I reluctantly bought into Warhammer Fantasy Battles about 18 months ago–a new Friendly Local Gaming Store had opened in my little town, and despite offering a wide range of awesome board and card games for sale, when it came to miniature games they only carried Games Workshop products. I intended to help support the store as well as provide demo games to attract new players to the relatively narrow spectrum of miniature wargaming. After all, I had been wishing aloud to my wife, during the preceding five years of living in this town, that a small gaming store would indeed open… someday. So I was ready to do everything I could to support the place and help make it thrive, starting with buying not one but two boxes of Island of Blood to put together, paint, and run demo games. My post about the new FLGS opening.
And knowing how popular 40K was among the wargaming crowd, I was determined not to stand by and allow the store to be overrun by ridiculous tanks and space marines wearing impossible shoulder armor. I would help build a community of players with miniature figures representing ridiculous fantasy heroes and dragons with wings unsuitable for flight.
A few months later, after organizing a league for both 40k and Fantasy players, buying into 4 distinct fantasy armies (High Elves, Wood Elves, Tomb Kings, and–my personal favorite–Skaven), I helped organize and host a Fantasy tournament in the store: The friendly folks behind the NOVA Open convention were a key part of that event, and I was damn impressed when I attended my first serious Fantasy tournament in September. (Click photos for link to relevant posts.)
After the event, I focused my efforts on painting the figures I had and organizing games among players. After moving into a larger home, I was able to designate the basement for gaming, and began hosting regular games in the place I called “Aaron’s Analog Game Room.” My wife made a cute sign for me as a Christmas gift, combining my interest in old typewriters with tabletop gaming. My wife, by the way (and she is, after all, the reason behind my motivation to write this post), was curious about my hobby of painting tiny toy soldiers, but when I tried to introduce her to a game of Warhammer Fantasy Battles, she felt overwhelmed by the time I described the Magic Phase. On the other hand, when I organized a mini open games day, she played some 40K and loved it. I was frustrated that my preferred game of choice was deemed too unnecessarily complicated not to mention far too long to set up and play.
But now Age of Sigmar is out. After downloading the free PDF of rules (finally Games Workshop has followed the trend so many other miniature wargaming companies have set in recent years), I asked my wife to try playing a game with me. She’s definitely a gamer–she played chess when we met, and she grew to enjoy several of my favorite board games, and she developed a keen interest in collectible card games. But Warhammer was just not her thing. I asked her just to play for only 20 minutes. “Only 20 minutes?” I promised. But 45 minutes later she asked me to put more models on the table after she had destroyed my Skaven forces, and I obliged and we effectively played a second game.
All this to say… what? Warhammer Age of Sigmar has been condemned by many longtime fans of the old Warhammer world, and I can understand their fear of change and a sense of loss. I try to remember the way I felt when I discovered my favorite FLGS unexpectedly closed, and I can at least sympathize with the heartache and even anger at the bussinessmen responsible for making changes for sake of profit without any regard for the community it affects.
But now, with a straightforward and easy-to-teach miniature wargame, I’m so much a more a fan of Age of Sigmar than I ever felt for Warhammer Fantasy Battles 8th Ed. Sure, it’s still not my favorite tabletop game, but it’s relatively easy to introduce miniature gaming to new players, and I sincerely hope this new game release helps revitalize the fantasy element in miniature wargaming. Because I can’t go back to playing only historical wargames.