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Monday, November 7, 2011

13 Reasons Why You Should Be Playing Warmachine and Hordes

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13 Reasons Why You Should Be Playing Warmachine / Hordes (WM/H)

I've been playing Privateer Press games for almost two years now (since the end of 2009). In that time, I've come to appreciate what a great thing they've got going. I've been wargaming since 1995 and I've played a lot of games. I can honestly say that I've never enjoyed a game as much as I do Hordes. In fact, I've got Infinity, Flames of War, and Hail Caesar armies waiting to be played. But I can't seem to pull myself away from playing Hordes.

Here are 13 reasons why I think that you should be playing Warmachine or Hordes (or both).

Reason # 1: Fun

The primary reason why any of us do this geeky hobby is for fun. If you're not having fun, you're doing it wrong. WM/H games are fun games. This isn't just due to the reasons below, but it's also due to a great combination of powerful characters, numerous units, massive melees, thundering gun lines, and deadly magics. This game does a great job at combining skirmish level gaming with unit scale gaming in a way that flows well. Magic, melee and ranged combat are all viable methods of destruction. Salivating warbeasts, smoking warjacks and arcane warriors combine to make this game a blast to play.

Reason # 2: Speed

Another reason to play this game is the speed at which the game progresses. A 50 point game is on the high side of average and rarely lasts two hours. In fact, tournament rules limit 50 point games to around 100 minutes with 12 minute turns.

This speed of play serves two purposes. Firstly, it forces you, the player, to make decisions quickly, to know your rules, and to go into the game with a dedicated strategy. This may seem intimidating at first to new players, but it's one of those things you quickly adapt to. Even just observing games, I usually find myself instinctively plotting out "my" turn as each player puts his pieces into play.

Secondly, the speed of play enables you to get more games played in the same amount of time another game might have taken. This isn't a quality over quantity thing either. I can usually get three decently sized games in during a four or five hour gaming night. All of those games will have been fully played and concluded decisively.

This is a game where you can literally have quality and quantity.

Reason # 3: Balance

Balance is important to the designers of WM/H. I could probably stop there because that one line is enough to win over people for whom balance is an issue. However, I'll explain some more. The entirety of the WM/H errata document (May 2011) is 6 pages long. This is for both core rules sets and a total of nine factions between the two games. That's all of it.

On top of that, when a rule issue does come up, Privateer Press is quick to fix it. The Blood Hag (for Cryx) and the Blackhide Wrastler (for Minions) are great examples. These models were actually errata'd before the actual models were released. What's more, Privateer Press actually listened to the community in making these changes. It turns out that the people who play your game actually understand some of what it takes to make the game balanced.

The game is so balanced that you can literally beat any army with any opposing army if you're a good enough player. Yes, there are bad match ups. Yes, some models are better than others. But one look at national level tournaments will show you that no one army dominates in terms of entries or in terms of victories.

Not only does Privateer Press manage to balance one game, they balance two games....and then balance those games against each other. The balance between WM/H is a common debate topic on the forums. However, the very fact that it generates so much debate is evidence that there is balance. If both sides feel like the other is stronger in some way, that's a pretty good indication that neither side is stronger.

Reason # 4: Versatility

I like niche armies. Personally, I've always played fast, tactically-flexible armies. But that type of play style isn't for everyone. In WM/H, each army has its own niche. Khador is the relatively slow juggernaut, Legion is the lightning fast glass cannon, Menoth is all about denial and Circle Orboros is about mobility. There is a lot of in-faction versatility, though. You can run a fairly fast Khador list or a fairly durable Legion list. Just because you play a single faction doesn't limit you to a single play style.

But the versatility goes further than that. It's tied to game balance, but basically the idea boils down to this: there is no one aspect of the game that dominates over the other aspects. Neither shooting nor melee is king. Neither mobility nor durability wins games alone. This lack of dominance by any one aspect of game play ensures that there's a lot of room for versatility in the game. Sure, there are some hard counters. But those tend to be few and far between.

Overall, when I'm playing Circle Orboros, I can bring my durable sticks-and-stones list, my lightning-fast living warbeast list or my tricky denial & terrain list and win with any of them. That sort of versatility helps to keep a player's interest in the game without the need to go out and play multiple armies.

Reason # 5: Assassination Victories

We've all been there. You're sitting across from an army and thinking, "there is no way I can win this game." Wouldn't it be nice to have an out in such a situation? Well in WM/H you do. If you can manage to kill all of your opponent's warcasters / warlocks, you win. In most games, an opponent will only have one warcaster or warlock.

The ability to turn around a game through a successful assassination run is a huge metagame shifter for WM/H. In other games, once you start losing, it becomes increasingly harder to turn the game around. In WM/H, there's always that chance that you can win the game through a risky and daring move.

