AoS Shorts: Your Essential Guide to Age of Sigmar

General’s Handbook 2017 – Impact on Tournament Play

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This episode sets out the key changes introduced by General’s Handbook 2017 to tournament matched play for Warhammer: Age of Sigmar.  As all the Games Workshop advertising has made clear, the game has changed again!  While the fundamental principles of the game remain the same, almost all of the key inputs relevant to Age of Sigmar as a tournament game have changed.  We have new battleplans, new points values, new allegiance abilities and the new allies mechanic allowing you to retain the benefits of a faction allegiance while supplementing your army with units from other factions.

We have been deluged with an unprecedented amount of information by Games Workshop in the week leading up to this release.  We have had daily Warhammer Community articles, Warhammer TV videos on Facebook, daily Twitch streams, and additional podcasts, blogs and forum threads from members of the external playtesting team.

Throughout the week I have tried to collate this information in one handy location, while also providing short bullet point summaries of all the key details from the Twitch stream – you can check them out on this site (First Blood, Order, Chaos, Destruction).

Now, given this information overload, I’ve thought how can we at AoS Shorts help? What can we add that has not already been covered or will be covered by the other Age of Sigmar podcasts and YouTube channels, is not purely speculative, and has value?

The answer, I hope, is this episode on what you need to know if you are preparing for a tournament in a month’s time using General’s Handbook 2017.  You may even have one this weekend, for instance if you are in the Mid-West, USA, or next weekend,  BLACKOUT in the UK.

I’ll start with a brief recap of all the major changes, comment on how they are likely to impact on list design and finish with some thoughts about how General’s Handbook 2017 will affect tournament play (this part may be little more than informed speculation, but I hope you’ll indulge me).  Please note, that this episode has been written and recorded without seeing the new FAQs, compendium points and Forgeworld changes that are promised on release day.  So with that proviso, on with the show.

Update: the FAQ and points are now up – you can find them in one handy text-searchable and indexed PDF in the resources section.

General’s Handbook 2017: the top 10 changes you need to know!

Everyone loves a good top 10 list and it seems appropriate for this show.

1. New Rules of One

The General’s Handbook 2017 amends the existing Rules of One and adds two more.

  • The roll for priority at the beginning of each battle round cannot be modified or re-rolled.  However, abilities such as Archaon’s which allow you to know who will have priority in advance, still work because they do not modify or re-roll the priority roll.  The Coven Throne is another unit unaffected by this change to the Rule of One.  For more information on the priority roll and how to manage it to the best effect in game, see my previous priority roll article but bear in mind that part of it is now invalidated by this rule change.
  • No artefact of power (or similarly named items) can be taken more than once in the same army.  However, prayers remain immune from the Rules of One and certain abilities can still stack (as always, read the wording of the abilities carefully).
  • Amendment: as well as a roll of 1 always failing to hit or wound, a roll of a 6 will now always succeed.  Games Workshop also took the opportunity here to reinforce the often mis-played core rule that re-rolls occur before modifiers apply.  Given how often this rule causes confusion, I’ll do a separate show on the topic in the future.

2. New Battleplans

There are six new Pitched Battles designed to test the tactical skills of players in a variety of situations: Knife to the Heart, TOTAL CONQUEST!, Duality of Death, Battle for the Pass, Starstrike, and Scorched Earth.  These battleplans are intended as additions to the existing six Pitched Battleplans in the General’s Handbook.  Some of the new battleplans:

  • are amended versions of the older missions;
  • favour new list builds (predominately units with 20+ models, but also behemoths); and
  • one (Scorched Earth) introduces a new mechanic where you can destroy objectives to take a chance at scoring more points.

3. Allies

You can now add Allies to your armies.  This mechanic allows you to select units from other factions in your army without foregoing the benefits of your faction allegiance abilities (such as spells, artefacts, command traits, battle traits etc.)  The General’s Handbook contains a table of how many allies you can take, depending on the size of your army (for instance, you can use 400 points of your 2000 points army on allies).

Each faction has its own allies table of factions it can ally with.  These choices have largely been made to fit with the lore of Age of Sigmar.  For instance, Sylvaneth can take Wanderers and Stormcast Eternals as their allies.

Allies will allow you to fill holes in your army list to cover your weaknesses or emphasise your strengths – add wizards, artillery, behemoths etc. as required.  However, note that allies can’t be your general or count towards your battleline requirements.  Allies do count for your maximum number of leaders, behemoths and artillery.

Finally allies don’t gain the keyword of your main faction allegiance, so can’t be given artefacts or command traits and in most cases won’t benefit from allegiance abilities as they don’t have the necessary keywords.  This is the same approach as with the mixed-faction battalions in previous battletomes.  There are some exceptions, for instance, in Slaves to Darkness there is an ability which affects a CHAOS HERO, which could be one of your allies.

4. New allegiance abilities

The General’s Handbook contains a whole host of new options for certain Age of Sigmar factions.   These options are intended to provide more variety to factions and tie these factions even closer to their lore and background.  The factions which benefit are Darkling Covens, Dispossessed, Free Peoples, Fyreslayers, Seraphon, Wanderers, Brayherd, Slaanesh, Slaves to Darkness, Pestilens, Skryre, Flesh-Eater Courts, Nighthaunt, Soulblight, and Ironjawz.  All of these additions add flavour – for example, herdstones for Brayherd, the Wanderers’ ability to retreat and shoot and the great plagues of Pestilens.

5.Changes to existing allegiance abilities

There have been significant changes to existing allegiance abilities and artefacts.  Popular choices for Chaos, Destruction and Death have all been altered.  We understand the intention behind the change to be to increase variety by removing obvious choices.

6. Mounts

The rules team has added a new rule regarding how abilities affect mounts.  Any command abilities or magical artefacts can only be used to affect attacks made by the hero, and have no effect on attacks made by their mount unless specifically stated otherwise.  I’ll be interested to see if there is an FAQ which explains whether an ability that refers to “the model” is considered as specifically including the mount or whether it has to say it applies to the hero and its mount.

7. Changes to battlefield roles

Games Workshop has reviewed the pitched battle profiles for every unit in Warhammer Age of Sigmar and changed many of them for General’s Handbook 2017.  There are now far more choices for your general and more units which will count as battleline, if your army is a particular allegiance (“battleline, if” units) – for instance, Daughters of Khaine can have Doomfire Warlocks and Sisters of Slaughter as battleline units.  All of these changes are indicated by the red star you see alongside the entries in the pitched battle profiles.

8. Massive Regiments

Massive Regiments is a new mechanic in which certain units become cheaper (per model) if you field the unit at maximum size.  For instance, Dryads are 100 points for 10, but only 270 points if you take 30 in the same unit.  The general rule is that every standard infantry unit in the game has access to the rule.  Infantry units with missile weapons don’t benefit from the Massive Regiments rule (except for a few limited exceptions, skinks, gutter and night runners).

As I get on to later, expect to see more large units on the tabletop.

9. Points changes

The points for a substantial number of units and battalions in Warhammer: Age of Sigmar have been changed – either up (Skyfires, Kurnoth Hunters) or down (Nagash and Jabberslythes).

What has probably received the most attention this week is that there have been significant increases in the points costs for battalions.  In many cases increasing by a multiple of 2, 3 or more!  These increases have been to reflect the benefits to an army of receiving an extra artefact and the ability to have fewer drops (see the deployment show for how battalions provide substantial benefits to deployment and dictating the first turn).  To understand the thinking behind the change, I highly recommend watching the Jervis Johnson interview on Warhammer Live this week, or reading my summary.

10. New FAQ, Compendium and Forgeworld points

Finally, Games Workshop have confirmed that there will be an FAQ published on Warhammer Community on the release date, alongside a PDF of pitched battle profiles for compendium units and new Forgeworld points and warscrolls.

Preparing for your General’s Handbook 2017 tournament

So, what does all this mean for you if you are preparing for your first General’s Handbook 2017 tournament this month?  The principles of good list design are unchanged (I’ve covered them in a previous episode) – you need to consider reach, board control, resilience, damage output and risk – but your inputs to that assessment have changed.  So to can we expect a change to the global and local tournament meta (the likely lists that you will face at a tournament and need to account for).  So how do you solve this new puzzle?

At the outset the key drivers for the changes are the new battleplans and the Massive Regiments rule.  After those, the introduction of allies and the changes to the allegiance abilities are likely to have the greatest impact on your tournament meta.

In addition to the previous list design factors emphasised by the pitched battle battleplans, you now need to consider behemoths and large units.

Behemoths – either bring one, or learn how to deal with them

You need to consider behemoths for the Duality of Death scenario – either in adding them to your army, or being able to counter those brought by your opponent.  For example, behemoths can either be tied up by your mobile disposable units or have their effectiveness reduced by chipping off wounds at range.

Behemoths are not mandatory, as heroes can still score in the scenario, but we can expect to see more of them.

