A guide for beginners to Age of Sigmar

This is a beginners guide to Age of Sigmar. It is an attempt at answering the most common questions found among new people to the hobby of Warhammer: Age of Sigmar (for short AoS).

There will be a lot of information and links in this guide. I would suggest to bookmark it now for future reference, since reading it all in one go can be a bit too much.

Notice about new edition:

This post needs to be updated for AoS 2.0 Stay tuned!

What is Warhammer: Age of Sigmar?

Warhammer: Age of Sigmar is a tabletop miniature wargame made by Games Workshop. It has taken the place of the earlier game called Warhammer: Fantasy. The two games are similar but have some distinct differences (AoS is more of a skirmish style game and Warhammer: Fantasy was infantry blocks and mass regiments). In Age of Sigmar, two players pitch their armies against each other to see who is victorious. The armies are represented by different miniature models.

The hobby

A big part of the game is what people call ‘the hobby aspect'. The hobby consists of assembling and painting the models for your army, making terrain and maybe coming up with a backstory for your miniatures. The game can be very narrative and story driven, where the rules are mostly taken as a guideline. It can also be a very competitive and tournament based game. The rules are written so all kinds of players and play styles can fit in the game.

The biggest draw for a lot of players is the visual style of the game. When you first see two beautifully painted armies pitched against each other on a magnificently crafted game board, you can get sucked in quite easily. If you like painting miniatures, if you like big battles between fantasy and medieval style armies and if you like magic, elves, and heroes this game might be for you.

 

Warhammer Age of Sigmar: where to start?

Compared to the earlier editions of Warhammer, Age of Sigmar is quite easy to get into and the barrier of entry (how much it costs to get started) is somewhat low. Not to say that the hobby is cheap! This is, after all, some pretty expensive plastic dudes you buy.

 

What you absolutely must have to get started playing Age of Sigmar is the following:

Models
You will need models to represent the different units and characters of your army (or small skirmish warband). To get started, you do not need that many models. For your first game, you can also use different models as a stand-in if you have any from another game.

Dice
Some six sided dice (about 10 will do for your first few games)

Something to measure with
Something to measure inches with. Any old ruler will do great for starting out. The one below is what I use and really like it.

An opponent
Well you could play alone, but is that really this might not be the best game for that.
Board space
Some kind of board or space to play. Small games can be played on a 4×4 foot board (122cm x 122cm) but normal sized games should be on a 6×4 foot board (122cm x 183cm).

Your kitchen table will be fine for your first few squafles, but at some point, a dedicated board will come in handy.

Terrain or obstacles
Some kind of obstacle or terrain for your board. Most players have started out with books and random household objects for the first games. At first you are probably more eager to paint your models than terrain.

The rules of the game
The rules for the game which can be found for free on GW’s website or in the app. If you buy any of the Battletomes, Campaign books or the Generals Handbook 2017 the rules will also be in there.

 

The rules for your models
The general rules cover how to play and the different phases. In order to know what your models can do, you will need the rules for them. The rules for the models can be found on GW’s website for free (each model has their own rules or warscroll under ‘downloads’) or in the app.

The rules for a model are also called the unit or models ‘Warscroll'

Warhammer Age of Sigmar starter sets

There are several different easy and cheap options to get started at in Warhammer Age of Sigmar.  All of them include two different forces (some good guys and some bad guys).

You can read our guide on all of the four Age of Sigmar Starter sets if you would like to know more.

In the guide I go through the pricing, how much you of a discount the set represents, how big a force you get and the various pros and cons of each set.

A picture of the Age of Sigmar Starter set guide

I am not really interested in starting a Chaos or Stormcast Eternals army. What other options do I have?

For quite a range of the different armies, Games Workshop has made ‘Start Collecting' boxes. By many players, these are considered a very cost effective way of starting an army. The boxes are priced very well compared to buying all the units individually, so the savings can be huge! Furthermore, the boxes have the added benefit that they are only sold for armies that are ‘supported' in the Age of Sigmar system. In the slider below you can find the current start collecting boxes

Where should you buy your Age of Sigmar tools and models?

As a wargamer in this day and age, you are spoiled for options on ways to purchase an army. I would recommend a few:

Buy from a good webstore! If you are cheap like me, you will quickly hate to pay full price for your plastic addiction. After many years in this hobby, I have settled on using Element games.

I think they give me the perfect combination of low price, fast delivery and the selection of all the items I want.

I live in Denmark, see when I shop from the UK I want to pay the minimum amount for postage. This means bulking my orders in a massive bundle, so getting everything from the same page is very important.

