Review – Warhammer: Age of Sigmar – Pre-Release thoughts


Hey folks,

I don’t normally do this, but my chats, inboxes and basically any other form of communication are actually exploding with people asking my my thoughts about the spoilers for Warhammer: Age of Sigmar’s four pages of rules, which will be available with a baggie’d Stormcast Eternal this Saturday, July 4th at a friendly local gaming store near you. As usual, someone has gotten their hands on it early, scanned it and thrown it online for the masses to lose their minds over.

So having had a chance to go through the White Dwarf spread, I’ve formed some initial opinions.

The first one is, that given how short the description is, the rules are extremely functional and tight. This is the engine of a game. I’d argue you could boil a lot of rule-systems, when it comes to their core mechanics, down to this bare-bones a description. What the studio has done here is give you the frame for a car. It has a basic engine in it and all it does is drive.

The Armies:

So gone are army books. Now we have Warscrolls. Having seen some of the spoilered Eternal ones from White Dwarf, this is where the detail and colour for the game comes from. It seems to take a page from games like Malifaux that the interesting interactions all come on these cards. There are also a host of key-words on the cards that define what they are and how they act in games. This also allows for future flexibility in ‘framing’ armies should they want to. For now, there are no points, not force organizations or formations… JUST MODEL PROFILES. There aren’t even unit sizes. You can take as many of a model as you like. No banners. No musicians, no champions (so far, if the Eternals are to go by).

“MOTHER OF GOD!” I hear you cry… “HOW WILL WE MAKE ARMIES?”. Well, GW have solved that problem later on, in the Victory conditions, but I’ll get to that later. Suffice it to say most people have already glossed over it, but there is a reason not to take a crazy huge army and a reason to stop deploying units at some point.

The Battlefield:

Nothing crazy-new here. You get some rules for deploying terrain and a neat chart of terrain special effects. None seem game-breaking but there are reasons to interact with them. Tables will likely look about as full in 9th as they did in 8th given the chart. Smallest recommended size is 3×3′ which I think is cool. Warhammer as a kitchen table game!


Again, nice and simple. Three diagrams are provided for options for setup. Set up anywhere in those measurements as long as you’re 12″ away. Setup is alternating as before; but players are ENCOURAGED TO KEEP TRACK OF HOW MANY MODELS THEY DEPLOY.

This is really important. Make a note of that.

You deploy one Warscroll at a time until one side says stop. The person that decides to stop gets to choose who takes the first turn. The opponent can keep deploying WarScrolls if he likes until his deployment zone is full or until he wants to stop.

AGAIN: They need to keep track of how many models they deploy.

After that, you declare a model who is the general. They get Inspiring Presence which can make a friendly unit within 12″ immune to Battleshock for a turn. That’s pretty key. Battleshock basically causes additional ‘Flee’ casualties if you fail those tests at the end of a turn. EVERY UNIT that took casualties takes a Battleshock test, so this can be key to keeping things alive.

Now we get to the key thing most people will overlook…


You win by tabling your opponent. If for some other reason the game needs to end (timed rounds?) then you determine your starting model percentage vs. models killed, including any you summoned somehow (their deaths only count AGAINST you though, summoning never towards your starting army size). Lower percentage of casualties is a Minor Victory.

Now here’s the clever part…


This is where you get the model-count balance to the game. If you’re ever outnumbered by a third or more at the outset of a game, you can attempt a sudden death victory. This is huge, you could conceivably win on Turn 1. You might simply have to assassinate an enemy hero or keeo a model alive for six turns. Be it what it will, your opponent has a reason to stop deploying models after you stop. He does NOT want to get Sudden Death beaten because he decided to drop his entire model collection on the table. It basically puts the onus on the first player to decide how big the game will be.

Now TO’s are going to scratch their heads as to how this will be played in Tournaments. There are already a number of easy fixes in my mind. The simplest one is simply a model pool format. Allow players to bring 100 models to an event. They follow normal setup rules for each round to try to achieve victory, but neither player can set up more than 100 models. That means if you set up 67 figures, you’ll never get Sudden Death beaten. Is it perfect? No, but is it really clever. Yes it is.

There are some simple rules for earning stuff between games as well. Might be a fun Campaign or Tournament rule.

