Self Reflection in the Age of Sigmar – Brinton Williams

imagesCAWPFW2YGiven Corehammer’s current propensity for causing minor upset to specific corners of the gaming community, we figured it was time to cement that position and add our two pence worth to the (R)Age Of Sigmar discussion. My man Brinton Williams of San Francisco, California, stepped up to the plate to lend a calm voice of reason to the debate that’s currently causing perhaps the most intense nerd-rage meltdown since Uncle George decided that Greedo shot first. Here’s what Brinton had to say….

So it’s happening…probably the largest shakeup in Warhammer Fantasy Battle in 20+ years (some could argue ever) and the Old World as well as the old edition we once knew has been blasted away and replaced by the folks at Games Workshop (GW). Age of Sigmar, released this week online and in White Dwarf (and this weekend as a boxed set), strips away so much of what was believed to be core to the Warhammer experience that it is difficult to see it as the same game. What is left is a remarkably streamlined and entirely odd release that bears examining on a deeper level, even if you don’t specifically play Warhammer Fantasy. The folks over at GW have extraordinarily pulled away all of the safety nets around the game, forcing a player to stop and ponder exactly what kind of gamer they are, and crucially, who they choose to surround themselves with. Age of Sigmar challenges the player to consider a much wider range of social and competitive engagement, and in doing so, has fulfilled a design direction that GW has been pushing towards for years (and some could argue since the beginning).

I’ll be focusing on a couple fundamental changes that I feel are most important to how the game as a whole forces you to interact with your fellow gamers, and also what they teach you about yourself. The first massive change is the removal of any points based army construction system. Essentially, you can throw together whatever you have and get it onto the table to battle your opponent. The second change is a significant condensing of the rules down to a measly four pages, which is given away for free (along with the necessary unit information) on the internet. These two changes, regardless of your opinion on the design teams skill in implementing them, signal such a massive shift in how wargames must be played, and therefore how wargamers must treat each other, the changes must be talked about in depth.AoS_box_Lid-copy_m

Age of Sigmar eliminates the accepted method for most people playing a fantasy/sci-fi miniature battle game. The old method involved examining army books, rulebooks and potential opponents before crafting, through a series of economic exercises and designer imposed restrictions, your competitive army list. This method, because of the points based system was meant to create a level playing field that a skillful player/list designer could tilt in their favor. Battles could be won and lost in the list design phase but this was considered a skill and was therefore acceptable to some gamers. You could show up with your list of a specific points value and theoretically have a good game with any other random folks and their same point value list. In certain ways this idyllic balance idea has been entirely false. The cyclical nature of army books released by GW meant potential army power levels rose and fell over time. Players found combinations, play styles and specific army compositions that pushed out most other less competitive builds. You could still play for fun with less hard lists, but this always created a sort of weird gray area of social decorum. The game has a points system that is supposed to be balanced, so why can’t someone take anything they want that is allowed? 3rd party composition guidelines and house rules became some what of a norm to try and impose balance on WHFB that only pseudo-existed out of the box. If you take a hard look at the game over it’s history, the points system has never really achieved the fabled balance that is required for this sort of system. You can see dominant armies and styles show up in waves looking back through the history of editions. This is not list design, but the actual army choices created by GW. Player skill always mattered, but unequally balanced army books and rules could break equal skill.

60010299006_WHAgeofSigmarBoxENG02This is a situation that has existed for a long time, and GW has, for a while now, publically been pushing their games towards a less competitive (if you believe they ever wanted it to be competitive) and more narrative focused battle style. They don’t want players to be using the most competitive and focused lists, but instead want a fun game between folks where epic moments happen and the battle can swing wildly based on fantastical results. Essentially, GW have said their game isn’t meant to be a competitive game, but by creating detailed army lists, restrictions, points allowances etc… they’ve created a thin illusion of parity between lists that still encourages competitive play. So while their corporate design choices have been obviously narrative and casual based (massive monsters, Storm of Magic, End Times, 8th edition magic phase etc…) there has still been the style of battle where two generals hope for some form of points based parity to ensure an equally competitive game (that wasn’t actually designed that well for).

Games Workshop, by removing points, army restrictions and battle sizes, has finally made their transition away from a competitive game complete. In doing so, GW have also pulled away all of the rules based justifications for anti-social behavior that wargamers have clung too for years. Age of Sigmar in its current form is broken in a competitive sense. Folks on the internet have been ripping it to shreds since the leaked rules hit to find loop holes and two figure armies that can instantly win. The pamphlet size rulebook lacks diagrams, clear examples or any of the lengthy rules covering obscure situations or in-depth logic and arguments. In its current form there is no way to play Age of Sigmar competitively and because of this, GW has issued into their second largest game, a totally different wargaming ideal. It forces players to think not just about themselves, but their opponent and their scene when making army selections.

There are no restrictions on degenerate and game breaking combos other than the social constraints of a shared experience. GW has allowed players to ruin their opponent’s game with Age of Sigmar, and in doing so, has transferred the responsibility of creating a worthwhile play experience to the folks who matter most, the players. Yes the internet has told you there is a way to win with two models, but who actually wants to do this? Setup a game, go to a store/club/friends house, setup terrain, models, roll for turns etc… and then just say “I win.” Who actually will do this? And if there is someone who will, someone who cares so little for anyone else’s enjoyment or time, are they an opponent you want to play even if there is a points based system? In the past this type of behavior had been slightly sanctioned in the community as the rules were supposed to ensure parity (which they never quite did). If someone was smart enough to find combinations or loop holes, they could hide behind this veneer of rules based balance while ruining folks hobby. Age of Sigmar forces players to take responsibility for their part in a shared narrative battle experience, and choose their opponents a little more carefully for best results.

Now GW may change this in the future by releasing army construction rules/lists, or your gaming group may bind together some mammoth tome of house rules and army construction guidelines to create some semblance of the old style, but right now, that style is dead in Age of Sigmar. What GW has given instead is a tool kit that allows players to create whatever battles they want, using any figures they want, for free. It might not work, it might flame out and die in an incredibly incendiary bonfire of nerd rage, but for now, I applaud the effort.

98 thoughts on “Self Reflection in the Age of Sigmar – Brinton Williams

  1. Thanks for posting such a reasoned reflection on Age of Sigmar. It’s nice to see a fair representation of it in amongst all the rage. I have to admit that I got a bit caught up with all the fear of change and while I think it is an average game I don’t think it is as bad as the Internet would like to make out!

