04 October 2018
Nagash and Sigmar clash as the fantasy miniatures classic enters a new era
In 2015 Warhammer’s Old World came to an end. It was a huge shock to many of us who cut our gnarled teeth in Marienburg or Kislev. Games Workshop reimagined its house fantasy setting and Age of Sigmar was unleashed, eventually garnering much acclaim. More change is coming. Age of Sigmar 2.0 is here and the Old World seems like a distant dream.
The new edition has arrived courtesy of the glorious Soul Wars boxed set. Mimicking the absolutely deluxe form of Warhammer 40,000’s recent Dark Imperium, this release is a beauty. The presentation is akin to fine dining as Games Workshop clearly looks to compete with the direction its crowdfunded competitors have taken. Make no mistake – this feels every bit as opulent as what we’ve seen with Kingdom Death: Monster and its ilk.
The most significant surprise is that every included miniature is push-fit. As evidenced by recent Shadespire output, there is nary a loss in quality despite angling towards accessibility. Among the plastic models are the familiar Stormcast Eternals taking on an entirely new set of foes in Nagash’s terrifying Nighthaunts. These wonderful sculpts feature floating spectres and fiendish horrors with a suite of dynamic poses.
Stepping in parallel with the progression of miniature quality is the momentum behind the Age of Sigmar ruleset. Since its inception this has been a system angled towards fast play and colourful drama. The second edition has included a small amount of additional complexity as it looks to align more closely to its sci-fi sibling. It has not completely forgotten its vow to velocity and tension, but the primary criticism one could levy at this new era is the subtle nudge towards a more heavy and encompassing experience.
One notable change is the introduction of Warhammer 40,000’s command point mechanism. You can now use a resource pool to trigger special abilities, but in this case they are tied to heroes and commanders instead of force structure. The biggest benefit of this system is that it incentivises dramatic play while reinforcing setting elements. This is slick and handled well overall.
A more significant shift is the overhaul of magic. Magic forms the single unique personality element that separates fantasy from science-fiction in the world of wargaming, and it’s appropriate that it takes centre stage. The most radical move is found in the new Malign Sorcery expansion box. This thing is magnificent.
Players are now able to enact endless spells that persist on the battlefield. These magical effects stomp around and lay waste to the endless souls taking up arms; however, they can also be commanded by the opponent. Control is fleeting with these external elements and there is nothing quite as beautiful as a wall of flame or plague devouring its previous master. It’s even better when those supernatural elements are represented by a gorgeous miniature.
This focus on awe-inspiring moments of chaos highlights the fact that Age of Sigmar is still focused on its roots of spectacle. New modes of play offering narrative or competitive vectors allow players to tailor this exhibition to their particular tastes. Those desiring a stronger story or setting element will eat up the customised rules for the eight Mortal Realms. Battlefields possess unique atmosphere and environs for your warriors to break their backs upon. You can take to the sky and engage in bouts entirely focused on aerial combat. You can even engage in different campaign structures focused on growth and evolution. There’s a world to explore and Sigmar will take you by the hand.
Soul Wars as a product is fantastic. It offers a bevy of exceptional miniatures and delivers the new era of the strongest fantasy system currently available. This neatly-tied package is outstanding and a treat for veterans and fans alike. If the Age of Sigmar was not upon us before, it certainly is now.
A fantastic boxed set delivers the next evolution in Warhammer’s signature fantasy line. It digs its hook deep with elegant packaging and a slick new ruleset, offering new vistas to war over and souls to claim.
Designer: Games Workshop team
Artist: Games Workshop team
Time: 40-120 minutes
This review originally appeared in the August 2018 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here – or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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