I played my first game of Age of Sigmar earlier this week. That first game both maintain my excitement for the system and slightly change my opinion of it in some ways. We played Bretonnia vs Warriors of Chaos. We decided to go with 50 models a side. He made a list ahead of time and I just brought a sample of my collections and just deployed units until I got to 50. My idea was to adjust what I would used on the fly but it didn't matter in this game. Partly because I didn't bring enough different options to have a choice and partly for another reason I will discuss at the end. I believe what my opponent brought to the battle was a Bretonnia Lord on a Pegasi, Damsel of the Lady, Grail Knights, another cavalry unit that I can't remember, a unit of Peasant Bowmen, 2 units of Mounted Yeomen and a Field Trebuchet. I brought 2 Chaos Sorcerer Lords, 2 units of Warriors of Chaos, 1 unit of Marauders, 1 unit of Forsakens, Dragons Ogres, 3 Chaos Spawns, a Hellcannon and a Chimera. The game started out fairly even for the first two rounds. On the west side of the board the two heavy cavalry units, the Lord and Lady face off against Warriors, Forsakens and a Sorcerer Lord. On the east side had the Mounted Yeomen trying to shoot to death the 3 Spawns, Dragons Ogres and the second Sorcerer. The other Warriors unit was also on the east side but their presence did not matter until the end of the game, which was around the time I remember the run option. The Bowmen and Trebuchet rained death on the east side from their comfortable position in the center of the map. The Hellcannon tried to rain death right back on the Trebuchet and took way too long to do. The Chimera sat next to the Hellcannon looking pretty. And the Marauders were immediately deleted by the Trebuchet before my first turn.
As the game move to the later rounds, I quickly found myself getting grinded into a slow painful death. The Warriors and Forsakens were not a match for 2 heavy cavalry units. Even getting the assist from the chimera didn't stop my west flank from disintegrating. Once my chaos forces were gone the heavy cavalries that only took modest casualties ran into the Hellcannon. Probably should have ended the game here but we kept playing until I got tabled. Th east side fared much better at first. The Dragon Ogres along with the Chaos Spawns murdered the Yeomen but then got shoot up by the bowmen. The final Dragon Ogre tried the charge into the bowmen but died before he could do much damage. Heading into the end game I had 2 Chaos Spawns, 1 unit of Warriors and a Sorcerer Lord. My opponent had the 2 heavy cavalry, the Lord and Lady and the bowmen. The second Warriors unit and friends didn't fair any better against the dual heavy cavalries. The Sorcerer Lord did manage to snipe the Bretonnia Lord on a Pegasi with Arcane Bolt. I consider this a minor victory due to how much damage I threw at him and him just not dying. But in the end I got tabled with the majority of the Bretonnia force still being on the table.
So what did I learn from my first game? You might gather from my tone that I was a little bitter and I would be lying to say I wasn't. At least at the time and I tried to kept it to myself. I knew my negative thoughts were just excuses to protect my bruised ego. So after digging a little deeper into how the game went I finally realize two important points. One was that I had answers to the things giving me problems. The two heavy cavalry units with support from the Lord and Lady was what wreck my army. This was due to their high save and me not able to generate enough wounds. If I had concentrated the Hellcannon and chimera's range attacks on them I probably could have turn the battle around as they both do mortal wounds which means the cavalry would not have gotten any saves. It would also help if I realize the chimera had a range attack earlier in the game. This is one of the many mistakes we both made in terms of forgetting what our force can do. The other thing I realize is that I am playing a different game. This should have been obvious as Warhammer 8th edition and Age of Sigmar rules are nothing like each other. Nevertheless I found my thinking that since I'm using the same models with the same name as 8th edition, they will perform a similar role in Age of Sigmar. If my first game is any indication then that line of thinking is very wrong. I'm use to my warriors having really good saves but in Age of Sigmar they only have "decent" saves which means more failures than I am use to. Their balancing factor is that now they have 2 wounds each which is nice if it wasn't for the fact that the cavalry also had 2 wounds each. Also my shields were worthless because my opponent didn't have any attacks that did mortal wounds outside of Arcane Bolt from the Damsel but she had better spells to cast. Another factor was that I had no synergy in my army while my opponent had some. Nearly my entire army had a chaos mark but in Age of Sigmar they do nothing unless I have something that specifically affects them. For example Glottkin has a command ability that affects friendly Nurgle units. Its going to take a while to wrap my head around the fact marks does nothing by themselves. This means when I plan out future lists I very much need to keep what synergy options I have available.
There is no telling where Games Workshop will take Age of Sigmar but I now have a few guesses what the future holds. I think competitive games will be compose around balancing what models you bring to the game and what models you use in the game. In essence you will have two "list" instead of the traditional one. I know some in the community want to make single lists like what we did in 8th edition but I think this is a flawed approach to Age of Sigmar. It doesn't take advantage of Age of Sigmar's unique elements. Instead I think the following example would be a better approach. You and your opponent agree to play a game with equal number of models per side, such as 50. You and your opponent both brings models in excess to the agreed total such as 200 to 400 models each with the previous example. You both deploy one unit at a time from this pool until you reach the agree upon total and the leftovers can only be used if summoned as well as you are only able to summon models from this initial pool. Additional composition restrictions might be needed to be applied to the agree total though I need to play more games to see if this is really needed. With a system where you bring more models than what you use on the table allows for an environment to have healthy counters. 8th edition has it share of counters but I don't think it was very healthy. You had to factor in potential counters to your army when you make your list and if you left something out and had to face it on the table you had to either work around it or you were just screwed. With Age of Sigmar, as long as you have the models, you can adjust your play against potential counters on the fly in similar ways that real-time strategy games work. This is what I attempted but failed to do in my game because I lack the models and the knowledge of the new way my and my opponents armies play. However this style of game is what gets me excited about Age of Sigmar. All that is needed to for Games Workshop to balance their armies and not in ways most players are use to.
My next game of Age of Sigmar will probably be next week. I'm looking forward to a Skaven vs Goblin match. Until then try to stay positive!