Vanguard Sized Armies in Age of Sigmar


Age of Sigmar lets you start out small and build your force up as you go, which is exactly what I did.

Age of Sigmar is great in the way that it lets you start out small and build your force up as you go. Every size of the game is fun to play and feels like a complete game in a way that 8th Edition or even 40k doesn’t. This makes it super easy to spontaneously start a new army without any pressure of having to drop a lot of money at once, which is exactly what I did.

Back in 8th Edition Warhammer the standard game size was 2,000 points, and at the lowest people usually played 1,500 points. Lower then that and it didn’t really feel like a complete game due to the mechanics and size of the units. 40k somewhat suffers from the same problem, which is why they came out with Kill Team. In Age of Sigmar that issue is really non-existent. From the get go it was advertised on how you and your friend could both just buy one box of models and play a game with them right there and then.

Alongside this you have how open the armies are, with Grand Alliances allowing you to basically mix and match a ton of units, and the fact that all of the rules are free online allowing you to really research armies before you start them. All of this combined makes it really easy to just decide to start a new army without committing a huge chunk of time and money into it.

Right now for AoS I have my Tomb King army, which is probably close to 3,000 points of painted stuff, and my Stormcast Eternals, whom I am trying to paint to a very high standard. Both of these armies are taking a bit more time and effort from me, and I’m even now still painting new stuff for my Tomb Kings. With Adepticon coming up this year I decided to enter into the Team Tournament as well as the Singles Tournament. I will be taking my Tomb Kings with me for the Singles Tournament, but for the Team Tournament I only need a 1,000 point force, and it doesn’t even have to be the same Grand Alliance as my partner. I saw this as the perfect time to start a new army!

After going back and forth between Ironjawz, Bonesplitterz, and Nighthaunts I finally settled on Nighthaunts. I didn’t just randomly pick this though. I read the warscrolls, and in some cases Battletomes, on all of these and built potential lists on Scrollbuilder. I then priced everything out to see how much each army would cost me, and they all ended up being within about $20 of each other, so not a huge deciding factor there. I had a spare ‘Ardboy model lying around, so I decided to paint him up and see if I enjoyed it.

I was also looking for something that wouldn’t take a long time to paint, but still look good. This meant trying out a bunch of techniques that “cut corners” but still looked effective. I was really happy with how my Ironjawz mini turned out, but it did take a bit longer then I would have liked for this project. Next I went to my local GW and picked up a Cairn Wraith to test out a scheme for my Nighthaunts. This one ended up being super quick and looks great. After a bit more back and forth I decided to go with the Nighthaunts, and as I type this I’m waiting on all my stuff to arrive so I can start painting it.

Now that I have this army incoming I’m really liking the idea of trying to get some sort of local Vanguard Tournament going where everyone just has 1,000 points, or a Vanguard sized force. This should allow for faster games, more games, and most importantly, more people to participate since the barrier to entry will be lower. 1,000 point armies are the perfect goal for hobbyists and are fairly easy to expand off of into a full fledged 2,000 point army from there. I’m already thinking about how I would expand my Nighthaunts if I enjoy painting them enough. If you’re running an event it would be fairly reasonable to require fully painted armies at this point level too since it shouldn’t take as long to paint up.

Games Workshop itself makes it really easy to start a new smaller army like this with the Start Collecting boxes and more recently the Battleforce boxes. The armies from the AoS starter set amount to about 700 points a piece too which are fairly easy to expand up to 1,000. They even have a new boxset called the Spire of Dawn which is a rerelease of the Island of Blood set. Split this with a friend and you are both really close to having a Vanguard size force already.

Vanguard games are perfect for when you don’t have as much time, or you want to get more games in. They also take up less space, using only a 4′ x 4′ area instead of the normal 4′ x 6′. While I’m not going to stop playing 2,000 point games anytime soon, the allure to quickly start and finish an army and be able to play games that feel complete is huge. Instead of having one or two super large armies I could easily see myself having a handful of Vanguard sized armies. This allows me to try out new things, vary up what I’m painting, and prevents you from getting burned out on one army. You could even start a Vanguard army as an add on to your existing army if they are both within the same Grand Alliance.

Vanguard armies also let you really commit to a theme. When you don’t have a ton of models to build and paint it’s easier to do a bunch of conversions or make something super themey. The way everything has been broken down into smaller factions really supports this idea too. While some factions may seem like they don’t have enough unit variety for a larger army without having a bunch of repetition, a smaller army doesn’t suffer that same issue. I would love to see a Scourge Privateer Vanguard army, or an Order Draconis Vanguard force. They would look awesome, and completely support their own theme. From there you could leave them as is, really commit to the theme and build it up with only units from that faction, or expand out into other factions in your Grand Alliance. Build two Vanguard armies from different factions within the same Grand Alliance and now you essentially have three different armies! Two 1,000 point armies and one 2,000 point Grand Alliance army. It’s also a good sized force for Armies on Parade, which is always fun to enter each year.

