AOS 3.0: Why I’m Glad The Priority Roll Is Staying

FUCK ME this is moving quickly.  In the time it takes to have an extended whinge about Kragnos, we’ve had not one but four waves of AOS 3.0 reveals. 

Today’s Monsters ‘n’ Heroes drop might be the best and most exciting of the lot, but rather than regurgitate what’s already out there, I’ll be picking out my own highlights across a few articles – so let’s smash into the Priority Roll today.

What we know about the Priority Roll in 3rd Ed

Tell me it’s staying. Tell me it’s staying. Tell me it’s staying.

BOOM!!!!! Fuck yes it’s staying!

Best. Decision. Ever.

And I’m even including in that statement the time I bought a Gitmob army instead of GW shares (true story, sadly).

What GW are promising here is to add nuance: to give you reasons to go second in a Battleround. This is something that has been an issue since 1st Ed, in that it’s pretty rare that you wouldn’t be better off taking the turn.

There are of course exceptions: if your opponent got all their buffs off you might force them to go through it all again; you might want to go at the bottom of 2 in an instant-win mission; or you might just be happy with how your screens are set up. But we’re all grown-ups here, so let’s be frank: if you get it, you’d usually take it.

GW tried to address this at the launch of 2nd Ed with Endless Spells, which in practice meant that if you lost priority you at least got to move Geminids. That was honestly a pretty sweet move, and they were initially a great addition to the game: my words at the time were that it was great for Destruction armies to have access to exactly the same tools as Order instead of something objectively worse. Look how that turned out.

So on to 3rd Ed, and they are taking another crack at it. What we learnt today is that you will get extra CPs for going second in a Battleround: that’s huge, especially considering the new charge reactions, with extra CPs to fuel that engine and facilitate clutch plays.

Another big one to note from the Smorgan leaks is that the player who goes second in the 3rd Battleround gets to remove one Objective. Again, this is adding nuance to the priority roll: giving you reasons why you might not take first turn, and mitigating the blow if you are on the wrong end of a double.  I like it.

And if GW can repress the urge to allow some Order army to break that rule and remove Objectives as well as double turning you, then I’ll really like it.

Credit: Sprues and Brews

Why I love the Priority Roll

The Priority Roll is the most exciting thing about this game, bar none. There is loads you can do to play around it – that’s a whole article in itself – whether that’s setting up to lessen its impact against you, or leaning in when you need the help.

Whenever my Ironjawz are utterly outmatched by an S-Tier Order netlist, I can usually engineer the game back to 50:50 (or close enough) by gambling on priority. Making the game into a coin flip is an absolute nightmare for filth-chasers trying to play Surehammer: lose one game and they’ve had a shit weekend, and long may that continue.

Tackling the counterpoints: Part I

I want to address a couple of canards on this subject, firstly the idea that the double turn heavily favours shooting armies. I don’t agree with that, and this is why.

Speaking as someone who regularly runs combat armies at competitive events, I would hate to lose the opportunity to double turn my opponent, specficially because it gives me an out against shooting armies:

  • You need that double turn to run them down. A lot of these armies also have free, guaranteed teleports so they can just pop up where they want, on the edge of their range, and bang away. Many combat armies are then too far away to engage in just a single movement phase.
  • You need that double turn to smash through screens. To give you an example, I’ve played a lot of games with my Stonehorns against Skryre Acolytes. Acolytes have a 20″ bubble of instant death around them (since they can run and shoot), and plenty of Clan Rats screening in front of them. Without the possibility of a double turn, all I can do is crash into their screens and then evaporate to return fire.

If we lost the priority roll, we’d just move from teleport ‘n’ bang meta to screen ‘n’ bang meta, and the latter would not suddenly favour combat armies, believe me.

Credit: Sprues and Brews

Tackling the counterpoints: Part II

The second cliché I want to tackle is the (non-)argument against the priority roll: “It’s not right that one dice roll has such a big impact on the game. How often do you hear someone say they lost the game because they got double-turned?”.

The answer is: far too often, because people look for excuses rather than addressing their own bad decisions. Quite frankly, most people can’t or don’t think one turn ahead, and long may it continue so I can keep smashing them.

Without being a dick about it (OK, you can be the judge of that), I win the vast majority of my competitive games while only ever playing Destruction armies, and one large factor behind that is embracing priority. Knowing when to mitigate, knowing when to lean in and double down.

Or putting it another way, my modal tournament result is 4-1 and I can confirm that I definitely don’t win 80% of priority rolls, so there must be something else going on beyond “get the double turn and win the game”.

It’s not just the midtable maestros who are down on this game mechanic – there are some top, top players who also don’t like it – so I happily acknowledge that it’s not as simple as “git gud”. But they can put their own case across and git blogging. For me, it adds both nuance and excitement, and I’m all in.

Tackling the counterpoints: Part III

Third and final is the argument that it’s boring to stand around and do nothing for an hour while your opponent has a double turn.  I have a lot of sympathy for this, and I happen to believe that it’s a far bigger factor in why ranged armies (both shooting and magical) are feared and loathed when they do get the double.

At face value, this is set to get worse and not better, as “knows all the spells” becomes the new “fights first”.  I can’t be the only one who’s dreading staring into space while some goober flicks through spell lore after spell lore, trying to figure out what Teclis is going to auto-cast this time.  But there’s hope in the shape of reactions.

Smorgan and GW have both been clear that we will have more to do on each other’s turns going forward.  The counter charge and movement jank are honestly the best thing about playing Ironjawz, and if executed well, it will mean far less down-time on your opponent’s turn, and therefore far less misery across the double.

Credit: Sprues and Brews

In Summary

The power of shooting is not a reason to do away with the Priority Roll – or certainly not a good one.  If we want to tilt the game back towards melee – which I’m totally down for – then removing the Priority Roll is throwing out the baby with the bathwater.  There are better ways of achieving that than deleting such a strategic and exciting part of the game.

In one sense shooting will always be powerful, because at its core it gives you the ability to just point at and remove key pieces. If you agree that it’s healthy for combat armies to thrive and prosper, you need to address the root cause: too many armies have too much efficient shooting with too many easy-mode rules.

They shouldn’t get the free teleports that they do. They shouldn’t ignore the line of sight restrictions that they do. They shouldn’t be banging out the mortal wounds that they do.  They should rarely be in any way points efficient.

There’s loads you can do to achieve that, and dial back shooting in AOS 3.0:

  • Proliferation of line-of-sight blocking terrain, à la 40K
  • Bodyguard saves to protect heroes from sniping, perhaps in the form of:
    • A new Core Rule (as yet unseen)
    • One of the new Core Battalions
  • Shooting phase reactions to prevent key pieces being targeted
  • Extensive points corrections for the key culprits, which really should be apparent at this stage

All of the above and more would be preferable to removing the Priority Roll from the game. 

It just wouldn’t be the same without it.

So there you have it!  That’s why I think the Priority Roll is good for Age of Sigmar, and I couldn’t be happier that it’s staying.

You’re more than welcome to disagree – plenty of highly accomplished players do – so if you think I’m wrong, hit me up on Twitter and let me know why.

And as for playing around the double – well, that’s one for a future article. 

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