    I look forward to reading more of your articles in future!

  2. Don’t you have feeling that AOS cut most of “tactical” factor from WFB ? The game in with you had to anticipate your oponent moves , calculate risk look for holes in op tacic, manage resources ets. turned in to “who have best rolls in blob on center of table ” there is no way to get any tactical adwantage besides putting more troops in combat. I can agree that puting balace in players hands have some advantages and i find your arguments convincing (although meaning of balance even betwen friends can be drasticali different ) but in the way GW turned intelectual encouter to “who rolls dice better”. IMHO of course 🙂

    • It seems all he choice and perhaps more is still in the game.

      People really can’t get heir heads around pointless system, but here are many other games that don’t have points eiher

    • Nope. In my experience it was already rolling off for huge blobs if infantry, or super powerful spells erasing half your army before they did anything.

      The tactical elements of WFB weren’t very impressive in the first place. The intricacies of this game have yet to be understood or played with to a large degree by anyone. The base rules are simple, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t various ways to experiment with them. Add to that the unique rules various units possess and there is plenty of “tactical” gameplay to be had.

    • I played the game on the weekend and it has quite some interesting choices. Since you have no point system everything is relative and you can’t tell yourself how awesome you are cause you beat someone with your plastic miniatures…but you can still have a tactical and challenging game. Sometimes you will see it’s not about winning anymore but those little victories during play are still worth the effort and give the feeling to have achieved something through your own skill.

      Some tacticalchoices that are still in the game or new:
      What model to heal or if you better choose an offensive tactic with your mage,
      where to place your mage,
      what spell to ban,
      go forward with your mage to ban or backwards to safety,
      go forward or backward to safty with your general,
      which model to choose as general,
      setting up your army which unit when and where,
      choosing the sequence of close combat,
      what too shoot at,
      what to attack,
      go through cover or go directly,
      Charge and loose cover or wait for the enemy to charge and keep cover,
      unit composition,
      which models to allocate wounds to,
      which unit to give your command ability,
      when to trigger once in a game skills of a unit,
      risk beeing attacked because your enemy could win the roll for beeing first,
      beeing first so having to test for moral first or beeing second so enemy must.

      I had an unbalanced game as we both noticed in play. But it was completly ok and fun still.

      About the narrative
      I love the way every model has a weapon with his own profile. This way you always have a picture in your head what the model does. E.g. strike something with it’s tail, claw it, club it, poke it or eat it. The weapon names are really descriptive. Just in saying I roll now for my poking sticks creates a narrative feeling.

      A new way to play and plan a game
      I already agreed with my oppenent to 2 more games for which each of us will write a short story and make a scenario and we will sit down together and think about what units should be on the table. We will decide based on the background and throw our experince as wargamers in (together 30+ years). We like the new system so far.

      About the size of games
      I will have to test this more but I believe it’s not worth playing a game of age of sigmar with an army the size of former 2000 or 3000 points in models, eg multiple blocks of infantry with hundreds of models. I think 100 models total is about the maximum. Above that the game might flip out of balance because charachters have no option to shield themselfs against massiv ranged attacks.
      I still have to test this though.
      I definatly know that you can have fun in games under former 500 points. The game can be fun with just a handfull of miniatures. Thats great and really good for beginners.

      Moving 50 slave rats over the board one by one?
      Is not necessary. I had a nightgobblinunit with 60 models on my old movementtrays. The choice to place them one inch apart to get tactical advantages is a valid one but it is way over competetive for a game you can’t play competetive to start with. You have enough other options (see above) to bring your tactical genius into play.

      • But all of this i already have with SAGA. I wanted always something different from GW. No, there is no reason to play GW Games anymore.
        So, sadly i leave them behind and move over to Mantic games.

  3. Interesting read. I think Age of Sigmar will split the old Warhammer Fantasy community into two camps – there will be those who like the idea of the casual, narrative-driven gaming who will stick with AoS, and there will be those who prefer a more balanced, competitive approach to gaming who probably wont touch AoS with a barge pole.

    I think it will be interesting to see what people in the latter camp do over the coming months, whether they stick with playing 8th Ed Warhammer or move on to different systems like Kings of War (a game which, in my humble opinion, is everything Warhammer should have been for the kind of players who like balance and competitive gaming).

    • throw me into the latter camp unfortunately, I always played WHFB as a semi-competitive tactics game, the lore is fantastic and I love the settings and armies but I saw it all as merely supplementary material for good context (which it did a damn fine job of), I don’t want to play 40k with FB units, I want to play the lurching, slow, ponderous 80’s relic that is Warhammer Fantasy Battles because for me it was never about the narrative focus

      • That definitely gets a huzzah. I think GW have done the right thing by letting go of their thirty-year-old design paradigm but that’s the paradigm I grew up with and I like it. Let the young ‘uns have their day, ‘s what I say.

      • Totally understand that point of view David and I would say a couple things. 1) I think GW will bring out more rules to allow the older style 1v1 random games with somewhat “balanced” forces…but I think there will also be a lot of issues with that balance when competitive players get their hands on them. I also think by releasing this 1st…even if only for a brief moment, they’ve set out their stall as a narrative battle focused game. 2) You have armies/figures and those are what require the major time investment. Other games (or other editions of Warhammer) still have the ponderous units and geometry style tactics…if its your bag…play those! Picking up a new rule book and learning it is easy compared to the hours put into the figures. Make those armies system agnostic.

  4. This is the same false narrative GW apologists have been using for years and is nothing new. Its the players fault GW games are broken messes. Its the players fault GW can’t make rules without exploitative loopholes. Its the players fault wargames are dying because wargamers are being big meanies at the table top. Here’s a wake up call, maybe Warhammer Fantasy failed as a result of GW’s own failings? Before the accusations start flying, I’ll put out the caveat now that I haven’t been involved in wargaming since 2010. I have no horse in the race, and the demise of WH Fantasy really doesn’t matter to me in the long run. The finger pointing at fans for GW’s own inability to sell a game the appeals to players is ridiculous though, and the self shaming really needs to stop.

    • Yes GW could do a better job balancing their wargame to be a more equally competitive experience…but I’m not sure that is their intention. They aren’t making that kind of game…and haven’t been for years. With AOS they certainly aren’t. I don’t think I’m a GW apologist when I look at a rule set for what it is trying to accomplish instead of what I think it should. It feels a little like blaming a shovel for not being a screwdriver.

