What is Warhammer: Age of Sigmar?
Warhammer: Age of Sigmar is Games Workshop's flagship fantasy wargame. It rebooted Games Workshop's fantasy game Warhammer Fantasy Battles when, in 2015, that game was discontinued and Age of Sigmar took its place.
What Do You Need to Play Warhammer Age of Sigmar?
To play Warhammer Age of Sigmar, you will need:
An army made up of miniatures. Games Workshop makes a vast percentage of its money from selling miniatures, and to play in tournaments and at game stores you will need to use official Games Workshop models. However, in friendly games you can use models from third-party retailers or even tokens to represent the units. Some players find that using tokens or some other stand-in units for practice games will help them to make decision about whether or not they want to buy a unit (or an entire faction).
A playing surface. Games in Warhammer: Age of Sigmar do not use hexes or squares to move units, but instead move a certain number of inches (as determined by the units' stats). Consequently, there is no set game board needed; you can play on a kitchen table, a sheet of plywood, or even the floor. The playing surface can be flat, but it will typically have some kind of terrain, including hills, trees, buildings, etc. These can be elaborate and custom made, or bought from a kit, or can be stand-ins such as boxes or dishes.
A measuring device. Typically, the distances in Warhammer Age of Sigmar will require you to use more than a ruler. Most of the game boxes will come with an 18" measuring stick, but the majority of players prefer a short tape measure. (You seldom have to measure more than 48".)
Dice. Age of Sigmar only requires you to have six-sided dice, but you will often want a lot of them (twenty or more). It's possible to play with fewer, but you'll need to reroll frequently.
Rules. One of the wonderful things about Age of Sigmar, as opposed to most other games (even other Games Workshop games, like Warhammer 40k) is that the rules to the game are completely free. The core rules are available as a 20 page ruleset, which can be found on here. The rules for individual armies and units, also known as Warscrolls, are available for free as well. You can get them on the Games Workshop website, but they're much more easily accessed and used via the Age of Sigmar app (available for both Android and iOS.)
An opponent. Age of Sigmar is made to be played most easily against one other player, though it is possible to have games with more than one opponent, as well as games with teams (2 vs 2, for example). It is also possible to play solo, but there are no Games Workshop-supported rules for doing so.
What Is Gameplay Like in Warhammer: Age of Sigmar?
Three Ways to Play
There are three ways to play Age of Sigmar: Matched Play, Open Play, and Narrative Play.
Matched Play is the competitive style of play where the sides can be evenly balanced. This is done by assigning each unit a point value (which can be found on the Warscrolls). Matched Play has rules about the make up of an army, including how many troops you're required to have and a limit as to how many named characters or monstrous creatures you can take.
Open Play is, as you would expect, a gameplay where anything goes (as long as it is agreed upon by both players). As it says in the Core Rules, "Armies can be as big as you like, and you can use as many models in your collection as you wish."
Narrative Play has you either recreate historical battles (battles that took place in the lore of the Age of Sigmar universe), or narrative scenarios such as ambushes, rearguard actions, defending an objective, or some other explained scenario.
How Age of Sigmar is Played
At the start of each turn, the players roll off and the winner will decide which player will go first. This element of randomness in turn order has been somewhat divisive in the Age of Sigmar community--some love it and some make a house rule to not randomly determine turn order.
Once player order is decided, a turn goes through six phases: Hero Phase, Movement Phase, Shooting Phase, Charge Phase, Combat Phase, and Battleshock Phase.
In the Hero Phase, any Hero abilities, including command abilities as well as casting spells can be carried out.
In the Movement Phase, you move your units. There are rules for regular movement, moving through terrain, moving while near enemies, running, and flying.
In the Shooting Phase, any units with shooting abilities such as missile weapons can fire at opponents.
In the Charge Phase, any unit within 12" of an enemy unit may declare a charge against the enemy. Players roll 2D6 to see if they can make the distance. This will determine if it is a successful or failed charge.
In the Combat Phase, players take turns choosing which units who are locked together in combat attack.
In the Battleshock Phase, any units who have lost models in combat or shooting must make a battleshock roll to determine if they stay in the battle or flee.
What is the Setting of Warhammer Age of Sigmar?
How Does Warhammer Fantasy Battles End and Age of Sigmar Start?
