Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Age of Sigmar in the Old World

One of the peculiarities of the Warhammer games is that the rule sets are inextricably tied to the background. Ever since 3rd edition of Warhammer Fantasy Battle, anybody playing the game will almost exclusively base their armies and their games in the Warhammer world. People don't tend to use the rules sets for other backgrounds. This suits GW as they have happily been selling figures to people for years on the basis of this contract.

There is plenty of evidence to show that the Rules (whatever variant) can work in other backgrounds though. 40K, especially Rogue Trader, is just the basic Warhammer rules with bits bolted on, the Warband campaign that can be played through Realms of Chaos can be argued to be a different setting and approach to the game. Warhammer Ancients uses the rules to great effect to reproduce a wide range of historically based warfare, from ancient to late medieval and the Warhammer English Civil War brings the renaissance and the early modern periods to the party. So despite the system being a bit clunky in places, it can be made to work in a variety of situations. For the most part it's not though.






Looking at the issue from another angle, part of the Oldhammer community seeks to use other rulesets in order to put their old school citadel figures on the table. Exponents of big battles drift towards Kings of War in order to get their toys on the table top. Others rushed to use Dragon Rampant as an alternative, seeing the loose interpretation of unit types as a way of getting anything they fancy onto the board. The same thing happened with 40K models but that's for a different chat.



Of course 'Oldhammer' has been going long enough now to have had it's original meaning lost. What began as a longing for the figures and games that bloggers used to play in their youth has been transposed into different meanings for different people. For some it's the figures, for some it's the rules. Others argue it's a state of mind and yet others that it's anything before the Old world was destroyed. It's just a word. It has no meaning beyond the semantics it carries with it.



What has become jarring though is that Age of Sigmar has not been embraced as a ruleset.  It has been cast aside, ignored, ridiculed, called names, exiled but it hasn't been adpated or even understood.


Think of it this way.
Do you like Warhammer?
Do you like getting your old school figures on the table?
Do you mind bending a ruleset to fit your collection?
The vast majority of us would say yes to the above. So why are we studiously avoiding using AoS as a ruleset and actively searching about for anything else to fill the gap?
This seems a bit daft to me. Or at least counter intuitive. In all honesty 3rd Edition WFB is a beast to play. It can take all day and involves lots of frowning and thumbing through books for half forgotten rules that we aren't even sure are in this edition. The nostalgia factor is strong, I agree but I would argue it's for the era and the feel rather than the game itself.


There have been surprisingly few attempts at playing games of 'Oldhammer' using the Age of Sigmar rules. I would have thought it would be a no brainer. It's not as if we are looking at going down our local store and trying to pick up a game with a 12 year old using our half-orc armies. We are old enough to be looking for games amongst peers, to have our own gaming spaces and to be able to meet strangers from the internet in sensible places (how many of have done that? You'd do your nut if it was your kids!)
Age of Sigmar seems to give a quick fun game with minimal messing about. Yeah there are lots of additional rules to go with the current armies (key words, battalion rosters etc) but to be fair we can ignore that easily. Movement is easier and the game feels like Warhammer. It scales well:- upwards to big battles and downwards to skirmishes. The rules are short and free, the online apps to get the stats are free, there is no additional investment in extraneous bits. You could play it tonight if you wanted to.

But we're not.

Why?

You tell me...
Is it cos we're angry that GW realised the old world wasn't making any money and wasn't worth the investment in new figures unless they radically overhauled the game?
Is it cos we're to old to appreciate a fantasy realm that isn't based on a faux-european/tolkienesque framework?
Is it cos the new figures look scary and over complicated and our fading eyesight can't see the detailing?
Is it cos when you were a lad it were nowt but fields around here?



To loop back to my orignal point. GW rulesets are so tied up with the fluff that playing anything but the game that you have been sold seems wrong. People can't do it. There is some psychological hurdle. Combine this with 'they killed Teclis' and the 'The figures look like He-man dolls' and you have a real issue with some peoples ability to subjectively asses a new set of rules. 

