Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Sunday, 4 November 2018

The Game Shelf Reviews: Warhammer Age of Sigmar Champions

Game: Warhammer Age of Sigmar Champions: Trading Card Game

Publisher: Playfusion Ltd

Designer: (Uncredited)

Year: 2018

Warhammer Age of Sigmar Champions is a trading card game from Playfusion, who produced Lightseekers. When we first saw Lightseekers, it was a game that integrated action figures with a video game using augmented reality, however it was the trading card game, that originally appeared to be an afterthought, which took off. We’ve seen huge Lightseekers tournaments at board game conventions in recent months and we were really excited to try the Warhammer themed sequel at the UK Games Expo.

Age of Sigmar Champions is your typical 2-player trading card game format, with booster packs, deck-building, card rarity and trading. It’s not the type of game we normally get involved in, but there are four starter decks for the four Grand Alliances; Order, Chaos, Destruction and Death; each with their own individual play style and strengths. Those starter decks alone provide a really solid starting point to play with, with each starter set coming with a paper playmat and one booster pack. With two players and two starter decks, there’s plenty to play with. Not only that, but your physical cards can also be integrated with the free-to-play app so that your physical collection is also available in the app. The app is a great way to practice and hone your in-game skills, but is also just a good digital card game a la Hearthstone.


Gameplay

Age of Sigmar Champions is a Trading Card game much like Magic the Gathering. As you might  imagine, your objective is to take your customised deck of 38 cards and use them to defeat your opponent's deck by reducing their life to 0 before they can do the same to you. However, while the concept is hardly groundbreaking, it is in the details that Age of Sigmar Champions stands out.

At the start of the game you will take turns placings your 4 champions onto your player mat. The locations are important as many champions have special abilities that may affect their friendly neighbours or the opponent champion they are facing. You will then shuffle your 4 blessings and deal them, face down, behind your champions, blessings are powerful, game changing cards, but you have to earn them during gameplay. Once ready to go the first player will take their starting hand and perform 2 actions.




Actions are mostly playing a card, cards don't intrinsically cost anything to play, though some of the very powerful cards might require you to discard or sacrifice over cards to play them. Cards come in a few variants; Units which can be summoned by your warrior champions, these tend to hang around for a few turns dealing damage; and Spells which are similar to units, but can only be cast by wizard champions, which are more likely to have strange effects. Champions can only have one unit/spell at a time however there are one-shot heroic abilities which can be played even if you have a unit/spell for an instant effect. If you passed any of your actions during your turn you get to draw a card from the draw deck for each unused action. You can have big powerful turns, or draw cards, your choice!

The biggest revelation in Age of Sigmar Champions is the corner system, which may be familiar to people who have played Lightseekers. When you play a card the first corner activates (if applicable), then at the start of every one of your turns it will rotate 90 degrees activating it's next corner. This continues every turn until either it reaches a blank corner or it completes a full 360 degree spin. This mechanic allows for a huge variety of cards, from powerful monsters that take 3 turns to charge, to others that hit fast but then tire out. This is expanded on by your champions who have a variant of the system. Each champion has a requirement on each corner, fulfil that quest (for example summon a monster with them or heal yourself with a card they use) and you get to spin them 90 degrees revealing a new quest. Spin them all the way round and you get to flip over the blessing card locked below them, these cards are often enough to change the tide of the game, but doing quests quickly can also mean playing sub-optimally.

Finally it should be noted that Age of Sigmar Champions is also an app, you can play the game online against other players and unlock digital boosters to add cards to your digital collection. However your physicals cards can also be scanned to add them to the app, meaning that you will always be able to play with the cards you own! There are a lot of incentives to scan both your cards and those of your friends in order to gain further rewards.


Amy’s Final Thoughts

The first thing that struck me with Age of Sigmar Champions is the quality of the cards, they have clearly been designed with the intention to be long lasting and attractive. The art is wonderful as you might expect from the world of Warhammer. The four starter decks each have a different race, and each of them behaves slightly differently, the Orcs Orruks like stacking units which lets cards hang about longer and gain more power as they mob up, whilst the Chaos deck is happy to sacrifice it's own units to summon demons forth. Not only are these mechanics varied and fun, but they fit well with the theme of the races.

