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"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

Friday, July 8, 2011

Warpath: Core Rules: Beta release

Kirby has sort of asked me to review the Beta ruleset for Warpath, the new "Sci-Fi mass miniature wargame" by Mantic. As Kirby said in his last post, the boys over at The Back 40K recently had a few games of Kings of War (Mantic's fantasy wargame) and had a look at the Alpha release for Warpath. All quality posts of course... exactly what we've come to expect from those guys.

Firstly, Warpath is quite clearly competing with Warhammer 40k in a way that no other game currently does. Very similar themes and it's as described, a'mass miniature wargame'. We're talking probably over 100 models in most games. This sets it apart from the likes of WarmaHordes in terms of size.

The download itself is pretty decent, Easy to read, reasonably brief and has a good flow. I compare this to Warmachines rule book which is, in my opinion a nightmare. A beautiful book, but way, way too 'all over the place'. Warpath is set in a good order and where things are taken out of order you're guided around the book well. It's pretty short and they've kindly handed out 2 free sample army lists. A good start... two thumbs up.

We of course don't know what the models will be like yet, but the art for them looks reasonably cool and if they're anything like the KoW stuff (and similarly priced), then I don't think there will be too many complaints. KoW models for those of you that don't know are not as good in terms of quality as what we've come to expect from GW, but they're not nearly as expensive... so a decent trade-off really. Also, in all reality, I'm sure models will be very much interchangable with current 40k ones (25mm bases n'all). One criticism would be a little lack of flavour and fluff which I'm sure will come and another would be maybe too many similarities with 40K, but I'll respond with... look who wrote the bloody book!
Stop Press! During the period of me writing this, I've discovered some interviews from the guys at Mantic discussing Warpath fluff... and it's reasonably decent.

So how does the game work? Like 40k, 2 forces meet on a 4'x6' table with an equal force in terms of points. Game turns are split into Movement, Shooting and Assault phases (sound familiar?). Units are a set number depending on faction and unit type, but there are options (5/10/20 models in the unit for example). Models within a unit must be within 1" of each other and within 5" of the Commander. The Commander is kind of a big thing in this game. Don't worry... pie plates don't exist. Yet. Units must remain >1" apart except in combat. One HUGE difference is the whole unit sticks around until it routes and then it suddenly dissappears. It's a similar story with vehicles. Damage taken adds towards the likely-hood of your guys running, rather than the unit losing numbers/effectiveness. True line of sight is used just like 40k... but this usually takes place from the unit Commander alone.

Movement takes place by orders - Halt, Advance (normal move), At the double (running) and Charge!. Assaults are therefore declared in the movement phase, sacrificing the opportunity to shoot. Movement distances vary with different factions - squat/space dwarf equivalents moving an average of 4" and regular peops moving 5". I can only guess there will be some pixies thrown in that will move 6". The one thing I really like about movement is that it's predictable as movement through terrain is a set 1/2 normal speed. No more failing assaults because of snake eyes. One thing I do not like however is measurements can be made at any time. I do like there to be some skill in judging distances. Loading in and out of vehicles is centred around the unit commander being within 1" of a stationary vehicle.

Shooting is done with a set number of dice for each unit and rolls are made with modifiers such as long range, cover, movement etc. Damage is dependant upon targets and modifiers are made by guns used (e.g. piercing (2) weapons get a +2 to the roll to damage). I can see the shooting phase has been made very simple and will be pretty quick in comparison to some shooting phases in 40k. Sadly for VT2, there is not much in the way of armour saves... so you don't do a lot of rolling in your opponents turn. It's worth noting that special 'heavy' weapons can shoot at seperate units to their units... so no more lascannons at grunts.

Combat is also pretty simple, again, a set number of dice, but with the same 'to hit' rolls as shooting (bad IMO - lacking 'flavour'... but the dice number does differ giving some differences) and then the same to wound rolls also. Your opponent doesn't automatically hit back and if they don't die... you walk back from combat ready for your opponent to run away or charge you back. Shooting you is not an option.

Damage & Nerve
This is the big difference from 40k IMO. Rather than losing models as you go, you accumulate 'damage'. Accumulated damage affects your ability to hold your nerve. Nerve is tested after every phase in which you take damage and after melee. The test is taken on 2d6, adding damage and subtracting your 'Nerve'. A result of <7 is a pass, 8-9 is pretty much pinned and >9 is a dead unit. Gone. Nerve ratings range from 1 (Marauder Artillery) to 10 (Forge Father CC unit), with heroes coming in at about the level of a basic 5 man squad. I'll discuss vehicles, damage and nerve in the next section.

Vehicles are widely-ranging from light transports (think ork trukk) to heavy gunboats (predator/hammerhead) and even battlebots (dreadnoughts). Gunboats can buy additional weapons and the some vehicles can extend their transport capacity. Similar to infantry they have speeds, 'to hit' stats, armour and nerve. The armour of tanks tends to be much greater than that of infantry (9/10 for example) and therefore significant modifiers are required to give you a chance of hurting it. You can help yourself by targeting the side and rears of vehicles giving you some beneficial modifiers for penetration (why I said predator and not land raider :P). For those ork players... armour facings are at 90 degree arcs, so no more Limousines for Marauders (Space Orks).
As I said before, tanks take damage in a similar way, but as their defence is much greater, requiring guns with high piercing values to damage them. This means that as a vehicle gets damaged it's more and more likely to go poof... but rolling double 1s for nerve will mean it could potentially take a lot of damage. But that's unlikely and is probably slightly better than the multiple stunned and shaken results we see in 40k. I would however like to see some decrease in functioning in the vehicle whilst it takes damage (slowing the vehicle, weapons destroyed etc).
Aircraft do make an appearance, and although I've not played it, it sounds very much like Apocalypse... they fly in and dakka for 1 turn and then fly away the next turn, ready for another swooping attack. It certainly brings another element to the game, but I'm not sure how effective these will be other than as some backfield disruption (hitting rear armour of gunboats would be useful).

There are a number of universal special rules that are applied to different factions as is expected. These certainly help to add a bit of flavour.

The big thing I don't like is the whole... if you don't agree, roll a d6... blah blah blah. This encourages people to 'bend' the way the system works, when things should always be clear.

The big things for me within the rules is that there is more predictability, which allows it to be a much more tactical game. There tend to be a good number of dice rolled, so hopefully negating very bad rolls, but enough dice interaction to stop it from feeling like chess. It's VERY similar to 40k in many aspects but as we naturally find it difficult to 'adapt', this isn't a big problem. I'm personally not so much looking forward to the predicted changes rumoured for 6th Ed, so this is something I can see me looking into. It seems to be very similar to Kings of War in that a game will flow well (unit-based rather than model-based) and I can imagine will be pretty quick overall (Sandy and crew from The Back 40k were playing their initial KoW games in around an hour). I'm not a huge fan of being completely inert during my opponents turn, but i'm very keen to give the game a go. I'm sure I've got enough marines for a Forge Fathers list and I'll give my buddies IG (Marauders) a game.

I'll look into the two different army lists available next time. I'll also do a post delving into some of the special rules and how a game plays out.

Mini-rant (feel free to stop reading): Whilst listening to the interviews on Beasts of War, the guy interviewing said ... we want to know if the rules are broken blah de blah de blah... What does this 'broken' mean. People seem to use it for all kinds of stupid things. Unblanced forces, finding uber-combos etc etc... I hate this bloody term. It's stupid. Stop bloody using it. It doesn't sound cool and doesn't really mean anything in particular! Rant over.

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