Wednesday, September 14, 2016

EDITORIAL: Age of Sigmar One Year Out

A little over a year ago Warhammer Age of Sigmar was released upon the world. There was a lot of turmoil within the community when the game first launched, and since then we have had a ton of releases and some pretty big shake ups to the game. So how does Age of Sigmar look one year out?

First I am going to take a quick look back at the game's release last July. In the lead up to the release date there were a ton of rumors swirling around, many of which turned out to be true, and many that weren't. I honestly did not think they were going to make the switch from square to rounds, and was quite surprised when I saw the first images of the new models. My gut reaction was a bit of shock, but I liked the look of the starter set. Over here in America the weekend the free rules were released was the 4th of July holiday weekend. I was at a family gathering and was feverishly downloading all of the PDFs over in a corner and pouring over the Tomb Kings warscrolls. It was a bit surprising, but I had faith in GW to know what they were doing. That issue of White Dwarf weekly with the free Liberator was awesome, and I promptly painted up mine and was instantly hooked on the Stormcast.

This of course, was not the reaction a large chunk of people had. Anyone who was around back then remembers the intense amount of hate flung around the community. If you were an AoS supporter then you knew to expect to get jumped on in forums for expressing any support for GW. It was pretty vicious and exhausting. This led to the great forums exodus. A large amount of the AoS players started leaving the different forums and set up Facebook groups and flocking to Twitter. I wrote an article on this back then called Positivity in the Age of Rage. I basically looked around the web at all of the places you could find safe and positive places to discuss AoS or read/listen to great content on it. To be an AoS supporter back then kind of meant being a standard bearer for the hobby, you had to rally people around you and project as much positivity out there as you could. I feel like this led to a pretty tight and supportive AoS community from the get go. Everyone who wanted to play the game sought each other out online. There was also a general switch of attitude due to the lack of points. This was one of the largest points (pun intended) of contention amongst those who disliked AoS. A lot of the more WAAC (Win at any cost) players left for other systems, leaving a core group of narrative and fluffy players to dominate AoS. Now, by no means were they the only type of player, I just think they were the type of player who suddenly found themselves in the majority, or at least as the most outspoken supporter of the game.

My first game of AoS from over a year ago

There was also a bunch of great support from the tournament scene who started implementing their own points system, starting with Clash Comp and culminating in the SCGT system which ultimately led to the General's Handbook. I played games in pretty much every way you could think of. I used wound counts, just took what was cool, used SDK, Clash, SCGT, all of them, and they were all great. I don't think I had one bad game of AoS. The community really took a sense of ownership with the game and tried its best to make it as great of a game as they could. Of course player numbers dropped a bit during those first few months, but now the community is well on its way to being back to the size during 8th edition, if not already there.

Games Workshop has released so much material for the game, ranging from new armies, to books, to Apps and novels, that it was almost hard to keep up. The background lore, which was originally a little thin, continued to evolve and expand. Today I would say the background for AoS is pretty deep, while still maintaining a sense of mystery about a lot of it. I really like this method of expanding the Realm's history since we get to be along for the ride. Just in the past year we have had releases for Stormcast Eternals, Bloodbound, Seraphon, Everchosen, Fyreslayers, Stormcast Extremis, Ironjawz, Flesh-Eater Courts, Sylvaneth, Bonesplitterz, Beastclaw Raiders, the four Grand Alliance books, four campaign books and a main big book, a summer campaign, two scenery books, and of course the General's Handbook. That's 11 Battletomes, plus all of the other releases. When was the last time we had 11 armies released in one year. That's just a staggering amount of stuff, all in the first year of a brand new game's life too. We did lose two armies in the form of the Tomb Kings and the Brettonians, but even though their model support is gone, GW is still supporting them in game. It sucks that you can't buy the models anymore, but for existing players, or players particularly determined to scour eBay, it's awesome that they still support them with rules and even points. AoS is truly all about inclusion and allowing everyone to play.

The Stormcast, Fyreslayers, and Ironjawz are the brand new army releases, though you could argue that Fyreslayers are just reimagined Dwarf Slayers. The Stormcast though are brand new, nothing like them before. Some people dislike them, but I personally really like them, not just their look either. Their background is really interesting, and what may seem a little shallow at first glance is actually pretty deep, especially once you start reading the novels. The idea of immortal warriors who lose a piece of themselves each time they die and are reborn is pretty unique with tons of room for further exploration going forward. There is still so much we can learn about them. Speaking of the novels,
Black Library has done a great job of adding more depth to the setting and further fleshing it out. There are hits and misses, just like with any novel series, but for the most part I have enjoyed them a lot.

