Hey all, so today (Friday 21 June 2019) my preview copy of General’s Handbook 2019 for Warhammer Age of Sigmar arrived from Games Workshop. In this page, I’m going to do a full review of the book – open, narrative, and matched play. In short, this is probably the biggest overhaul of the pitched battle rules for matched play since the General’s Handbook was first launched – with significant changes to terrain and battleplans.
Now, most of the book has already been leaked or spoiled, so I’m going to try to give commentary along to add something to the wealth of content out there. Hopefully also having this in written form might help those who don’t have the time for the long YouTube shows. Please note, this review is a work in progress as I’ve had the book for four hours and am updating it in parts.
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General’s Handbook 2019
The General’s Handbook is a gaming supplement issued by Games Workshop for Warhammer Age of Sigmar. Now in its fourth iteration, the General’s Handbook provides a wealth of additional rules, ways to play, battleplans, allegiance abilities and matched play points. It is no overstatement to say that the original General’s Handbook fundamentally improved the course of Warhammer Age of Sigmar.
So what is in this year’s edition?
- Army Generator
- Optional terrain rules and maps
- Close-quarters battle generator (battleplans for small table sizes – for intro and “lunchtime” games)
- Hidden Agendas (often used as tie-breakers in matched play)
- Streets of Death
- Arcane Objectives
- Regiments of Renown
- A series of battleplans over Elixia, the Shattered City
- Raids and Ambushes
- Random name generators
- Mercenary Companies
- new Pitched Battle Rules
- 12 reworked battleplans
- suggestions for how to run Pitched Battle tournaments
- Meeting Engagements, a new playstyle for 1,000 point matched play games of Age of Sigmar, with six battleplans and rules for events
- Conquest Unbound
- Allegiance Abilities for Darkling Covens, Dispossessed, Free Peoples, Seraphon, Wanderers, Slaves to Darkness and Ironjawz
- There has been no change to the terrain warscrolls or the summoning rules from General’s Handbook 2018.
The General’s Handbook is also accompanied by a separate slim book of Pitched Battle Profiles containing the points, battlefield roles and allies for all the factions in the game. The list also covers factions which were in separate PDFs, such as Tomb Kings, the Legion of Azgorh, Tamurkhan’s Horde and Monstrous Arcanum.
Now let’s jump into the detail! It’s going to be a long one!
Open Play General’s Handbook 2019
Open play is intended to be the care-free, flexibile, approachable version of Age of Sigmar. Pick some units, pick some terrain and an objective, on any size table and roll dice and have fun.
Open War Army Generator
Open War Terrain
Open War Close-Quarter Battle Generator
Hidden Agendas are secondary objectives that can be used in your games (in addition to the primary objectives and rules in the battleplans). Hidden Agendas are often used in tournaments as a way of differentiating between players on the same results.
In short, you secretly pick an agenda after deployment, but before the battle begins, and try to achieve it during the battle. Once completed, you reveal your Hidden Agenda to your opponent. Note, some events play the secondary objectives as “open”, rather than hidden, and give you points for denying your opponent their objective.
Hidden Agendas have expanded from 12 options to 18. The new ones are:
- Obliterate – destroy 3+ enemy units in one turn
- Dominate – control at least 2 more objectives than your opponent
- Retake – gain control of an objective controlled by your opponent
- Overrun – have 1+ units in each of the four quarters of the battlefield when your opponent does not
- Sorcerer Supreme – kill an enemy hero with a spell from one of your wizards
- Onslaught – if you make a charge from 9+ inches away from the enemy
There is only one clarification to the one of original 12 Hidden Agendas. Centre Ground now specifies that you cannot score it if the battleplan has no objectives (which isn’t really a matched play problem).
Narrative Play in General’s Handbook 2019
Narrative play is all about re-enacting epic tales with friends or creating your own stories in the Mortal Realms. Think of it like co-writing a script – character back-story, motivation, and goals are all important. Keep an eye out for the Narrative Event Organisers (or NEOs) on social media and at We are the NEON, for great examples of narrative Age of Sigmar.
Streets of Death
Regiments of Renown
Elixia, the Shattered City
Raids and Ambushes
Six pages of D6 tables to generate names for heroes from Stormcast Eternals, Slaves to Darkness, Khorne, Nurgle, Tzeentch, Slaanesh, Skaven, Ironjawz, Gloomspite Gitz, Idoneth Deepkin and Nighthaunt. Skip these pages and visit the Realm of Plastic for a much wider and comprehensive collection of name generators.
