warhammer games workshop fantasy battles oldhammer tabletop game miniatures

Give Sigmar a Chance: Why I’m giving Games Workshops ‘Age of Sigmar’ a Second Look…

Age of Sigmar is a tabletop war-game set in a fantasy world created by Games Workshop (GW). The game involves miniatures to represent warriors and monsters, with dices rolls used to represent the fray of battle as two or more players strive to defeat their opponents.

Warhammer Fantasy Battles (WFB) was the precursor to Age of Sigmar, and its development into the newer game was fraught with poor decision making and knee jerk reactions, with an unhealthy dose of corporate foolery.

I was a long time fan of Warhammer in its earlier and middle life. It was something I grew up with. Its strong sense of fantasy and rich lore was inspiring to a young boy, teenager and adult. As a nerd, it was a binding force among friends that ran alongside games like Dungeons & Dragons. It was a large part of our youth.

I took time out from Warhammer and GW they fell out of favour with me for many reasons. So when I heard about the new Age of Sigmar I was hopeful for a balanced and fun game. I felt let down and the following history tale feels like a terrible loss to something I held very dearly.

But I’m giving GW a second chance, and I’ll explain why later.

First, some history…

warhammer games workshop fantasy battles oldhammer tabletop game miniatures

The Lore Unflinching

Since its inception in 1983, Warhammer Fantasy Battle has been rich in its setting, abundant history and legends combined with inspiring artwork and grandiose tales. It was for the most part, a thing of beauty, the likes of which no other company had managed to create. WFB ran until 2010, with 27 years of added legends and story, enriching its own lore within each incarnation, eventually ploughing itself into an 8th and final edition.

However, a common complaint is that the story of the world never really advanced. Most of the rich storytelling, the history of the world, had already taken place. Global political and natural events had already shaped the world, from the war between Elves and Dwarves to the cataclysms that shaped the geography. With the exception of the incursions forces of Chaos (the ultimate big bad guys of the setting) very little else changed, and for 27 years humanity and its allies stood on the brink of extermination and extinction… yet was never quite defeated or victorious.

Arguably there’s a difference between the campaign world and the larger written fiction world: Despite gaps in the world, the GW development team failed to seize and advanced certain narrative arcs or historical campaigns, such as the War of the Beard, pitching Elves and Dwarves into a war that lasted years, creating offshoots of each nation / faction. Despite having untapped regions on the world map, it seemed that GW prematurely ran out of geographical room, never actually filling out all the regions in detail. The missed opportunities were vast.

warhammer games workshop fantasy battles oldhammer tabletop game miniatures

A Lore Uncopyrighted

WFB was expanded in the 80’s and as such borrowed much of its history and cultural ideas from Lord of the Rings which saw a rise in popularity and profile during that decade. Warhammer was generally considered a variant of many different stories and world settings at a time when copyrighting the name of a species wasn’t ever considered.

This borrowing of cultures and ideas meant that other, smaller companies were able to borrow in turn from GW. Being a large and successful company, GW didn’t like that idea. The prime example of this is the novel “Spots the Space Marinewhich GW wanted removed for copyright reasons. Owning ‘Space Marine’ for themselves was apparently critical to their business model.

When you considered how much GW borrowed from other media, you realise that much of their content was not their own. Copyrighting that content and cornering the market to their benefit was not possible with the old WFB lore. They would have to change everything… which Age of Sigmar does; the heart warming Elves, Dwarves, Goblins and Orcs were replaced with Aelves, Duardin, Grots and Orruk. It’s also hard to copyright historical figures and names, looking at you Bretonnian players!

warhammer games workshop fantasy battles oldhammer tabletop game miniatures

Compounding the Fractures

For new players, starting a game of Warhammer can be costly, with players investing their time and precious money into buying miniatures, paints, brushes, terrain boards and books to create their armies. If you just look at the price of the miniatures, you can spend hundreds of your precious monies before you’ve assembled anything. So when a game loses its appeal to old gamers, and new gamers can’t afford to start playing, sales begin drop and any company is likely to worry. But GW didn’t seem to learn with each new edition of WFB…

The 6th Edition of WFB was considered ‘alright’ in its early days for game balance. It still had its problems, much like any game. Unfortunately it was the start of the fall, where the final few Army Books published showed an increase in the power creep (where successive armies would be significantly tougher and cheaper to purchase in-game). Matching armies to play a fair game was harder and players started to emulate the winners creating a stale gaming style. Spending hundreds of pounds on an impressive army didn’t guarantee a satisfactory win/lose ratio.

