Age of Sigmar – A Year In Review

2021 is over! Since it’s release in 2016 Age of Sigmar has seen it’s fair share of ups and a lot of downs. This year may be the most positive one for Age of Sigmar yet, with the release of a new edition and some qualities battletomes. Despite all the challenges we face in the real world right now, the game is seeing unprecedented growth. Before we venture in 2022 why don’t we take a look back at this past year and what exciting things we got to see?

January – Daughters of Khaine & Slaanesh Battletomes

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

We started the year off with a tale of weal and woe. The first two books of the new year were released off the back of the plot from Broken Realms: Morathi. One book launched with few new models but an absolute banger of a battletome that has carried them through the rest of the year while the other got a gorgeous new line and has languished in the bottom tiers.

Daughters only saw the release of new Endless Spells and an Invocation (which didn’t see a ton of play). The Daughters of Khaine had always rode a pretty good position in the meta but this book brought them up quite a few notches, being one of the only 1st edition tomes still used in Matched Play (which leaves Deepkin as the only still used 1e tome, for now). As things currently stand they’re one of the top tier armies in the game, with Morathi, the Shadow Queen and Blood Stalkers making up the building blocks of one of the most dangerous armies on the table right now.

Slaanesh, meanwhile fared poorly. They saw a large release of Mortal Slaaneshi followers, previously a much more exclusive club, and they look amazing. Particularly of note was Glutos and the return of Sigvald the Magnificent. Unfortunately the rules didn’t back them up, once the terror of the meta Slaanesh saw nerf after nerf and the book did it to them yet again. Unfortunately they languish really low on the meta totem pole, with subpar rules and some pretty dire units. Hopefully one day they rise again.

February – Broken Realms: Teclis & Lumineth Realm-Lords 2.0

Credit: JoeK

Released as a pair, there was a lot of controversy around this release. The first Lumineth Realm-Lords book was released about half a year earlier, a little more if you count the limited release box set with the collector’s edition cover. When books were released with a chart explaining that if you had the original book you could get by just buying Broken Realms: Teclis, as that would contain everything new, while those without it should buy the new Lumineth Realm-Lords book to get all of the army information contained within.

This was a bit of a head scratcher, why had they done this? Was Games Workshop getting too greedy? Were 6 month releases going to be the norm now? Probably not. We’ll probably never know why the release was broken up the way it was and it does remain to be seen if its indicative of anything in the future.

As for the Battletome itself it was very good! Building upon the first edition book with another suite of units, the foxes lead the meta for some time with their ability to ping-pong around  and still make a decent showing at events. Sentinels are one of the most effective ranged units in the game, and while Teclis appearance has become more inconsistent as of late, he’s still one of the big “Gods” on the table.

Other than the Lumineth, Broken Realms: Teclis introduced revised Warscrolls for three Nurgle units: Sloppity Bilepiper, Spoilpox Scrivener and the Beasts of Nurgle. These were well received and saw the first two get a major power spike which increased their use, a fact that would continue into their new tome. There was also a new Cities of Sigmar Subfaction, Settler’s Gain which was an interesting attempt to make a more classical “Empire” Faction. The book saw a definitive conclusion to the Soul Wars story arc that began with 2nd edition, with Teclis kicking Nagash’s ass back to Shyish and ending the Necroquake for good.

April – Broken Realms: Be’lakor

Be’lakor, The Dark Master. Credit: Skails

Headlining the release was the titular Be’lakor, a dual-game kit that brought a much more intimidating version of the Daemon Prince to both Age of Sigmar and 40k. Accompanying him was an option to play a Chaos god-agnostic force of Daemons called the Legion of the First Prince. It already existed as a subfaction for Slaves to Darkness back in War of the Everchosen but had been replaced by this, a slightly more refined army that is treated as its own thing. The army’s held a surprisingly strong place in the meta, despite really only having one list with extremely minor variations. It’d be interesting to see it expanded into its own thing in the future.

In addition to that we saw some updates to the Fyreslayers warscrolls and some subfactions for Nighthaunt, a first for the faction. The Emerald Host still sees use amongst Nighthaunt players, granting a badly needed bodyguard rule for the faction with some delicate (but essential) Heroes.

May – Soulblight Gravelords Battletome

Vampire Lord - Credit: RichyP
Vampire Lord – Credit: RichyP

Final battletome of 2nd edition and it was monumental at the time because we knew a new edition was coming. As a result the book was written with 3rd edition sensibilities in mind and gave some insight into what to expect.

