So in the last entry, we threw out some provocative statements and introduced a lot of terms in a way that seemed counter-intuitive to some people. This time around, I want to do a bit of house-keeping and tidy things up by unfolding these concepts a bit more fully and hopefully bring them into sharper focus. These concepts are important for what we are going to be doing, and if we ever do end up “doubling-back” (as one commentor cautioned me), then it will be less a regression and more a synthesis.
So let’s revisit our six essential elements form last time: Space, Time, Variability, Presence, Pressure and Projection.
Age of Sigmar is played on a Battle-field (usually 6’x4’ but not necessarily so). Take the meaning of the word field literally, and we can understand that the game plays out over a set of discrete, contiguous points of Space and Time. An individual point of Space is called a place and is understood by its relative position to all other places. An individual point of Time is called a moment and is understood by its relative change from all other moments (e.g. if I elect to “pass” during my shooting phase, for example, nothing has changed, no new moment has been created, no time has elapsed. David Byrne understood this when he wrote “Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens”). An individual point of battle-field (space-time) is called a game-state.
Points (not points of the field, but points in the GHB… see how tricky words can get?) represent the currency I spend to assemble the resources with which I will play the game. For purposes of simplicity, let’s imagine an economy where 1 point = 1 degree of magnitude of a resource. There are, as we mentioned last time, three resources available to us.
The first is Presence, which represents an investment in scalar Space. Investing in space means claiming a place, occupying it, asserting control of it and dominance over it. The degree of investment made represents the grip-strength with which I control that place. The size of place that my investment claims is determined by the base size of the model used to represent that investment. My control of that place is inviolate; no other model may occupy any part of that place. It is mine and mine alone. The most basic expression of Presence is Wounds. Imagine if a warscroll had only one stat, and that stat was Wounds. We could say of my purchase of a Witch Aelf, for example, that I invested 1 point to buy 1” of place at Presence 1. If I bought a unit of 10 Witch Aelves, we could say that I invested 10 points to buy 10 1” places of Presence 1, with a further qualification that the position of each of those 10 places relative to each other is constrained by the rules for unit coherency; or we could say for simplicity, that the 10 Witch Aelves form a unit and therefore represent an investment of 10 points for a Place with 10 Presence. If I add a second stat to the warscroll and give the Witch Aelves a Save of 6, I can now say of the unit that it represents an investment of 12 points for a Place with 12 Presence. If I add a third stat to the warscroll and assign the Witch Aelves a Bravery of 7, I can say that I have now invested 7.2 points for a Place with 7.2 Presence. Note that both the second and third values for Presence are subject to our third essential element of AoS, Variability. We can ignore Variability for now, but it will become relevant later.
The second resource available to us in Pressure, which represents an investment in scalar Time. Investing in time means investing in the capacity to cause change. If I take my unit of 10 Witch Aelves and eliminate everything from their warscroll except the stats Attacks 2 and Damage 1, I can say that I’ve invested 20 points for the capacity of 20 Pressure. If I now add To Hit 3+, I can say that I’ve invested 12 points for the capacity of 12 Pressure. If I further add To Wound 4+, I can say that I’ve invested 6 points for the capacity of 6 Pressure.
The third resource available to us is Projection, which is the introduction of the missing element (Time or Space) to the present element in both Presence and Pressure in order to create a vector of the two and by means of which we can mobilize these resources to interact with and effect the game-state. The Projection of Presence is movement. I change my place. The Projection of Pressure is range. I change your place. Projection is a dimension added to Presence and Pressure such that they can be expressed as a vector and has no independent value on its own. Projection increases the unit cost of the resource to which it applies. I pay a premium for each degree of Presence or Pressure I buy for each degree of Projection through which I can apply it in-game. 1 point of Presence costs less in a vector with movement 4 than it does in a vector with movement 8.
All other elements of a unit’s warscroll can be seen as variables in these resource equations. Indeed all other elements that can interact with units in any way like artefacts, spells and abilities can also be thought of in the same way. When we flush out the complete warscroll for the unit of 10 witch aelves, we can say that the cost of the unit is the cost of the total investment in a particular bundled allocation of magnitude Presence and magnitude Pressure modified by magnitude Projection. Or: it represents a specifically allocated investment in space and in time proportional to their respective magnitude and vector speeds.
Age of Sigmar is an objectives-based game. The win-conditions for AoS are outlined in various battle-plans, themselves subject to the principle of variance. Underlying the differences between battle-plans, however, is a common theme. There is specific space (places) capable of generating changes to the game-state (attribution of Victory Points) that advantage the player. A provisional and imperfect formulation would be to say that the point of the game is to have more Presence, persisting through more Time, in more of the places that matter, than your opponent.
Which brings us to the most contentious part of the previous entry: the claim that units cost points but have no value. This claim is deeply problematic, and I remain conflicted about it. Someone I respect on the forums recently noted that my insistence on this point is frustrating. I will abandon it if it proves itself a useless notion, but until that happens I remain committed to playing it out and seeing what I has to offer. To do that well requires some reframing.
How in game terms do we define value? It is a critical question, because strategy is quite literally the art of evaluation, the art of identifying one possible way forward as being more valuable than the others. It should be clear that we cannot simply calculate value in the same way we calculate points: differences in degrees of magnitude of Presence or Pressure or Projection do not necessarily yield differences in value the way they yield differences in cost. Further, the value of a game-state wherein a unit is screening or tagging a key threat, or occupying the critical space in a bottle-neck of terrain, or claiming an objective, is different than one wherein the exact same unit is not as relevant, even though there is no difference in that unit as unit (as a bundled allocation of resources of specific magnitude and vector). We can perhaps say of a unit that it is “valuable” in the same way that we can say of a Lego block that it is “buildable,” although that is still somewhat insufficient.
I’ve been coached to try and keep these blog entries shorter. I’ve obviously failed, but will stop here so at least I can at least fail less. Please comment if you have thoughts. Your interactions definitely have “value.” Until next time!