Battle Rounds:

This is all pretty self explanatory and well laid out. Magic is lumped into the Hero phase. Shooting and Close Combat work EXACTLY AS NOW, except with fixed To Hit/Wound rolls based on YOUR MODEL. Your opponent makes saves minus the REND ability of whatever hit them. Familiar to anyone that has ever played Warhammer. Close Combat is the same, except Close Combat weapons have a range now (for instance 2″) where they can strike the enemy, through friendly models in the same unit. Nice and clean, fairly similar to 40k but no Intiative values. Close combat will be particularly deadly.

Mortal Wounds are a big deal. They just kill guys dead. No saves. Look for Mortal damage when you start perusing WarScrolls. Wizards do it with Arcane Bolt for example. Bad way to lose your big monster.

Now the Battleshock Phase is interesting. D6 plus the Casualties you took this round Minus Bravery… Plus 1 Bravery for every 10 guys in your unit. What you fail by you take in additional ‘Flee’ Casualties as guys take off. Big deal and makes losing by a lot huge, as well as the General’s presence huge.

Overall Impressions:

So take this with salt; I’ve seen exactly four Warscrolls.

I like where this game is going. I think the points-free system with the victory conditions capping model count is clever as hell. Will the player-base invent systems to monitor ‘fairness’? Of course they will. Do I like the idea of a Malifaux-Like game system where I get to show up with my model collection and counter deploy my opponent until one of us says uncle with the possibility of Sudden Death on the line? Hell yes I do.

The flavour in this game is really going to come from the WarScrolls themselves. Much like Magic: The Gathering having a very simple mechanic that is flavoured by the cards and releases, Games Workshop has positioned themselves with ultimate creative freedom as well as giving us the ultimate freedom to play with what we want. Will it work? I don’t know. Will it be popular? I’m already excited about it, but then… I’m easy to get excited about cool toy soldiers. I like that you’re writing your army list as you deploy, ante-ing up and Counter-deploying as you go along.

Kudos to the scenarios capping model count though. It’s genius. I know some people aren’t going to believe me that it will work, but if you look hard at the Sudden Death table (which is AFTER DEPLOYMENT), it won’t be hard to have my army go balls out at a single enemy character and just win the game, if I knew where he was during setup the whole time. I think this system might just be brilliant.

I hope people give it a go. I’m excited to show up to a game not knowing what I’m playing with until I start playing. If I have a goal for this little editorial it’s that I hope people can see the smart writing in these rules. As many wise old gamers have been saying this last week; rules don’t have to be complicated to be brilliant.

Good job guys. The studio looks to have whipped up something with the potential to be really, really cool.


~ by Achilles on June 30, 2015.

42 Responses to “Review – Warhammer: Age of Sigmar – Pre-Release thoughts”

  1. If you have the fewer models and you pick a sudden death scenario, your *opponent* gets to pick which hero you have to kill, or which piece of terrain you have to take, or whatever.

    In combat, after you figure out how many hit points of damage you did (saves and stuff), the rules say the *opponent* assigns them to troops and removes models. So you are never going to kill the elite member of a squad until you’ve taken out all of his mooks.

    Do you have any opinions about how model count is balanced against model power? Like, say during deployment I put down three units of skeletons while you put down three units of bloodthirsters. I run out of models but you keep going with another two units consisting of a carnosaur and a dwarven gyrocopter. Now, I’m in the model minority so I get to pick a sudden death thing. But how likely is it that my skeletons are going to manage to kill your hero or whatever, against such an imbalanced force?

    I feel like there just *has* to be something that would address this in the rules, but I don’t see it on the sample warscrolls. Any ideas?

  2. Actually now I think about it, in that scenario I described, I’d have 30 skeletons and you’d have 30 bloothirsters + two other models, so it’d be 32 models vs. 30 models and I wouldn’t get to pick a sudden death thing.

    So I guess that is a balanced scenario by the rules.

    30 skeletons fighting 30 bloodthirsters, a dwarven helecopter, and a dinosaur.

    • I suspect what we’re missing here is the glossary for the Keywords at the bottom of the Battlescrolls. I imagine Hero will be ‘each Hero unit only consists of 1 model’ while ‘Monster’ is something similar. That would prevent the above scenario as you could have 30 Skeletons as one unit fighting 1 Bloodthirster

      • Well, with attack and damage being solely left to the attacking model (and # of attacks) and not conditional on defender (just the save) I can see the stats balancing out better with the example. Skeletons don’t care how tough the BTs are now, just get their TN to hit, then TN to wound. Saturday’s scroll release will be very interesting.