The book itself was a remix of sorts of Battletome: Legions of Nagash. Legions of Nagash, the final book of 1st edition was a sort of catch all undead book for everything that wasn’t Flesh Eater Courts. In that time it had developed a sort of confused identity where it used to represent all of Nagash’s forces, then Nighthaunt came out and it was different but kind of not? And Legions of Nagash got to add the Soul Wars Nighthaunts units but not other stuff? Then Ossiarch Bonereapers furthered confused the matter by being yet another Legion of Nagash that didn’t play well with anyone. It was a mess.

The new version gave it more of a streamlined identity, focusing on Vampires and their thralls. All Nighthaunt units were formally removed, left to be exclusive in their titular book, while Arkhan and Morghasts were similarly made exclusive to Ossiarch Bonereapers. In exchange they got a slew of new models to replace their rank and fodder Skeletons, Zombies and Dire Wolves. There also was the controversial decision to add the undead enemies from the Cursed City board game (Bet you thought I forgot about that, huh?) that they seemed to quietly ignore, plus a few new Vampire characters that look extremely cool and see a lot of play. In particular the Vengorian Lord, Belladomma

All in all the book was rock solid, in my opinion its the gold standard that all books should be aspiring to. There’s a huge variety of units, with a lot of viable build options and most of it doesn’t feel too overpowered. It got a bit better in third edition as the rules changed around it but maintained a very comfortable level in the upper tiers competitively.

May – Broken Realms: Kragnos

Kragnos, god of hero rocks. Credit: Games Workshop

The final book of the Broken Realms Saga didn’t come with new armies or allegiance abilities but a lot of great new models. The titular Kragnos who launched with a bit of shrug from the community but would see some rapid changes to the warscroll before the end of the year. We also got a total revamp of Lord Kroak, with a big new model and much more impressive casting ability to match his size. We got some new Heroes for Sylvaneth, Slaanesh and Cities of Sigmar. The Warsong Revenant for Sylvaneth is an interesting buff piece to an army that had not seen a new release in a while, the twins Dexcessa and Synessa helped nurse the wounds a bit from the disasterous battletome released earlier in the year with Synessa seeing some table play. Cities of Sigmar got what was technically their first Age of Sigmar models, Galen and Doralia Van Denst, two named witch hunters. It was an eclectic assortment of models for the book and every Grand Alliance got something.

On the rules front, Gloomspite Gitz got rules from White Dwarf condensed into one book, and Beasts of Chaos got a few mediocre warscroll updates. Nothing too exciting there, as they are both armies that languish in the bottom tiers right now. Hopefully a new tome isn’t too far off.

June – 3rd Edition Launch

Credit: Games Workshop

The big event of the year. Just over 2 years since Soul Wars and the dawn of 2nd Edition Games Workshop released the 3rd edition with the Dominion box set. The box released with a new wave of Stormcast Eternals and a new subtype of Orruk: The Kruleboyz. There would be too much to cover here, because the game was possibly more of an evolution than the jump from 1.0 to 2. was, but if you want a full overview check out our review of the Core Rules.

Some of the biggest changes were:

  • Rework of Command Points – Instead of a bank of Command Points you now generate a new pool every turn, and you could no longer use the same command abilities multiple times per phase. This left some armies without as many points as before, but most armies saw more to play around with that encouraged spending often.
  • New Generic Command Abilities – Every army (well, except OBR as they play with their own deck) got a series of powerful new generic command abilities that reshaped how the game worked. Abilities like All Out Attack, All Out Defense and Redeploy led to a more dynamic game that allowed players to augment their forces, and act even when it wasn’t their turn.
  • Heroic Actions and Monstrous Rampages – New once per turn abilities allow you to augment your Heroes and give Monsters more of a place on the battlefield. Combined with All Out Defense this has lead to bit of a “Godhammer Problem” where certain Heroes were unusually tough and impossible to kill without a lot of luck. This has hopefully been addressed in the new FAQ, but it’s going to take a bit of time to see.
  • Scaling Capturing Objectives – Now units with 5 or more wounds (So Heroes and a few elite units) can now capture objectives at a value of 2 models per model and Monsters count as 5! This helped de-incentivize mass units and made Heroes and Monsters a bit more valuable for winning games and not just killing things.
  • Battle Tactics and Grand Strategies – Battle tactics and Grand Strategies added a new way to win the game beyond just grabbing objectives. Battle Tactics are like Secondaries in 40k, but you choose a new one each round for 2 VP (3 for some if done by a Monster, increasing their value). Grand Strategies are a 3 point gain for completing some game wide tactic, usually a minor concern but can win games if played well.
  • New Matched Play Structure – In the General’s Handbook we were introduced to a new format, where rather than multiple realms there was a single Realm that granted bonus rules. This appears like it will change year to year, and we started off in Ghur which added extra points for killing Monsters and the ability to remove an objective in most missions turn 3 if you went second, drastically changing the flow of battle.

