Age of Sigmar: Dominion – A New Age Dawns

I’ll be the first to confess that, when a new edition of Age of Sigmar was announced, I was skeptical. I have played Age of Sigmar for a number of years and honestly felt that second edition was in a perfectly fine place. Granted, I am no competitive tournament-goer. As a casual player I honestly couldn’t really think of anything that Age of Sigmar direly needed. Thus, the news of a new edition had me concerned about elements being needlessly changed or carelessly tacked-on. With the launch of Dominion ushering in third edition, I was fortunate enough to receive a press copy from Games Workshop for review. With that, let’s get into it!

The Models

Chances are that I’ll likely not be going too in-depth with the models in this review. Whilst they are a big part of the Dominion box, the biggest chunk of content to cover is for the new rules brought in with the new rule book.

Two forces are included in the box, half of them are the new Stormcast Eternals in Thunderstrike armour, whereas the other half are the spiteful and cunning Kruleboyz Orruks. The contrast between the two forces is unquestionable and helps to give each army such a superb sense of identity and natural conflict between each other. Whilst the Stormcast Eternals are a new variant from the existing sorts, the visual differences aren’t enough to really distinguish them in their own right. There’s the unquestionable parallel between them and the Primaris Marines from Warhammer 40,000 but that’s not something I’m going to go into here.

The Kruleboyz, however, conjured much division within my gaming circles. Some were hugely sold on the new visual style of these Orruks, being more slender and conniving in appearance. Whereas some of my friends found them to be hugely inconsistent with other Age of Sigmar armies including existing Orruks. For me, I’m a big fan of the aesthetic that these cunning greenskins tote. The darker, grimier, almost more sinister appearance of this force helps me to imagine them skulking the battlefield alongside some smaller Grots. Where Ironjawz charge in head-first, Kruleboyz play the long game and scheme their way to victory.

All models within Dominion are push-fit, as we see is commonplace with these starter boxes from Games Workshop. From the models I’ve had time to put together, I’ve gone through and snipped the tabs ever-so-slightly to reduce the risk of gaps being visible. The models go together with minimal effort but some models certainly require more care. Yndrasta looks as though a slight bit of pressure could cause some severe damage. Some of the Kruleboyz are carrying long, spindly spears that could also break-off if you’re careless. As you have no doubt seen the models plenty through their reveal, there’s little that can be said about their sculpt quality that isn’t glowing. Where the Stormcast are bulky, armour-clad titans wielding mighty hammers and shields, the devious Kruleboyz wield “skareshields”, crude spears, and ragged plates to protect themselves and dish out some damage.

Age of Sigmar 3.0

Trying to cover all the content of a brand new edition of wargaming is a nigh-on impossible task. If I were to try and cover every change here the article would be a never-ending wall of scrolling text. My intention here is to go through some of the major changes that will impact all players, regardless of their style of play/competitive balance. It’s likely that there may be changes that I do not go into here, but don’t worry, we’ve got more content coming over the coming weeks beyond Dominion.

Core Battalions

Some of the major upheavals include adjustments to army compositions, turn sequencing, and actions, along with making heroes and monsters more impactful and powerful. Let’s kick-off with the army composition changes. Previously, in Age of Sigmar 2.0, you could field Warscroll Battalions. These were collections of certain units that, when fielded together, got special abilities and bonuses. These are still here – however, there is now the inclusion of Core Battalions.

Core Battalions behave similarly to the current force detachment rules in Warhammer 40,000 – or force organisation charts for you veterans. Essentially, you can build a number of battalions that must adhere to certain composition of units. Battle Regiments are your bread and butter, adding a mix of leaders and battleline troops. Each battalion comes with a bonus and for Battle Regiments you can drop the entire battalion at once, rather than alternating unit by unit with your opponent. There are a minimum amount of certain units you must field with each battalion with some optional additions to flesh them out. The Linebreaker battalion, requiring a leader and 2 behemoths (that aren’t leaders) grants you the Expert ability. Expert allows a unit from this battalion once in the battle to use the “All-out Attack” or “All-out Defence” command abilities without the cost of a command point. The Strategist ability that comes with the Warlord and Command Entourage battalions allows you to acquire an extra command point during one of your hero phases in a battle.

The most curious element to these Core Battalions is that you must field these in Matched Play and cannot take Warscroll Battalions. This would feel as though Matched Play is ever-forwarding into a focus of balance and strategy. The Warscroll Battalions are often fun and thematic collections, but in the competitive scene you’d often see the same ones being fielded time and time again as some were simply much better than others. The focus on Core Battalions grants everyone a level playing field, regardless of faction fielded. I’m very keen to see what the more tournament-focused scene will make of this change. It’s worth clarifying that Warscroll Battalions can still be fielded in other modes of play, just not Matched Play.

Turn Sequencing/Actions

One part of Age of Sigmar that seems to have been contested since the conception of said part is the shudder-inducing “double turn”. In Age of Sigmar each player rolls off at the start of a new turn and whoever wins may decide who goes first. This is largely unchanged in Age of Sigmar 3.0, with the case of the roll-off being tied having the player who finished deploying first getting priority in the first turn.

In an effort to balance and attempt to ease the sting of going second, the player who goes second now received an additional command point. This feels like a nice tool to have in the arsenal when going second. However, I’m not wholly convinced as to how much difference it could make, especially against certain armies. With this in mind, I look forward to seeing how the community will utilise these additional points. I suspect they’ll be used in the new actions outlined below!

