Wednesday, July 29, 2015

REVIEW: Age of Sigmar Book and Starter Set

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past month, you probably have heard of this new thing called The Age of Sigmar. Now that I have had time to peruse through the starter set and read the first big book I can give you my thoughts on them.

Now, I am not going to go into the core rules much here as there are plenty of other, more qualified places, discussing those already. You can read my take on my first game of Age of Sigmar if you want to get some of my thoughts on it. Instead I will be going over the lore, models, scenarios and overall production quality.

Starter Set

I picked up the starter set first and was very excited to crack it open and take a look. Besides the models you get a 96 page book with a few Warscrolls, some scenarios, and a very brief look at the lore. There is only about 20 pages of lore in the starter book and it mostly goes over who the Stormcast Eternals are, what happened to the Realms under Chaos, and the beginning of Sigmar's assault to retake the Realms. Everything is touched upon in the briefest way and is really only meant to set you up for the scenarios in the box and not go super in depth. You learn practically nothing about how Sigmar got to the Realms, how they came to be, or what happened or is going on with the other races. It is an interesting read though and is a good primer to get you started.

The scenarios follow Vandus Hammerhand as he leads his Eternals into the Realm of Fire against the forces of Khorne. Each one builds upon the one before, slowly escalating the number of models involved until the final scenario where it opens it up to as many models as you want. The story line is fairly straight forward, and really is just the initial beachhead assault.

The final part of the book are the Warscrolls for the models in the starter set. These are identical to the one now available online for free, but with no minimum unit size and only the weapon options the models come with.

The models themselves are fantastic, and really are some of the best designs GW has done. A lot of people complain about the Stormcast Eternals being too similar to Space Marines, but beyond being giant humans encased in armor, theres not much else similar is design. I will admit, there is definitely a similarity, but I think there is enough difference to make them interesting. I am interested to see how they expand this army once all the basic infantry is out. I think there are some really interesting options for calvary, monsters, and war machines. I wonder how long before we get a Sigmar model? With any luck Forge World will tackle it.

The Chaos guys fit right into any existing Chaos army but with a ton more detail. There is no debating that switching to round bases has really opened up GW's options for dynamic poses. Every model's pose in this box is great. The Khorne lord has to be one of my favorites. That Flesh Hound is leaps and bounds ahead of it's Finecast brothers.

All in all the starter set is a great value for what you get. Considering a box of the Liberators is $50 on it's own and you get two boxes worth in the set plus the Prosecutors, Retributors, two characters, one of whom is on a Demi-Dragon, and the entire Chaos force AND the book, $125 is a steal. Unlike previous starter sets, the amount of models you get for each side really is a great basis for a game of Age of Sigmar. Most games are played around that size of a force right now anyway. Compared to the older Fantasy starter sets of the current 40k one you really feel like you are getting a functioning army in this one.

Final Score - 5/5

The Age of Sigmar Big Book

The first big book for Age of Sigmar is where we get the bulk of the lore. I am hesitant to call this the main rulebook, because it is really more of a campaign book, just the first one. It does contain the core four pages of rules, but no additional rules. We also get a couple of scenarios which follow along with the campaign story, and a handful of Warscrolls for the Eternals, Goretide, and Sylvaneth. The main draw of this book though is the lore, so lets get started.

The story opens up with where we are with Sigmar's forces in the present. Let me just preface this whole review with stating that all of the artwork and model photography are phenomenal throughout. There wasn't a single picture that I didn't find enthralling. In the story the Stormcast Eternals are launching their assault on the Realms controlled by Chaos and it briefly goes over where we at with that. We also learn a little bit about the Eternals themselves, but a lot is kept pretty vague. After a 10 - 20 pages we get to turn back the clock and pick up right after the conclusion of the End Times. Sigmar is drifting through the void, clinging to the core of the Warhammer world when he is discovered by Dracothion, a being referred to as the Great Drake. He saves Sigmar and puts the remaining core of the world in the heavens above the eight Mortal Realms. Here Sigmar is introduced to the Realms for the first time and he begins an age of  discovery as he explores them. During his travels he finds many groups of humans, dwarfs, orcs, and pretty much every other race from the Old World except for the Lizardmen and Elves. How they got there isn't really explained, except for a few lines talking about how small groups of people survived the destruction of the End Times through magic or luck and ended up there.