Large units – making the most of your units with 20+ models

You are also likely to need at least one large unit of 30+ models.  Two of the scenarios, Total Conquest and Battle for the Pass, have an additional rule that allows a unit of 20+ models to seize control of an objective, even if the opponent has more models around the objective (if they are from different units).  There are important things to note:

  • As Ben explained on Bad Dice Daily, you only need to have one model from that 20+ unit in range, to seize control of the objective.
  • You can only control one objective with a unit.  So you can’t string the unit to claim several objectives.  However, if the unit is resilient, you are still incentivised to extend the unit out to control board space and block your opponent from scoring the other objective.  Denial can be just as important as positively holding an objective.
  • Consider ways that you can support and reinforce that large unit – a large unit is a single target for buffs and is one combat activation – so make use of it.  Also prepare for ways that your opponent will try to take down that unit, by adding battleshock protection (whether through Inspiring Presence, or the Order and Free Peoples allegiance abilities for example)
  • It is an advantage if that large unit is relatively mobile (or can be moved by a spell or ability).  You need to get onto objectives quickly and force your opponent to try and dislodge you.

Dealing with large units

Consider how you will be able to remove or minimise your opponent’s resilient large units:

  • do you have Drycha, a Gaunt Summoner, Acolytes or Plagueclaw Catapults which have attacks aimed at large units or bonuses when targeting large units?
  • Remember, you don’t need to destroy the entire unit – it may be enough to simply reduce it below 20 models in order to remove the scenario benefits or the extra benefits on its warscroll (such as Grots which get benefits based on the size of the unit).
  • can you reduce their bravery and have them lose more models from battleshock?
  • can you snipe out their support characters – such as the Free Peoples general which is making all the units nearby immune to battleshock?
  • finally, can you block up the large unit with multiple small units of your own?  can you pin them in place by tagging them on the end of the line with a resilient and mobile unit such as Kurnoth Hunters?


As I’ve said earlier, use allies to fill gaps in your army – units that perform a role you previously did not have access to.  Need a large resilient block? need some cheap mobile and disposable units? need a ranged threat, for instance spear chukkas in an Ironjawz army? need a way to take out large hordes?

Also consider allies for reinforcing the key units in your main faction – for instance, with additional buff spells or abilities which may apply.  Just check the keywords to make sure the combination will work first!

Allies are the best way of achieving these ends.

Crystal ball time – the tournament meta

Now we reach the crystal ball part of the show.  As I’ve counselled earlier this week, it is important not to jump to conclusions based on leaks or information in isolation.  While we can make some informed comments about the likely future tournament meta, no one can accurately predict what will happen once a 1,000 tournament gamers get hold of the General’s Handbook 2017 and start trying to break the game apart.

However, I know many of you listeners are hanging out for some predictions.  So these comments are offered with a large heaping of salt:

Likely top armies

  • it seems to us that the following armies remain strong:
    • Blades of Khorne – cheaper Bloodletters, Reavers and Bloodthirsters;
    • Disciples of Tzeentch – cheaper Tzaangors, horrors, despite the changes to Skyfires and the Lord of War;
    • Kharadron Overlords – still able to field powerful lists despite the change to Thunderers and Khemists – expect lots of shots from Arkanaut Company;

Impact on mixed Grand Alliance forces

  • mixed Chaos, Destruction and Death have all been impacted by changes to their allegiance abilities which will require them to come up with more options.
    • Chaos has had changes to Lord of War and Crown of Command;
    • Destruction has had a major impact with the change to Rampaging Destroyers; and
    • Death has been affected by the reduced range of the Deathless Minions and the Ruler of the Night rules (presumably to balance the benefits from the Massive Regiments rule).
  • These have been off-set by allied options, more faction allegiance abilities and some tweaks to battlefield roles and points.  It is possible that many of these forces will instead move to single-faction armies with allied contingents.  Keep an eye out for the Nurgle Cycle of Life abilities with the Blightwar box.
  • By contrast, Order seems to be a significant winner with the introduction of new faction allegiance abilities and innate protection to battleshock for large units.  Seraphon look particularly interesting – and given their magical dominance (with Slaan able to unbind from anywhere on the table) make sure your plans don’t rely on getting that one crucial spell off!
  • Plus every Order faction has the ability to have Stormcast as allies – lots of options.

Other comments

  • Movement as always in Age of Sigmar is key – both Wanderers and Seraphon have benefited from new abilities allowing them to move units where they need to be, or out of a difficult situation.
  • While I haven’t worked through all the possibilities, there seems to be some interesting tweaks to reinforcement points – check out the Ring of Immortality, the Slaan artefacts, and Slaves to Darkness ability to give you a free daemon prince on a 12 🙂

With the new scenarios and the possibility of larger units on the table it is more important than ever to be prepared with your army and the rules at a tournament game.  You need to move efficiently in order to complete your games on time – I recorded a range of tips and suggestions for this in a previous show.  This is a fundamental matter of fairness given that some of the battleplans, for instance Starstrike, really need to be played for all 5 turns.

Concluding thought

As a final comment, enjoy the extra options and variety to create armies you enjoy. It’s easy to get caught up with what is “tournament viable” or will succeed at the bleeding edge competitive level.   However, the reality of most tournaments is that you will not be exposed to the bleeding edge of what is theoretically possible.  It costs time and money to build an army.  You will most likely face a range of armies from your existing cohort of local players.  Those players now have more options and it will be great to see more thematic tools for Slaanesh, Seraphon, Fyreslayers etc.  Ultimately the goal for the General’s Handbook 2017 is to allow you to put a wider variety of troops on the table.

As always, you can find me on Twitter, on Facebook, and on TGA.  Let me know what you think 🙂



General's Handbook 2017


General's Handbook 2017

General's Handbook 2017


How to deal with Sylvaneth Wyldwoods

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Sylvaneth armies provide a unique challenge for opponents in that they have unprecedented mobility and ability to control board space.  There are also several related, but slightly different, rules relating to Sylvaneth Wyldwoods which means it can be hard to keep track.  This episode will explain how Wyldwoods work and how to counter them.

  1. Sylvaneth Wyldwoods – the rules
  2. How Wyldwoods benefit Sylvaneth armies
  3. How Wyldwoods can be brought onto the table
  4. How to beat the Wyldwoods

Sylvaneth Wyldwoods – the rules

A Sylvaneth Wyldwood consists of up to 3 Citadel Wood bases placed within 1″ of each other.   Each base must be set up within 1″ of each of the other bases in the Sylvaneth Wyldwood (i.e. the 3 bases must be in a cluster or clump, rather than a long thin line) – see the FAQ.

Before we go any further, if you are attending a tournament, it is worth checking to see whether there are any house rules limiting the number of bases which can deployed in one go, or be summoned over the course of the game.

There are two main rules for Sylvaneth Wyldwoods – a modified form of the Deadly terrain rules and the potential for mortal wounds.

Potentially Deadly to models other than Monsters or Heroes

If a model makes a run or charge move across, or finishing on, a Sylvaneth Wyldwood, roll a dice.  On a roll of 1, the model is slain and removed from play.  You do not need to roll for models with the SYLVANETH, MONSTER or HERO keywords.  So a Sylvaneth Wyldwood is more forgiving than Deadly terrain.

Note that this rule is not disjunctive – the Sylvaneth Wyldwood only captures run or charge moves, not any other type of move or set-up finishing on the Wyldwood (such as one occurring in the hero phase or a pile in).

Roused by Magic

Whenever a spell is successfully cast within 6″ of a Sylvaneth Wyldwood (even if it is unbound) roll a dice.  On a 5 or more, all non-SYLVANETH units within 1″ of the Wyldwood suffer D3 mortal wounds.  Note that:

  • both these measurements are in relation to the Wyldwood, rather than any particular Citadel Wood base (so you could hit models approximately 28″ away); and
  • any non-Sylvaneth units included in a battalion or as allies would also be attacked.

How Wyldwoods benefit Sylvaneth armies

An army with the Sylvaneth allegiance can place one Sylvaneth Wyldwood anywhere on the battlefield that is more than 1″ from any other piece of scenery.  This Wyldwood is placed after all other pieces of scenery are set up but before the battle begins and players choose territory or set-up their armies.  In essence, as soon as you approach the table at tournament.

Wyldwoods benefit Sylvaneth armies in four main ways:

  • mobility;
  • cover and other bonuses;
  • mortal wound output; and
  • board control.


Wyldwoods offer Sylvaneth armies flexibility in both deployment and movement during the game.

Deployment in the hidden enclaves

Instead of setting up a Sylvaneth unit or battalion, you can deploy it in the hidden enclaves.  In any of your movement phases, you can transport the unit (or battalion) to the battlefield.  When you do so, set it up so that all models are within 3″ of a Sylvaneth Wyldwood and more than 9″ from any enemy models.   This is their move for that movement phase.

