One of the big questions new Age of Sigmar players will have is: what books do I need to play the game? This question is surprisingly difficult to get an answer to, at least if you look on games workshops website. Luckily, most veteran players can answer this question quite quickly.
In this article, I will go through what rulebooks you need to play Age of Sigmar. I will also run through all of the different rulebooks, supplements and expansion explaining what each one does and what exactly you need to play like you want to.
The rulebooks you need to play Age of Sigmar:
- The free core rules (located in the app or on the GW website)
- The free rules for all of your units – also called warscrolls (located in the app or on each units page on GW website).
- If your army has a battletome it is very likely to be a good buy for you. The newer versions will contain extra special rules for your army, the point values for each unit, the warscrolls for all units, lore, artwork and hobby help.
- If you intend to play matched play, the latest version of the Generals Handbook is also on many shopping lists. It will contain the specific rules for matched play, the most updated points values for all armies, the scenarios/missions for playing and a ton of extra stuff for playing in a variety of different ways.
As a new player, it is easy to get by with the free rules and the battletome for your army, but as soon as you have plated that way for a bit it is likely that will want to upgrade with a few more books.
Read on for the full breakdown of the different books you might want to purchase.
The Core Rules and unit warscrolls are free (but they are also included in some books)
As stated, the core rules for the game are free. This in no way means that all of the rules for AoS are free, it just means that the basic rules for the game are free. The core rules will describe how to play the game. This means how movement, combat, shooting and so on works. It also describes some of the more complicated rules regarding army specific rules (allegiance abilities) but it does not include those specific rules. Neither does the core rules contain the rules for army building, which leads to a bit of confusion for new players (more on this later).
You can find the free core rules:
- the GW website
- In the AoS app
- Printed in the Big Core Rulebook
- As small printed pamphlet in some of the starter sets (if you are interested in the AoS starter set and the differences between them you can take a look at my article here)
If you buy a battletome and it has the core rules in them, this is most likely the outdated rules from the first edition of Age of Sigmar (they stopped printed the core rules in battletomes) – do stop reading those and get the new version instead. If you do not, you risk looking like a bit of a chump at your first game.
The free core rules also describe what warscrolls are. Each type of unit or models has a warscroll in Age of Sigmar. The warscrolls shows the stats of the unit as well as any special abilities it will have.
All warscrolls are free and can be found here:
- In the AoS app all unit warscrolls are located. It is usually the most up to date version of warscrolls.
- On the GW website under each unit, there is a download tab with the warscroll. Note that these can be slightly out of date when updates happen.
- Printed in the battletome for the faction the unit belongs to.
- Armies with a newer battletome can also buy the warscrolls printed on small cards (note: the old versions were printed on big A4 sheets and where clunky. I do not recommend you get those at all).
Three different playstyles to confuse new players: matched, open and narrative
So what the core rules do not explain is that the designers of Age of Sigmar operates with three styles of playing in mind: open, narrative and matched play.
What the free core rules and the warscrolls give you is enough to play “open play”. This is the style of play where you use the core rules and try to match your armies strength so they roughly match your opponent. This is a quick and easy way to get started but can lead to very unbalanced games because it is quite hard to gauge the strength of armies as a new player.
An easy way to expand on Open Play is Narrative Play. When you play a narrative game, it means that you and your opponent are trying to have the story of your game take the primary role and that the concern of the “rules in the book”is not as important as the rules you decide on and the story you are trying to create.
An example could be a small army of Stormcasts making a last stand against hordes of Khorne units. This would be perfect for a new player with a small army (the Stormcasts) playing against a veteran player with a big army (the Khorne player). It is no problem that the Stormcasts are vastly outnumbered because the fun thing is to see how many turns they can hold against the tide. In this case the narrative part is more important than the fact that the armies are clearly not balanced.
At some point, you will run into people talking about the points and army building. These rules belong in matched play – and this is where it gets confusing because those points and the rules for army building is not listed in the core rules. Matched play is in essence an army building system and some small tweaks to balance the core rules a bit. The focus in these types of games is on trying to evenly match two armies and see who is the best general.
