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Great post on why AoS is great


chord

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I agree in theory, but my experience is that only the most basic of things are used because in my area it's Matched Play or bust.  It might also be the fact my GW only has one AOS table with largely set terrain (a couple of forests, a Garden of Morr, and then the other buildings they have for AOS) but most games I've seen and played have been fairly boring affairs with zero thought given beyond how many points it will be.

That's not to condemn AOS.  I feel it's overall a much better game than 40k is right now, it's a lot more customizeable, just it requires like-minded people, perhaps even more so than 40k, to make that a realization and not turn it into yet another droll "2k points, pitched battle scenario only, who cares about a story" game.

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1 minute ago, wayniac said:

and not turn it into yet another droll "2k points, pitched battle scenario only, who cares about a story" game.

This is what it is slowly becoming in my local GW Store.   A bummer I've only been into the hobby since April but if I keep getting funny looks when wanting to play narrative style, I see GW losing me as a customer. 

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4 minutes ago, chord said:

This is what it is slowly becoming in my local GW Store.   A bummer I've only been into the hobby since April but if I keep getting funny looks when wanting to play narrative style, I see GW losing me as a customer. 

It's part of why I stayed away from GW for 15 years.  There are much better games that function well as straightforward, "fluff-lite" wargames that pit two players against each other.  GW games in particular need to be more than that.  Not one person at my GW is willing to play anything other than Matched Play, unless they are like totally new and have a starter set or something.  Every single person has been like "I refuse to play without points, it's unbalanced" despite the fact we are a small close-knit group and likely would have zero problem (barring perhaps one or two people that I suspect might abuse open play) if we just discussed things first.  But nope, Matched Play or nothing, and then it becomes just like 40k; a random game with no story, often no theme to the army, and no relevance other than being an exercise in dice rolling.

I am sorry to sound negative, I like how AOS sort of feels a lot easier to theme and add narrative than 40k, but my experiences are that nobody cares to bother with it, and IMHO playing any GW game without the narrative makes it feel bland and tasteless.

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Personally I'm one of those awful, awful people who insists on playing with points, but between my snacking on babies and drinking the blood of the innocent, I just don't have the time to play Narrative or Open because my unconscious urge would be to commit my entire collection to the field every time.

I've played themed lists and I've played narrative scenarios, I even played a 4K game that had everything on the field, and it was an astonishingly fast and fun game given the size of it.

I think the problem I have is that we now know points costs, so even if we both plop units down there's still that thing of, "well you had 5 Terrorgheists which is 1.6K in itself, so of course my 3 Forest Dragons were at a disadvantage." I'm just wondering why it's impossible to have a narrative game with points?

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5 minutes ago, CoffeeGrunt said:

 

I'm just wondering why it's impossible to have a narrative game with points?

Oh I think it is possible.

 I've used points before to help give an idea of how much to bring. But I think full matched play rules with batteline's, etc.  Is not really a good fit for narrative.  And depending on the battleplan, sometimes one side is supposed to be at a disadvantage but the battleplan usually covers that with different rules.  For example you may have to hold out for just a few turns to get a victory, and the narrative calls for you to be out numbered.  It's those times where it comes down to the person you are playing with. 

Some are cool with discussing and trying to field only units that fit the narrative, and others are very steadfast in fielding things based on points alone or their entire collection. 

My most memorable games have been the narrative ones where we've fielded units around the narrative.

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I don't mind so much using points as how bland points seem to end up making things.  My experience is always that points tend to be the only defining thing.  So narrative games aren't impossible, it just tends to fall under the "it doesn't matter" category for whatever reason.  I'm fond of points for the most part, just I find every time points are a thing, nobody gives a damn about anything else relating to the game, only the number of points.  There's never any talk at all about narrative, nobody really themes armies it's as though points immediately bring out the "mathhammer" approach of things being numerically superior therefore the numerically inferior choice is "unplayable trash".

In short, it's not points.  It's the attitude that seems to always go along with points.  And, for AOS at least, it seems that most people I meet have forgotten that Matched Play is one of three play types and was designed for leagues and tournaments, not regular games.  Again, the attitude seems to be that A) points must exist so things are "balanced" and  B) points, once they exist, must be the only way to play because anything else can be unbalanced.