7th Edition compounded on 6th edition and was the point in time when the famous (probably misquote) “We’re a miniature company not a games company” by the CEO of that time, Kirby. This was considered the primary unbalanced version of the game. This was also the time of the GW store changes, where a single member of staff was expected to run the store. This lead to an end of local store tournaments and a reliance on local independent gaming stores to do the hard work, which they were not prepared to do.

8th Edition simply added on top of this again, removing some parts of the game that required skill and understanding and replaced them with unbalanced armies and rules in totality.

 

Mat Ward held the creative reigns during these times of troubles and was supposedly responsible for the power creep of factions – most of the army supplement books were under his name which unfortunately lead to a loss in popularity. This lower-quality “modelling business” seems to have driven a core of players away, especially when GW tried to claim gamers only made up 20% of their sales (maybe they included digital games and fiction in those sales numbers, who knows). Still, 20% is a huge chunk of your market and not to be sniffed at.

The messiah Jedi to bring balance should have been 9th Edition and was rumoured to be an amazing game of fortitude and fun. However, some internet folks believe that this dropped the sales of the 8th edition as players saved their cash ready to spend it all in a glorious fit of nerd-frenzy… GW scrapped most of what 9th edition could have been. Frankly, GW had failed its panic test and bottled it, doing something so knee jerk worthy that many of their core fans and players simply stared in disbelief.

They killed it all off.

In an act of terrible corporate zeal, it was deemed unworthy and so all of it had to burn, apparently.

Warhammer 40K, the Expanding Galaxy

On the other hand, GW’s Warhammer 40,000 (40K) storyline moved onwards in the grim darkness of the 41st millenium. Players still flocked to it and it seemed always popular. Everyone loves “Spess Ma-reens!” So while WFB fell, GW put their time and effort into 40K. This lead to more delays and lethargy in creating content for WFB, hammering further nails into its coffin.

warhammer games workshop fantasy battles oldhammer tabletop game miniatures age of sigmar

Birth of the Mortal Realms, the Age of Sigmar

It was expected that 9th edition was going to mend itself, bandage its blood spouting wounds, stick on an eye patch and throw itself back into the fight for the old world with a grizzled low growl. But with the panicked reaction from a slump in sales, GW rushed ahead with Age of Sigmar and dumped the Old World. The lore and world history of WFB was abolished, the relics and lessons of the Old World were forgotten and the new world, the world of Mortal Realms was born.

Many fans were outraged (I mean, it is the internet) and a solid core of supporting players felt abandoned and ignored. No doubt many miniatures ended up in the bin, or left to fend for themselves Toy Story style in a box of Barbie dolls… or likely ended up on eBay.

Warhammer now looked like something from Magic the Gathering, minus the charm.

So why, after the loss of something held very dear, am I giving Age of Sigmar and Games Workshop another chance?

warhammer games workshop fantasy battles oldhammer tabletop game miniatures age of sigmar

Age of Sigmar

The new game is very accessible and despite frankly large problems, holds promise. The core rules are completely free and readily available online to print out yourselves.

Now you can play the game as a narrative (discard point values for armies) or you can carry out matched play, where you decide on the points values for your forces. This means you can tailor games for competitions or story driven wars.

A Battle Narrative

The revived and quick to learn rules have given GW a chance at another shot to regain the glory of the old days – quite simply it’s a shame they had to destroy everything the fans loved about the setting (but all is not lost). Games are now played in scenarios. This put me off originally, because I love a good ruck in the mud with swords and death, but actually, scenarios allows me to play a relatively weak force (High Elves, who are now Swifthawk Riders) against an incredibly overpowered force (such as the Beastclaw Raiders) and hopefully run rings around them, because no army is able to be perfect in a randomly determined scenario.

