Age of Sigmar wrought some very big changes to the Fantasy game, and a lot of them haven't been met with community approval. Why did you make such large changes?
Warhammer Fantasy Battle was a great game, everyone on the design team liked playing it. But, from what we were told, the sales data was very, very poor. One report stated that sales for the Fantasy line had been beaten by the sale of tools and paints for the last 2 years, not including the End Times, of course. I'm not sure how accurate that report was, but we all knew Fantasy was doing poorly. The head of sales wanted to can it completely, excise the dead weight, but the design team put their foot down. None of us wanted to see the game die. So, we were given an ultimatum: make a new game with the same models, as concise and simple as we could make it to save on resources, and they'd see how it went.
We tried as much as we could to keep the 'spirit' of the game the same: still about mighty heroes and fell villains, giant monsters, and magic. But Age of Sigmar and Warhammer Fantasy Battle are entirely different games, offering different experiences.
In a way, yes. The mantra of the Age of Sigmar project was 'models, not rules'. Sales wanted hobbyists to spend their money on models, not rulebooks or army books. But that's only half the explanation. Age of Sigmar was written deliberately simple, deliberately short, to invite hobbyists to build upon the foundation we laid down. [The Design team] generally keep tabs on what Games Workshop communities are doing, in the UK and worldwide, and what we were seeing was people taking the game and molding into what they wanted. The tournament 'comp' packs, new scenarios, and so forth, strongly indicated to us that communities across the globe had the capacity to make the game what they wanted. Age of Sigmar is our way of inviting hobbyist communities to do exactly that: take what we've written and build upon it. Different communities like different aspects of the hobby, after all. Some like narrative campaigns, other like streamlined tournament systems, and many more. Age of Sigmar has the capacity to be any of those things. Sure, it requires some input on you as a player, but from what we had seen most hobbyists were fiercely passionate about their game and willing to put in that effort. If you do put in that effort, it can be very rewarding.
What about the silly rules? Speaking to horses, dancing, yelling 'Waaagh!', why include those?
[chuckles] that was sort of our way of waving goodbye to the Old World. It had never been a particularly serious place, very much inspired by Monty Python and other such things. So we decided, considering each 'faction' was going to be utterly changed, at least in terms of background, that we'd send off the old background with a laugh. You can always choose to ignore those 'silly' rules if you want, of course.
Any ideas for 'balancing' two armies against one another? It seems like it'd be difficult for two people who'd never met before to do so.
Not including points with the warscrolls was actually a very late decision in the development process, but it was a very deliberate one. Firstly, we felt that points as a system was fundamentally flawed, Rick [Priestley] thought so and we all tended to agree. We felt the better way to balance the two forces was to let the players read the rules for the warscrolls and counter what each other put down. We didn't want to arbitrarily limit or restrict what models a player could use, either.
Secondly, we knew that communities would develop balancing structures themselves, balancing structures that would be far better and more appropriate than a catch-all blanket structure that we would apply. We'd receive emails daily asking us to adjust the points of certain models or units up or down, but that just wasn't on the cards. Now, each community can collectively decide how valuable each model and unit is, both in a vacuum and in synergy with other units in the army.
Thanks so much for your time, and your answers.
[chuckles] No problem, it's what I'm here for.
Any other advice to people thinking of starting Age of Sigmar?
Uhhh...[chuckles] make it the game you want to play? I guess that's the best advice I can give.
This is a pretty consistent take with what we have heard: The game was dying sales-wise, and it was either axe WHFB or make this to salvage it. People who are both supporters and opponents of AoS will probably find plenty to justify their opinion in this transcript. The "haters" might take from it that the designers were forced by the sales staff to not take things seriously, and the "supporters" may take from it that the design staff was writing this game in response to the trends they saw among gaming communities. I personally see it as a positive development. No version of 9th would be able to do what this new game has done, and justifies some of the 'balancing issues' and silliness we have been seeing.
What's your stance on this?