Fantasy Battles – Age of Sigmar

I promised a long, long time ago to try out Age of Sigmar. Jen really wasn’t interested, but my old Warhammer buddy has gotten into it and offered to show me through it.

We played Wood Elves vs Warriors of Chaos (with a few Skaven thrown in) but I suppose in the new jargon that would be ‘Aelf Wanderers and Sylvaneth’ against… something else? We used Warscroll Builder to come up with 2000pt armies, and since I haven’t read more than the four-page rulebook (and dozens of pages of warscrolls for my two elf armies…) I don’t know if it accurately reflects all of the points options available. Compared to old Warhammer, there are far fewer options. I suppose it’s on the same sort of level as Kings of War – pick a unit, choose small/medium/large and off you go. But I’d have to see the Age of Sigmar supplement that describes pointed battles to understand it properly.

Headline response? I think I’ll try it again, but it’s definitely not hooked me yet. It wasn’t that hard to pick up, although I didn’t really get to learn how to use each unit well. The game played out strangely – because I had managed to get near an objective and that unit didn’t die fast enough, I scored a couple of points and technically won. However, I lost almost my entire army and what was left was too far away to do anything if we’d played longer. Compared to our Kings of War game this one took 3 hours to finish 3 turns, and that took under 2 hours to finish 6 or more – with roughly comparable armies.

Comparing to both Kings of War and old Warhammer, this game is more fiddly. Every model moves separately. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is why it took so much time to play, since the other two games both involve pushing around whole trays of models that fight as a tight formation.

It also feels less tactical, although I suppose the tactics have just changed. I used a battalion rule that let me ambush and come on at any table edge to sneak in behind the enemy lines and start shooting. However, in Age of Sigmar turning around is impossibly easy, the combination of moving and charging means everything is a little bit closer and for bonus points, there is no benefit to flanking your opponents units. It looks like the game needs you to be smarter about which match-ups you get into or what support your units have (since combat no longer prevents you from shooting into or out of combat), and not necessarily smarter about how you move around the battlefield. The absence of any tactical movement rules like fleeing from a charge go along with this.

I’m not sure I like the new tactical direction. I liked the feel of drawing a unit somewhere it didn’t want to be and then hitting it in the side for maximum impact. Since I’ve almost always used Elves you need to be able to maximise their effectiveness with ganging up or gaining some sort of advantage, but there’s no major benefit to either of those in Age of Sigmar. It won’t matter where my Elf unit engages the Chaos Knights, they are screwed unless there are absolutely loads of them – and even then Battleshock will take care of the rest even if they win.

I do like Battleshock as a rule. I didn’t dislike fleeing and pursuing, but Battleshock is one area of the game that just goes faster and still does it’s job. It also keeps units in the fight so you’re not looking at all your fleeing units and wondering if you’ll be able to rally them in time to do something useful with them. The downside is when you realise that your units shouldn’t be in that fight in the first place, and you’d really rather they fled somewhere safer (although having ambushed right along the back line, my units had nowhere to run anyway…)

Another thing I liked was the individual melee weapon ranges. It’s a bit fiddly, the sort of thing that would go down well in Mordheim or Necromunda better, but the idea of a Treeman being able to reach over two models to hit a guy further back whereas swords are pretty much ‘base contact’ is really neat. I noticed that the spear wielders could still attack in two ‘ranks’ if they were bunched up together.

Overall, there are things I think I need to try again to see if I can get the hang of it. I almost feel like 2000pts is too big for a game where you’re moving individual models, measuring 1” ranges to see if they hit in combat (2” for spears) but I’ll try it with the Dark Elves (‘Aelf Exiles’) and see if they get on any better.

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