      • No, it’s blaming a shovel for having been built with a hole, which makes it an imperfect shovel. The manufacturer of the shovel is at fault, not the shoveler for not “using the shovel in the spirit the manufacturer intended”

      • I feel the need to point out that “GW isn’t making that kind of game” is EXACTLY why they’ve bled market share for years. I suspect you can find that the rise of their competitors and this loss of market share and the financial issues that came of it began right about the same time they started publically taking this stance.

  5. Wargaming IS competitive. I would hate to see the competitive nature of the game removed. It would remove me from the game. You play to have a good time, but most of us also play to win. I often lose, but still have fun. I would not have fun if it is just a “practice game” or people are not really taking it serious.

    War is the most competitive activity humanity engages in. Period. And to simulate it is typically competitive and serious business. To make a mockery of it, is a shame indeed, especially when so many have played Fantasy Warhammer for so long.

    Yes game rules can always be more streamlined, they can always use improvement. But to toss rules aside in favor of NARRATIVE is akin to making a tactical/strategic wargame into a Role Playing Game. I like wargames, I do not play Role Playing games. I respect them, and understand them, which I why I dont’ play them. So keep your RPGs out of my Wargames! However, GW can pursue whatever direction they want, I’ll be disappointed if they don’t start damage control sooner than later. The 4 page pamphlets for playing your old races in AoS were a slap in the face to people who have put food on the table for GW’s employees for years.

    I have recently gotten into WH40K, this has me shaking my head wondering if I bought into a company that will just throw in the towel.

    • Ummm… Apart from 50+ years of wargaming based on scenarios, GMs, recreating historical battles and what-ifs, narrative skirmish games, fog-of-war games and general social wargaming. Pts and army lists are really the new guys on the block – GW quite squarely responsible for some of the rise of this style over the last two decades.

      • Wargames Research Group from the late sixties, Reaper Fantasy rules (precursor to Warhammer Fantasy), Laserburn (precursor to 40k), Charles Grant’s Battle would all like a word regarding points values. The first wargames I ever played had points values.

        Points values were commonplace well before GW and I’m surprised Gav would even think of claiming them as a GW innovation.

        • He’s not claimed it was their innovation, merely that as the market leader their games have helped populise it, which is pretty indisputable.

      • You sold us out. When even Matt Ward leaves in disgust, you know there’s an issue.

        You sold us out, your longtime fans.

        A pox on your house.

      • So, GW gets to say what goes, and if we don’t agree, you know better?

        In essence, this is one big appeal-to-authority fallacy.

    • Was going to comment something similar, but hey, when Gav Thorpe tells you you’re wrong about Warhammer, son, you’re wrong about Warhammer.

      • I think it’s worth noting that I understand some people like that style of organisation and play and AoS is a big departure which might curtail their interest. However, I can point to nearly twenty years of blog posts and forum threads claiming Warhammer has never been properly balanced, well-written or playtested so what makes AoS special?

        • Really it’s special because its new and people are seeing it as replacing WHFB so it’s a hate magnet right now. All the negativity is getting really old but it will probably die down a bit in a few weeks, just like it always does.

        • It does rather put the ball in the court of those saying they could do a better job of balancing the game…

          • This is interesting. How are you defining ‘game’, please?

            (Serious question, posed in good faith. I like game theory and semantics. This could be fun. We might even learn something.)

        • So instead of doing a better job assigning proper points values for units, your “solution” was to get rid of points values altogether? Ugh, that’s like saying “Well, crime will always exist, so why bother with a criminal justice system or putting criminals in prison?” An imperfect system is still vastly superior to no system whatsoever.

          No worries, though. I’ll do my part to spread the Age of Sigmar gospel at my local FLGS. When Little Timmy buys his Age of Sigmar box, eyes gleaming with hope at his new game and throws down his Khorne force from the box, I’ll respond by putting down what in 8th edition is a 10,000 point Empire army. And when he squeals that it’s unfair, I’ll point to your blog posts and tell him that the game is working as intended. And after I’ve sent him crying from the store, never to play Age of Sigmar again, I’ll go back to playing 8th Edition or Kings of War.

          • You are free to do that (and from GWs POV you’ve bought that huge army…) and everyone else at your FLGS is free to never play you and warn others. And you might find Little Timmy has a fun game anyway because he isn’t obsessed about whether things are ‘fair’ or measuring his enjoyment with a W/L ratio.

          • I really don’t understand why you’d want to do that “Captain America.” I mean seriously, why?

          • @Gav Thorpe

            Okay, serious question here: were you essentially trying to get the so-called “competitive” gamers out of the system? If so, can you please just admit to it- we’ll feel a lot better if you at least acknowledged this fact. I mean, I won’t play anymore of this new game, AoS, than I already have- hated it. But at least you’ll let us know the truth.

            Also, are you offering refunds for some of the End Times Books? I mean, in 2008 Goldman Sachs was selling Mortgage-backed securities while betting against them through companies like AIG with Credit Default Swaps.

            …It’s kind of what you’ve done here. You sold us one product, gave us now warning of what trouble lay on the horizons for us, and then eliminated our bought product with no warning, and a cashgrab for yourself.

            It’s acting in bad faith. And this WILL follow you and your company around for a long, long time. It’s common practice that around 30% of dissatisfied customers complain (rather vocally) and only 1/10 satisfied ones will say anything at all… well… you’ve alienated a hell of a lot of us.

            What are you going to do about that?

          • I think it is important to realize that Gav is not a Games Workshop designer currently (as far as I know and my limited linkedin research) but instead is a writer who currently works ‘with’ Black Library. His insight into GW and the history of Warhammer is most likely incredible, but he bears no responsibility for GW’s current moves be it “End Times” or “Age of Sigmar.”

        • What’s new is that even in the last 15 years of supposedly unbalanced warhammer you could not show up with two models and declare you auto-win a game. Means that the people like you working on the game still had enough respect for their players/customers to put serious effort in their work.

  6. Nice one. I’m not a WFB player, but AoS looks like an interesting transition.

    Something that puzzles me about all the rage is that people are behaving as if older editions of the game have ceased to exist. But if you like 8th edition (or 3rd, or 1st for that matter) there is nothing stopping you from going back and gaming those editions. As you have pointed out so well here, GW does not really create the world you play in. You do.

