As an avid wargamer, I find myself jumping around looking at all the new shiny miniatures that are being released. Overtime my tastes in miniature wargames have continued to shift and I can not help, but to try and understand why? Is it the game that bugs me (or my opponent), or is it the business practices of the manufacturing company behind the game in the first place. Looking back, I have been wargaming for at least 10 years by now. During that time I have dedicated 3-4 years to Warhammer 40K and 6 years to Warhammer Fantasy. Personally I do not believe its clearly one factor that drives me to try a new game system, heck most of the time its because, “hey those mini’s look cool…Is the game fun? How many people play it?”. I am a firm believer that if you are not enjoying your hobby, go out and find something that inspires you.
Perhaps I should give some proper context to this article. After spending 1-2 years travelling around as a competitive Warhammer Fantasy player in my region, I was having a complete blast. Seventh edition was in its prime and I was loving the game (although, army balance was always a topic). Around 2010, when 8th edition was released, another little game introduced itself and looked rather timid and shy…I am of course speaking about Warmachine and Hordes…
Speaking of which, Warmachine and Hordes are two different game systems that have been designed in such a way that they can play against one another. Essentially they are the same game with a couple mechanical changes, but they are two different sides of the same coin so to speak. As a result, I will be referring to them together as one game for the sake of this article.
Any ways, at this time Warmachine 2nd edition (or as its properly known as MK2) had just been released, now at this time I had no real interest in the game. To be honest, I loved Warhammer Fantasy so much and to an extent 40K that I couldn’t be bothered really. This was back in Jan 2010. Around May 2010, I started to get more invested in Warmachine, by occasionally reading a faction book while I was at the local game store. Nothing major, I just was curious because all we had was aging 40K codices and 8th edition was a couple months off. But something happened and my perspective had begun to change on the game.
On a bit of a side note, I have always hated, special characters. They seemed overpriced or overpowered, regardless of the faction. Some seemed crucial to a plot line that never changed and others are soooo random (Aesthetically) that it was clear the company let the artists out of their pen… Obviously I took this mindset into Warmachine and began tearing the fluff apart. Who cares about this whinny Styrker fellow? He’s the gifted new recruit that beats up the bad guys and is all smug about it anime style…Also these Menoth guys, whats the point of breaking off from a nation that clearly out guns you and shares the second half of your capitial city…seems rather silly.
It would take some time for me to truly appreciate the universe that the games inhabited and I will cover this in greater detail in part 2. However to truly understand what pushed me into exploring warmachine in the first place all you really need to do is look at the picture below…
This is an image of Jason Richards Cryx army, fighting my very own Protectorate of Menoth force. Regardless of what faction you play or what warcaster you choose to field on the battlefield, there is always a thematic story to be told. In this picture we have the almost “God-Like” Deathjack, going toe-to-toe with my Blood of Martyrs Character Warjack. In the Background you see my devout zealots getting ready to throw powerful bombs onto the reinforcing helljacks.
All too often wargamers feel that they are just rolling the dice and they are constantly facing off against the same old cookie cutter army lists. This simply does not happen to the same extent in Warmachine. Sure there are combos and obvious choices to take in certain situations, but each game feels dynamic and different both cinematically and competitively. By simply switching out your warcaster, COMPLETELY changes how the army feels and behaves on the battlefield. For instance, the Blood of Martyrs is pretty good in any list. I took it with eFeroa who enhances it by giving it ignite. Simply put it gives the warjack 2+ to hit and damage + some chance to put stuff on fire. Now if I had taken another warcaster: Thyra, who is the owner of BoM. Suddenly the warjack gets extra movement shenanigans everytime it attacks an enemy and can be allocated additional focus points by being bonded to Thyra….Basically it means more attacks for BoM.
During 2010, Jason had painted up this Cryx army. Now the picture doesn’t do the whole army justice, esspecially for a past golden demon winner, but the following pictures should help to clarify the level of talent he has.
After seeing the Cryx models painted by Jason I was hooked. He really brought out the character and physical weight from the miniatures and I could see the modeling potential that existed. Afterwords, everything seemed to fit like clockwork. The kits are pretty easy to pose and are perfect for magnetizing, because you can change a warjack completely with an arm or weapon addition. After having that initial investment into the game, I started to find warcasters I liked or at the very least I thought were interesting.
Once I started buying and playing the game I quickly found out that Warmachine (gameplay-wise) is not really about warjacks… Its actually about the Warcaster and the force they decide to field on the table. Players often get stuck by the illusion that the game plays like a game of Pokemon. You pick your trainer and your unique warjacks so that you can battle to be the very best yadyadyaydaydya… Sure warjacks have a ton of special rules and are the main focus of the battleboxes (for better or worse), but I found that they rarely achieve what you want them to do and only bring so much to the table.
There are exceptions of course, but most warcasters like only running 2-3 warjacks tops, or only one to fill out the free points you get to spend on a warjack. The game seems to be more focused on the infantry or solo models you can bring to the table. There are so many units that bring something interesting to the table that you rarely want to spend points on the warjacks in the first place. First off, theres models like the Exemplar Knights that get stronger and tougher, everytime a member of their unit dies resulting in a super solo model being created when he is the last one. Little things like that go a long way to making the troops more interesting and characterful in the game.
In reality, Hordes plays more like what people “think” Warmachine plays. Typically in Hordes your battle plan is always dictated by what your battle group of beasts consists of. Why? Your warlock has a limited number of spells usually only 3 and those are limited in ability and scope. Every beast has an ability called an Animus which is a magic ability that the beast can use. A Warlock is able to use these animi as well, and as a result expanding their overall spell list. Additionally warlocks can transfer damage to their beasts instead of taking it themselves. This is key to being an effective Hordes player, as beasts are a lot more important and usually take priority over units and solos in the army.
So oddly enough the more I play the game, if feel that Hordes is mechincally more like the ideal Warmachine game? What do you think?
Stay tooned for part 2, where I go into greater detail about the fiction of both game systems.
Also a quick reminder to check out Episode 22 of War and More Radio: Time-Capsule-Cast. A pretty fun episode that has a ton of random moments and predictions about 2013.
Adam. Twitter: @ATT64