Roundtable: Age of Sigmar and the Competitive Scene

An article by , , and    Age of Sigmar Gaming        0

The new edition is huge, obviously and any new edition will drastically change how the competitive circuit is played. Our competitive players weigh in on what all of this means for list building and play at the most cutthroat levels.

Today’s roundtable:

  • Mike “Ellarr” Chadderton
  • Liam Jordan
  • JoeK
  • Alice “RagnarokAngel” Lirette

First impressions

Let’s start with broad thoughts – how do you feel about the new edition as a whole? A lot of big fundamental changes to both how armies are put together, as well as how they play on the table.

Ellarr: Having played a few games now with the ruleset, I’m very excited! Between a smaller board size, an emphasis on running minimum sized units and the introduction of far more opportunities to react and act on your opponent’s turn, it definitely feels like a game that’s really raised the skill ceiling. Changes to scoring and the adjustment to command point generation have reduced the impact of the double turn but not negated it – which I think is a good compromise to accommodate both people who love the mechanic and those who wish it were gone.

 

 

 

Liam: It’s going to be interesting for sure. There are so many minor changes it’ll be really exciting to see what’s coming and what the top players make of things. I’m generally really positive about it so far from everything we’ve seen and really excited about the GHB and seeing the whole picture as it were. 

 

 

 

JoeK: The rules are *fairly* clean. I imagine the FAQ on the 3rd will be huge, unless they don’t have enough data for the questions that will be asked. Currently there are some interactions that just don’t make sense. “Can we take more than one of the same relic?” “Do summoned units count as their normal battlefield role?” “Can allies go in core battalions?”

Besides that, actual gameplay wise, Lists will be extremely polarizing. And I imagine a lot of the top end lists will interact with the opponent as little as possible.

 

 

RagnarokAngel: Joe’s right that some stuff did work through the cracks. It’s inevitable it would though a couple of those do seem like major ones (Artefacts being one take has always been a given in battletomes for example) but it largely is very clear and makes the turn to turn actions clear. There’s also a lot more interplay than there was before and the choice to reduce downtime was smart. If we’re stuck with You Go I Go this is one of the better scenarios.

Command Abillities & the Hero Phase

Big changes here, with adjustments to Spellcasting, Endless Spells, Prayers, Invocations, Command Point generation & use and a new Command Ability for the Hero phase – Rally.

Ellarr: As a system I am a big fan of the increased means to interact with Endless Spells. Oftentimes Endless Spells fell into two categories: must answer now or ignore it and move on. Predatory spells triggering on both player’s turns and more ways than ever to attempt to unbind them mean they’re likely to have a bigger impact on the game when used, which I’m a big fan of.

More command points mean more decisions and more opportunities to get a leg up on your opponent – I’m a particular fan of extra CP generation being tied to your general being alive and on the battlefield, as it means they are far more important than they ever were in 2nd edition. I love Rally to bits as it can lead to some truly heroic comeback moments, and the command ability changes in general are my favorite changes in the whole edition.

 

Liam: Endless spells are really interesting, they’re possibly going to be really impactful with Wizards able to keep them bound and move them every Hero Phase. It’s going to be really interesting to see the impact Hero’s have going forward, and where Command Abilities (of which there are loads more) are going to be triggered to make the most of armies abilities to stack them. Rally is maybe the most polarizing Command Ability out there. There’ll be times when you do it and get nothing, other times you grow back a handful of skeletons, then they’ll be the time where 2 Mancrusher Gargents back back on their feet and rampage through the middle of your battleine!

 

 

JoeK: The hero phase for armies that can spec into it (Tzeentch, Seraphon, and maybe even Skaven?) will be even more lethal  with more command points, more doors are opened for everyone. Every list that was balanced because they were starved for commands are much better off, and those that had a plethora in the first place, (looking at you, Seraphon) are gonna get wild for sure. Though, do “auras” count as affecting/targeting/etc for the purposes of “1 command ability can only used on a unit per phase”? Not very clear.

 

 

 

RagnarokAngel: I carry some saltiness as an OBR player because Relentless Discipline was such a different mechanic than CP that it was interesting enough for its unique playstyle that encouraged big spending. Now…CP is basically the same except not as random. They’re essentially denied a large chunk of the new game mechanics. I fully expect this to be addressed in some FAQ so I’m not going doomer about it.

As for the mechanic from a general standpoint, great! Lot more for both players to do and there’s some real cost-benefit analysis there. The fact almost all of this stuff plays out on both sides each turn makes the phase even more exciting to prepare for the ensuing carnage.

