[Archive] Arena of War: "balancing" Age of Sigmar

Thommy H:


Look, I’m in the camp of those that think Age of Sigmar is, generally, a Good Thing. I think the system and its aims are sound, and the basic rules already contain a balancing mechanism in the form of the deployment mini-game and the sudden death victory conditions. But I do sympathise with the people who recoil from such wishy-washy notions after a lifetime of playing a game in which “army building” was a major part of the experience.

And I think that GW could have dodged a huge amount of criticism if they’d merely acknowledged this change in philosophy and explained why they were changing this basic premise. Or just chucked out a token “here’s how you put together an army” section in the rules or something, and let people dissect that. But just throwing out the baby with the bathwater has obviously rubbed a huge amount of people the wrong way.

Anyway, as is often the case when GW leave something undone, I’ve decided to step in and offer my own solution. I’m nice like that. There are tons of comp systems floating about online and improvised by tournament organisers, many of which are longer than the actual rules. I want to embrace what AoS is all about and keep things as simple and elegant as possible - I set myself a target of a single page, and I’ve achieved that.

The concept is very simple: the warscrolls, by their nature, involve a limitation - unit size - and if you examine the rules this manifests in a couple of ways. For example, units intended to make up the core of forces get advantages for having large sizes, while elite units don’t. My belief, therefore, is that each warscroll is balanced, in and of itself, against every other. Now, this is patently untrue in many cases - Nagash is better than a Goblin Warboss - but it’s true enough to form a kernel of an idea. If both sides pick the same number of warscrolls, the battle should be balanced (for a given definition of “balanced”).

I’ve added some wrinkles. The main one is that larger units count as more warscrolls for army selection purposes, but apart from that I also limit heroes, monsters and war machines. And any heroes that are also monsters or war machines are more costly too (that means Nagash, Greater Daemons, etc.). But the big thing, the really important thing, is that summoned units have to be part of your army list. I think this solves the big problem that many people have with AoS “out of the box” - there’s an assumption (based on previous editions of Warhammer) that summoned, raised, etc. units are “free”. That’s what makes Nagash powerful, because you can show up with him on his own and then create a whole army from nothing. These rules, dubbed Arena of War, prevent that.

Anyway, this post is at risk of becoming longer than the rules themselves. Consider this an alternative to eyeballing armies to check they’re about even. It’s not intended to provide an AoS equivalent to points costs in previous editions; it’s not detailed enough for that. I think if GW had published something like this from the beginning though, it would have made things easier on them. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.


It looks very good. I am certainly no where near even competent to do any critiques but your work is looking and reading more and more “professional” each time.


Misspelling on the first sentence in the first paragraph - “Unlike in ordinary games of Warhammer: Age of Sigmar, Area” (<- should probably be Arena).

Also regarding the math on ‘Any number of Models’ call out. If you divide 10 by the number of wounds for a 3-wound model you would get 3.333. Your next statement says to round any fractions up, so it would be a minimum size of 4, not three as you state. IDC, which way you go, but it should be consistent.

If you can make the room, I think your final example army section should include an example that shows the use of your warscroll battalions rule. The warscroll battalions section is a bit hard to understand at first. I think I figured it out, but the example would be helpful.

I really like the Arena of War concept, it is nearly the same as what I’m using for a home-brew comp for AoS anyway. Keep up the good work!


Thommy H:

Yep, good spots. Fractions should be rounded down, not up - I reversed some of the phrasing in that section during editing and obviously left some of the old wording intact!

I agree about the battalions. It’s one of those things that’s easy to explain, but hard to write rules for. The idea is that you still have to pay for the units’ warscrolls, but ignore the limits on heroes, monsters, war machines and scenery. So a battalion with 10 heroes would be legal in a 10-warscroll army because it represents a special formation.

I’ll try to figure out a better way of succinctly explaining that. Maybe an example would be useful. Thanks!

Thommy H:

All right, updated version attached to the first post. Reworded basically everything and hopefully it all makes sense now…

Explaining what I meant about the warscroll battalions was absurdly difficult, and all I could really do was add a lengthy example. At one point I was dividing units into categories and all sorts to try to get the idea across elegantly. It’s so easy to explain, so hard to put into succinct words. Anyone who thinks AoS was just thrown together needs to try writing something like this in a very limited space. It’s an interesting challenge.


Great to see you’re at it, Thommy. We haven’t yet tried Age of Sigmar in my hobby group, but whenever we do so I’ll be sure to print out your balancing sheet.


Doh, still missed fixing ‘Area of War’ to ‘Arena of War’ in the first sentence. LOL!

Sorry, I’ve worked closely with an OCD technical writer for years, I can’t help but report these things…



- Still need to fix 'Area of War' to 'Arena of War' in the first sentence
- Treelord s/b Treeman in the examples

Sorry, I've worked closely with an OCD technical writer for years, I can't help but report these things...

Also, since I have a Wood Elf army, I'll also comment on the example list. I'd swap the 2nd unit of (10) Dryads for a unit of (6) Tree Kin for the same two warscrolls. I know it is just an example. The 10 dryads are not enough models to qualify for the Impenetrable Thicket special rule.

Still, this is awesome work!

I'm going to update an Excel spreadsheet that I've started to work with your Arena of War rules. It allows you to put in the number of models that you want to field, and it will calculate your warscroll cost. I'll share it back to the community when I get it done.



Thommy H:

Argh - I changed it, but I bet it got undone when I reverted some other more significant change… grumble grumble


“Minimum allowed or fewer”? How could someone take less than the minimum? Or is it a very soft minimum?

Thommy H:

The rules allow you to include an under-strength unit if you don’t have enough models, actually, but I take your point and will rephrase…

Thommy H:

Corrected version uploaded. Treelord is accurate, btw - it’s what Treemen are called now.


RE: Treelord

Wow, they changed it when they re-based to oval bases. I actually checked the GW warscroll on my computer, but I guess they are stealth releasing the warscrolls with changes as well.

Cool, thanks!

Thommy H:

The Wood Elves compendium still says Treeman, but it got its own warscroll when they released the first big hardback, and that says Treelord. Same rules though.