Excuse me, sir, do you have a moment for the word of Sigmar, Lord of the Storm and Bulwark against Chaos?
It’s been months since
the sky fell The Old World ended and Age of Sigmar began. In that time we saw the Internet at its finest, Mantic Games had to suddenly ramp up their production capacity, and uttering the name Warhammer had folks hounded from social media by mobs wielding flaming brands and pitchforks. Now that the ash of burning toy soldiers has settled and the unprecedented rage has cooled at least a little, how do you break through the negativity and introduce a new player? Points for guessing how many times you’ll see the word ‘narrative’.
While getting into the system and its story myself, taking it as an opportunity to do the undead project that I’d wanted to do since time immemorial, I had the opportunity to introduce Age of Sigmar to other players. Some were genuinely intrigued, others had entrenched opinions formed from the Internet rage of the game’s detractors.
I’ve approached this in different ways with different players starting by playing through the missions in the starter box. For a new player without the starter box, we ran a pitched battle kept as simple as possible to get used to the system. I also ran a demo game with another experienced player while interested parties watched to see how it played. We added a battle plan because, well, why are these factions fighting? With a little thought and background you have a narrative instead of just toy soldiers and dice.
A battle plan works like a scenario. It gives you some background to the game, an idea of sides and objectives. There are some in the books accompanying the game through the starter box and campaign supplements or there are others available online:
This is ideal if one of you wants to play Stormcasts and another Chaos. The box is excellent value, gives you a narrative, and balances the armies for you. The special battle plans showcases different ways to play, from elite warriors fighting off waves from a horde of cultists to flying troops fighting their way through to secure reinforcements from a realmgate, even duels between mighty heroes. This should serve to show you just where you can take the game – it’s not just about pitched battles of equal forces.
I learned to play at one of the narrative campaigns at Warhammer World. The atmosphere was very relaxed and the focus on fun rather than competitive. When playing another beginner, we learned together. When playing someone experienced, they helped balance the armies and stepped through the process. Having scenarios written specifically for the event added to the experience, making it more engaging. I highly recommend these if you’re within reasonable distance from Nottingham.
While it doesn’t really make the most of the narrative possibilities that Age of Sigmar offers, a basic pitched battle can remove complications if you just want to get your head around the rules. Try not to go too big. A hero, a couple of units of basic troops and something fancy like a monster or heavy cavalry should do the job nicely.
Running a demo while others watch lets the onlookers dip in and out without having to commit to the time of a full battle. They can watch a couple of turns and get an idea of how it works. In our case, we used Death against Stormcasts at about 60 wounds a side. While large enough to provide a spectacle, in the post-battle review we decided that we’d used too many heroes. These complicated things for the onlookers due to synergies and combinations triggering all over the place. I suggest a maximum of 2 heroes each – enough to show how useful a simple synergy can be but not so much that onlookers can’t follow what’s going on. Remember it’s about showing how the system works at this stage, not pitching the tactical minds of Hannibal against Napoleon. That comes later.
When introducing a new player, or learning for yourself, my best advice is to start small, start simple, and use a battle plan for the narrative. Look at the terrain you have available and build your battle around it. Focus on the simplified system, the cinematic moments and narrative possibilities that it offers. With the right perspective, Age of Sigmar offers endless opportunities for gaming in the gaps and water-cooler moments. Thoughts on the game and its mechanics in a later post.
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