Wednesday, March 2, 2016
EDITORIAL: Of Tomb Kings and Legacy Scrolls
We all knew something like this could happen when the Age of Sigmar launched this past summer. The range was being updated, and certain things no longer fit into the universe of AoS, so it was inevitable that certain units and armies were going to be left behind, with Tomb Kings being the first. What does that mean for the future of everyone's favorite Egyptian fetish skeletons and other armies and units in AoS though?
First let's do a quick recap of what's happened so far. The lizards were the first old army to get redone back in the fall with the Seraphon book. Almost everything made the cut except for a few things like Skink Chiefs and Jungle Swarms. Almost all of the named characters became generic heroes besides Kroak, but they retained most of their special abilities and stat lines. Personally I am all for that approach. A vast majority of the named characters from Warhammer met a very gruesome or heroic end during the End Times, which in the timeline of AoS, happened thousands of years ago. While some have come back, including Lord Kroak, most of them have stayed dead.
This allows the story to move forward without having to explain why so many people are still alive after the end of the world. The returning characters we are seeing the most of are Chaos and Death, which makes sense. They can outlast a permanent death. Even with the few units cut from Seraphon, their warscrolls are still available in the App and online for anyone who still has the models.
The next big shake up was the Grand Alliance: Chaos book. Here we finally got to see the shape of Chaos to come in AoS. Even more characters became generic heroes such as Vilitch and Sigvald, while others survived like Festus and the Glottkin. A few more units were dropped including the Hellcannon and Throgg, but for the first time we saw the creation of a section of the website called "Last Chance to Buy". This signaled that GW was pulling the plug on these models for good. Once they sold through their stock, that was it. While it was sad to see a few classic models go, the majority of the armies made it through unscathed. Again, all of the models cut still have rules in the App and online for people to use.
Now that brings us to Grand Alliance: Death. Like its namesake it came through and culled not just a handful of models, but an entire army. The Tomb Kings were no more. They were excluded from the Grand Alliance book and all of their models were put into the Last Chance to Buy section. As of writing this, all that's left are the Skeletal Horsemen. This caused quite a lot of panic and anger amongst the AoS community. Were they going to be bringing back elements of the Tomb Kings in the future or were they really completely gone. While this is still unknown, at the very least the Necrosphinxes have shown up in an AoS story, so who knows.
This heralded what is most likely to come for several other armies. If Tomb Kings weren't safe, it was looking highly doubtful that Brettonians would survive, and more then likely, a huge chunk of the Empire range will go, if not all of it.
Now we are at a crossroads, because for the first time we are left with an entire army, and player base within AoS, essentially left out in the cold by GW, right? Let's take a look at the situation. The Tomb Kings have an entire range of warscrolls still on the App and online (at least at the time of writing this) that were written at the same time as all of the other "legacy" scrolls. They are actually a very powerful army and extremely fluffy with how they play. They definitely don't seem like something GW threw together as a stop gap. In fact, if we look at the Seraphon, Chaos, and Death warscrolls that have made it into an AoS book, very little has changed rules wise. So it appears that GW pretty much had all of the units worked out from launch with AoS, at least the ones that had existing models. This lends support to the fact that the Tomb Kings are still an extremely viable army. They wrote all of those rules so hobbyists could continue playing their existing armies in AoS until updated warscrolls came out for them. Since Tomb Kings aren't getting updated warscrolls, the ones out there are still meant to be used.
GW won't be making, or selling anymore models for them though, which is a definite deterrent for new players entering the Tomb King range. We are at a point now where we will most likely only see a handful of new Tomb King players, either people who bought a bunch of models when GW was clearing out their stock, or buy them second hand from eBay and the like. There are a ton of existing players though, who would very much like to continue playing AoS.