So mercenary companies have received a lot of attention based on the Warhammer Community previews with some community concerns about mercenary companies crossing grand alliances (and potentially proving difficult to balance for matched play). Now we will have to wait and see whether mercenary companies are something adopted by independent matched play tournaments, but for now I’ll cover the main points here.
- you can hire one mercenary company
- one out of every 4 units in your army can either be an ally or a mercenary unit
- mercenary units don’t count to your allegiance, can’t be your general, cannot use or benefit from your allegiance abilities and can’t be a named character
- if a mercenary unit has the ability to add units to the board, then those additional units are allowed and don’t count to the 1 in 4 or allies points limited
- warscroll battalions can’t include mercenaries
- in pitched battle, your allies points allocation must be shared between allies and mercenaries
- mercenaries don’t count for battleline but do count for the maximum of Leaders, Behemoths and Artillery
- if you include mercenaries then you lose your turn 1 command point
- each mercenary company comes with its own unique additional ability
For some factions, mercenaries will unlock useful benefits (for instance, the Necromancer in a Nighthaunt army allowing summonable units to pile in twice), however for others the mercenaries will not be worth the costs. Also bear in mind that the mercenary units won’t be benefiting from their usual allegiance abilities and synergies from their own factions. And if you take a full mercenary company then you need a really high number of units in your matched play force in order to meet the 1 in 4 requirement.
The options for mercenary companies are:
- Fyreslayers other than Runefathers
- Tenebrous Court
- Flesh-Eater Courts other than Royal Terrorgheists or Royal Zombie Dragons
- The Sons of the Lichemaster
- Necromancer plus Zombies, Skeleton Warriors or Corpse Cart
- Order of the Blood-Drenched Rose
- Blood Knights with optional Vampire Lord
- Grugg Brothers
- 1-3 Aleguzzler Gargants
- Nimyard’s Rough-Riders
- Pistoliers, optional outriders and freeguild general
- Blacksmoke Battery
- cannons/organ guns with optional cogsmith, gyrocopter or gyrobomber
- chaos marauders with optional darkoath chieftain or warqueen
- Skroug’s Menagerie
- chaos gargant with optional spawn, warhounds, or furies
- The Gutstuffers
- firebelly with accompanying maneaters
Matched Play in General’s Handbook 2019
Matched play is about providing a (relatively) level playing field between factions to allow players to arrange games at their local store, club or to run events. The matched play pitched battle rules provide a common language for army-building.
Matched play games have typically been played at 2,000 points, with options also for 1,000 points or 2,500 points (give or take 250 points). Now Games Workshop have introduced a new matched play system for 1,000 points games, with fundamentally different rules to account for the game dynamics at the smaller size – Meeting Engagements. I’ll cover Meeting Engagements in more detail later.
The General’s Handbook 2019 has more information on Age of Sigmar tournaments than previous versions. There is an explanation of what you can expect and some suggested rules for running the events. Its a great acknowledgment of the healthy independent event scene.
Pitched Battles 2019
The Pitched Battles section of the General’s Handbook sets out the fundamental rules for use in matched play.
The pitched battle chart sets out how many units of leaders, battleline, artillery, behemoths, and allies that you either must take or can take at the different points levels. These allocations have not changed, nor have the rules for how you select your allegiance, restrictions on allies and the endless spells, and battalions.
Command points get their own heading because there has been a small but significant change for army-building. Previously you received 1 extra command point for every 50 points that were not spent on units. So if you built a 1900 point list for a 2,000 point game, you would get 2 extra command points at the start of the game (and probably a triumph for having fewer points than your opponent).
Now, you can only take 1 extra command point and you must pay 50 points for it. Not only does this mean you can have fewer command points to start, but also reduces your chance of getting a triumph because your include the cost of the command point in your army total. A subtle but interesting change.
Setting up the Battlefield
How you set up the battlefield in a game has now seen significant change and has caused a lot of consternation online based on leaks – in particular, because it is now impossible to set up Gnawholes…. Now, Games Workshop have already said on Warhammer TV that the rules for placement of terrain will be addressed in the FAQ and Designers Commentary for General’s Handbook 2019 and have suggested not using these rules until these documents are out. While we can all question why this issue wasn’t picked up in playtesting, it seems it will be fixed at the first opportunity.
After objectives have been set up, the players now alternate setting up 5 pieces of terrain on the battlefield each. The book says that each player should set up 3 primary pieces and 2 secondary pieces:
- primary pieces are Azyrite ruins, Citadel Woods, Arcane Ruins, Dias, Oculums etc and unique terrain that is up to 10″ wide and tall’
- secondary pieces are walls and fences or unique terrain that is less than 6″ wide and 4″ tall
Terrain must be set up more than 6″ from the edge of the battlefield, more than 6″ from other terrain features and more than 3″ from any objectives.
