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Subject: Mixed review of AoS, by an OldHammer player rss

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Jeffrey Layton
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(Plenty of people have discussed the depth of the Age of Sigmar rules for tactical play. My current approach to miniature gaming is to get together with friends and family - and kids in particular - and push colorful model soldiers around the table in order to "make things go boom!" This review was written in that light.)

In the '90s I was a huge Games Workshop fan, running tons of tournaments and demo and league games. My enthusiasm eventually faded and though I still play, it's only with their old stuff like Man O' War, 1st Edition "Rogue Trader" WH40k, Space Fleet, and 5th Edition WFB. (Yes, "HeroHammer." Play it casually with randomly drawn magic cards and no major heroes and it's not such a broken experience.)

When Age of Sigmar came out, I saw there was a big fuss about it but deliberately ignored the whole business. Then a couple of days ago I noticed a post about the rules being free. That was rather unexpected (To say the least), and intrigued me enough to check it out.

A four page rule book? No points system? The Warhammer World destroyed and the setting rebooted in the future? Rules that reward players with game bonuses for real world silly actions?

Wow.

Although I had mixed feelings about some of that, it did manage to get me interested enough to try the game, unlike every other GW release for the past six years.

The rules are even lighter than might be imagined, with only two and a half pages of the four page booklet actually dedicated the game rules and the rest filled with army construction and game setup. However, this is somewhat offset by the fact that the great majority of the units in the game have special rules that apply to them.

I found the lack of a points system somewhat distressing at first. As I almost always play casual games with family and friends these days, I'm used to relying on points systems to create somewhat balanced games. But of course competitive players (including myself during league and tournament play) look to do the opposite, attempting to defeat the points system in order to gain as large an advantage as possible for themself.

That isn't necessarily a bad thing, as the process of creating a competitive force can be an enjoyable process in and of itself. But it does have some unfortunate drawbacks. Most notably, it tends to narrow the list of models used to only those that are the most effective, point for point, thus killing some of the color and variety which many of us feel is the best part of miniature gaming.

All said, I found it really refreshing to be able to just sit down with my opponent and discuss what would make for an enjoyable game, without having to fool with totaling up points. And frankly, so many of the games I play using point totals end up as lopsided affairs (and I'll cheerfully admit that it's usually me on the losing end) that for me their lack isn't really a big deal.

As to the "silly" rules, it seems to me that their importance has been exaggerated by some. Only a handful of units have effects that require real world actions to activate (I don't even own any of them) and in any case any advantage gained by those abilities is going to be pretty much beside the point considering that AoS games aren't designed to be carefully balanced affairs to begin with.

The setting changes are the least desirable from my perspective. Although I understand GW's desire to rebrand their models from a legal standpoint, I rather liked the Warhammer World. I spent a fair amount of time reading up on the new setting, hoping it would appeal to me as well. I'll concede that it works as a method of bringing the old models into the new game, but the Realms just don't appeal to me beyond that. (As always, YMMV.)

So, all that's good and well, but is Age of Sigmar any fun once your miniatures are on the table? Well...

After playing a couple of games with my teenage son, we feel that AoS is a very functional rules system. There aren't any glaring problems with it, though it's somewhat fiddly with the need to keep track of such things as which units have made close combat attacks for the turn, the number of casualties inflicted (for Battleshock tests), wounds inflicted on the tons of models with multiple wounds, and so forth.

None of those are difficult or unusual things, and counters go a long ways toward keeping track of that stuff. But I had hoped that maybe AoS would have moved further away from the bits that I dislike about WFB by eliminating more of the bookkeeping end of things.

The simple movement rules are a relief, as we never really cared for the complex unit maneuvering rules in Warhammer Fantasy Battles. Despite that, I expected that the overall changes in going to such a rules lite system would greatly speed up game play, and that doesn't seem to be the case for us.

To sum up, we feel that AoS is an okay system, and I suppose that we'd play again if asked. It's just that we didn't have any of the "OMG that (rule) is so cool!!" moments that we usually have when trying out a new game (or playing an old favorite, for that matter.)

I think we'll stick with my 5th Edition WFB set for now.
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Jon M
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Have you tried Lion Rampant? It is a great rule set for medieval style gaming - light but tactical, random but rewards planning. There is also a dedicated fantasy version coming in December.
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Rob Arcangeli
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I have been alternating between games of 8th Edition WFB and Age of Sigmar recently and the more I play, the more I actually prefer AoS as a game.

It seems to get the exact same results but at a faster pace and lot less grind. Just streamlining things like giving a fixed "To Hit" roll saves the endless comparing of WS to WS and discovering you need a 4+ anyway.

So far I have had a few "throw down" games of AoS and they have all worked. As long as you use a scenario with very specific rules and objectives it plays great.

Edit: And yes, the "real world" rules affect about half a dozen units from the older armies and nothing of the Age of Sigmar forces. For some reason everyone has decided they are a crucial part of the system!
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Jeffrey Layton
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Jon_1066 wrote:
Have you tried Lion Rampant? It is a great rule set for medieval style gaming - light but tactical, random but rewards planning. There is also a dedicated fantasy version coming in December.


Thanks so much for recommending Lion Rampant! I'll be checking it out as it definitely sounds like a game that my son and I would enjoy.
 
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Jeffrey Layton
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Arcangeli wrote:
I have been alternating between games of 8th Edition WFB and Age of Sigmar recently and the more I play, the more I actually prefer AoS as a game.


Yes, BattleTech and Mekatac (a game with a 7 page rulebook that has been called "BattleTech Lite") are like that for me - I enjoy both but slightly prefer the lighter rules of Mekatac.

Although AoS didn't appeal to me as strongly as I had hoped, I certainly don't think that it's bad game by any means, and I'm glad that you're enjoying it!
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