The reason why so many people use the matched play rules, even when playing a very casual or narrative game, is because it is a very quick way to roughly balance two armies and get them on the table. This is also why the lines between the different styles of play are pretty blurry.
The books you need to play matched play
Now let us take a look at where the matched play rules are located and what books you will need to play that type of game.
The rules for matched play are described in the newest version of the Generals Handbook and in the Big Core Rulebook page. The matched play rules cover what units can be used, what each unit costs in points to bring on the table, how many you can bring of each type of unit as well as some tweaks and additions to the core rules.
(If you are new to matched play and the points system, a good place to start is my article where I go into all the details about this)
Note: even though the big core rulebook contains the rules for matched play, it does not actually have the point cost for the units.
The points for your units can be found in the following places:
- In the latest version of the Generals Handbook you will find the points for all armies.
- The battletome for your army will have points for the units in it (unless the battletome was released before matched play was introduced).
- If a new generals Handbook has arrived after your battletome came out, there might be some updates to the points of your army and those will be located in the newest generals Handbook (a new version of the handbook has been released in July each year since 2016).
You can also find the points in various army builders. There are two official versions:
- The free warscroll (army) builder
- The paid part (called Azyr) of the AoS app is also a tool you can use for building lists and will also have points for all the armies
Do notice that both builders can have mistakes (especially when changes happen). If something is legal in there, it is not necessarily legal in the actual rules. Always refer to the books (and errata) if in doubt.
What special rules are there for each army and where are they located?
There are various special rules an army can get. These army special rules are called Allegiance Abilities. These abilities indicate the style of army it is and will change how they play on the tabletop. An example could be the Ironjawz that get a bonus on charge and can get extra attacks in before the opponent if they kill a unit in combat. Allegiance abilities will also include artefacts (magic items) and a trait for your general. The newest versions of Allegiance Abilities will even include faction specific endless spells (spells that have a miniature) and faction terrain pieces that gives some sort of bonus.
If your battletome is of the new version, you will find these abilities in the battletome. If your battletome was released before allegiance abilities was a thing, the allegiance abilities will be found in the newest Generals Handbook. There is also the chance that no extra abilities exist for your army.
The following armies have allegiance abilities in the Generals Handbook:
- Darkling Covens
- Free Peoples
- Slaves to Darkness
- Skaven Pestilens
- Skaven Skryre
- Flesh-Eater Courts
Note: GW will soon release a new battletome for all skaven (all clans in one book) as well as the Flesh-Eater Courts. This in all likelihood will happen for all of the armies that have outdated battletomes (Seraphon, Fyreslayers, Everchosen and Ironjawz)
The following armies got updated summoning rules for the release of Age of Sigmar 2.0, and these will also be in the Generals Handbook:
The following battletomes includes their own allegiance abilities:
- Beastclaw Raiders
- Disciples of Tzeentch
- Blades of Khorne
- Kharadron Overlords
- Maggotkin of Nurgle
- Legions of Nagash
- Daughters of Khaine
- Idoneth Deepkin
- Stormcast Eternals
- Beasts of Chaos
- Gloomspite Gitz
- All books released after this date
The four Grand Alliances (Chaos, Order, Death and Destruction) all have a set of Allegiance Abilities. These can be found in the Big Core Rulebook.
If your army is not on the above list, you are out of luck. You have to use the Grand Alliance allegiance abilities of the faction you play (and pray that the coming battletomes will include your favourite faction).
And the battletomes you can also find the warscrolls for something called a ‘battalion’. In short, battalion warscrolls are a few unique abilities your unit gets if you take a specific set of units in your army. A few battalions are also included in the Generals Handbook for the armies with outdated battletomes.
If you do not know anything about the warscrolls battalions, I suggest taking a look at my article here. It goes into detail on what a warscroll battalion is and shows exactly where all battalions are located.
Another good resource for new players is my rundown on how Allegiance Abilities work.
A word of advice for new players: if you want to avoid all the confusion with outdated books, just buy a battletome released after AoS 2.0 was released (summer 2018).