It seems absurd that there has been so little experimentation with the new rules in order to play old style games. Using the Age of Sigmar rules does not preclude you from playing scenario based battles. It doesn't mean you can't update Lichemaster or any other campaign. In fact that would be a laudable thing to do in order to bridge the gap. It isn't difficult as most of the troop types have some analogous form in the new rules.



So whats the answer? There is none really. It will simply be a case of best fit. But the more people that give it a shot and share their experiences with it the more likely other are likely to give it a go. It has been long enough now to have gotten over the shock of the new and to accept that things are not going to go back to the way they were. Making the effort to try out the new game and basing your opinion of the RULES objectively is a far more rational way of evaluating AoS. Refusing to dirty your fingers with it simply makes us no better than the Luddite's. Preferring one set of rules over the other for reasons A,B and C is perfectly reasonable. Grumpily never giving it a go cos it's new and hurt your feelings is not.

37 comments:

  1. Because... the rules are fairly naff. If you have an awful lot of terrain or perhaps a cave or dungeon board it is ok. If you want to do all the work of statting stuff to fit why not pick something like god of battles for loose order skirmish? And that latter point, the game rules have no good reasons for everyone to get into column or line. Oldhammer despite the points you raise above would be hard to recognise without blocks of troops on the table.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aos looks like a turd to me, tiny armies of skirmishers are not my thing, i want bigger and bigger battles as my collection grows so KOW fits the bill but as usual lack of players is a problem.
      If i was to pick any skirmish setting i would go for something like Dr Who- i have the figures and small battles with involved victory conditions reflect the show. I already have umpteen oldhammer rule sets if i want WH skirmish or dungeon crawls for some reason and the AOS background and models do next to nothing for me.
      Whfb had already gone too far along the technology route and i feel the ideas for AOS could largely have been used for lower tech planets in 40k-RT basically allowed for anything from cavemen upwards in tech levels so this would have been in keeping with the original intent.

      Delete
    2. Nothing is stopping you having big armies in AoS. I think thats simply a false assumption based on the game play of the uber character armies. One of the most successful armies at the first GT was Grot, or goblins to you and I, and they had a shit ton of figures on the board. The other was savage orcs who again had a ton of models on the board, running around in bog 30-40 figure mobs. Looking and acting like a big savage mob. Not a trained schiltron.

      Delete
    3. KOW is still a better option, setup time for a large game of AOS all in skirmish must be worse than WHFB- you can have several hundred figures on the table or packed away in no time at all on KOW omni-bases, the whole individual figures thing for massed battles has always been a massive practical downside for set up and transport.

      Delete
    4. Only in your opinion. KOW has no appeal for me. I didn't like the look of the Armati/ DBA basing when i was doing historicals so it's not going to float my boat for Fantasy. But its apples and oranges as they say.

      Delete
    5. Obviously my opinion-that's the one i'm most qualified to talk about.
      KOW can be exactly the same basing as a complete WHFB unit so i don't see the problem there.

      Delete
    6. Then why not just play Warhammer? Just seems the main reason for choosing KoW is that it's not Warhammer and that's not enough for me.

      Delete
    7. Speed, faster to set up, faster to use each unit, faster to pack away, you can actually play a huge battle in one session, more easily adaptable to smaller scale figures if you want even bigger battles- imagine 6 or 2mm battles with ANY WHFB rules.

      Delete
  2. I think you raise many valid points. I suppose there is no real reason for me to have not tried to play with my existing figures. For me it mainly comes down to, I only really game at Oldhammer/Con events and I play what others in the group want to play. Thus far we've played Rogue Ops, Donny Hammer, Shadow War and vague recollections of RT and WFB with some house rules to make it more fun. ie rolling for all your bowmen to hit, not just the first rank. I want to try various rule sets, but find myself not having the energy to do it on my own. It's also a bit of the ooh shiny for me. How do I play Fantasy Warriors?

    ReplyDelete
  3. I wouldn't say GW rulesets are tied up with the fluff. The armylists & unit profiles, perhaps, because GW doesn't give you formulas to build your own, but the rules themselves? Not really.