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Well your problem isn't with the points existing but the attitude of the players you play against. Tbh our local had 0 AoS play until Matched Play was introduced, at which point it has exploded and become the main game locally. We tend to have fairly regular tournaments, so a lot of play is practice for that, but the format changes each time. For example the last one was a simple 1500pt tournament, but the one in two weeks is a 750pts tournament with 0-1 Hero, 1+ Battleline, and 0-1 Behemoth or Artillery. It makes for an interesting challenge and small, focused, themed lists.

For example, my list for that tournament is entirely fast-moving units, as Death, which was a fun challenge. Next one is likely to be a major regional one in the city at 2000pts, so then I'll start looking at that.

It's another way of enjoying the game, and equally-valid IMO. I look through the army, try and work out a list, play a variety of people and refine it. Where I need something to shore up a weakness I generally try to personalise the model and make it my own. E.g., I'm experimenting with Vampire Lords but do not want anything fleshy in my lists, so the Vamp Lord is represented by an Angel of Death on wings that ties into my overall skeletal aesthetic.

I still play narrative campaigns too. Had a three-day campaign with a friend based on the rulebook as we fancied a change, and we escalated the game so it was 1500, 2000 then a climactic 4000pt blowout.

Ultimately I like a bit of structure to my games, and Matched Play delivers that. :)

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Agreed it is the attitude completely.   Unfortunately it seems after matched play was released it is points or nothing for so many people instead of just trying a narrative no points game.

I doubt there is anything GW can do to fix that .

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16 minutes ago, chord said:

Agreed it is the attitude completely.   Unfortunately it seems after matched play was released it is points or nothing for so many people instead of just trying a narrative no points game.

I doubt there is anything GW can do to fix that .

Right.  And again, it's not points themselves.  It's the attitude that points means narrative is off the table.  For example, and this is just what I've seen locally, anything that isn't explicit for Matched Play might as well not exist.  Those Battleplans in the books?  Not Pitched Battle, so isn't "balanced" and won't be used.  Battalions in the start collecting boxes?  No points, can't be used.  Grombrindal?  No points, can't be used.  It's like, huge swathes of the game just disappeared because they aren't "balanced" pitched battle scenarios, which is even funnier because these tournament armies you see are about the cheesiest things you would encounter, but points so must be balanced.

Points are fine, and can also help with the narrative (also make good way to add bonuses for things in a campaign).  But the issue is that the attitude that frequently goes along with points means anything else gets ignored as potentially being unbalanced.  The game, while I agree that with the addition of points it got more popular, went from having a ton of variety that got expanded in campaign books to six or so scenarios from the General's Handbook, and even TGH might as well have started with the Matched Play section and it would have been just as well received.

Once again, clearly an issue with attitude and not at all with points, but it's something I've seen way too frequently.  Even the mention of a themed narrative scenario gets dismissed as "not balanced" or isn't in Matched Play or whatever.

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I find that blog to be excellent over all. Stumbling across it on Dakka had a huge part in bringing me over to Age of Sigmar.


 

All in all, I think GW has done a great job on the Narrative Play mode. It is just that it seems to be a niche thing among the player base and the one thing I am apprehensive about is not finding anyone for Narrative Play once I have my first army up and running, despite living in a major city.

Now, I don't mind the odd pick up game, but I wouldn't like it as my only gaming. In the end, I think GW wargames are, like other tabletop games (boardgames, RPGs), something to play with friends who have a similar idea of how to play the game. In RPGs my approach has always been: "If I don't find anyone who plays like me, I recruit people who don't play yet."

Providing more small force support to narrative play, like battleplans designed around start collecting boxes and kill team sized games, would make that much easier.

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I agree.  I also think that in general smaller sized games lend themselves better to narrative play than big huge games.  Problem though is you always have people who like the biggest, most expensive things and then get all butthurt that they can't field them every single game.  Like I'm tempted to pitch a mini-campaign (very loose) meets league to my GW, but we don't have many AOS players for one (it's still mainly 40k) and I would try to encourage something beyond just pitched battles, and try to encourage smaller points, and I fear it would get zero interest because it's not big games with big monsters.