Navigating the Realmroots

If a Sylvaneth unit is within 3″ of a Sylvaneth Wyldwood at the start of your movement phase, it can attempt to traverse the spirit paths instead of moving normally.  If it does so, remove the unit from the battlefield, then set it up within 3″ of a different Sylvaneth Wyldwood, more than 9″ from any enemy models.  Then, roll a dice and consult the Spirit Path table:

  • On a 1 the unit can’t do anything else for the rest of the Sylvaneth player’s turn (this result doesn’t apply to Treelords, Treelord Ancients or Spirits of Durthu, who can also navigate the realmroots regardless of whether they are in a Sylvaneth allegiance army or a mixed Order army);
  • On a 2-5 they cannot move further (but can act normally otherwise); and
  • On a 6+ they can move again during that same movement phase.

Two things to note here:

  • the Sylvaneth player must teleport between separate Sylvaneth Wyldwoods (rather than between Citadel Wood bases in the same Wyldwood); and
  • the teleporting unit only needs to set up within 3″ of that different Sylvaneth Wyldwood.  Unlike with the deployment rules, there is no requirement for all of the unit to be set up within 3″ of the Wyldwood.  Therefore, you can place one model within 3″ and then string the rest of your models out in a line (on to an objective for example) – see the main rules FAQ, page 2.

Finally, Tree-Revenants have a unique ability to move via the Wyldwoods.  If the unit still has a model with Waypipes left in it, then instead of moving in the movement phase, the unit can be immediately removed from play and set up so all of its models are within 3″ of a Wyldwood and more than 9″ away from the enemy.

Cover and other bonuses

At a more simple level, the Sylvaneth Wyldwoods provide units with cover and other buffs.

To be in cover, the entire unit must be in the terrain feature for the cover bonus to apply (see main rules FAQ, p 2).  Now there is some debate as to whether a model placed in the 1″ gap between the Citadel wood bases in a Wyldwood negates cover for the unit.  If in doubt, get a ruling from the tournament organiser before the tournament.

Sylvaneth units also get specific benefits from the Wyldwoods.

Mortal Wound Output

Sylvaneth armies in general lack mortal wound output (outside of Alarielle, Drycha, the Hunters’ Trample Underfoot rule and two spells).  So the Roused by Magic ability of Sylvaneth Wyldwoods provides a useful way to chip away at enemy units and characters, especially if you are running the Gnarlroot wargrove and casting 6 or more spells a turn.

A Treelord Ancient can also cast its Awaken the Wood spell, which has a similar effect to the Roused by Magic ability but on units within 3″ rather than 1″.

Board Control

Finally, the Wyldwoods provide the Sylvaneth player with board control – an essential element to success in Age of Sigmar.   You will often see a Sylvaneth player place their free Wyldwood onto an objective, or close enough to an objective that they can use the Wyldwood to seize the objective late in the game.

A good Sylvaneth player will also use the Wyldwoods to limit their opponent’s movement and zone off sections of the board.  Most tournaments that I am aware of will play that the trees in the Sylvaneth Wyldwoods can be removed, for ease of gameplay (imagine models brushing aside branches), but not allow models to move through the tree trunk holes on the Citadel wood base.  This means that Sylvaneth players can place their models in such a manner as to reduce the number of incoming attacks from their opponent or to prevent a large model from hitting a unit.

Now there are limits on how effective this strategy will be because of course models in Age of Sigmar are free to climb trees and other terrain (as long as they pay the necessary movement and are still within range with their weapons).  I myself have found myself defending an objective from a Stonehorn balancing precariously on top of a tree.  If you struggle with that mental image, just pretend that the Stonehorn has spent the extra movement to knock the tree down.

How Sylvaneth Wyldwoods can be brought onto the table

As mentioned earlier, each Sylvaneth allegiance army gets a free Wyldwood at the start of the game.  Subsequent Wyldwoods must be summoned by a spell, artefact or ability.

A Treelord Ancient can generate a new Sylvaneth Wyldwood in each of your hero phases on a roll of a 4+.

The Verdant Blessing spell can be given to any Sylvaneth wizard – Alarielle, Treelord Ancients, Branchwyches, Branchwraiths and Drycha – and it can generate a new Sylvaneth Wyldwood.  Alarielle also has the Metamorphosis spell allowing her to turn a destroyed enemy unit into a Wyldwood.  Finally, a Sylvaneth wizard can be given the arcane treasure, Acorn of the Ages – which allows the holder to generate a new Wyldwood

Each of these spells and abilities have slightly different rules about where the Wyldwoods can be placed (including at what range and how far away from terrain and enemy models).  Therefore, it is important to check the rules that apply to the particular method relied on.

How to beat the Sylvaneth Wyldwoods

Now, how do you beat the Wyldwoods and stifle the Sylvaneth?

  • deny the Sylvaneth player the ability to generate the Wyldwoods;
  • you stop them using the Wyldwoods once they are in play;
  • you neuter the effectiveness of the Wyldwoods by your own choices; and
  • you destroy the Wyldwoods or turn them to your advantage.

Stopping the Sylvaneth player generating Wyldwoods

The two simplest methods of limiting the impact of Sylvaneth Wyldwoods are to stop them coming onto the table in the first place.  You either do this by:

  • unbinding the Sylvaneth’s spells (for instance, by using a caster with superior range, think a Lord of Change in a Disciples of Tzeentch list unbinding at 27″); or
  • denying the Sylvaneth player the space to place the Wyldwood on the table.  A Citadel wood base is 7.5″ x 10.5″ and as a general rule will need to be between 1″ and 3″ away from other terrain and units.  Therefore, if you are playing a game on a well-stocked table (say 8-10 pieces of terrain) you can use fast-paced chaff units to move into the gaps on the board and deny the Sylvaneth player any space to place the woods or push them to put the woods in sub-optimal places.

Stop them using the Wyldwoods once in play

As discussed earlier, in order to teleport to the woods or deploy from them, the Sylvaneth player must be able to place the unit either wholly or partially within 3″ of the wood and more than 9″ from you.  So if you can place a model or two in the centre of the Citadel wood base then the Sylvaneth player will have nowhere to place their unit and can’t use that wood for their movement shenanigans.

Neuter the effectiveness of the Wyldwoods

There are a number of ways you can reduce the impact of the Wyldwoods when they are in play.

If the Sylvaneth player does deploy a unit from the hidden enclaves then they are arriving in the movement phase and won’t have the benefit of a Mystic Shield.  Hit them when they pop up before the buffs arrive.

Remember that the Sylvaneth Wyldwood’s Deadly ability only works on run and charge moves.  So when charging a unit in a Wyldwood, send only one model in to 0.5″ to complete the charge.  Leave the remainder of the unit outside the wood, but able to pile-in in the combat phase.  Even if the one model you sent into the wood dies to the Deadly test, you have still completed the charge and can pile-in.

Heroes and Monsters also do not have to take the Deadly terrain test, so if you have combat heroes (such as Gordrak or a Bloodthirster) then they are perfect for removing units entrenched in a Wyldwood.

Finally, Grot Spider Riders can also ignore the effect of Wyldwoods thanks to their ability to ignore the effects of all terrain.

Destroy the Sylvaneth Wyldwood or turn it to your advantage

You can also destroy the Sylvaneth Wyldwood or turn it to your advantage.

Destruction – Nothing Left Standing

As it now stands, and this may change with GHB2017, Destruction have an Allegiance ability called Nothing Left Standing.  In your hero phase, pick a terrain feature that is within 6″ of your general and at least 5 other friendly Destruction models.  That terrain feature no longer provides cover, and any scenery rules it has can no longer be used.

Knight Heraldor – Toot toot!

A Knight Heraldor is also an effective counter to Sylvaneth Wyldwoods.  In your shooting phase, pick a terrain feature within 15″ and roll a dice – each unit within that many inches suffers D3 mortal wounds.  This can have a massive impact on a Sylvaneth army huddled round its woods.

Auric Runemaster – Boom!

An Auric Runemaster can turn a Sylvaneth Wyldwood into an active volcano.  In your hero phase, pick a terrain feature within 20″ and roll a dice for each model within 1″ of it.  For each roll of a 6, that model’s unit suffers a mortal wound.  In addition, until your next hero phase, roll a dice for any model that makes a run or charge move across, or finishing on, this terrain feature.  On a roll of a 1, the model is slain.

Pestilens Party

And last, but according to local players Jim and Aiden, certainly not least, Skaven Pestilens – which has two abilities to turn Sylvaneth Wyldwoods to their advantage.

  • The Virulent Procession battalion can pick a terrain feature within 13″ of the Verminlord Corrupter at the start of the Skaven player’s hero phase.  Roll a dice for each enemy unit within 3″ of that terrain feature on a 4 or more that unit suffers D3 mortal wounds.
  • The Pestilent Clawpack (in the compendium) – After you have set up your force, pick a terrain feature within 13″ of at least two units from the Pestilent Clawpack. That terrain feature is befouled. Units from this battalion automatically pass battleshock tests if they are in or on any such terrain. Roll a dice for all other units that start the hero phase in or on befouled terrain; on a 1, that unit suffers D3 mortal wounds (Nurgle units never suffer mortal wounds as the result of this ability).



Target priority and threat assessment – making better in game decisions

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This episode is on making better decisions in game – how do you assess threats and decide on your target priority?  and then, once identified, how do you execute those plans efficiently on the table.  In Age of Sigmar, you could have a highly honed and efficient tournament list, but still lose because you have made poor decisions.