    ReplyDelete
  4. The first thing I did when it came out, was play a couple games with old models. The game devolved pretty quickly since model posing mattered for range of attacks. Also, if I wanted a loose order game I'd play Mordheim or 40k or Dragon Rampant or D6 Star Wars. I wanted a game of big ranked up units, that's the whole reason I got into WFB.

    ReplyDelete
  5. AoS has moved on incredibly since the botched initial release. Now there are a lot of new armies, battletomes (army books in the old parlance) and most importantly, the generals handbook which with it's points system has allowed the game to take on a life of it's own. The narrative of the game is growing and what was a blank canvas is being well filled in. It's not the old world, but it does echo it considerably.

    But GW are addressing the old world too. They have just released (last week in fact) the 'first world that was' expansion to AoS called Warhammer Legends. The first army of which is Dark Elves: https://www.warhammer-community.com/legends/. The army is pretty functional, uses AoS rules, and designed as a way to play games set in the old world. It currently lacks points which is admittedly annoying – but I suspect as new releases come out this will be addressed in some way just as the parent game was.

    I currently play AoS with Tomb Kings – oldhammer if you will – and have a great time doing so. Have used them for 3 years now. The rules for them really capture the vibe of the old army book often replicating rules or adapting them – units of chariots, check. Resurrecting skeleton hordes, check. Scorpions and serpents hiding in sand and then ambushing opponents, check. Sphinxes leaping into fights and murdering everyone, check. It's all there.

    I think many commenting here might want to revisit the game now that it's had some mileage behind it to sort out the problems it had – in my opinion it might well be GW's best version of warhammer.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I think AoS rules are crummy at best. The reason I like 3rd ed. is that it tends away from abstraction and it feels "realistic." Of course I have qualms with 3rd ed. But AoS is deeply problematic.

    1. It uses true LOS - this was something I appreciated about Warhammer, it told you to imagine your models being super far away as if on a battlefield hundreds of yards across.
    2. AoS uses abstraction - no artillery templates, no fleeing units... nope you roll a die and that's how many casualties or models just disappear from "battle shock" it's trash.
    3. AoS doesn't involve comparing stats... All models have a preset to-hit number, a preset to-wound number etc. If all the rolls are preset why not have a single die roll? E.G. roll a 4+ then another 5+ means you might as well just roll a single 6+... So, on the one hand it is lazy and redundant, but on the other hand it means super skilled warriors hit other skilled warriors just as easily as they hit weedy goblins - same thing for wounding. It's just sloppy.
    4. AoS doesn't represent blocks of troops, it's all skirmishers in amorphous blocks. That's not how people move around battlefields historically. When you have a battlefield of hundreds or thousands of people you use columns and squares to keep people moving about in an orderly fashion. AoS isn't a wargame, it's a flashy juvenile middle school pauldron battle.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I will argue about the rules as they are. You like them or you don not and that is personal matter. Just play with rules you like. But stating that WFB are historical and realistic is simply not true.
      As for points 1 to 3 that is a matter of opinion. Point 4 is incorrect. People moved in blocks on the Battlefield only in the beginning of the battle as soon as that melee started, it was God for us all and everybody for themselves. When I first saw WFB on the table 20 odd years ago I was horrified by the fact that in Melee soldiers had to wait for their turn to shoot or to fight. I could not cope with that, so I started 40K, that had a more realsitic feel. Now with AoS, if you want to move in blocks you are welcome to do so. If you want to play historically "correct" (Assuming that it is even possible on a tabletop) than there other games who try to. WFB was never like that. The name says it all: Fantasy.
      To summerize: whether you like AoS or not, 3rd WFB, or whatever rulesset play the game you have fun with. But none of them are remotely historical nor realistic.