    • I think part of the problem is the fragmentation of the community. Sure, some will play AoS, some 8th, some KoW, some develop community editions etc etc, but it will make it harder to find opponents if you don’t have a regular group. It will also make it harder to recruit new players if the edition your group plays is not supported, and if you play in a store the staff may be less inclined to let you play a game they can no longer stock.

      Just my 2 cents, I haven’t played in years but am watching with interest.

      • That is like saying that monogamy is bad because it makes it harder to find a partner for casual sex.

        • Fragmentation of a scene is always an issue. GW with WHFB had a pretty large following that allowed folks to find games in the same system all over the world. It also created a robust world of podcasts, forums, websites, blogs (such as this) which helped a hobbyist feel connected even when not playing the game or interacting in person. I know I’ve painted many a figure listening to podcasts about people I’ll never meet playing in tournaments 6,000 miles away. Fragmentation can hurt that overall scene…but so can stagnation. GW felt WHFB had to change, and they made a big one. I’m interested to see how it will pan out.

  7. Thank you to Nathan for this well thought out opinion.

    While I love the ponderous nature of Warhammer (8th), and I understand that Age of Sigmar is not “your old Warhammer”, to all those out there with dobuts, please at least give it a try. You have every right to make an “Informed Decision” about what you like and what you don’t, but just because you have an opinion does not make your opinion right. If it’s not the game for you, then step away. If you try AoS and like it then don’t judge the people who don’t like it.

    To those who are worried about the lack of balance in GW game (40K, W8, or AoS) please point out to me one system where there has been a fair and reasonable points system for any miniatures game to date.

    To those who feel like the only solution in AoS is to deploy more models, try it and see. If you are afraid of the Nagash, Screaming Bell, Fateweaver or other “broken” combos, ask yourself why you would want to play with the person that would do that just because they could.

    If you are a Tournament player, then I’m sorry that AoS is not designed for you, feel free to sell, burn or otherwise deal with your models as you see fit, or keep playing 8th and tweak it the way you want it to work in your local group. Either way, you and I have not been playing the same Warhammer for years anyways, because I like games to be fun, that why it is called a game and not work.

    Any way you slice it, it comes down to respecting the opinions of others and not making theend of the world out of what is a fancy version of green army men.

    • Are you kidding me!? Fair and reasonable point system? Every wargaming system I have played has done a better job of points balancing then GW games. Kings of War, Warmachine, Infinity, all have tight point systems. Are they perfect? Of course not. Do they produce a reasonable approximation of balance? Yes they do. Any system is better than no system. That is like saying because GPS may not be 100% accurate lets throw away all maps. This article is absurd. A lack of effort does not indicate a deep and noble purpose. What I think people defending the pointless system fail to realize, is that with no framework for comparing relative force strength, then even those that would like a fair and balanced game, do not know how to achieve it. It is all blind guess work. I don’t know about others, but I am not interested in Candy Land. I want a game where my decisions affect the outcome. With this game I can never know if I won because I played a good game, or if I won because my force was catagoricaly superior to my opponent. This game is a farce. Play it if you enjoy it, but please don’t try to tell me it is some pinnacle of game design.

  8. Data sheet Nathan
    You hit on a 4+ and wound on 3+. ( 2+ against trolls)
    If you defend games works new, dumbed down money grab you will win the battle instantly.

    As a kid I played all sorts of games we always played to win. It was competitive and fun to destroy your mates with a fair rule set. People are upset because they do not want to play tiddly winks. People are upset because the game they love will not be supported. All future releases will be for the the AOS shit they have served.

    Make no mistake this AOS thing is only designed to get children into the game. Then they will push you to get into 40k. I mean the pokemon card games has more interesting rules than AOS.

    Everyone that defending it. Good for you. Enjoy it.

    • While I love and support AoS. I have said and agree that it could easily be seen as GW’s entry level game for kids before they “graduate” to 40k lol.

      Somewhat of a brilliant move by GW, imo, in that regard – have 1 super easy accessible game, 1 advanced high-meta game.

    • There’s a very simple reason why it has no points: it’s a pay-to-win scam. They didn’t design a game where the best general wins, but one In which the player with the fattest wallet wins. You have 30 guys and your opponent has 30 guys? Well, go buy two giant. Your buddy took two giants? Well, go buy three Bloodthirsters. Your opponent has three Bloodthirsters? Then go buy four dragons to win. They want the guy who spends the most money to win. Simple as that.

  9. Bravo. I have been saying this exact same thing since the rules were leaked. I give props to GW to essentially put all the power in us gamers’ hands.

    The funny coincidence (almost twisted irony?) is that those anti-social, overly-competitive gamers just don’t get it…

    • You really need to be aware that tournaments are actually social events and are held and attended mostly by people who have perfectly normal social skills. I have played alot of dicks [small percentage of whom I have played in total] and their ideals around army composition vary a fait bit. It is always wrong to generalise a group.

      • The folks I know who attend regular tourneys definitely view them as social events and many have a great time Calum, but I don’t see a mention of specifically tourney games from the post you were responding too… just anti-social overly competitive gamers. Was someone else calling out all tourney players as dicks that I didn’t see?

        • You are probably right but I tend to find that in most people’s vocabularies that competitive gamer/ tournament gamer are interchangable. I perhaps should have said ‘people who play competitively are still very much sociable.’

          The post I was replying to appears to me to be implying people who are competitive are ‘anti-social’ as opposed to referring to the people who are both anti-social and competitive. In the english language the use of an adjective before a collective noun can be used to refer to a subset of that group but can also be used to imply a generalisation of that group in order to give the sentence more of an impact. I have very little dount the OP was implying he thought all competitive gamers were anti-social. I might be wrong but I can’t be faulted for the way I read into his comment.

          • Some of the most social players I know are tourney gamers, but there’s a definite gap between “competitive” and “over-competitive.” Most tourney players I know want to win and make new friends. An overly competitive player doesn’t care if they come across as a jerk and their opponent has a rubbish evening as long as they win. I think the former will come up with comp packs and continue to enjoy themselves. The latter I couldn’t care less about.

  10. Well said. This is wargaming as it should be. An enjoyable and flexible social game. GW have scored big with this and it’s a bold move I welcome as a gamer of 80s vintage who enjoys current 40k (inc. list building) and a range of scenario and narrative based games.

