With Age of Sigmar less than two weeks away, the rumour-mill is running haywire, and as with most things that are as heavily locked down as the new game appears to be, most of the rumours both contradict each other, appear either way off the mark or simply too good to be true, or somewhere in between.
So, what can we expect from Age of Sigmar? Without any sort of inside information or preferred rumours, this is my own personal take on what I think the new game will bring.
First and foremost, I expect the game to require less models. Regardless of base shapes and sizes, I would imagine that the game will focus significantly more on centerpiece models and smaller units, making the current boxed sets of ten models more attractive to new buyers. In the eight edition of Warhammer, a unit of Witch Elves more or less required you to bring somewhere around the 30-model mark, and at €45 per ten, such an investment is simply not done without considerable care. Factor in the €60 Cauldron of Blood as well, and you’re looking at a €195 unit which will account for maybe a fifth or less of your army.
I think Games Workshop realises this, and judging by the number of Dark Elven armies using the old pewter Witch Elves still, I am fairly confident that their marketing department does as well. If the plastic Witch Elves were to be viable in units of the ten you get from a single box, it is a safe assumption that more people would pick up that single box – they are, after all, gorgeous models.
Witch Elves are of course an extreme example – the price range for most Warhammer units lies at around two thirds to half of what that particular unit does. Still, the principle is easily transferrable to spam armies such as the Undead (half the amount of zombies needed, with more durability added from centerpieces), and the more support-oriented armies such as Chaos (making the more elite units more viable to build your army around). In short, getting rid of the need for chaff units to sacrifice to the early turns of the game, can only be a good thing for sales.
Secondly, there is the matter of the lore and the visual “feel” of the game setting. A lot of people worry that with the Old World gone, Warhammer is gone forever, that somehow, everything they loved about the game is just wiped clean off the face of the earth. I may be slightly off here, but last I checked, my copy of Valkia the Bloody still sat on my shelf, conveniently next to the End Times series. The lore advances and yes, certain characters and units (looking at you here, Finecast) will disappear. Just like they always have, regardless of game system – as a Juan Diaz collector, I know better than most people what “disappeared” models mean.
But does that mean your whole army is suddenly debunked, as a lot of players seem to believe? The End Times series gave us a very clear indication of the direction they are going in with regards to factions, the unified humans, elves and Chaos armies working very well lorewise as well as design-wise. I think every High Elf-player in the world would agree that new archers and spearmen are dearly needed, but in a unified elven army, is it realistic all the while the Eternal Guard and Dreadspear kits exist (and even at a relatively reasonable price level)? I don’t think it is.
Of course, the reply to this will be “But I don’t want Dreadspears or Eternal Guard”, which is perfectly reasonable. I don’t want the Eagle Bolt Throwers for my Dark Elves, either. But I’m not the target audience. Nor are any of the gamers that will miss the Old World, that think the lore is forever debunked and ruined. Least of all are the players that still run full units of pewter Witch Elves. In short, if you’re in love with the current incarnation of Warhammer, you are not the target audience. Why? Because the current incarnation of Warhammer does not shift enough box sets and books to make it economically viable to keep supporting.
I’ll be the first to join the “It sucks”-line. But honestly? If the game doesn’t make enough money to support continued development, something has to be done. And the first step on that road is to expand the customer base. The sum of current customer base, as loud as they are about their game being taken from them, aren’t actually doing enough for their game to keep it alive. Nothing makes such a clean break easier than a full reboot. Just look to roleplaying games (who regularly update editions, making meter upon meter of books and supplements defunct), online games (who regularly retire content through expansions and DLC-patches), or in particular, collectible card games (with regular release cycles continualy updating both the meta and the formats) and you’ll see that what Games Workshop is doing here is more the norm than the exception.
You may argue then that “you can always go back and play the old content”, to which I reply that yes, yes you can. And as pointed out earlier regarding the Valkia-book, your models, rules and setting will still exist. They just won’t be supported. Just like World of Warcrafts Wrath of the Lich King. Just like Dungeons & Dragons third edition. Just like Magic: the Gathering’s legendary Urza series. Games Workshop aren’t taking anything away from you. They are simply adding another dimension to a product that is no longer managing to operate at critical mass.
So I’m excited for Age of Sigmar. I’m excited to see how they woo me to keep me in the game, while at the same time try to reach out to a more mass-oriented customer base. I’m REALLY excited for the new models, after seeing what they’ve done with the Harlequins and Skitarii. I’m excited to see how they develop the lore, and how much of it will lean on the old lore. Sure, it could all suck and be a huge waste of time and money, but why worry about something I have absolutely zero impact on or control of, that I know almost nothing about?
Two weeks from now, we will know more. And honestly? I think it’s going to be awesome.