AoS Shorts: Your Essential Guide to Age of Sigmar

XL: Summoning in Matched Play

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This episode I’m joined by Tim Lind of Tronhammer and @TronhammerNZ on Twitter.  We cover summoning in matched play, with a particular focus on Death.  Summoning, and reinforcement points, is an area of the game which can lead to confusion, especially for newer players.  In this show, we:

  • set out the rules for summoning
  • provide advice on how to take into account summoning in list-writing and
  • cover some tips and tactics for using summoning on the table.

I’ve set out our draft show notes below, but it is definitely worth listening to the show as we elaborate on these notes.

NB: Note that with the Legions of Nagash Battletome there have been significant changes to summoning which affect the content of this show.   Check out the initial impressions show on the Nagash battletome.

What is Summoning in Age of Sigmar?

Summoning is the ability to bring new units to the battlefield, or bringing back units that have been destroyed, over the course of a game.

This is done through the use of:

  • Spells, such as those found on most Seraphon warscrolls, and many Death or Daemon warscrolls.  These are cast in the same way as any spell in Age of Sigmar.  If the spell succeeds, you can place a unit of models from that warscroll within range of the caster (usually 18”), but not too close to the enemy (usually more than 9” away).
  • Abilities, found on individual warscrolls like Neferata’s Mortarch of Blood rule. Abilities can vary in the way they can summon models. In the case of Neferata, every time she slays an enemy HERO she can summon a Vampire Lord.
  • Army or Battalion abilities, such as the Heralds of the God King ability on the Hammers of Sigmar Warrior Chamber warscroll battalion. This ability summons a unit of Liberators to the battlefield each time one of the Liberator units is destroyed on the roll of a 6.

We will cover many of these spells and abilities later on in the show.

In Open or narrative play, there are no restrictions, other that what players agree among themselves, to what can be summoned to the battlefield. However, our focus will be on Summoning in Matched Play.

In Matched Play, each time a new unit (or a destroyed unit is brought back) to the battlefield, it costs ‘Reinforcement Points’. This cost limits amount of models that are able to be added to the army so that the odds do not become too overwhelming!

Why Summoning?

Like deployment mechanics, it is a way for various armies to gain some tactical flexibility – one of the many ways AOS opens up to such a range of possibilities. You can:

  • Keep your opponent guessing – make them account for a wider range of possibilities, as they don’t know what troops you will bring to the field, or where they will drop. This forces them to make choices – and as Dan says, every choice is a chance for a mistake. This is the most important one, and it doesn’t come across ‘on paper’. It allows you to control the game, so long as your summoning is reliable enough. The more you keep in reserve, the more your opponent has to guess.
  • Counter your opponent’s threats. Road blocks, extra chaff, scalpels, objective scoring, board control.
  • Make your list more flexible. Keep the allegiance you want but still use warscrolls from outside that allegiance, beyond the allies allowance.

What are reinforcement points?

Reinforcement points are a pool of points set aside, out of your total army’s points allocation, out of which you can summon units. I might write a list with 1,600 points worth of units, and specify a pool of 400 reinforcement points, for a total of 2,000 points. Note that summoning does not increase the army beyond the points limit.

So why bother with summoning then? This is a question I hope we can answer by the end of the show, as there are many reasons why summoning is a useful mechanic to take advantage of.

Let’s start with how to build a list with reinforcement points, which will allow us to summon during the game!

Building a list with reinforcement points

As mentioned before, you need to set aside a portion of your army’s points as Reinforcement Points. If you are playing a 2,000 point game, the minimum units you need to have on your list are a hero to be your general, and three units of battleline. Other than those four units, you can fill the remainder of your list with Reinforcement Points, or (probably more sensibly) leave a smaller amount.