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I don't really know how you can solve the problem outside of just playing with like-minded people, though.

I mean it's like suggesting to stop points for a 40K game. You're fully allowed to, but people never do. Then again, there's a reticence among wargamers to go beyond the rulebook a lot of the time, it seems.

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7 minutes ago, CoffeeGrunt said:

I don't really know how you can solve the problem outside of just playing with like-minded people, though.

I mean it's like suggesting to stop points for a 40K game. You're fully allowed to, but people never do. Then again, there's a reticence among wargamers to go beyond the rulebook a lot of the time, it seems.

Precisely.  I'm not even against points, it's more.. the idea that only the stuff under "Matched Play" can ever be balanced.  Like, the Battleplans in the campaign books and battletomes seem pretty balanced and more unique than "set up facing each other and go after XYZ objectives", but I've seen outright refusal to use them simply because there's not like a "Suitable for Matched Play" stamp of approval, with some people going so far as to complain how they are "unfair" because both armies aren't always on an equal footing.  I completely agree it's a matter of like-minded people, just it seems incredibly hard to find any like-minded people when they are so "indoctrinated" into things.  For example I'm jotting notes to pitch as a potential smallish casual campaign for AOS (by "smallish" I mean I'd prefer to keep games 1000-1250 points since we only have one AOS table at the GW store), and I'm having to think of weird extra random rules to facilitate people using more than six scenarios (by which I mean the six "Pitched Battle" scenarios in TGH) because I know they wouldn't do it if left to their own devices.

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Love that blog! It was my main source of AoS motivation early on. The guy never stops painting. It's kind of amazing he is able to work an actual job on top of that.

On Open/Narrative/Matched, I'm rather conflicted. Points brought a lot of people in and that's great. I like the option. But it is now clearly dominating, as expected. The discussion around AoS has soured a bit in my opinion being centred on points costs and effectiveness and whatnot. 

However, I think part of that is because Open and Narrative aren't particularly well done themselves. They are basically the same thing. I don't get what Narrative is supposed to be that Open isn't. If they had a Narrative mode with some structure, progression, etc. like Matched, I think it would be my go-to choice. As of now it is basically just Open, in my view. 

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Yeah, I'm not sure what Narrative has that Open doesn't. I get that points obviously ends up dominating, but tbh it was either that or let the game stay as it was, (apparently not performing well at all.) This time last year GW were begging my local store to start pushing AoS and gave them a free rulebook to help push it, but there was zero interest. Now it's only a minority of players who aren't playing it, and the general enthusiasm is bringing them around to it.

I dunno, I think the problem is the perception of a fair chance granted by points. I actually like list building, I like working out how my army will work as one, how it will co-ordinate and co-operate. I love it in Dropzone, with my Tau, or with my Halo Fleets. How much support do I need? What are they supporting? In games that push Combined Arms Warfare it's even more engaging, for me at least. How much Anti-Air support do I bring with my UCM, and what kind of support?

Open doesn't have that. I just plonk down models. It's kinda like getting free access to a candy store; you'll stuff yourself for a bit, but ultimately you'll get bored of it eventually. It's what happened locally, at least, despite a local store owner pushing AoS hard before giving up.

I just don't really have any interest in Open/Narrative play as in it basically being Matched Play without points. I've played Narrative games where we both agreed on character restrictions, variant "force org" setups and a points value each, and that seemed to work fine. :/

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It really is very depressing to see some of the negative predictions made about the problems associated with points in the General's Handbook have come true.  In my local community, several of us created a monthly AoS narrative campaign before the GH came out based around the School League rules.  It uses the # of models as the 'balancing' factor.  Its not perfect but works as well as points frankly.  The community here insisted on continuing that system even after the release of the GH and specifically NOT switching to points and we've had no problems.  Unfortunately I can understand why those who joined only after points were added would insist on using points for all games (though I do not think they are justified).

