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I've been thinking a lot recently about where the mortal realms are going from a design perspective and thought I'd slap some of those thoughts onto the internet to see if people disagree with me as vehemently as I'd expect. There's a lot of ground to cover here, I'm not talking specifically about fluff, or model design but more broadly in terms of the overall feel of Age of Sigmar as a distinct portion of the warhammer oeuvre so apologies if it goes all over the place and I turn off any one potentially still reading after I used the word 'oeuvre'. For the sake of this discussion I'm working on the assumption that GW obliterated the world that was and reforged it into the world that is in an attempt to both create a more distinct IP and build a higher fantasy, more bombastic world that is more appealing to a generation raised on MtG and WoW. I think a lot of people get the wrong idea about the IP side of things, seeing orcs change to orruks and assuming it's just about stopping other miniature companies making models with the same names, when to my mind it's more about creating a wholly distinct IP, and while 'Orruks' is a small brick in that wall it's a component none the less. Ignore for a moment that GW have never seemed keen on the relinquishing of control inherent in allowing the warhammer worlds to be filmed so that I can make a point here; No one ever needed to make a warhammer film because they can make a film about orcs and elves and dwarves and city guards and magic and it can stand on its own, or it can be the Hobbit or world of Warcraft or whatever else. Making Age Of Sigmar more unique makes it more marketable, perhaps not right now while it lacks the attachment and history of classic warhammer, but perhaps in the future when all the kinks have been ironed out. So, what has this got to do with anything and what am I actually driving at? When the end times concluded and AoS made its shakey entrance down Jervis Johnson's metaphorical birth canal a lot of people were incredibly angry about the destruction of the old world, and understandably so. GW sought to temper that by giving them an outlet to continue using their toys post-WHFB, while also giving themselves a bit of a break by virtue of not having to deal with the Hobson's choice of either having a wargame out with very few playable factions, or having to very quickly design and release a number of completely new factions and hope they met with approval. This lead to a bit of an awkward phase, the repercussions of which are still being felt, whereby gamers felt their favourite denizens of the old world were owed representation in the new one. At its inception AoS's fluff was obviously thin on the ground, and as a new universe was being built from the scorched earth up was predictably spartan. (Worth mentioning that I'm not actually a big fan of the gw books but struggle through them as I like the fluff as a whole and want to get a handle on what's going on). There were a lot of people that begrudgingly came over to age of Sigmar but complained about the still formative fluff bizarrely not having the richness, depth and familiarity of a 25+ year old universe based on their own world and other well worn tropes. So the fluff came, and it couldn't just be stormcast and khorne to eternity so old friends from the warhammer world were shoe-horned in and the scope started to broaden. From my perspective there is a very clear aesthetic divide between models designed for Age of Sigmar and those for the warhammer world. I'd suggest also that maybe a lot, if not all of the end times stuff was designed with the former in mind and released prior to the onset of AoS to ease people in to the change, although that's pure speculation. So here's where we're at presently. I really enjoy the freshness and scope of Age of Sigmar. I love the way that GW have taken elements of the warhammer races and exploded them into factions in their own right. I read that - for example - the megaboss was designed as a proof of concept for how orcs could be reworked for Age of Sigmar and I think what they've done with the ironjawz and sylvaneth and fyreslayers and so on is exceptional and feels very exciting, especially in respect of what could be to come. I'll just break off here to interject that we are now in the domain of the 'new GW', who listen to their fans and in some ways this worries me a little. I'm of the belief that Age Of Sigmar needs to play to its strengths to succeed in its world building. It needs to take advantage of the infinite nature and possibilities of the realms framework, the epic scale and the transmutable, chaotic foundation. My favourite, and the most evocative things are things like the Skaven infested city on the back of (and inside) an enormous worm, Argentine the zodiac serpent, the kharadron skyports and associated shark like creatures, these things are about as high as fantasy can get and just not feasible in a lot of more grounded worlds. The problem with GW listening is there's a growing clamour for more from the fluff, and while I'll eagerly concede that it needs expansion and greater depth, the received wisdom seems to be that the way to do this is by giving us the humans and cities and subterfuge of the old world. We've had city of secrets and firestorm recently, both of which have a feel.of the old world to them. City of Secrets was a good read, but to me it felt like an old world novel with a few bits tacked on to transport it to the mortal realms. Before that we had shadows over hammerhal, which again felt much less AoSy than Silver Tower and consequently was less interesting to me. It feels like this warhammerification of the mortal realms is the cheap way to build attachment and intrigue, when what would provide a stronger setting would be to build on what makes Sigmar... Sigmar. I think they would be better served seeing something like starwars as a guiding light than what they've done before. I'm not a writer, and as you can see I've already expended far too much energy thinking about this but there must be a better way to make the realms richer than falling back on what has gone before. Personally, and I know this is going to be hugely unpopular, I would like to see AoS stand on its own two feet, I was glad to see the compendium stuff being slowly detached and would ultimately be pleased to see anything pre-end times phased out in favour of a completely new and purpose built universe where everything felt like it belonged. The way things are going I'm more concerned that it is backsliding into a halfway house between the potential of the mortal realms and the (perhaps false) security of the warhammer world and I don't think this will give us a game with a cohesive feeling background. I've tried to make it as clear as possible in writing that all of the above is just my opinion and I'm expecting others to differ greatly but I just thought it may be of interest to get a different perspective than the norm. Next year I think will be massive for AoS and I'm very keen to see where it goes, and interested to hear what other people think about its potential and direction.