There were other changes but these were among the ones that drastically altered the way the game worked. The game was still recognizably Age of Sigmar but the overhaul meant the turn to turn gameplay would become wildly different. And this was before any new battletomes hit!

September – Stormcast and Orruk Warclans Battletome

The Undying Phalanx. Credit: SRM

The first Battletomes of 3.0 set a lot of precedents we’re expecting to see moving forward. Subfactions now granted bonus passive abilities but were completely detached from command traits, artefacts and bonus command abilities. A good change, as in 2.0 it’s clear the idea was to give a choice, but it was almost never worth it to go without a subfaction.

Both tomes (largely) went over quite well, and you can read our reviews here and here. Both tomes rocketed the armies near the top of the competitive charts, with Stormcast Eternals or Ironjawz list showing at least once in the top 3 of almost every event. For Stormcast, both brand new units and some revamps to old units make a strong mix for list building. Vanguard RaptorsRetributors, Liberators and Vindictors became some of the most popular unit choices, with Priests seeing a resurgence with the new Translocation spell which allowed a teleport anywhere on the field (and a movement after, until it was errata’d).

What went over less well was the new Dragons, the Knight-Draconis and Stormdrake Guard have only recently actually hit shelves due to COVID slowing down shipping worldwide but it was clear from the beginning we had a problem on our hands. They have movement abilities that make the foxes from Lumineth look tame and dish out a frankly absurd number of wounds. They were errata’d with a point increase before they even came out, but it remains to be seen if this will be enough.

On the Orruk front, we got the final release of the other Kruleboyz models, and overall it’s a fun army with fun tricks. The Meta darling is the Ironjawz, with Brutes and ‘Ardboyz becoming far tougher to displace, Gore-Gruntaz being fast 5 wound models that got a Rend -2 Attack after an update and Mawcrushas becoming insanely tough with the new Monster rules and Mount traits.

The downsides? Big WAAAAGH and Bonesplitterz got worse, which was a sad day for those players, or those who hoped to integrate Kruleboyz into existing forces.

Overall, dragon issues aside, we got 2 solid books that went over well with the community and set a strong precedent.

December – Maggotkin of Nurgle Battletome

Instagram: bair_paints

An exciting book, as Nurgle was skipped over entirely during second edition. This makes it the longest gap between battletomes (soon to be passed by Deepkin, most likely) so seeing how the army changed was exciting!

Nurgle was given a new “Disease” mechanic where multiple ways are given to hand out disease points to enemy units, which can potentially deal Mortal Wounds at the end of the turn. Many abilities were entirely reworked, particularly the book’s trademark Cycle of Contagion, and Disgustingly Resiliant was made an army wide ability. Overall it led to a much slower, tougher and more elite army. Basically what you’d expect Nurgle to play like.

Too new to say what this is going to mean, as there haven’t been too many events that this book is even legal in yet, but you can check out our review here. My take overall has been that the book plays well, has a solid identity and nothing feels abundantly overpowered. Another good tome.

December – Winter Update

Archaon Closeup
Credit: Silks

We talked about this super recently but some of the rule changes for the end of the year seem super promising. Heroic Recovery no longer being usable in melee is going to do a lot for the Herohammer problem on some tougher heroes like Gortrek, the nerf to Unleash Hell is bound to make the ability far less obnoxious to play around and Amulet of Destiny is no longer an auto take for every high wound Hero.

3 of the “Gods” got datasheet rewrites. Nagash and Archaon were made like their grand alliance’s version of Kragnos, no longer able to benefit from allegiance abilities. While Nagash can finally join Nighthaunt and Flesh Eater Courts but the mono-god armies in Chaos reworked so that Archaon couldn’t as easily abuse them.  Combined with the changes to Heroic Recovery there’s a lot of question about these guys cross-faction viability that remains to be seen.

Kragnos meanwhile got a total rewrite to his warscroll without any point adjustment. He is a beast now, with a 6+ ward, able to count as a ton of models on objectives and charge with a 3D6″ along with any Destruction pals around him. We might see him in more lists now!

The Future

So far the future is unclear. With shipping delays a problem world over, Games Workshop has gotten a bit more cagey about announcing when new things were coming. So far all we know is about a new box set with Idoneth Deepkin and Fyreslayers, each containing one new Hero. Hopefully that means battletomes are soon to follow.

We hope you’ve had an enjoyable year in the Mortal Realms and we at Goonhammer thank you for joining us in this journey. 2021 has been a big year for us, despite all the challenges around us and I want to thank every author who helped write a piece this year and the readers for reading and offering feedback and questions. Without you there wouldn’t even be a point to any of this and I am blessed to have such a great readership. Thanks again and have a Happy New Year and 2021.

If you have any questions or comments comment below or email us at content@goonhammer.com.