      • “You deploy one Battlescroll at a time until one side says stop. The person that decides to stop gets to choose who takes the first turn. The opponent can keep deploying BattleScrolls if he likes until his deployment zone is full or until he wants to stop.”

        what stops me from deploying one hundred blood thirsters after my opponent drops fifty skeletons and a vampire and says stop

      • Nothing except the possibility that you will lose on sudden death.

    • Ive seen this example everywhere and it is as useless as it is contrived.

      You put down one scroll, then your opponent. Now remember, you dont have a LIST, so you can deploy whatever you want. He drops his demons, you put down your anti-demon, etc.

      You CANNOT balance around model count, because thats not how deployment works.

      You deploy as scrolls. I imagine a skell scroll is minimum of 10. So you are at least talking bout 30 skels and 3 BTs.

      But yes, there could be a game where I deploy nothing but skells, and my opponent nothing but things that kill skells. Thats not the games fault, thats yours.

  3. Been reading everything piecemeal, including the warscrolls. Haven’t had a favorable image of the game until I read your analysis of the deployment/victory conditions (Which I haven’t read in detail). That may be the saving grace for this game and taking it from simplistic skirmish to something more intriguing. It’s still not a RNF game (guess Mantic will get all of those players now), but it may not be a horrible game on its own. 🙂

    • Actually, I see zero reason you couldn’t play with your ranked units as they are right now. No templates that I can see, so no reason not to, actually it favours tightening up to maximize attacks.

      • Well of course you can play with ranked units but why would you want to do that?
        It’s not about a ranked up mass of models! Its about outflanking etc.
        movement in fantasy was very important. now, not so much.
        I would like to add that sudden death is not really balancing since, if I would play 3 thirsters and you 4 clanrats, I would get the bonus.

  4. Measuring from the model instead of the base might be a bit of a problem though. For example, in order to succeed on a charge, you have to get within 1/2″ of the enemy unit. If all of their models have at least 1/2″ of space between the base and the model, that’s not possible.

    You also measure all distances from anywhere on the model, I guess? How do you pick a point to measure from on, say, the huge Nagash model… or a Slann on a hoverchair… or maybe some dude with a super long whip or spear sticking out in front?

    GW has had lots of time to think about these things. Let’s hope they’re all addressed, maybe in a FAQ or on the unit scrolls.

    We need to see what scrolls look like for centerpiece models and stuff. It wouldn’t make sense for one guy with 30 goblins to “outnumber” another guy who has 12 steam tanks or something.

    • The 1/2″ is no problem. You place your model on their base if it’s that far away from the actual model. The base has no game component anymore. It is just to help the model stand up.

      You measure to the closest point, so super long whips just means “objects are closer than they appear”. Note that turning tricks to move that whip around as you move are not possible because it explicitly states that no part of the model can move further than the move attribute.

  5. Having seen some warscrolls all the hero scrolls are one model. All the unit scrolls are any number of models.

    I think super elite infantry (Chosen, Sigmarites, etc) are the way to go. Anything less elite becomes a trap unit, because it raises your model count and is useless compared to elite infantry.

    In fact having any model except your most elite troops and biggest HQs or monsters is a trap move.

    So ideally Nagash+Glottkin+sigmarites+blood dragon knights+organ gun would be the army list to go for.

    A couple of characters, a cavalry unit, a warmachine and a couple of units of troops.

    Might not be popular in pick up games, but the game rules are explicitely designed without pick up games, competitive play, tournaments, balance or playing anyone you don’t sit down and have a half hour conversation with in mind.

    I don’t see how this made it to actual publication.

    • Its so weird that people insist that this game wont work for comps, when the rules says… they are not designed for comps.

      Comps = a structured game where you want to crush your enemy no matter what. Cheese may or may not apply.

      Rec = play a stranger, or a friend, to enjoy the game and have fun.

      You aren’t looking for ways to have fun, you are looking for ways to win at the expense of everything.

      Now you aresaying this is just GW getting us to buy all the expensive models.

      No, thats your desire to break the game. You dont have to buy anything. You can play with 1 blister in fact.

      You are just angry and want to destroy. If you bothered to reach reports of people playing (*gasp*) with an open mind you might learn something.

  6. Reblogged this on White Eagles Wargames Club and commented:
    Some thoughts on the new Age of Sigmar. It’s all change in Warhammer and will make a totally new game!

    Interesting times ahead for sure!