More importantly though he finds other surviving gods, as well as beings who are now as good as gods. This group includes Grimnir, Grungni, Tyrion, Teclis, Allarielle, Malerion (Malekith), Morathi, Nagash, and Gorkamorka. Each of them found their way to the new realms in a different way and a whole lot of it is left purposely vague. Part of that, I think, is due to that time period being called the Age of Myth. It is all supposed to have a larger then life feeling to it with a lot of the facts lost to the mists of time. I also think they are planning on exploring each faction's god and mythos when they get around to them in the campaign books. Rumors point to the next book focusing heavily on the Aelves (Elves) and Duardin (Dwarfs) so I wouldn't be surprised if they get fleshed out more there.

After the Age of Myth where civilizations prospered, the forces of Chaos found their way into the Realms and began to run amok. This was known as the Age of Chaos and slowly but surely the other factions were beaten back through attrition and betrayal. Seeing no alternative, Sigmar returned to the Realm of Azyr and locked the gates behind him. There with the help of Grungni he began crafting his Stormcast Eternals in secret in order to fight back against Chaos. After centuries of oppression, with the forces of Chaos on the cusp of ultimate victory, Sigmar unleashed the storm on the Realms to liberate them.

This is where the current story picks up again and the rest of the book follows Sigmar's forces through the Realms of Fire, Life, and just the beginning of Metal. The Realm of Fire story picks up right where the starter set left off and carries on Vandus' campaign against the Goretide. The Realm of Life story has Alarielle's forces of Dryad's and Treelords take the fight to the forces of Nurgle, which includes the Glottkin. With their ambushes launched, the Stormcast Eternals also arrive to bolster the forces of Life. The last section sees the very beginnings of the campaign into the Realm of Metal and ends on a very important revelation and cliffhanger. Each of these campaigns focuses on a different force of Stormcast Eternals and also delves a bit into the way that Realm works.

A lot of this is left somewhat vague to be explored at a later date, and even the campaigns in the Realms are only focused on a very small parts of the Realm. That is a point that is reiterated throughout. These Realms are vast, each larger then the entire Warhammer World was before its destruction. This leaves GW a lot of room to expand and change things as they go, but also gives the player a limitless sandbox to play in. It would be extremely easy to create your own area in a Realm for your army and not have it contradict any of the official lore since they are so vast. I am particularly excited about this for my Tomb Kings. I get the feeling that beyond a mention here or there, they won't get much new lore. While I would love for GW to continue developing their story, if they don't I'm prepared to come up with something myself.

The scenarios presented in the book are scattered throughout the three campaign storylines. They are there to help you recreate an important battle from the story, but the actual scenario rules are generic, so you do not need specific forces to play them. These include classics like the watchtower, as well as breakthrough and ambush scenarios, and more unique ones like stop the ritual. These should go a long way to adding some variety to games of Age of Sigmar and also help a bit with the whole balance issue. All of these have game lengths as well as specific victory conditions which will help shake up army selection. It's no longer always the best option to take the most face crushing army choices if they are not suited for the scenario. There is also a suggestions and even encouragement to have uneven armies for a lot of the scenarios, pitting a larger horde against a smaller, outnumbered force.

The last section of the book goes over the Warscrolls for the Stormcast Eternals, Goretide, and Sylvaneth. There is nothing new here that's not available online for free, but if you're like me then you prefer having a printed paper version. There are also four Battalions, which are exclusive to the book. Two of them were also in the starter set book and the Sylvaneth one is actually free online. The two Stormcast ones and the Goretide one are both locked on the Age of Sigmar App unless you have the book. You need to have the digital version of the book for them to unlock, which is slightly annoying since I own the more expensive paper version. Hopefully they will address this in the future.

All in all the book is fantastic. The production values are very high end and all of the artwork and photography are top notch. If this book is any indication then I definitely think the way GW will progress with Age of Sigmar is through semi-annual campaign books of around equal size that moves the story forward all while exploring new realms and races in more detail. It's a brave new world for Warhammer and I am very excited to see how it unfolds. I do think the Stormcast Eternals will be the new poster boys for Age of Sigmar in the same way that Marines are for 40k, but I don't doubt that other races will get their moment in the spotlight as they flesh out the world. I think $75 is a fair price for this book considering what GW is charging for everything else nowadays. If all you care about is rules, then there is obviously not much content in this for you. If you love lore, awesome artwork, want to learn more about the world we will be fighting in for years to come though then I highly suggest picking this up.

Final Score - 5/5

Until next time,

Tyler M.

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