With the release of the Age of Sigmar rules and warscrolls this weekend, a friend and I got together today to test the rules with our old fantasy armies, Dark Elves (now known as the more IP-friendly Aelven Exiles) and Warriors of Chaos. Khorne and Khaine rubbed their respective hands as carnage was being prepared in their names…
We decided in advance to set a cap of maxium six warscrolls, with a total of no more than fifty wounds. We also agreed on a house rule that we measure everything from the base edge rather than the model itself – with models such as the Reaper Bolt Thrower in place, it’s simply more fair since the arrowheads would give me a significant advantage if I were to measure from them instead of the body of the model.
Given the reputation given to the game by a certain audience on the internet, we also brought a bag of pretzels (but sadly no beer, since we were both driving), as is only good and proper.
Fur our lists, we both decided to go with variety over spam; there are simply so many new things to test!
– Hellebron on Cauldron of Blood
– Dreadlord with Tyrant Shield and Exile Blade
– 5 Dark Riders with Herald and Hornblower
– 11 Witch Elves with Hag, Standard Bearer and Hornblower
– 5 Shades
– Reaper Bolt Thrower
– Lord of Khorne with Hellforged Glaive and Ruinous Broadsword
– Sorcerer Lord of Tzeentch
– 20 Maraduers; 10 with Barbarian Flails, 10 with Barbarian Axes and Darkwood Shields
– 5 Chosen with Exalted Champion, Icon Bearer and Skull Drummer
– 3 Skullcrushers with Skullhunter, Standard Bearer and Hornblower
For deployment, we conventiently rolled two pieces of terrain in each corner. We also decided to go with only four squares since our forces were so small. I set up first, putting down the Dark Riders to force a flank. We then alternated, Chaos putting the Sorcerer in place by a building to have a view of the far hill in case of Shades, and both of us building a strong center. Finally, the Shades showed up as expected, applying some pressure to the Skullcrushers and forcing them forward.
Chaos goes first, and the Sorcerer celebrates by firing a Bolt of Change towards the sneakily deployed Shades – and misses them completely. The rest of the army advanced forward, taking the option to run, leaving little else to do.
For the elves, the combat unit advanced towards the Skullcrushers, and the Riders ran out right to draw the Marauders out on the flank. During the shooting phase, the Shades put 2 wounds on the Sorcerer, the Bolt Throwers shot three into a Skullcrusher and the Riders killed three Marauders. As we got to the charge phase, however, every single unit miraculously failed their charge test, even with Hornblower rerolls, leaving my entire army sitting ducks for the Chaos charge.
The Sorcerer did not enjoy those crossbow bolts, and promptly returns the favour by not only killing off 3 Shades with his Bolt of Change, but also summoning a Chaos Spawn on top of them, making their situation very dire indeed. The Marauders charged the Dark Riders, without much luck – they kill one, but lose five of their own numbers. On the other side of the battlefield, the Skullcrushers charge the Witches and kills off six of them. The Witches claims revenge by killing off one Skullcrusher and laying another three wounds into another, somewhat saving the face of the Dreadlord (who misses every single one of her attacks). So much for Herohammer! At the far edge of the table, the Spawn piles into the Shades, taking two wounds damage as a result.
Then comes the Battleshock phase. And the remaining Witches promptly fucks off back to their lair, deciding they are having no more of this Skullcrusher shit coming their way. A Dark Rider decides to join them, the lure of Witch hanky-panky too strong for his dice luck to handle. As a direct result, we’re falling into a Sudden Death! I choose Blunt, and my opponent nominates his Chosen. Now the game is on!
As my own round starts, the Bolt Thrower shaves a solid 5 wounds off of the Chosen, halving their total. In combat. the Shades shave another wound off the Spawn, the Riders kill another Marauder, before Hellebron and the Dreadlord combine to finish off the Skullcrusher unit, with the Lord taking two wounds herself.
Very few models are left on the table now, and the Sorcerer makes sure there are even fewer by finishing off the Shades, adding another Spawn to his army. The Chosen kills off the Dreadlord, and Hellebron kills off another Chosen, leaving the unit down to three wounds.
The Aelf round begins with the Bolt Thrower killing off the Sorcerer, the Dark Riders and Marauders taking another wound each, before finally Hellebron wipes out the Chosen, fulfilling the Sudden Death objective, and handing the Aelven Exiles a major victory!
Age of Sigmar is definitely NOT Warhammer. It’s carnage on a whole other level, yet at the same time refreshingly fair. The complete lack of rerollable 2+ rolls to hit and wound makes a huge difference, both in damage output, but also the ability to pit units against each other. I genuinely felt like I could take on that Spawn with my two Shades, even with their 6+ save. Likewise, the Skullcrushers (while taking out my Witches) were certainly less fearsome in action than when deployed.
What worries me though, is the lack of depth in the rules. As it is, I can not only shoot into a combat, I can shoot at my opponent while in combat – simply because there are no rule disallowing it. In fact, the rules state that I may shoot unless certain conditions (having ran or retreated) are met, suggesting that this isn’t even an oversight. The game, it seems, is intended to be this “killy”, and as a result, my Dark Riders are an absolute powerhouse now, with a total of six attack spread out across various phases.
Speaking of Dark Riders – all cavalry have two (or more) wounds now. How awesome is that? FINALLY that damned mount gets some regard. It’s such a minor change, but I really love it. Adding durability to units such as cavalry can only be a good thing.
Finally, there’s Sudden Death. I can already see armies taking lots of multi-wound elite units to get a low, but strong model core, to force Sudden Death early, being a very viable tactic. A Cold One/Dragon list is already brewing in my mind…
Age of Sigmar is a good game. It’s ridiculously simple to grasp, yet there are still elements of tactics to it that will only come with experience and overview. Unit selection during the combat phase, immunity bubbles to Battleshock, deployment and movement at all factors that WILL impact games against opponents that know their game. As for depth and special rules, having played Hellebron in this game, I can safely say that I think warscrolls will address this. Not immediately, but as the game progresses. Juggling the various special abilities and predicting my own and the enemy movements to get the max effect from them is going to be a challenge once battles starts increasing in size.
Overall, I am positively pleased with this game, regardless of my initial hesitancy. I think Age of Sigmar has a solid future if Games Workshop continues to build on the core, while at the same time clarifying the points that are still vague.
Me, I’m just waiting to get another game in now.