      Delete
    2. Everyone has to wait their turn in 40k too.
      The idea that medieval people had no battlefield discipline is kinda outdated research-wise. We just don't have a ton of surviving data points on exactly what the command structures were like, what chain of command was used, etc. But there are clear indications that they had them, there's surviving orders for some units to go out and drill X times a week with no surviving record of what the drill actually was like, for example. Likewise it is inconceivable, for example, that the Scots at Bannockburn could have coordinated their pike formations without very careful attention to detail, and they did not move the entire army en masse but had separate divisions of pike.
      Medieval armies probably didn't march in step most of them time but WFB was just as much based on ancient warfare and early modern, as by medieval. Either way, you had to stay ranked up close together, or you'd be easily wiped out by even mediocre cavalry. So keeping the models in Napoleonic style ranks & files was a convenient way to move around lots of figures that needed to stay in close order. I liked the ranked up units and they were the only thing attracting me to WFB instead of just collecting smaller amounts of figures to use in Mordeheim.

      Delete
    3. Like I mentioned, pike blocks, Schiltrons, sheild walls should all be specialised formations. It was done in WAB. It certainly shouldn't be the default for all troops. I think warhammer gets it arse over tit on that one.

      Delete
  7. Another motivating post - thank you!

    I agree with you that AoS is worth looking it. It's been on my mind over the last month or so, a post is sort of in the works (although currently on the back burner, like everything hobby-related it seems...).

    I think the basic game has promise, but also problems. The foundation seems OK (I've played it only once) but it needs quite a bit of modding, and therein lie the problems.

    Wargamers are an opinionated bunch, and getting everyone on the same page on which tweaks are good and which are beyond the pale is an exhausting prospect, and leads in turn to the a variation of the problem you mention with 3rd ed - not so much "what does page 178 say / mean" as "which house rules are we using tonight".

    Also it's opaque so not really conducive to modding. It's not always clear how you'd tweak a statted creature to make whatever other creature you're aiming for (or what baseline to use, etc.). The original PDF release gave all the "current" basic troop types and so gave quite a bit of information, last I checked these seem to have disappeared from the GW website which implies to me that they're not exactly encouraging this sort of thing. I see from Nosferartdude's comments that maybe these are on their way back again, time will tell.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. AOS is really heavy into stacking up area of effect bonuses. I personally find that form of gaming tiring in the extreme. I can grok that its good to be uphill or that people near the flag don't run away as readily. It's hard to keep track of my knights hitting HARDER because they 6" from THIS character, but hit more EASILY if they are 8" away from THAT character.

      Delete
    2. This is only if you play those rules. They aren't pre-requisites. They can be ignored completely and aren't even mentioned in the core rules. Remember, we're discussing using these as an alternative rule set for a scenario driven, old school styled game.

      Delete
    3. As soon as you start using GW's stats for models, they come up. The core combat and movement mechanics of AoS is alright but statting it all out is really hard. And if you are going to do that much work, why NOT just use old rules instead? What is AoS bringing to the table other than the GW brand name?

      Delete
    4. The stats for everything you could want to play (in a casual, home setting against a non-dick, regular gaming partner, which is what we are aiming for) are on the app (which is free) meaning you don't have to stat anything up. Yeah there are gaps, but half-orcs and hobgoblins haven't been in Warhammer for a long time and if i want to stat those up they really aren't all the difficult to do. With two minutes spare time I can find the stats to use for the vast majority of old-school units without breaking a sweat. And I won't have to use a single battalion scroll or mention the word synergy to do it. I'm not arguing for the wholesale replacement of older version of the game, i'm simply saying some situations, where a scenario is involved and looser movement system would be an advantage (a raid on a town, and ambush of wagon train etc) AoS could be another tool in our gaming tool box. I think the "EEK, IT'S AOS! TAKE IT AWAY!!" attitude is stopping us from taking advantage of something that could quite useful and, lets face it, might be fun.

      Delete
  8. Age of Sigmar is fine, its certainly no worse than any of the Warhammers which all have their faults. I never understood the attraction for 3rd. We gave it a couple of tries recently and found it pretty unplayable. The main issue we have locally is that people were resentful about the end of Warhammer. I thought I was too until I realised that I hardly played it any more anyway so no great loss. Its true the launch of AoS was well and truly botched, which probably contributes to everyone's hatred of it, but it is a greatly changed ruleset now and is very polished. The main problem now is it is a games of two half's. with the older WHFB armies that were ported across being left behind by the newer factions, which have more interesting backgrounds and rules.

