After doing some reading I think I've found one heck of a great game.
Now, to fully understand my passion for tactical ancient warfare you have to set the wayback machine to 1990 and Warhammer Fantasy 3rd edition. The world was young then. Men were REAL MEN, women were REAL WOMEN, and small furry Skaven were REAL SMALL FURRY SKAVEN. It was the days of the Galactic Empire.
Wait...no...that's Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. No, it was the dawn of my age of miniatures gaming.
But now that Age of Sigmar has come, and Warhammer has gone, it took the wind out of my tactical unit based sails. Has a savior come along? Well, it's inspired me to paint my first two Fantasy figures in over 10 years.
So I've delayed finishing this post up because I wrestled back and forth with what to write and how to (fairly!) compare Age of Sigmar and Kings of War. After some thinking and soul searching I think I've found a way to express myself.
So let's start with a primer. I started playing Warhammer at the tail end of 3rd edition. The game was so vastly different than anything that's on the market now it would be unrecognizable as a Games Workshop product. The rules were complex, the games had a small model count and still took quite a long time to play and there were tons of loopholes. But...it was at its core a fantastic tactical game that really captured the ebb and flow of a medieval (if fantastic) battlefield. Unlike later editions of warhammer units that fought in combat and lost could become broken (and not removed from play!) unless they were broken badly enough in which case they could be routed. If a unit lost combat it was "pushed back" a number of inches representing the enemy breaking slowly through the lines. Positioning and flanking were important parts of a strategic game. It was great - if a bit clumsy at times.
But time passed and soon came 4th edition. Fourth streamlined some of the rules. Gone were stats like Willpower and a pool of magic points from which you could cast your spells. Also gone were the states of a unit other than routed (removed from the table) or alive. But in its place came a refined game that played faster. It was a fun game though I always felt it lacked a bit as some models just seemed to rule the game too much (Manticores anyone?).
Then along came the abomination known as fifth edition. GW was gaining a bigger following in the states moving past small cult status to a full blown game. A new boxed set came out, a new line of figures bringing back some of the armies that had vanished in 4th (the Slann were now redubbed Lizardmen and Bretonnia re-came into being). At first 5th looked like a second generation refinement of 4th but it simply exchanged some old problems for new ones. Most notably monsters still ruled the day but, what was worse, spell casters began to take over the game. Many magic item combos came into being that allowed the autobreaking of units and the game devolved into a mess of who could get their combo off first (Temper/Tress for Bretonnians versus Book of Secrets for a Necromancer, etc).
Then came what will remain, to this day, my favourite edition of Warhammer (bar none): Sixth edition. See sixth was a new kind of beast. For the first time in many years GW had opened up its doors to a new game developer: Tuomas Pirinen. And he wasn't just an outsider - he was one of us. He was gamer and a tournament Warhammer Fantasy player and a bit of a beardy git. But that was what Warhammer needed! It needed someone who understood how magic items could be horribly combined (gobbo champions with Black Gems of Gnar...Assassins with the Heart of Woe) and had an eye for cleaning up those parts of the rules.
GW finally set a clean slate. They wiped out all the outdated army lists and released something called "Ravening Hordes" (see <<here>> if you want to read up on what was in it). Though it angered many people at first everyone came to appreciate that because the rules had so radically changed GW released temporary army lists for everyone (sound familiar AoS players?).
This game was based on field tactics as much as having the biggest monster or the best spellcaster. Flanking was king and so was doing things like maneuvering fast cavalry and creating an enfilade of war machine fire. In short - the game rewarded creating a balanced list that participated in every phase of the game: shooting, movement, magic, melee, heroes, troops and monsters.
Was it perfect? Not even my nostalgic glasses can tell you that. But it was good. And it gave me hundreds of hours of gaming fun. And I thank, genuinely thank, Toumas for all his work on it.
So before I move onto 7th-8th editions, I'd like to give you my opinion Age of Sigmar. And the best summary to date I've found on my feelings comes from one Saint(!) Toumas of Pirinen himself.
Read his thoughts on AoS here: <<TuomasPirinen on Age of Sigmar>> This is his honest and amazing summary of AoS.
Now back to our days of Warhammer.
When seventh edition came along it was a sideways adjustment from sixth. It retained many of the good elements but added in a few new pieces taking away some of the more fiddly bits such as lapping around (pulling troops off the rear of a unit to slowly flank) and adding in with the creation "horde" sized units and their rules. It wasn't bad but with the prevalence of larger and harder and harder to break "star destroyer" units the game slowly lost its edge toward maneuver. Monsters and casters started becoming bigger and bigger again and I found myself fading away from frequent play.
Then 8th edition came. In my own personal opinion 8th combined all the parts of 5th that I hated with all the parts of 7th I disliked. Now, to be fair, I only played 3-4 games of 8th but it became pretty clear that troops were falling by the wayside unless they were in uber units, loaded with magic items and that the most important parts of armies were giant monsters,flying death machines, and magic users. What happened to the days of outflanking someone mattering? What happened to using fast cav to be the hammer upon the anvil of your heavy infantry line? That all seemed lost. I stopped playing because...all the games I tried (even the ones that were close or I won) weren't fun. It wasn't the type of game I wanted to play.
Since unit tactics and flaking seemed less important I wandered off. Then news came of AoS removing the very concept of block units and felt my thousands of miniatures calling to me. To sell them on Ebay.
But then a whisper came in the wind. It seems that one of my other favourite game designers had made his own version of a massed combat/blocked troops game.
Kings of War...
(Here I am teaching a friend who just bought some of Mantic's amazing Ogres KoW with my Empire of Dust.)
For why I loved KoW see the next installment - coming soon!