Age of Sigmar Faction Focuses So Far: The Good, The Bad, and The Orky

Carter Kachmarik
June 19, 2024


The 4th edition of Age of Sigmar is close at hand, and every faction (barring the goat in the room) is set to receive a faction focus throughout this week.  There’s been a tremendous outpouring of information regarding these new focuses, which go a long way to show off what 4th edition is going to be like.  While every army appears to be losing some of its complexity & power, even following those sweeping changes, not every force is created equal.  There are a variety of ways the design team has pivoted famous faction abilities for a new generation of players, and many who have been familiarized to “eternal” aspects of their army might find 4th a shock to their system — ultimately, I think it will be for the best, although the game’s similarities to the 10th edition of 40k cannot go understated.  Allow me to elaborate, as we cover the AoS Faction Focuses so Far: The Good, Bad, and Orky.

Via PaintedFigs

The number one thing we’ve seen designers push for, including within Spearhead (the new game mode meant to be played with Vanguard boxes), is an army’s “Go Turn”.  This is a term coined largely when we saw Idoneth take the scene in late 1st edition, although it also existed prior in the form of banked Markerlights in 6th edition 40k, or a fully set up Waaagh in 5th.  In 4th edition AoS, this manifests largely in the 3rd Battle Round, with armies like Seraphon now being able to pivot their faction ability once certain conditions are met, or Daughters of Khaine (or IDK) retaining their Battle Round 3 sweeping buffs.  This allows different armies to try and “Go”, and press their advantage, on different turns, with armies like Nurgle or Tzeentch wanting the game to go long, or Nighthaunt craving to fully set up their charge bonuses for one massive blow.  Conversely, Fyreslayers had their Fierce Counterattack changed into the Rune of Fury, meaning they’re well set up to mitigate “Go Turns” by standing firm.

Via Mengel Miniatures

Another facet of these rules is ‘Pick one of X abilities, once each turn’, which comes up a shocking number of times.  Cities of Sigmar is the obvious one, condensing the secret Order mechanic into a public, clear-cut variant.  Kruleboyz, now their own faction, do similarly with Dirty Tricks, instead acting more like a press-your-luck mechanic with high payoff for high risk, but fundamentally cutting its framework from the same cloth as Cities.  Lumineth is likewise similar, picking from one of a few Aelementiri buffs to go with their specified temple, swapping between them like Admech does in 10th 40k.

This can be extended to Nighthaunt, with three charge bonuses to choose from, Fyreslayers, with their Runes, and Seraphon in The Great Plan, on top of Ossiarch Bonereapers.  Modality is paramount to the design of 4th, which in theory keeps the interplay between factions fresh throughout a 5-round game.

Via Warhammer Community

The problem with this arises in the form of how simplified everything seems to be, and how they’ve treated some of the more delicate factions in 4th.  A lot of the abilities people expected armies to have only exist in Spearhead, an entirely separate gamemode, and Slaanesh is the primary victim of this treatment.  Slaanesh in 3rd finally found an identity worth pursuing, with its ability to provide the opponent with free 6s at the cost of generating stacking buffs for the temptor, and, if denied, mortal wounds.  This was flavorful, effective, and popular…and it’s present in the Spearhead for 4th.

The actual rule for Slaanesh has the same issues as Rad-Bombardment did for Admech in early 10th — the agency for your opponent outstrips the upside for you.  You can provide your opponent up to 3 free 6s, for use at their leisure, to give the same number of units Sustained Hits 1, and Run & Charge (& Shoot).  As we’ve seen in 10th Edition 40k, dice replacement is one of the most potent abilities one can have, and unlike the previous Slaanesh mechanic, your opponent has the choice of when to employ them, not you.

Via Warcrier

In contrast, Kruleboyz spent the entirety of 3rd edition in a dumpster, as one of the game’s worst factions, cheap as chips being half of the overproduced Dominion.  That said, I’d pick those models up now, as Kruleboyz have come out of the 4th edition faction previews with some of the most compelling rules we’ve seen for the game.

With access to a variety of potent Dirty Tricks, Kruleboyz can turn the battle on its head, as a tricky faction with tools that individually outstrip most other ‘pick a rule’ mechanics (as discussed above).  The difference is, the likelihood they work is lower and lower the more they’re used, across a Battle Round.  This means the interesting mix of defensive & offensive buffs are careful resources to work with, but once you’ve already hit the lowest possibility at your fourth in a round, the game urges you to go wild, and try every trick in the book; after all, it can’t get less improbable!

Via Bell of Lost Souls

The promise of 4th edition largely hangs on its ability to bring the thematics of factions out, and into a brand-new light.  The transition between 1st & 2nd, and then 3rd, was a clean one — while there were alterations, the scaffolding of the game remained the same.  4th isn’t like that, as it’s the game’s first Index edition since its controversial inception.  Tzeentch, for example, can’t rely on summoning anymore, and is pivoting to the design space originally intended, as a magic-dominant, slow burn faction.  Nurgle has a similar mechanic, but further denies healing, and has its faction Ward baked into each warscroll now.

There’s also been a theme of holding onto old mechanics, but keeping them to just a single faction.  Monstrous Rampages continue, but in the form of a Sons of Behemat-exclusive rule, and Heroic Abilities remain, exclusive to the vigilant Stormcast Eternals.  While 4th fundamentally changes things, it likewise keeps true to the history that AoS now has, in its near-decade of gameplay.

Via Reddit

The elephant in the room, however, is obviously Beasts of Chaos.  It might be a minor army, enjoyed by a mere few, but it’s been confirmed they won’t be releasing a faction focus for the downtrodden goats.  I fully intend to give it a faux-faction focus once the rules are previewed, but the disrespect provided to the line is, at this point, to be expected.  Games Workshop can’t sell Beasts anymore, and so it is likely to be quietly pushed out with mediocre rules, as part of its ‘court-mandated’ year of tournament legality.  In spite of the awesome news surrounding 4th, this is perhaps the sourest note.

In any case, I still intend to play Beasts as much as I can manage, if they’re at-all playable, and hopefully I can earn some prestige at tournaments while the clock ticks away.

Via Wargamer

That concludes a quick look into how 4th’s faction abilities have shaped up so far!  While some of the abilities are a bit samey, I’m excited nonetheless to experiment!  Let me know what faction’s been treated best so far, and which need work before it sees print!


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