  11. Well, I read the rules and thought they were OK.

    I read the Data sheets, eh, War scrolls and thought hey, they have actually built in some fun in this. They harken back to the old days of Realms of Chaos with wacky rules and random lists. And Realms of Chaos worked because you were playing warbands with a handful of models, for fun, recording the story of your Chaos Champion. This… this is meant to replace a game some people have been playing for 30 years, growing up with it, having figure collections that have evolved over time along with the game. And some people get upset that it is not the same game anymore. The rules are gone, the world is gone, the models are gone. (Because yes, they have changed the scale of the figures too. Sure I can use my old models right, but they will look odd next to the new models.) It might still be a fun game, but it is sorely incomplete as it is.

    The rules essentially say “Turn up at a mates house with all your models, start plonking yours down on the board until you are satisfied.” Even if neither of the players is competetive this won’t work unless they have roughly the same sized figure collection. Because player A want’s to use his giant he got for Christmas and has just painted, oh, and that dragon, while Player B might just have started out and only have basic goblins, but lots of them. So either Player A uses both the dragon and giant which he brought, and trounces Player B, or Player A is a good guy and uses only a bit of his collection. They have a good game, but Player A didn’t get to use the toys he had been looking forward to doing and had painstakingly packed into his new large GW bag bought for transporting them. Either way one of the players will have a lesser experience of the game. They COULD have agreed beforehand what and how many figures to use, sure, but THAT is the point of a points system. “We’ll play 1000 points, normal restrictions on Sunday afternoon, ok?”

    And yes, I do play historical games where you don’t have a points system per se, but it’s either historical scenarios with fixed forces or where organisational charts rule what you can field.

    Had Age of Sigmar been a specialist game like Mordheim or Inquisitor it would have been fine.

    • Laffe – I guess I don’t totally understand your example… If player A has a larger collection of more powerful figures than B who has just started…under the old system player A still wouldn’t have used his awesome new giant and dragon right as the game would be restricted to what player B could field anyways right?

      I guess looking at this the solution would be create a game that gets the awesome giant on the table and that badass dragon and work together to get a scenario/handicap etc… that makes a fun game.

      Also, I don’t know that the figure scale changed, I thought the Sigmarines ™ were just big ass folks and humans are still normal human sized.

      • Ok, my example maybe wasn’t really clear. In the old way Player B could say “let’s play a small game since 1000 points is all I have” and Player A could try and fit either the giant or dragon into that, and make an intelligent choice based on that.

        In the new rules there is no regulation. Player A might be a good guy and doesn’t bring any of them, but Rules As Written says he can, so maybe he just doesn’t realise that the game wouldn’t be as fun for Player B. The Game heaps all the responsibility on Player A, which may work with mature gamers who have known eachother and gamed together for years. It won’t work with new aquaintances or younger players not accustomed to balancing their own games.

        The Chaos figures are also much larger than normal humans. Sure, the old models are still available for a time, but I bet that new releases will also be larger.

        • The concept of “rules as written” is the type of thing they’re trying to do away with. I’ve always enjoyed list building and its a side of the hobby I’ll be sorry to see go, but it has always been open to abuse by players. I think it was the 5th Ed WFB rulebook that said that if you find yourself saying “there’s nothing in the rules that says I can’t…” then you’ve gone wrong somewhere.

  12. Ah, I forgot the last point. I realise Games Workshop is not targetting the likes of me, old farts that have played the game since 1st edition who has a vast figure collection already. So I do feel a little betrayed and I think that’s where most of the flak is coming from.

    Fair enough. I will continue to play 8th, or 3rd (where was that oldhammer community again?) or maybe switch over to Kings of War. GW will be getting less of my money — of which it already gets very little — I’m still playing and buying 40k stuff occasionally.

    • Fair enough. As a fellow old fart who has played since 3rd, I enjoy the odd game of oldhammer myself. I do feel better served by AoS than I have by WFB in a long time. It’s easier for me to get a casual game with my fluff driven army without coming up against a highly competitively built force.

      I feel quite upset about the destroying of the world, because I was so heavily invested in it, but the new rules set is just a free toy and a different way to play. When you’ve been playing as long as we have there have been all sorts of changes in approach, background and scale.

      If you udont buy much from GW, then you’re probably not going to factor much in their business decisions. That’s fair enough on both sides IMO.

  13. I would like to add that if played to the purest sense of the rules “army building” is completely gone.

    When you decide to play you bring everything you own, or a sub set of it (Ig you only want to play Highbourn, so leave those Exiles at home).

    Then during army set up you alternate placing units from your chosen pool of models.
    This doesn’t mean you even place all of these models, but those are the ones you choose from. A lot of tactical maneuvering can be had here, from selecting the correct counter model, to where you place it compared to your opponent.

  14. I can’t believe my game about magical Goblins and Elves isn’t a tactical wargame simulation anymore.

    • If that’s your attitude then why play games? Why the disdain for people who like tactical thinking and think that is fun? The rage against AoS is pretty immature but so are all these sarcastic comments making fun of people who loved 8th. It’s just as mean spirited.

      • I’m not, I love tactical board and miniatures games. Warhammer has just never been one! I am going to keep playing 8th as well as AoS for the fun of both systems.

  15. AOS is the gaming equivalent of a school sports day where “Everyone gets a medal”

    I have played Warhammer and 40k for a decade, I also played Mordheim, X wing, Historical and others. Each game had a unique factor that attracted me to it. For WHFB, it being able to pick an army I found interesting, building an army for either tactical or thematic reasons and fighting a battle against an opponent.

    There was fun and skill in picking the list, that you don’t have in AOS. In WFB I had to take core troops, and was limited in elite troops so I had to learn how to get the most out of these units, and in truth I loved my “grunts” helping win battles.

    In AOS I can simply put down 3 Steam tanks, 4 War alters, a Frost Phoenix and a General on a Dragon, where is the skill or fun in putting that list together. Let alone playing against it?

    I loved playing WFB as it had genuine tactics, using units as bait, maneuvering to isolate enemy units or to achieve a flank or rear charge, and being rewarded for doing so. Shooting was more realistic as there were modifiers for shooting through cover. Combat was more realistic as my halberdiers would not of been able to hit a Daemon prince on 4’s, always, no matter what.

    There is no physiology, no fear or terror tests, my humble spearmen are apparently unfazed by fighting a Bloodthirster – go figure.

