well of course you don’t pay for the rules of 4 pages… I am sure the trainee that wrote them was not paid… It just remove the feel of an army, their books are way too expensive and poorly written. And for foreigners that have “translation” of books its even worth, google translating their own books is bad…

    Common sense balance everything ? Ok, with your friends maybe but sometimes even “common sense” is not common for everyone…. That is why you write rules, even stupid one. Why do people tend to be able to write better rules than the n°1 company ? That is a very bad point for a company, to not test their products and update them when they find flaws. You should not excuse them for everything, you pay lot of money for their game.

    GW is a company and can’t care for anything ? I am not sure VW thinks like that nowadays… I am sure people inside would like to have a nice game and do things, but the whole company is making it wrong.

    Thats reality and nothing you say can change the truth

    • altsain Says:

      >>>Thats reality and nothing you say can change the truth

      I don’t think that word means what you think it means.

    • Keda Says:

      I’m sorry but this counter argument is a perfect example of people just raging without any real thought. The game is new. The game is simplified. The game is different. I can understand peoples upsets about the setting but it is still in its introduction stage. Once all races are out on the table we will know exactly what we are dealing with.

      I’m sure in your head your argument seemed quite well thought out but the following counter argument reads about as well.

      There aren’t any tactics – Yes there are.
      The game can’t be balanced – Yes it can.
      The books are poorly written – No there not.

      You start this reply by calling someone a “fanboy” like its an insult. Whats wrong with you?

    • icgold Says:

      So 2 and a half years later, you still think this?

  4. Tony Says:

    Sad you don’t like AOS – you will have to move onto something else or keep playing 8th edition

  5. Richard Says:

    Your arguments are sound and GW own the IP and so can do as they please, but we’re also free to slam the system for any reason we please. In my case and I suspect many others, we do so because a nuanced, characterful gaming world which has been a part of our lives for 20+ years has been ousted for MOAR SKU3LZ!!1eleven. It matters to us because as an inherently social game, this move is likely to over the long term make it much harder to find WHFB “classic” groups. There’s also a perceived breach of trust on the part of those who had invested so much into the legacy system right before it was killed off. Why not launch AoS in tandem with WHFB for a year?

  6. YaBurnt Says:

    “It is not my intention to provoke anyone.”

    “If he really does believe what he says, then he is a moron, with no room in his tiny, tiny world for anything other than his own point of view. I can imagine he spends most of his time in a state of bliss.”

    Sums up this article.

  7. jtm93 Says:

    Makes me wonder how views have changed now that AoS has reached Adolescence.

    Partially because AoS and AoS: Skirmish is fairly similar to most of the game ideas I have. Only with my games having the points and such set-up as optional army building options.

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