Archaon, who was once a man but who became immensely powerful by submitting himself to the Chaos Gods, became The Everchosen, the Lord of the End Times. To stop his massive invasion of the Old World (the world of Warhammer Fantasy Battles) Teclis, the most powerful magician in the Old World, frees the eight Winds of Magic. It is not enough, however, and Archaon succeeds in his goal and the Chaos Gods destroy the Old World.
Sigmar was a being (who may or may have originally been a god) who survived this destruction and who clung in space to an orb called Mallus, which was the last remnant of the planet of the Old World. He is found by Dracothion, a dragon god, who takes Mallus and puts it into the Mortal Realms--realms which were created by the eight Winds of Magic. These eight winds create eight different planes of existence.
Sigmar explored the eight realms, talking and teaching the beings in each. He found other gods who had survived the destruction of the Old World, and eventually he is made the leader of the eight realms, and essentially ascends to be the god of all eight realms. But the other lesser gods in each realm begin to fight amongst themselves and Sigmar goes to war with his forces (the Stormcast Eternals) to reclaim the realms.
(That's the story and lore reason for why Warhammer Fantasy Battles ended and Age of Sigmar started. For the business reason, read this article.)
What Are the Eight Mortal Realms?
Azyr, the Realm of the Heavens is the realm that is home to Sigmar and the Stormcast Eternals, and it is the only realm that has not been infected by Chaos. Many different races live in Azyr.
Aqshy, the Realm of Fire is as it sounds: full of volcanos, lava, and heat. The Fyreslayers, an offshoot of the duardin (Old World dwarves) live here. Chaos is here--it is a realm loved by Khorne--but there are many civilized cities that live and work here.
Ghur, the Realm of Beasts is the home to Destruction, and is becoming a main focal point of Age of Sigmar 3.0, as the primary conflict in this third edition is the battle between Destruction (led by Kragnos) and Order. This is home to many Destruction races, and is beloved by Gorkamorka, god of the orcs.
Ghyran, the Realm of Life is the home of the Sylvaneth, who are the spiritual succesors to the Old World's Wood Elves. This realm is covered with life, which makes it attractive to mortals, but also attractive to Nurgle. It is ruled by Alarielle.
Chamon, the Realm of Metal is a realm that is loved by Tzeentch, God of Change. It is the home of the Kharadron Overlords, the steampunk duardin.
Shyish, the Realm of Death is ruled by Nagash and is the home to all races of of the Alliance of Death, including Nighthaunt, Soulblght Gravelords, Ossiarch Bonereapers, Flesh-Eater Courts, and more.
Hysh, the Realm of Light is the realm of knowledge and home to the Lumineth Realmlords (an offshoot of the elves). Hysh acts as the glowing sun that illuminates all the Mortal Realms.
Ulgu, the Realm of Shadow is covered in darkness and fog. Because of this, not much is known of Ulgu. It is the home of the Daughters of Khaine as well as Morathi.
The Realm of Chaos is a different plane of existence that (similar to the Warp of Warhammer 40k) is made up of the emotions and thoughts of all living things. These emotions feed the Gods of Chaos, and they rule here. Three of the four Chaos Gods live here--Khorne, Nurgle, and Tzeentch--but Slaanesh has been imprisoned. However, the Skaven god, The Great Horned Rat, has grown in power to where he is now a resident of the Realm of Chaos. (The other Chaos Gods tend to disregard The Great Horned Rat as nothing but a nuisance, but his power is immense.)
Who Are the Races of Warhammer: Age of Sigmar?
In Age of Sigmar, the races are divided into four Alliances: Order, Destruction, Chaos, and Death.
The Alliance of Order
Stormcast Eternals: These are quite literally the angels of Sigmar, who both have his power as well as have immortality. They can be killed, but when they're killed their souls are sent back and they are essentially reincarnated (referred to as "reforging"). They are generally considered the Good Guys of Age of Sigmar. Though they are often compared to Space Marines, Space Marines are not necessarily "good" (in fact, Space Marines are totalitarian soldiers in a theocratic cult, whereas Stormcast Eternals are literal angels fighting for good.)
Seraphon: The Seraphon are the successor to the Old World's Lizardmen, and they are the second-most "good" of the good guys, in that they have their origins in being celestial beings who fought against Chaos. They survived the destruction of the Old World not by actually living through the destruction, but by being remembered into existence by their god, Slann.
