Fourth Edition Age of Sigmar – Initial Impressions

We’ve already shared our thoughts on Spearhead – a few of us were luck enough to play the full 4th edition of Age of Sigmar and had some thoughts to share below. Additionally, AoS Coach has uploaded a video with his thoughts on both systems that is well worth your time.

What’s your background with Age of Sigmar?

Marchettus – I came to mini gaming relatively late in life after we moved and my second child was born. I never connected with a 40K army and bought my first box of Age of Sigmar at the start of Covid-19 lockdown and have been painting Orcs and Goblins since. I really don’t have many other “game” interests outside Age of Sigmar and love the local Georgia community and the broader event circuit. I love the models Age of Sigmar and always have a “painting project” that I’m trying to expand my hobby portfolio that ultimately gets speed painted right before an event.

Bair -I got into Warhammer through the Lord of the Rings game first, which doesn’t seem to be a popular avenue into the game, but as a 12 year old in Maryland I thought it was really cool. Then I got the Battle for Macragge set shortly after as a present before Battle for Skull Pass. When Age of Sigmar launched back in 2015 I had just started working part-time at my local Games Workshop in the Kingston shop and oh boy that was not the best time to be a 20 year old, part time, retail staff member for Games Workshop. So much of what happened was repeatedly my fault? The Old World blew up and people were mad! I thought it was kinda dumb but fun at the time and have been playing AoS since its inception all the way through the various editions, some more than others but more for real-life reasons than anything to do with the game itself.

AoS Coach – G’day! Anthony aka AoS Coach and I’ve been playing Age of Sigmar from when we didn’t have points and balanced armies by total wounds. I was there when Stormcast Eternals could deep-strike into combat and lock up your whole army with a conga line of 30 liberators, when we could have an unlimited amount of Endless Spells as long as you paid points, and when Slaanesh terrorised the world with everything striking first.

What have you been waiting to tell everyone since you got your first taste of the game?

Bair– Ever since trying this I’ve just completely sacked off 3rd Edition AoS. Why play it when this is just around the corner? It’s just better. I’m thoroughly impressed with where AoS is going this year. Such a far cry from “get re-rolls for having a longer beard” first edition gimmicks! If you read our Spearhead article you’ll see that I’ve said my Kharadron have sat in the cabinet more than on a gaming board because of how unfun I’ve found them to play with. That’s likely to change this edition and I am so excited for it!

AoS Coach – You’ll enjoy 4th Edition. We’ve all followed all the WarComm articles, speculated it’s impacts, and ultimately wondered if you would enjoy this new simplified version of the game.  Yes, we lost some things. I’ll miss generic Monstrous Rampages, Heroic Actions, Mystic Shield and Mysterious terrain just to name a few. The game still feels like Age of Sigmar, you have even more interactivity with new command abilities, more decision making like how you spend your command points and if taking the double turn is worth the trade off. It’s different but that’s not a bad thing. Trust the process.

Marchettus – Giving faction terrain health and letting you fight it has been the biggest change I wanted to let people know. I think that in encapsulates the feel and experience of playing the new edition. Now, we have to specifically include a monster at the list building stage to smash something to rubble and some factions just don’t have the tools to do it without bringing in allies. Even then, you’re forced to a single roll that may or may not succeed. Now, with the ability to fight faction terrain, you can engage with just about anything and the question is how how many of your resources in your army do you dedicate to the task. I loved playing around with terrain in Dawnbringers V and think it is a fun way to play the game.

What’s the most surprising thing about the new edition?

AoS Coach – I’ve thoroughly enjoyed playing with Wizards in the new edition. Wizards knowing their entire spell lore has unlocked the in game decision making because I don’t have to rely on a specific hero supporting a specific unit, and if it dies, I lose the spell. Activating a Place of Power for a bonus to casting adds a nice risk vs. reward because if you roll a 1, you take damage, and in my case, you take damage to Morathi-Khaine 😭.

Marchettus -When we did a demo of the game it wasn’t clear how well defined the role each unit would have. In third edition you have units that want to charge, like Freeguild Cavaliers and Chosen, and units that don’t particularly care, like Troggs. Once you’ve filled the battleline requirements there isn’t really any sense of how the units should perform on the tabletop beyond the raw output and movement. One set of highly armored infantry more or less does the same job as another. Now, the difference between Liberators, who get a bonus to control an objective wholly within friendly territory, and Vindictors, who get additional rend when charged, is extremely clear so that the choice between units is more about what they do on the table and less about “maximizing wounds per point”.

Bair – Since trying the game nothing has come out that’s surprised me honestly. That’s not to say I know everything because I don’t and I’m still very keen to look deeper into some other factions, when those articles start dropping on Warhammer Community I’ll be picking through them!

My Nighthaunt Forces

How’d the demo experience feel?

Marchettus – My nameless partner is a great person and a pleasure to see at events so I would have had a great time no matter what we were doing. I think we both wanted to be on our best behavior and would look up rules prior to asking the organizer for clarification but to see if we could find it and also to challenge some of the assumptions and habits we brought from the prior edition. The biggest difference was the lack of “triggers” that exist in the current game. Each time you move, if you’re within 9″, it’s an opportunity to redeploy. Each time you cast a spell there is a pause after the roll, and a potential unbind, before another pause and a target being picked. Each time you finish a charge around a shooting unit there is a potential debate about unleash hell. In the new edition the turn sequence between two players is extremely simple (outside of combat) and they’ve removed many of the polite pauses in the game.

