Warhammer Developer Breaks Silence on Age of Sigmar
Checkout what a previous Warhammer Fantasy game developer has to say about the Game of Sigmar. It’s not what you think…
Tuomas Pirinen was the Design Supervisor at Games Workshop at the turn of the Millennium. He was the game designer of Warhammer Fantasy Battle 6th Edition and Mordheim. After leaving Games Workshop, he became the Director of Design at Ubisoft, then a Producer/Designer at Electronic Arts, and then the Lead Designer at Climax. Currently he is the Game Director at Slant Six Games.
This is what he posted on his Facebook page about the new game system from Games Workshop!
“OK, there is no way I can skip this, I’ve been buried with requests to write what I think about the new Warhammer: Age of Sigmar rules. Better get on with it then.
Disclaimer: All the thoughts and opinions here are my own, and do not reflect the official line of Games Workshop in any way, shape or form. I’ve not worked for GW in over a decade. I reserve the right to be completely wrong about this.
OVERVIEW AND PRODUCT STRATEGY
I’ve spent a fair amount of time reading the rules for Warhammer: the Age of Sigmar as well as the associated War Scrolls, and I’ve gone through the miniatures range and the background.
Key takeaways: Free, much streamlined rules with visually stunning (if 40K-ish) models that are very expensive speaks to me of a strategy: with these rules, many more new people can try the game and grasp the rules rapidly. Some of those will like the game, and a portion will be able to afford the cost associated with it, and without points limits on the armies, they can spend as little or as much as they wish on the game.
I see that the new miniature range will attract many collectors, and perhaps fewer die-hard gamers -possibly a valid approach, business-wise.
All in all this targets a very particular kind of consumer: Ideally affluent, social, and focused on collectability of very high-quality designs -very much the Apple tactic. It is a huge gamble to see if this is new direction works. It may also be that a completely new world will allow GW to target a new breed of gamers not exposed to Warhammer before.
To understand the shift in the game it is important to see that many things are in play here that your average hobbyist does not need to care about: the shelf space in the shops (Warhammer always took massive amount of space), the spiralling cost associated with making a physical product, the intense competition from both physical and digital games and the rise of 3D printing in the near future.
When it comes to miniature sculpting, in the past the rigid unit hierarchy of classic Warhammer limited their poses and dimensions, which was always problem when compared to 40K. Thus I am not surprised to see the round bases and much larger models with far more articulation. They are eye-catching and have been made with collectability in mind. They also are so complex that the immediate danger of 3D printing will have been averted at least for a while.
Overall, many of the miniatures are stunningly well made, and I doubt another company can match the sheer intricate detail of these anytime soon. Whatever people like the designs themselves is another matter, but they do have that modern western mocvie/video game design vibe. As always, a matter of taste wheter you like this or not. It is certainly more mass-market.
The rules themselves have some very nifty ideas, and I am happy that some of the show real creativity and opportunities for interesting situations during game. I do like some of the risk/reward elements such as the charging rules. Some I do not understand, like gaining a major bonus if you won your previous match whenever that may have been. This sets off the game skewered towards one side.
In general, the new rules are streamlined, short, easy-to-absorb and will lead into quite straightforward games. Without tactical maneuvering and flank/back bonuses, the games will most likely become immense killing grounds in the middle, with one side completely wiped out, and the result having a lot to do with luck. I also see some worrying opportunities for cheating, especially with customizing models for extra reach. But I honestly also see a lot of opportunity for fun and tense moments too, in a casual gaming sort of way.
And those dreaded dancing rules… I am personally not a designer that likes to enforce the players to dance, sing or shout during a game: many gamers are introverted, or have disabilities or health conditions that do not allow them to perform a cha-cha-cha moves in the middle of the game. I see the wish to make Warhammer more social, but I would not have gone this way myself: rather, I would have given the players other rewards than game bonuses for awkward behavior.
All in all, the rules are simplified, streamlined, and clearly aimed at getting as many new people as possible to try out the rules.
THE WARHAMMER WORLD
I am of course sad to see Warhammer world go, as it was a labor of love for so many people for so many years, including me. It is one of the most iconic and enduring fantasy worlds ever created. But I do see some of the logic: the Warhammer world was complete, and a low-fantasy world. In order to bring more fantastical creatures and new armies (without making it impossible to fit all the new models into the Warhammer shops) a clean slate was the easy way forward. Personally hard for me to see, but if the gamble pays off it might well be worth it for GW.
I also hazard a guess that there will be a more advanced ruleset for more tactical and strategic players who have outgrown the 4-page rules. I especially think we will see supplements for magic. Without any further rules development, I am not sure about the longevity of the game. Easy-to-pick-up, difficult-to-master is the Holy Grail of the game design, and I am not quite sure these rules are there yet. To keep customers returning, games need long-term engagement, and that requires more depth to delve into. I think we will see this in the coming months.
As always, I wish GW and its staff the greatest of success -the livelihood of many families I dearly love depends on It. Many fantastically talented people work at the Studio and beyond whom I respect more than words can say. I see Age of Sigmar as a huge gamble, and it will be interesting to see if it pays off. I also feel that it may have been a gamble they had to take in one form or another. We might see a smaller playerbase, but very lucrative one to emerge from these rules and miniatures.
Lastly, I want to say this. If you enjoy the new rules and models, hold your head up high: every gamer has the right to like whatever they damn well please. But respect the old guard, they built the hobby into what it is today.
If you don’t like the rules, I absolutely get it. Please don’t take it out on the people that do like them. As gamers we’ve never had as much choice and quality to choose from when it comes tofeeding our gaming habits.
Thoughtful critique and discussion wins over bitterness and fanboyism every time.”
I can’t think of anymore more qualified to voice their thoughts on the new system. Solid breakdown Tuomas!
So, do you agree or disagree with his points?