Table of contents for this article
- Point system and Matched play for Age of Sigmar: what is it?
- 3 different ways of playing
- Matched play: how does the point system work?
- Army building in matched play
- What are allies?
- Example of list building in matched play
- What is a normal points limit?
- Are the Malign Sorcery rules used in matched play?
- My unit does not have a pitched battle profile. Can I play with them in matched play?
- What is effective in matched play?
Point system and Matched play for Age of Sigmar: what is it?
If you are new to the hobby, you might be wondering: where is the point system and what the heck is this “matched play” people are talking about?
Before Age of Sigmar 2.0, the matched play system was somewhat hidden away in the latest Generals Handbook. Now the rules for matched play are described in the new Big Core Rulebook, but the points for each unit are still listed in the newest Generals Handbook or the newest battletome for your army.
Sadly, none of this is described in the free core rules. This means that new players are somewhat confused and the same question regarding the points is asked on various platforms. I hope this article will be able to answer your questions regarding matched play and the points system in AoS.
If something is missing, feel free to comment down below.
3 different ways of playing
To understand what matched play is, it is important to understand how it differs from other ways of playing. By GW's interpretation, there are roughly 3 different ways of playing Age of Sigmar:
Open play is a ‘play how you like' style, and was the way AoS was originally written. You and your opponents fun are the key and balance is something that is mostly left up to the players. This style of play resonates very badly with wargamers who want a very ‘competitive' game, and can largely be attributed with much of the negative press AoS got in the early days.
It is very possible to have an “open play” game, but still use the point system. Open play simply means that not all rules are followed to the exact letter, and the players are more open to adjusting the game how they like.
In narrative play, the story is the big focus. This what you play if you want to implement your own wacky rules or play a historical battle from a novel. The overall story of the game and the ‘rule of cool' is what takes the spotlight. In many ways this style of play harkens back to the early version of Warhammer, where game needed a Gamemaster (like a roleplaying game) to function.
In matched play, balance and the competetive aspect takes center stage. GW's version of matched play is called pitched battle, and it is in the pitched battle format where we find the points for Age of Sigmar. Most people just refer to pitched battle as matched play, so I will do the same.
In matched play you agree to a point limit with your opponent and you follow the additional rules and limitations, as set forth in the Generals Handbook 2018. There are some constraints on how you can make your army and a few of the core rules are changed in the matched play system.
What follows is a step by step explanation for the matched play system.
You can find the actual rules for matched play in either the Big Core Rulebook (page 306-320) or in the Generals Handbook (page 46-61). There are 6 battleplans in the Core Rulebook and 12 in the Generals Handbook. All 18 battleplans are used in the standard matched play syste,
Matched play: how does the point system work?
Agree on a point limit for the game
Before your game, agree on a point limit with your opponent. If you play a tournament the point limit will be set beforehand. You can fill your army with units (and other stuff) up to that point limit, but not above it. A small game is 1000 points and most competetive games are played at 2000 points.
Find the pitched battle profile for your units
Each unit or warscroll cost a certain amount of points according to it’s “pitched battle profile”. You can find the pitched battle profile for each (legal) unit in either your battletome or the newest generals handbook (currently 2018 version). You must use the newest version of a units pitched battle profile. You can also find the points in the Warscroll builder and the subscription part of the official AoS app (the part called Azur). If you have an old Warhammer Fantasy Army, you might have some old units lying around that you cannot find a pitched battle profile for (I am looking at you bretonnia models). If that is the case, the models are not legal in official matched play / pitched battle GW system. In matched play battalions will also have a point cost and the new endless spells also cost points.
Example of pitched battle profiles and points costs for a unit
Above you see a copy of the Moonclan Grots pitched battle profiles. The “min” is the minimum size of a unit. The “points” is how many points it will cost to buy a single instance of the minimum amount of models. Above we can see that you can have a Grots unit of either 20, 40 or 60 models. If a unit has a point cost followed by “/” and another point cost the second is how much it costs to have a unit of the maximum unit size. In the case of the Grots, a unit 20 models will cost 130, 40 models will cost 260 but the maximum size of 60 grots will not cost 390 but only 360 (so you save 30 points if you buy the max sized unit). Let us say you only had 35 models of Grots in your collection, but you wanted to field all of them. That would still be possible, but you would still have to pay the cost for taking 40 grots. This comes from the rules for “Understrength units” in matched play. Basically, you have to buy units in increments of the minimum unit size.
Points costs for Battalions
In matched play, you also have to pay points for Warscroll Battalions (specific collections of models that give bonuses to your army). Your battalions will also have a pitched battle profile with the point cost. Note that:
- A battalion without a pitched battle profile is not legal in the matched play system.
