I went into GW yesterday. In hindsight, it probably wasn't the best of plans, but I needed some more 32mm bases for an upcoming game with my Sons of Horus and didn't feel like waiting for delivery.
Pretty much as soon as I walked int the door, a staff member started the expected sales pitch for Age of Sigmar. I told him I wasn't interested, explaining my issues with the fluff and removal of points, but he was determined to try the hard-sell on me. Eventually he convinced me to at give it a try and to play a test game on their display table. I figured I had an hour to spare and I may as well try the game at least once.
I came away from the game surprised. Not a convert, but surprised nonetheless. It plays very well, with the game ticking along very nicely. We played three turns in less than twenty minutes, even with his overenthusiastic explaining of the rules, complete with over-the-top descriptions clearly aimed at a young audience. It was fun to play too. There are a few issues, like the fact that a Goblin can wound a Dragon just as easily as a Skavenslave, but on the whole it was a fun experience.
The game seems to seriously favour whoever has the current turn, as they get to strike first in combat. I personally find this a little silly. A Dwarf shouldn't be able to strike faster than an Elf just because it's his current turn. It kind of broke the suspension of disbelief for me, but I suppose it keeps the game flowing nicely.
After he'd decimated my Chaos forces with the Eternals, we got back to the subject of balance. He tried to convince me that the game was balanced, pointing out the instant death conditions and the 'social contract' in setting up a game - basically relying on your opponent not to be a git in what he brings. I couldn't be bothered to point out that this effectively kills the tournament scene, as his 'do it by wounds' suggestion still doesn't result in a fair game. My hundred 1-wound Goblins vs your ten 10-wound Dragons still does not make for a fair match.
I'm still not going to play Age of Sigmar, as I have too many issues with the balance and the direction the fluff is taking, but I've at least given it a fair try. The Chaos models are lovely (on the whole - I'm ignoring the big ugly beastie) and seem perfect for conversions. The guy told me that the boxed set was designed with conversion potential in mind and I can believe him. Even 40k players who shun Age of Sigmar might be convinced to buy some of the Blood Reavers to turn into Khorne Berserkers, or else pick up some of the Stormhost Eternals for true-scale Space Marine conversions. I've seen people turn them into Custodes, Inquisitors and even Thunder Warriors. I'm guessing that the higher-ups in GW realise that even if Age of Sigmar isn't a success, the conversion potential will sell boxes where the AoS rules cannot.
Now people can't say I didn't give it a chance. I played a game and it failed to wow me enough to pick it up. Can't say fairer than that, really.