Age of Sigmar has flipped my perception of fantasy wargaming. But why is this much-hated line worth a look?
You don’t have to go far to find evidence of the squig’s nest Games Workshop stirred up when they killed off the Old World of Warhammer. Many fans still begrudge the fact that their much-beloved game and setting was taken away from them.
Except that it wasn’t.
There’s nothing stopping you from playing by the old rules, or reading novels set in the “World That Was.” There are plenty of recent product that celebrate the depth of Games Workshop’s epic body of fantasy work too, such as the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Fourth Edition Rulebook and Total War Warhammer (or Total Warhammer).
Enough Chatter! You Used the Word “Sexy”
Yes, I did. And it’s not just a thinly-veiled attempt at attracting readers. Age of Sigmar is a very sexy game. But let me break down what I mean by that.
Warhammer, Age of Sigmar has made it easier than ever to get into tabletop fantasy wargaming. The game’s rules are free online, you don’t need a ton of miniatures to play, and, if you’re casual enough about it, you can use your existing fantasy miniature collection to play.
So, for someone like me who has always been on the fence about getting into fantasy wargaming, because of the cost and the painting involved, Age of Sigmar offers the perfect solution.
And sure, what works for me doesn’t work for many of my friends who’ve had their armies sidelined. I do think that Games Workshop has gone to some lengths to ease old Warhammer players into the new game, but that isn’t enough for everyone. I get that.
But games change, and the Age of Sigmar ruleset seems both streamlined and familiar to me, coming from Warhammer 40k. I doubt Age of Sigmar could be what it is if Warhammer Fantasy was still around.
There’s something great about playing with miniatures you’ve painted yourself. Even if you’re more a “theater of the mind” type GM, having a few miniatures on hand is useful. But are you painting enough of them?
Storytime folks (or a thinly veiled reminiscing, really).
My Life with Minis
I got into Warhammer 40K about twenty years ago. That led me to Warhammer Fantasy Role-Playing, which was when I first bought a box of beastmen and a paint set. I painted up one of the beastmen and the chaos warrior that came with the paints, but most of my roleplaying was with grey plastic.
Over the next twenty years I bought odd miniatures to supplement my game: some hobbits, an elf, the nine companions from The Lord of the Rings, and some figures I found at second-hand stores. If I did paint any of them, they remained unfinished. Most are still grey metal or plastic.
Then came pre-painted, blind-box miniatures. I bought loads of the Dungeons & Dragons miniatures, and have nearly completed the War Drums set, with 9 rares left to go. Now I didn’t need to paint, I could just throw miniatures on the table.
Then a friend and I got into the Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Boardgames, and started painting up minis from the boxes. When I moved back home from living in Japan I discovered that my paint set, now two decades old, was still good, and kept going. Suddenly, the bug had bitten, and I was hooked.
Getting into the Mind for Minis
What changed? I figure it’s a mental switch that made the difference. Now, when I paint RPG miniatures, I have a few tenants I follow:
Painted, even badly painted, is better than grey plastic.
Simple paint jobs are perfect for gaming.
Start it and finish it, then move on.
Keep it cheap.
Try new things, but not all things at once.
I reckon that most of us have mountains of unpainted minis because we get discouraged at some point. We know our minis won’t be Pinterest worthy, or that it’ll take too long to finish a figure, or we’re just not excited about what we’re painting anymore.
For me, having to fork out money for two pots of grey paint kept me from finishing my gargoyles. When I figured I could mix acrylic paints I had around the house there were no excuses left — and I was done in half an hour. It was a really silly thing, but I saw a roadblock and let it derail me.
Point 5 touches on something that can also discourage you, especially if you’re new to painting. It’s tempting to want to try every new technique you’ve learned, or to play it safe and only use techniques you’ve mastered. Trying a new thing every now and then lets you learn and explore, while keeping the process exciting. The flock on the gargoyle above was an experiment that I very nearly scrapped, but it worked in the end.
Other things motivated me to get painting RPG miniatures again too. I recently deep-dived into Warhammer Age of Sigmar, which I’ll talk about in another post, and I started watching some excellent YouTube channels.
Luke’s Affordable Paint Service (YouTube Channel) is excellent for terrain and scenery, and, like me, Luke loves finding a bargain. Luke also has a great contest on right now for his range of speed-basing materials.
Miniac (YouTube Channel) is an awesome painter, and like Luke has a great sense of humor. His level of detail is way above what I’m going for, but Scott does an awesome job of explaining the basics well. PAINT MORE MINIS!
Tabletop Minions (YouTube Channel) feels like chatting about the hobby with someone who knows the ins and outs of the hobby intimately. Atom Smasher, the channel’s presenter, has loads of great tips, presented as opinion pieces that are a joy to watch.
YouTube has plenty to offer for painting and miniature conversion besides these three, but they’re channels I keep coming back to.
The Rule of Three
Another thing that’s making my painting easier is that I work in sets of three. Three zombies, three wraiths, three whatevers. This lets my paint go further once it’s on the palette, and gives me a chance to try different things with each figure. For bigger miniatures, I’ll work on one at a time, but for short painting sessions, three figures usually get done in 30 minutes of painting, and I can let the others dry while I work on one. Three is also a good average when painting RPG miniatures for most encounters.
Paint More Minis!
In the words of Miniac, “Paint More Minis!” Keep it fun and free and you’ll work through that heap of plastic and metal in no time.
The Dying of the Light is an adventure for Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play (first edition), originally published by Hogshead Publishing. I’ve owned my copy for twenty or so years and finally led a party through it this year. The catch? I converted it to Dungeons & Dragonsfifth edition and ran it for a high-level party. That was tough and enlightening.
I’ve owned my WFRP books for more years than I haven’t and never played through the adventure from cover to cover. WFRP was a great game, but it’s mechanically dated and cumbersome when compared to newer games like D&D 5e and Pathfinder. (Heresy!) A group of D&D players asked me to run a game for them, so I figured I’d bang a square peg into a round hole and mash the two together.
The first task was to convert checks into DCs. This I mostly did on the fly. WFRP skills were converted in the same way — find the D&D equivalent of a skill and you’re good to go.
NPCs and monsters were pulled from the Monster Manual or the Dungeon Master’s Guide, as appropriate. For the skaven I used wererats, while the fimir I replaced with monsters I had miniatures of. Whatever happened to the fimir beyond WFRP 1st ed anyway? I also created a bunch of new creatures to fill out the ranks.
The tough part of this little undertaking was using the rules for a “hopeful fantasy game” like D&D to run a game set in the grim Old World. I added diabolical monsters to coerce the PCs, and I’d suggest using the rules for sanity and madness from the Dungeon Master’s Guide.
Still, D&D characters are far more powerful than an ex-rat catcher from the sewers of Nuln could ever hope to be, so plan accordingly. The Dying of the Light is probably best run for characters around 3rd level.
We’re GMs, we improvise. Nothing in The Dying of the Light is so sacred that it can’t change to fit a different system, your players, or your maniacal ambitions. Let Moorslieb swallow the sun and plunge the world into darkness — for Khorne!