- You pay the points cost for all the models you include in a battalion as normal and pay the battalion cost on top of that.
- Some big Warscroll Battalions include battalions inside them. In that case, you pay for the all the battalions you take – the small ones inside and the big warscroll battalion that contains them.
- You can buy as many battalions as you can afford for your points and that you can fill with units.
Points costs for Endless Spells
If you want to include some of the Endless Spells (from either the Malign Sorcery expansion or from your Battletome) you also have to pay the points cost found on the Endless Spell pitched battle profile (found your battletome, The Malign Sorcery book or the GHB).
- All wizards in your army gain acces to casting an endless spell you have bought for your army
- In matched play you can only include one model of each endless spells in your army
- If your endless spell model is on the battlefield, it would need to be dispelled before you could cast it again.
- You can have as many different endless spells in your army as you can afford with your points.
Army building in matched play
In matched play, all units in your army must share at least one keyword (Chaos, Destruction, Death or Order are the four main ones). Matched play also introduces “Battlefield roles”. Each unit's pitched battle profile will include the units battlefield role (if any). The battlefield roles are:
- Battleline (the mainstay or core of your army)
- Leader (the heroes)
- Artillery (stuff that goes boom!)
- Behemoths (big monsters!)
- No battlefield role (a unit that is none of the above)
Matched Play has three different points tiers that will impact how many units of each role you can bring in your army. Below you can see how each tier is divided and what units you must have and what units you can have in order for your army to be legal for matched play in the specific tier. You can agree to play at other points limits with your opponent. Just remember to decide how that influences the minimum number of battleline and the maximum of the other rules.
1000 points: Vanguard (smaller starter army)
- A minimum of 2 battleline units (no max)
- A minimum of 1 leader but a max of 4
- Up to 2 Artillery
- Up to 2 Behemoths
- As many units as you like without a Battlefield role
- Up to 200 points of Allies
2000 points: Battlehost (main points limit for standard matched play)
- A minimum of 3 battleline units (no max)
- A minimum of 1 leader but a max of 6
- Up to 4 Artillery
- Up to 4 Behemoths
- As many units as you like without a Battlefield role
- Up to 400 points of Allies
2500 points: Warhost (big armies)
- A minimum of 4 battleline units (no max)
- A minimum of 1 leader but a max of 8
- Up to 5 Artillery
- Up to 5 Behemoths
- Up to 500 points of Allies
What are allies?
You might notice the limit on how many points you can spend on allies. But what are allies? Simply put, the allies mechanic will let you put units in your army and ignore their keywords for the purposes of selecting an allegiance for your army. 20% of your points can go to allies, but you must still uphold the core roles that state only 1 unit of allies for each 3 non-ally unit. Your particular faction can ally with different other factions. Which one will be stated in GHB at the end of the pitched battle profiles for a grand alliance. You can read more about Allies and Allegiance Abilities in the article here.
Example of list building in matched play
Let us build 2000 points of mixed Grand Alliance: Destruction!
Let us say you and me have agreed to play a 2000 point matched play game. We are going with a random battleplan (scenario or mission) from the Generals Handbook, and we will first roll for it when we get to the table. This is the standard format for a matched play game. Because the battleplan is a random one from the 18 available battleplans from the GBH, we both need to make sure our armies can reliably compete under the Battleplans in the General's Handbook. You are new to Age of Sigmar, but you have quite a number of different of old Orcs and Goblins kicking about. You decide to take units from across all of the Grand Alliance: Destruction (starting at page 98 and ending at page 101 of the GH17). You have been recommended to use the free Warscroll Builder on GW's community web page, so you open it and start plotting in your units.
A minimum of three Battleline units
You start out by making sure you get three Battleline units because that is the required amount according to the table for a 2000 point game. You scroll through the Destruction units to find that your old Night Goblins (now called Moonclan Grots) are battleline. You really dig mushrooms and goblins, so you want to fill all your battleline needs with these guys. 20 guys are 130 points but 60 gobbos will only be 360 points (discount on hordes). You decide on two big units of 60 and a small one of 20. The Warscroll Builder (and your own calculations) puts this at 850 points. You also notice that even though you have bought a lot of Moonclan Grots, it only counts as 3 battleline units for the purpose of determining if the army is legal. If you wanted to fill your Battleline more cheaply, you could have gone with 3 units of 20 Moonclan in each.
