Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Composition comparisons

EDIT: This post will be updated with analysis of SCGT pack. 

I like Age of Sigmar, but using the amount of models as a mechanic for victory conditions or deciding sudden death only works when both players are building their armies with a similar mind set. This is why there have been multiple comp systems developed, all of which have pros and cons:

Comp by Models: Simple and quick to set up, but very easily unbalanced whether accidentally or intentionally.

Comp by Wounds: Also simple and almost as quick, but can be still be unbalanced. However, unless you specifically attempt to build an unbalanced army, it is a valid method.

Comp by Points: Similar to Warhammer Fantasy list design, which brings familiarity. It takes in to account all aspects of the model, and usually aided by a math formula. However the values given can be subjective to the type of game or tournament the system is originally designed for.

Comp by SDK points: Also similar to Warhammer Fantasy in appearance, it uses a math formula to return a point value for each model, which is weighted in some areas.  The formula represents offensive and defensive ability of the unit with some modifiers for keywords. It doesn't allow for command abilities, external abilities to the unit or varying levels of wizard power and there is also no cost for Warscroll Battalions. It does have the benefit of as an online list building tool.

Comp by Pools: Each Warscroll and Warscroll Battalion is assigned a value which is routinely adjusted by a community effort as a result of feedback from tournaments and online. It allows for a unique approach to list design for Warhammer and opens up more possibilities for comp packs. The balance should increase over time and there is the possibility to weight in certain areas to keep the meta changing. Also has the benefit of as an online list building tool.

Recently I have compiled a spreadsheet to compare different comp packs and see where they are weighted and whether they are relatively balanced. The chart below shows the deviation between armies when comparing SDK, UK Pool and Wounds, displayed as a relative percentage above or below the average. The SDK/Pool column data is found by taking the average of all Warscrolls maximum SDK cost divided by current Pool cost. The Wounds column shows the same but also divided by wounds.
SDK/Pool Wounds
Beastmen 93.68% 97.24%
Bretonnia 94.69% 89.76%
Daemons of Chaos 107.93% 104.72%
Dark Elves 101.82% 104.72%
Dwarfs 96.73% 112.20%
Fyreslayers 104.88% 119.69%
High Elves 95.71% 97.24%
Legion of Azgorh 116.08% 119.69%
Seraphon 89.60% 89.76%
Ogre Kingdoms 97.75% 82.28%
Orcs & Goblins 92.66% 97.24%
Skaven 85.53% 97.24%
Stormcast Eternals 109.97% 119.69%
Tamurkhans horde 103.86% 67.32%
The Empire 90.62% 89.76%
Tomb Kings 91.64% 82.28%
Vampire Counts 108.95% 104.72%
Warriors of Chaos 104.88% 97.24%
Wood Elves 113.02% 127.17%

This presents us with a relative power level between each army when using Pool or Wounds as a comp system. Both are similar, with a few outliers but generally are within a reasonable range. The individual army entries have extremes of units on both ends, but not to a game breaking level.

From my analysis I have been able to see which comp system favours which areas:

Wounds: Heroes, Monsters, High Wound Per Model Warscrolls in general.
SDK: Wizards, Buffing Heroes, everything else is mixed.
UK Pool: Infantry, Cavalry, Heroes, MonstersAn interesting point to note is that the average Pool and SDK ratio of all armies is 1:98. So a 20 pool army is roughly equivalent to a 2000 SDK point army.  
Each comp system is fairly similar. Each army has comparatively weak and comparatively powerful units in each type of comp but the average over the entire armies aren't too dissimilar from each other, probably no more than Warhammer Fantasy was.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Scenarios in the free rules

One thing I've noticed that's regularly said around forums is that Age of Sigmar has no scenarios without purchasing a Battleplan in the app or a hardback book. This is touted as being a major flaw in the rules and that all battles end up as a pitched fight in the middle of the board because of this apparent lack. 

This is just plain wrong. 

Firstly, ensure you're using a reasonable amount of terrain. Following the basic rules you'll get eight terrain pieces on the board on average. (Remember this shouldn't include hills, as games-workshop intends that you play on a Realm of Battle Board). Use the Scenery Warscroll for each piece or roll on the Mysterious Terrain table if using homemade. This alone should help break up a battle by creating choke points, defendable positions and other areas of tactical interest. 

