Warhammer Fantasy Battles, the tabletop miniatures game produced by Games Workshop, has been a staple of the gaming industry for over 30 years. The first edition of the game debuted back in 1983. I remember seeing the game as I was shopping for Dungeons & Dragons stuff at D&J Hobbies in Campbell, California. I was full-on in to RPGs at the time, so I never picked it up. But, I was fascinated with the unique artwork and design of both the original fantasy game and it’s offshoot Warhammer 40,000. 40K (as it’s come to be known) came on the scene about 4 years later and was a far future science fiction miniatures game.
For decades Warhammer was THE miniatures game in the hobby. It was a juggernaut. And, it was as much of a hobby as a game. Building, painting and even converting (what action figure folk would call customizing) was as important as actually playing the game itself. There was a sizable audience who actually never played, but just enjoyed building the models.
Earlier this year Games Workshop released a series of projects for Warhammer Fantasy Battles (WFB) under the label End Times. GW is particularily cagey about their upcoming plans, but there were rumors floating about that a new edition (9th Edition) was imminent. The End Times product line told the tale of the end of the Warhammer world, a world with a rich and detailed history that had been unveiled over three decades of game products and novels.
Fans didn’t know how literal the title was. It was, indeed, the End Times for Warhammer. At the end of the product line the Warhammer world was destroyed and with it, the game itself. Warhammer, as it had been for 30 years, was no more.
In July 2015 the company unveiled Warhammer: Age of Sigmar. Sigmar was an important character in the Old World history of Warhammer. He was a God-King and it turns out that he was able to save a portion of the world and it’s inhabitants. Unfortunately, the evil forces of Chaos also survived the cataclysm and were running roughshod over the 9 realms of the new setting.
Game-wise, Age of Sigmar (AoS) is a very different game than it’s predecessor. Where the original game was all about mass battles (literally hundreds of miniatures on the table) arranged in ranks and file moving as units, AoS is a skirmish game utilizing fewer models that can move with more independence.
The biggest shock? The basic rules were 4 pages long. WFB had hundreds of pages of rules. The change was too much for many and saw long time fans and players quitting the game. Others were intrigued by the new rules and the new setting and bought in to Age of Sigmar.
I was one of those who stuck with it. I had finally gotten into Wahammer Fantasy in 2010 with the advent of 8th Edition. I enjoyed the game. I enjoyed building the models. Most of all, I really enjoyed the setting and world that Games Workshop had created. I was, I confess, sad to see it end but the idea of getting in on the ground floor of a new game that still held connections to the old, was exciting to me.
The transition for many, including Games Workshop themselves, has been – understandably – rocky. Many, in their frustration, refused to give the new game a fair chance. Many that did, however, were rewarded with a rich gaming experience that thrived upon greater emphasis (almost dependence) on playing through scenarios instead of just straight up fights.
A new age has begun. I’m really excited to see how the new game develops and unfolds over time. Is it perfect? No, of course not. There’s a few glaring omissions, like a lack of point values for the various units which makes it tougher to balance the two opposing sides in a game, but it all still works surprisingly well. The information for the units in a given army is provided on Warscrolls, which also offer special abilities and rules that adds depth and complexity to the 4 page basic ruleset (which GW offers free on their website).
I was able to participate recently in a league at my local gamestore, Guardian Games, that ran throughout September and October. It was a lot of fun playing, learning more about the game and meeting some of the local players.
The Age of Sigmar looks to be very promising to me. You can find out more about the game on the Games Workshop website. But, be warned…it’s not cheap. It will be make action figure prices look downright affordable!
Warhammer: Age of Sigmar. I dig it!
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