Another issue uttered in the run-up to Age of Sigmar 3.0 is that games can see players stood around for a long time with little to do. This can be the case for many war games, with players whose turn is yet to come often standing around and watching their opponent make their plays. Whilst I can’t see this was a huge bug-bear of mine, Games Workshop have provided a solution to this to help keep players involved during their off-turns.

The “Unleash Hell” command ability can be used on a friendly unit when within 9″ of an enemy unit that charged (and 3″ away from other enemy units). This allows you to attack the unit that charged with the friendly unit as if it were the shooting phase, albeit with a -1 to hit modifier. Another ability is “Redeploy” which allows you D6″ move with a friendly unit that is within 9″ of an enemy unit that moved, ran or retreated, but it must end further away from that enemy unit. This feels like a bit of a gambit but could pay off against an opponent looking to try for a high-distance charge.

These abilities along with others will help players to feel a little more “present” during opponent battle rounds and should help to keep heads in the game. The chance to upset the plans of your opponent during their own turn does leave something of a wicked smirk on my face.

Heroes and Monsters

Heroes now have access to new Heroic Actions which they can use one of at the start of each Hero Phase. These vary from being able to gain an additional command point or even adding to their save and wound rolls! These help to elevate heroes above the rank and file. Another Hero Phase command ability is Rally that allows you to roll a dice for each slain model in a friendly unit, with each model returning to fight on a 6. These new abilities will help to make heroes feel more impactful, but not to a dangerous or damaging extent that I can see.

The changes to Monsters are extremely exciting to me as they’ve felt somewhat underwhelming up to now. Not only do the new Monster Rampages feel powerful but they can unlock new tactics for when you wish to use them. The Roar ability grants the chance of a nearby enemy unit not being able to issue or receive commands. Using that on a nearby enemy hero could really turn your opponent’s plans upside-down.

Smash to Rubble sounds very cool. This allows you to destroy defensible and/or faction terrain on a 3+ when within 3″ of said terrain piece. Up to now, destroying faction terrain was a challenge for nearly all factions. This helps to balance this through and paints a wonderful image of a Maw-krusha tearing apart a Skull Altar amid the enemy lines.

I genuinely feel that these new changes to heroes and monsters will help to paint a more cinematic picture in your games. These particular units should feature under the spotlight of your games and this does feel like them being given the chance to do so.

Path to Glory

Here comes the part about Age of Sigmar 3.0 that I have been most excited about! I’m a huge fan of my narrative games and slow-grow campaigns and have enjoyed older versions of Path to Glory. Thus, it is with an air of disappointment that I confess that what I’ve read has left me a little bit…well, uncertain.

Having played the recent release of Crusade Mode in Warhammer 40,000, I was half-expecting that Path to Glory would take essence from this. It feels as though it has, but it has also dipped into a few other things that I cannot comfortably chew on.

A quick summary of Path to Glory is a campaign linked by a series of games where your army can grow and advance. Your units can progress and gain experience or suffer casualties and even fall out of action permanently. Path to Glory is a great way to grow and expand your armies as you play through fun and thematic games against opponents who care more about the experience rather than outright devastating their opponents.

Path to Glory keeps this in Age of Sigmar 3.0, but some of the new additions and elements feel murky and messy. You still have a roster and track your units as before. You even acquire territories as your army grows and fights. The unfortunate part is that there’s such a great deal of stuff to track through and between the games. Be it territories or renown points or question points or casualty points, there is a tonne that you need to be mindful of to accurately and correctly manage your army and games. Managing your army and roster is an inevitable part of these campaigns but with the new Path to Glory some of it just feels superfluous.

The fact that you can now track the casualties of each unit and even have some models from each unit be casualties and out of the fight between battles sounds very cool. However, it just feels like a step-too-far with the granularity of things to remember and how this is going to impact each game.

One of the benefits of Path to Glory in Age of Sigmar is that, at least from what I can tell, all existing armies can jump into it on the same level. All battletomes since Age of Sigmar 2.0 (including the now-aging Maggotkin battletome), have the same information regarding Path to Glory. Thus, no matter your army, you should be in a spot to print and sort a roster to kick off your games whenever you’re ready to do so.

A Sizable Box

Dominion has a gargantuan amount on offer. Between two fairly impressive forces and the core rule book, the offering certainly feels like there’s a decent amount of value. It’s in a strange place as not being the “best” box for new starters as it doesn’t include dice or any measuring apparatus. Of course, that wouldn’t stop anyone looking to get it to start. In fact, looking at what’s included, I’d encourage it! Needless to say, existing Age of Sigmar players can have some real fun with this box, too. The models, as stated, are of stellar quality and look superb next to each other, appearing distinguished enough to stand against each other and look fantastic.

The new rules for Age of Sigmar, in summary for me, are a somewhat welcome addition but do feel somewhat unnecessary. As stated, Age of Sigmar 2nd edition still felt good within my circle and wasn’t strictly in need of a new revision. That’s not to say that I’m not happy with 3.0, it just feels like now might not have been the best time for it. The new rules for monsters and off-turn actions are welcomed inclusions and do enhance the game in a certain way. However, this simply doesn’t feel like the time for them to be brought in. Granted, playing any age of Sigmar over the last year has been a challenge due to lockdown. Nevertheless, I’ll pick up Age of Sigmar 3.0 and run with it – I am apprehensive to dive into Path to Glory just yet as I play games to have fun rather than to manage pseudo-spreadsheets.

Article originally written by the author for The Unrelenting Brush blog in affiliation with Boards and Swords Hobbies.

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