AoS: General’s Handbook 2017: Open Play Additions

Games Workshop is back with more info on the General’s Handbook 2017 – Open Play is getting an overhaul!

Open Play is one of the 3 ways to play Age of Sigmar. It’s not as restrictive as Matched Play and it’s less “narrative forging” as Narrative Play. However, like the name implies, it’s a very Open and free-form version of the game. Not everyone likes to play without limits or at least a framework to play within – that’s okay! Open Play isn’t just about taking your entire collection and dropping it on the table – it’s also about Multiplayer games, randomly generated scenarios, new game modes, and trying your hand at things that are outside the box.

via Warhammer Community

Open play in Warhammer Age of Sigmar is fun, flexible and varied. With the new open play rules in the General’s Handbook 2017, you’ll be able to create pickup games in minutes and have fun with friends with new and exciting multiplayer game modes.

Multiplayer Gaming

The new multiplayer rules are great if you’re looking for ways to play with your gaming group (or betray them). You can play Coalition of Death with any number of models, but we think it’s best for those epic, day-long games that every hobbyist loves – the times when your friends, or your group, or your club gather up everything they own and pit them against one another in an epic clash. As well as unique battleplans, there are game effects like Divine Intervention to keep things interesting for the losing side – a Death army, for instance, can see all its generals suddenly restored to “life”, while an Order army can suddenly defend itself against a devastating assault with Shield of Fate.

Game Workshop also mentions there are other rules that can impact your multiplayer games – for example if you’re using the Fog of War rules, one of the changes is the “Messengers” rule. Messengers only allows players to discuss strategy and tactics if their generals are physically next to each other! If they aren’t you have to pass notes back and forth. I have personally played in games like this and let me just say that in the moment they can be extremely chaotic, but my friends and I still talk about those games years later.

The Return of Triumph & Treachery

Triumph & Treachery brings three or more players together in a multi-sided battle and allows you to outsmart your foes and betray your friends. In Triumph & Treachery, only one player can win, but to do so, you’ll need to forge temporary alliances – and know when to break them.

Not all multiplayer games have to have just 2 sides – in fact, that’s just one way to play with the Open Play rules. You can also have multi-sided battles and Triumph & Treachery allows for a framework to play those style games. From this teaser it’s plain to see the TP (Treachery Points) are coming and they look like they function similar to how Command Points (CP) work in 40k. You can spend them to alter the battle. I’m guessing you get a limited pool of these to use during your game. No word yet on how those are generated however (I’m guessing it’s variable based on the army comp, game size, and the number of players…but that’s just speculation).

Open War Cards

Also coming to Warhammer: Age of Sigmar are the Open War Cards. If these are similar to the ones available in 40k(which they are), then they should be a welcome addition to Open Play. They are a perfect set of cards that allow you to randomly generate a custom battlefield plan in minutes. Random Objectives, new deployment styles, and of course those Twist cards. We’re also going to see the addition of Ruses and Sudden Death Cards to help balance out those mismatched games that you can have in Open Play.

“With 62,208 possible combinations, every game should feel fresh – you’ll never have to worry about picking a battleplan again. These cards aren’t just for open play and are really useful for matched play and narrative games too. The deck can be broken out to make a Tree Campaign with a variety of battleplans, or used by tournament organisers to create unique challenges for their players. Open War cards are perfect for Warhammer Age of Sigmar players who desire fresh, fun challenges every time they play with minimal planning.”

We’ve been using the Open War cards for our games of 40k and they really do add some new and interesting ways to generate your games. I’m really glad to see them come to AoS! We’ve really enjoyed bringing two armies created with the Matched Play rules and then randomizing the rest of the game with the Open War cards. Maybe we’ll try the lopsided games so we can add in those Ruse and Sudden Death cards next…


Are you bold enough to try out Open Play? Let us know what you think in the comments below!

  • Richard Mitchell

    So much news, for a game that doesn’t even make the top 5 of miniature wargaming and was DoA with 8th.

    • JdM

      you really have no Idea what your talking about.

    • thereturnofsuppuppers


      Oh? What? You enjoy miniature wargaming? That’s not even in the top 5 profitable hobbies from independent retailers in the US.

    • Vicent Martín Bonet

      You mean the ranking that does only cover indy retailers? The one that skips the main source of sales for 40k and AoS?

      No offense, but ICV2 is an indicative for the indy market, not the whole sphere and is kind of spotty in its analysis.

  • I love these ideas very much.

    That said – I’m not sure that the gaming community will ever be ready to go to an open play format to make it worth our while. Leaving the rails of matched play behind has proven to be a miserably difficult task.

    • ZeeLobby

      And I just don’t know anyone who has ever asked for that. I dunno. Just seems like an odd push. I mean I wonder if it’s because the influx of people fed up with 40K has died out and now they’re trying to appeal to their original base of structured game haters again?

      • Open play was pretty much the default in the 80s and early 90s. They are trying to push back into those days.

        I just don’t see that happening pretty much ever. Magic The Gathering let the genie out of the bottle in regards to tabletop gaming being an esport, and I don’t see that genie ever getting put back.

        • ZeeLobby

          Yeah. It’ll be tough. They’ll definitely need to be groups dedicated to it to keep it going.

        • euansmith

          Open play does seem to be how the original 40k designers played and continue to play their games. It must be annoying to them when people trash their rules for being unbalanced when that was never their intention.

          Of course, that is fine, unless you are looking for a quick pick up game, or want to do a narrative game with measurably asymmetric sides; then a proper, balanced point system is the way to go.

          • ZeeLobby

            The thing that irks me is that balancing rules shouldn’t have any negative effect on narrative play. In the modern day of living rulesets and constant FAQs/updates, it’s just something people have come to expect, first from video games, and now from tabletop games. I can see how they may be upset they have to do this now, but it’s time to adjust to the modern day, and it looks like they’ve started.

