Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Soul Wars Boxed Set
Publisher:  Games Workshop
Release Date: June 30, 2018
Price: $160.00
Game Designer(s): GW Staff
Format: Miniatures Game
Number of Players: 2 or more
Playing Time: 90 minutes +
UPC #: 5-011921-099375
Age Rating: 12 and up
ICv2 Rating: 4 Stars out of 5

It doesn’t seem so very long ago that Games Workshop turned the world of Warhammer fans on its ear with the launch of the Age of Sigmar, prompting howls of protest and threats to set collections of miniatures on fire.  Despite that, the Age of Sigmar proved to be an enjoyable play and developed a following of its own.  Now, a scant three years later, an updated version arrives.  But is this another revolution in the making?

Summary:  The cornerstone of the launch of the new edition is the luxurious Soul Wars boxed set.  Claiming to be “the ultimate Warhammer Age of Sigmar boxed set,” it includes everything players would want to start with the new edition:  the full hardcover Core Book plus an 18-page Core Rules pamphlet, two complete (though compact) armies—iconic Stormcast Eternals and ghostly Nighthaunts—along with Warscroll cards for every unit, the 32-page Battle of Glymmsforge chronicling the conflict between the two armies, a Start Here guide that introduces the setting, a complete assembly and painting guide, a dozen dice, a plastic ruler, and decals for the minis.

Originality:  This new Age of Sigmar is definitely more evolution than revolution.  Though the Core Rules have expanded from 4 pages to 18, much of it is taken up by photographs of models.  Most of the changes are small tweaks to things like terrain and magic spells, or clarifications of edge cases that can come up in play.  The big changes are the introduction of a new system of “Command Abilities” that opens up a lot more tactical options for players, revamped and expanded magic spells including new “endless spells” that remain in play for an extended period, and special rules for playing in the different “realms” or worlds of the Age of Sigmar setting.

Presentation:  In structure and appearance, the Soul Wars boxed set is similar to the Dark Imperium boxed set released last year for Warhammer 40,000:  protected by a slipcover, the box is more of a tray designed to keep all of the components snug and protected during shipping, with the rulebooks shrinkwrapped and the miniatures secure in their own box.  While it may not serve to store the components after assembly (most gamers would want to display their models after assembling and painting them anyway), it does an excellent job of delivering those components in good condition.  The slipcover itself offers a nice dramatic portrait of a Stormcast Eternal on the front and a lovely image of the miniatures on the bank—painted by GW professionals to dramatic effect.

Quality:  The quality of the components easily meets the standards we expect from Games Workshop.  The Stormcasts maintain that faction’s style and appearance admirably, but the Nighthaunts are, in a word, fantastic sculpts.  They really do look like a phalanx of ghosts set to haunt the world from beyond, floating eerily above the ground and splendid with creepy details.  All of the models are “push fit,” which can be assembled without requiring any glue, and all but the most complex fit together quickly and easily.  The Core Book does not disappoint, with coffee-table-book quality art and photographs, engaging writing, and solid construction.  Two-thirds of the book is background to give players material for crafting their own “narrative” play.  This is followed by the Core Rules, then a 50-page section with advanced rules, army abilities, realm effects, and rules for three styles of play:  “Open” games with almost no structure, “Narrative” games that retell “historical” battles or that tell stories over a campaign of linked games, and tournament-ready “Matched” games that use point values for players to construct evenly-matched armies.

MarketabilitySoul Wars does have a pretty hefty price tag, weighing in at $160, but it’s not a bad deal for all that.  It includes the complete Core Rules (MSRP $60) and 52 miniatures (with similar miniatures priced at $4 each or more)—which valued altogether exceeds the price of the box—so fans of Age of Sigmar who are looking to upgrade to the new edition may want to pick one up, particularly if they intend to play either of the armies included.  It is worth pointing out, however, that this is not a true “starter set.”  While it does a fine job of introducing the new system, and it does include the Core Rules pamphlet to get players up to speed quickly, it does not include any “introductory” scenarios or step-by-step “getting started” guidance.  Players with little or no experience with miniatures games may struggle a bit if they dive headfirst into Soul Wars.

Overall:  In my opinion, the updates to Age of Sigmar make what was a good game even better.  The balance between magic and other units feels better, the new Command Abilities system forces interesting tactical decisions, and the opportunities for narrative play have been enhanced and expanded nicely.  As a set, Soul Wars is great:  looking at the gorgeous Nighthaunt models is, for the first time ever, tempting me to put together an undead force, while the new Stormcasts promise new options and opportunities for that army as well.  Above all else, I really appreciate the Warscroll cards.  I cannot think of anything that could make gameplay easier and faster than having all of the special powers of your units in front of you without having to flip through books to find them every turn.  I really hope that GW continues that trend, and I would love to see a unit card included with every set of miniatures.

So, Warhammer Age of Sigmar:  Soul Wars is not a revolution, but it is a solid improvement to a game that really is a lot of fun to play, even for players who don’t have a lot of miniatures gaming experience, and this boxed set is a great way to approach the new edition.  Every time Games Workshop puts out a new boxed set like this, it is an improvement over the last one, and that’s why I’m giving this game 4 out of 5.

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-- William Niebling