Heroic Actions

Part of the Hero Phase but significant enough an addition to warrant isolated discussion – what do we think this means for heroes and their place in competitive play? Who wins, who loses?

Ellarr: The community has already collectively gushed over ‘Their Finest Hour’ and yes it’s obviously a really nice buff for combat heroes that could have a truly impactful turn, but I think ‘Heroic Recovery’ is the real star here, meaning support heroes are likely to stick around for longer in the new MSU meta, and it cannot be understated how important giving universal access to Endless Spell/Invocation unbinds is, considering their expanded role in the game.

 

 

 

Liam: As Ellarr says, the two big ones are Heroic Recovery which’ll keep your general (or other important hero) alive a little longer or Their Finest Hour where they become a real blender and really push their combat abilities past their limits. Being able to effect enemy magic will be something which comes up from time to time but expect it’ll their be clutch or forgotten when needed. 

 

 

 

JoeK: The heroes who were already good, are exponentially better, and the mediocre ones are just: “Better”. But the match does not scale appropriately for this generic change across the board.

 

 

 

 

RagnarokAngel: It’s great! I wish there were more useful ones for the early turns when there isn’t as much going on. Perhaps sometime to rally them forth faster, but once combat starts getting messy there’s a lot of choice there. A free CP is always nice but is worth risking a hero dying if you don’t heal them. Great choice, and not hiding it behind spending a CP so they can be spent on other things.

Movement Phase

Coherency changes have a huge impact to the way the movement phase will play out, with screening now more difficult, which in turn makes teleports and deep strikes easier. A new reactive command ability in Redeploy and changes to At the Double round out the major changes. Retreat is no longer a normal move, and units cannot retreat + run by default.

Ellarr: A reduced board size, increased usage of MSU units and the existence of Redeploy have made the movement phase more important than ever. I had a game situation where the correct move for my opponent for a hero he left stranded was to *not move at all* because it meant I couldn’t redeploy a crucial screening unit of my own to protect my general. Action is everywhere and it felt like movement mattered from turn one, whereas in second I found sometimes my units on the outside were moving just to grab points and it was really just setup for turn two. Huge fan of redeploy, such a cool and subtle tactical option.

 

 

Liam: Let’s get things straight about coherency, once we get used to it you won’t notice it. You can’t break coherency by moving models incorrectly, it’ll either be a legal move or an illegal one and you go back and correct it. Redeploy is massive and the changes to Move/Retreat open up some really nice design space like we’ve been on Blood Knights in the Soulblight Gravelords book. It’s often said that games are won and lost in the Movement phase and this edition will clearly be no different with all the new tricks which have opened up to both sides. 

 

 

 

RagnarokAngel: Agreed on all accounts. The reduced board range was an improvement for 40k in general and I think works even better for AoS, being a more melee focused game. I also degree the new coherency isn’t as bad as it sounds. I do think it’s a missed step that what should have streamlined the process is now going to bog it down with some micromanaging but it’s fine. People will get used to it and move on, most of the really silly techniques you see will only apply to a few units, even if it hurts 32 mm bases in a more straight forward way. I don’t think a change is entirely unlikely.

 

Shooting Phase & Charge Phase

 Minor change to these phases, mostly that Look Out Sir no longer applies to units with 10 wounds or more and All Out Defence receiving an upgrade. Unleash Hell is a significant new tool for ranged units to protect them from charges. What does the new edition mean broadly for the shooting meta? 

Ellarr: There’s been a lot of discussion online about Unleash Hell, sometimes without full context or an understanding of the nuance of the rule. Yes technically some form of overwatch is in the game, but the shooting unit can’t have redeployed earlier in the turn, or be within 3” of any other enemy unit when it uses the command. That said, this is a rich get richer situation and I do wonder if GW had their finger on the pulse of the competitive community when they made this decision. Auralan Sentinels stick out like a sore thumb here, as their damage output doesn’t give a shit about the -1 to hit modifier, and a block of 20/30 (still legal in the reinforcement system) could potentially devastate any unit that attempts to charge them. I suspect points changes and FAQs may address some concerns about ranged units, but it’s definitely the biggest thing to watch in these early days in my opinion.

 

 

Liam: Shooting was (in theory) king at the end of 2nd and I feel the reaction will be that it comes into 3rd in the same space. However smaller boards and unit size limits for all none-battleline units might really tone it down. Sure Unleash Hell is great but you’re not using it on massive units in most cases and only being able to use it once per phase really means you can’t spam it out there. My biggest worry is that small specialised shooting will be used to pick out enemy generals and you’ll lose the CP associated as a result, but maybe we just need to take a page out of 40k’s book and make sure we have real Line of Sight blocking scenery on the board where possible. 

