I think, after all these years, I’ve finally decided I like Age of Sigmar.
I grew up with Warhammer Fantasy as one of my favourite fantasy worlds. I devoured every novel, army book, and online forum discussion I could get my hands on. It was a derivative fantasy setting, but it was my derivative fantasy setting. I kept it pretty close even as real life came along and my involvement in Warhammer dipped. Years pass, and I gave a soft sigh as I saw Warhammer retired in favour of a new world with great golden not-Space Marines fronting every book. New generation, new game, new world. It’s just a fact of life.
Then a couple years back a friend of mine got me to play it. I liked a lot of the new mechanics and disliked a few others. The simplicity, the wackiness, the new combat activation all felt good. I could understand its popularity, but the setting still felt empty. It was only later as talented writers finally started fleshing out the worlds of AoS that I really saw it. It started with the development of the Stormcast Eternals from vapid-power-armoured-superheroes into tortured-souls-bearing-a-burden-they-never-asked-for and ended with the realization that, even if just for business, Games Workshop had created a fantasy world for everyone. The setting is purposefully gigantic, and vague, ripe for imagination and roleplay. AoS is also a lot more inclusive than most fantasy worlds, and I appreciate that fact. Really it’s just an approachable game with an approachable setting.
And now it’s got an approachable RPG. A great one.
Soulbound has a faithfully approachable plot. You’re heroes, chosen by the gods of the good guys to go bash the bad guys and save the day. You are Soulbound, which means you’re already hitched to your fellow players through the strands of fate. This manifests in the mechanics, but also just means there’s nothing standing between rolling up some crazy heroic characters, skipping over introductions if they’re not wanted, and jumping right into the chaos bashing.
Character creation has you choosing an archetype before deciding on attribute scores, talents, and equipment. Archetypes include species choice and general class abilities. Player attributes are divided between three scores: Body, Mind, and Soul. These scores range from 1-8 and determine the number of dice players roll when making tests. Skills are similarly simple. Players are either untrained, have a number of training points, and/or have a focus in each skill. Untrained players use their base attributes, training adds dice based on the level, and focus grants a bonus to a single die per level. Real individualization of characters comes from the Talents, which grant special abilities and offer paths for character development. Some may find it overly simplistic, but as a transitional game, a game for getting non-gamers involved in the hobby, or as a simple thing you can role up in a few minutes and get adventuring, its excellent.
A moment for the rulebook itself. I appreciate the layout. The margins almost always have references to key words, in-universe terms, special rules, or page numbers where players glancing through can find more detailed information. I wish more RPGs did this. Additionally, there are numerous charts and prompts to help new role-players or unfamiliar gamers brainstorm character and party traits. It’s a very welcoming book.
The core of the game takes the simple attributes above and uses them in opposed and unopposed tests. In unopposed tests, Players get a number of dice based on their skills and attributes and attempt to score above a certain number a number of times, as determined by the difficulty and complexity of the task. Simple enough that a GM would only have to say, “Give me an ‘’awareness” test, and do the counting themselves. Opposed tests have the opposing force rolling their own test. Most successes wins. There are other ways players can interact with the game, like spending mettle points for additional actions or bonuses but this core system makes character sheet rifling non-existent.
Combat is reminiscent of the wargame, with a player’s attack rating meeting the enemy’s defence rating or vice versa in sliding scale. Movement and the environment use a unique zone system to help make positioning matter. It honestly feels like they were attempting to emulate some of the more visible aspects of the tabletop wargame. I think it works, but it is by far the most complex part of the game.
Finally, the Soulfire/Doom dynamic is an interesting addition. As Soulbound, players can spend their soulfire (a manifestation of their party’s togetherness), with the consent of the party, for one time benefits. If a party member objects to the spending of a soulfire point, it can be pushed through, but will generate Doom. Doom grows slowly over time and has a tangible effect of increasing the potential damage enemies can do to the party, as well as impacting the world around the party. It’s a nice little system that gives weight to the world of Soulbound.
I could probably keep writing about this system for quite a while. The whole game feels effortless, and that can be a real positive point in a game’s favour. For those who want the kind of detailed character creation that allows for fascinating min-max builds, I think there are other options. For fans of the tabletop game, simple heroics, and systems-light adventuring in a big bright fantasy world, check out Soulbound.
Age of Sigmar: Soulbound has been developed by Cubicle 7. For more information and to grab your own copy of the Core Rulebook, Starter Set or any of the other available modules, head to www.cubicle7games.com