I've been thinking about the question I pose in the title since I got a few games of 8th Edition under my belt: is 40K just better than Age of Sigmar? It might seem like apples and oranges to some people but I don't feel that way, after all 40K is clearly inspired and takes heavily from Age of Sigmar. The games are highly similar, the major differences are Initiative, Army Composition, Shooting and Phase Order. There are of course countless small differences such as how Charges work, Character differences, Magic vs. Psychic, etc. but from a macro perspective the games are completely comparable.
When I think about it I'd always rather play 40K than AoS. 40K is significantly, significantly, more tactical and rewarding whereas AoS is much more list dependent and prone to dice happening. Initiative really drives this home as there's no way to influence the turn order, you can plan for it a bit but that makes the game feel like you're constantly hedging your bets and unable to get a plan going, unless that plan is shooting of course. I wonder why AoS is dominated by gunlines.....hmmm. AoS is also completely about synergies, these exist in every game but they reach a fevered pitch in that particular system. Think about the really dominant armies like Skyfire Spam, they take an already good unit, give it +1 to Hit, enable them to come back from the dead, and screen for them. The game just doesn't work unless everything in your army works together, which some people like but it also forces very homogenized armies and that includes the army I own.
There are also core rules in Age of Sigmar which detract tactical play, a big one is being able to shoot no matter what. In 40K you can get things into Combat and there are often penalties for moving and shooting, not so in AoS. This wouldn't be so bad if Games Workshop were willing to make some changes but it's been clear that they will not. Now the big shooting units in the game could, and probably will, get more expensive or nerfed in other ways but is that a good solution? Seems like treating the symptom instead of the disease to me. Age of Sigmar is a fantasy, heroic game which a heavy lean towards Combat...so why are bows and guns the best thing going?
Everything in Age of Sigmar also feels extremely simplified compared to 40K, I believe it's been stated that's intentional as it's more of a gateway game but it leaves people like me a bit unfulfilled. I like special rules and being able to pull off fancy maneuvers because of them, AoS doesn't often allow for this. That often creates a big stompy syndrome where both players just slap their armies into each other and find out what happens. Over my many games with the system I felt there was very little nuance, even with my Combat armies, whereas 40K seems to have more variety.
I'm not trying to say Age of Sigmar is a bad game, I think it's great fun and a very good game to get players into the genre. It also has a very high fantasy aesthetic which is a bit missing from many games, most focus on low fantasy with a brooding and dark world and that gets a bit old. Sometimes I want to exist in an age of heroism and magic, not peasants and malaria. But from a rules perspective, 40K just took AoS and made it better. Shooting is more nuanced, synergies aren't as over-tuned, there's a lot more counter-play through Strategems and the basic rules. 40K has issues, and many of them, but as a veteran miniature wargamer (what a title!) 40K is sooooo much more rewarding to sit down and play. Games Workshop even seems to be on board with this, 8th Edition has been out what...two months? and there's already been multiple balance changes via FAQ. AoS hasn't had a single one! Even their FAQs aren't fleshed out in terms of clarification and the game is clearly ont he back burner for releases.
I'm strongly considering selling off my AoS stuff. I think 40K is the better game, it has the bigger playerbase, it's more competitive, and it's just plain old more fun for me. I wish I could say I felt otherwise but it just goes to show that there are indeed levels to it, as someone once said.
On top of my pontificating I also got a small game in today with my Orks, just 1000 Points. There's a League going on at another store for the Fate of Kantor event, which I couldn't care less about because all the Missions are boring and I'm not a big fan of another slow grow league. However one of my buddies wanted to test his list so we got a quick game in.
I took Da Rippa, a Big Mek on Warbike w/ KFF, two Weirdboys, Mad Doc Grotsnik, and three 30 man units with a Big Choppa Nob, one had two Big Shootas. Opposing me was Chaos with a pretty strong Khorne theme, the army was a Lord on Bike w/ Chainaxe, Kharn, 9 Zerkers w/ Chain axes and chain swords, a Rhino, 22 Cultists in two units, and a Contemptor Dreadnought with a Mortal Wound gun and what seemed to be an Assault Cannon. There was also 100 Reinforcement Points for Bloodletters or Hounds.
We played the Week 1 event mission which has Attacker/Defender roles, basically the attacker wants to end the game with units in the opposing Deployment Zone and the defender wants to score Kill Points. Attacker goes first unless the defender Seizes the Initiative, I was the attacker and Chaos failed to Seize. I believer there's also specific Strategems, the defender can re-roll hits for Overwatch and every model this kill in Overwatch removes 1" of Charge distance, which is horrifically overpowered, and the attacker can do.....something. I honestly forget but I think it was useless.
Chaos ended up putting the Rhino with all the prized units as far up as possible, which let me Charge it Turn 1 with two units and Da Rippa, as well as a Weirdboy. I ended up killing the Rhino just barely but also put 4 Wounds on the Chaos Lord who Heroically Intervened into Da Rippa, preventing me from Piling In around the edge of the Rhino and preventing ANY of the Berzerkers from getting out. I was pretty happy with this play as it forced some things from my opponent, although it was a huge mistake on his part to put his Rhino anywhere near the front lines.
In the end 2 Berzerkers died from the wreckage and two couldn't get out legally. I did lose Da Rippa in the following turn as the Lord fled and the Dreadnought put plenty of guns, and his fists, into my Warboss. The Berzerkers also charged me but since the Dreadnought went first I was able to Counter-Attack the Berzerkers and kill them all. This removed the only unit that Chaos had which could eat through my numbers.
In the end I just broke through, killing Kharn in the same turn and then getting into the Cultists and Lord who both went down as did the Dreadnought. The Hounds had been summoned but I'd barely lost 15 Orks total so there was just no hope and Chaos conceded.
While this was mostly a for fun game that ended on Turn 2, I did learn something. Against Khorne Berzerkers I should never Charge more than one unit of them and they should never Charge me with more than one unit, they both just blow each other up and if you leave yourself open to Counter-Attack then you'll lose a unit for nothing. It's actually better to just let them Charge you and instead get some shooting or something else, a useful tidbit if I go against Khorne in bigger games. Overall the game literally came down to me being able to Charge the Rhino on Turn 1, otherwise I probably still win the game but it's closer. I just have to screen my two units with one, eat the Charge, then kill the Berzerkers and win. If I sufficiently spread I probably don't even lose the full unit of Boyz because I can pull the Berzerkers out of Combat with casualties. Tactics!
That's all from me this time, I may get another Tau game in tomorrow but we'll see how it goes. Thanks for reading!