I can be your hero baby
Your goblins certainly need some big guys to lead them if they are not to run away at the first sight of blood. You take a look at your model collection for a suitable general. You find an old Ogre Tyrant (160 points) you half-finished painting years ago, and decide to give him a spin in the Mortal Realms. You pick ham as your general and he gets a command trait from the Destruction Allegiance (found in the big core rulebook). You also decide to give him an artefact (either from the Malign Sorcery book or from the Destruction Artefacts in the BCR). You have seen the new shiny endless spells for AoS 2.0, so you are keen to try those out. You pull the tricker and buy one of the new AoS models, a shiny Fungoid Cave-Shaman (80 points) since he (once per battle) can fling two spells in one phase.
You now realize that you have filled the minimum requirement for the number of Battleline and you also have the minimum of one leader. This means that you can fill out the rest of your army as you like, as long as they have the destruction keyword. Together with the Tyran you also found your pride and you from back in the day: a unit of 6 lovely painted Maneaters. These got to go on the table, so they also get plotted into your list (400 points). No goblins can hold their own without some squigs and fanatics, so you add two units of fanatics (three dudes in each for a total of 200), 5 cave squigs (60) 2 herders (20) as well as the furiously awesome Mangler Squig as a behemoth (240). The total comes out as 1930 points. I have told you that you can borrow whatever endless spells you like, so you buy the Aethervoid Pendulum for damage (40) and the Malevolent Maelstrom (20) for some magic protection. All of this comes out at 1990 points
Is it a legal matched play list?
Looking through your army I can see that you have filled the requirements for what units to have, and you have not gone above any of the restrictions. You have
- Two Heroes
- Three battleline units
- One Behemoth
- Five units without any Battlefield role
- 2 endless spells
I also notice that you have 10 points left over that you did not use. Seeing as you have more points left over than me, I make a note to remember that you get to roll on the Triumph table at the start of the battle (matched play rules). Seeing as you used units that only share the ‘Destruction' keyword, I also note that you can only use the Allegiance Abilities of the general Destruction Allegiance (and those are the ones you used). I notice that you did not use any points on extra command points. I also note that you do not buy any battalions, so you start with 0 command points and only one artefact in the army. Last, but not least, I agree that the list is legal (and that I am going to crush it with my competitive skillz).
What is a normal points limit?
1000 point is what many groups will start out at and can make for great intro games.
1000 points is a nice starting point for a force. You will not have so many units that your brain will go into complete meltdown from the different rules, but you will have just enough that the game has some tactical depth. Below 1000 points is possible, but I have not found them to be very fun. Big monsters, powerful heroes or massive units can completely wreck sub-1000 point games. If you want to play with fewer models, you should check out AoS Skirmish or Path to Glory instead.
- Will take about 1.5 hours of gameplay
- A recommended table size is 4'x4′ (feet)
Seem to be the next stepping stone. You get a few more units, your army as a whole will become more complete, and it is easier for all armies to compete in the matched play battleplans in the handbook. I would suggest you start with 1000 points and play with that. When you get enough experience to know what your army is lacking, you can plan what you need in your army to get it to 1500 points. Buy the models and paint it up, unit by unit, starting with what you would like to have on the table the most. Play 1150 point, then 1350 and so on working your way upward.
- Will take about 2-2.5 hours of gameplay
- The standard table size is 4'x6′ (feet). You could play it on 4'x4′, but it might get a bit cramped.
1500 points is a good medium and what many gamers will stick to for a long time.
Is right now the consensus ‘normal' point level. If you have a pickup game or you attend a tournament, this format is likely to be used. Many of the lists you will see discussed online are also 2000 points. At this point level, you can get a fully fledged army with all the bells and whistles. At this point level the game seems to reach the sweet spot of how many different units you can bring. You can never get exactly what you would like and the decision on what to cut is still hard. This is also the price point where battalions and synergies begin to really shine and make an army great.
- Will take about 3 hours of gameplay (depending on how familiar you are with the rules of the game and the rules of your army).
- The standard table size is 4'x6′ (feet).
2000 points is the standard point limit and considered ‘the norm'.
If you are serious about the hobby, make sure you can get your army to 2000 points in the future. But remember: start slowly and play low point games! Nobody wants to play a 2000 points grey plastic army.
Are the Malign Sorcery rules used in matched play?
One of the questions many asked GW after the launch of AoS 2.0 was whether or not the Endless Spells, the Artefacts from the different realms and the Realms of Battle rules (all found in the Malign Sorcery expansion) were part of the matched play system. GW has come out with an answer that surprised many. Basically what they said was the following regarding how they think tournaments should organize rules for events:
- The 18 battleplans are an integral part of balancing AoS. They are key in deciding what armies are good and bad and in large part, they make sure that armies are prepared for a variety of objectives.
