Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Path to Glory: let's rave a bit about AoS

I thought there'd be nothing like the catharsis you get after a nice rant. I was wrong. Path to Glory, the narrative campaign system in Age of Sigmar, turns out to serve just as well. I had my first opening games in this weekend and it was fun. Good company, pretty (painted) miniatures and fun rules. Let's start with an opening shot of the table(s) and then I'll give my take on Age of Sigmar Path to Glory.

The small size of the conflict allows for a smaller table. As we had five players we divided a larger table into two playing areas using battle mats. 

Path to Glory for Age of Sigmar popped into existence in the 1988 Realm of Chaos: Slaves to Darkness book. Quite a feat as this predated the Age of Sigmar rules bij 27 years. Well, okay that was a system for use in Warhammer Fantasy 3rd but I couldn't resist making that joke. The basic premise from that venerable book was used in a 2015 eBook called Warhammer Age of Sigmar Path to Glory Call of Chaos (someone got paid by the word there). It featured the classic 'pick a champion and roll your warband'-system. It also sucked. As nice as it is to roll 10 Blood Warriors as followers, your joy is short lived if you only have 5 in your collection. I guess that sort off matched with the old RoC book. Not that I don't honestly admire people rolling for followers, (re-)converting their champions between games and going for it, I just suspect that doesn't happen a lot in real life (outside of gaming studios).

My Grey Seer Paptolk Pexshard had a brilliant plan, too bad he didn't figure for a horde of Beastmen to get in his way. 

Anyway, after the smallish release GW started including Path to Glory rules in all the AoS Battle Tomes. Woe betide the Vampire player rolling Blood Knights (pre plastic kit) as members of the warband :). I tried organizing a small campaign using this system within our gaming club but had to abandon the project. Not for a lack of player interest, but because of the abysmal rules. Progress of the warbands was a spotty affair. There was no proper way to tie multiple different battles together. Especially if they were played by people with vastly different amounts of time to dedicate to the hobby. In a sense it reminded me of the Mighty Empires and Planetary Empires rules (that came with the plastic tile boxes, not the cardboard 1990's game I (sadly) never owned or played). Nice tiles, but terrible rules that mostly consisted of 'make something up yourself''. 

The piano terrain bit is one of my classics that had to be fielded on this day. 

Enter the latest release of Age of Sigmar (3.0). Yes I still think there are too many releases, but the Path to Glory rules in this book are awesome. The system presented makes it possible to start with a small character led warband that you build into an army (or even armies if you really get carried away). There's clever rules for conquering and upgrading territories without ending up with one player holding all the territories, and the other players secretly switching to a Battletech campaign (or whatever else is at hand). You can expand your stronghold and recruit heroes, followers and monsters to your warband. All this is built in such a way that you can play as often (or infrequently) as you like without breaking the flow of the greater campaign. You can even field your army against non-campaign players and carry on with the story (although a few quick words in advance of the game are wise). 

You wouldn't believe it, but the oversized spiders managed to glare a flying ship down to the ground (and eat it).

The starting point for Path to Glory is your hero and faction. You pick a character from your army book and decide where this creature is holed up. Options range widely: from a small village to an abandoned mineshaft or ruined keep. The stronghold you pick, gives a small bonus for your warband (for instance, room in your stronghold for one extra warmachine). You use the standard points cost to pick units (and pay for your general). At the start of the campaign you agree with the other players how many points you'll use. You (usually) also use these points to determine the size of the campaign game you play. A grizzled veteran campaigner won't necesarily field a 5.000 point army versus a freshly started 600 point warband (but you can if you want to). The veteran still has some advantages if you decide to go for 600 to 600 points. I'll get into these advantages later.

Elves with an overt enthusiasm for souls and water decided to fight over a magical landmark with spider riding goblins.  

Before selecting a (skirmish) battle plan to fight, you pick a campaign goal for your warband (a quest). This gives you an extra objective during the battle (for instance: end the battle with at least one unit within 4" of a table edge outside your starting zone). Scoring the bonus objective nets you a campaign goal; your wizard learns an extra spell, you find an artefact, you get some glory points, etc. Glory points are important. You use these to buy extra territories you find with a random roll on a table, you upgrade your stronghold with them and you use them for a number of other things between battles. Extra territories (like your stronghold) give you bonuses, for the most part extra slots to add units to your warband. For instance: if you find and conquer 'Wild Lands' you can add one extra monster to your army roster (you still need to pay points for it though). 

