Saturday, 2 July 2016

Review: The Generals Handbook

The General's Handbook!

Review by Sean of HobbyHammer

I was really excited to find a copy of the Generals Handbook (GH) on my doorstep from GW a few weeks earlier. I couldn't wait to get reading to see what direction Games Workshop are taking this game in. I have to say, I am not disappointed with them and this book is now a new bible for me. As the website name suggests, for me the game is all about Hobby, and if you have been following or been part of my other website,, you will also know narrative gameplay is huge for me. I was extremely excited by the 2nd way of playing and the release of the Summer campaign in The Realm of Life gave all of us at the club a huge Hobby boner. I have broken the book down into the three sections for review and will cover as much of it as possible, obviously this post is my review and so will contain my opinions, I have no official tie in with GW (apart from the financial tie in we all have). I will also conclude as to what I believe will be the next steps for Age of Sigmar.  

The Many Faces of War

Before we delve completely into the book, the first few pages set the tone for what the book is going to be. These pages firstly give you at the beginning the Most Important Rule. It is up to you how you play with your miniatures and the most important thing is to have fun with your opponent. This section also tells you how to read and use the battle plans and times of war rules which make up a large part of this book.

Section 1: Open Play

This is pretty much the way Games Workshop released Age of Sigmar back in July 2015. Giving people the chance to turn up with whatever models they have, download the free rules and battle. Even after a year of release, there is still a backlash to this way of playing from most Warhammer players. Independent comp systems were introduced not long after with phenomenal work put it by ClashComp, Azyr Comp, SDK and SCGT comp to put some kind of balance back into the game and I believe this was GW's idea all along to allow the community to play in the way they feel right. If you think about it, using comp systems still come under this section. Players are playing in a way they like to to get the most of out the game in which they can. 

Now, imagine being a new player. I mean completely new to wargaming and buying your first box of miniatures. I can still remember my first purchase when I got back into Warhammer at the beginning of 8th. A box of Bestigor. I would have loved to have been able to play with this straight from the box, but instead I have to assemble another approx £100 of minis before I could even attempt a small game of AoS. Not only that, but all the minis had to be from the same army. So that box of Bestigor meant for the next £500 of purchases, they had to be Beastmen. New players now though, can go to a store, buy a box of minis, assemble them and play a small skirmish game straight away, it would be over pretty quick, but still enough fun to think, hey, I like this, I'll buy another box. So for me, this is a great way to introduce Age of Sigmar and a great edition to the handbook, a needed edition for the game.

Multiplayer Mode:

The main section that has been introduced in Open Play now is how to do multiplayer games. There are two varieties of ways to play multiplayer games in this book. Coalition of Death And Triumph and Treachery.    

Coalition of Death is a means of playing multiplayer games between two sides but having as many General's as you like. Teams are split into two, each person fielding their own warband or army, every General gets to use their own Command Ability but this only affects their own army. An overall warlord is nominated for each side who will decide on any disputes of their own teams. There is also two new battle plans that are perfect for this type of multiplayer game: King of the Hill and Fog of War. I am looking forward to trying this, but this will need quite a bit of time set aside to do. Our group certainly has enough players to play this and tournaments can really take advantage of these rules for team events.

Triumph and Treachery will be more familiar to veteran war gamers. In fact there was a whole book, around the size of this one which gave extra rules to play this style of multiplayer game. The basis for those who haven't seen or played this, is that it is pretty much an all vs all. There are some key mechanics that will give some kind of randomness to the game, the first being that the next players turn is determined by the highest dice roll. But unlike the old version, winning the dice roll doesn't necessarily mean it is your go as winning the roll means you get to choose who goes next. There are four battle plans which can be used and Triumph and Treachery can only be used with these four battleplans: Field of Blood, Artefact of Ultimate Power, Might is Right and Tower of Screaming Death. Our group of players is most excited about trying this version. Especially combining this with pitched battle points and a map campaign could work really well.

Overall Open Play is great for beginners to get to learn how the AoS mechanics work. Veterans will probably steer towards the Narrative and Matched Play options but will undoubtably use the multiplayer options in this section at some point, whether it be friendlies in the club or as part of tournament play.

Section 2: Narrative Play

In the following section I will be talking about Part 2 of the GH, this gives you options to build your own war bands, campaigns and stories. Carving out your own path in the vast universe of the mortal realms. The fact that the mortal realms are hardly touched upon and GW actual say that the realms are so vast, there can be anything anywhere. If you dream it up, it must be true basically. This means you can create your own little section of the world and adapt it to how you see fit.