  1. Achieving the objective – the key metric for threat assessment and target priority
  2. Know thy enemy
    1. Review the lists when they are released
    2. Consider reviewing a short list of armies in detail
    3. Ask your opponent before the game
  3. Dealing with threats on the table
  4. Pick smart trade-offs
    1. Know your expected outcomes
  5. Order of activation important
  6. Dealing with buff units
  7. Keep your eyes on the objective

Achieving the objective – the key metric for threat assessment and target priority

First and foremost, to win at Age of Sigmar you need to play to the scenario.  This is a fundamental tenet.  Therefore, your approach to the game should be based on:

  • how you can achieve those objectives (by which turn and with which units);
  • your opponent’s ability to:
    • secure the objectives; and
    • stop you taking the objectives;
  • targeting those pieces in your opponent’s army which they need to win (such as heroes in 3PoP);
  • modifying your game plan according to the stage of the game and the position of objectives.

To do this, you need to have accurate information.

Know thy enemy

In preparing your list for the tournament, you should have already thought about the likely meta – i.e. the types of lists which you are likely to face and the relative proportions of those lists – and the strengths and weaknesses of your army.  If you haven’t go back and listen to my episode on good list design for Age of Sigmar.

Review the lists when they are released

If the tournament releases lists in advance, this is your first chance to prepare for the decisions that you will need to make at the tournament.  Do your homework.  Review the lists.  Does the tournament “meta” – i.e. the types of lists which are present and the proportions of those lists – match your expectations when you wrote your list?  Are there any surprises (an overwhelming number of Wanderers armies for instance)?

Depending on the size of the tournament and the amount of free time you have, you can decide whether to review all the warscrolls and battalions on a list by list basis.  Unless dealing with a very small tournament, it is unlikely you’ll have the desire or need to review all the lists in great detail.   You are only going to be facing 5/6 of the lists in the tournament anyway.

Consider reviewing a short list of armies in detail

What I will often do is identify a short list for further consideration.  These lists will be ones that are known to be very powerful (i.e. net lists), or ones that are being run by players I know to be good players, or finally lists which look like they will be very difficult for me to face (i.e. hard counters to my list).

For anything on the short list, I will review the battalion and warscroll rules and try to understand the synergies in the army.  In particular, I’ll be focusing on movement and damage output.

If I’m running a gun-line army, I may also consider allocating an order of target priority at this stage – target 1, 2, 3 etc.  Of course, this will need to vary depending on the scenario and deployment, but I find it comforting to know that I have a target run-sheet at least sketched out in advance.

Ask your opponent before the game

Once at the tournament, it is important to conduct due diligence on your opponent’s list at the start of the round.  If you don’t know how your opponent’s list works – ask!  They should have a hard copy of their army list to hand you (and you likewise for them).  The number of questions you ask, and the level of detail you need will depend on the circumstances.  If you are facing a clearly sub-optimal list then you probably don’t need to ask many.  If, however, you are playing on the top tables, it is worth understanding the key pieces of your opponent’s army in detail because even the smallest margins can swing the result between competitive lists.

I’ve set out here a selection of points you will want to consider:

  • how many “drops” does your army have?  See my deployment episode here.
  • what allegiance abilities, artefacts and spells has your opponent picked, if they are not named on their army list?
  • what do their battalions do?
  • do any units have particular deployment rules – off the table, on a table edge, 9″ away?
  • do any units have special movement rules – can run and charge, can teleport, can infiltrate, can retreat or disengage from combat on special terms etc?
  • what options do you have in your summoning pool?
  • understand threat ranges – how far can units move, run, charge and shoot/magic?
  • how are your behemoths effected by damage? i.e. is there a significant drop off in power after a few wounds?
  • do you have ways to heal or regenerate wounds?
  • is there anything which is a particular threat to your army?  For instance, when playing with my Sylvaneth, I always want to know where my opponent has mortal wound output and high rend.

Dealing with threats on the table

So once you have assessed the likely key threats, you now need to decide the best way to deal with them.  In reality you have four options:

  • Destroy – kill it;
  • Delay – in short, this means blocking its movement or keeping it in combat with your throwaway units – this can be harder for some units than others;
  • Minimise – if the key threat is a behemoth, it is likely that its effectiveness, and the amount of a threat it poses, will reduce after it has taken a few wounds.  For instance, taking three wounds off a Thundertusk will reduce its deadly snowball attack down from 6 damage, to D6 damage.  A similar effect occurs with Durthu’s sword.
  • Ignore – you may find that you don’t have the tools to deal with the unit, so you are better placed to ignore it and use your army to take out other pieces in the opponent’s army or seize the objectives.

Pick smart trade-offs

It can be tempting to throw your strongest unit into the biggest threat.  While this may be your only option in some cases, it can result in a rock paper scissors world where you will be at the mercy of the dice.

A better option can be found in game theory and often traced back to Sun Bin’s parable of the three horses.  This story of course being that if you are to have three horse races against an opponent, and you each have a fast horse, a medium horse, and a slow horse, then it makes sense for you to pair your slow horse vs their fast horse, your fast against their medium and your medium against their slow.  In doing so, you ensure you win 2 out of the 3 races.

So to convert that into Age of Sigmar, it may make sense for you to throw chaff units at their strongest threat, while you use your strongest and medium-strength units to tidy up the rest of their force.  It is for this reason that factions with strong “chaff” choices perform well – ideally you want your “chaff” to either be able to fill multiple roles (such as Brimstone Horrors) or be strong enough to also take on an opponent’s medium units (such as Blood Reavers).

Know your expected outcomes

To help you pick smart trade-offs, you need to know the expected damage output for your and your opponent’s units.  This knowledge will come with time and experience, but if you want to shortcut the process then “mathhammer” can help.  For instance, for my last tournament, I used the AoS Combat Calculator to work out the likely damage output of my 6 scythes unit in various situations (+1 to hit from the Hurricanum, re-rolling 1s against Chaos, and against different armour saves etc).  Those results are set out in the table below.  You’ll see that I not only calculated the average expected result, but also calculated one sigma above and below the mean (i.e. giving me the range of outcomes which are likely to occur 68% of the time).  Therefore, depending on the game situation I could decide whether to risk going for a high return or more conservatively rely on the “Sig Low” outcome.


Target Priority

Order of activation important

The order in which you choose to shoot your units or cast spells can be crucial to making sure you get all the available power out of your army.

Always shoot at your number 1 target first.  This means that if the first few units you choose underperform then you can pour more shots in from other sources as required.

When selecting your units to fire, always choose to shoot with the unit that has the fewest number of options first.  That way, if you do kill your target, then you haven’t wasted damage output, because your remaining units have other options that they can shoot at.

Dealing with buff units

Another issue that often arises is deciding whether to target a supporting character or the units which receive the buff – think for instance Sayl with 30 Bloodletters or a Tzaangor Shaman and several units of Skyfires.   While circumstances will differ, a handy rule of thumb is to take out the support character first if there are several units receiving the buff, but target the unit if their is only one unit receiving the buff.   An obvious exception to this would be where the support character has such an overwhelmingly powerful influence on the unit that it can’t be left alive – the prime example being the Savage Orruk Big Boss in the Kunnin Rukk.  However, be careful not to overextend with the wrong units – an unbuffed Rukk can still do quite a bit of damage to your precious units.

Keep your eyes on the objective

Throughout the game, it is important to keep your eyes on the objective.  In Age of Sigmar, it is not much of an overstatement to say that everything in your list is expendable but also that everything in your list is valuable.   Even sneaking the lowliest model within 6″ of an objective on the last turn in Gift from the Heavens for example can win you the game.  This is because it is a scenario based game.  If you need to sacrifice key pieces, so that a ten man chaff unit keeps scoring on an objective, you will do so.  Quite often you can have games where you lose all your models, but still beat your opponent because you have scored enough scenario points.  No longer is there the old concept of assessing units on the ability to make their points back.


The Priority Roll – How to plan for it and put yourself in the best position to win!

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The priority roll – love it or hate it – is a defining feature of Warhammer: Age of Sigmar.  It is loathed by those who feel it decides a game on one roll.  It is enjoyed by those who want the challenge of planning for multiple variables and always feeling in with a chance to swing the momentum of the game.

For me, I love the priority roll.  Age of Sigmar is not solely an application of mathematics.  While understanding risk, probability and expected outcomes are important to success they are not the be all and end all.  You need to adapt on the table and respond to your opponent and changing circumstances.  It is that engagement and challenge, the application of strategy and tactics to the variability of dice rolls that is why I love the game.   The priority roll adds replayability and keeps an underdog in the game for longer.

So how do you plan for a random dice roll?  If you are like me and you don’t have a Rainman-like ability to consider every possible permutation, what do you do? In this episode I set out how to account for the priority roll and the key points you need to keep in mind during the game.