Monstrous Rampages

A significant suite of free abilities for monsters that mean they’re now much more versatile than previously. Does this move the needle enough to mean monsters see more play? Or is this just a nice bonus for units that are both hero and monster?

Ellarr: I think the monsters that didn’t see play previously missed out primarily because they lacked the objective holding capacity of block infantry, or the damage output for their points. Monsters now count as 5 models and this new skillset certainly move the needle, but perhaps the biggest change that may benefit them is simply that coherency changes and more MSU units means they simply have better targets to get stuck in with. Cheap and cheerful monsters like the Fomoroid Crusher standout as big winners, provided their points don’t go up significantly. The rampages themselves are great, and my personal hope for 3rd edition as an ongoing roadmap is that we see more monsters introduced for more armies, so that it becomes a bigger part of the game (some factions like Nighthaunt simply lack access to them at all outside of Forge World).

 

Liam: A headline act of the edition. They’ve all got their uses but be under no illusion, Roar is massive here. Game changing in a lot of situations. I’m really looking forward to seeing the small monster (Cockatrice for example) turning up in armies more than they used to to make the most of these rules while some of the monsters who’ve come down in points over the edition might sneak past and points increase I’m expecting monsters to get to become real cheap terrors on the table. I’m certainly looking forward to breaking out all the Gorgons again!

 

 

 

RagnarokAngel: I love monsters, any big setpiece models really. Monsters got ignored a lot unless they were the very good ones because they didn’t feel very unique. They were big targets and sustained damage would fell them eventually. They didn’t always put in the work that a large unit did (outside of some notable exceptions of course). The monstorous rampages are huge and the fact you can do something as simple as throw some mortal wounds on the charge to shutting down command abilities makes them feel special. All for it.

Combat Phase

Big changes here with pile in no longer specifying the closest model, making it much harder to lock models in place. The activation wars (aka strike first/strike last etc.) now have a clear and codified sequence to follow. Fans of the changes?

Ellarr: Not a ton has changed fundamentally, more that there are far less head scratching scenarios that require digging into several FAQs to get an answer on order of operations. Fundamentally the impact on the Combat Phase has come more from the way that Commands no longer stack, as well as an increased emphasis on coherency affecting the number of models that can get into the thick of it. I hope to see 32mm and bigger based units get addressed via FAQ because as it is, many units may struggle simply because the amount of models that can meaningfully engage has in some cases halved which obviously hugely impacts their potency.

 

 

Liam: This is maybe where the coherency rules start to really make an impact and I hope that 32mm and 40/50mm round based models are really able to bring their force to bear. Having a universal command ability of +1 to hit out there really shakes some units up and makes decisions on what command abilities to use are really tough to make. Units which hit on a 4+ but hit like a truck might make a little bit of a come back as a result. 

 

 

 

RagnarokAngel: You end up really feeling the fact you cant pop multiple command abilities (or the same one multiple times) when a few skirmishes are going on. You end up needing to be picky and just bulking up a unit won’t cut it. I think I’m all for it, it’s not a bad thing as so much as something that will need to be relearned. Implacable blobs weren’t very fun so I think this will go a fair bit to keep them from reaching absurd levels of durability.

Battleshock Phase

Largely unchanged other than Inspiring Presence only being once a turn due to how commands work. Minor changes to a near perfect system, or an underwhelming adjustment that needed more?

Ellarr: I wish we had got the same changes that 40k did, with Battleshock failure causing an attrition test rather than the current system that largely doesn’t affect MSU and has a huge impact on hordes. I *hate* the battleshock phase currently because I feel like Inspiring Presence means it’s largely meaningless, so making it once per phase (due to how commands work) is a nice adjustment, but this is a phase that I feel needed more work and simply didn’t get it. 

 

 

 

Liam: Biggest change here is Inspiring Presence only being able to be utilised once. Clearly any army with rules which impact battleshock are seeing a boost as a result. Units being MSU might limit this but some armies will still want bigger units.

 

 

 

RagnarokAngel: Losing the +1 for larger units is also a problem but overall it doesn’t feel too different. Popping Inspiring Presence multiple times didn’t happen a ton due to not always having that much CP to burn, and now that we’re more flush with CP you can’t do it! It’s fine just, I wish they did a bit more.

