At PAX Unplugged in Philadelphia, PA, an entire host of analog games were on display and the one that drew me first was Warhammer. Having become familiar with Warhammer in the video games space through titles such as Spacehulk: Tactics and Warhammer 40K: Space Marine, I decided to get take a look at the tabletop series that started it all.
Pax Unplugged, Games WorkShop and Play Fusion unveiled a new card game in the Warhammer universe, called Warhammer: Age of Sigmar Champions. Warhammer: Age of Sigmar Champions is a card battling game that can be played both on mobile devices and in-person with a game board. I had the opportunity to play the game myself, and I came away both rewarded and intrigued.
For those unfamiliar, Warhammer began as a miniature war game that simulated large, grand battle across a fantasy battlefield. It is set within a universe heavily inspired by the works of J.R.R Tolkien and fantasy writer Michael Moorcrock. In this world, there is war and conquest amongst various factions all striving for order and power. The game has become incredibly popular spawning a sci-fi spin-off with Warhammer 40,000, which takes the familiar mechanics of fantasy-themed miniature warfare and sends it into an involving and expanding universe filled with deadly aliens, special powers, planetary conquest, and ship-to-ship combat. Of course, there is plenty of boots-on-the-ground gameplay, with wild weapons and deadly creatures. In the Warhammer 40,000 universe, there have been numerous tabletop games and video game adaptations, including the infamous tactical combat game, Space Hulk, and the real-time strategy classic, the Dawn of War Series.
For Warhammer: Age of Sigmar Champions, the game takes place in the more traditional fantasy setting, in the glorious age of Sigmar, the patron God of the Empire of Man and the Cult of Sigmar. In this age of prosperity, a dark force gathers to threaten the Empire of Man. A new dark lord has taken shape and form to bring evil to the land. Armies are mustered and great power is unleashed. In the heat of this battle, champions will be made.
Warhammer: Age of Sigmar Champions is a card battling game, where players can choose one of four factions: Order, Chaos, Death, and Destruction. After choosing a faction, cards are placed in five lanes, and in rows of five. Players will choose their warriors then have access to specific attacks and uses. Numbers around the map, from 50 to zero, indicate the total health you or your opponent has. From there, the game is a matter of deck tactics and combat. The ultimate rule is to unlock your most powerful card, the blessing, which is placed below your champion.
Sitting down with a member of Play Fusion, I was a bit nervous to play Warhammer: Age of Sigmar Champions. I have always been a die-hard and passionate video game enthusiast, but barely a card or board game player. Various questions about skills, rules, and players came through my thoughts before preparing to play. I even admitted that my only real experience with Warhammer was with their video game portfolio. The team, though, we more than happy to assist me.
Over the span of about 40 minutes, other player and I faced off. I chose the Order faction while he chose the Death Faction. My attacks were more physical and militarized while his attacks focused more on taking life to feed their own. Drawing and using cards took getting used to. The cards have numbers in their corners, which implies whether an attack is made in that turn or passed over. For example, my wizard warrior uses spells so an attack could not be made for at least two turns, as the attack required charging up, via incantation. To initiate an attack, players turn their cards counter-clockwise. If there is damage, that damage will either afflict the champion or the unit deployed for the attack. Naturally, if the damage is sustained, the health coin must go towards zero. There are options for healing as well.
The more I played, the more confident I became, which felt incredibly rewarding. I talked out my instructions, organized my deck, and made the necessary moves. Of course, I had some guidance, but it was a very interesting combat experience. I drew offensive cards with general damage to bypass defenses and offensive units. However, the forces of death use stabbing and piercing attacks, making defensive cards essential.
The more I got into the flow of making attacks, the further along I became in understanding the combat mechanics. Eventually, I was able to access a blessed weapon for the Wizard, a Siege Hammer. The Siege Hammer granted additional damage points and could be employed once drawn. Despite this blessing, my opponent drew one as well, which was a Death-themed speel. It got down to the wire, with each of us having less than ten health each, but with one last good draw, with two of my regular units, I had won the game.
I shook my opponent’s hand and came away feeling like I had stepped through a rite of passage. After spending so much time playing Warhammer in the video game front, it felt terrific playing a genuine physical Warhammer card game. I had finally experienced an analog Warhammer experience, seeing for myself the rules and competitive combat that has lead to the development of the many Warhammer video games.
As I left the booth, I was presented with two surprises, the first was the presentation of the Warhammer: Age of Sigmar Champions mobile game, currently available on iOS and Android phones. The mobile experience presented the many fundamental mechanics present in the real-life card game. Additionally, real-life cards are woven in with QR codes. If players own the app and real-life cards, they may scan them into the game and put them in play. They may also be removed, depending on the player’s wishes. Overall, Warhammer: Age of Sigmar is a fantastic experience for those new or familiar with card-battling games.
Warhammer: Age of Sigmar Champions is currently available at your local game store and mobile device stores, such as Google Play and the iOS App Store.