Bair – My demo was incredible. I feel very lucky to have had the chance to sit around and play the new edition with my own models in a slow-paced setting where I could ask in depth questions about niche scenarios as they came up. It’s very easy to see how making decisions every turn is going to be so important for the player. I lost my game but was able to walk away from the table with a dozen different ideas on what I could have done differently for a very different outcome. The new commands are incredible and while it feels like you have more command points at the start of the battle round I was needing to consistently not go for the instinctual All Out Attack and All Out Defence at every opportunity to make use of other commands.

AoS Coach – In my first game I got to use Sons of Behemat against Blades of Khorne. We all know a Mega Gargant dominates the objectives in 3rd edition but with a reduced objective size in 4th edition, your better yeet them off the table as soon as you can…. Which is definitely easier with no Mystic Shield or Finest Hour. The experience was like when I travel from Australia to America for a holiday, there is a level of familiarity but it’s not exactly the same as what I am used to. You quickly adapt and soon enough you’re adjusted to your new environment.

What were some of the core rules that you read that made more sense on the tabletop?

Bair – The Places of Power terrain features and also being able to charge faction terrain pieces were the two biggest ones for me honestly. Placing faction terrain and being mindful that it can be charged as well as your units is going to be key in this edition and will definitely throw both new and existing players off for their first few games.

AoS Coach -Double Turn. Not that it didn’t make sense but in the heat of the moment the consequences become real. Do you chance taking the double turn and will this decision cost me the game at the end? If I’m at a tournament, should I be going for max score to improve my chances to podium? I had fun testing situations and seeing the impacts by taking the double and giving it away.

Marchettus – Combat and the pile-in. Prior to our game, when we reviewed the core rules, each step made sense but together it felt like one of those AI narrated videos that isn’t describing the visuals fully. Playing the combat sequence brought it all together and the inability to bring units out of combat through a pile-in move is going to change the way people position units. (note: a prior version of this incorrectly stated you could not bring units into combat. This mechanic remains in place.) 

Warcry Fomoroid Crusher
Fomoroid Crusher. Credit: Fowler

What are you going to miss about third edition?

AoS Coach – Universal Monstrous Rampages. We all loved Roar when you shut off your opponent’s command ability and hated it when it happened to us. This isn’t a deal breaker and I’m sure in 6 months time I’ll have completely forgotten about it like we forgot that re-rolling ones was littered throughout 2nd edition.

Marchettus – I think, for clarity of interactions and speed of play, losing the mini-game around redeploy is worth it but I loved the brinksmanship that came with keeping units outside of 9″ so an opponent couldn’t put more models on a point. The new system gives a lot more agency to the player who isn’t taking the turn and the combination of Countercharge to Powerthrough means that will be more chances to interrupt scoring a battle tactic. I understand why Grand Strategies are removed from a balance perspective but I’m going to miss talking through and trying to maximize the scoring differential on turn five.

Bair – I started to type out “I’m really going to miss Heroic Actions” but after thinking about it I don’t think I will, actually. There’s nothing about third edition AoS that I’ll actually miss as far as I can tell so far. Come back to me in a few months and then ask me if I still feel the same way, though.

Describe a niche interaction that is automatic in third edition that doesn’t translate well to fourth. Is this a good or bad thing in your opinion?

Marchettus – The size of objectives and the contest range impacts so much in the game. Now, you can castle up and have units inside bubbles claiming two or more objectives pretty easily. I feel like I spend a lot of time screening out objectives to make sure that somebody can teleport on them and claim them. Or putting 10 models on an objective outside of redeploy range. The smaller rangers and three potential moves (redeploy, countercharge, and power through) to move models onto a point is going to change the math of how you commit units and models to a point. This is before we add in any of the abilities that impact Objective control.

Bair – Melee ranges. I think this is a super obvious one, actually, but gone are the days of needing to know that 25mm is less than 1″ so you can attack in “two ranks” of minis. This is a very good thing. Not as niche but not having a heroic action to stop a spell, especially when you don’t have a wizard, felt a bit rough; making use of those places of power and being in range of them will be very important for some armies. This one I need to play more with, it did have a slight feels-bad moment honestly but we’ll see how much that really matters. Being able to just shoot and attack endless spells instead of needing  to dispel them is huge for this.

AoS Coach – The value of shooting has always been a premium in Age of Sigmar because we got to shoot in the shooting phase, unleash hell when you charge, and still shoot when you were in combat. Now, you better thing twice about how you protect your shooting units and screen them out of combat threat range. Shooting in combat has always been dumb and it’s made balancing units like Blood Stalkers / LRL Sentinels / etc. a nightmare.

Are you excited to keep playing?

Bair – Overall I am very positive about this edition after being a little worried about what an Index Edition might look like. So far incredibly impressed by the design and excited to play more!

AoS Coach – I’m very excited to play more 4th edition as long as Games Workshop have committed to thorough playtesting pre-launch, respond quickly to community feedback with erratas, and don’t lose the plot when battletomes roll out with significant balance creep. I don’t want a world where the battletome armies are dominating the meta where we see 70%+ win rates.

Marchettus – If third edition was bad, broken, and not fun it would make sense why things are being rewritten from the ground and the slate being wiped clean. It isn’t, and has seen a lot of growth and responsiveness in how points and rules have been adjusted. In many ways the leap from second to third edition showed a maturation of the game and added a lot of features, like redeploy, battle tactics, heroic actions, and monstrous actions that would feel like requirements. Getting a chance to play the new edition killed my desire to play the current edition. I’ve gone to several events since then and playing games with friends is the most fun I have in this hobby but I’m tired of this GHB and the ready to move on. I want to see people bring out models that haven’t seen the table because they’re just slightly worse in the range and the excitement and chaos of everyone getting a new rules set is going to lead to some fun and surprising games.

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