We’ve seen what GW can do with the Stormcasts – What about everyone else?
The Stormcast Eternals have gotten a TON of great stuff since the launch of Warhammer: Age of Sigmar. That makes a lot of sense because they are the new poster boys for AoS! Now that they’ve gotten a second wave of releases they have really” filled out” as a faction. You can play them different ways and each seems pretty viable at the moment. So what about everyone else?
It’s not as simple as wring good rules for each faction – although that is a BIG part of it. They need to have models in every slot that invoke a sense of style and identity. If you say “Order” everyone has an image that springs to mind. It an image that gets even sharper with words like “Stormcasts” or “Sylvaneth.” But if you say Destruction, it becomes a bit more vague. In fact I would say if you said “Orruks” you’d still have some folks say, “you mean orcs?” and that’s the problem I’m talking about.
I think to fix this, every “Grand Alliance” sub-faction needs to be iconic and thematically appropriate. I also think the faction’s style should be larger-than-life and should really separate it from the “generic-ness” that can sweep over high-fantasy settings. They can be based on the old tropes, but they should become something wholly their own.
With that said, let’s start with the Grand Alliances and determine how GW could really make them interesting. We’re going to skip Order for obvious reasons…
Grand Alliance Death
I won’t harp on this one too much because we’ve already talked about it before – Death needs a hand. They haven’t really gotten a lot of attention recently (which is a shame) and were beat down pretty hard in the Season of War summer campaign to boot.
The Undead Hordes have always been a faction in Warhammer. I think the issue is that Death is just so broad and the Undead take lots of different forms. Do we go with Wet (zombies) or Dry(skeletons) undead. What about Egyptian(mummies) vs Gothic(vampires)? What about spectral(ghosts) vs physical undead?
Here’s the thing – they already solved a lot of these design issues when Games Workshop unleashed Nagash!Say what you want about the End Times of Warhammer but this kit was one of the BEST things GW produced, hands down. Combine this model with the Morgahsts and the Montarchs and you had the makings of a new type of Undead faction that was starting to look down right awesome! So what happened?
Your guess is as good as mine. But I want to re-iterate the point: If Games Workshop redesigned the Death faction to be more like Undead Constructs of the Morghasts and less like the generic undead they would have a really strong visual theme they could work off of. That would allow them to really go crazy with the faction, give them a distinct visual identity and give folks an iconic image of the Death faction for Age of Sigmar.
Grand Alliance Destruction
I know I’m going to get flack for this one, but the Orruks just didn’t go far enough. Ironjawz had some potential and they got a solid handful of releases. The Megaboss is solid, the Brutes are good, the Maw-krusha is fantastic. Heck, even the Gore-gruntas are a big enough shift from the old boar-boys that they work. However, the Weirdnob Shaman and the Warchanter seem a bit lack-luster. But I think the Orruks biggest issue isn’t the new models – its the reliance on the old ones.
The Savage Orruks are …well…look at them:
These models are dated. One of the best things about moving away from the rank-and-file system is that the models are now freed from having to fit in ranks. From a modeling perspective that’s fantastic! This should open everything up and allow them to have cool, new poses and look a lot more dynamic. We know GW can do this, we’ve seen it with their new models time and time again. But it’s not just the Savage Orruks that have the problem. It’s the “Generic Boyz” and the re-issued Black Orcs that suffer from this too:
When the Black Orc kit came out originally, it was a great kit – for it’s day. But seeing them reboxed and repackaged as new “Ardboys” was a bit of a let down. Compare these to the Brutes and you can SEE the difference in design aesthetics.
Gone are the smooth edges and flat armor. The Brutes have a roughness to their armor that encapsulates the Orruk look much better than the old Orcs. The weapons are jagged and roughshod metal and their poses are much more open. They might share a paint scheme but it’s hard to look at them standing next to each other and think they look the same thematically.
This exaggerated roughness needs to be the stylized theme that ties the Orruks together. The core of the army is ready – it would take some work but I think a new box of these “roughed-up” boyz as your basic unit plus a couple more characters to fill them out and you’d have a great poster-boy Destruction army ready to go!
But that’s just the Orruks and the possibilities with that faction. What about the forest goblins?! The Arahnarok Spider is great blue print for what the gobbos could be like. That model still makes my skin crawl. Imagine an entire Forrest Goblin Army created with the same care and the freedom to have some truly inspired poses!
