Age of Sigmar: General’s Handbook 2019 – Review

Tools & Tips of the General's Trade

The Age of Sigmar train from Games Workshop trudges inexorably forward. The annual releases of the General’s Handbook sees Age of Sigmar regularly updated with amended points costs, new battle plans and other interesting additions to the game. With General’s Handbook 2019 Games Workshop have tried to strike a chord with both casual and competitive players. However, do they succeed? Or is this a supplement with a few decent pages and horrendous amounts of filler?

The first thing you’ll see in the General’s Handbook 2019 beyond the table of contents is “The Player’s Code”. This sets a fairly strong tone for the rest of the book as you’ll go on. The Warhammer Age of Sigmar experience is dependent on any number of factors, but it all starts with the players.

The two cardinal rules written are:

  • Always be polite and respectful.
  • Always tell the truth and never cheat.

I’m happy for it to be regarded as fundamental to the game, though it should never need to be said. Whilst there might be something a little condescending about it needing it to be written out, I’m certainly not displeased to see it.

The further principles listed include giving opponents time to examine your dice rolls and to avoid using language your opponent may find offensive. I’m exceptionally pleased to see Games Workshop encouraging friendly and welcoming conduct. Seeing this in the first couple of pages gives me is a great way to start the book; putting player experience before all else.

Khorne Blood Warriors battle a vicious pair of Mangler Squigs
Pictures of a book aren’t particularly exciting. Have some Mangler Squigs devouring some Khorne Blood Warriors.

More Ways To Play

One of the key things that the General’s Handbook 2019 seeks to do is provide players with more options in how games are played. Some work quite well, some feel as though they fall a little flat. An example of the latter is the Open War Army Generator. This effectively allows players to randomly determine their forces when looking to partake in open play games. The objective of this system is quite curious, but it feels as though it’s not really anything to be used by your average hobbyist. To get any true value out of it you’d need to own a lot of miniatures from a single force; it almost feels like something for players with so many models to field they simply cannot pick.

The Open War Close-Quarters Battle Generator feels as though it better hits the mark for what it needs to do. Designed for players who may not have space for a fully-sized 6″ x 4″ play space, it permits smaller battles accommodated on most dinner tables. This brings us nicely on to Meeting Engagements.

Meeting Engagements feels like one of the stronger inclusions in the book. These battles are designed to need less space to be played and typically last no longer than 90 minutes. Again, this is ideal for players who might be dabbling in their first batch of miniatures. Meeting Engagements are also tilted intuitively as suitable for smaller-scale tournaments. Additionally, the book even includes six battle plans for Meeting Engagements. This gives players plenty of mileage for this new, scaled-down form of warfare.

Bewildering Battlefields

Something in Age of Sigmar I have found myself growing increasingly displeased with is the inclusion of faction-specific terrain. These army-boosting bits of scenery often provide boosts for nearby models of their corresponding factions. They also happen to cost zero points when included in your army. In my experience, some cater very well to their armies whilst some are a little weak. This can be especially true if you’re looking to hone your army into a specific flavour or sub-faction. With these costing zero points you could argue that you should simply always take them regardless.

However, the General’s Handbook 2019 has thrown something of a spanner in the works for faction terrain. Imagine you’ve spent days painting up your Skull Altar, eager to use it to rain Khorne’s vengeance upon your foes. You unpack it excitedly onto the table, considering where would be best to place it. Unfortunately, there’s a chance you’ll end up putting it right back into your carry case/shoe box/receptacle of choice. In Matched Play rules, there’s now a chance that your faction terrain simply cannot be placed on the battlefield. Due to the placement of objectives and battlefield terrain taking precedence, if a piece of faction terrain cannot be placed appropriate distance away from these in-game assets then your faction terrain is simply not used.

Whilst this likely does add another tactical element and makes setting up a battlefield more crucial in Age of Sigmar, it does feel little severe. I’m sure that in good time players will find a system that will work around and permit faction terrain in most games. However, to sell a model to players that will possibly not see a table due to terrain placement does feel quite ruthless. I’m very eager to see how the competitive scene looks to combat or accommodate this.

War Support

One of the most pleasant surprises in the General’s Handbook 2019 is the inclusion of supporting materials for hosting tournaments. There’s a handful of pages that include a number of useful resources for those looking to host and run Age of Sigmar events.

Included are examples of results forms which participants would fill in to mark their results. There’s even options to rate opponents in terms of their conduct and preparedness. There’s even the option to boost a player’s results/points if they have fielded a painted army. Alongside the recent release of Contrast paints, I am really trying to not view this as some long-winded ploy to sell paint. Needless to say, I’m always happy to see fully painted armies on tables at events.

Cover art of the General's Handbook 2019 for Age of Sigmar.
Okay, I did indeed say that pictures of books aren’t exciting. The cover art sure is nice, though!

Further additions are example schedules for running tournaments for a day or two. These even include suggested times for registration, games and awards, taking out a lot of dull admin work for event organisers. To see Games Workshop use this as a chance to push players into running and hosting events themselves, rather than pushing them to attend ones run by the company is a good step forward, I feel. I’d not be overtly shocked to see a rise in the number of locally-run tournaments thanks to useful resources such as these.

Further Tools of Conflict

The General’s Handbook 2019 includes other tools for players to take advantage of. For instance, there’s a nifty name generator included for a number of the core factions. This will be especially welcome for those who look to build armies with an entrenched sense of narrative or immersion.

Allowing armies to hire small, outsider reinforcements to fight on their behalf, Mercenary Companies is another new addition to the game. It feels like a good excuse for gamers to dabble into factions they may not want to field a battalion of but simply love the models. It feels a little premature to say whether any of these will become a widespread must-take at this point. They feel like a fun addition and a chance for variety for players, but nothing earth-shattering.

There’s also a booklet containing updated points costs for models across Age of Sigmar. Whilst handy to have, it feels a little redundant in some cases. Games Workshop (and other companies) will undoubtedly update their digital army builders imminently if they haven’t already. Whilst there may be some who are happy to carry around yet another book, I cannot help but dwell on its redundancy only days after publication. It’s nice to have, but I’m sure there are better and more elegant ways to go about this.

Covering both casual and competitive play, the General’s Handbook 2019 is by no means a bad purchase. It includes a wealth of battle plans, scenarios and new ways to enjoy Games Workshop’s fantastical wargame. This coupled with the support for organising events as well as the encouragement for decent etiquette makes the supplement feel like a welcome release. Some parts may not quite hit home, but it succeeds enough that I’d advise not going to your Age of Sigmar games without it.

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