I recently got my hands on a copy of the Seraphon (Lizardmen) Start Collecting! box set as a result of some large changes that Games Workshop has made to their Warhammer: Age of Sigmar line. Let me start by saying that when Age of Sigmar was released, I was pretty convinced Warhammer Fantasy had been completely killed off. All of the aspects of the game I grew up playing had been removed or altered to a degree that I no longer recognized what the game was any more. I finally had some time to game and made a trip out to a game store to game with some friends, which does not happen often, we’re talking less than 3-4 times a year at this point. I’m a long time collector and player of an army called The Bretonnians, they are an army that had not received new rules or models in quite some time (over a decade) when Age of Sigmar was announced and they would be releasing free rules and stats online, I was intrigued. After digesting what was released, I had a whole laundry list of things I didn’t like, and still don’t like, but after playing the game and watching the company slowly change, it changed my mind on some of these things.
Something that I really appreciated about miniature games is ‘how easy it is’ to start up a particular game. How many miniatures, how complex the models, and how simple the rule set are all questions that come to mind when looking into a tabletop game. These games all come with an overhead of having to put together miniatures and learn the rules, but the level of difficulty is something I weigh from game to game. It should be noted that I have a high threshold for this stuff since one of my favorite aspects of tabletop wargaming is the building and painting side of things, so starting a new game isn’t as hard of a decision for me. I bring all this up because simple Starting to play Warhammer is difficult and complicated. Arguably, it still is, but the industry has taking it into consideration. Warmachine with it’s Starter Box for each faction is a great example of helping people get started in a complex tabletop wargame.
Recently, Games Workshop has entered into this territory with it’s ‘Start Collecting!’ series of box sets. The models are complex and require building, but if you’re playing a narrative game(1), which is the main focus of Age of Sigmar, you’ve got a single box option to start playing the game. Games Workshop has released the games 4 pages of rules online for free, the warscrolls, or stats for the models, for free online and have really taken a very different stance compared to just a few years ago. What that adds up to is the ability to have people jump into the game with a single box of models to build and a friend to play against who, presumably, is doing the same thing. The box sets have a wide variety of miniatures, the Seraphon one here, has a large ridden monster, a unit of cavalry and a unit of foot troops. This is a great diversity for a single box set and should prove to be a decent composition for narrative game play.
All of the models included in this box set came with instructions on how to build them as well as a specific force organization that you can use with this box set. The force organization, Gul’Rok’s Starhost in this case, is a special rule for making an army that meets the composition rules, which happen to be everything in this box. These little touches are a great addition to the game, the bonuses awarded are usually subtle and are not game breaking, nor meant to be. The instructions included also offer the Warscroll information that they have available online. The instructions are very well written and don’t leave a lot of question about what parts go where and how to assemble a given model. They even make a point of it to identify “optional” accessories or weapons, for example, I could have built the Saurus Warriors with either Spears and shield, or Hand Weapon and shield. Overall, all the parts included in this box are really well put together and make it as easy as possible to get into the game. Something that might seem strange, but I think is almost always overlooked in tabletop wargames, are the tools needed to actually start assembling these things. You’ll need some sort of clippers to take the parts off the plastic sprues (frames), you’ll need some kind of plastic glue, and you’ll want some way to clean the nubs off of the pieces after clipping them from the sprues, like an X-Acto blade. The instructions do make mention of this inside, but the box itself doesn’t do much of anything aside from show you the miniatures and the various line of paint colors you could buy from Games Workshop to paint their miniatures. I mention this because the name ‘Start Collecting!’ implies that you’re new to it and might need some guidance, hopefully if you’ve made it this far, you do know what you’re getting into!
I had mentioned earlier in the review that I had my opinion changed about Age of Sigmar, and that was because they released a book called the General’s Handbook, which details a method of playing the game called Pitched Battles(2). This method allows for a more structured game mode where there are minimums and maximums to how big your army can be, how big the units within the army can be, and how many characters and heroes can be brought. This is a feature that I look for in games and when Games Workshop initially removed this from Age of Sigmar, it was a huge turn off. In the end, they released something that can be used as a guideline to play games just like this and it’s where I have a gripe with this box set. The two units included in the game, of Saurus Warriors and Saurus Knights, don’t match the minimum unit sizes in the General’s Handbook. An example, the box includes 12 Saurus Warriors, the minimum number I can take is 10 which leaves me with 2 extra. Per the rules in the General’s handbook, taking the extra 2 miniatures would mean that I have to pay the points for 2 units of 10 Saurus Warriors, even though I only have 12. To some this might be nit-picking, to others like me, it’s kind of annoying. Of course I can still use these guys, but it would be better if the numbers just lined up in a way that allowed both Narrative Gameplay and Pitched Battles to be satisfied.
One of the last things I want to mention about this is that there are left over bits. To some people this is a burden as they don’t want left over parts once they are done building the model. My personal view has always been that extra bits are great. I may not do nearly as many conversions and custom models like I used to, but when the idea strikes me and I have the appropriate bits laying around to modify a figure, decorate terrain, or add a little something to a base, it’s great. I think bits are a great resource when it comes to tabletop wargaming and like it whenever companies offer options for miniatures leaving more customizing options available to you.
I think that over all this box set is a massive improvement for Warhammer, sorry, Age of Sigmar. The quality of the miniatures is pretty outstanding, as has been the trend with plastic kits from Games Workshop over the years. They have made massive improvements since I started playing in the late 90’s and the pictures of the miniatures below are all the evidence necessary to convey the quality of the miniatures. I think there is room for improvements in this kind of box set, like say adding dice, small rules pamphlet would be the easy options. I also think, given how Games Workshop operates, they could easily make these box set’s line up with all of their own rules in terms of points and unit configuration. Maybe next time.
1 – Narrative Game – referring to Narrative Play in Age of Sigmar, it’s a game mode that essentially is a “bring what you want” to the table, let’s have a fun battle. No points, minimums, maximums are really in play here, allowing the focus to be on the Story and Narrative of the game rather than bringing a specific amount of an Army to the table.
2 – Pitched Battles – referring to Matched Play in Age of Sigmar, it’s a similar game mode that allows you to calculate the strength of your force by attributing points to units. This allows for you to set an amount of points that the battle will be fought with, for example, both players could bring 1000 points of their army to the battle.