As you can tell, I’m really excited about the idea of doing smaller armies between my larger projects. Depending on how this Nighthaunt project goes, maybe I’ll have another Vanguard army next year. I’ve always wanted to do a Skaven force and in fact I did a test model for them that I will have a tutorial for soon…

What are your thoughts on Vanguard sized armies and games? Does it appeal to you or are they too small? Let me know in the comments below.

Until next time,

Tyler M.


Tyler is a life long painter and hobbyist and took home his first Golden Demon award at the 2012 Chicago Games Day with a follow up at the 2013 North American Games Day. More of his work can be found at his blog, Mengel Miniatures.

  • ZeeLobby

    I really like the idea of smaller games. It’s something GW should be pushing much harder than they do. Of course smaller armies mean less sales, but then they should focus on getting people interested in playing multiple factions. Lately I’ve just seen faster games as a priority for most players, with larger ones being great for those rare weekends everyone’s schedules align.

    • Horus84cmd

      I would disagree that smaller armies, necessarily, directly translates to less sales.

      For one, as you’ve eluded, players may just start playing multiple factions. However, I would postulate that the over-riding factor, for any hobbyist, is the amount of disposable income they have to indulge on their hobby(ies); this is perhaps quickly followed by the amount of spare-time hobbyist have to dedicate to their hobby too. If Johnny only has £50 to spend a month on hobbies they only have £50 to spend a month. The size of army needed has little to do with it.

      I would argue that from a sale perspective, and as you also mention, is that GW focus on inspiring hobbyist to continue to collect, in whatever vain that maybe. In doing so said hobbyist want to spend their whole £50 on GW products and not somewhere else or on a different hobby.

      • ZeeLobby

        Right. My comment was more to the fact that I’m not sure GW has ever really understood this. Maybe their changing their minds with AoS, but before that we had horde unit sizes of 8th edition, and apocalypse making its way into 40K. Then came the additions of formations with great bonuses that required # of units X. Etc. They’ve always focused on medial expansion over lateral expansion for sales, with the new allies and alliances focused on adding to and expanding your current army to larger sizes rather than having several smaller factions.

        • Horus84cmd

          True enough. Focusing on larger and larger armies perhaps ended up narrowing their sales opportunity per customer.

          I feel we are seeing a greater focus on character and large models supported by smaller units. Just look at the concept of Triumvirate themed boxes being used in 40K.

          • ZeeLobby

            Yeah. Don’t know how I feel about that. I miss the days of massed troops and trench warfare. Almost feels like it’s moving to Warmachine/Hordes as far as army look goes. One important central character/beast surrounded by support and helpers. Miss the days of non-character Space Marine captains leading the charge, but oh well.

          • Karru

            It is indeed a pity that GW has shifted its focus away from the freedom of converting your models and kits. More and more kits are released and one clear detail can be seen over and over again. While the kit itself is “multi-part” the parts and models more often than not only go together one way. This is extra difficult with their current character releases, since they are usually put together in a very strange manner which would require some advanced converting skills in order to make them different.

            As much as I do like the new sculpts and all that, it would be much better for GW to consider going back to making multi-part, fully customisable HQ kits. The Space Marine Commander kit and the Chaos Terminator Lord kit are perfect examples of this.

            If they did that instead of the current style when it comes to generic HQ units, people would rejoice. Just thinking about the ease of converting things like Chaplains on Bikes or Chaos Lords on Juggernaut makes me happy.

            But alas, the current GW style is to shift away from small character models, especially with their named characters. Instead they are switching over to large monster sized, or character riding a monster, characters. I personally never understood why, mostly because the amount of sales from having to buy an infantry sized character, bodyguard unit and a transport would be much more profitable.

  • Efrain Quinones

    I can say that as someone that is writing from a comic con ,where we are giving demos for the game, the 1k to 1.5k is the sweet spot for selling the hobby. At the moment its easier to sell the hobby at a lower entry cost that to flood the table with 2-3k point armies. Of course every demo tries to get the new customer to the store so they can see the whole army at play

  • SisyphusIsHappy

    I mentioned this on another post, but the entry to AoS is crazy easy compared to WH40k. I love 40k the way you love some cats: You show then affection and they depend on you, but they will not hesitate to attack you and bang you up. Right now, some aspects of 40k are crazy out of control. Even with the STart Collecting Boxes, some of the 40k ones are rather funky and incomplete. Conversely, the AoS ones are well rounded and you can just leap in. Just decided to give AoS a try with the Flesh Eater Courts. Still shaking my head at what a good entry point AoS has: Its even better pound per pound than games like Warmahcine, which is slowly drifting away from small non skirmish level games.