Saturday, July 25, 2015

Big Changes in Age of Sigmar

Honestly I am still trying to get my head around all the internet hate for Age of Sigmar. What is it about the game people really don't like? I'll address some concerns in this post.

They destroyed the much loved fantasy setting that has been around for 30 years.

How exactly did they destroy it? It all still happened right. The Old World as we know it is gone. That isn't going to stop you from drawing on the resources of the setting though. The new rules specifically mention playing games over countless worlds and dimensions spanning a range of fantasy battles that much trumps the Old World. It is back to the notion that was originally borrowed from the work of Micheal Moorcock. The battle against Chaos spans time and dimension. It is a war that rages across multiple settings. We've always known the Realm of Chaos touched more places than this one little map- now they are trying to open it up.

For me it is a boon. Let's say I decided to run my High Elf army against my friend's Empire army. In terms of the fluff, why did my little 70-man elf army just invade an Imperial province? I know there were games played where Lizardmen fought Ogres. So you are telling this Ogre/Gnoblar force rented some boats and sailed all the way to South America from Western Europe- or the absolutely xenophobic Skinks and Saurus went the other way to raid the Ogre Kingdoms. Did they fight the Dwarfs and Orcs in the mountains to get there. Maybe they swung through the deserts of the Tomb Kings or cut a swath through the Empire. Having a map with such distinct territories made sense on one hand, but on the other it was just silly.

We lost rank and file!

I've been enjoying these games a long time. I've always accepted that huge blocks of troops move differently from skirmishers. But mechanically the system was a little oversimplified. The wounds caused plus banner plus ranks plus other magic items thing was fine for combat resolution. But I've lost a round of combat based not on overwhelming damage, but because of a mechanical advantage. It had nothing to do with the damage caused or a tactic they used. People built lists to take advantage of rank bonuses. You could drop a champion and powerful character in the unit and get the best result possible from fielding them.

This quite honestly left a lot of models on the shelf. Player A bought a unit because it looked pretty sweet. Player B bough a unit that looked really sweet BUT was mechanically superior in game terms. Player B won. Some units were speed bumps at best. They were hard to do anything with. Great fluff, great miniatures, but useless in terms of playing the actual game. Which brings me to...

Where are the points?

This was one that just shocked me. It still does to some degree, but I really feel like it is a good decision. So this unit costs 'x' amount of points and this other unit costs 'y' amount of points. In a perfect world everything Games Workshop did was built with the costs guaranteeing a balanced game. Except that we know that isn't true. Inevitably with the release schedule, new army books, new models - certain things come out over-costed or over-powered. If the baseline works out then yes, it was similarly balanced. But some things were just too good. I'm sure some of the people complaining about the Age of Sigmar have played games where their opponent fielded something like that. It was on either of end of cost/benefit spectrum in terms of points.

So why did they like the point system? I am talking about clever tournament players here (not just the fluffy lists or WAAC guys). They liked their ability to analyze the point system and the rules of the game to create a list that would do well. If there was an exploitable unit, they exploited it. If there was a point costed magic item they could use to gain an advantage it was in their list. A bad unit from their book or a magic item that didn't return the appropriate investment was left off. They followed the research and tested things out to make a good decision. On the other hand the guy who bought some miniatures, painted them up, and wanted to play a game ended up being overwhelmed by the specifics in the rules. The army that he really wanted to play just wasn't any good against the player built a force to exploit the rules.

All the other stuff

First off Games Workshop didn't take your old books from you. They didn't raid your house and steal your beloved models. Even better they pulled the coolest move possible. They gave you the ruleset for free. They gave you rules for every miniature in your collection for free. I don't see an issue here.

The folks who are complaining that they won't be able to find a game in the future using the last edition. Guess what? We had already stopped playing. Most of us were really tired of the power gamers. We were tired of the constant new book release cycle. We were tired of having to buy miniatures to keep up with the mechanics of the games. I am serious here. If you guys want to continuing playing the last edition we are happy that you like it. But the new players coming in now have an option. Grognards and apologists like me have enjoyed our return to fantasy AND will be playing a little more Age of Sigmar. That isn't really a bad thing.

If you want to post negative comments every time something crops up on your news feed or gaming fan site, I really can't stop you. I really don't mind. That is your choice and eventually you'll realize this game is going to be around for a while. Why not go the route of the Blood Bowl community and establish your own tournament play system. Contribute to the community instead of attacking the rest of us who are enjoying the new release.

We've enjoyed trying to balance the new system. The speed of play, ease of maneuvering, low barrier to entry has us pretty excited about playing with our fantasy toy soldiers. It is a little more beer and pretzels than list building for advantage. It is a game. It is meant to enjoyed among friends and like minded people. If you show up to play a game against my dwarf army with nothing but melee chaos troops, maybe I'll suggest you add a few extra models on the board because I am fielding my cannon and organ gun. Or I can leave off an artilley piece. In Age of Sigmar we can balance the game. In previous editions of the game that option was not given to us. It was done with points.

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