Monday, July 6, 2015

Age of Sigmar and You... And Me... And Warhammer

I love Age of Sigmar.

Let's get that out of the way. Let's also get this out of the way: I've been playing Warhammer for almost twenty years (to be precise: 18 years, 6 months, 11 days). In that time I've collected and read every edition of Warhammer, as well as played every spin-off game (except FFG's Warhammer Diskwars). Yes, I've even played WarCry.

As you've already read in this post—or not, maybe you don't read every goddamn thing I type—my first RPG foray was AD&D, but it was really the Hogshead edition of Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play (WFRP) that became my first RPG campaign. I took my high school friends through the entirety of the Enemy Within campaign, even having to hunt down the fifth book because Hogshead gave up the ghost before they could re-publish it. High schoolers playing through an entire five-book campaign, and meeting every week is some feat. I like to think that it was not only my amazing game-mastering skills, but the engaging world of Warhammer that kept us meeting every week.

I guess what I'm getting at is that the Warhammer World was a place that I've lived in since I was ten. the crucial years in a young boy's life were half-spent unfurling the plots of corrupt Imperial nobility, helping Eltharion repel the invasions of Grom the Paunch, and being the occasional third party member to the adventures of Gotrek and Felix. I exaggerate of course, but I truly can name all the provinces in Ulthuan. 

Now it's all blown-up, and we have something new. Why am I not devastated?

Because WFRP (Green Ronin's marvelous revision) still sits on my shelf, and I still plan to run the Enemy Within again. Because eight editions of Warhammer are arranged in a resplendent row beneath WFRP, and because I'm still reading through the End Times novels. My High Elves, my Dwarfs, my Orcs, Goblins, Chaos, and Wood Elves are still going to stay on square bases, and most importantly because the Age of Sigmar is good.

I haven't read any of the fiction yet, but I'm excited to do so. I'll miss the rat-catchers, and the clandestine plotting of Slaaneshi cultists, or ventures into the Border Princes to claim Ghal-Maraz, but as much as we are sometimes confused by Games Workshop's motives, they're not stupid. There's still creativity in the studio and I'm sure they'll make it work.

If you haven't played Age of Sigmar (AoS) yet, the do it. It's free. Get together with a friend, spend thirty-seconds talking about what forces you should bring, and start rolling dice. See that it's not just a dumb beer & pretzels game, but something more. Then come back and read on 'cause I have some things to say.

Warhammer has always been about playing games with your absurd miniatures collection. Rick Priestley was tasked with writing a game that Citadel customers could fart around with after having bought their tenth box of Ruglud's Armoured Orcs (don't write me telling me that box came out later). Points values weren't a priority because most people didn't play with them. You just got together with friends and threw your lead skeletons on a field and played-out a weird parody of Shakespeare

Sure our models aren't on big squares anymore; I'll miss that too, but the game's not terrible because of it. Sure those new models look a lot like Space Marines, but time will tell how popular they become. Let's not mince words, I always though the Tau, and Tomb Kings were silly, but could you imagine 40k and WHFB without them? Those are both armies that came out well into my wargaming career. I rolled my eyes then, as I'm sure many of you roll your eyes at the so-called "Sigmarines."

Two blog posts I read recently solidified why I like AoS. The first one is by a friend of mine, and he succinctly states what was going on with my feelings towards Warhammer were for a while, that I was bored with it.

I haven't been to the local gaming club in over a year, and the last time I went was to play Malifaux. They're primarily a Warhammer club, and I just couldn't bear to lug my dwarves out month after month to line up 24" apart from a Warriors of Chaos army, and play for six turns. I had tried to paint a new army to keep things fresh, but every time I got distracted.

AoS has me excited again. I've played two games so far, and demoed one, and I'm so stoked it's unreal. I already have scenario ideas in mind (the game is definitely scenario-driven), and I'm even determined to create some kind of casual tournament format (again, probably scenario-driven). Most importantly the new boxed set has me wanting to play a Khorne army.

Me: a Khorne army. Me: a disciple of Slaanesh. Me: a guy who rolls his eyes every time Khorne—the bro-iest Chaos god—gets another must-have unit. I am excited to play the new Bloodbound. Unheard of.

The second blog post I read, reinforced my belief that the spirit of Warhammer is still there. If you were to peruse either of the Realm of Chaos volumes as a player who started Warhammer in fourth edition or later, you'd be saying the same thing as people are saying about AoS now: "how do you build an army?" Warhammer, in editions past, had a Gamemaster; AoS just requires that you and your opponent moderate your own games. 

Anyway, both blog entries are great—and much shorter than this one—so give them a read, it's worth it.

I hope I made my points clear. I guess I'm not going to change anyone's mind necessarily—if it's already made up—but I do want to reiterate that though this edition is radically different in mechanics, it's still perfectly in line with Warhammer's spirit. 

It also doesn't invalidate anything that came before it. Bögenhafen will always be destroyed and saved in equal measure; armies of Chaos Dwarves will always march against Undead, or Vampire Counts, or Ogre Kingdoms, or anything else you may have on your shelf. You can still dole out Winds of Magic cards in the Magic Phase, or roll on the Intrigue at Court table in the High Elf book; whatever edition (or mix) of Warhammer you choose to play is still good, and even though Sigmar now holds court in the realm of Azyr, he could just as easily still be lost in the east, beyond the World's Edge Mountains, waiting to one day return and rescue the Empire from itself.


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