Terrain & Garrisons

New rules for being behind terrain counting as in cover and an adjustment to mysterious terrain (not currently in Matched Play) – Are you sad to see mysterious terrain tables gone?

RagnarokAngel: I’m of two minds here. I wish they did a bit more with terrain as it stands it’s pretty boring. +1 to saves isnt as helpful with a cap on modifiers. I say this yet I hated the unneeded complexity of 12 terrain features so knocking it down to the OG 6 was the right call. Overall it’s the bland and safe option which probably beats experimenting and watching it blow up in their face. There’s tons of new rules to remember elsewhere anyway.

Objectives

Control is established at the beginning of the game and the wording is made clearer in terms of defining control, all positive changes. What do you think about monsters and models with 5W or more counting more for the purposes of objective control? Have we seen the last of the more oddball objective control missions like places of arcane power?

Ellarr: I love these changes as a means to give Monsters and big stuff a little boost in the objective game, and it’ll be interesting to see if the unusual Battleplan control rules of the past will become less common or whether this is simply improving the baseline that they mess around with in subsequent battlepacks. 

 

 

 

Liam: Units not being able to contest multiple objectives is a really big change and nice to see. The impact of 5Wound/Monster Units counting as more models as a baseline is also great and some units will stock rise as a result. End of the day though Scenarios will make the real difference here so I’m holding back real judgement.

 

 

 

RagnarokAngel: Feels good, it didn’t make much narrative or game sense that a monster was only worth one model. This improved their value significantly and lets Heroes feel more useful in capturing objectives. In general the rules work the same but are tighter and make more sense. Good changes.

List Building & Core Battalions

Huge changes that will warp the landscape of competitive play by themselves. Reinforced units, new generic prayers and spells to select, new generic artefacts and command traits – so much to unpack here. What stands out to you?

Ellarr: The 5+ ward save being a generic artefact is hilarious because it immediately becomes one of the best options in the game for so many factions. I think that ultimately the reinforced system gives a nice shot in the arm to the game, as suddenly it’s not about making the best death star unit and controlling the center, it’s your ability to trade resources with your opponent and control space – I think it’s a super exciting change and I can’t wait to dig in with new lists. Warscroll battalions no longer being legal in matched play isn’t a big loss in my opinion, largely because it felt like it locked list builders off from so many interesting lists just because people we’re chasing low drops. 

 

 

Liam: I’ve written the article on this so not going to go into major detail here – overall though as a TLDR – I like the way it works now.

 

 

 

 

RagnarokAngel: I play an army that wasn’t too affected by the changes (OBR’s biggest units were what would be “double reinforced” and they were expensive enough to not see more than one or two) so it’s fine. I agree cutting down on hordes is great because getting stuck in with an immovable horde really fucking bogged the game down. Removing one drop from battalions unless you build around one that does that and nothing else is a good change. The removal of Warscroll Battalions is going to hurt a lot of the ones that relied on the same battalions (Fyreslayers and Tzeentch come to mind) but they’ll adapt. Big changes are still to come.

Final Thoughts – Winners and Losers

Alright folks, money where your mouth is – what do you predict will benefit most from the new edition in the immediate future? Any armies you think will see a significant drop off in the new edition without help?

Ellarr: I think the armies that weather the transition the best are probably the various flavour of elves, with Lumineth in particular not caring that much about the list building changes and receiving several boosts to boot. Who cares about coherency when you’re already doing it for coherency anyway, and Sentinels will absolutely love being able to Unleash Hell. As for losers, it’s probably going to be factions reliant on warscroll battalions to compete – Fyreslayers lose fight twice, Tzeentch lost Changehost (good riddance) and Slaves to Darkness lost Plaguetouched Warband.

 

 

 

Liam: Everytime Warcom put out a new article there was a certain sense of “That makes LRL better” and I think thats fairly true now I’ve had chance to read all the Core Rules. Factions which leant on their Warscroll Battalions will take a small hit but I’m hoping armies with small monsters and cheap troops can write lists to make the most of the new Core Battalions more than the powerhouses such as OBR or LRL. So much depends on the FAQs though so lets see what that brings for sure before burning our old armies right?

 

 

 

RagnarokAngel: I already bemoaned OBR’s mechanic not really working right under the new system. That’ll get worked on surely, and the armies that have relied on major warscroll battalions have already been addressed. It’s impossible to say for sure how much of this sticks around forever, day 1 FAQs could radically transform some armies and do nothing to others. I still think Lumineth are going to continue to dominate though.

 

 

 

Post any comments or questions below or email us at contact@goonhammer.com.

 

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.