The indoctrination (and it is indoctrination in the most literal sense) of the virtue of the 'level playing field' is very wide-spread especially in the US.  Needless to say the overwhelming importance of competition (another piece of indoctrination) means that enormous numbers of people in all communal hobbies insist that their hobby devolve into nothing but a competition of supposed 'skill'.  There are myraid ways to play AoS (and all wargames) but there's a reason why nearly every community on Earth chooses to play some form of competitive tournament gameplay.  The reason has nothing to do with tournament play being only way or right way to play.  This is not a wargaming thing its a Western Culture thing.

I really feel for anyone who simply cannot play AoS outside Matched Play and I wish you luck in converting some of your local group to other ways of playing.  As I said there are limitless ways to play AoS or any game but almost no one will ever try any of them.  This is a much bigger problem than just the wargaming community and there's really nothing GW can do about it.  If you want to see what happens when they try to challenge these values...well look at the community reaction to Sigmar's release more than a year ago.  The 'lack of balance' was not the only complaint but it was harped on incessantly on nearly all forums.  It was considered proof positive the AoS was 'for kids' and 'totally unplayable' and 'lacked all strategic depth' and used as an excuse for any number of reasons why 'AoS sucks'.

PS:  Let me be clear that I am glad that the GH released points and Matched Play rules.  I've played a total of 2 Matched Play games since its release but I still see the value in expanding the community.  At the very least it ensures AoS' financial success and continued support by GW.

 

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This is a fun read. The people in this thread saying the community is too points focused is missing one thing; to play like this blogger you need a solid group of AoS friends you trust. For people just getting into it or without friends who play they need a basis of comparison to have a decently fun game. 

Once you get to know people then you can be more flexibile. 

I am very new to the hobby myself and points just give you an idea of what to build for and how to have a decent game, especially with strangers. 

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3 hours ago, Kamose said:

It really is very depressing to see some of the negative predictions made about the problems associated with points in the General's Handbook have come true. Needless to say the overwhelming importance of competition (another piece of indoctrination) means that enormous numbers of people in all communal hobbies insist that their hobby devolve into nothing but a competition of supposed 'skill'.  There are myraid ways to play AoS (and all wargames) but there's a reason why nearly every community on Earth chooses to play some form of competitive tournament gameplay.  The reason has nothing to do with tournament play being only way or right way to play.  This is not a wargaming thing its a Western Culture thing.  This is a much bigger problem than just the wargaming community and there's really nothing GW can do about it.

This is sadly brilliant analysis. We in the west have blindly bought into a philosophy of behavior that pits us against each other. Dog eat dog, survival of the fittest, call it what you will, but when we can only define 'fun' as the humbling of each other, we have reached a point where we are trading community for endless competition.

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Pseudo-philosophy aside, you're ignoring the fact that friendly competition can be fun. Also it's hardly an aspect of "Western Culture." Do Asian, African or Middle-Eaten people not engage in friendly competition, and here they not done so for centuries?

Please can we keep ill-advised critiques of modern society away from this game of toy soldiers? Otherwise I'll wax lyrical about how points represents the urge of the bourgeois capitalist pigs to assign a value to all items and resources so that it may be exploited for profit.

Or how the lack of female miniatures is proof that AoS is a construct of the patriarchy designed to promote ideals of toxic masculinity through promotion of constant violence being the only solution to a problem, as well as problematic depictions of masculine ideals.

Turns out you can make it into an allegory for anything if you waffle enough.

Back on topic, I'm really glad you've got a like-minded group, but there's a fair element of, "you should play as I play,"going on here. If people in your group prefer Open, that's fine. Personally I don't enjoy it because it feels like a game of No Mans Sky, all the choices but none of them really matter. That's how our local group sees it.

It's not a damning indictment of our culture, it's just a different preference for how to play with tiny, toy soldiers. C'mon man, get some perspective, I actively avoid Tumblr so I don't have to listen to pseudo-philosophical rants like that.

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I promise it wasn't a rant!  Just some observations! :) 

I also agree with your point about 'you play as I play'.  I think that's a large part of why folks like wayniac can't find other types of games.  The majority of people seem to have started after playing other games with points and refused to changed how they play.  In fact the lack of points was likely why they refused to play to being with.  So yeah, 'you play as I play and if I can't play like I'm used to then I won't".  Its unfortunate but that attitude is common and takes a lot of effort to overcome. 