And I would be remiss if I ignored the potential of the Beastclaw Raiders. The Stonehord/Thundertusk is a great kit and the Mournfang Packs are almost there, too. A redesign of the battleline Ogors and you could have a really great faction. Think about how cool they could make the poses now that they don’t need to rank-up.
I could go on, but I think you get the point. The potential for Destruction is totally there. They have at minimum 3 solid sub factions to choose from and they could really turn into something impressive if Games Workshop devoted some time and resources into this Grand Alliance.
Grand Alliance Chaos
I think Chaos is probably the closest to having a legitimate presence and identity on the tabletop. Khorne had been carrying the load for the faction but now the new Tzeentch models have really stepped it up as well. Between the two, you’ve got a strong and diverse core of models that will allow players to create a good Chaos Undivided theme. But don’t discount Nurgle – they had some great models released during the End Times that folks have apparently forgotten about. Couple all that with the simply amazing Archaon the Everchosen kit and his Varanguard (even if they are prohibitively expensive) and you can see the visual identity start to form.
However, Chaos still has a lot of room to grow. The core units of Chaos Warriors is a kit that has done it’s job for a long, long time. Intimidating, simple, and a unit that would rank-up perfectly – it fit the bill. But now, when they aren’t ranked-up these Chaos Warriors just look small and almost restrained. Even on 32mm bases they just don’t have the save gravitas as the Stormcast Eternals – and if they are supposed to be roughly equals, that’s a problem. These are the Chaos Marines to their Sigmar Marines. You can’t have a great story when the bad guys don’t stand-up to the heroes…
A good example of what GW can do can be found in the Blightkings. Larger, more dynamic models with that same design would be fantastic! Or look at the core Chaos Knights – progressively, they aren’t that far off from the Chaos Warriors but they are much better kit. Again, Chaos isn’t in a bad spot – far from it. They are on the cusp of being equals they just need a couple of core unit updates and they will be on equal footing with Order. Between Undivided, Khorne, Tzeentch and Nurgle they have it pretty well covered. There is just one gnawing thing that’s bugging me…
Slaanesh or Skaven!
This is something that desperately needs to get resolved. The Chaos Pantheon’s 4th seat has been in question ever since Age of Sigmar Launched. The Horned Rat has apparently usurped the seat. But I’m not going to re-hash lore. What I want to get into is the fact that the Skaven are actually another solid contender for Chaos as well. They got some great kits with the Stormfiends and the Verminlord. Hey – even the Hell Pit Abomination is another one of those surprisingly awesome kits in the Skaven line.
They suffer from the same problem that everyone else is having however. Their core battleline troopers are dated. I think this is doubly so for Skaven who have to suffer through painting more rat models than just about anyone else. That’s just brutal and it’s the one army I am not envious of playing. If you’re a Skaven player who’s created those massive bricks of Clanrats and slaves, I feel for you.
Grand Alliance Order
Okay, I was going to skip this faction but I can’t help myself – the Sylvaneth models are too good to skip over. Games Workshop took the old trope of “Wood Elves and Forest Spirits” and managed to create something new and distinct! They also feel like they are in a really good place in terms of models and options. They have a couiple of “Big Kits” some good core units and some good “elite” units (Kurnoth Hunters, anyone!?) – I think they probably only need a cavalry equivalent and they should be set!
And I don’t want to discount the Fyreslayers either! As goofy as some of the models are I can’t help but root for these guys. They are another sub-faction that I think could use another core unit or two and a hero kit to really fill them out. Maybe some type of cavalry unit to go along with those Magmadroths or something as well. But they have a specific identity that is strong and GW could really run with that to create some more awesome models.
I’m really hoping they managed to do the same for the Duardin models. If Games Workshop can manage to take the “steampunk” and “dwarf miner” tropes and mash them together to create something new and cool they should have a really solid set of armies for Order… and if the Blood Bowl Dwarf team is any indication I think they are on the right track.
Overall, Age of Sigmar’s army range is pretty huge. Unfortunately, it seems like some of the factions are getting all the attention. If Games Workshop doesn’t do something to balance the scales then folks will lose interest. It’s not fun when you’re constantly playing your faction against your faction all the time. Variety is the spice of life. It’s not as easy as it sounds but with some dedication and resources I think all the factions can come around to being awesome in their own right.
What do you think about the AoS Faction Spread? What would you do if you could tinker with the theme of a Grand Alliance or Sub-Faction?