    Now don’t get me wrong WFB was not perfect, magic was way to powerful, and there were some nasty combos out there that were almost unplayable, but it was a tactically and strategically challenging game that made you think. Having played AOS it is a game without tactics or strategy, it is a game without thought that 3/4 ends up resembling a mosh pit of models in the center.

    Apart from a lack of tactics and strategy there is no balance. I don’t think this has to come from points necessarily, historical games, and even X – wing don’t use points but they do have a way or imposing balance. This is something AOS sadly and fatally lacks. Maybe the balance will come with later books or supliments, we can only hope.

    The models or at least the new Sigmarite ones look like Space Marines, which to me shows that the game is losing its unique look, and is now more of a 40k spin off.

    It is on reflection a game of, “What would happen if I took all my elite units and played them against your elite units”. A short game with a limited life, not a replacement for WHFB.

    So alas my models will be put away unless and until a new version of WHFB is released or AOS addresses its fatal shortcomings. Sad really as I was looking to start a Beastmen army. Oh well

    • @Mark – I just don’t get this attitude….. If you like Warhammer why don’t you just keep playing it?
      I only play 2nd edition WH40K because I don’t like what has come since. Works for me.

      Great article overall, don’t agree with every point made, but a refreshing and interesting read. Thanks!

    • I agree Mark (H?). I don’t think GW has any obligation to make WFB anything in particular. I know that one part of the equation is money, although I’ve never bought into the idea that this was the “secret driving force” behind all GW decisions–they just don’t seem that economically crafty. I think instead that GW game design is governed by the _relative power of GW employees_. At one point Gav had relatively little power, now he seems to have quite a bit. The same for Tuomas Pirinen, Alessio, the “old guard”, etc. The greater degree of power a designer has in the process, the more the game will be what they want it to be. I don’t know the current internal power structure at GW but I presume it is governed by a core of humans who like the idea of AoS. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less.

  16. I’ve been a 40ker for 20 years now, so I can understand the dread of someone entering fantasy and seeing the $$$ and time etc for the huge lumbering armies.
    They totally dropped the ball here.
    No points/unit limit is like playing chess and bringing all/only rooks or fifty more pawns. Just not working.
    What they should have done, make the warscrolls match the unit being sold (one scroll = the ten units in the box)
    No need for points that way, easier to manage.
    Have like 40k
    This many “troops scrolls” then “leader” etc. could have three troops can turn into a seige and the like.
    Then, for those that actually like the giant formations, make like 40k and have the apocalypse huge systems while being able to sell small squirmishes just as easy. Hell, toss in a “merc” slot to bring in another box. Add in bonuses with that hashtag name crap they put on there. Sell boxes with “formations” 2orc/one goblin green blitz in a white dwarf.

    Each game out there has a set guidelines for what is and isn’t allowed or fair. A baseline of balance.

  17. Full disclosure – I worked for GW about 10 years ago and I’ve done some writing for Black Library in the distant past.

    I’ve been reading a lot of articles about AoS, seen some YouTube videos with guys burning beautiful Dark Elf models in protest and I’ve heard lots of rants. My first thought when I read about the lack of points was “Oh, they must be doing something like Wrath of Kings or Confrontation, some type of army selection mechanic, etc.” Discovering that there were no points had me sitting down and conferring with my noble Bretonnians and lamenting times past.

    Your post made me think. I’ve had too many encounters myself with gamers and unbalanced forces over the years. I’ve watched a number of excited new players become jaded when the awesome cool model they bought turned out to be one of the poorest selections in the army. Long ago, I decided to play mostly with friends and create scenarios. I’ve never been a truly competitive gamer – I enjoy the stories that the games make.

    I want to applaud you for your blog. I do think you have it right to think about what the game is, instead of what we want it to be. I’m sure I’ll miss my old Warhammer, but I’ve still got my rulebook. I’m going to give AoS a try, and if I see Little Timmy, I’ll be glad to help him find ways to enjoy our hobby.

    Thanks again.

  18. What the author seems to misunderstand, is that wargaming is a niche game. It’s quite difficult to find people to play outside of a local group. The points and competitive edge of 8th was very popular for the simple reason a stranger could rock up at a tourney and play 5 games with 5 other strangers and generally assured of having a good time.
    Ripping the competitive edge from the game destroyed this.
    Currently living in a major city I can find several gaming groups so I have no worries but in my home area there is particularly nobody I know that’s into any sort of tabletop gaming. It looks like I’ll be moving back home on the nxt 12 months for family reasons and it looks atm I’ll have to park / sell all my figures. 8th gave me hope I could at least get my fix every now and now AoS seems to kick sand in my face. My nearest LGS is over 50 miles away! There is only 3 lgs in the entire country !!!!!!!
    Was 8th perfect hell no. Will AoS breath new life into the hobby. I sincerely hope so. I’m certainly not giving up on it and perhaps somthing will change in the nxt 12 months before I’m forced to return home to enable me to play. But as it stands no chance.

    • I’m consistently reminded by my wife of how much of a niche hobby i’m involved in…don’t worry about that.

      More to your point, there is a larger barrier to entry currently on playing AoS against randoms in the old style… this is entirely true. But there is an argument to be made that folks were actually very rarely turning up at a random tourney without some form of community based comp or restrictions already. Most of the events I’ve seen aren’t ‘Out of the Box’ Warhammer, and those that are, still usually had some sort of community policing or self comping to keep things from getting totally out of hand.

      I would also argue that AoS (at least anecdotally) is bringing some folks over from other games, and the ability to go for smaller battle sizes is intriguing a lot of folks who had given up on fantasy or never had the time investment to start.

      I think GW will be adding pieces that allow more ‘equal’ battles between randoms in the future, but I still wouldn’t count on them to create the fabled balance. I think as players, and a community as a whole, the bulk of the work to get a good game out of the framework they’ve built will fall on us.

      • Most people who played tournament around here followed some kind of community-house-rules balances. And I heard of maybe 5% Tournament where NO Addon-Rules were used like “Not more than x warmachines!” or “You can only take y charakters!” and “We dont allow units from Storm of Magic/End Times”.

  19. Thanks for a well reasoned post. I have now played several games, and I really like the rules. And the simplicity of the rules has allowed my 8-year old son to play.

    (1) All of my local games group has rage quit. So while I really want to play AoS, GW’s “Year Zero” approach has burned off my support network for the game.