Later on the Idoneth Aelf general decided to ambush a Skaven Grey Seer. 

Between battles you check for wounds on killed characters, generals, monsters and warmachines. You also check for lost members in your hurt rank and file units. You can recuperate wounds and recruit fresh soldiers. This gets easier if you skip a battle with the affected unit, giving players with larger warbands an advantage. Units that survive build up renown and can get a special ability if they're famous enough. Getting maimed in battle might cost you the special ability. The risk of permanently hurting your characters or diminishing famous units, adds a little extra spice to battles. It is nicely implemented in these rules. 

Unfortunately (for the Idoneth Aelf) the Grey Seer was just on his way back to his stronghold, having purchased a slobbering Hellpit Abomination.

Because the starting size of a warband is small (in default mode) you can play multiple games in an afternoon. We managed two games back-to-back, mostly because we started late, had to finish early and were way to sociable to really get gaming time in (absolutely worth it to lose gaming time over that). It was a lot of fun to play these smaller games and I noticed stories almost automatically developing. The only thing that went slightly wrong was that one player was absent due to illness. We ended with five people. This turned out to be a happy little accident as one player per round instead worked as a referee/game master which always helps make games flow ever so much quicker. 

The Aelf General drank a potion to fight the monster off, unfortunately it was said potion that killed the general. Was this a bit of courtside intrigue spilling over onto the battlefield?

The fun part of the game comes between the battles. You can slowly expand your hold on territories, your army grows and you upgrade your stronghold to turn it into a mighty fortress. You are free to add as much bla bla embellishment to this as you like (I like adding a lot - perhaps too much ;). The campaign can (theoretically) last forever, but its smarter to agree upon a set number of glory points to reach the end. That makes it interesting as you spend the points you need to win to improve your warband. It's an interesting mechanic. At least as interesting is the lack of a formal map (unless you want to), you never run out of spaces to dominate. I'm not sure if there are rules for stealing other peoples territory (it should/could be a quest you can pick, and I should've looked this up while typing...). If you want to go crazy, you can actually play multiple warbands (if you have multiple armies in your collection). Why not? It gives you a chance to switch-up and still enjoy all the themes a campaign has to offer. 

The humongous Arachnarok spider looked impressive, unfortunately the Kharadron gunfire was even more impressive (no rolled up newspaper was needed).

During the game I learned that White Dwarf has recently been publishing special Path to Glory rules for different factions. This give you faction specific quests, territories and damage tables. For instance the Kharadron get specific damage that affects their flying ships. Its very thematic and these should be published in a bundle (they'll probably end up in Battle Tome updates). Re-reading this I can't believe I'm asking for more books to be published. Well a good and comprehensive campaign supplement would be worth it.

In the end only two spider riders managed to escape the Duardin ambush by cleverly using a temple of Sigmar to stay out of sight.

All in all this is an excellent bit of rules writing on the part of GW. It's also a reason to like the latest edition of Age of Sigmar and stick with the system a bit longer. I would've preferred it if the Path to Glory had been issued as a nice (hardcover) supplement with rules for the factions and pretty pictures. A bit like the ever pretty Warhammer The General's Compendium that I still like to leaf through once in a while. We're planning to keep the Path to Glory campaign going, and will probably expand it to our entire gaming club in the near future (as an option to join). All that's really missing is a nice web-based system to keep track of everyone's progress on the club website. 


  1. Path to Glory gets a thumbs up from me too. I had lots of fun playing Skirmish growing little warbands which reminded me of the WH6th ed skirmish rules and the free Regiments of Renown skirmish rules of yesteryear. Skirmish fitted nicely as a lead into Path to Glory where my skirmish generals Skaven Warlord Malis Manwrack and Death Banshee Ottilia the Vengeful would return to the battlefields where their infamy and legends grow as greater stories unfold.

    I don't have the latest Generals Handbook but I would buy an expanded Path to Glory narrative supplement if GW decided to print one, it would definately get well used.

    1. A separate book would be something. The latest rules for Path to Glory are not in the General's Handbook, but in the Core Rulebook (3.0). Come to think of it, they'll probably reprint those White Dwarf articles in the upcoming General's Handbook (it's what I would do if I were in charge of providing filler for that book).