- The Realms of Battle rules (extra realm spells, realm command abilities and realmscape features) do much the same thing. They make sure that armies cannot be one trick ponies (as an example all shooting armies can lose big time if the right realmscape features are rolled).
Do with that information what you will. The most drastic element is the realm spells and realmscape features. Whether or not players will get tired of the random nature of these we will have to see.
My unit does not have a pitched battle profile. Can I play with them in matched play?
In the first General's Handbook, we had something called ‘the compendium'. Basically, this was points ‘old stuff' from Warhammer: Fantasy (the old game before AoS). You cannot, in GW stores, buy the old legacy stuff anymore. This is the tomb kings, Bretonia and many of the older models. In the newer handbooks (2017 and forward) the points for these are gone. This means that the units do not have a pitched battle profile in the newest handbook so they are not legal for use in matched play. But before you burn your old Dark Elf army on and put it on youtube, hold on a second. On this page, you can still find the warscrolls for the old armies and points for them. If your opponent agrees (and who would disagree?) you can still play with them.
What is effective in matched play?
As a new player, you are probably nervous that you are going to invest in something that is ‘not good' in matched play. If you buy models from the Sylvaneth battletome and onwards you will be collecting armies that are officially supported in AoS. As a rule of thumb, buying stuff with a Battletome is most likely going to be fun and at least it can compete in a casual setting. Armies with (newer) battletomes will have access to:
- Better allegiance abilities. Especially the amount and effectiveness of the battle traits and other bonuses you get is a huge difference compared to the Allegiance abilities of the four grand alliances or some of the older books.
- Acces to battalions. Not only are some of the battalions good in and of themselves, but each one also gives you an extra artefact and a command point. With access to even more powerful artefacts in the Realm of Sorcery expansion (and from your army's allegiance) this bonus only got bigger in AoS 2.0.
- Big battalions will reduce the amount of ‘drops' you have in your army (because you can set up the whole battalion at once) giving you a better chance of deciding who starts the game (starting first or starting second can be a major deal in some battleplans).
- Even though you are limited in unit options compared (compared to a grand alliance army) the extra rules you get more than makes up for it. AoS is all about synergistic armies. The synergies lie in the connection between several units, command abilities and various spells and rules combining into massive combos.
When you plan what units to buy, or you are making a list for a game, remember that you have to be able to compete in all 18 battleplans. I suggest reading them and taking notes. Mobility, units that are hard to destroy, units that pack a lot of damage (ranged or melee) and heroes with artefacts are some of the keys to winning on all fronts.
A few recommendations on what to look for
- Mobility is a big difference maker. Quickly getting a unit from one area of the battlefield on top of an objective marker is something that can make or break your plan. High mobility on your models, different ways of moving from one side of the board to another, the ability to set up units where you want later in the game or mobility spells are all examples of something that is great in matched play.
- High saves are great. +4 on saves is considered quite good and if you can couple that with some ways of boosting the saves on models (cover) with many wounds or a big unit that is even better. Do not dismiss mystic shield (re-roll saves of 1) just because it is not as broken as AoS 1. It is still good!
- Some models with high rend and a high damage is important. If you do not have this, it can be hard to remove tough models from your opponents army.
- Because saves are so great Mortal Wounds become equally great. If you have access to something that can dish out a lot of mortal wounds, you can quickly take down units or heroes that otherwise would take a long time to get off the board.
- Good shooting models are generally considered very strong in AoS and matched play. Granted, they are a bit weaker in AoS 2.0 but still good. Shooting can remove troublesome units and heroes before they get to where your opponent wants. If your shooting has rend and more damage than 1 they are even more valuable.
- Having a lot of cheap wounds and models on the board can be key in some of the battleplans. The best thing is to have models that are cheap, have many wounds, good saves and have the battleline role. This means you can fill the board with models that are able to hold objectives for a long time and this can win you games. It also means that the ‘battleline tax' did not cost you as much.
- If you do not have access to cheap efficient models you can always go for the different approach: kill all the models in your opponents army and take the objectives in the rounds where he is no longer around. This is the approach many Beastclaw Raider armies must take, but it can be really effective.
- One of the best way to build an AoS army is having synergies. Most heroes can only buff models that are from the same faction/allegiance so look at this very carefully. In general, buffs are the name of the game in AoS. +to hit, saves, rerolls and so on are amazing. The same can be said for rerolling you hit, wound or save dices.
But overall: try not to worry so much about being competitive from the get go. Get some games in and you will quickly realize what works and what does not work. Figuring out what player type you are and what kind of models you like is even more important than finding out what is broken or not. When you learn the game you will have be more attuned to what is great and what is not so good.