          • thereturnofsuppuppers

            I find balancing can ruin some of the incredibly powerful characters or miserably weak units by limiting them to ‘fair’ rules.

            Nagash unfortunately does not play as the god of death as he has to be usable in ‘matched play’.

            At the start of AoS, his summoning abilities were completely broken (in the competitive sense), but really allowed for great narrative scenarios.

            Now he’s just a bit of a wet fish.

          • ZeeLobby

            I mean that’s just poor balancing. If they did something to the core rules which made him weaker, they should have buffed him to still make him godlike. GW has always struggled to see past layer one when it comes to rules writing, they always see the obvious change, but not the other effects something will have on the game. I mean playtesting should reveal that ahead of rules updates.

          • This debate has been going strong for a couple weeks now. (points == balance)

            I really don’t think points are balance. At all.

            Points are structure. LISTBUILDING requires points to not be balanced. Otherwise listbuilding is useless if your points are balanced since anyone can rock a 2000 point list that is roughly equivalent to each other.

          • Nameless

            I’d disagree, surely the final goal of points would be a system where anyone can rock a 2000 point list and the result of the game comes down to the skill of the players?

            listbuilding would still be a thing, different people are drawn to different armies and different styles, wouldn’t it be nice if they could play to their preferences without feeling that they where starting at a disadvantage. a truly balanced game would invite variety in listbuilding.

          • That concept is strongly opposed by soooo many. I thought the same for years.

          • thereturnofsuppuppers

            Not necessarily. I would hope points end goal was to accurately describe the usefulness/value to a commander within a system.

            The end goal might be for two players to have a fair game, but it could have other uses, for campaigns or other things.

            I would have to wonder is, do we want warhammer to become a game of skill.

            What do we gain from this, and is the game/setting/hobby really suited for this style of play?

          • Nameless

            …why would you want to win a game because the game says you win rather than because of how you played? I have a great idea for you though, how about you discus with your opponent before the game who wins, and after the winner has been decided play the game.

            I can understand you wanting the game to represent the lore, however you need to accept a certain level of abstract mechanics.

            For example the horde armies are meant to number in the hundreds of thousands or more, a player can afford, paint, carry or deploy that many models. So we have to accept that a unit of gaunts might only be tens big, but represents a much larger horde.

          • thereturnofsuppuppers

            Playing historical games, often we reenact battles that had a clear winner and loser.

            It is entertaining seeing how things played out, even if the end result is a defeat, the journey towards that defeat can be rewarding and entertaining, sometimes moreso than a skillbased challenge.

            I feel the game of warhammer has too small a player base, and built far too much on luck to really be called a skillful game.

            It isn’t Chess, or Go, or even MTG.

          • Charon

            Historical games are different. You do not win or lose. This has been established long ago. There is no expectation, no competition.
            You can not do this with 40k as it is too vague for recreating “historical batttles”. Nobody is gonna tell you h exact army compositions for each battle, just the armies.

          • thereturnofsuppuppers

            I often do this with 40k. Plenty of battles in the fluff

          • Charon

            plenty of battles, but no army compositions.
            You can reenact the napolean wars as the army composition, locations,… are known.
            You can nor reenact the Battle for Tallarn as we only know Tallarn is a desert world and there was Daemons, CSM, Tallarn and Eldar involved.
            How many tanks? Which regiments? Which aspect Warriors? How many of them? Which battlesites?
            Yes you can play a game, call it the battle for Tallarn, but you can not reenact it.

          • thereturnofsuppuppers

            Yep. Lots of details for spacemarines and guard regiments.

            Or small skirmish level (like Gaunt’s Ghosts)

            Even the Tyranids have a pretty good description of how they construct their forces.

            In regards to Tallarn, I’ve not fought that battle.

            Lots of stuff about Armageddon though.

  • marlowc

    It’s always puzzled me why people who want to go the open play route, need any sort of book to tell them what to do.
    Isn’t open play what I did with my Airfix models, and Action Man, when I was 8 yrs old?

    • thereturnofsuppuppers

      Are you asking why players who enjoy narratives also enjoy books?

      • ZeeLobby

        I think he’s more confused as to why they’re making “structured” “open” play. I mean sure narrative players love novels, but most I know aren’t interested in adding more predefined mechanics to their self-defined scenarios. Still it’s interesting I guess.

        • thereturnofsuppuppers

          Ahh that makes sense.
          I think the problem is assuming open play necessarily means without structure

          You’re already using all the rules and mechanics GW gives you.

          True ‘open’ play might be bashing two rhinos together in the bath.

    • EnTyme

      It’s really about giving people ideas for how to run/play games that don’t fit into the categories of tournament-style (matched play) or story/lore focused (narrative play).

      • euansmith

        I love wargames with Designers’ Notes, where they actually explain how they play their games.

      • Vayral

        This. My friends don’t really collect their own stuff, but enjoy playing so I have to provide everything. Im not going to build, paint and collect armies just for them, and i’m not going to spend time list building either. So i use the AoS starter box, pick either khorne or stormcast and start a game, done. These cards make each game a little different whilst still not requiring piles of bookkeeping and tedious paperwork. This is how we chose to hobby, it might not be “optimal” or seen as the pinnacle of tabletop wargaming, but its fun for us and I really appreciate GW making it possible.

    • dave long island
  • Angry Panda

    This is good news, and makes my Panda Pickle very hard and wanting to get massaged by a Vietnamese man woman.

    I look foward to the pleasure to come

  • thereturnofsuppuppers

    Sounds cool.

  • Andrew Lloyd

    Just release the damn book already, sick of seeing previews and Primaries Marines day in and day out