Because I like, so far as I’ve played it, Age of Sigmar, I’m going to be doing a part by part review of the game, the book, and what I think about it. Probably comment on how it relates to the miniature hobby as I see it. I think it’s important to have a sense of where I’m coming from and through what lenses I’m looking.
I’ll be looking at the book a couple different ways. First and foremost, from my direct experience.
I used to paint the model cars and I had an HO-scale train set, but got away from all of it a long time ago. It was always fun, but also always a solo activity for me. I’ve only been Wargaming since 2009, just before 8th Edition came out. I was checking out the local game store at the mall and one of the folks I used to work with was there and hosting a group painting session for people new to the hobby, wanted a social way to paint, or swap techniques and show off models. He talked me into trying my hand at the painting, I only had to buy the model (brushes & paints were provided for the session), so I gave it a go and really enjoyed it. I said at the time and still maintain that miniature painting is like a 3D coloring book. At the time I started, I was unemployed (Starting this hobby while broke is a great move, highly recommend it. Not really — it can be an expensive hobby if you let it. But you can make a little money go a long way if you do it right and are patient), and used the hobby to occupy myself between looking for work. I needed SOMETHING to do after searching for work for six hours and doing chores for a couple. I quickly caught up on everything and had quite a bit of spare time on my hands.
So yup, when I started working again I bought the 7th Edition book & Starter set, only to have the new one come out within a couple months. Sheesh. On the plus side, I was able to pick up a few of the Battle for Skull Pass starter sets for less than retail as stock was cleared out for Island of Blood. At any rate, I basically “learned” 7th edition, but only played in it once or twice. I eventually bought the 8th edition book, and army books, and the starter set, got a bunch more Skaven, put a boatload (well over 100) of Clanrats together, and basically overwhelmed myself with what I had in front of me to paint. Besides the difficulty of making time for a game and getting there, there was also the issue of packing up an army. Being inexperienced, I had (and still have) a terrible struggle with army lists and the points system. I got to play a handful of times during 8th edition (6-10 full battles, and a couple solo-chess style games at home).
I then had a couple moves, continued my career, met the love of my life, got married… Life happened and my hobby sat in boxes for about a year. I finally got to a point where I could paint again, but it was inconvenient as I didn’t have the space to keep my stuff “out”. It had to be put away almost every time I wanted to paint or model. We moved again, and now I have a fully hobby corner! As such, I have the ability to sit down and paint in short stints, keep the current project on the table or on my tray if I want do non-detail work elsewhere in the house. It’s also why I started this — I’ve been pretty consistently finishing models over the last few months, and the website gives me a place to show them off. There are a few people at work who are into the idea of wargaming, and one guy who plays 40k, so we’ve been doing a couple 200 point kill team learning games.
All of this is to say — I’ve been around Warhammer for about 6 years, got into it for the cool models and the pass time of painting them up with added bonus of being able to play with the finished product. Like Magic the Gathering is baseball card collecting with a purpose, this is painting car models that have a gaming framework!
I’m a miniature hobbyist that (currently) favors GW models because that’s what I have the most of and have some already finished, with a large compatibility base. They have also had a lot of models that made me WANT to build & paint them. I’m looking at you, Mangler Squigs!
At heart, I’m a casual player that enjoys the visuals of the game, the flexibility of fluff for the battles if you want the immersive role-playing feel, describing the actual bits of the battle as it unfolds, and has fun rolling fistfuls of dice and seeing the outcome. I’m not a rules lawyer, I don’t get jazzed from searching with a fine-tooth comb and finding that rule or points loophole to get an advantage. I don’t paint my models around making a killer army list. I like to play, and the most important part of that is everyone involved having a good time. I’m not competitive beyond “It’s pretty fun to win”. I’ve never minded losing at Warhammer.
I struggled with 7th & 8th editions because of the weight of the rules. Even ignoring the army-specific stuff, the sheer volume of rules regarding all of the various situations really made it difficult to learn and really get into. As a newbie, unless you were with a good group of players, you wouldn’t be told if you were overlooking a rule that was advantageous to you or if you forgot a rule that tips the odds your opponent’s favor. I was lucky enough to have a very friendly & patient group to learn & play with, and they were good about saying “Hey, you might not want to do that because of this rule you overlooked…” Now add in the multitude of armies and all of their special rules, special troop names, and all of their specific advantages & disadvantages. It’s overwhelming and no longer fun, especially if you just want to paint and play a game that shows off some sweet models that are lovingly painted by someone else jazzed to be playing a great looking game.
I’m a player that, for this game, really doesn’t want to spend hours upon hours outside of game-time generating army lists, revamping the lists, tweaking the points, reading the other army books looking for strategies. I reserve that for D&D, and not for rules but for backstory and character/role-playing development. I get that, for some people, this strategic math-hammering is exactly the best part of the game. That’s not me, and unfortunately it’s only good for attracting very specific types of people to the game. It’s ignoring a huge part of the population that might really enjoy the hobby side, and might even like to play the game but don’t want to commit a huge rulebook to memory. Really, the game didn’t need to be that complicated. I hated the stupid tables. Remembering or re-calculating every time what I need to roll to hit, then to wound, and on the other side figuring out the save… it always left me exhausted at the end of game day. I would have rather spent more time enjoying the game and the sight of an epic battle than constantly trying to remember or calculate the rolls I need to make.
That’s the main filter I use when stating my opinions.
The second filter I’ll be trying to use when reviewing Age of Sigmar is that of…
A COMPLETE AND TOTAL NEWBIE. Reading the book with fresh eyes, like I’ve never played a wargame, Warhammer, D&D, or the like ever before. As if a friend of a friend mentioned the game, and I decided to pick up the book and give it a read-through. I’m going to try to forget all of my previous Warhammer fluff & game knowledge and start from scratch. Forgetting the game knowledge is easy, I do that between turns at the table. “Forgetting” the fluff will be tougher, particularly for the Dwarfs & Skaven since those are the armies I’ve read the most about. It won’t be impossible though, as apart from some of the general Dwarf strongholds, famous Dwarfs, and famous battles, I don’t really recall most of it offhand. I’ll be looking for things like new-player friendliness, would this make sense for someone completely removed from this type of gaming (i.e. The “I’ve only ever played Hasbro and MB board games!” person)?
Finally and I expect less successfully, I’ll also try to look at it from the perspective of a seasoned player. This will be the most difficult bit for me, since I’m not, but I’ve had deep discussions with some of the decade+ veterans I know about the system and their gripes with it.
I wanted to post my current bias filter & thought process up front, so I don’t have to re-hash it every time I profess an opinion. I’ll also like to caveat that opinions change, sometimes rapidly. As do biases (though more slowly) and the filter we use to come to our opinions. As such, if I contradict myself, it’s likely because a discussion or my experience has changed my mind!