This past month Games Workshop tore down the Old World and built in its place the Age of Sigmar. The venerable old fantasy game as we all knew and loved died, replaced by something a bit different and a bit less complex.
During the End Times range lots of fans got excited about the fresh content and the progress of the world. Let’s face it the old world had terrific lore and amazing depth but was based in the typical world of fantasy dwarfs, elves, ogres environment. Which isn’t bad, it’s classic for a reason, and certainly the old world took it to new places, but clearly the market was speaking against fantasy.
To start with I never intended to get involved with fantasy, but I ended up loving it. All the complex movement reminded me of Napoleonic warfare, with wheeling and marching. The battle resolution took some time to get used to but made for some close fights and satisfying combat even when on the losing end. But in a world where 40k rules the table, fantasy has a heavy bar of entrance. Especially when the number of models used to play it is factored in compared to GW’s sci-fi flagship.
So GW tore it down. And replaced it with Age of Sigmar a new game built on the remnants of the old world but infused with new rules and a new, faster, more simplistic game play style. I’ll start by saying I haven’t played an AoS game, just watched them being played. And then viewed the rabid hate from fans on forums and comments. And I have to say…I really don’t get it.
Before End Times what I saw the most on fantasy comments was a desire for updated rules. Even from Tomb King and High Elf players. Hell I started with Skaven and Beastmen, we’re still in softcover books with the Bretonnians! I saw a lot of complaints about balance, how it was broken, some factions were useless, some were absurdly overpowered. The convoluted systems and complex special rules. So many people begging for a revamp of the game. So GW completely revamps everything about the game and the comments are worse than ever before. It’s a game for kids, the new special rules have proven how stupid it is, it’s far too simple and far too dumbed down…
Age of Sigmar is a HUGE gamble. I’m currently building and painting Ultramarines so I can’t invest in the new factions…but here’s the thing… If I wanted to play AoS with my Skaven or Beastmen or Ogres I could. For free. All the army books have rules. The basic rules are posted. All on the site. All in PDF. All free. Strangely I’ve heard very little positive about that (maybe I’m visiting the wrong sites…) but there they are. I’ve already dl’d every ruleset I might ever want (and Queek is there!) in case I want to bust into the game at any time. But it’s accessible. That in itself is a big change for GW who has recently been pretty litigious about it’s IPs, which probably has more than a little to do with the world/faction reset in general.
At it’s heart I have a feeling that those who hate GW do so because it’s popular to do so. Like all those people who announced they were boycotting Modern Warfare 2 then turned around and pre-ordered it, a lot of fans just like to complain. A company could give an individual everything they asked for and a part of the population will claim the company is pandering. I have no love for, nor feel the need to defend a multi-million dollar company. It’s more a desire for fans to act like fans and less like entitled kids. Especially when, in my experience, the GW company has been pretty good to work with. When my subscriptions had problems a simple email contact got new issues FEDEXED to me overnight. And they still sent the back issues they missed after the fact. When one of my kits (Marneus Calgar and Honour Guard, purchased at an independent retailer no less) was missing a part, they sent a replacement, and let me keep the duplicate parts (which included the champion figure); and when an accidental duplicate Sgt Harker was sent instead of Castellan Creed they Fed Exed the right figure and let me keep the dupe. Yes one could say that that’s actually three mistakes the company has made over the past 6 years of Warhammering, but I’d assert that is WAY more cooperation I’ve ever gotten from Microsoft, Sony, and god help me Comcast and I’ve had way more problems with them over that same timeframe.
Furthermore this is a game company. That makes a series of rules for fighting tiny battles with toy soldiers. Reading the goofier AoS rules I can’t help but feel a spirit of fun is being injected into Warhammer. Like a lot of board games, they are incorporating fully optional systems that allow a player to made a fool of themselves, give their mates a chuckle, and get a couple of bonuses if they act out, or dare I say role play, some of their characters. That’s NOT a bad thing. If players think it is that may be taking their toy soldiering a bit too seriously.
More than anything I’m the kind who doesn’t want to hate change because it’s change. The rules may be simpler and the battles smaller, but the biggest complaints about fantasy have been they cost barrier to entry and the difficult rules. It also seems these rules permit a scaling up, if you want to bigger battles. AND most importantly, no one from Nottingham came around to all our houses and took out WFB 8th edition books away. That’s right, you can still play your favorite version to your hearts content.
Once I have some cash I’d like to invest in AoS just to see the new factions. The models look like a bridge between 40k and fantasy, probably to lure the die hard sci-fi gamers who think fantasy is too la-dee-da for them. The factions are interesting to say the least (ogres “ogors” with orcs or “orrucks” whatever, yes please) and the new system is different from anything I’ve played so far.
So once again I think it works to appeal for calm and maybe focus more on the positives. Less game snobbery the better (let’s face it, we’re model wargamers…it’s a stretch to say that a slightly different kind of model wargame is “beneath” us). More inclusiveness the better. If you like the system, good for you enjoy. If you don’t, fine enjoy the games you do like. But let’s see where this goes, maybe it’ll be like New Coke and will result in an amazing return of the old world. Maybe it’ll supplant 40k in popularity (I doubt it but it is possible). Let’s not fear change, and let’s not hate those who adapt to it faster than we do. We’re gamers so I say we game. Tabletop games are special this way, as once you have them you can play them forever. Remember: no one can kill the games you love except for you!