These rules also apply to faction terrain (Wyldwoods, Charnel Throne, Deepkin Boats etc), which are set up after the table terrain. If there is no space for the faction terrain then you can’t set it up. The express rules of the General’s Handbook override the specific rules on the faction terrain warscrolls.
While I see the aim to have even spacing and to stop people barricading off objectives with large faction terrain, the current restrictions as printed seem unworkable. I know people who have actually tested out the new rules and been unable to place faction terrain. This is a significant limitation on a faction’s ability to perform and I hope we see a reduction to a 3″ inch gap (rather than 6″).
As a conclusionary point, I do not expect tournaments outside Warhammer World (and perhaps the major Games Workshop sponsored events, such as Adepticon and NOVA) to use these rules. Terrain placement takes time from already tight rounds and can be a whole mini-game in itself. And to be fair to Games Workshop, they acknowledge that tournaments can (and will) choose to modify the pitched battle rules as necessary.
The scenery rules have now been expanded for General’s Handbook 2019. These rules are for use with terrain that does not have its own warscroll (if you are using terrain specific warscrolls). First roll a D6 to determine if you are rolling on the old terrain table (1-3), or new terrain table (4-6).
There are no major changes to the original six categories of terrain – Damned, Arcane, Inspiring, Deadly, Mystical and Sinister. Arcane now adds 1 to dispelling rolls as well as casting and unbinding rolls. Very useful.
The new scenery types are:
- Overgrown: line of sight blocking like Citadel Woods
- Entangling: -2 run and charge
- Volcanic: on a 6, D3 mortal wounds (like the Aqshy realmscape feature)
- Commanding: generates extra command points if your general is near
- Healing: on a 6, heals D3 mortal wounds to units nearby
- Nullification: allows heroes to unbind 1 spell, or wizards to unbind one extra spell, and (in a cool twist) automatically dispells nearby Endless Spells
Nullification is a really interesting new mechanic for the game and I look forward to seeing how it plays out on the table. What I’m unclear on is whether Endless Spells that have an effect when they move near to Nullification get to resolve their effects before being removed. For instance, would a Wyldfire Taurus do damage and cause a unit to attack at the end of the combat phase before it is dispelled? Nullification terrain may actually be very useful for Endless Spell armies as you can dispel your own spell and don’t have to risk it coming back into your lines.
If you have fewer points than your opponent in matched play then you start the battle with a Triumph. Under General’s Handbook 2018, you rolled a D3 and got one of three triumphs (re-roll hits on one unit for a phase, re-roll wounds on one unit for a phase, or re-roll saves on one unit for a phase).
Now there are six triumphs. More choice, but less chance of getting a particular one that you may be interested in. The new triumphs allow you to:
- ignore one battleshock test
- re-roll one charge roll (you must use the triumph before rolling your first charge roll) and
- use one command ability once without spending a command point
All of these are nice touches. They add variety.
The Age of Sigmar Core Rules provide three command abilities that can be used by any faction in the game – At the Double (make a 6″ run), Forward to Victory (re-roll a charge roll) and Inspiring Presence (ignore battleshock on a unit).
There are now 3 additional command abilities to play with (and to use your now more limited pool of command points on – unless you are Gloomspite Gitz of course and generate buckets of them a turn). They are:
- All-out Attack: re-roll hits of 1 for one unit until end of combat phase
- All-out Defence: the same but for save rolls
- Volley Fire: the same but for to hit rolls in the shooting phase
All of those are going to be a very useful option for when you need them.
Age of Sigmar Battleplans
The new matched play battleplans are the most interesting change for competitive Age of Sigmar. There are twelve new battleplans (recycling the names) to pose new challenges for list-writing and table-top generalship.
What are the key takeaways?
- new deployment maps in new shapes, with 3 (possibly 4) of the battleplans being lengthways
- some of the scenarios have small territories (which will be limiting for factions which need to set up points in their own territory, such as gravesites)
- some scenarios now have many more objectives and different scoring mechanics
- other scenarios have the objective closer together than before (such as in Knife to the Heart which now has L-shaped deployment zones)
- battleline can score objectives in Duality of Death
- Relocation Orb is now simpler and there it won’t bounce away as far
Knife to the Heart: L-shaped territories with objectives 12″ in from back board edge and 24″ from side. The objectives are now closer and more accessible so major victories will be more likely. Scoring from third battle round. A great tweak.
Total Conquest: 4 objectives with slanted deployment zones (22.7″ apart, thanks Nathan) so no more zig-zag and much simpler to set-up. Objectives are in the same place as before. So you can be slightly closer to an objective outside your territory than before. You still score a bonus victory point if you take an objective from your opponent.