For me, AoS is all about inclusion. It's the loosest ruleset we have ever had from GW, and that's to allow the players room to breathe and do their own thing. So GW won't be making anything new for them (as far as we know), does that mean they are dead? I say no. There is absolutely no reason to ban Tomb King players from anything, or to say they can't play that army because they are not a "real" AoS army. They are as real as any other army out their in my opinion. Their rules are just as valid, and were written with just as much care. At the moment there is a poll on one of the largest AoS Facebook groups about whether Tomb King armies should be "banned" or whether people can keep on playing them. Out of 260 people who have voted on it so far, 257 are firmly in the camp of allowing people to continue to using the Tomb King warscrolls, with only 3 people voting to ban it.
I personally do not see the benefit to "banning" Tomb Kings from play. All that does is drive any of the existing Tomb King players out there who want to play AoS to other game systems that do support them like Kings of War and The 9th Age. Why would we want to make our community smaller? Sure, they can start another "official" AoS army to participate, but some people really like the dusty old skeletons, or take a really long time to paint an army like me. Of course, anyone can do anything they want in friendly play, but a lot of people look to the internet and the tournament scene for guidance. Each Tournament Organizer is allowed to make their own ruling as they see fit, but I really don't know why you would want to turn away people who want to play in your tournament. They don't have any sort of advantage over other players, so let them play. The only time I could see it as being an issue is if you were running a narrative campaign that focused on a specific storyline in AoS. If that's the case, then there's no issue and I would completely understand. The Tomb Kings played no part in the events of The Quest for Ghal Maraz for instance.
As far as where they fit into the world and the lore, the Mortal Realms are vast beyond imagining. That's the whole point of them. They are so big you can essentially do anything you want in them without contradicting the main story. Who says there aren't refugee Tomb Kings in Azyr, or disciples of Tyrion in the Realm of Light? They were pretty fond of the sun after all. Now that GW has relinquished control of the Tomb King lore by discontinuing the line they have essentially given the fan base free reign to do what they want with it. I have established an area known as the Endless Deserts within Shyish where my Tomb Kings live, as well as many other Tomb Kings. They're by no means the only Tomb Kings within the realms though. I find it extremely fun and freeing to know that I can write my own army's storyline without fear of GW contradicting it. While I would have loved to see an official storyline featuring them by GW, I'm just as happy creating my own. Who knows, we may still see Settra make his triumphant return against the Usurper, Nagash, in a future campaign book.
This is about more then just the Tomb Kings, it's about how all situations like this will be handled going forward. When other armies get dropped, or units cut, it's up to the community to continue supporting them, because we pretty much know for certain that this is going to happen. It might even be more then just old armies that get the cut. Who's to say something like Fyreslayers will survive in a few years time if the sales numbers aren't what GW wants. Even when AoS moves into a second edition I see no reason to discontinue the use of older, unsupported armies. The Brettonians used the same 6th edition book all the way until the end of 8th and no one called foul there. At worst the army will become less and less effective as the main rules change, but that's always been the case for older armies and is nothing new. The Tomb King warscoll compendium is essentially an Army Book that won't be updated anymore, but it still works wonderfully within the framework of AoS.
So, while the Tomb Kings may be dead in the web store and hobby store shelves, they are by no means dead within AoS. They are still are a wonderfully fun army to play, with beautiful models that plenty of hobbyists have poured hours of time and effort into. Their army plays just as well today as they did a few weeks ago before we found out they were being cut, nothing has changed. It's up to our community, online, in store, and in the tournament scene, to continue supporting these armies and units that don't make the cut into a printed book. If we want it to continue to grow and flourish we must be inclusive, not exclusive. I would hate to get excited about an upcoming gaming event only to find out I can't participate because they are excluding my army from being "tournament legal".
This is a watershed moment in our still very, very young game system and hobby community. Let's make sure we make the right choice here and let our hobby garden grow and expand in all of it's varieties, not trim it back and make it smaller. Now is not the time to be putting up barriers to the hobby. While no one person out there can say "Tomb Kings are banned" and have it carry any sort of real authority beyond their own gaming circle, it's all about the message we put out there. Like I said before, people look towards the online community as a guide to what's "acceptable," so let's make sure we are putting out the right message.
Until next time,