Very first thing, I want to start with this image:
|This artwork is incredible. Hate all you want.|
That image is fucking phenomenal. And frankly, I feel like it sets the tone for how I feel about AoS in general.
But let's back up a minute. "Who's this yay-hoo [because you'd probably use that term] actually liking a GW release, and what point of reference does he have for doing so?" is just the sort of question you might be asking yourself. Well, I'll tell you!
I'm somewhat of an anomaly in the field of "seasoned gamers" because I didn't actually start playing games with GW stuff. Now we could go off on a tangent here about how gamers like to wave their metaphorical dicks around about how many years they've been gaming, typically doing so by stating what edition of Warhammer Fantasy/40K they started with, and then spouting at least one reason why that edition was better than anything GW has released since then. But I won't. ;) I started in on the miniatures hobby somewhere around 1995 with the X-Men board game "Under Siege", which came with these little 2" tall plastic figures that I decided would be fun to paint.
|Quality was surprisingly decent. I need to find this game again...|
Alas, I never got anyone to play the game with me (so why did they buy it for me? So weird...) but I DID enjoy painting the figures so much that I continued on that trend. And I did that by purchasing this box from the local comic shop:
I wish I could find my painted barbarian (he was my favorite) just to have it as a point of reference, but oh well. Fast-forward a bit to high school, where I picked up the 3rd edition starter box for 40k (the Black Templar vs. Dark Eldar one) and promptly proceeded to get nowhere with it. I assembled a few things, painted a few others, but never played a game. No one else I knew was interested! Go figure.
Cut to 2004. Working part time at Toys R Us while in college, my good friend Kevin brings a new game to my attention, and alters the course of history.
|We're *almost* to the Age of Sigmar stuff, believe it or not.|
We played this game every chance we could get. Many waaaaaay late weekend nights were spent with a case of Natural Ice, bags of homemade crazy spicy beef jerky, and rolling dice while laughing maniacally at games of Warmachine. This was where the obsession began, for me.
That said, we were an insular group. We didn't branch out to find new players (other than the couple we adopted into the hobby from work) so we didn't experience the shift in playstyle and the typical type of gamers this particular game brought in. We weren't competitive, so much, and we played the game to have a good time. No models were allowed on the table without having been painted first, even. But eventually, as time moved on and situations changed, our scope had to broaden in order to play. And while Kevin managed okay in the more competitive environment at large (because he plays Cryx and seriously fuck those undead cheaters) I stopped having fun playing the game.
During the next couple of years, I picked up quite a few different games, all of which I'll detail at a later time. Because seriously, this post is still about Age of Sigmar. I'm getting there. It's all about the build up. Or something.
So, while I've played a multitude of skirmish games in the interim, and actually collected decent armies for both 40k and Fantasy (and actually even played TWO games of Fantasy!... though no 40k...), I'm a bit OCD about my consumption of information. I've kept up on the fluff/narrative of GW's systems, I've read some of the books, I've played some of the video games. While I'm not a person who played WHFB and only WHFB, which would make AoS a reeeeeally big deal to me, the impact of what's happened isn't lost on me. This is some serious shit. The line has been drawn in the sand, and there appears to be no turning back.
And now, we're back to this:
|Look at it again. It's so pretty.|
I'll digress for a moment, here, and step down from my soapbox of excitement to clarify some things. Yes, I fully understand that with this "system" in place, it's possible for folks to horrifically abuse it. The guy who has buckets of disposable income can show up with 10 greater daemons and just win win win, while the average Joe can't compete in the arms race to match it. It makes random games tougher, to a degree, because you can't just find Random Gamer X at the store and say, "35 points? Okay go." and play out a game. HOWEVER! I fully believe those are arguments of laziness. I'm sorry, but I do. Let's take the horrifically outmatched forces example: Did you, as a kid, ever play action figures with a friend? Did that friend maybe have a favorite character, like Wolverine or something, that would just never die or lose? This example isn't that far removed, but hopefully we've grown into adults who have learned to compromise. When I played toys with friends like that as a child, usually I didn't play toys with that friend again if it was too annoying. Things haven't changed. If I show up to play and my opponent sets down an annoyingly unstoppable force (that isn't part of a story we're trying to play out on the tabletop, because overwhelming-odds-last-stand-style stories are fun sometimes) but remains unwilling to compromise so that we can both have fun... I'm not playing toys with that person. Simple! And as for the other example, of being able to meet and play Random Gamer X... it's still profoundly doable with AoS. It's just more of a conversation. It requires me to talk to that gamer, make legitimate friends with that gamer, decide on what story to tell on the table with that gamer. I will remember that gamer's name, probably friend them on Facebook, and in all likelihood play more games with that gamer for the foreseeable future. If Random Gamer X is a douche who is uncompromising and anti-social... well damn, we're not going to play! I don't want to be friends with that guy.
Back on point.
Age of Sigmar is rad, yo. It's brought in a borderline GW gamer like me, and it's gotten me really excited. The game is designed around making awesome models and having fun with your friends... not a win/loss ratio.
I know people have been upset about the state of the world and the story for it, but quite honestly, this is some well-written shit.
|Well. Written. Shit.|
This first big book, as pictured above, details the first attack of the Sigmarites (which is what the starter box is, by the way) in narrative form, and then picks up the story in the Realm of Life (Ghyran) where the tree spirits (Treemen, Treekin, Dryads, etc.) are fighting with the forces of Nurgle. The book has some wonderful story in it, and details several scenarios for playing out the current battles in the Realm of Life (because the starter box book has the scenarios for the first battles of the Sigmarites). The book also provides some details on what the other races are up to in the other realms and/or their motivations, setting the stage for future stories and army releases. Personally, I'm most looking forward to these guys:
|The dwarfs return... and so do the chaos dwarfs!|
The Age of Sigmar has a living, progressive narrative. The Old World was rich with stories and tales, which are just as worth reading now as they ever were before, but it's overall progression was halted. That's not the case with AoS.
Overall, at least thus far, I'm very happy about the state of the game and its world and where they're taking it. Obviously I'm not the most concerned individual about rules, and balance, and boring technicalities... because seriously, if you and your friends can't work those out and play with your toys, what are you even doing?