The Warhammer: Age of Sigmar General's Handbook.
I've not played any AOS since my try out game some time back. I was naturally inclined to be hostile to it because I liked the old Warhammer rules and the old Warhammer world and didn't like it when Games Workshop threw them both out. AOS is such an overhaul of Warhammer that it is really a new game and I'm not looking to start any new games. On the other hand, my principle complaint about AOS had been the absence of points values which the Compendium addresses and, at only £15, it's pretty cheap for a GW publication.
If previous AOS books had focused on background material and lots of pictures with very little rules content, this is pretty much the exact opposite. It's basically all rules. The book attempts to introduce three different ways to play AOS. What it calls "Open play", "narrative play" and "matched play" and has sections for each.
There's actually surprisingly little of this
"Open play" isn't actually a new style, however. It's just AOS as it has been up to now, no points, scenarios, use what you like. This section of the book instead concentrates on multiplayer games with some new scenarios to suit. As Warhammer never quite ironed this out, it's good to see this. How effective the rules are, I'm not sure.
The narrative play section is focused on campaigns and story driven scenarios. It introduces some new, deliberately asymmetrical scenarios, such as one in which a whole army takes on a single monster or another which is basically a last stand. It also has a section on recreating the great battles of history.
The most interesting part of this section is the rules for campaigns. There are several differnt types described, including map-based, tree-campaigns (in which the outcome of one scenario effects the next played) and matrix (in which both players make decisions that effect the scenario to be played).
The most appealing part of this section for me, however, is the "Path to Glory" campaign. This describes a campaign based on choosing a warband lead by a champion and playing scenarios to win "glory points" which can be used to recuits new troops or improve the ones you have. It reads like a simplified version of the old "Realms of Chaos". Usefully, it also specifies that you can randomly generate your warbands or choose from any of the options on the random tables, allowing you to use the campaign either with an existing army or as the basis for building a new one.
Good, but could we have few more unit options?
It's not all good, however. Not every faction is represented in the tables. I can understand why the newer ones would have been left out, but I'm not sure why there's no tables for the Seraphon. Also, all of the factions from the Death and Chaos compendium books are included, but for some reason Order and Destruction are not. So while I can use my old Undead and Chaos armies to build a warband, I can't do anything with my Dwarfs or Greenskins as only the Fyreslayers and Ironjaws are included. Hopefully, GW will put out some more tables online.
The final section, "Match Play" is the one that most people will be buying the book for. This includes some tournament rules and scenarios as well as a battle report. This is a nice touch and reminds me of the days when GW supplements used to repurpose White Dwarf content. Though, I believe this battle report was written solely for the book.
So that's what a battle looks like
The tournament rules include some fun random tables of artifacts and traits giving you some ability to customise your characters, which is a nice touch. But the most important bit is the points section. This is a very comprehensive list that includes all the existing war scrolls and even the formations. It also includes all the units from the early compendium PDFs that GW put out, even for models that have been discontinued like the Bretonnians. The only thing missing is Forge World. Hopefully, they will follow suit and put out there own points list.
Finally the book includes the four page basic AOS rules, so you don't have to print them out or buy any other books to play.
The book isn't all good. One of the "historical" scenarios included is a ridculously oversized batttle between the forces of Chaos and Death. All the units in it are way over the top. To give an example, it includes a unit of 24 Varanguard which would cost £480 alone at GW prices. The battle is designed to be multi-player, but would still rely on several players each with large Chaos or Death armies to put together. If you going to include a large multi-player battle, why not one with more mixed factions so there is a chance that someone out there might actually be able to play it?
Can anyone play this?
But that's my one major complaint. Overall this is pretty good stuff, that expands the AOS rules in an interesting way without undermining the simplicity which was the essential selling point. I have a few quibbles, but nothing major. I'm not sure I'm going to be playing a lot of AOS in the future, but this book does make it a lot more likely.