Monday, July 13, 2015

Outrage of Sigmar

So Games Workshop hosed down its Warhammer Fantasy deck and replaced it with Warhammer: Age of Sigmar.  And what a spectacular explosion we've seen over that.  Let's talk about it.

I guess the biggest issue I have, personally, with the Age of Sigmar, is that it came out of left field.  There was like a week's worth of warning that this was coming out and that's an extremely short window for what looks like a huge release.  This is really bad form, business-wise.  It catches retailers with their pants down because now suddenly they have all these books that the fans won't want anymore.  Great, now I've got stock sitting around that I can't possibly move.  Thanks a lot, Games Workshop's media policies.  Really it should have been announced three months ago.  But I'm digressing into the retailer side of things.

Complaint #1: Age of Sigmar is too simple.

Well, it is simple.  But the trend in games has been to start simple and add layers of rules over time to flesh it out.  It's really too early at this point to tell because all we have is a starter set; the big fat rules/campaign book comes out July 18th.  I have a really strong suspicion that we're going to see a lead-up to more evolved rules much like we saw with the Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game.  There's a lot of very subtle indications of this, a lot of which are things I end up discussing in the other complaints.

Complaint #2: <RULE> is dumb!

I'm not going to get into nitty gritty of the rules because some of the rants I've seen appear to have been done by people who didn't look at them too closely.  In the case of the guy who lit his entire Warhammer Fantasy army on fire, he made a specific complaint about being able to withdraw from a close combat and shoot the enemy; you actually can't do that and it's in the print rules in the 7/4/2015 White Dwarf.  It's been there from the start.

There's only one rule that in particular gives me pause for concern; How you measure distances.  The rules say you measure from any point on the model.  Well, that's great for a starter ruleset that doesn't want or need to be complex.  But having seen countless new miniature enthusiasts measure things in ways that can increase or decrease the actual distance, this particular rule is a huge open hole that overly competitive power gamers will exploit to no end.  I'm not sure it'll stick around for too long though as I suspect it's a result of so many Warhammer Fantasy models being still sold with square/rectangle bases.  Legacy software issues, to use programmer speak.

(EDIT: Oops, talk about not practicing what you preach.  Apparently the distance measuring thing only applies to how far a model can move.  Model to model distances specifically state closest points are measured for distances.)

Complaint #3: How can we have balanced games without any points costs?

I don't think that the whole No Points thing will stick around for very long.  In order for Age of Sigmar to grow, GW is going to have to put out some kind of balancing system so people can play pickup games without arguing over how they're going to balance things.  It's practically inevitable.

Additionally there's the social contract issue that power gamers will run into at the moment.  Sure, you can bring a bunch of nasty models and even some auto-win combinations right now.  Problem is that people like that won't have many opponents to play for very long.  Because playing that guy who brings all the busted stuff is not very fun and if you aren't playing a game to have a good time you are actually defeating the purpose of playing a game.  Playing to win is fine and well but if the game feels like a chore to anyone involved then something's wrong.

Complaint #4: The new models aren't customizable.

Well, no they aren't.  The models currently available for Age of Sigmar as of this writing are meant to be assembled and played with; their purpose is to get people to start playing not provide a canvas for modelers and painters to make custom masterpieces with.  They are most certainly not going to be customizable.  They are, however, meant to be very pretty and eye-catching because this tends to draw spectators into the game.

The Liberator models that are coming out this weekend for the Stormcast Eternals has the following description from GW:
"This multi-part plastic kit contains everything you need to construct five Liberators, the steel-souled heroes of Order. You get the option to build one miniature as a Liberator Prime, with a special shoulder pad and scrollwork shield. There are four weapon configurations available: warhammer and sigmarite shield, two warhammers, warblade and sigmarite shield or sword and parrying blade; and two special weapons - a grandhammer and a grandblade. Thirty-three weapons in the box, including shields!"
-From, retrieved 5:06pm Pacific, 7/13/15.

As you can see, there are plenty of customization options. You will never see Games Workshop produce boxed sets of models that don't have options because they want to get the most out of those very expensive plastic injection molds.  Even their newer plastic character/hero models are starting to include optional pieces.  Even the Age of Sigmar boxed set has a few optional pieces in it according to the 7/4/2015 White Dwarf; since my boxed set has not arrived yet I can't tell you for certain.

Additionally, with that many options available to a basic trooper, I'm pretty sure that the unit lists are going to outline options in the future.  Especially since there seems to be two kinds of Lord-Celestant models for the Stormcast Eternals; one rides a dragon thing and the other is on foot.  So I strongly suspect you'll be able to build and play heroes of your own devising at some point.

Complaint #5: The Stormcast Eternals look like Space Marines.

Yeah they do.  And isn't it hilarious?

... Anyway...

My real point here isn't to apologize for Games Workshop or make excuses for them.  The lesson to be taken away is that Age of Sigmar is so painfully new and GW is so incredibly awful at telling its customer base anything that we have no concrete information about their plans to develop Age of Sigmar.  We can only make educated guesses based on what we see at the moment.  What I'm seeing is that a lot of the common complaints are probably not going to be valid complaints for very long.  Remember we're seeing a game in its infancy and it has a lot of room for growth.  I advise you to wait and see what turns up.