Embers of the Old World

Thankfully, GW are still publishing fiction related to the Old World. They’ve even gone back further and re-released fiction before the time of Karl Franz (the emperor with the big hammer at WFB peak). Third parties such as Cubicle 7 have brought fresh life to the Old World with a renewed and updated version of the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying Game (we had a peek early on here…) and God’s bless the Creative Assembly for sticking with the Old World in their very successful Total War: Warhammer series (which merges two of my favourite things wonderfully).

And finally… Gotrek Gurnison lives! The doom-seeking Slayer wandered out of the time warping Chaos Wastes of the Old World to bring some good old fashioned Slayer perspective in Realm Slayer. Gotrek quests through the Mortal Realms to find his manling sidekick, Felix Jaeger, who may have been reincarnated as a Stormcast Eternal! This is a great tale that sets the scene for Age of Sigmar and throws us veteran players a much desired connection to the World that Once was.

Gotrek Gurnison Felix Jaeger troll salay beast slayer everything slayer

So, like with the new Star Wars movies – the new stuff doesn’t invalidate the old stuff – you can still read and watch the old stories and enjoy them for what they are. You can do the same for Warhammer.

GW took a huge gamble which seems to have paid off.

At least for now…

Absolutely Final Bit

If you keep up to date with the acts of GW and their Age of sigmar game, you may want to take a look at this petition that is over five years old. If you read it you’ll see that most of what the petition was asking for has actually been met by the GW. Shame they never actually replied to the petition…

https://www.change.org/p/games-workshop-limited-refocus-your-business-model-on-the-sale-of-a-game-and-support-of-a-gaming-community-vice-the-pure-sale-of-collectible-miniatures

That about wraps it up for now! Thanks for reading, and as ever, your comments and discussion are always welcome. perhaps you know something we don’t and would like to share your thoughts?

@FerrisWrites for Twitter and our Facebook page.

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45 thoughts on “Give Sigmar a Chance: Why I’m giving Games Workshops ‘Age of Sigmar’ a Second Look…”

    1. Afraid to say that it’s a written personal account of why I’m feeling like the new stuff isn’t as bad as I first thought. Theres no money to this site, your read and comment cost us 😉

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  1. The lore progressing I could have gotten down with. It was the game itself I didn’t care for. Every time I watch it played, it just looks like 40k. Becoming skirmish lost its distinctiveness. There was a third option that a lot of the community followed: Kings of War. Mantic, the company that makes it, made a brilliant move shortly after the End Times fiasco. They make rules to allow people to use their Warhammer armies on the game and actively encouraged it. Within a year, KoW had entirely taken over the WFB Master Circuit. It has a lot of the things about Warhammer’s game that made it unique, but significantly more streamlined and balanced. I recommend you give it a shot at some point.

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    1. Thanks! Yeah we looked into it a while back and at first we didn’t think much of it. A few people have recommended it since we published this article so we’ll give it a go and draw comparisons. Thanks for the helpful insight and suggestion, we appreciate all the discussion 😀

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  2. No no no. Gw destroyed fantasy world. Their ruined so many models, hopes, books, stories. I want not to be vulgar. Bye stupid GW. 🤯🤯🤯🤯

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  3. if you loved playing WHFB and were disappointed by AoS, you will probably love playing The Ninth Age.

    free rules, freedom in choosing miniatures, petitions that are heard (because the game creators are volunteering gamers), no power creep since T9A doesn’t sell miniatures.

    if you’re curious i can tell you more. i’d love to see an article of yours on T9A, especially if you say that all your articles are spontaneous and not sponsored!

