Games workshop have made a solid game with Age of Sigmar, that I believe nicely walks a line between competitive strategic and absurdly casual, without ever straying too far onto either side (unless, of course, you want it to).
Part of the reason I play games is to get myself lost in a world- to capture my imagination in an evocative setting. And for me, that is the area I’ve always struggled with when it comes to Age of Sigmar.
The Mortal Realms have lacked the familiarity of The Old World of Warhammer Fantasy, or the twisted density of Warhammer: 40,000.
Getting my head around the different Realms of Magic, and how they operate and relate to one another is just something my brain can’t do.
And that’s why Warcry has triumphed.
In Warcry, players command warbands made up not of holy Serphon lizard people or dreaded Shadow-Aelves, but mortals who populate the various Realms of Magic.
These mortals, however, have been tainted in some way by the corrupting powers of Chaos, and are venturing to the Eightpoints, -the Realm between Realms-, to vie for the attention of the Chaos Gods and the general Archaon himself.
What’s nice about the narrative of Warcry, is that it allows us a look at the (somewhat), everyday people who populate the Mortal Realms, and how their cultures, ideologies, and indeed physical appearance is influenced by the predominant magic of the place they were born.
The Untamed Beasts, hunters from the Realm of Beasts, believe Archaon’s quest to conquer the realms to be the greatest hunt of all. While the Iron Golem of the Realm of Metal believe themselves chosen by the gods of Chaos to forge weapons for the endless hordes of evil.
These warbands are people on the brink- just a slight push will see them inducted into the Chaos armies as full warriors and devotees of the dark gods.
And in Warcry, that is your goal.
The game itself follows in the footsteps of Warhammer 40,000: Kill Team, where players field a small number of models on a small board populated with terrain.
Ideal for quick games played on your lunch hour, or a flurry of back-to-back battles played in the same time as a standard game of Age of Sigmar would take to complete, Warcry is a skirmish game of surprising tactical depth.
While many aspects of the game will appear stock-standard to any experienced wargamer- you still choose a faction, you still build to agreed-upon points values, and you still roll dice-, many rules of the game are not only new and exciting, but are in many ways a departure from what we’ve come to expect from Games Workshop titles.
That’s not a dig- quite the opposite! The innovation in Warcry got me excited to play like no other Games Workshop game has before.
Like most games of the modern era, players take turns activating individual models. The biggest pill to swallow for a seasoned GW fan is that attacks are resolved with only a Hit roll- there is no roll To Wound, and then roll To Save.
Not only does this speed up the time it takes to resolve an attack, it also removes a whole bunch of variables, as previously making 3 different rolls to determine 1 outcome would skew the odds more often than not.
The balancing act the design team have implemented is with the Wounds characteristic of the models, and the Damage characteristic of the weapons.
Some models in Warcry have up to 30 wounds! Even a stock standard warband member could have 8 or 10.
This streamlined system also allows you to make tactical decisions with minimum calculations for variance. You can easily glance at your opponent’s attack, get an idea of the average number of wounds they can cause, and figure out if your fighter is likely to survive the backswing of a charge.
I know in my heart that a lot of Games Workshop fans will be turned off by these two stark differences, -I was skeptical at first as well!-, but I can assure you, after now playing about ten games, that I much prefer this system.
The next great thing about Warcry is the scenario generator. The core game comes with 4 decks of cards- 1 deck of cards that shows a terrain set up, 1 deck that shows deployment zones, 1 decks that explains victory conditions, and 1 deck that adds a twist- a special rule which will be in effect for that game.
This ‘random’ scenario generator is clearly baked into the rest of the core rules. If you want be be prepared for anything in Warcry, you’re going to have to think carefully about both the models you include in your warband, and the formations in which you set them up (another excellent part of the game which is a bit too detailed to get into here- but trust me, it’s gas).
The Warcry Starter Set has a juicy price tag, but after spending some time with it, I can assure you it’s worth every penny.
The terrain alone is fantastic. You get the full decks of cards, two full warbands, dice, cards, and a rulebook with retails separately for almost a third of the price of the game!
Now, lastly, I’ll touch on what I’m sure many of you have been waiting for- the Campaign rules!
Despite the fact that game is still almost a full week away from release, there has already been a number of comparisons made. Some have suggested the Campaign will be like that of Necromunda, or the old Mordheim, others expect it to be more similar to Kill Team.
Fortunately, both of these opinions are wrong.
The Warcry campaign is its own beast, which is good because it allows the game to stand on its own without treading on the toes of others games you already enjoy.
While the Warband Campaign Roster isn’t as meticulously customosable as in Necromunda, or even Kill Team, the biggest innovation is allowing each player to monitor their own campaign progress completely independently of anyone they’re playing against.
This circumvents the issue of time and commitment required to play in campaigns. If you’re 5 games deep into your campaign roster, you can play me even though I’ve just started mine. Then, if I play someone who isn’t running their own campaign, I can still count it toward my own campaign progress.
This may sound a little strange, but with two separate narrative campaigns for every faction in the game, I’m personally most excited to use them as checklists to ‘complete’ the story of a warband before moving onto my next hobby project.
Get excited, take a breath, and bellow out your own Warcry when it releases this weekend!
Warcry is available to preorder right now at your local Good Games store!
Join us next week for a disussion on the one the hottest new card games on the market- Naruto!