    ReplyDelete
  9. The nicely ranked up units thing keeps coming up. It has to be understood in it's context. On the table it is a mechanism to reduce each of your regiments to a single playing piece. That means you are playing a game with 10 or so playing pieces that have in built wound/morale trackers in the form of removable figures. In addition the idea that all units, no matter what their race and ability, have exactly the same level of training that allows them to move as ranked up units and manoeuvre effectively is laughable. It was something that wasn't achieved in european armies till the 16th century (or earlier in roman/Greece). For all means have some blocks of infantry but that should be a special rule with advantages and disadvantages. It certainly should not be the norm for a fantasy battle game full of monsters.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do agree with this but we still play Warhammer from time to time because my gaming buddy loves the raked up block movement dynamic. You're right that AoS may be worthwhile looking at for scenarios like raids.

      Delete
  10. I think Sean captured the biggest obstacles in his comment above that included the line:
    "I play what others in the group want to play."

    Every time I've written rules, or tried to introduce new sets of rules to my gaming buddies, the objection comes down to, "I could learn this new thing, BUT:
    I know this WH thing already. I can find other people who know this WH already. Since it works, (warts and all) I do not want the trouble of learning something else, which I can only play against you."

    Never underestimate simple entropy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I reckon most people here have learned more than one version of Warhammer Fantasy, probably at least 3. I know i've learned at least 3 versions of 40K. Plus a couple of different of historical versions. So your talking 8 versions so far. By this point the basic framework of Warhammer is part of your genetic make up. The idea of learning one more variant does not make you Mr. Creosote. I feel that the argument is a bit a false one.

      Delete
    2. This is very true. Around here most gamers seem to LIKE learning new rules, even calculating army lists for for game systems that deep down, they know they'll never get around to actually playing.

      Delete
  11. I have had a crack at the free rules when they came out but they did nothing for me personally. I do think rule sets should be taken as a starting point not a means to an end, I think that taking x idea from one place to add to rule y in another system can be a fine way to get the experience you want. Mashing up systems by taking ranks, pike rules, scouting etc from wh fantasy and porting it into aos would not be that hard and peeling the skin back on OAS and stripping out the bits you don't like would lead to an interesting project. Its just a different application that may need x adding or removingvto make it 'go'. It all depends what you're after and how you want to use it. Any system will take on any background or scenario if you tinker enough in my experience.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Whiskey Priest--just want to comment to say how I am in awe (and jealous) of your ability to frequently have blog posts of an intelligent nature in a coherent form. I can never muster more than "I used this color on the trousers..." on my own blog! Keep up the good work.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aw man! That is a lovely thing to say. Comments like that make all the faffing around on this blog totally worth. Thankyou.

      Delete
  13. I haven't played a game in 15 years so I really can't complain all that much about the current rules!

    ReplyDelete
  14. I've played several games of AoS using my Oldhammer armies with a couple of very simple mods. I didn't bother with points - I set objectives and a narrative, figured out my undead army was smaller than my chaos one and used the 'sudden death' rules to balance the game - it worked great. Some of us have also used Donnybrook which is farther from Warhammer than AoS. For me the rules don't matter as much as the narrative...

    ReplyDelete
  15. Myself and a couple of others have played AoS with old minis. It was fun. We had a laugh. There were no difficulties. We might even play it again.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I have a similar question about WFRP too. People seem to be going mental about the idea that there may be an AoS roleplay game (that they don't even need to buy if they don't want), or that the new version of the Old World rpg may dare to actually include End Times material, which would allow people to play any timezone in the Warhammer timeline... The fact that people are complaining an rpg contains background material that they don't want seems almost as weird...

    ReplyDelete
  17. I play AoS very happily using my very eclectic armies, all of which contain figures ranging in age from my childhood days (3rd edition) to present day. I find AoS to easily be the most playable and enjoyable incarnation of Warhammer.

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...