    (2) I have played some games (with my son). But without a points system (or some way of balancing armies) we are left floundering to make up balanced armies. The games we’ve played have turned out to be completely unbalanced (and therefore not as enjoyable) because our armies were not remotely balanced. It is all very good to say that players should agree sportingly, but if we are starting out we simply do not have the experience to make those judgements. So GW have really let us down in terms of being able to pick up the game. How can we build armies if there is no way of being able to estimate the relative worth of units? I think GW have made a fundamental mistake here.

    • I agree with your point #2 – while I’m a super-nerd and loved the ridiculously complex rule set of “oldhammer” and the “rpg” aspects of customizing units and building an army – me and my brother (whom i play with most frequently these days) were never rule mongers and played for the fun and lite competition. Using 8th edition points, we pretty much would have consistent fights where a 3k v 3k fight would dwindle down to two units duking it out, or two lords and two units and which ever lord won would sweep (although i’ll never forget the one game where my last unit of half dead white lions hacked a bloodthirster down =D ). It was at least a decent enough system that would provide close enough games (as close as any dice game can be) for it to be fun. With this I agree they have made it very difficult to play well matched games, especially for new players which this is supposed to be geared towards bringing in new blood.

      Points aside, the one thing i am enjoying with the new rules are the break tests – was never a huge fan of engaging, loosing a psych test by 1 point, forced to flee and then loosing an entire unit after the first combat round… i mean we played that way because that was the rules and it did keep the games shorter – but i found those were the most critical rolls that caused imbalance later in the game – i think the new break test is, at least for me, sounding like a more fun way to do combat resolution.

    • Paul – Sorry your locals have all rage quit…but a lot of that happens with each new edition. This one feels stronger, but I’m also seeing way more folks looking back into AoS with interest that I didn’t see in the previous edition changes. Hopefully you’ll find some good folks to get a game with.

      I’m torn on the subject of initial guidance from GW on army strengths and it is one of the items that spurred me to try and think this whole path of AoS through. Essentially, it probably would have smoothed the transition for people if GW had included more guidance from their expertise in the system and all the play testing they did instead of throwing us all into the deep end.

      However, I think if they had implemented a point system, or some other army construction values right away, then regardless of how many paragraphs, blog posts, White Dwarf statements etc… they threw in about “fun, narrative battles” players would immediately lock into the previous mindset and go about optimizing, breaking, insulting the balance all the while seeing it as officially GW endorsed.

      Instead, they issued a shock to the collective wargaming system that was forcing players to attempt to play in the style they imagine. Time will tell whether this works out for them…and I expect them to release more items that allow more ‘1v1 pseudo balanced fights’ of the old style…but for this initial release, they gave no safety nets.

    • I got the box on saturday and I am curious if the “Battlescrolls” where a bunch of units is grouped together are balanced. The two forces in the starter box are surprisingly well balanced.

      Maybe you try it with this pre generated Armies again? I dont know if its work, but I think it is possible.

  20. Bemused by the comment that AoS has no support – plenty of copies flying off the shelves yesterday. I think you need to take Brinton at his challenge, and consider who you are surrounding yourself with – sure, I can name some gaming clubs who are shunning it; but they’re also the ones full of rules-lawyers and “power gamers” who made the old WFB such a pain to play as a newcomer.

    I’m quite hoping those clubs have enough lighter fluid to ensure they stay out of it, as I won’t miss them.

  21. First of all I love how the rules for combat are simple easy and fun. What I hate is the lack of cost for anything. The whole “bring what you want” is just lazy and has no imagination. With that being said my son’s and I have come up with using the war scrolls as currency. so let me know what you all think, Its a work in progress so go easy on the comments.

    The game starts with 2 D6+1 for the amount of war scrolls that are going to be played. You can have up to 2 D6+5 for large games. We separated the units like 40k since this is essentially fantasy 40k. The unit types are lord, hero, champion, elite, and troops. Each with its own cost in war scrolls.

    Lords-> do not cost anything they are free. you get one to start your army plus one for every six war scrolls you have. So a battle of 7 war scrolls you can have up to 2 lords. A battle of 12 war scrolls you can have up to 3 lords.

    Hero-> 4 war scrolls
    Champion-> 3 war scrolls
    Elite-> 2 war scrolls
    Troop-> 1 war scroll

    We left the sudden death rule to be determined by the number of lords you have. If your opponent has more lords than you then you get the sudden death rule. This will help when it comes to how many lords you will take. When a data card states that this unit can have 5 or more models, that unit only has 5 models but you can pay the cost in war scrolls to add an additional 5 models or whatever number is on the data card.

  22. Has anyone considered that this edition of WFB will be crowd-sourced?

    Let’s imagine this scenario for a moment.

    We are at the start of version 1.0
    We play the game, we share the experiences and adjust the rules.
    The community could make the game they want to play.

    Why are we waiting for GW to give us a point system? Make one yourself, share it with the world, combine ideas and hopefully version 1.1 will be closer to what everyone wants.

    Personally, my game group see AOS as a breath of fresh air bringing us back to a hobby that took second or third place to life and fresher games.

    We enjoy the quick pace and smaller size of the games. We much rather play 3 quick games instead of one long drawn out one.

    Best of all, if we noticed something was off, we made adjustments. We are not afraid of house rules and neither are the stores we play in.

    In short this is our chance to build whatever game you want.

    • I would be fine with letting the community develop its own system if I wasn’t afraid GW legal would come a knockin’ complaining about copyright infringement (or is it copyrighted if the documents are freely distributed online? I’m not a lawyer…).

      If they are as a company going to stick to their guns on not supporting a point based system for unit balancing, it would be nice if they released some kind of fair-use(?) license allowing the modification and re-distribution of their warscrolls.

      I for example am a software engineer – i could write some AI algorithms based on their data tables to simulate as many combat situations as I wanted and relatively easily define a pretty balanced point value that would likely be as balanced as any point system put out by GW themselves – and I might actually do this for myself given the current state of things, but I would be afraid to distribute such a tool without some kind of license from GW (i’ve heard of army builders for various games in the past being shut down, and who knows if persecuted, presumably for copyright infringement).

      • I don’t know of any GW legal challenges to the Independent Tourney scene which does some pretty serious comp/erratas/etc… all using GW IP. Essentially, community generated balancing of the game has been happening for years, much of it posted and distributed on the internet.