Designers commentary, FAQ, errata and suggested base sizes
At some point you might overhear talk about the FAQ’s for Age of Sigmar. If you are new to the game, I would not really bother with it the FAQ stuff in the start. At some point you will have a good grasp of the rules and then it will be an interesting read for you.
But just to let you know what is what:
- You can find all the FAQ stuff on the GW page about it.
- Each book they have released will have an Errata and most will have with they call a ‘Designer’s Commentary’.
- Designer’s commentary is the document where they place the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ). In there GW will clarify if something is a mistake or something is intended and how different rules should be interpreted.
- The Errata is the document where they will make actual changes to the rules or wording of rules.
- In the designer commentary for the Core Rules you will also find the suggested base size for each unit. If you intend to play tournaments, I suggest following that. This is only important if you buy models that are not AoS ready (models that do not come with round bases).
The image below shows the Age of Sigmar FAQ and errata model
What are the pros and cons of the digital book options?
If you are into physical books, you should obviously get your books in that format. You will be surprised to learn that the digital versions of the books are not cheaper than the physical versions (sometimes it is actually the other way around).
With regards to digital versions, things are actually quite complicated. These are the different options if you want to buy digital rulebooks for Age of Sigmar:
- You can buy the books in the iBooks app. This is good because the book actually gets updated with the errata. On the downside, it will only work of you run IOS and there is no way to move the purchases to Android. The books are stuck in iBooks forever.
- You can buy an epub version from the Digital GW site. This is a good option because you actually get the file, you can convert it to pdf and share it across all your devices. As far as I know, the epubs are not updated with each errata. Also, preorder this at you own peril. I have been burned so many times by this site, where I got the book several days after it had released. Not how a digital preorder system should work!
- There is also the option of buying the book directly in the AoS app. I find this is bad option, because you can only read it in the app and it does no go from Android to iOS and vice versa (even though it could be fixed with some sort of login option by GW). This is a good option because you will get access to view the battalion warscrolls for the book in the app, but very few do it this way because it is so clunky to read in the app (note that you can also battalion warscrolls in the app separately if you really want to).
I buy a few books digitally from time to time, but since books have such good artwork i prefer the physical books. I really wish GW would sell the digital versions cheaper, make some sort of cheap physical + digital bundle or a voucher system. But I guess this is a good start considering how their digital presence was only a few years ago…
When is the Core Rulebook a good buy?
As you can see from what you have read so far, the Core Rulebook is actually not a necessary purchase to play Age of Sigmar. Actually, very far from necessary. It is on the other hand still a very good purchase and, just like a battletome and the Generals Handbook, something that most players will want to acquire at some point.
A few things make the Core Rulebook a good purchase:
- It is by far the best introduction there is to the Age of Sigmar story, the different races and the universe the game is set in
- If you intend to play matched play, 6 of the battleplans are included there and not in the Generals Handbook
- If you want the core rules in a printed version, they are in here.
- If you do not intend to buy the Malign Sorcery expansion, this is the only other way to get the rules for Endless Spells
- If you want to play with Allegiance Abilities from the four grand alliances, this is the place you can get them
- If you want anything to do with narrative games, this tome is brimming with possibilities.
How does the four Grand Alliance books fit into everything else?
It is funny you should ask because these four books actually do not fit in anymore. The books where a stop-gap solution, a way to release all warscrolls for all factions back when Warhammer Fantasy died and Age of Sigmar was born.
So basically, they are four books filled with warscrolls, very minimal fluff and nothing else really. I would not recommend anyone buying them, and would not be surprised if they disappear in a year or two (when more battletomes
What is the Malign Sorcery expansion?
The Malign Sorcery expansion was released alongside AoS 2.0. It is a book containing lore, rules for endless spells, artefacts usable by all factions as well as other hobby stuff. The expansion also contains several miniatures for the Endless Spells usable by all armies. You can read more about Endless Spells in my rundown article here.
What are Realmgate Wars campaign books?
GW released a load of campaign books in the start of Age of Sigmar. Most are quite a good read and are very interesting if you intend to play a narrative game. They mainly contain lore, battleplans and hobby stuff – so not really anything of interest from a rules perspective. if you just want to read the lore quickly, the new Core Rulebook is a much better option.