Today we saw Age of Sigmar hit the shelves and the websites.
Reactions have been mixed, but I suspect many have taken the blow quite hard.
Mostly, I believe, due to the shift into a more-light-hearted game (gimmicky rules that involves out-of-the-game elements, like players pantomiming or something), the loss of Psychology mechanics, and (apparently) the total loss of ranked units.
Another major shift in the core mechanics was the disappearance of Toughness (replaced with Wounds having become a Hit Point bar) and combination of armor/ward saves into a single save. And finally, there is no balancing mechanic (at least so far!) that controls how many models/warscrolls can be used by each players.
There are great game design ideas in Age of Sigmar, and we cannot deny how great they are (from amidst all the other things we dislike).
So, why don't we find a way to inject them into the tried-and-true game engine, slowly built over more than a decade and several editions, working better than it ever did, that is Warhammer 8th Edition?
So what can we adapt?
- Loose Formation of units: models in a unit can be distributed in any shape, but never more than 1" from another model in the same unit. If anything causes the unit to be split up it MUST reform the next round. After charge moves, models not yet in contact with the charged enemy unit can make a pile in move of up to 3" to help bring them in contact with the enemy. This is roughly how unit formation works in Warhammer 40k, and similar to how Skirmishers used to work before 8th Edition. There is no reason why normal units, particularly those with a low model count, cannot adopt Loose Formation with a reform action. They could then move through terrain unhindered, maneuver through the battlefield much more easily than larger units, and make tactical flanking attacks.
- Combat range: models do not use base contact to determine which models they can attack, but a reach (of 1" to 2") based on weapon type. This is also similar to how combat reach works for Warhammer 40k, and indeed it is a simplification from "base contact plus the rank behind the one in base contact". It also resolves the problem of character walls on the front ranks for units, as now attacking the second rank is possible.
- Planting the Standard: the new version of Battle Standard Bearers grant a certain benefit out to 12", but if they plant the standard and don't move(charge, run, etc) that turn, the effect widens to 18". This is quite cinematic and makes for a great effect.
- (EDIT) Monsters become weaker with injury: a simple yet effective piece of rules that brings things together nicely. As monsters, and certain large chariots, lose Wounds, their number of attacks or range of special abilities decreases, ensuring that every wound inflicted on them counts and decreases their effectiveness.
I will also look at the other side of the equation: what can we inject of 8th into Age of Sigmar, to bring back the feeling of ranked unit combat and psychology that we were used to?
If truly Warhammer ranked combat as it was will no longer be supported (because we still don't know if there will be a future supplement that may grant it), then that means in effect we can do with 8th Edition what we want (as it will be an unsupported game, much like Mordheim! And we can keep playing for a long long time, as long as we have good campaign frameworks and scenarios to plow through!
Warhammer 8th Edition is dead! Long live 8th Edition!!