  7. Reblogged this on hobbybutterfly and commented:
    It’s really nice to see a positive approach to the inevitable internet backlash as keyboard warriors fear the sky is falling

  8. Nice analysis of the rules, one more big change is that every turn you roll to see who starts the turn so you can have 2 turns in a row if you are lucky. Its going to make for some very interesting play. Cheers!

    • Absolutely! Who knows, future models might even be able to allow you to modify that roll (I suspect some will) meaning you can set up some really mean plays!

    • I think deployment order will get to be really important. People will place all their characters and monsters first to not up the model count too much, then units last.

  9. If you place 2nd, why wouldn’t you stop every time at 29% more models than your opponent?

    • You pretty much always would. Depends, if you stop placing at 30-40 models you’d only get 10-15 or so more.

    • If you decide to go ahead and exceed by 30%+, you can – as far as I can tell – just keep placing models until no more will fit on your half of the table (at least 12″ from their half). So you could just plonk down 30 hydras or something, once you’ve decided to go over that limit?

      As someone else pointed out, it seems inevitable that there will either be points assigned to warscrolls to try and get some kind of balance, or, the game will only ever work as a friendly game between people who agree in advance on what they’re bringing to the table. Otherwise it’s whoever has the most of the maximum-powered units to pile onto the table.

  10. I think you exaggerate the brilliance of sudden death. If I brought 99 models of say the liberators in one unit and a general, then I get to pick your sudden death target,I’d pick the 99 warriors not my one general. That isn’t doing anything for you. I hope there is more to this than meets the eyes but all signs point to gw laying all the cards on the table already.

    • Change the scenario to just one unit with 100 models as I already see the problem with the scenario.

      • Except if you’ve only deployed one Scroll it’s unlikely I’ve said to stop, giving me the opportunity to continue dropping models, unless I’ve dropped first, dropped something insane and immediately said stop too.

    • Except I get to choose which condition I win on, you just choose which of that unit type. In that scenario is choose Assassinate and you’d be forced to choose your general. He has nowhere to hide (if you’ve not noticed, there is no joining units) so shooting and magic would all be valid ways to make him dead and win the game.

    • The unit selected for Assassinate has to have the Hero, Wizard, Priest, or Monster keyword, so you can’t just pick a big blob of infantry.

  11. Reblogged this on Miniature Musings of a Bear.

  12. If these rules are true, it sounds like a funny scenario, that a random player from a local club would think of. Not a bad scenario actually. But no basis for warhammer fantasy. At all. Imo of course.

  13. Reblogged this on Skwalblog and commented:
    Here’s an “Age of Sigmar” review from Guerrilla Miniatures Games

  14. Seems like a mish-mash of War of the Ring and Fantasy. The complete absence of a points total for armies/forces also seems very strange to me. I guess we’ll just have to see how it plays once the game system is released. I have to be honest though, it seems like a considerable step back following the developments and goodwill generated following the fantastic End Times releases and changes.

  15. As a casual miniature painter, I welcome these changes, as they make it much easier to actually play with the ragtag collection of minis I have gathered over the years. The game sorely needed a lower barrier to entry, as well as an incentive to keep buying more models over time rather than just buying and reselling whole armies on eBay. The hardcore tournamentists are unlikely to like this, but they still have Warmachine to fill their niche. This seems to bring the focus back on the minis and away from books and rulesets, which is probably wise in the long run.

  16. They ruined one of my favourite games and setting for this……

  17. This seems like a great rules set… to get people to play Malifaux instead. 🙂

  18. How does a Dwarf Warrior and a Lizardman Terradon ever get into hand-to-hand combat? Or anything small (swarm, dog, skink) fight anything on a flying base is they have to get the physical models with 1/2″ of each other?

  19. […] had of the background (admittedly only a few paragraphs) reads like sub-par Diablo fanfiction, but the rules… oh, the rules. The rules seem to have something going for them, in the weirdest of all possible ways. And the […]

  20. Thanks for the considered review, it’s refreshing to read something that isn’t either doom & gloom or the 2nd coming 😀

  21. You sir, claiming this is a good job by GW, are an idiot.

    Good day.

  22. This all gives me a massive headache. I’m glad I got out of 40K when I did, because I can see this sort of silliness striking it next.

    • Dunno. It’s making so much money and has already been through its ‘streamlining’ in 3rd edition. I doubt they’ll rock that boat. It’s a dead-easy game as is.

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