The following pages give you some example battleplans that can be used to forge a narrative for your army. These battleplans can also be found in previous campaign books and battletomes that have been released. Battleplans are a great way to start your adventuring in the Age of Sigmar and perfect for narrative gaming.

After the introductions and example battle plans, it gives a little narrative and gives you a few examples on how to theme an army. Most people do this anyway.

A great way to forge out a narrative is to use the books and audio books of Age of Sigmar to recreate exact battles that have taken place. This book goes one step further in giving two battleplans which includes which exact models to use and how to deploy and go through the turns. They start with a stories and introduction to the characters and then go onto how to use them in battle and deployment. Of course you can do this yourself with any story you have read in any book.

What good is narrative without having a campaign that goes with it. This is the section I will be mainly use eat narrative stories.

Path to Glory:

If you are new to the hobby or even a veteran starting a new army, what better way to motivate yourself than building a warband from scratch, naming your models and recruiting more. Path to Glory gives you a template for doing just this. The armies you can do this with in this book are: Chaos, Stormcast Eternal, Fyreslayers, Skaven, Ironjawz, Sylvaneth or Death. But there is nothing stopping you creating your own follower tables for your own army and building it up yourself.

You choose a General, then pick units on the follower tables to add to your warband. This can be done by choosing them or leaving it to fate and rolling randomly. Instead of adding units, you can instead add to your glory points total. If you win a battle, you can also instead add characteristics to your General or followers as well. The first to 10 points of glory, wins the campaign. There are also two battleplans that can be used to play your PtG games in: The Monolith and Beasts Lair.

Map Campaigns:

Probably the section I'm most excited about as it is most similar to the Rise of Empires campaign I created. This option gives you a map of either a city, area or entire Realm to do battle over a gain territory. Every month you gain victory points for the areas your army controls, plus the different areas give you options for different abilities for your army. Let your imagine run wild and create your own map using one of the many free map creators online or use the GW examples in the books (photocopy them and add your own bits), use different Time of War rules in the areas and start beating your opponents down.

Just talking now with Kye from the club, we are planning on using a Hex grid system, either one created by GW like Lost Patrol, Mighty Empires or another game like Settlers of Catan and using each Hex as an area of control. Hobby juices a flowing.

Tree Campaigns:

A tree campaign is basically a campaign between 2 people with a lot of (or few) battleplans linked, the idea is you start with one balanced battleplan and decide who wins and who loses (by playing) If player A wins you play a scenario that is weighted in their favour, if player B wins you play a scenario weighted in their favour and continue down the tree. So for instance, saying their is Khorne Bloodbound Vs Seraphon, An easy way to do this would be if after playing through a scenario from say Pitched battles, Khorne wins, you could then play a battleplan from the Khorne Bloodbound book, as these will be weighted in their favour. Where as is Seraphon win, then you could play a battleplan from their book instead. You continue down the tree which branches off each time, until you get to the end battleplan. Whoever wins this, wins the campaign. Story writes itself. The GH does give you a set of battle plans to play through and a tree campaign if you do not want to, or don't have time to come up with one yourself. The battle plans are very well written and the narrative of the battles you will be fighting is very immersive. They give you six new battle plans in this section to play through as you progress up the tree.

Matrix Campaigns:

Battles aren't always a head on collision. Generals will want their army to fight in a certain way, whether that be to flank their enemy, hold their ground, go straight forward and smash their enemy head on etc. A matrix campaign isn't as such a campaign, it is a table that allows you to create games based on a decision pre battle. For instance, Player A may want to decide their army will swing round the back and flank the enemy, whilst player B decides he will want to advance forward towards his goal. These decisions are then written down in secret and then revealed. Once they are revealed, they are compared on a matrix chart (see below) and each army is given a set of special rules to use in their chosen battle plan. This works brilliant if combine it with another campaign mode like a Tree campaign or Ladder campaign (see Matched Play).

All in all. There are so many options laid out in 30 pages for creating an immersive narrative campaign for tournaments, clubs etc. Why not try a map campaign, using matrix special rules whilst building a PtG war band up from scratch. Or using a Tree campaign and Ladder League in a 6 game tournament. I really believe these combined the 100's of battle plans already out there, the possibilities are endless! Just get creating stories and narrative!

Section 3: Matched play

So the bit most of you will be probably skipping straight towards. (I know I did). In fact, a lot of you reading this will have skipped to this part of my blog to read first. I would recommend reading the rest of the book first or the rest of this blog first as match play really works better when combined with other parts of this book, but here we go..

