Kirb your enthusiasm!


"Pink isn't a color. It's a lifestyle." - Chumbalaya
"...generalship should be informing list building." - Sir Biscuit
"I buy models with my excess money" - Valkyrie whilst a waitress leans over him

Monday, July 25, 2011

Warmachine - Is it Right For You? Part II

Continuing on!  In my previous article, I discussed several ways in which Warmachine and Hordes are different from Warhammer 40k and Fantasy. Again, they were:

1. Warmachine is centered around heroic individuals, that lead and support your force.
2. Changing casters can completely change the style of play of an army.
3. When these individuals die, you lose the game, regardless of the condition of the rest of your army.
4. Each model/unit does all phases of activation at a time, rather than army-wide move-shoot-combat.
5. You-go/I-go system, with no dice control outside of your turn.
6. Knowledge of both your army and your opponent's army is vital.
7. Warmachine is a skirmish level game = few miniatures. Not truly epic!
8. Sculpts are, on average, of superior quality (though this is, of course, in the eye of the beholder).
9. Privateer Press is a company that appears to value interaction with their customers.

Last time we got through points 1-3.  One thing I forgot to mention, but is actually a quite important difference, came up in the comments section in the last article, so I want to specifically address it.

You try telling this guy his name's
not Lord Carver, BMMD, Esq., III!
3.5. Warmachine is inherently non-customizable.
Unlike Warhammer, all of your units come with fixed equipment. This unit has swords and shields, that unit extra large fists, a third unit extra-heavy armor and polearms. They have fixed abilities and statlines. At best, you can add a weapon- or unit-attachment, maybe a separate solo that can add additional abilities. No spare bits and pieces to use up extra points, no equipping them in the particular configuration you want best. There's no “make-your-own warjack” rules. There's usually enough variability in the units and models that this isn't a gameplay issue, but there's no fiddling. Conversions are allowed, but typically for tournament play the conversion must be primarily from the original model and the weapons must be in the right places and recognizable, which is a bit limiting.

What's more, your warcaster or warlock is also a fixed person. They have a given name, they have a backstory, they have specific weapons and spells. Again, there is no customization. There's no putting your own names and histories to the model leading your army. If you particularly enjoy personalizing your HQs and customizing your army's equipment, Warmachine may not be for you.

Personally, I've found that there's enough different casters and personalities that I'm able to find something I like. I also have never been hugely into personalizing my HQ models, but that is a personal choice. With the push that GW has been doing to using named characters, I suspect a lot of other people are already used to using specific characters to lead their armies and are thus more used to it.

I will note that one aspect of Warmachine that is customizable is the paint scheme. There's of course an official paint scheme, and it's true that most players stick with it, but really there's no particular need to paint your models in any particular scheme. You want pink warjacks with neon yellow weapons? Sure, I've seen it done. Dark black skinned trolls with snot green claws and teeth? No problems. And no one will yell at you for doing it wrong.

Skorne Paingivers.  Activate these
before your warbeasts to enrage
them, or afterward to remove Fury!
4. Each model/unit does all phases of activation at a time, rather than army-wide move-shoot-combat.
In a typical Warhammer turn, you have three main phases – movement, shooting, and assault (and magic, in Fantasy). All of your models have a chance to move, then all have a chance to shoot, then a chance to assault. This means you can't know how things are going to turn out – everything must be planned at once, and last throughout the turn. You still of course have the opportunity to resolve each unit's actions within a phase individually, which gives some control and allows you to focus-fire and such or divert fire as needed, but the army is typically committed to a general course of action in the movement phase.

In Warmachine, each unit, warjack/warbeast, solo, or caster activates individually, and has a move and an action ability. Individual activation means that you have plan very carefully the order in which you choose to activate your models. Incorrect order means that certain units might not get the buffs you want in time, or a charge lane might be blocked by a model you didn't want to be there. You can also use the order of activation to clear out blocking units, or models that are engaging yours, to open a path for a charge or clear shot.

Honestly, I couldn't say if one method or the other is a better way of doing it. I enjoy both. I will say, however, that you should try to avoid playing both systems in the same day/weekend. Speaking from experience, you'll find yourself activating each of your Dreadnoughts individually or trying to move all of your warmachine units at once!

Trollblood Fell Caller. One Tough SOB!
5. You-go/I-go system, with no dice control outside of your turn.
While Warhammer also has a you-go/I-go system (by which I mean each player does most of their actions on their own turn), the restrictions are much larger in Warmachine. For the most part, Warmachine has no save system. If someone hits you and gets past the armor, you take that damage. If someone shoots you, you take that damage. Essentially, you're just hoping your defense can save your models. There's no fighting back, there's (for the most part) no saves. You have no dice control outside of your own turn. If you don't like not having a chance to affect the game /roll dice on the opponent's turn, then this is not the game for you.

At the same time, many factions have ways to use what your opponent does against them, or for your benefit. The Protectorate of Menoth, for instance, has ways of collecting souls from your dying models that can be used to power spells or warjacks. Some models have specific out-of-turn abilities, usually triggered when the opponent does a particular thing or a model dies, making the fact that you're not specifically rolling dice in an opponent's turn less important. And some models (and most of the Trollblood faction) have a special ability called Tough, which is essentially a 5+ roll not to die when you take enough damage to be killed.

The fact that you can't rely on your models to live through an opponent's turn does add a certain amount of strategy to the game. You attack, knowing that you may indeed lose these models afterward, and thus set up counter-charges and such. It gives a strong advantage to speedy lists, those that can actually hit first and perhaps do serious damage. And it forces you to think carefully about placement of models, rather than simply moving them up the board.

6. Knowledge of both your army and your opponent's army is vital.
In both systems, knowledge of what your models can do is important. Knowing the abilities and limitations of your units and vehicles is vital to building a strong list and making sure you have weaknesses covered. However, in Warhammer, you have a general idea what each player's models can do – infantry fights like infantry, cavalry moves like cavalry, warmachines/tanks fire ordnance, mages/psykers use a specific set of magic spells.

Druids of Orboros.
Excellent at moving your models
around and blocking line of sight!
In Warmachine, knowing what your opponent's models are capable of is extremely vital. It's incredibly easy to be outflanked or repositioned – not knowing that your opponent's models can move an additional 3” at the beginning of the turn means that your carefully planned positioning is all for nothing. Not knowing that a warjack can channel a warcaster's spells means you didn't see an assassination angle. Not knowing that your opponent's unit has an out-of-turn action or special ability can mean your planned order of activation is disturbed irreparably. And not knowing what the enemy warcaster's feat does can flat out cost you the game. If you don't want to go to the trouble of learning about all of your opponent's models, Warmachine is not for you. It's easy to pick stuff up as you go, but for a tournament player not knowing what your opponent is capable of means you're 100% more likely to lose a game.

On the other hand, players have all of their unit's rules right on the table at every game, in the form of the unit cards (or occasionally the army book). If ever you have a question, or simply need to know what a particular unit can do, simply ask to see their card. Most players have no qualms about sharing this information, and the game is an open-list system.

I'll stop this article here for now, and we'll make it a three-part series, with the last few points being discussed in the last series. This actually does make sense, as the last three tend to be matters of opinion in any case. As always, if you have any thoughts or comments about the article, or if there's any points you think I'm leaving out, do mention it!

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