        If you attempt to profit from your creation that is heavily using GW IP, or remove some ability for GW to profit from their IP then I might expect a letter from a lawyer or 12…but a challenge to a community comp system would be unexpected in my experience.

        • One has heard from Tourny organisers from a while ago who said they had received a C&D style letter stating they were not to mention GW in any official capacity or advertising with regards setting up a gaming event to see the final play off’s with the Tournament, non profit.

          All they asked is if they needed to be aware of anything, and the official response was ‘we do not want to be associated with you or what you are doing.’

          Mantic have always been more inclusive and showed a spirit like the older Bryan Ansell GW days.

    • Aye, great sentiments – we did much the same with Classic Battletech, when FASA showed a great deal less understanding than GW are demonstrating.

      I sounded a little aggro with Ozbombs, below – but GW don’t owe us anything. I’ve had 20+ years of fun out of their games and IPs, and I’d hope for 20. I’ve grown up in that period – and I now understand the business mechanics. I’d rather they took steps to survive and thrive, and did so now, than we lost something we would genuinely regret. I’m no more immune to the change curve than Oz, but I think I’ve been a bit quicker through it.

      That’s me: They had to do something, so they did – and they did so in such a fashion that it might start to pull new people in again, and bravo for that.

  23. Gav Thorpe,

    You owe us an explanation.


    This isn’t against the folks who like AoS (good on you) it’s about the other half that feel betrayed…. why?

    We have been good consumers and clients for a long, long time. Your own organization’s half-hearted and incompetent business decisions were not our fault. So, why punish those who stuck around and, worst of all, why no communication?

    You and your company have some serious fences to mend right now, or you will lose a lot of us- not just WHFB players, but I guarantee you a lot of cross-system players (40k & FB) are not impressed with your business practices.

    And a Nuremberg defense will not do- you cashed your paycheques, and thus, were complicit with these decisions.


    • Errr, what? Gav hasn’t written rules for GW in a long time. He writes novels, freelance, for BL.

      What you meant to say is ‘I don’t like change therefore I demand no change and YOU, name whom I recognise from some years ago, must be responsible!’. Nuremberg defence?! What a load of drivel.
      Have GW come round to your house in a van and confiscated all your old stuff? Are GW threatening you with death unless you buy the AoS box?

      Or are you just an entitled arse?

    • What makes you think a freelance writer owes you an explanation? Check your privilege, sunshine.

      Google “change curve” and let me know where you think you are on it – Goldman Sachs? Nuremberg? As the other reply noted: Wow, just wow.

      Glad you mentioned business practices. Whilst you have Google open look up “product lifecycle” – sorry, ‘oldtimers’, but you weren’t providing the revenue your demands suggest. A change was needed, lest WFB wither on the vine.

      • Wow. Customers.
        Sometimes I want to carry my poleaxe to work… It gives me some kind of security.

        • Just your poleaxe? For 15pts you could swap it for a power sword and bolt pistol!

  24. Everyone is jumping up and down over the changes yet the Oldhammer Movement has been going for awhile now and sees regular events at Wargames foundry with players playing the older games and classic minis.

    You also have various versions you can still play and other games like God of Battles by Jake Thornton or KoW from Mantic.

    Rather suspect from chats with people at WW this is more a move from the GW V’s Chapterhouse and IP. GW are looking to change styles and names so they can set up specific Trade marks and Patents, and this is a way to do this. GW can do what they like and will as they do not owe the buyers aything, this is no different to a clothing or food store, until people vote with there money and go else where.

  25. And why is it so important for some, including Gav Thorpe, to make a clear cut division between competitive and Casual.
    I am very Casual in many ways. I try to make my armies fit the fluff. No steamtank for Stirland!
    But when my fluffbased army with named character face my friends fluffbased VC army, I damn sure play to win! I agree, sometimes we do things because of the coolness and boldness, but we are both historIcal gamers too and we damn sure try to win. The challenge of a historical game is not repeating the result but to try to turn the tables. My greatest memories are seeing my persians crushing Alexander at Gaugamela and when my english smashed Bruce at Bannockburn.

    I believe in getting “realistic” force together and then do your beat with it. In a wargame you play the part of the commander and it is not part of a commanders job to waste his troops in vann. Also, I create names for my regiments, I keep tack of their performance and history. I would let them down not trying me best, and I would also let my friends down for just handing them the victory. We like to grmbl about past slights and how honour demands satisfaction. And nothing hurts us more then when a fight turn onesided from the start.
    We play to win but also to test ourselves. We want damn nearrun things going on till the end if possible. Historical battles based on real engagements are rarely that, not the battles written about which are great Victories and defeats, but the less well-known engagements with inconclusive results are challenge for both.

    So why am I, mostly called a soft fluffbunny suddenly being felt let out? I want field battles representing thousands of troops. If I wanted an occasional skirmish there was already Warhammer skirmish!

    • The most dreadful thing is it seems the fluff has been scrapped.along with the old game and with nothing really to replace it.

      I haven’t played warhammer in years but would see little reason for new players getting into AoS without any type of warhammer games greatest asset. It’s setting.

  26. I’m having tons of fun in 40k right now but if that game also goes in the same direction I’ll be forced out of GW games. Not because I want to, or hate GW, but because I’m just not interested in buying miniatures just to look at them. I’m not quite prepared to move to Kings of War and/or Infinity, but I definitely will if 40k is destroyed.

    What did I learn from AoS? Don’t get too attached to your miniatures. I was lucky and sold all my fantasy miniatures 6 months ago.

    • Will you feel as lucky when they release the rules for your old miniatures? Honest question, and its interesting reading these comments – that people feel forced out of a game that, in newbie experience, I felt I couldn’t get into.

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  28. Now that some more info on AoS is out I think few can call it either competitive or narrative driven as both any real setting or any veneer of balance (however false) is now gone.

    It seems warhammer fantasy, having become a commercial liability, has simply been shut down and AoS is the lights being left on to shift any models still being manufactured.

  29. Its true that gw is a model company first, but its the game that convinces me to buy overpriced plastic. Yes the kits are nice but I didn’t purchase 40 skeletons because I thought the first 30 would be lonely

  30. Yes we’re so lucky! Thanks aos we’ll never see a new Warhammer supplement,campaign,book or novel, no more miniatures for Old World and other continents of WHFB, we’ve to keep ET as Warhammer ending -.-“. I don’t understand what’s so nice about those things.

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