Cities of Sigmar: These are general beings who live normal lives in the Mortal Realms, and they are made up of the dwarves, elves, and humans from the Old World (Games Workshop has Warscrolls available for all Old World races to be translated into Age of Sigmar, but Cities of Sigmar are the only group who are currently supported and continue to be sold.)
Sylvaneth: These are tree people who are the spiritual successors to the Wood Elves, though now they are less elf and more wood.
Fyreslayers: From the Realm of Fire, the Fyreslayers are duardin (dwarves) who look very similar in appearance to the troll slayers of the Old World: shirtless, with bright red and orange hair, wielding two axes.
Kharadron Overlords: Another group of duardin (dwarves) these have a very steampunk aesthetic, using technology such as airships and harpoon guns. They live in sky cities and wear armored suits which are kind of a proto-power armor.
Daughters of Khaine: This is really stretching "order" in my opinion. The Daughters of Khaine are devoted to the Aelven God of Murder, and are spurred onward by Morathi, who is not what anyone would call a good guy.
Idoneth Deepkin: One of the more inventive version of the elf successors, the Idoneth Deepkin live underwater, but their ability to fight on land is explained by an aether of water-like essence that surrounds their army. So, they're able to ride into battle on the backs of sharks and eels, flying on giant sea turtles, and interacting with fish and a (very famous) crab. They're still not exactly "good" but they're better than the alterative.
Lumineth Realmlords: The most recent addition ot the Aelves in Age of Sigmar, the Lumineth Realmlords are a divisive army because they are just so incredibly bizarre: from strange cow-horn headdresses to riding into battle on fantasy kangaroos, the Lumineth are definitely an acquired taste--but many people love them.
Alliance of Destruction
Destruction is poised to be the leading story force in the Age of Sigmar 3.0, led by Kragnos and the Kruleboyz.
Orruk Warclans: Orruks (Orcs) could never truly go away from Warhammer Fantasy, and with the launch of the new dominion box there are now three Orruk factions to choose from: the Bonesplitterz, the Ironjaws, and the Kruleboyz. Bonesplitters are the most feral of the Orruks, drunk on range, with low civilization and just a desire to bash in heads with their bone-made weapons. Ironjawz are the heavily armored shock troops of the Orruks. Elite of the elite, they mke use of technology (or, orruk technology, crude as it is). Finally the Kruleboyz. These are brand new, so we don't know a lot about them yet, but they are more feral, and--for a fantasy game--more realistic. Compared often to the orcs of Tolkien, these Kruleboyz come from the swamps and are brutal and conniving.
Gloomspite Gitz: It wouldn't be Warhammer Fantasy without bizarre comic relief goblins doing weird things that are just as likely to get themselves killed as to kill the enemy. Their armies are completed with giant spiders, massive troggoths, ad squigs, squigs, and more squigs.
Ogor Mawtribes: In the Old World they were known as Ogre Kingdoms, and in the new world they are much the same, but with the addition of the Beastclaw Raiders, a group that rides massive warbeasts. They--the beasts and the ogors--eat anything they can get their hands on.
Sons of Behemat: This army of giants is perfect if you want to spend all of your points on three to four models, with little to spare. These giants are enormous, and the sculpts are amazing (making the other giant sculpts pale in comparison). Not a lot of troop choices here, but big monsters if you like big monsters.
Alliance of Death
Ass surprising as it may sound, the Alliance of Death is more aligned with Order than they are with the Alliance of Chaos--Death wants to destroy Chaos as much as they can.
Souldblight Gravelords: Finally, we get an honest-to-goodness vampire army for Age of Sigmar, and they have pulled out all the stops. From massive half-human, have bat monster--almost a bat centaur--that is Lauka Vai, the Mother of Nightmares, to the ferocious and brutal Radukar the Beast, these are not your parents' vampires. My only disappointment with these is that the rank-and-file troops are uncreative: just zombies and skeletons, which, I feel, could have just been crammed into any old Death army.
Flesh-Eater Courts: Another faction of vampires, but this one much more animalistic and terrifying. With a curse from Nagash, they are brutal and horrifying monsters.
Nighhaunt: One of my personal favorite Age of Sigmmar lines, these ghosts and spirits were the focus of Age of Sigmar Second Edition, with the launch of the Soul Wars box set. An absolute delight to paint, with as many color palette choices as Space Marines, the models really do an amazing job of looking ethereal and wispy. The Black Coach is my favorite Games Workshop product I have ever painted, bar none, and I have ordered a second one because I love it so much.