They ship for free in the UK if you buy above £80 (you lucky bastards) and in general, I have found their dispatch time to be fantastic.

But the best thing? Price! The prices, in general, are very competitive, but they blow that out of the water on all Warhammer preorders where the % cute is massive.

For all that, I highly recommend Element games for all your Warhammer and Hobby needs.

Support your local gaming store! 

If you are lucky enough to have a good local game store where you can purchase your armies and play with them on beautiful terrain, you owe it to yourself to buy at least a bit of stuff from them. You never know how close they are to going out of business.

If you get to know the staff, odds are they can make you a deal on bigger purchases (making the price difference between webstore and local store a bit easier to swallow).

Also, make it a habit to buy stuff from your local store that they get a good cut on (sadly, that is mostly small non-GW hobby supplies and your 0.5-liter cola).

Buy used! 

The amount of grey plastic on sale is staggering. Ebay is ok, but I see most success from different Facebook pages.

Look for your local area, and you will soon see people eager to give away whole armies of assembled and primed models for half the retail price.

What would be nice to have in the future?

The AoS app
The free AoS app comes for Android and IOS. It is the most convenient way to access the warscrolls (rules) for your models if you do not own the Battletome for your army.
Some of the content in the app is gated by a paywall. In the Azyr section (subscription model) you will find all the points (that will otherwise be in Generals Handbook or your battletome) and is really an army builder. You can also buy the books in the app and get access to see the rules for battalions (the battalions are also available as a separate in-app purchase). A great free alternative to get an army builder is the online Warscrool builder.

 

Paint and tools for assembling models
The models come as unpainted gray plastic (some models are resin and not plastic) in a frame called a sprue. To get the models out of the sprues and clean them up you will need a clipper/cutter. To clean the models after that, you will need a hobby knife and/or a mouldline remover (would strongly recommend it). To glue the models together, you will need some plastic glue. To cut your models, you could consider a cutting mat (but I guess it depends on how much your girlfriend would like a kitchen table with a few cuts…)

To paint your models an army, you will, of course, need some paint and a selection of cheap basic brushes. You will also need a spray to prime your models before painting, to make sure the paint sticks and that it goes on smoothly.

GW sell several different paint starter sets, with brushes and different tools. Most are ok value if you are completely new and just want to try something out. If you are a bit more serious about your hobby, I would avoid the sets with very small paint pots (the 3ml pots are small and will dry out quickly).

A place to play
You will quickly outgrow playing on your kitchen table with your best buddy. Finding a club or a hobby store where you can play regularly is a nice option. If you have a dedicated game group, you can all go together and make terrain and a board (preferably at the person who has the most space or a geek-friendly wife/special someone. Making sure that getting to play is not a big hassle would be pretty important in the long run.
The GW paint app
If you are new to painting, I would definitely recommend the free GW paint app. It will help you get started on figuring out different paint techniques, paint schemes for models and what shade would go with what basecoat and so on. Once you are finished with everything in this app, you will laugh at your earlier pitiful attempts at painting. Some of the info in the app have also been seen earlier in this painting guide.

An army

Time and money
No I am dead serious. This hobby wil take quite a chunk of cash and a big amount of hours. Just painting your army up will take more time than some uber geeks have used playing World of Warcraft. If you are serious about the hobby you will need to dedicate some serious money and time to it.
Magazine about getting started in AoS
A great pickup would also be the very cheap ‘Getting started with Warhammer Age of Sigmar‘ magazine. You get the rules and a lot of extra explanations about the game, some articles about painting and hobby, an overview of the Age of Sigmar story and a stormcast model!

A wet palette
One of the things many paint veterans go without for years is a wet palette. It is not essential by any means but if you consider the low price and how much it can improve your painting, I am flabbergasted at how many painters just don't bother with it. Try it out! You can make one for free (simple guide here and a very good youtube channel). You could also consider a premium model, but I after 15 years of painting I am still going with the homemade model and I do not feel like I am missing out.

 

How do I get started with Age of Sigmar?

