How to Grow Your Local Age of Sigmar Community
As someone who’s been playing Warhammer in some capacity since 2010, there has remained a constant split in the hobby’s playerbase between the sides of sci-fi, via Warhammer 40k, and fantasy, via Warhammer Fantasy Battles, and now Age of Sigmar. Historically, while both genres have been cornerstones of Games Workshop’s overall brand, it’s no secret that 40k is the dominant half. In most stores I’ve been to, the fantasy side tends to be the sole hobby of about a quarter of patrons, though many 40k players also own some level of an AoS army. Due to this, wherever I’ve moved or introduced people to the hobby, I’ve had to do quite a bit more legwork to showcase the wonderful aspects of AoS, given 40k tends to sell itself. So now that I’ve moved again, a few months ago, and had time to put down roots in terms of Warhammer, I’d like to go in-depth into how I’ve worked to strengthen the AoS community at my local store — and show you how you’d be able to do the same.
To be clear, this isn’t meant to bash 40k whatsoever, as I’ve adored both games to varying extent, edition-to-edition, this is mostly an editorial for pitching Sigmar to those who might be reluctant or uninformed. So, let’s dive in.
Via Warhammer Community
The biggest things you’ll face when introducing people you may or may not know to a hobby comes down to three main points: Cost, Community, and Context. These 3 Cs are what tends to draw folks to a given game over another, or take the plunge into starting a new one where they otherwise might not. For starters, above all else, be welcoming. A good chunk of what killed Fantasy, aside from its outdated rules and business model (speaking as someone who played) was the general ‘grognard-iness’ of the community. Getting into the game was difficult, and due to the high barrier to entry there was an insular nature to those who played. 40k during that time, I remember, was in the stride of its 5th edition, and most folks I spoke to were keen on helping me wet my boots, as it were. It’s hard to express what a difference some compassion and genuine camaraderie can make, when it comes to ones’ hobby — be an ambassador, and treat new players young or old like you’d want to be treated. While that may be obvious, it’s the first and most vital step, especially for AoS, which tends to lack resources online compared to its competitors.
Via Handful of Dice
The next big sell is the game itself, and how it compares to the games it shares a storespace with; AoS is above all else a game of careful positioning, and knowing when to hedge your bets vs go all-in. Compared to 40k, it’s focused more on tactical positioning as opposed to target selection, and the game is chock-full of nuanced melee combat, and thrilling spellcasting. Part of what 10th edition 40k lost in the transition is still present in AoS, namely its magic system, and auras, which can be alluring for those who preferred 9th (or earlier) 40k. In a similar sense, Warcry is perhaps the best skirmish game on the market, even outside of Warhammer’s context, and between its simplicity and depth of choice lies a system that’s perfect for those at any skill level. Kill Team is far more akin to X-Com or mini-40k, whereas Warcry only truly borrows the positioning focus from its bigger brother.
Cost is another vital difference between the two games, and speaking as someone who’s played both plenty, AoS tends to be less unburdening on ones’ wallet.
Every single Vanguard box gives you at least 600pts, with many even reaching 700 or nearly 800, allowing a hobbyist to take a single starter box into an Escalation League or Path to Glory. While 40k does have Combat Patrol, that gamemode doesn’t support growth, as lists are static, so while it might be better in the short term, telling people that Vanguards are about a third of a full army is a big component. 10th has greatly widened the gap of cost through overall lower pts, and even tournament lists from 10th would clock in at ~2200 in 9th; about 2000pts of AoS is only ~1400 of 40k, across most army sizes. That’s where Context is key: AoS retains many of the facets of 9th 40k (as the 8th/9th framework were essentially ripped straight from early 3.0 AoS) while lacking many of the downsides. Even though this could change in the future, with 4.0 potentially coming out this Summer season, nearly everyone agrees that the game’s in a good enough spot that there’s no need for a ‘nuclear option’. Unlike 9th->10th, it is highly unlikely AoS will ever be Indexhammer.
Speaking for myself, 3.0 AoS has been my favorite edition of any game Games Workshop’s released since 5th 40k, which I have a degree of ‘nostalgiagoggles’ for. I genuinely adore much of the design choices made for the game, and unlike many wargames, it consistently feels like the designers know they’ll need to earn your dollar; there’s little complacency in how interesting and novel most armies operate, meaning faction-to-faction, you’ll be faced with wildly different threats.
So back to my experience with introductions: I ran the Warhammer club at my college, and grew it to around 25 regular members across my time there, largely 40k still, but with a healthy contingent of AoS. Now, I’ve taken to starting up an Escalation League at my new home store in Providence, with quite a bit of interest! Notably, I’m doing a map campaign, something I feel works to sell the thematic elements of AoS, and bring in those who recognize that style of grand strategy as might be seen in Total War: Warhammer.
Grabbing that thematic element is always a tough thing with AoS, given compared to 40k its biggest Achilles heel is its lore — while I enjoy it, it’s nothing like the Horus Heresy, or brilliant works of Black Library fiction that you see on the sci-fi side. In a lot of cases, you can really only talk about it on the surface level, so while the aesthetic & gameplay of AoS are easy sells, the story is a bit…less so. The best you should be able to do is a faction breakdown for beginners (general playstyle, army size, mechanics, etc), and ask what they’re personally interested in, motioning them to an army you think fits their wants. Even though most of us don’t work for Games Workshop, there is a salesmanship required for widening the playerbase of such an expensive hobby.
On the whole, I recommend a few main avenues to growing your community:
- Do your best to be as welcoming as you can! Be an ambassador for the game, and always try to figure out what a new hobbyist wants most from the hobby.
- Talk with your store manager about organizing AoS-specific days, for painting, building, playing, etc. Often there won’t be a specific schedule, but by aligning the times folks are in the store for AoS, you can drive interest.
- Try to lean into Escalation/Path to Glory, and make sure people know Vanguards are a wildly efficient entry point. For 40k players who already own an army, starting AoS seems like less of a costly option.
I hope this helps you work to grow your community! I know a lot of what I said is just anecdotal, but I felt it was important to get something like this out there! What other questions do you have about fostering an AoS community? Let me know any thoughts you have in the comments below!