Duality of Death: The big change here is the territories. Your territory is now split into the two outside thirds of the board. You can’t deploy any models in the middle third of the board to start. The objective capture conditions now allow battleline to capture but the victory points are the same. This will be an interesting challenged for armies that need to maintain synergy and buff ranges.
Battle for the Pass: the territories are now triangles extending out from the short board edge. The triangle shape means that it will now be harder to swamp the objectives in the middle of the board (which are split and 18″ in from each board edge). It could also be challenging to set up items that need to be in your territory given the shape and size. Objectives and scoring are the same.
Starstrike: You now roll 2D6, rather than D6 for where the comets drop. The board is split into segments 6″ wide. This change reduces some of the randomness (as they will likely drop in the middle third of the board) so therefore should be fairer on slower armies.
Scorched Earth: you now deploy on the short edge and have 8 objectives to deal with (4 in each person’s territory). This now benefits armies that can fly or teleport or ambush into the backfield.
Total Commitment: Has now moved to diagonal territories across the centre of the board. The objectives have also moved to more interesting positions (just 6″ in from a board edge). The no reserves, and victory point scoring system stay the same.
Focal Points: has gone from a diagonal deployment to a standard deployment on the long board edge. The star of objectives however have rotated 45 degrees. The scoring stays the same.
Better Part of Valour: has had a major redesign. Territories are now based off the short edge and the 6 objectives have also rotated 90 degrees. The 1,2,4,8 victory point scoring remains the same.
Shifting Objectives: territories and deployment are now along the long table edge (and only 12″ in). So a scenario with narrow territories and the consequential deployment issues. Benefits though for faction terrain that only need to be set up 1″ away from enemy territory – much more space to play in. The objectives have rotated 90″ and the two outside objectives are now further away from the board edge (no longer 6″).
Places of Arcane Power: The same except wizards no longer capture. Just heroes. So bye bye units which are wizards.
The Relocation Orb: Slanting territories 22.7″ apart. The orb now has a much simpler map and does not bounce repeatedly between the same rounds. Control of the objective is relinquished when it moves. Still same capture and scoring rules.
There is an optional mechanic in the book to allow players to opt to use the 2018 version of a battleplan, rather than the 2019 version. If they do so, one player rolls a dice – 1-3 is 2018, 4-6 is 2019. I just don’t understand the purpose of this rule and would expect events to stay with the 2019 versions only.
Pitched Battle Tournaments
The General’s Handbook now has pitched battle tournament rules for events run by Games Workshop. So expect these to be in play next time you attend Warhammer World, the Citadel or the Warhammer Championship store in Australia. I’m not going to go into them in great detail but a few points to note:
- you must pick six Hidden Agendas in advance and name them on your army list (not pick them per game) – not quite sure how this will work given you will be showing your opponent your army list and they are supposed to be hidden
- Games Workshop terrain and terrain warscrolls will be in use – so remind yourself what the ruins and dias etc do
- as usual for Games Workshop, battleplans, realms and realmscape features will be announced 15 minutes before each round – no writing your list in advance for a particular sub-set of battleplans and rules
- you score 60 points for a major victory, 10 points for a completed hidden agenda, up to 25 points for painting and up to 25 points for etiquette per round.
- you score your opponent’s painting as follows:
- 5 points for fully painted with at least three basecoats
- 15 points for shading and highlights
- 5 points for painting bases with additional features such as debris and flock
- NB: these restrictions are really interesting given the push for Contrast concept armies.
- etiquette points are also defined:
- 1 point for turning up on time for the round
- 2 points for offering to shake your opponent’s hand before and after game
- 1 point for giving your army roster to your opponent
- 1 point for having all the models, dice, tape measures and rules to play the game
- Painting scores are the first tiebreaker, etiquette scores are the second tiebreaker and then kill points as third. You score kill points for enemy units destroyed (but not for units which have been added to the battlefield after the start of the game, or Endless Spells, or battalions).
The home of allegiance abilities in the General’s Handbook.
Listen to the Honest Wargamer Faction Reaction episodes on Soundcloud / Apple Podcasts etc. The key points are:
- Ironjaws got much much better (but not broken)
- Seraphon summoning and teleport has been tweaked a little
- some tweaks to Slaves to Darkness
- no major changes (if any changes at all) for Darkling Covens, Dispossessed, Free Peoples, and Wanderers.
General’s Handbook 2019 Points
Listen to the Warhammer Weekly GHB19 Part 1 Review show, or Guerilla Miniature Gaming’s Pitched Battle Profiles review (both on YouTube).