    cheers,
    f

    Liked by 1 person

      1. with pleasure! i don’t want to cram the comments section of your post on AoS with T9A info, so feel free to contact me on the-ninth-age.com (username: piteglio) or on facebook (page: Veil of the Ages). cheers!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. No I am afraid not. The Old World is what originally got me interested in Warhammer. GW destroyed that with age of sigmar. Frankly in my opinion the “embers of the Old World ” just add insult to injury. They got rid of a low fantasy world with more than 2 decades of fluff (loved Gotrek and Felix) and gave us an unfinished high fantasy world. On top of that we had a mass army battle game with ordered ranks and it was replaced with a game that more resembles a skirmish game with its complexity knocked down a few notches. They turned their fantasy game into high fantasy 40k and doesn’t interest me at all. I’m glad you might be able to get back into it but I never will. I still play 6th and 8th with my High Elves and Dwarfs with my gaming group and will never touch aos though a few of my group do play it. I have nothing against people that move on to play aos but I wont give it a chance that in my opinion it doesn’t deserve.

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    1. Fair point – I think we forget that the 1st edition had very little lore to it, and that since AoS is still in it infancy. Although I miss the old lore, and it really was what got me into fantasy gaming, I hope that AoS grows in much the same fashion.

      Do you play any other games in its place?

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      1. I agree 1st started with almost no lore, it’s not truly the lack of lore in aos that is the issue but the fact they threw away so much instead of advancing the lore or adding to it. I still play fantasy almost every weekend since quite a few of my gaming group still have our armies. A few of them play aos as well but there are also many of us stick in the muds who wont. Hell, I still play Warmaster and Battlefleet Gothic regularly. I love ranked movement so I still like fantasy movement and Warmaster movement.

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      2. It’s good that you’re still playing it, it will keep the game alive and hopefully interest a few of the newer players in your area. Warmaster, it was like epic but for fantasy, right? Battlefleet Gothic was also a great game, but I was terrible at planning ahead! I miss the old lore, but I’m glad Cubicle 7 are keeping it a live with their Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (which should be landing through my door today, hopefully!)

        Thanks for taking the time to comment, its all appreciated! 🙂

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      3. Ya Warmaster is like Epic for fantasy, its a Rick Preistly rule set I believe. I have WFRP and I am real happy C7 is keeping the world alive. I have far to much invested in Fantasy to stop playing.

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  5. Beastclaw raiders are in the bottom 3 worst armies in the game. Literally the worst of the armies with a battletome…

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      1. No, the view 2 years ago in GHB 2016 (generals handbook 2016) was that they were strong (not over powered). Mixed destruction was good then. GHB 2017 nerfed them with FAQs, point hikes and changes in mixed destruction allegiance abilities.
        BCR are one of the least successful armies in the game in tournaments (only one player in Australia has a swifthawk army so they aren’t good). They had a 30% win rate across 46 events (11.5k games) according to the honest wargamer stats. Swiftclaw had 50% cause of that one dude in Australia who won 3 out of 6 games.
        The over powered factions in the last GHB(18), were daughters of Khaine, Flesh eater courts, and skaven (legions of nagash in 4th place).
        You’re article compares one of the most under representative faction vs one if the least competitive ones with a tome. It’s misleading for beginners who may take BCR cause they think it will do well but can’t beat FEC, daughters, Fyreslayers, skaven, slaanesh, gitz, stormcast

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      2. Thanks for those Stats Donal, you’ve clearly done your homework! Do you have a link to those sources so that I may review them myself and update / edit the blog in order to better represent the factions in question? That would be very helpful! 🙂

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  6. Great article. I had similar feelings about the death of the old warhammer setting. I have seen a few games of AOS played and it looks alright, however I have moved away from the fantasy side of the game and exclusively play 40k. One thing is for sure, as a business decision AOS has been a massive commercial success. Games workshop shares have been some of the fastest growing in the world over the past couple of years showing a huge boost in sales. Games workshop has been all over the finincial press and is seen to be doing incredibly well based on its recent decisions.

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  7. I’m a Warhammer fan of 30+ years standing, and whilst I thoroughly mourn the Old World (and rejoice at its continuance with C7 etc), and I have no interest in the Lore for AoS… the Game itself is actually a lot of fun if you want to mash 2 collections of figures together and roll loads dice. I REALLY wanted to dislike it, but find that I can’t.

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    1. Agreed! I wish I had given it a second look earlier on, rather than just walk away a bit salty. I find the skirmish version particularly fun for quick games (we play that part of AoS the most).