Happily the starter sets come with a large playmat which has a couple of rule reminders printed on it, and generally makes it a lot easier to learn to play. A playmat is almost essential for Age of Sigmar Champions as so many actions are spacial so it's good to see it come with the starter set. The starter decks seemed to have a good balance with most of the games we played being extremely close, often with victory being a turn away either way. The game really is a fast and fun dueling card game.

Deckbuilding is very simple, you choose 4 champions (no repeats of unique characters) up to a set point limit, and then your starting health is adjusted based on their approximate power, take all your powerful champions and you will start the game half dead! After that you pick 4 blessings and then 30 cards to make up the main deck, you can't mix the different factions but otherwise you aren't limited by much.

The app is a great way to play the game but be warned that games do take a little longer. When playing online I found I got paired with indecisive players a lot, but they did fortunately include a timer, take too long and you automatically pass your actions! Scanning cards is super simple and it's lovely to have your physical collection digitally too. In a nice twist the starter decks in the app are different from the ones in the real world so you will have enough to start deckbuilding straight away! There are so many incentives that reward you for owning the physical cards, for fans of the game it's a constant pat on the back fro supporting them.


Overall I found Age of Sigmar Champions highly enjoyable. The corner mechanic took a little fiddling with to understand but once you are used to it it is a great way to play a game. A few of the rules were a little unclear on first read, however playing the app actually cleared those up for us. There's a lot of fun to be had just from playing the starter decks against each other, but like any TCG there's a lot more depth once you start opening up those boosters!


Fi’s Final Thoughts

I was honestly not expecting much when going into Age of Sigmar Champions. The theme does nothing for me and the closest I’ve ever come to the trading card game format is playing Hearthstone on the tablet, and playing one game with a Magic the Gathering starter set. I have been extremely surprised by how much I enjoy this game!

Pre-game deck-building will never be something I enjoy, so the fact that I can play the game straight out of the box without having to make any choices and be playing on a level playing field as my opponent is fantastic. With two starter sets there would be enough variety to keep us going for a while – not only can we play both decks, but also, the deck shuffle can really affect which strategies you can implement. So far we’ve found that Order was the simplest to play, with Destruction being the most challenging and the other two decks somewhere in the middle. The only time that we’ve had a game that wasn’t a close ending was when Amy, as the more experienced TCG player, played with the Destruction deck and just understood it far better than I could on a first play. However, with the game only lasting 20 minutes, it wasn’t a frustrating loss.


What most intrigues me about Age of Sigmar Champions is the way that cards trigger each other and trigger from the game state. There are lots of signposts that help me to plan my turns. My heroes help me to decide where I should play the cards in order to rotate my heroes quickly and hopefully unlock powerful blessings. Some cards work best with adjacent cards to trigger their most powerful damage effects. Sometimes, using a heroic ability can have huge effects and cause interesting chain reactions between cards. In addition, you always have the tough decision of whether to play cards or draw cards. I’ve won a couple of games by pushing my luck and not wasting time drawing cards – ending the game with an empty hand, but securing victory.

Warhammer Age of Sigmar Champions plays fast, has lots of variety and really works for the part of me that enjoys puzzliness in games. We are unlikely to get heavily involved in the trading card aspect, but the starter decks alone are something we will continue to play with. The app is likely to provide me with more of the trading card game aspects, where Amy will help me to build decks that I can then play with online. I’d highly recommend checking out the game!


You Might Like...
  • All four factions have very different play styles, some of which are more challenging to grasp than others.
  • There are some great opportunities to pull of clever moves by timing your actions and cleverly manipulating your card placement.
  • The starter decks provide a great point of entry and have always given us balanced games.
You Might Not Like...
  • There is no doubt that there is a lot of commercial buttons being pushed with Age of Sigmar Champions. The integration of the booster model with the app is likely to fuel the game to a certain extent.
  • The app is such a direct port of the physical game, that it might hold the physical game back from doing super well. It takes out the fiddliness of spinning your cards, but for us, it’s a little more enjoyable on the table.

The Verdict
8/10 Age of Sigmar Champions is a fantastic card game. The spatial aspects of the player board and the element of timing in when you play your cards to get the best damage effects, really make the game stand out. The starter decks alone make a very fun game that stands alone and I’m sure the app will be addictive for us.

The four starter decks of Warhammer Age of Sigmar Champions were a review copy kindly provided to us by Playfusion.

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