ICv2 Stars: 3.5 (out of 5)
Posted by William Niebling on July 26, 2021 @ 1:23 am CT
Publisher: Games Workshop
Release Date: July, 2021
Designers: The Warhammer Studio
Number of Players: 2
Product #: 5-011921-138036 (UPC)
Age Rating: 12 and up
ICv2 Rating: 3.5 Stars out of 5
It feels like it was just a few days ago that Games Workshop launched Warhammer: Age of Sigmar to great fanfare (and turmoil among the Warhammer faithful). But here we are on the cusp of another new edition of the global favorite fantasy tabletop miniature game. And with the new edition comes a new boxed set, crammed full of minis and sporting an exclusive version of the new Core Rules book. But is this a "must have" for fans of Age of Sigmar?
Summary: It is worth noting that Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Dominion is not, in reality, a "starter set" for the new edition. It does include the complete rulebook for the new edition, with an exclusive cover available only in this set, as well as two complete, modestly sized armies featuring the ever-popular Stormcast Eternals and the cunning Orruk Kruleboyz. And in that sense, it is playable "out of the box." But it does not include the various utensils one would require to play: dice, measuring devices, and so forth. In many ways, Dominion serves more as a way to introduce fans of Age of Sigmar to the new edition, rather than a way to attract non-players to the table.
Originality: When the Age of Sigmar dawned, one of its remarkable achievements was the simple four-page Core Rules. In its 2018 incarnation, it had blossomed to 18, introducing a new "Command Ability" system to expand the tactical options for players. The new edition continues this evolution, with the central rule set doubling again to about 38 pages (albeit with more—and quite excellent—illustrated examples). The Command Abilities have been expanded, along with new "Heroic Actions" and "Monstrous Rampages" that offer new abilities to the game’s many special characters. The guidelines for the three main playing modes—Open Play, Narrative Play, and Matched Play—have been fleshed out, with a surprisingly comprehensive system for playing extended campaigns in Narrative Play, allowing players to create their own storyline and follow the careers of their characters and army.
Presentation: I love the fact that Dominion is in a real box. And a nice, sturdy one at that. I know that a lot of miniatures enthusiasts don’t care much about the packaging, since they tend to discard it as soon as they take the plastic out. But this one’s good enough to keep using for storage or transport afterwards, and if that means it stays out of the landfill a little longer, that’s not a bad thing. But even more important, it means that the stuff inside the box is protected, which isn’t always a given when it comes to minis. The design inside is also well-conceived, with a nice cardboard insert to hold the very-heavy book in place and dividers that protect both the book cover and the minis from being jostled. GW thoughtfully decorated the dividers with poster-worthy artwork as well.
Quality: I never cease to be amazed by the engineering that goes into modern miniatures. Especially with "push fit" models like the ones included in this set, which have to come together perfectly if they are going to look really good. In theory, push-fit models are more suitable for less-experienced modelers (as the more die-hard types typically like to customize their models), but in this case it appears that the designers chose that style so they could create more dynamic, more highly-detailed miniatures. Some of them have joins that are quite challenging, which can lead to frustration and damaged models. The rules, also, seem to slant more towards the experienced player, with increased complexity compared to the previous edition, and a wealth of new ways for players to customize their armies and their tactics during play, all of which reward the more knowledgeable player.
Marketability: The strongest argument in favor of Dominion is its value. True, $199.00 is a lot to lay on the counter, but it includes an exclusive version of the Core Rules ($65.00 in its regular version) and 60 miniatures (comparable models typically run $5-$10 or more). I would expect that any fan of Age of Sigmar who intends to keep up with the current rules set would want to get their hands on one—at least assuming that they play one of the two armies in the box. Players of other armies may be less enthusiastic.
Overall: I like the changes in the new edition. I enjoy tailoring my army to my playing style, and I feel like this edition offers me a lot of interesting tools to accomplish that with. I like the new models as well, particularly the sinister-looking Kruleboyz, but also the ways that the Stormcast aesthetic has expanded and evolved. The short background booklet War at Amberstone Watch is a fun read and chock full of splendid pictures of the models to inspire my painting. And I very much appreciate the Warscroll cards, which I find superior to stat blocks in a book as a playing reference.
But I think in some ways, Dominion is a victim of Games Workshop’s success. The models are good, but assembly was much harder than I have come to expect from GW, and some of them don’t fit together tightly enough for my taste. Combined with the limitations that push-fit models have in terms of customization, this left me feeling a bit underwhelmed. The game rules, on the other hand, may have reached too high of a level of complexity. Every unit, it seems, has special powers and rules that have to be remembered, the learning curve for the expanded command abilities, Heroic Actions, and Monstrous Rampages is steeper, and I found myself having to flip through the rulebook a lot to play the game. I would have been better served with more playing aids and a little less background story to really ease my way into the new edition. And that’s why I’m giving this game 3.5 out of 5.
To see images of the components in the game, see Games Workshop Previews ‘Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Dominion’."