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Multiple questions on AoS vs. 40K from a newbie

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Hi everyone,
I have quite a large collection of games at home now (probably too many ;-)) but I am still missing a good wargame with minis, whereby one has a set amount of points to create one's army. I have been looking for quite some time (basically since june, buf life intruded...) as I am going back and forth between different games. 
As my knowledge was limited, I initially gravited towards Age of Sigmar and W40K as they were the more popular. However, given my requirements (I did not want armies with tons of figs, was ideally looking for a smaller than 4 x 6' footprint and max 2-3 hrs playing time, playable at a 3-player count, no hidden info so that I can "practice" solo...), people recommended other games such as Kill Team, Warcry, Warmachines, Infinity...
So, I investigated all of them, and I arrived at the following conclusions :
  • KT/Warcry : I am not sure I am looking for a skirmish game with a very low model count. I already have board games like this and will probably get Super Fantasy Brawl
  • Infinity : a bit related to the above and hidden info plays a heavy role in the game
  • Warmachines : seems to check a lot of my boxes (for instance, I was looking for a good variety in abilities, varied factions/races with a lot of possibilities for customization of one's army, i.e., different playstyle within the same faction), but I am afraid (i) it might be a bit too competitive/complex for me at first and (ii) the game is not in a very great state right now and the community down there in France has become rather small. 
So, I am back here, looking at AoS and W40K again, and I have a few questions : 
  • do you play other board games or does AoS/40K consumes all your time ? 
  • How many armies do you collect ? This is an issue I have trouble wrapping my mind around. Indeed, I have played a lot of CCgs over time, board games with different races or factions, and even though I know it is usually better to focus on 1-2 races/factions/deck to get to know it inside out, I am usually the type of person that likes to dabble around (because I like exploring different sets of abilities). In a game such as AoS/W40K, this seems much harder to achieve. How do you deal with it ? 
  • Are you primarily a painter or a player ? I am asking this because when I look at a few reddit subs I have the impression that discussions about painting abound, whereas those about strategies are much more limited. I have taken up painting a few months ago and I quite like it, but I am still an avid boardgamer and I still want to have a "good" game beyond it. In other words, although I like painting and find it relaxing (and it has helped me over the summer after a family loss), I see it more as a byproduct of a game. 
On to more specific/gameplay questions (for some of you that play both AoS and W40K): 
  • How much variability/agency  is there in AoS vs. W40K with regard to list building ? Looking at GW's website and other resources, it seems there are much fewer models in AoS, which seems logical as it is newer. Does it curtail list buidling ? Also, I was under the impression that there was quite a few sub-factions that were really well-integrated in general. 
  • How diverse are the different factions in terms of gameplay/abilities in AoS vs. W40K ? As I said previously, I like when units have interesting abilities and are more than just their statlines (something which, I think, Warmachine does rather well). 
  • In terms of competitive meta, is AoS more varied than W40K, in general ? I have read that today's meta in W40K was quite biased towards Iron Hands but what about previous metas ? 
  • What do you think of Meeting engagement ? Given the aforementioned preferences, I am intrigued by this format, if I want to practice at home or play with my friends (they probably would like the game but they won't buy any models....and as we mostly play at their place, it would be easier for me to bring 1000pts armies and playing time would be a bit lowered). Also, would it be possible to adapt it to W40K ? 
  • I have found the wonderful Goonhammer site but their "Start competing" articles, which are great for 40K, are for the moment non-existent for AoS. Are there other sites that discuss the factions in details from a competitive perspective ? 
thanks ! 
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Welcome to the site! 

A few answers to help out

1) You are correct that there are not as many articles on strategy as there are on painting or list building. This is more a failing of the community than of the game. There most certainly is strategy on the tabletop, its just that many people have a poor grasp of it and a poorer grasp on how to describe and explain it to others. So you get realy generic stuff like "play to the objectives" and suchlike. Now there ARE more strategic games and many of the smaller skirmish games like Infinity certainly play very strongly into the strategy whilst Warmachine/Hordes plays heavily into the combos and supporting units aspects as well. 

AoS certainly has strategy of its own kind, some consider it too basic, others don't really understand it and thus often view it as simplistic. But the lack of discussion is more a community failing than a lack of it as a feature.


2) When it comes to how many armies do people collect its a personal thing really. There is no set answer. Some people dabble in an army for a while then sell it on and buy a new one; others flit from army to army all the time; some build 40,000 points worth of just one single army and keep adding to it. There is NO set pattern really. 

You might see some patterns in "meta chasers" who basically chase the generally viewed best/most broken army in the competitive scene; but overall they are a much smaller percentage of the userbase in general. In short people do what works for them given their attitude, finances and situation. Keeping in mind that all these can change through time. That army you lovingly built might one day be one you part with for another. 


3) Some armies are smaller than others and some are bigger. AoS isn't totally new, its built off the back of the Old World. AS such some armies are simply at different points. Armies like Skaven, Stormcast and Gloomspite have multiple viable builds; whilst armies like Gloomspite even have sub-armies within their battletome that focus on specific niches. Orruks and Cities of Sigmar are very much the same deal, with Cities being very flavourful with their different builds. 

This is a bit different to 40K where there are fewer sub-armies within the factions, but where the sub-factions often have a themed bonus (eg close combat or ranged focus) so you'd have one army, but it might have detachments from two or three sub-groups within with the detachments focused on a specific aspect. 

Smaller forces will have fewer choices, typically, however a lot depends on how the Battletome is setout and at what power level you are aiming for. For example Daughters of Khaine has several viable builds within its battletome which reach roughly similar levels of power (eg you can go heavy with witches, or you can go for a full army of half snake women); meanwhile an army like Slaanesh and its depravity generation system heavily favours taking 3 or 4 keepers of secrets and a minimum number of troops. Other builds can be made but are not as effective (its a point many of us slaanesh fans lament and hope might get changed in time). So a LOT depends on the Tome itself, but in general smaller armies might ahve less variety here and there. Of course allies can be taken (at 1/4 of the army size) to help makeup for that. 


4) Armies are in general very diverse in what they offer, with a good few having nice diversity within their Battletome. This varies army to army. Skaven, for example, can easily build a huge swarming hoard of 1 wound rats; or they can go for an artillery heavy force which is backed up with multiwound ogres and stormvermin etc... Chaos armies can be really diverse depending how you build them as you can be pure to a single god or build a slaves army (a bit lacking in power at present due to them not yet having a tome) with more mortals with demons brought in as support. So there's lots of diversity; though again competitive angles might make this appear a bit less army by army; but it is there. 


5) AoS is in a better spot in general, partly because it doesn't have the alliance problems 40K has. The way allied units work in AoS and the way Grand Alliances work in general means that whilst there are a lot of options to take allied units; they are strictly limited. This prevents the "min max soup" problem that somewhat plagues 40K (and in fairness is mostly due to the fact that the Imperium has a LOT of army choices - way more than most other races, which leads itself more open to abuses of min-maxing between armies)



Overall don't forget that there is bias in the answers you will get. Some local scenes are very competitive focused with very niche viewpionts; whilst more casual or even just diverse local competitive scenes might give variable answers. It's also always in flux so a year ago Daughters of Khaine were the "OMG they are so broken its impossible to win" whereas now the situation has changed. One pattern that is constant is that armies without a 2.0 battletome fair poorly, however with the rate GW is releasing them then in the first quarter of 2020 AoS should be fully onto the 2.0 system (there's only Slaves to Darkness, Seraphon, KO and Tzeentch to get updated - accepting that Ogres are being updated later this year which will merge the gutbusters and beastclaw raiders)

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