Games Workshop hasn't just had great releases, but have pretty fundamentally changed the way they interact with their fan base. We have seen their triumphant return to social media with a Facebook page for each of their game systems including AoS and a great community team behind them. They reached out to pillars of the tournament scene with Dan, Wayne, Ben, and Russ and invited them all in to contribute to the General's Handbook, which is something I never thought I would have seen. Lately Warhammer TV has really kicked it into gear too with their biggest accomplishment being the live streaming from the Warlords Matched Play event. This was great to watch and the commentary from Eddie and Rob was thoroughly entertaining and I definitely look forward to more event coverage like that. They have also been churning out FAQs super fast, and having the community supply all of the questions on Facebook for them. They have honestly done so much that it's hard for me to even remember all of it and I'm sure I have left something out.

I think everyone would agree that the crowning jewel for AoS this year is the General's Handbook, a $25 addition to the game that provides you the rules for Open Play, Narrative Play, and Matched Play complete with points for everything, including discontinued model ranges! With this they won back a lot of people who left AoS a year ago and piqued the interest of people who were skeptical but never played. Since it's release I would say that the AoS community has started to grow even faster. This summer was pretty hectic with the summer campaign which will directly influence the story line going forward, and a boat load of releases in the month of July alone. I would have to say my favorite release was the Bonesplitterz Battletome, a reimagining of the Savage Orruks within the Mortal Realms which creates a brand new and extremely engaging backstory for them. I almost forgot about Warhammer Quest: The Silver Tower, another fantastic addition to the AoS universe. This also helped to pull a lot of people into the game, acting as a sort of gateway.

Then there is the involvement from the community. There have been a ton of great podcasts popping up since AoS came out like The Mortal Realms, Bravery One, Scrubby and Wells, Age of Sigbrah, and Tales of Sigmar just to name a few. In fact I will be on Tales of Sigmar in their next episode where I will go into a bit more detail on a few of these points I have been talking about. I also talk a lot about the Tomb Kings and the Endless Deserts, so be sure to download it and listen! There have of course been the staples such as Garagehammer, FaceHammer, The Black Sun, and Heelanhammer who continue to pump out great content, and the triumphant return of Ben Curry to Bad Dice and every form of social media known to man. You can now read, watch, and listen to Bad Dice all at once if you want. There has also been a bunch of great new websites, fan projects (like my Endless Deserts and Alexander Nygard's End Times Battletome) and blogging. Speaking of Ben Curry again, he has started a new AoS centric forum called The Grand Alliance Community and it really is fantastic. Besides being a forum just for AoS, it's also super modern and very user friendly. Can someone give Ben a trophy for being a champion of the community already? There is also The Stronghold, an AoS forum for destruction players. I'm sure I'm missing some great ones in this list, so please let me know in the comments.

As we move into year two of AoS I only expect bigger and better things. It's hard to predict what's to come, but I'm sure we'll most likely see some of the new Aelves, perhaps from Ulgu. I'm personally really interested to see how they keep reimagining existing factions and putting a new spin on them. Moonclan Grots are an obvious favorite, but I'm also interested to see what they do with Free Peoples, Gutbusters, Deathrattle, and a bunch more of them. We also have the continuing campaign book storyline to look forward to with the results from the Summer of War campaign integrated into it.

I think we are in a hobby golden age, both on the gaming side of things and the painting/building side with AoS. Reports talk about how sales of AoS have already surpassed 8th edition sales and I don't think it will be slowing any time soon. It may have started off a bit shaky, but Age of Sigmar is definitely on solid ground now. GW has heard all of our feedback and adapted the game to fit what their customer base is asking for, which is pretty astounding when you think about it. The community is as vibrant and active as I have ever seen it and the tournament scene is really starting to boom again. To call the first year of Age of Sigmar as success is a bit of an understatement I think. Though it had its detractors I think it has overcome them. Many of the people who were vocally angry about AoS have either come back into the fold or are happy enough to play their own game system without bashing on another one. Age of Sigmar is here to stay and I think the future is bright. I'm looking forward to 30 years or more of AoS just like we had 30 years of Warhammer Fantasy Battles. When I'm 59 and looking back on this game that I love it will be awesome to see how far it will have come during that time.

What are your thoughts on the first year of AoS and what the future may hold? Let me know in the comments below.

Until next time,

Tyler M.

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