  1. List design
    1. Chaff
    2. Mobility
    3. Redundancy
  2. Influence the Priority Roll
  3. Strategy
    1. Scenario
    2. Check threat ranges
    3. Buff your units
    4. Deter your opponent with counter-threats
    5. Push – make your opponent make hard choices
    6. Finish them – target selection is key
  4. Conclusion
  5. Further Resources

List Design

Planning for the priority roll begins with good list design and includes many of the features I discussed in my earlier episode.  Which you can find here.


Cheap disposable units – commonly referred to as chaff or flak –  protect your units by shielding them from charges and restricting your opponent’s movement should they get a double turn.


Mobile armies are less dependent on the double turn to achieve their objectives, and are more resilient and adaptable should your opponent get a double turn against you.


And finally redundancy built into your list will help you deal with the double turn.  If you have one powerful unit (or death-star) your chances in the game rest on its fate.  If your opponent gets a double turn they may be able to concentrate their forces and take out your key unit.  If you have several combat threats or damage dealing units then losing one of them has a correspondingly lesser impact on your chances of success.

Influence the priority roll

[UPDATE – the ability to influence the priority roll will be removed in GHB2017]

Outside of these general list design comments, there are also ways of directly influencing the priority roll (most famously, the now obsolete ability of Kairos Fateweaver to change an opponent’s dice roll to a number of your choosing).  Now it is important to check with the tournament pack because many tournaments will have a house rule limiting or removing the ability to effect the priority roll.

However, if there are no such restrictions, then there are two battalions and one unit which can help shift the game in your favour.

Lords of the Lodge

First, the Lords of the Lodge battalion for Fyreslayers.  This battalion is 160 points and requires you to take a Runefather, Runemaster, Battlesmith and 1 unit of Heathguard Berzerkers.  This battalion has the Hot Blooded Fury rule which allows you, once per battle, to declare before the priority roll that you want to seize the initiative.  Once you do so, you will add 1 to your priority roll for each hero from the battalion on the battlefield.  Therefore, you could have a maximum of +3 to the roll (an 87.5% chance of winning the roll).

Overlords of Chaos

Second, the Overlords of Chaos battalion from the Everchosen book allows you to know in advance who will be going first in the next battle round.  This battalion is 120 pts and requires you to take Archaon,  a Gaunt Summoner of Tzeentch and a unit of Varanguard.  If at the start of the hero phase, Archaon is within 3″ of the battalion’s Gaunt Summoner then he can demand a boon of prophecy.  Roll a dice and keep the result hidden from your opponent until the start of the next battle round.  Reveal it at the start of the battle round, and on a 1 to 3 your opponent takes the first turn, and on a 4 to 6 you take the first turn.

Skink Starseer

Third, and for me the most versatile and cost-effective method of altering the priority roll is the Skink Starseer.  It is 160pts and can be taken in a Seraphon army, mixed Order army or in the Sylvaneth battalions allowing Order units (most commonly the Gnarlroot battalion because you can cast two spells).    The Starseer’s Cosmic Herald rule allows you to choose a number on a D6 in secret at the beginning of each of your turns.  Your opponent does the same.  Unless your opponent picks the same number as you, you gain the number of re-rolls you have selected.  If the opponent does pick the same number, then they get the re-rolls! These re-rolls can be used on any dice roll, including the priority roll and  your opponent’s dice-roll (see the Order FAQ here).


So assuming you already have chaff, mobility and redundancy built into your list, and you can’t or won’t run the battalions mentioned in the previous section, how do you account for the priority roll on the table-top?


The scenario can have the greatest impact on how you plan for the priority roll.  Depending on the scenario, you may choose to give your opponent a double-turn.  This may seem counter-intuitive in isolation but can mean that you can win the game if you get a later double-turn.

In Blood and Glory, you can win a major victory at the start of the third battle round if you control each of the four objectives.  Therefore, having a double turn from the second into the third battle round can win you the entire game if you can take advantage.  Make sure you protect your objectives so that you don’t find the game slips away from you.

In Gift from the Heavens, the meteors arrive at the start of each of the players’ second hero phases.  Therefore, you may want to go second in the second battle round so that you have the advantage of knowing where both meteors are.

Check threat ranges

As always, be aware of the threat range of your units and your opponent’s units.  How far can they move, and then at what range can they do damage?  The most elite units of the game (such as Skyfires) will be able to cover most of the board if they get a double turn.  However, if your opponent is not particularly mobile, or has a short threat range, you may choose to give them an early double turn.

Buff your units

Prepare yourself for being on the receiving end of a double-turn by making sure your key units have all the necessary buffs and support spells placed on them.  You don’t want them to be facing two turns of damage output without all the protection they can get.

Deter your opponent with counter-threats

Set-up deterrents or traps.  This means moving your units in a way that they mutually support each other.  If your opponent gets a double turn and wants to threaten one of your key units, make sure you have combat support units which are close enough to pile in to help, or can counter-charge in the next turn.  Having enough supporting power in close proximity might mean that you deter your opponent from charging in the first place.

Push – Make your opponent make hard choices

If you are pushing a strong combat army, play aggressively to put your opponent in a tough position.  If they win the priority roll, they will have to choose whether to give the initiative to you (and on which you can capitalise) or take it for themselves (but potentially at the cost of bad match-ups).  As I’ve mentioned on previous episodes, the more you can make your opponent make tough decisions, the more success you will have.

Finish them – target selection is key

And finally, should you get the double turn yourself make sure you take advantage of it.  If you are facing armies that are dependent on regrowing or healing units (thinking Death and Sylvaneth here), make sure you kill off units completely while you have the chance.  Focus all your fire until the unit is gone.  There is nothing worse than leaving a model alive in a Necroknight unit and have a whole bunch pop back up next turn.


The priority roll is a key feature of Warhammer Age of Sigmar that adds drama, contestability and replayability.  While it may seem an unwelcome random element that does not reward strategy or gameplay, this is not the case.  The priority roll, like everything in a dice game, involves risk management and, with smart play, you too can win more games despite the dice roll.

Further Resources

Deployment – how to set-up to win games!

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Effective deployment is fundamental to success at Warhammer: Age of Sigmar.  While good deployment will not win you a game, poor deployment can leave your key units exposed, your key threats neutered and you quickly behind on the scenario.  So how do you deploy well?

There are so many variables involved in deployment – there are no guaranteed answers.  All you can do is have a plan to put yourself in the best position, and then adapt accordingly.  Therefore, in this episode I’ll give you a methodology for approaching deployment.

  1. Deployment and set-up: the rules
  2. Which side to choose?
  3. Why finishing deployment first matters
  4. Consider deployment in list design
  5. Battalions and deployment
  6. In which order should you deploy your units?
  7. Where to place your units?
  8. Deployment off the table
  9. Take the first or second turn?
  10. Conclusion
  11. Further resources

Deployment and set-up: the rules

Let’s start with the rules for deployment.  Each player rolls a dice.  The winner chooses territory and will start deploying first.  Players then alternate setting up units until all units are set-up.  The players that finishes setting up first always chooses who takes the first turn.

A unit is set-up even if it is not placed on the table-top but is instead deployed in a location other than the battlefield – for example, in the spirit paths, tunnels, clouds etc.

The scenarios will tell you where to set up and if there are any limits (for example, Escalation).  As a minimum, all units are at least 12″ from enemy territory.  Note that the FAQ has changed the deployment zones for Escalation – you can find a replacement deployment map made by @golongdesign in the resources section here.

Which side to choose?

If you win the roll off, you get to choose the side.  While you may be tempted to just stay with the side of the table you are standing on, just because you can’t be bothered moving your army or squeezing through long rows of gamers, it is worth deciding.

What should you take into account?  Assess where the mysterious terrain is on the board and the objectives for the scenario.  For the mysterious terrain, what would help your army?  Arcane for spellcasters, mystical or damned for a combat unit? What would benefit your opponent – i.e. can you deprive them of a piece of scenery that would give them a significant advantage.

The Double Turn – why choosing the first turn matters

Finishing deploying first is important because you get to choose who takes the first turn.  If you make your opponent take the first turn, then you have a chance of winning the priority roll at the end of first turn and getting a double turn early.  By getting the first double turn, you can dictate the early development of the game, swarm over objectives and neuter your opponent’s key pieces before they even really get started.   There are a couple of situations where you may consider taking the first turn and I’ll return to them later.

Consider deployment in list design

So you need to take deployment into account in your list design.  You need to think about the number of deployments, or “drops”, in your army.  So why have I said “drops” rather than units?  Because there are particular rules for battalions which mean you can deploy more than one unit at once.

Battalions and deployment

Units in battalions can be deployed in three ways:

  1. All at once (rather than unit by unit)
  2. Some units, and then the remaining units individually
  3. Unit by unit

If you choose to deploy the entire battalion at the same time, you can choose to deploy some of those units in a location other than on the table if they have that option available.

What you can’t do, however, is start dropping units individually from a battalion and then try to drop all the remaining units from the battalion in one go.  Once you start dropping a battalion’s units individually, you have to keep doing so.

