Over the past few weeks, I have been steadily coming to a conclusion – I have something of an issue with Age of Sigmar…
Throughout the Realmgate Wars, I was pretty heavily into the game – nearly 2,500 miniatures painted, used in nearly a hundred battles, all following the storyline in the campaign books and Battletomes.
And then, around the turn of 2016/2017, things just stopped.
This first cropped up in Battletomes such as the Kharadron Overlords. In previous books, narrative Battleplans always had a story behind them (that would be the narrative part), that charted the progress of characters, the introduction of new armies, and events occurring within the Mortal Realms. These ‘minor’ characters would pop up in several Battleplans (like Slann Starmaster Zectoka), or at least be linked to others (the Vampire Mistress Cyssandra, a hand maiden of Neferata and whose sisters appeared in other battles).
This all served to create a cohesive background to the Age of Sigmar, giving it a great deal more weight.
When the ‘new wave’ of Battletomes (such as the Kharadron Overlords and Disciples of Tzeentch) started dropping, new Battleplans were included – but they were now absent story. They were instead ‘representative’ of the army, in a ‘this is how they fight’ kind of way.
I could understand this approach. It was a shame, but I could understand it.
People had been asking more from Age of Sigmar, and these Battletomes were a response to that – Matched Play was now a thing, and ‘hobby’ articles had started to appear. All good stuff, but it had been at the expense of the ongoing background story.
Things looked up with the release of the Blightwar box set. Included within this set was a new chapter in the Age of Sigmar story, along with three connected Battleplans – best of all, they had a solid story behind them.
Granted, instead of the 4-5 pages of story Battleplans in the past had featured, these only had one page a piece. But, you know what? That was fine by me. Bit of a shame we were not seeing more, but I understood that space was needed for other areas of the game, and it seemed the best of both worlds. Matched players got their bits and pieces, we Narrative gamers got our storyline.
I’ll ignore the fact that this major Blightwar does not seem to have been revisited in other books since…
Then Malign Portents appeared, an advance on the storyline as significant as any chapter in the Realmgate Wars. And, it looked pretty funky – Nagash getting up to new tricks, with the forces of Destruction, Chaos and Order marching off to stop him. Couldn’t wait.
But there is very, very little story here.
A couple of handfuls of pages cover the scope of the battles taking place and, while there are Narrative Battleplans in the book, they have no story attached to them.
Well, you say, simply make up your own stories for them. Sure, I could do that. But I could also do it for the Matched Play Battleplans the book also includes. I could have been doing that all along – but without the story being put front and centre, Age of Sigmar loses a lot.
I have a suspicion that (miniatures aside which are, of course, up to GW’s usual climbing standards) things are being done for a price, and GW is no longer justifying big hardbacks for something as trivial as story. Malign Portents is an 80 page book – 80 pages to introduce a major new plot development. The Realmgate Wars books (five of them) were each around 300 pages.
This is a big difference.
It is not as if I can delve into the Black Library to support the narrative behind the game – after a strong start with the Realmgate Wars, fictional support for Age of Sigmar all but disappeared for well over a year, and it has been fairly lacklustre since. They are now recycling short stories from their older compilations as digital releases and, aside from that, there have been precious few substantial books.
A year ago, I was worried about having to make a choice between a revived Age of Sigmar storyline and new Warhammer 40,000 campaigns. I had thought that GW had retarded work on Age of Sigmar to prepare for the new edition of 40k (which might well have been the case), and there were certainly major wars in the new rulebook that would make for great narrative campaigns – the Konor campaign they ran was a great start, and one we engaged in. For all five battles…
After that, nothing. I have a nasty feeling that the majority of feedback GW received on both games revolved around one term – Tournament Play. Even if people never went to tournaments, they wanted everything ‘fair’ and ‘balanced’ and woe betide either game if their opponent received any special advantage.
So, where do I go from here?
Well, absent a new range of campaign books from GW (and I would, at this stage, happily accept such things from Forge World, regardless of the inevitable high cost), I might well be going into a state of semi-hibernation.
You will still see new armies being painted and posted here (I have a hankering to do a Daughters of Khaine force), and I am still slowly plugging away at Heresy-era armies for a Prospero campaign (the Forge World book for that is more than adequate for the kind of games I am after). I did consider the new Star Wars Legion, but I have certain philosophical issues with the way FFG are approaching that kind of game.
For now, I think I will carry on painting up some more Crypt Ghouls and get round to doing my Kharadron ships – after that… I’ll see where my fancy takes me.
I just don’t think the Sigmar narrative is going to be part of it for a fair while.