Age of Sigmar: Use Your Initiative

Since we officially ran out of problems in the world this week, the Internet – at least some of the Age of Sigmar pages – exploded in arguments over a rule: the ever-contentious initiative roll and its double-turn potential in Age of Sigmar. Someone even went to the lengths of creating a petition to pressurise Games Workshop into changing this rule. With keyboard warriors rallying to the call on both sides of the debate, I decided to figure out what the deal was. Scrolling through those comments was an…enlightening…affair.

Essentially, the two players role a die to decide who goes first each round. Simple enough. What has people in a flap, however, is that the player who went second in the previous turn could go first in the next, giving them two consecutive turns without their opponent’s intervention.

The Pros

Those in favour of the rule argue that it increases tactical depth, making you consider manoeuvring to capitalise on a potential double turn, or defending against the possibility of being on the receiving end.

There is also a chance for a faltering army to get a second wind and fight their way back, creating an actual game where there might have been a whitewash.

The Cons

The rule’s detractors suggest that games can be decided on the roll of a single dice, that the random element takes any skill away. Two consecutive turns for one player can also mean their opponent is standing around with little to do but make saving throws for quite a while.

Some Examples

I’ve been on both sides of the double turn. Sometimes it makes a difference, sometimes it doesn’t. Here are some of the more extreme cases.

In a recent game of Deathrattle against Khorne Bloodbound, the victory came down to the initiative roll for turn 2. Whichever giant horde of infantry charged first won the game. Deathrattle got the double turn and 40 skeletons wiped out 40 reavers. Had Bloodbound won the roll, the basic math-hammer suggested that the skeletons would have been wiped out.

I’ve seen games against Kharadron Overlords and Daemons of Tzeentch where a player had to wait over an hour for their next turn due to two lengthy shooting and magic phases. They didn’t make for the most involved or dynamic games!

The worst experiences I’ve seen are where a game doesn’t really happen. Someone wins a double turn at the start of the game and their opponent’s army is crippled before they’ve been able to do anything but move forwards.

So What Do You Do?

Turn the starter set box over and look at who manufactures it. Note the word “game” and think about that for a moment. Once you’ve realised that you’re rolling dice to determine the fate of fictional, fantasy beings in a place that doesn’t exist, consider the point of a game. Fun, right?

What makes the game fun differs for everyone. Narrative trumps everything for me, but in matched play, I prefer a close game. I’m not fond of being stomped on with nothing I can do about it, nor do I enjoy effortlessly rolling over an opponent.

Personally, I’m not a fan of the initiative roll, though I find talking to my opponent on whether we bother using it works nicely. Fortunately, most of my opponents are not hugely competitive and are just there to enjoy playing toy soldiers. If we play it, that’s fine. If we don’t, that’s also fine. Don’t like a rule? Don’t play the rule. The only time it’s going to matter in any sense is during a tournament, and I don’t think anyone is making a living on Age of Sigmar tournament winnings.

Have fun!

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