If you are wondering where these rules are, they are tucked away in the hints and tips section of battletomes.  So if you don’t have a battletome, it is understandable that you might have missed it.  It is also worth checking the FAQs regarding “set-up”.

Some of the “super-battalions”, such as the Sylvaneth wargroves, give you the ability to deploy your entire army in one go.  While a one drop deployment will ensure you pick who gets the first turn (depending on the dice roll to set-up first) it also means that you deploy blind and lose the ability to react to your opponent’s deployment.

Most one drop armies, are made up of several battalions within a “super-battalion”.  Therefore, it is possible for these armies to deploy in one go, say 4 drops, 7 drops, or drop all units individually.  It is worth thinking through the permutations.  If you know you can drop in 7 drops, and still finish before your opponent, drip feed your units so you don’t show your hand too early, can react, but still get choice of first turn.

You should always ask your opponent the minimum number of drops they could deploy in – with super battalions, there might be a number of answers to that question.  Could drop all, drop one battalion and dip rest etc.

In which order should you deploy your units?

The order that you deploy your units in is important.

Start with your least important or highly mobile pieces, so should your opponent deploy on the other side of the board, you won’t miss the unit or the unit can redeploy quickly.

Leave your best or most vulnerable pieces until last until your opponent’s threats have been deployed.

It is more difficult to decide when to drop your buff pieces.  If you drop them early, you can make sure that all the following units deployed will be in range of the benefit.  However, the trade-off is that your opponent will know where most of your forces are going to be.

Where to place your units?

There are a number of things to take into account when deciding where to place your units.

Threat range

What is the threat range of your units and your opponent’s units?  Threat range is a combination of movement and damage range (magic / shooting / charge and reach).

Threat range needs to be considered in conjunction with the potential damage output of your opponent’s units.  The benefits of deploying within threat range may outweigh the small amount of damage that might be inflicted.


Of all the GHB scenarios, only Border War and Three Places of Power have objectives relevant to the first round (in that they can be captured and scored).   When deciding whether to seize those objectives, make sure you can hold them – why rush if that then means your unit is easily in charge range?  Do you want to push past and then retreat back onto the objective?

Forecast where the major battles will be – where are the objectives? Where are the gaps in the terrain? Where will their army be after the first turn?

Protect your key pieces – layers of deployment

It is important to deploy in a way that protects you from your opponent’s threats, especially if you are giving them the first turn.  This often involves “bubble-wrapping” or protecting your key units with less valuable units.  For instance, placing your low-value units in a ring at a distance so that your opponent cannot pop up some tunnelling stormfiends within shooting distance of your key pieces.

When doing so, try to consider whether you are blocking up your key combat pieces should the opponent engage your bubble-wrapping units in combat.

Therefore, you will often find yourself deploying in layers – starting with chaff units, your counter-punch units, support characters and then bows/artillery in the middle.


As you deploy, check your support bubbles – is everything in range of buffs you need?

What if you can’t dictate first turn?

If you can’t choose who takes the first turn, how should you deploy?   All you can do is make the most of the situation.  Threaten key pieces by being aggressive yourself.  Make your opponent question whether to take the first turn.

You want to pose questions of your opponent.  The more decisions you make them take the more likely they are to make an error.

Deployment off the table

In Age of Sigmar, a number of armies have the ability to deploy units or entire battalions in locations other than the table top or in your deployment zone.   These include:

  • Sylvaneth, deploying in the trees
  • Overlords from the sky
  • Stormcast
  • Skaven in the tunnels
  • Fyreslayers, tunnelling underground
  • Gutter runners
  • Shadow warriors
  • Night runners
  • Changeling
  • Battalions – Ghoul Patrol, Wanderers, Winterleaf (can deploy through an Ophidian Archway)

Its also worth noting that some armies can summon units on to the board in the first turn, effectively gaining the ability to deploy units outside the usual deployment zone.   Summoning will be covered by a separate episode.

So what do you need to know about alternative deployments?

Most of these rules allow you to bring units on at your choice in one of your movement phases.  This will mean that for most of these units, they will have missed the hero phase, usually won’t get the benefit of command abilities or spells, and count as having moved so cannot move again.


Also, most of these units will be required to be deployed outside of 9″ of your units.  This means that these units would have a 27.8% chance of making a successful charge under usual conditions.

The 9″ rule also means that you can deny your opponent the table space required by these abilities by making sure there are no ‘pockets’ of the battlefield more than 9″ away from any of your models.  For example, position models in the centre of wyldwoods if facing Sylvaneth etc.  So if take second turn, the risk is you wont be able to get units on the board in the best places.

As I’ve mentioned, if you deploy your armies in layers, it means your important pieces are even further away from the enemy units which have just popped up but you have units which can counter-charge within easy reach.

Do you take the first or second turn?

As I’ve said, in most circumstances you will want to give your opponent the first turn.  Most armies don’t have the reach to do anything effective on the first turn (armies are 24″ apart).  By reach, I mean the ability to move and attack to influence the game.

Also, if you have deployed models off the table, then there is little point in taking the first turn.  If you deploy those reserved models in the first turn, then you will normally not have any defensive buffs up for if your opponent gets a double turn from battleround 1 into 2.

You may want to take the first turn if you are able to survive the initial double turn, and you want the double turn going into the third battleround.  For instance, in Blood and Glory if you control all four objectives, starting from the third battleround, you get a major victory.

Other things to take into account are: Can you capture an objective without overextending?  Can you neuter their key units on first turn? Do you need to use your command abilities to survive the first turn?  Do you need to risk it (i.e. are you so outmatched unless you can do something unexpected?)


Deployment is the game within the game of Warhammer: Age of Sigmar.  Learn to do it well and you will set yourself up for more victories.



Scenery in Age of Sigmar – how to use it better!

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This episode will show you how to get the most out of the six most common types of scenery in Age of Sigmar.  Each of these can improve your army and help you win games.  But scenery can also hamper your army and your plans.  We’ll tell you what you need to know!

  1. What are the kinds of scenery in Age of Sigmar?
  2. Before the tournament – check the pack and consider scenery in list design
  3. Mystical terrain
    1. When do you take the test?
    2. Do you need to take the risk?
  4. Damned terrain
  5. Arcane terrain
  6. Deadly terrain
  7. Sinister and Inspiring terrain
  8. Conclusion and key takeaways
  9. Further resources

What are the kinds of scenery in Age of Sigmar?

In Age of Sigmar, there are six main types of mysterious landscapes or scenery used in matched play games.  They are Damned, Arcane, Inspiring, Deadly, Mystical, and Sinister.

Additional and more specialist scenery types such as Sylvaneth Wyldwoods, Realmgates and Balewind Vortices will be the subject of later episodes.  For now, this episode will show you how to get the most out of the six most common types of scenery.

Before the tournament – check the pack and consider scenery in list design

As preliminary points consider how scenery can be taken advantage of in your list and check the pack for any variations or house rules.

In a standard matched play game, and most tournaments, you will roll for mysterious terrain before sides are chosen.  A great way to do this is with Scenery Dice.  You can then mark with the dice or another token.  Other tournaments will have rolled the terrain before the start of the tournament and fixed the terrain festures for the entire tournament.

The other point to check is whether there is a house rule about when the effects of terrain occur in the hero phase.  By default, they happen when chosen by the controlling player.  You can decide whether to roll before or after casting spells, using command abilities or other steps.  As we’ll see there are circumstances where one order is more beneficial than another.  However, some tournaments house-rule that you must take the effects of terrain at the start of the hero phase.  So check the pack in advance.

Mystical terrain

roll a dice in your hero phase for each of your units within 3″ of this terrain.  On a roll of 1 the unit is befuddled and can’t be selected to cast spells, move or attack until your next hero phase.  On a roll of 2-6 the unit is ensorcelled, and you can re-roll failed wound rolls for the unit until your next hero phase.”

As you can see, Mystical terrain can either provide a significant benefit (re-rolling failed wound rolls) or cause your key combat unit or caster to stand around ineffectually.   If your unit is befuddled, then it is also at significant risk of being charged and taken out in combat as it can’t defend itself.

The effects of Mystical terrain are even more significant given that the effect lasts until your next hero phase – so if your opponent wins priority for the next battle round, and gets two rounds in a row, then you are potentially befuddled for that entire time.

Mystical terrain is most useful on units which:

  • get bonuses on their wound rolls (such as Grave Guard); or
  • have large range – which means that if they are befuddled for a turn, the impact on their role in your list is more limited than for a less mobile unit.

Therefore, there are two key considerations: when do you take the test? and do you need to run the risk?

When do you take the test?

Assuming there is not a tournament house rule, you get to choose when in your Hero Phase you test for the effects of Mystical terrain.  Whether you choose to do it before or after other effects depends on your army and the role of the unit potentially subject to the test.

If the unit is a caster or your general, you will probably want to roll for mystical after you have achieved everything else you want in the phase.  Cast your spells, use your command ability and then roll.  Or if you don’t want to take the risk of being befuddled, use a Hero phase move to get your unit our of the way first.