The best advice I have is to find a person to play narrative games with even if that means recruiting someone new and if it is only one other person to start with.  Try to arrange some games during times when others are around.  The best way to show people how fun a game can be is to literally show them how fun the game can be.  Play some games to 'show off' AoS.  I remember one of the Magic players at my store coming over during a break in the Magic tournament and telling us how he wished he had the money ( :( ) to start one of these tabletop games because it always looks like we're having so much fun and laughing and enjoying ourselves; unlike the super-serious and competitive Magic players (of course I didn't mention that he was playing in a tournament sooooo that might have contributed to the serious, competitive attitude of the room).  

At least that's what worked for me and my gaming community.  We started at about 10 which dropped to 3 within a couple weeks of AoS' release for all the usual 'reasons'.  But with some effort and creativity (and about 12 months) AoS is now at least as big as 40k and the 2nd or 3rd most popular game at the store after Magic (no one's dethroning Magic).  If you need some inspiration for narrative campaigns to play without making your own, check out the blogs on here.  Lots of really cool campaigns including the End Times and I think even the one from my store is here.  Best of luck!   

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I knew from the moment they said they would add points what would happen, because at that point the "social experiment" of getting people to discuss what would be fair/balanced with their opponent had failed (as it certainly would have).  However,  I did not think it would be at the point where literally anything that isn't a Pitched Battle is refused on the grounds that it's "unfair" (by which I only can assume they mean "I don't get to line all my guys up across the board").  As a quite vehement opponent of points not because of what they are (to their credit, I have not played a game that didn't use points) but because of the mindset that comes with them, I feel that's the attitude that needs to be curbed.  The Battleplans in the Battletome books and the campaign books all seem relatively well balanced; sure you may have special deployment and/or victory conditions, but they do not seem unbalanced at all.

I'm in the process of jotting down some notes to pitch to my GW for a mini-campaign/league with a bit of a narrative.  I'm going to end up using Matched Play because no points would get zero people willing to participate but I plan to do a few things to hopefully smooth things out:

  1. The "default" game size is 1000-1250 points.  I am also a big proponent of smaller point games, on a 4x4 table with a lot of terrain, to curb some of the rampant abuse in larger games.

  2. I plan to waive Battleline requirements (but keep the restrictions on Leaders/War Machines/Monsters) in an effort to encourage a more thematic army and, on top of that, bring back one of IMHO what was the biggest appeal of AOS when it launched: The idea you can pretty much buy something and add it to your force without much fuss.  The idea here, coupled with the lower points, is that someone could buy a Start Collecting! box and another box or two (or even the upcoming Christmas battleforces) and be able to jump into the campaign without needing to specifically buy X many boxes of Y Battleline unit.  It brings a very "Tale of 4 Warlords" sort of feel, where since they aren't operating under Matched Play restrictions each month is literally "Now add X" and it just sees forces build up as it progresses.  I also plan to add in a basic "Don't be a ******, this is for fun; if people are abusing it Battleline will return" clause to hopefully reign in (or, failing that, unabashedly shame) the tiny handful of players I suspect might use the lax restrictions as a way to cheese out a force, but really it's no worse than what can pass for Battleline when it's used (e.g. Stormfiends, Beastclaws)

  3. Because I know that without some sort of prodding, only the IMHO bland Pitched Battle scenarios would ever get used, so I plan to introduce a random (because GW) rule to allow a player to choose a special Battleplan from any of the available books.  It's super silly: basically at the very start of the game both players roll a die, if both results are even numbers they roll again, winner can pick a scenario using any Battleplan; but it's the only way to subtly "force" deviation from the Pitched Battles.

Although it might seem otherwise I have no issue with Matched Play from a points perspective; I think some things may need adjusting with Battleline and I think that there needs to be something to encourage/say it's okay to use other Battleplan scenarios outside of tournaments (for actual tournaments I think the Pitched Battle scenarios are good), and I personally think summoning is a bit too nerfed (I feel that units that are destroyed should go back into the reserve pool; so you have to set aside points to summon new units but can restore units you bought that were destroyed, and that you shouldn't be able to summon monsters or chain summon [which I think the Rule of 1 takes care of but if not, that should be a rule as well]) but ultimately I'm happy with them.

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