  • The best way to get started is getting an introductory game from someone who already plays AoS, who knows the rules and has some models or an army that you can try out. This will get your foot in the door, you will learn the rules more easily, you will feel how it is to play an actual game and understand what the different armies play like and you can ask all your stupid questions right away.
  • Read around on GW's website and the different AoS blogs and forums. You can find a good list of sites here. Look at pictures of different armies and suck it all in. This will quickly get you up to speed and you will soon realise what armies and models you think are cool. When you pick and army you need to strike the balance so you get the models you would love to paint as well as an army that you like the playstyle of.
  • Try and see if you can get your hands on one of the history/fluff books and read through it. I find that the story and narrative will get me really excited about playing AoS and painting my army. The Battletomes are great for learning more about the different armies since the GW website can be a bit sparse on info.
  • Buy some models you like or get some from a friend so you can try and paint. Give it a go at painting a few models before you go to town on your own actual army. This can help if you are nervous about screwing it up and can give you some needed exercise before the big dive. You could consider buying some second-hand miniatures if it is just for testing stuff out.
  • See if you can find someone that can sit down and paint with you. You will be amazed at how many tips and tricks you can pick up on a single night of painting with someone who knows what he is doing. It will save you many hours of frustration in the end. Maybe you can also borrow some paint, get tips on basing or a paint scheme while you are at it? Most people are more than willing to help if you ask them (we secretly just want more warm bodies for the AoS tables).
  • Seek out the people who play in your area. Ask around in shops and clubs. Look on facebook and different forums to see if there are anyone. Playing AoS by yourself can get lonesome and tire you out quickly. Starting the hobby with someone else and knowing that you can get a game in your area is key to a fruitful experience in AoS.
  • Watch some games on different youtube channels, the Warhammer Live Twitch channel or down at your club in real life. It will give you a greater understanding of the game, what interests you and what you can do in the hobby. Most people like an audience when they play, but ask politely and say that you are new. It is more than likely than will explain and answer questions if you are polite and do not disturb the game.
  • When you have decided on the models and army you want: go for it! Many people can be stuck in limbo, not knowing what they want and being afraid of wasting money. But be careful not to buy too much in one go. About 1000 points (we will get to points later) is more than enough for starting an army. You can also go with a Start collecting box, which will entertain you for a long time. If you buy too much you can get bogged down with all the stuff you have to do.
  • Do not forget about basing for your models. The most epic paint job will look stupid if you have a black base with paint splatter on it. Search the web for some good guides on basing your first army. The Games Workshop Citadel technical paint is a good place to start (i am looking at you Agrellan Earth).
  • Remember that the more you play the more you want to paint and do hobby stuff. The more hobby and painting you do the more you want to play games. Finding a good balance between gaming and hobby will make sure you do not burn out on either one.
  • Finally: if you find that the hobby part of the game is not your cup of tea you have a few options. You can find ways of doing it quickly, pay some else to do it for you or paint with overpriced grey plastic on the board. But to be serious if you really hate the hobby part of the game you are probably better of finding a game that does not contain those elements.
Picture of Age of Sigmar Deamon

General things new players ask and common misconceptions about Age of Sigmar

“I have heard that there is no point system or balance in Age of Sigmar? Is it true that you can just put down a million models and win?”

This is something that is believed by many earlier Warhammer: Fantasy players and is a stupid misconception told by angry nerds that do not know better. Age of Sigmar has (now) a point system and an official balance system. Even before that there were many ways of balancing the game. Take a look here for more info on points and the matched play system. But remember that matched play is not the only way of playing a fair game. Balance can be achieved in many ways, including using common sense and good communication with your opponent (or partner).

“Some models are sold with square bases and some with round bases. Can I use either in Age of Sigmar?”

In principle, the bases do not matter in AoS. The rules specifically state that you measure from the actual model and not from the base as is pretty customary in games involving figures on bases. What this means is that bases, according to the rules, do not play any role in the game. You can, therefore, play with square or round bases. In practice, things are a bit different. Measuring from the models is a bit clunky, so most prefer to measure from base to base. Most of the time you are all ok with square bases (if it is an old army) but I would advise you to base new models on the proper round bases that come in the box. Not only do single models look much better on rounds than on squares, but you will also avoid any trouble if you at some point want to attend tournaments.

“Did GW explode and destroy the Old World?”

Pretty much, yes. The Old World (the setting of Warhammer: Fantasy) is gone and it is very unlikely that it will ever come back. You might see one of boxed games, computer games and so on in the old setting, but new novels, models and so on are out of the question. GW is all in on Age of Sigmar and the new setting.

People were pretty upset when the Old World died. This is understandable, but we can see now that some of it were a bit premature. A lot of the hate was directed at the new setting or lack thereof. In the beginning, all we knew of the Age of Sigmar setting was the bit in the first books. This was a bleak world where Sigmarines invaded different realms that Chaos had ruled the world for a long time. Now we know a lot more.