To decide how many points you want to set aside, you will want to plan what units you are going to summon first. And this is really where most of the thinking has to happen. Here are some of the main considerations:

  • What strategic gaps do you have in your army? Do you need to summon chaff, heroes, fast units, roadblocks, monsters?
  • What abilities do your units have that you need reinforcement points for? For example, the Flamespyre’s Phoenix Reborn ability. If you want to make use of the rebirth you need to make sure you have enough Reinforcement points to pay for it. If it is an ability that will seldom trigger,  Neferata’s ability for example, you might decide not to bother, as you might not even get to use the points, which would be a waste.

Some advantages to consider:

  • Allegiance restrictions
    • Summoned units are not part of your army list, so you can summon units that you could not normally take due to allegiance restrictions. A Death army with the Deathrattle allegiance for example, wants the Grave Guard to be battleline, but also want to take a Terrorgheist. No worries! Just take a Necromancer as an ally, and summon that thing! So long as you are lucky on the dice.
  • Choosing the right tool for the job
    • You can summon different units in each game. So at a tournament,  playing Duality of Death battleplan you might want to summon a hero or behemoth to help take objectives. Later in the tournament, playing Battle for the Pass, you might instead want to summon some more rank and file to help overwhelm objectives.
    • You also have a toolbox with which to counter specific threats from different armies. If you know you will be facing an army with lots of rend, you could summon Nighthaunt units, who ignore it. Of against armies with low bravery, a Terrorgheist to make the most of the Death Shriek.
  • Final list size and triumphs
  • Why have a large summoning pool?
    • Flexibility
    • Risk that units will never make the table
  • Scenery – now use reinforcement points, so do not need to be included on your list. Most obvious example is Balewind Vortex, which every grand alliance can use.

What about scenery? Do you need to name it on the list? Or can you leave yourself the option to not summon a vortex?

Tournament house rules / etiquette

  • Disclosing the possible things you could summon vs sealed mystery box under the table
  • Scoring against summoned units

How do you summon new units during the game?

  • Spells and abilities to be aware of
    • There are many, I will cover some below. Mostly Undead, Seraphon, daemons.
  • Some spells allow you to bring more models to the table if you roll high enough on the cast roll. Still have to pay for these units.
  • Sneaky tactics etc – “within” vs “wholly within”
  • Summoning at the bottom of a turn if you want to get units into combat – 9” distance vs charging
  • Summon a caster who then summons balewind (or more units) – daisy-chaining
  • Do you get the kill points if you kill the caster before the summoned units are on the board?

Reinforcing existing units

  • Banners
    • Which models can you restore (ie bring back 5 banners when you only had one in the unit to start)?
  • Spells for regrowing units
  • Do we want to cover Horrors splitting?  Probably worth just a mention and then move on, otherwise the show will be very long.

Resurrecting models

  • Models that “die” and come back – when you pay points – clearing up any confusion

Examples of Great Uses for Summoning

Death Builds

  • Nagash
    • casting bonuses, unit size doubling – getting more to the table faster and more reliably. Can start with min battleline and summon whole army.  If your opponent doesn’t know what you are fielding, or where they will be, forces them to make choices and have to account for extra possibilities.
    • Solid choice is skeleton warriors, but it’s useful for Grave Guard, multiple heroes and monsters. Still have to pay the points.
  • Arkhan
    • Similar to Nagash for reliability, some extra range. Rather than summoning whole army, you use ‘scalpel’ – right thing for the right target in the right place.
  • Other
    • Stack casting bonuses with Morghast, Mortis Engine, Corpse Cart, Arcane terrain, allegiance abilities.
    • Majestic Horror for FEC
    • Master of Black Arts – Wight Kings or Wraiths into wizards
    • Sword of Unholy power – free summon spell. Instead for 10+ to cast
  • What to summon
    • Mourngul for debuff and to hold down flank
    • Grave Guard for the damage
    • Morghast Harbingers for charging same turn
    • Morghast Archai for reaching over chaff
    • Terrorgheist for low bravery
    • Skeletons/Zombies for extra flak
    • Cairn Wraiths for hero

Further Reading




2 thoughts on “XL: Summoning in Matched Play

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  1. Any thoughts on what happens if you summon units that can have special allegiance spells? For example, summon a Lord of Change-can he take another special Tzeentch spell?

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