However, if you are going to be applying a lot of buffs to a main combat unit, then you will want to take the test first before applying the buffs.  As Terry Pike reminded me over Twitter, there is no point in buffing a unit to make it fly, increase its armour save, give it +1 to hit, whip them, add run and charge for it to just then sit there befuddled.

Do you need to take the risk?

Consider the game situation.  Do you need to take the risk that your unit will be befuddled?  Are you winning or losing?  Do you need to push?  Does your unit need a boost in combat effectiveness in order to take out a target unit?

Mystical terrain can have a massive impact on the game.  Just make sure you use it wisely.

Damned terrain

“if any of your units are within 3″ of the terrain in your hero phase, you can declare that one is making a sacrifice.  If you do so, the unit suffers D3 mortal wounds, but you can add 1 to all hit rolls for the unit until the next hero phase.”

Damned is great, especially if you have combat units with the ability to regrow wounds (think Sylvaneth Kurnoth Hunters) or resurrect models (again Grave Guard).

Ideally you want units that can take 3 mortal wounds and not lose effectiveness, or the effectiveness is greatly increased such that the benefit outweighs the cost of losing a few wounds (for instance, 30 Bloodletters).

In terms of timing, take the Damned test first, then cast your spell to regrow or heal your unit.

Arcane terrain 

“add 1 to the result of any casting or unbinding rolls made for a wizard within 3″ of this terrain feature.”

Arcane is a perfect piece of terrain for boosting your casters that can also be stacked with other items such as Ranu’s Lamentiri to improve your chances a spell will be cast.

While all casters will benefit, the greatest uses are for:

  • reducing the risk of failing spells with a low casting value or essential spells for your army; and
  • spells that get boosted by succeeding by a certain amount – Teclis for instance.

Scenery in Age of Sigmar

Deadly terrain

“roll a dice for any model that makes a run or charge move across, or finishing on, this terrain.  On a roll of 1 the model is slain.”

Deadly terrain can hurt.  All of your models, regardless of size or battlefield role, can be lost on the roll of a 1 – an 17% chance… ouch!

A local at a recent New Zealand tournament managed to lose Gordrakk and 4 brutes all in one turn on the same piece of deadly terrain.  Needless to say it was pretty much game over then.

There is no limitation or exception for monsters, heroes or behemoths and no saves of any kind are available.

The only exception are Grot Spider Riders who have a Wall-crawler ability that allows them to ignore terrain of all kinds.

Place a hero or unit in to gain the extra cover save bonus and if something changes them then they have a chance to lose those models.

If you do need to go near Deadly terrain, the key to remember is that it only takes effect if the model runs or charges through.  Standard moves, hero phase moves and pile-ins are all fine.  So, if you have to charge a unit that is stationed in deadly terrain, send one model in within ½” (all that is necessary to complete the charge) and then have the rest of the unit outside the terrain and pile-in.

Sinister and Inspiring terrain

The final two categories, Sinister and Inspiring, both effect a unit’s bravery.

For Sinister – “any of your units that are within 3″ of this terrain feature in your hero phase cause fear until your next hero phase. Subtract 1 from the Bravery of any enemy units that are within 3″ of one or more units that cause fear”

For Inspiring – “add 1 to the bravery of all units within 3″ of this terrain feature”

By altering a unit’s Bravery, one more or one fewer model is likely to run away from a Battleshock test.    Use a counter to remember which of your units causes fear.  NB: the fear effect from Sinister terrain does not stack so you get no additional bonus if 2 fear-causing units are within 3″ of an enemy unit.

However, Bravery is not just relevant for Battleshock tests.  There are a number of effects and abilities within the Death faction which are tied to a unit’s Bravery.  For example:

Lists which seek to maximise some of these effects (colloquially “bravery bomb” lists) will be the subject of a later episode.

Conclusion and key takeaways

The key point to take away is that scenery and terrain can have a significant impact on your game and can give your army a great boost.

When you are choosing table sides, and how you deploy your forces, take into account what kinds of scenery are on the table and how you can put them to best use.   Weigh the risk and reward of cover and the terrain effects to get the most out of your army.

Further resources



Tournament Play Tips for Age of Sigmar – finish your games and have fun!

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This episode provides tournament play tips for Age of Sigmar.  These practical tips will help you finish your games in the time allotted while still having fun.

From the outset, I would like to acknowledge that this episode builds on and reflects on previous podcasts and blog posts by Heelanhammer, Tronhammer, Nico and Jabber Tzeentch.  I hope this accurately captures their thoughts and mine in one short package.

  1. Completing your game on time – the social contract of tournaments
  2. List writing – can your army finish games?
  3. Practice, practice, practice – know your army?
  4. Practical tips for the table
  5. Conclusion
  6. Further Resources

Completing your game on time – the social contract of tournaments

For me timely play is a fundamental part of the social contract that we as gamers enter into when we turn up at the table-top.  That contract includes, in my view, a commitment to complete the game at a reasonable pace with an equitable split of time between the two players.  Most tournament games are between 2 and a half and 2 and three quarters long for 2,000 points.   It is both players’ responsibility to manage their time wisely.

Avoid the sour taste of a rushed or incomplete end to the game

No one wants to feel rushed through their decisions, but you also don’t want to feel that you are being slow-played (either deliberately or inadvertently).

If players do not use their time wisely, then you can find that you are left with the difficult decision of whether to try to fit another battle round in before dice down, play into a lunch break, or to rush through turns.  All of these can leave a bad experience, especially if you make crucial mistakes because you are rushing.

Armies are impacted differently by time – Some armies win in 2 turns, others need 5

Also different armies are affected by time in different ways.  Lists which do most of their damage in the first one or two turns are not affected if the game only gets to turn 3, while some grind or highly mobile lists which are dependent on capturing objectives late once an opponent are whittled down, need all 5 turns to execute their strategy.

I’m not an advocate of allocating a certain time to each player, and then enforcing those limits with chess clocks.  For me that puts an undue focus on time restrictions and ignores the realities that some lists take longer to move, shoot, fight etc than others.

Being time efficient while still having fun with your opponent

Efficient play does not require you to be rude or unengaging with your opponent.  Nor should it discourage banter and enjoying the narrative of the game as it unfolds.  Warhammer is a social game, even at the highest competitive levels.

I like to consider an analogy with golf.  In golf, the premise is that you take the time you need to take your shot, but you move efficiently at all other times so you don’t hold up play.  You don’t stand on the green to mark your card, you do it while walking to the next tee or waiting to tee-off.  While your opponent is taking their shot, you might be moving into position for yours in anticipation etc.

So what does that mean in practice for AoS?

List writing – can your army finish games?

At the list writing stage, think about how your army plays.  If you are running the Kunnin Ruk from Bonesplitters, and have 500 shots a turn, come prepared with enough dice, or perhaps don’t bring the list at all if you don’t think you can get through a game in time.

Practice, practice, practice – know your army

Nothing beats experience with an faction or a list to speed up play.

Read and re-read the rules.  To save time in game, especially with the move to electronic battletomes, scrolls, FAQs and rules, you may want to have a hard copy cheat sheet to act as a helpful reminder of what you need to do in each phase, including synergies, combinations and rules.  An example can be found here.

With my Sylvaneth army I also have a separate one-pager which has all the rules for my army (including any FAQs I rely on) – it’s a useful reference for me and I can share it with my opponent.  The one I used at my last tournament is here.

Play practice games with your tournament list.  Perhaps think about how your army will deploy in each scenario in advance – of course you will have to tailor for your opponent, but the changes will not be dramatic – know how many drops you have in your army.

Practical tips for the table

So what should you do at the event?

Pre-game: Moving your army and explaining your force

Think about how you will carry your army as you move from table to table – an open top box lined with magnetic sheet can be far quicker and easier to move models than a foam carrying case which is more ideally suited to long-distance travel.

At the start of the game, introduce your army to your opponent and offer to explain anything then.


Try not to deploy your units from foam – get the units out onto a side table (or the middle of the game table) before the game even starts.


Consider using movement trays for early turns.  I also use movement trays for packing models in and out of my box.  When removing casualties during the game it is easy to put them back into the tray and into your box, ready to move to the next table.

Pre-measure a charge in the movement phase – agree the required amount in advance.

There is no need to agonise over positioning when charging, for example, when you get to make a 3″ pile in during the combat phase.

Also in relation to movement, and depending on your opponent’s view, you may way to agree that you don’t need to measure for every model – move one first and keep the rest in line.  You may also want to combine destruction or other hero phase based moves and runs in one go for standard units.  It is normally not a good idea to do this for wizards, heroes or buffing characters where range (and their board position in a particular phase) matters.

Dice etiquette

Avoid unnecessary disputes – narrate your actions as you go so there is no confusion.

Have your dice ready – I always have piles of 10 in different colours, so I can easily pick up how many I need – don’t mix sets so there is no confusion over whether symbols are on 1s or 6s.

Roll in a set spot or clear space near the dice – don’t spend time hunting for dice.