Secondly, you have Sudden Death Victories. When playing by the basic rules you should always aim for one player to have a sudden death objective. These are your scenarios. Importantly, this is decided after scenery is placed and deployment, so when placing terrain and units you should have an idea which objective you would choose if the chance arises.

A brief comparrison of basic Age of Sigmar with the Warhammer Fantasy 8th scenarios:

Non Sudden Death: Similar to Battleline. Battle of two roughly equal sized armies. 

Assassinate/Blunt: Similar to Blood and Glory. Use an aggressive army and force the opponent to protect a unit. 

Endure: Similar to Watchtower. Take up a defensive position and force the enemy to come to you. 

Seize Ground: Similar to Watchtower. Reinforce the objective and hold off the enemy in a glorious last stand. 

In addition:

Table Split: You may now split the table in half any way you like. This creates scenarios similar to Battle for the Pass and Meeting Engagement. 

Combinations: The table split can be done in addition to the above Sudden Death Objectives to create even more variation.  

So as you can see, Age of Sigmar has scenarios built in to the basic rules, at least five variations, not including combinations. It all depends on the armies you deploy. 

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Why Age of Sigmar is a good war game

War Game
A military exercise carried out to test or improve tactical expertise.

The statement above is the dictionary version of a war game. In my experience a good test of tactical expertise must include the following:

• Expectation of unexpected circumstances
• Anticipation of the enemy
• Decision making ability 
• Ideally optimal reaction to the current situation

Each of these can be shown in Age of Sigmar quite easily and I will outline below. You may think that all tabletop games will have this but I don't believe any do quite as much as Age of Sigmar. 

Expectation of unexpected circumstances

Age of Sigmar is fairly unique, at least in the modern age of tabletop war gaming, in that you may bring any army of any size you wish to the game with no prior list design required. This creates a huge level of unexpectedness to each game. 

With Warhammer Fantasy and most other war games, you would likely know what army your opponent would bring and could have a good guess as to the type of list they would use. This was mainly due to unbalanced point costs, the prevalence of the Netlist and comp systems which were biased towards certain areas. 

Age of Sigmar essentially eliminates that (even when using a Pool system to build an army to some extent). During deployment you have to learn to expect the unexpected while reacting to your opponents Warscroll deployments.

Anticipation of the enemy

Now this is something that you will have to do in any war game, however this is more so with Age of Sigmar due to the turn mechanic. You have to anticipate your enemy's next turn whilst simultaneously planning for a double turn swing, this is not an easy tactic to master as I have found out. 

The double turn is possibly part of the game that is subtle in it's tactical use. A novice player will hope for the double turn so they can get extra attacks in where possible. An expert player will have deliberately set up his units to make optimal use of the extra turn. 

There is a lot to talk about on this subject which I will broach in a future post. 

Decision making ability 

From my experience with previous editions of Warhammer Fantasy, decision making was mostly done at the deployment phase with little that could be changed once the battle was underway (with a few exceptions of course). Movement was very limited in ranks and flanks and charge reactions weren't really much of a decision. 

In Age of Sigmar you have a constant barrage of decisions to make: what unit to deploy, which command abilities to use, to charge, to retreat, to summon reinforcements... 

Warscrolls in Age of Sigmar have a wide range of abilities which can hugely change a situation immediately, this really was not the case in Warhammer fantasy.  

Ideally optimal reaction to the current situation

This relates to all of the three points above, you are only as good as what you can do right now. In real life, a battle is a unique and organic situation which is ever changing, you can only do what you believe to be optimal at that time. 

This is probably the most important part to being a great tactician in any aspect of life and Age of Sigmar emulates this exceptionally well when compared to the traditional war game model. 

In summary

Age of Sigmar ticks all the boxes when it comes to testing or improving tactical expertise. You don't always know what you will face, or how big a force that may be, and you certainly can't rely on the situation remaining in your favour for very long. 

This is how it works in real life, and also how it works in Age of Sigmar.