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Jun 30

Warhammer: Age of Sigmar – the end of my hobby

Have you ever gotten really invested in a TV series, maybe even bought t-shirts, mugs etc. to let everyone know you’re proudly affiliated; only for it to come to an abrupt end, leaving you thinking “well now what am I going to do with my life…?” That’s how I feel about Warhammer. Only, instead of sinking a couple of years into it, it’s been my entire life, and the gods alone know how many thousands I’ve spent.

Things come to an end. As a nerd I have a very hard time coming to terms with this, but as a (reasonably) sensible adult, I understand it’s an unalterable fact of life. If the End Times were the end to everything, it wouldn’t feel so bad. Like saying “Timmy, Rover has led a long life filled with joy and wonder, but it’s the kindest thing we can do to end his life now”. Instead, however, Rover’s been put down and GW is saying “look, Timmy! We’ve strapped a Minions mask to Rover to make him hip and contemporary, and we’ve tied marionette strings to his corpse so he can dance for you! Isn’t this FUN!!!??? It’s the same thing but BETTER, Timmy! BETTER!!!”

For those who haven’t seen the leaked images showing both the starter boxset for Warhammer: Age of Sigmar and the accompanying rules set, here’s a summary (not going to link it myself, I’m not that silly):

Boxset:

Good guys vs bad guys – Chaos models which I must admit look very nice, but look like they’ve been transplanted from the 40k starter box, versus a new faction who appear to be nothing more than Blood Angels assault marines and combat terminators with thunder hammers and storm shields, all of whom have Commander Dante’s head. They’ve got a techno-styled Ghal Maraz on their shields. (“It’s the same thing but BETTER, Timmy!”)

Rules (the bits that jumped out at me):

  • 40k lite – Move, shoot, charge, combat. The addition of a pre-turn Heroic Phase allows you to cast “magic”, which seems to have been…. *sigh*…. ‘simplified’.
  • Wounding value replaces more dakka – gone are the days when you struggle to hold hundreds of dice as you gleefully launch attacks at your opponent. Now attackers inflict multiple wounds by hitting once.
  • “Special Terrain” – pretty much the same
  • Psychology – in all its beautiful and varied forms, has been nerfed 40k style. It’s just “you scared? no? good.”
  • Warscrolls – these are described in the rules as being the elements which tell you what individual units do. I assume that a card will be present in each unit boxset to tell you what unique things the unit does, or how it in some way contradicts the universal rules. Not to be a total Debbie Downer, I think this is a neat and tidy way of doing things, but is unfeasible if you want to have a big, varied army (something which doesn’t seem to be in the scheme of things for this game, despite continuing to use the name Warhammer “BETTER!!!”)
  • Army size – the rules sheet makes mention that a “big” army might consist of 100 models. *sigh* Back in my day, that was one regiment of goblins…

 

Is it the fantasy-ectomy? Is it the over-simplification of rules? Is it the complete gutting of the core principle of “massive, great big armies” upon which Warhammer was built? I don’t know. Whatever it is, something has left me hollow inside. I’m really trying not to let my feelings of the present, as I gaze at the rainforest’s worth of Black Library novels and the mountains of plastic in hundreds of figurecases that take up most of my house, affect my memories of the past. I have loved Warhammer. More than a grown man should probably admit. “Age of Sigmar” is not Warhammer.

Assuming AoS is successful, and that GW manage to attract new hobbyists and sell lots of toy soldiers; it makes me sick to think that in years to come, people are going to consider this Warhammer, in the same way that some people think of Jar Jar Binks when they hear Star Wars. In that regard, us “Oldhammer” fans will be saying what Star Wars fans have have been saying since 1999, “No, no, the proper ones; before the new stuff.”

In the latter years of my hobby, I’ve mainly been interested in the story, or “fluff”, of Warhammer, being unable to afford many of the new models and finding it ever-increasingly hard to find the time and energy to play games. I thought to myself, in my naivety, that no-one could take the fluff away from me, no matter what else happened. Then came the End Times. Exciting as it was, it was essentially “rocks fall. Everyone dies.” I, along with hundreds of others if social media is to be believed,  was drawn headfirst back into the Warhammer story when the End Times campaign happened. It was new, it was turbulent, EVERYONE was miserable… it was WARHAMMER! I was looking forward to another edition of the game where the beleaguered forces of Order would battle on all sides to eke out their existence as Destruction reigned all around them. Instead…. boom…. everyone’s dead… here are some Sigmarite Space Marines, Timmy.

 

From a purely business point of view, I sort of understand GW’s quest to make everything they sell a legally defensible brand identity (lest we forget the great Space Marine debacle!). People who are clearly far more in-the-know than me in boardrooms up in Nottingham have clearly identified that the increasing number of companies producing fantasy wargaming miniatures, and gamers’ decisions to use other companies’ miniatures in their Warhammer games, is a threat to their business model as a manufacturer and retailer. I myself stand guilty of using models from Gamezone and Avatars of War in my Warhammer armies. What can I say? I can’t resist the shiny-shiny! Looking at it, though: what does it say about your rules set and lore that people will buy miniatures from elsewhere and then come back to YOUR game for the most important element: the FUN! I’m no Donald Trump or Alan Sugar, but if you’ve got a business with two key elements, 1) designing and manufacturing miniatures and 2) producing rules and background literature, and you’ve identified that customers are spending money elsewhere for their miniatures but coming to YOU for the game rules and background literature….. which element of your business needs improving?

The last edition of WHFB came with £30 army books and huge £60 rulebooks that could bludgeon an elephant to death, and people were PAYING it in order to get that sweet, sweet Warhammer goodness. All the while they were bitching and whinging that other companies provided rules for free with their models, blah blah blah, they were STILL buying Warhammer rules because (but for a few more recent changes that were a bit misguided) it’s a GOOD GAME and they cared deeply about the fluff. I’m sure there’s a chart that can be plotted using all GW’s detailed sales metric they no-doubt have that shows that any drop in miniatures sales and subsequent uptake in rivals’ sales is commensurate with the cartoonization of Citadel models and increasing badassery of competitors’ models. While an absolute pain to build (seriously, little to no thought was given to how a human with only two arms could build the bloody things), Avatars of War plastic miniatures gave hobbyists outstanding-looking fantasy models at prices they expect to pay for them. I haven’t met a single person who actually uses the AoW rules set. They just take the models and put them straight into their Warhammer game! What part of this indicates that it’s the RULES that’re to blame!?

 

Some might say “just because there’s a new version of the game, doesn’t mean your old one will magically disappear! You can still play the old one!” and while that’s undeniably true, it doesn’t stop that feeling of the rug being pulled out from under my feet. As I said, the major part of my hobby these days is the story, and that’s the main thing that’s been killed. If/when I do manage to get the odd game of ‘proper’ Warhammer in, it’ll be purely “what if” scenarios, rather than being able to roleplay the progression of the story. I don’t know… just feels like a bit of a wet fish to me.

Anyways… I’m now rapidly going through the stages of grief and have landed painfully at acceptance. Warhammer, the love of my life, is dead. Its corpse is being paraded like a mardi gras float, but it’s dead nonetheless. I’ve got some serious soul-searching to do.

About the author

Mr Llamatastic

1 comment

  1. Legalist

    I feel your pain and I am sorry that this happen. Seem GW just wants Fantasy to fail so they can concentrate on 40K.

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