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What is Age of Sigmar? (Explained for Beginners)

So you want to know what the heck Age of Sigmar? You are not alone! The game is really picking up steam and a lot of new (as well as old) players are starting to look into it.

What is Age of Sigmar?

Warhammer: Age of Sigmar is a tabletop wargame created by Games Workshop. The game is played with small scale fantasy miniatures. Games are played on a flat surface with various terrain features, simulating a real battlefield. Part of the game is “the hobby” which covers assembling and painting the miniatures. 

The universe and setting of the game is a very a high fantasy genre, and Black Library produces novels and audiobooks for the game.

Did this answer your question? Well, only partly. Let us look a bit more in detail at what Age of Sigmar also is (often AoS as a shorthand).


An image of the game Warhammer: Age of Sigmar being played

Overview: 10 facts about Warhammer: Age ofSigmar

So Age of Sigmar is a fantasy tabletop wargame, you got that much. Here are 10 facts about the game:

  1. Both players in AoS needs an army to play. The armies are made of plastic miniatures (small models) that are in the 32mm size and up. The miniatures need to be assembled and painted in order to play the game.
  2. An army will consist of several ‘units’ (groups of similar models). A unit can be from 5 models to about 60 models. Besides units of troops, an army will have heroes and sometimes monsters and siege engines.
  3. An army can be from about 20 models to over 200 models.
  4. The game is ‘skirmish like’, meaning that a unit will not rank up in big blocks of troops (rank and file) but stand in a loose formation.
  5. Age of Sigmar is the predecessor to the Warhammer: Fantasy game. Age of Sigmar share many similarities with the Warhammer Fantasy but is also very different. Note that if you want to play something more like the old game, it is getting a remaster in the form of Warhammer: The Old World.
  6. The game is very similar to the sister game Warhammer: 40k, but 40k is set in a sci-fi universe (shooting lasers is more important in 40k than hitting people with a sword).
  7. The rules for the game are quite simple (and the basic rules are free) so it is easy for beginners to learn. In the highest level, the game can be very competitive, and it is not unusual to see the same group of hardcore players win trophy after trophy at competitive tournaments.
  8. A very small game can take an hour to play, but a standard game will be anywhere from 2-4 hours. Very big games will take much longer.
  9. The game is played on a tabletop withterrain, usually 4 foot long and 6 foot wide. 
  10. Four major factions are available for play: Order, Death, Destruction and Chaos.
Some Stormcast Eternals on the battlefield in Age of Sigmar. Used to explain what Age of Sigmar is

What armies can you play in Ageof Sigmar?

Thereare four major sides called ‘Grand Alliances’ and within them a host of subfactions.

The Four grand Alliances are:

  1. Order
  2. Death
  3. Destruction
  4. Chaos

If you played the old Warhammer: Fantasy, you could take a look here to see how the old armies have been split and merged in AoS.

Order is the good guys and includes the poster buys for AoS in the form of the Stormcast Eternals (big righteous dudes, lots of armour and a fondness for killing bad guys).Orderalso includes many not that good guys (sea elves that steal poor fishermen’s souls – all in the name of survival mind you), but you will find all of the nice-guy Tolkien races represented here. Mind you, their names might be spelt different and GW has gone a long way of giving all the races a different twist.

Death is your classic zombies, skeletons, necromancers, Nagash the God of Death, vampires and other not quite living stuff. They also have asubfaction made up of Ghouls – but the ghouls do not know they are undead. By their lunatic thinking, they are actually glorious knight out to save damsels in distress. Pretty cool stuff.

Chaos is a very iconic Games Workshop faction and something that really defines both AoS and 40k. The Chaos side is controlled by the four Chaos Gods – all with a giant host of worshippers and daemons:

  1. Khorne: God of Slaughter, blood, skulls, fighting and everything Death Metal.
  2. Tzeenth: God of Change, keeping secrets, surveillance and always having that annoying smirk on your face like ‘I-know-something-you-don’t‘.
  3. Nurgle: God of disease, bad hygiene and having a good time while being covered in pustules and boils.
  4.  Slaanesh: God of pleasure and excess, dressing up nicely, having orgies and in generala goodtime.

Destruction is the last group and is made up by trolls, ogres, orcs, goblins, big beasts and other dudes that like to destroy things. All of these should be recognisable as a Tolkien fan, but in Age ofSigmarthey are just spelt a bit different.

Image of the Kharadron Overlords in the article about what is age of sigmar

Are the rules and the game any good?

Everyone and their mother have heard some neckbeards talk smack about AoS. To be frank, the lore and the rules were quite a mess when the game first dropped (but not as bad as people made it out to be). Luckily, that is 3 years ago and things have changed massively.

The rules are simple, but very good. There are about 16 pages of core rules, but on top of that, each unit has its own little stat sheet. In addition, each army has its own set of special rules, there is different battalion you can bring, each mission will have its own set of rules and so on. So while it is a very simple game to get into, the depth is definitely there.

(with all of the different books, it can be a bit hard to know what rules you need, what rules are free and so on. I have written a guide on the subject here).

How is the lore and setting?

Iwill not lie: when AoS launched I sat down and read the first big book that came out and I almost cried (not in a good way). Not only was the old setting gone, but the new one was confusing, weird and not fleshed out in an understandable way.

Three years have passed and now I absolutely love the AoS lore and setting. The world is much more alive, a host of new heroes and villains have emerged (and quite a lot of dudes from the old world), the everyday people in the world are starting to feel alive and you can read books where the Stormcast are almost not represented. Good times!

If you want to dip your toes into AoS lore there are a lot of option. There are two that I would recommend to the complete beginner:

  1. Get the Big Rulebook (that ushered in the second edition of Age of Sigmar). It will give you the lowdown on the setting, all of the races, the story so far and everything else you need to know.
  2. If the big book is too much for you, I suggest listening to the Realmslayer audiobook. This is about Gotrek the Dwarf slayer who is suddenly dumped into the Age of Sigmar world without knowing what is up. He is from the old fantasy world, so if that is your own point of entry it will be really fun for you.
The Gloomspite Gitz squigs and stabbas get ready for war in Warhammer: Age of Sigmar

Related questions to What is Age of Sigmar

How expensive is Age of Sigmar?

Well, it is kind of expensive. Not as expensive as things like Magic: The Gathering or golf, but it can become a bit of a drain on your wallet. If you stick to only one army, paint and some books it is not that bad. An easy and affordable start is buying a Start Collecting box for £60 (or much cheaper if you buy it from a good store) and a battletome for £25. You could also go with one of the starter sets (I have written about how great a bargain they are here)

Do I have to be really artistic and creative to paint miniatures?

In short, no. While painting takes patience and time, it does not really require any ‘skill’ to make a decent looking army. There are so many tools and tutorials out there, that it is actually really easy to get into. If you want to read a step-by-step on painting your first army, you can take a look at my article here.

Is Age of Sigmar kid friendly?

Good question. While the novels can be pretty graphic with the violence, the standard books and lore are quite tame(well as long as you don’t have a problem with demons, demigods and so on). I would easily allow my kids (maybe from age 8 and up) to read the books and play the game.

Looking for more Age of Sigmar content?

Check out our AoS hub here