Ladder Campaigns:

A ladder campaign is a simple but highly effective way of running a league in a club, or at a tournament. It relies on a mechanic where you replace the person you have just played if you win or lose. If you tie, you replace the person directly above you instead. You can solely use Pitched Battle scenarios and points to do this, but why not use the ladder campaign mechanic along with other narrative play campaign modes to really flesh out a league. I know as I mentioned previous, as a club, we are looking at running a Ladder league as well as a map and matrix campaign, using 2000pt armies and alliegences (See below) to create a huge campaign that will run for 6 months. 

Pitched Battles:

These are set of rules that allow any two people to meet and adhere by the play as balanced a game as they can. There are 6 battle plans (D6) as well as rules for creating a Varanguard (1000pt), Battlehost (2000pt) or Warhost (2500pt) game. For instance, to play a small Varanguard game, you can only have 0-2 behemoth and 0-2 artillery in the war band, but only need to field 2+ Battleline units. Personally I see the battle line units as a bit of a tax. I am currently playing with Seraphon and have a dinosaur list (big gribblies), I have 5 Behemoths (Carnosaur, Bastiladon, Troglodon, Engine of the Gods and Stegadon) and no Saurus Warriors, Guard, Knights or Skinks. In a Battlehost (2000pt) you can only field 0-4 Behemoths and must field 3+ Battleline units. So I know need to paint up 30 Skinks or Warriors to meet the minimum 3 units of 10. Roughly 15% of my army. Now I understand some may appreciate this as a rule and I'm sure tournaments will implement this, but as a fluffy gamer (Well I like to think I am), I would prefer not to have these restrictions. I have played through 3 of the 6 pitched battle plans using these restrictions and 3 with no restrictions and I have to say, I believe it is still balanced either way, as long as both armies have the same restrictions. The points are balanced enough in my opinion and as a club I can us dropping the army building restrictions whilst still using the points and some battle plans from this section. Again this is only my opinion so take with a pinch of salt. Remember GW's Most Important Rule!

There are as I mentioned 6 battle plans and although I think it is better to wait and see these for yourself, I will tell you, they are completely unbiased towards either side, very tournament friendly and very objective based. It is obvious in my opinion that the HeelanHammer, FaceHammer and BadDice boys had a lot to do with creating these. They are absolutely brilliant, great fun to play and very detailed. These will the be battle plans we as a club will be most likely to be using in everyday friendly games. 

The Points!:

I'm sure you have all seen the leaked images of the points values of pretty much every army out there, so I have no worries about posting some pictures of them here.

I will say, the fact they have included Compendium war scrolls (i.e. Old army book war scrolls that didn't make the AoS cut - Brets, Tomb Kings, Named Characters etc) is a stroke of genius. Everything is now valid forever, the one surprise to me is the fact that Silver Tower models and Forge World models have not yet been given points, they do not feature in this book. Not sure why they chose to omit them, but I'm sure in time they will be given their own values.


As well as using the formations (if you do) from your faction, you are also able to nominate your army is aligned to Order, Chaos, Destruction or Death if you solely have models in the army that share the relevant keyword. If you do so, you may use special rules in this section to give your General and army extra abilities and artefacts (think magic items from 8th Edition). Some of these (Death) are absolutely mental, whilst some (Order) are a bit.. meh. But all in all, this will add a way of building an army in a particular way. For instance, A speedy hard hitting Death army using Red Fury or a Defensive Order army having a better battleshock and save option.

Instead of Aligning yourself to an Alliance, you can instead field a faction specific army and gain even more extra rules for doing this. I have seen some leaks for Sylvaneth that their battletome will contain all the information for their own Allegiance and even their own Lore of Magic.

But, you can only chose one or the other, you can not have an alliegence to both Order and Sylvaneth, so choose wisely.

The final section of the book is of course... The Rules - All four pages.


So, here we have 3 ways of playing. But it is not 3 ways of playing at all. It is an infinite way of playing a game that started its journey with 4 pages. This book will bring so many people back into a game that in there opinion they lost a year ago. It is a masterpiece for the game, and will give an option of playing for everyone. Whether you like multiplayer, narrative, skirmish, 8 hour marathons, tournament, friendly balanced etc. This book is for you. Whatever the price it will be... just buy it. You will not regret it.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for taking the time to share this. I can't waut to get all my other club members fully on-board with the game