We know that Skaven is basically just as the Skaven was in the Old World. Lizardmen are now Seraphon and have been refluffed a bit but are the same. Chaos is totally the same and maybe a bit cooler now. Ogres, Orcs and Goblins have a new name but are the same (maybe they even got better fluff). The  Undead have been slightly reshuffled but for me, they are cooler now (just read a bit in the Flesh-Eater Courts Battletome). We are still missing any release on the Elves, but my guess is they are gonna stay the same. We have just recently seen a novel based on a Free Peoples city. From that book, we know that humans are definitely going to exist in a really cool format. We now also now that there actually is living, breathing non-sigmarines people in the setting! The points is: whatever you loved in the Old World, there is a good chance you can find it in the new world.

I have an old  Warhammer: Fantasy army. Can I use it in Age of Sigmar or are my models gone from the world?

Yes sir, yes you can. Even though it is on square bases it is totally fine. You might find that you cannot buy models for the army you had or that some models have been removed from the GW website. But even though some armies no longer exist in the lore and the game (Bretonnia and Tomb Kings for instance) they are still somewhat supported with points cost and so on. But they are probably never coming back and they are probably never gonna get a Battletome or see much support.

Is the rule book really only 4-pages long?”

Yes, it is and it is amazing. If you really liked the big bulky rule book from the older editions of Warhammer, I can see why the loss of it can feel really bad. But looking back on it, I personally despised a lot of what it had to offer. Not because it was a bad game. Not because I hate big rulebooks (I EAT big rulebooks). But I despised how clunky the game played. I would rock up with my newly painted unit of Orcs, only to flick through a rule book or discuss stupid unclear movement rules all night. The game was great if you did not play against that guy but that guy just seemed to gravitate towards that game. I feel like the clunky rules are gone and I can swallow a bit less depth or weird shenanigans. Another key thing for me is it seems all the that guy people rage quited and had a hissy fit when AoS launched. In AoS I can focus more on my units, the objectives and battle and can forget about weird rules that only come up once in a blue moon.

Rember this: besides the 4-page rulebook you have so many warscrolls and special synergies in the game. On top of that you have the Allegiance abilities, artefacts, spell lores and so on. The game is slowly becoming more and more complex every time there is a new release, so thinking of this game as a 4-page rulebook game is the wrong way to look at it. You should look at it more like a collectible card game like Hearthstone. Yeah, the rules are so simple that your mom or baby-brother can learn it. But once you add more complex cards and complex card synergies, you can beat them up no problem.  Is it bad that the game is easy to understand and get into? NO, it is great! As long as the game also has depth and AoS does. For me this is the way AoS should be looked at.

I want to learn more about the story and lore. How can I do that?

The story and lore is getting better and better by the book. I have read everything so my grasp of the lore is getting quite good. But new players do not have that knowledge or opportunity. Reading all the books might be a great way to learn the lore and get into it, but it will take a lot of time and a lot of resources. That is a luxury few can afford. Here are some ways you might breach the lore and get to know more about the Mortal Realms:

  • The first Age of Sigmar book (with the surprising title of Warhammer: Age of Sigmar) is a good read for any new player. The book is a mammoth and the artwork is amazing. It is a bit ‘then this happened and then this happened' style so if you are not into that, it is probably not for you. What it will do is get you up to speed on the forging of the realms, where we are in the timeline, what deities are rocking about, what actors are on the stage, what the heck the new Space Marine Angels guys are about and so on. Looking at the book now, it feels a bit lacklustre in some areas but is still a key book in my opinion.
  • 1D4 chan are famous for taking a dump on everything. None the less, they are actually quite a good source of lore and information about the different things in the Mortal Realms. Just beware that you have to stomach the salt, odd rants and general weird humour to get it.
  • If you are a fan of getting your info through wiki's, here is an Age of Sigmar one for you. The info can be sparring at some times, but it all depends on how worked the area of lore is.
  • If you can handle being thrown straight into the world with no foreplay, then the Sigmar Novel City of Secrets might be something for you. This is the first story were we really see the humans, a living breathing city, a normal persons reaction to the weird Stormcast Eternals and a different approach to Chaos other than ‘smash face with blood' or ‘eat maggots while getting your head smashed'. The book has it weak points (the Tzeenth stuff could be a bit more detailed) but it is a short and sweet read.
  • Battletome are the best place to find lore about the specific armies and factions. It is a safe bet that they will also contain the point values moving forward (Tzeentch battletome and forward)
  • A free great option can be found in this thread on The Grand Alliance forum. It was a nice overview, but in deepth on different topics and factions.
Beastclaw raider battletome
All campaign books for Age of Sigmar
City of Secrets Age of Sigmar novel
  • Plenty of smaller length novels have now been made for the setting of Age of Sigmar. Overall I find the quality from okay to really good. If you want to start from the beginning and move your way forward, and an updated reading list can be found at the Black Library website (the producers of Games Workshop novels and books). I have read them all via my kindle. This have made them a bit cheaper to buy and much more avaliable for me (they are not a common item in hobby stores aorund here). The ebook editions are ok priced in my opinion, but I will probably also read all of them twice wich adds to the value. There is so far two different series. The first is the Realmgate Wars depicting the Stormcasts fighting around the world. You can read around review to figure out what allies and enemies the Stormcasts have in the different books. The Stormcast have really grown on me over time, along with them showing more humanity and more nuances, but if you hate the Sigmarines these books are probably not for you. The other series is called Legends of the Age of Sigmar, and seem to be all one of stories depicting different factions in the stories. If you find a particlar race interesting, you can grab you one of those. The latest one, City of Secrets, I found particularly interesting. Mainly because we finally got to hear about an actual city and the ‘common man' in the Mortal Realms that can otherwise very quickly be felt as being overpopulated by Angels, Demons and heroes. So it was refreshing to see some mortality in the Mortal Realms.
  • Another way to get some lore juice, and many other goodies, is via the Campaign books. Be warned that some of the novels contain a lot of what happens in the Campaign books (or vice versa). It seems that the novels are more in-depth on some aspects, but you will get a bit more of an overview from the Campaign Books. In these books you also get fantastic art, battleplans, different fluff pieces and battalions. From a lore perspective, I find them slightly pricey and a bit boring, but this can be because I insisted on reading the novel corresponding to the Campaing books first. This meant that the Campaign book was mostly a rehash of what I knew already, sprinkled with small surprises and filling of plot holes. If you have the cash and want into the lore they are a pretty good buy, but they are by no means a must buy.
  • When I first saw the audio drama prices I was horrified. The Hunt for Nagash and Knights of Vengeance are both 47 pounds each. So for 94 pound, you get about 8.5 hours of listening. I am used to listening to audiobooks, and the price is nowhere near this high. But after having heard great things about them, I decided to give them a shoot. I was amazed at the quality. This is not an audiobook but an audio drama with all the bells and whistles. You got actual sound of battle, great voice actors and a really good narrator. If you have any way of hearing these, you are bound to enjoy them.

I want more! What are some good resources?

There are a lot of great resources on the web. Most important though is probably the gamers around in your city. Start scrounging up what people there is and try and make a community. If you are looking for a list of what is available on the net, I have made a list of my favourite places to use.

What are the different ways of playing AoS?

Many new players can be confused about the lingo and different options. If you look around on the web, you will most likely hear a lot about points and matched play. Everything about matched play and points is detailed here.

The Generals Handbook is actually the place to go for some ideas since this is the place where GW tries to introduce their version and vision of what you can do in Age of Sigmar. Basically, you have the three broad categories:

Matched play: the competitive, points based, try to balance your armies and play so it is more or less a fair game. The is what most tournaments will look like, many random pickup games and so on.

Open play: you forget a bit about balance, points and so on all play it like you want to play it. Your and your opponents fun are key.

Narrative play: is sort of like open play, but were you focus more attention on the story and narrative of the game. Many campaigns will fall somewhere in between.

Now GW's three types of play are only just broad categories to put things into. A lot of different creative ideas keep popping up everywhere. Take a look at AOS28, Hinterlands or the AOS rules for 40k Models for some different ideas on what Age of Sigmar can be.

Painting as a beginner

As a new player painting can be quite frustrating, confusion and so on. There are a lot of good guides on different ways of painting your models and different techniques you can use. I would suggest you start out by focusing to learn:

  • How to prepare your models (cut them out of the sprue, clean the parts from leftover plastic, glue them and spray/prime them)
  • Basecoating your models neatly (first layer of paint)
  • Apply Games Workshop Shades nicely and cleanly (also called ‘washing')
  • The drybrush technique where you apply a lighter colour of paint on raised areas
  • Optionally you can look into doing a bit of highlighting (also called layering), but you could save it for later in order not get bugged down and depressed.

With these methods you can get some really good looking models. Many will refer to this method as ‘tabletop standard'. It will look great on the table, but if you pick up a model you might notice a few mistakes here and there. If you hear about blending, wet-blending, Non-metal-metalic (NMM – painting metal without a metal paint) and other weird words do not get discouraged. You will learn all these at some point if you want to, but many players never bother with more than the basics as outlined above.

What is missing?

If you are still left wondering or have a good idea to further refinement or new topics for this guide, feel free to leave a comment below.