Rolling attacks together if stats and rules are the same

Tokens and cheat sheets

Use markers and tokens – scenery dice, buffs, wounds etc.  I can’t really stress enough how much you need tokens. There will be so many synergies, rules and abilities in play affecting different units that you will want to keep track of them somehow.

Save time looking up rules by having a one-pager that contains all your rules in one place (example here).  Or a prompter to remind you of what you need to do each phase (example here).

Final points

Think in their turns – put your phone down and prepare that you might win the roll-off in advance.

Leave breaks for after the game – bathroom, drinks, smoke (or if you must, do it in the opponent’s movement phase).

If running short of time – discuss, even out turns, or could extrapolate out last turns.


So those are just some of my thoughts on efficient tournament play.  Let me know what you guys think.

As always, you can find on me on Twitter at @antipodean7 and other social media platforms.  If you enjoy the episode, please subscribe and leave an iTunes review.

Further Resources

How to write a winning army list for Warhammer Age of Sigmar

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So our first episode is on how to write a winning army list for Warhammer Age of Sigmar matched play.   We want to help you write better lists so you win more games!

Summary – what makes a winning list?

Proper list design is fundamental to success in matched play.  In this episode we will cover:

  • How do you want to play?
  • How do you win?
  • What are the tools your army needs?
  • What do you need to deal with?
  • A worked example


How do you want to play?

How you want to play is important.  You will only truly be successful playing an army that you enjoy playing.  Many, perhaps the majority of players have a style of army that appeals to them and they do better with that type of army.  You may find you are most suited to:

  • an alpha strike combat list;
  • a conservative, resilient grind list;
  • A horde list
  • A counterpunch list (which takes an initial blow and then hits back hard)
  • a highly mobile avoidance list that harries the enemy while picking and choosing its battles;
  • A gunline/bunker list which unleashes volleys of arrows, lead or aetheric fire while delaying the enemy from engaging;
  • a mixed arms list which allows you to compete in all areas of the game and against all-comers.

Think about how you want to play.

How do you win the game?

When designing a list you must understand what is required to win i.e.  to secure a major victory and achieve any secondary or tertiary objectives that may be in play.  This varies a great deal between tournament packs and between various battleplans.

The General’s Handbook scenarios emphasise bodies – large resilient units which can take and hold objectives.  With the exception of Three Places of Power which relies on heroes, most of the Handbook scenarios require you to outnumber your opponent at objectives on the board.  Now, while pure brute force and damage output alone may allow you to blow an opponent off an objective, you will still need a number of sizeable units to seize objectives.

Mistakes to avoid are having elite melee units or hammer units on guard duty on home objectives when they could be involved in the pivotal combats elsewhere.  For example, if your cheapest unit is a pair of Mournfang, then you will have a lot of idle points in a typical Battleplan.  Cheap Battleline units are well suited to guarding objectives as are ranged units (Judicators are perfect) that can hold objectives while still contributing damage.

Individual tournaments may introduce new scenarios or other objectives, requiring a different emphasis in list construction.  The South Coast GT and AdeptiCon are two prominent recent examples.  The SCGT Pack, for instance, placed greater emphasis on having a durable general and lots of heroes for the secondary missions.  It is always important to read the pack and, if you can, try out some of the scenarios in advance.

Depending on the size of the tournament, it may also be worth considering what the relevant tie-breakers are – are they kill points (which emphasise an offensive smash face list)?, secondary objectives? sports votes? Painting nominations?

Packs also vary in terms of the constraints on the list – is it a single 2,000pt list, or do you have a sideboard or choice of dual lists.  Are artefacts/traits and weapon options fixed or can they be changed between games.  IF they can be changed, that opens up the possibility that you can cover weaknesses in particular matchups or you can tailor to your opponent by, for example, picking a spell that will work on horde units.

What do you need in your army list?

There are five dimensions you should consider when designing a list:

  • Reach – the ability of your army to influence the game – this can either be through movement (think Destruction moves or teleporting Stormcast) or through threat range (think Skyfires moving 16″ and shooting at 24″ range or Kurnoth Hunters with bows which can deploy into a Wyldwood and shoot 30″).  It is always important to consider both the ability of the unit to move, and the range of any weapons they hold or spells they can cast;


  • Control – the ability to influence board space, both through having large enough units to cover board space and objectives, but also sufficient threats to dictate how and where your opponent will choose to deploy and move;


  • Resilience – can your army absorb an alpha strike or the turn one loss of a key unit?  can it survive a double turn?  the ability to endure and have redundancy in your list is key – how many wounds do you have? what are the armour and ward saves that protect those units? Can you heal wounds or add models back to units?;


  • Damage output – can you do enough damage (either normal damage or mortal wounds) to take down key threats before they hurt you?  Could you take out a Stonehorn or Durthu or Gordrakk before they start wrecking havoc in your lines?  This requires assessing several factors – the volume of attacks and likelihood that the damage will get through i.e. rend; the concentration of damage output (one Mourngul can squeeze into a smaller area than 15 Brutes, even if the Brutes have a higher theoretical damage output they may not all get into combat); whether the damage output comes from a good stat line (Hunters with Scythes) or by stacking buffs and synergies onto a mediocre unit (60 grots with sneaky stabbing and bellowing tyrant).


  • Risk –  does your list have bad match-ups, either with particular opposing armies or scenarios?  are the hard or soft counters to your army commonplace in the meta or are they rare?  how reliable is your list at achieving its objectives? Will it win 5 games at a tournament over a weekend?

Do the units you have picked meet these criteria?

It can be useful to assess the battlefield roles of units available to you in your chosen faction or alliance.  Some units will be effective hammers (think Retributors, Stormfiends, Morghast Archai), others anvils (Plaguebearers, Dryads  or Vulkite Berserkers) and some will be most effective as screens, chaff or flak units (Skinks, Clan Rats, Marauders etc).

The final filter is the points cost for the units in your army – is the unit providing its desired role at an efficient points cost, or can you achieve the same outcome at lower points cost elsewhere?

What do you need to beat?

Once you know how your army will work and achieve victory, you need to think about how your opponent will seek to undermine those plans.

What lists might you face?

The main threats that you are likely to face are:

  • Cross-map charges/teleporting – Destruction, Stormcast Eternals, Sayl, tunneling Fyreslayers, Stormfiends
  • Mortal wound spam – Clan Skryre, Disciples of Tzeentch, Bloodletter bomb
  • Gunlines with a 30+” threat range – Mixed Order with Hurricanum, Stormcast Aetherwing force, Skyfire spam
  • Highly armoured units – Sylvaneth, Fyreslayers, SCE
  • High model count armies – horde and chaff armies such as Moonclan grots, FEC, Skaven
  • Synergistic armies that rely on the abilities of a number of support characters to be effective – Savage Orruk Big Boss, Tzaangor Shaman, Necromancer.

What are the local lists in your area?

The “meta” or universe of likely lists that you will face at a tournament or event changes as new books and units are released, or points are changed.  This dynamic is part of what makes Warhammer so interesting to play.

What works against these lists?

Each of these will be the subject of individual later episodes, but in short, you’ll want to consider the following to counter these threats:

  • Cross-map charges/teleporting – chaff screens and redundancy;
  • Mortal wound spam – chaff screens and redundancy;
  • Artillery that shoot 35 inches – reach, movement, defences against shooting such as Protectors, Fulminators;
  • High armoured units – rend, mortal wounds;
  • High model count armies – high damage output, bravery/battleshock debuffs, modifying bravery;
  • Synergistic hero armies – sniping characters.


In the end, nothing beats testing and playing with your proposed army list.  If you are testing a new list, avoid the temptation to tweak it after every game – try running the same list through several games and you will have a much more accurate view of how it plays.

Further reading

For further reading, check out:

Next episode

Our next episode focuses on efficient tournament play.  How can you make sure your games finish on time without ruining all the fun?  Find it here.

Welcome to AoS Shorts

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Welcome to AoS Shorts, a series of podcasts, videos and blog posts on strategy for Warhammer: Age of Sigmar.  This series will help you get better fast.

Just what you need to know – bite-sized strategy

There is so much great information out there in the AoS community on strategy and tactics, but it is largely buried in 100 page forum threads, 3 hour podcasts or hundreds of hours of video.  Our aim is to distil this information for the time-poor gamer.

Each show focuses on a key AoS topic, such as list design, deployment, and scenarios,  and is accompanied by diagrams, tipsheets and a blog post for you to digest or refer to later.  We hope that these will be a useful resource for those of us that may not get to play regularly, but don’t want to spend the first two games of our next tournament remembering how to play our army and the game.

Who are we and where to find us?

We are matched play gamers from New Zealand.  I’m your host, Dan or @antipodean7 on Twitter. Working with me are James, Shaun and Tim, the former and current NZ #1 matched play gamers, and Andy who is providing graphics and design.

The information in these episodes is of course based on our own views and opinions.  Feel free to challenge and engage with us.

You can find me at @antipodean7 on Twitter or feel free to comment on the episode posts on Podbean, Facebook or TGA.  If you like what you hear it would be great if you can drop us a review on iTunes – it will help us reach more people.

Well that’s it for the introduction – on with the series.