Ossiarch Bonereapers: Rather than just a skeleton army, the Ossiarch Bonereapers aren't living skeletons--they're living (or undead) beings that gather bones to them and construct bodies, armor and weapons from the bones of others. If gives them a very different look from a typical skeleton horde.
Alliance of Chaos:
The Alliance of Chaos serves the four (or five?) Chaos Gods. Before Sigmar gathered his forces and made an all-out assault, they were led by Archaon the Everchosen, champion of the Chaos Gods.
Slaves to Darkness: These are mortal warriors who are bound to serve chaos. They are Chaos' foot soldiers, and are the primary force of Archaon.
Blades of Khorne: It should be summed up with the slogan "Blood for the Blood God! Skulls for the Skull Throne!"
Disciples of Tzeentch: Known especially for their prowess with magic, they like to infiltrate the Cities of Sigmmar, foment discontent, and lead uprisings.
Maggotkin of Nurgle: Nurgle is the god of rot and decay, and his army embodies that--with grotesque creatures, massive bloated insects, and swarms of disgusting and putrescent vermin.
Hedonites of Slaanesh: The God of Excess and Pleasure, in the past Slaanesh acolytes have typically played up the sexual nature of the hedonites, but lately the models have turned more toward gluttony, indulgence, and greed.
Beasts of Chaos: Not aligned to any one Chaos God, these Beasts of Chaos are a mishmash of beastmen, monsters, gargants, and more.
The Legion of Azgorth: Chaos Dwarves, pure and simple. Not much of a line available right now, but I'd watch this space. They're coming.
Skaven: Skaven also survived the destruction of the destruction of the Old World through their Great Horned Rat god. One of the oldest races in Warhammer Fantasy, these ratmen have their fingers in numerous pies: they dabble in technology powered by Warpstone, they breed monstrous beasts, they spread plague and pestilence, and they are stealthy assassins.
How Expensive Is it To Get Into Warhammer Age of Sigmar?
As luck would have it, we've written an entire article about how expensive it is to get into the hobby. (The article is written with a 40k slant, but it still applies.)
But generally, here are the BASICS you'll need:
Miniatures: This will be the bulk of your money. The nice thing about Age of Sigmar is that, with Open Play, you can play with as small a force as you want. You don't need 2000 or 2500 points to make a game work. Still, models are expensive. It might be worth your while, if you're just getting into the hobby, to browse eBay for deals. You probably won't get the most recent models--the most recent models on eBay are all being sold by scalpers for more than they're worth--but you can get some decent deals if you're willing to do a little clean up and repair.
Paint: Paint is a big rabbit hole you can go down (we've written an entire article about the best paints to use for painting Warhammer). But if you know you're only painting Fyreslayers, for example, you can probably get by with some flesh, red and orange, leather, silver, and some washes. And I'm a big fan of starting to paint with cheap synthetic brushes you can buy in big multi-packs on Amazon. (Check out our essential gear page for brushes.)
Clippers: Some people will say you need hobby knives and files and yes, those things are important--eventually. But if you're just getting started you can let a few mold lines show and just use a pair of good clippers. These are the ones that I use.
Glue: In almost all cases you're going to want plastic glue, and I recommend Tamiya Extra Thin Cement. Not only is it good glue for a decent price, but the brush applicator is so much better than squirting glue from a tube.
Rules: Like I said, you can download all of of these for free.
More ADVANCED purchases:
Files: Eventually you're going to want to start cleaning up those mold
X-Acto Knife: I actually use the back of the knife far more than the sharp bladed edge to scrape away lines and nubbins.
Terrain: There are a lot of things you can get here. To start, I recommend some of the Games Workshop scenery kits, though you can get amazing stuff now through 3D printers if you want to splurge and get into that (it can be a hobby all its own). A game mat is always nice and there are a lot of good ones to choose from.
Basing Materials: From cork to stones to flock to static grass to texture paste (texture paste is a must-have for me) there's a lot you can do with bases, and no model is complete without a base. Some people--including me--find doing the basing almost as satisfying as painting the model.
There is SO MUCH MORE. Hopefully this will give you an introduction into Warhammer Age of Sigmar and help you get into this great hobby.
Do you play Age of Sigmar? What faction and why?