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  8. Please consider writing an article on The Ninth Age as Piteglio mentioned before.
    It’s a wonderful world similar to the beginnings of WFB. The story is being driven and written as we speak by the community, for the community.
    The more people that hear about it, the more people that contribute, the better the game will become!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve been on talks with Piteglio for a couple of days and agreed to read what information there is on the game. It smells strongly of nostalgia so far. Perhaps you could help me locate a file that details the world setting, I cant seem to find it…

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  9. as Beniamin says, the setting is being developed, and snippets of lore are scattered among the available publications. but there are some collections already, like this “Circling the Abyss” booklet, which deals with the Gods ruling the setting of Warriors and Daemons. i know some people liked the four old deities very much, but (at least in my view) nostalgia in T9A is essentially about allowing people to use their old miniatures to play mass rank-and-file fantasy games. all of the rest can and should go away : )

    https://www.the-ninth-age.com/filebase/index.php?file/764-circling-the-abyss/

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  10. Also check out this as an example of T9A being a further development of Warhammer’s spirit as a static historically based classic fantasy smörgåsbord setting, but far more than just a Warhammer clone. It’s a creative force to take notice of for the future, with big ambitions and many new concepts under development (e.g. Ethiopian fantasy Dwarves): https://www.deviantart.com/the-ninth-age-t9a/gallery/

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Excellent post!

    I adore Warhammer Fantasy, to the point where I am starting a 6th edition campaign soon (nothing is stopping a player do that).
    I agree with the lore side. The original Storm of Chaos campaign was amazing, gripping in both the army book and White Dwarf…..and then it was wiped. Starting 7th with this new lore would have been a great step forward. Which is something that I see Mantic have done with Kings of War (another game that I will be playing soon)
    I took the almost standard hobby break in my 20s and returned literally 6 weeks before Age of Sigmar dropped. With my Ogres, Ogors as it is now, ready I played a few games….but the nostalgia wasn’t there. And I believe that’s where a lot of my hang ups on AoS stemmed from. Nostalgia is a powerful drug.
    But mechanically, it was fun. Some, not all, tactics I had learned worked. The heroes giving area buffs reminded me of the Command and Conquer style games I enjoyed on the computer. As such I am giving it another go!

    40k is a game that I have always loved the background and setting, but have yet to settle in to. I started at 3rd edition and on off since then. As I sit here I can see my 5000pts of Chaos that has been collecting dust for as long as I have collected them, and one day I shall try this “new” version.

    Once again, this is a great article and consider the blog followed

    Liked by 1 person

  12. As the gngrnoob said, I think GW made a mistake retconning the storm of chaos as it was the first big step they had taken in advancing the story in a while.
    There is no doubt about it that GW screwed up the launch of AOS, I always believed they had decided to use it as the test for the planned major changes to 8th 40k and fair play to them they learnt the lessons well.
    My two main beefs were always the destruction of the world and more importantly the change to skirmish. That was the bit which really put me off and why I’ve not enjoyed playing it.
    As someone who one played a few games of 7th 40k and then retried it in 8th I can really appreciate the simplification of the rules, it makes the entry level far easier. It’s one of the selling points to me of Kings of War. The rule set made it really easy to pick up. I still don’t like KOW nearly as much as Warhammer but it’s not bad. It is a great competition game as it’s very balanced but I find that also makes it a little sterile. Warhammer definitely had some imbalances but I liked that as it made some armies more challenging to play and ultimately more satisfying when you got the win with them.
    One thing I never understood was there was so much anger and rage quitting of Warhammer (I’ll admit to having the anger bit) but nothing stopped peeps from continuing to play the game and in some ways there is more freedom now. We’ve even found that quite a few players are coming back to the game playing both 8th and 6th.
    The other thing we’ve found at the club that has extended the life of the game is introducing a load more scenarios. It’s one thing that Kings of War and AOS got right. It really helps bring a lot more variety to the game.

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      1. I’m part of the South East London Wargamers (SELWG). The club has a pool of around 100 members but 15-25 will play various fantasy games (as one of their many different genres).

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