Now, this also means that you can be winning a game and end up losing because you didn't see an opening to your warcaster / warlock that your opponent did. But this is an essential balancing factor to the game. In fact, WM/H is at its best when you have the opportunity for either assassination or scenario victories.

Reason # 6: Customer Support

Privateer Press has some of the best customer support I've ever experienced. With a few exceptions, missing pieces, miscasts, etc, are dealt with promptly by the customer service department. But that's the sort of service you expect.

What you might not expect is for Privateer Press to anticipate what you want. I recently purchased three back-issues of No Quarter in which vouchers for a limited edition model were found. When I received the issues, I found the vouchers already cut out. It turns out that Adam from customer service, already put the limited edition model in my bits order. How cool is that?

Reason # 7: Constant Flow of New Models

Privateer Press has a rather unique release schedule. Instead of updating one army at a time, each new release includes models for each army. This means that every year your army will get a handful of brand new models. Oftentimes, these models share a common theme across the other releases in a given book. So, for example, cavalry models were introduced in a single book. In the most recent books (Wrath and Domination) battle engines were introduced to the factions.

This release schedule serves several purposes. Firstly, it ensure that people who play even just one faction are still getting new models on a fairly consistent basis. Secondly, the constant influx of new models game-wide helps to keep the metagame fresh. Thirdly, by releasing new model types (such as cavalry or battle engines) game wide, balance is preserved.

Reason # 8: Storyline

While the WM/H universe might not involve the fate of galaxies or even an entire planet, the game's backstory is extremely involved. Caen, the planet on which WM/H takes place, shares many features of high-fantasy. There are Elves in the sunset of their existence, opportunist Dwarves with their hardy mining equipment, human factions of various persuasions: religious fanatics, imperialists, and wild men.

However, if the WM/H universe stopped there, it would be underwhelming. There are aspects of Caen which are completely unlike high fantasy. For one thing, the dragons in Caen are god-like. They are virtually indestructible, can raise armies of undead and can shape flesh itself. Technology in Caen is widely varied. Prosthetic limbs are not uncommon. Warjacks possess something akin to artificial intelligence. But swords, crossbows and spears are just as common.

All of this, along with extremely well-developed characters, combines to provide players with an amazing canvass on which to stage their battles. It is easy to dive into this fiction and immerse yourself in the story. Even my eight year old son gets wrapped up in the story. When his Trollblood army faces off against my Circle Orboros army, it isn't just about beating the other in a game. His Trolls are fighting against the manipulative and secretive druids of Orboros.

Reason # 9: Dedicated Forums

The Privateer Press forums are a double edged sword in terms of a motivation for playing the game. On the negative side, there tends to be quite a bit of negativity. Some forum members can be simply venomous and close minded. That's par for the course on the internet, though.

On the positive side, the forums have a dedicated rules area and Privateer Press appointed "Infernals" who can provide official rulings. That is an amazing boon to players. Most of the rules are very clear, however, occasionally an interaction or application might be a little murky. Having a place where you can ask questions is very helpful.

The other positive of the forums is that you can access a great wealth of knowledge in terms of how you might use a model or combinations you might not have seen. This can be found on many forums. But on the Privateer Press forums, it's not uncommon for the Privateer Press staff to post as well. Whether you're dealing with a tactics or a fiction question, having a staffer post is almost always helpful and insightful.

Reason # 10: Charity

Foodmachine, Breast Cancer Brawls, and the Katrina Vlad are just some examples of how Privateer Press has gotten behind charitable causes. As a company, Privateer Press has shown that they're about more than just the bottom line. They're not afraid to use their community to support breast cancer research or collect food for needy individuals. Come on, what's more awesome than enjoying your favorite hobby and helping humanity at the same time?

Reason # 11: Mark 2

In 2010, Privateer Press switched to their Mark 2 rules system. This rules system eliminated a number of redundant rules and overpowered combos from the game. In fact, this was one of the express reasons why Privateer Press sought to implement Mark 2. The idea was to reset the game so that there were fewer A level and C level models and enable players to access more models without putting themselves at an inherent disadvantage.

Furthermore, this entire conversion was open to the community at large for feedback and play testing. To my knowledge, there has never been a game as large as WM/H which opened a rules update to play testing. During this entire process, player feedback was solicited and implemented; designers discussed various goals and objects to the game; the rules were worked and reworked to ensure the very best balance.

The Mark 2 switch was a huge pain in the butt for Privateer Press. Not only did they have to sift through thousands of feedback forms and complaints, they updated both Warmachine and Hordes and reintroduced all of the models as faction books in a single year. What is more, they also introduced a brand new faction: the Retribution of Scyrah.

Reason # 12: Cards

Taking a cue from collectable card games, Privateer Press has equipped WM/H with cards. These cards contain the stat lines of each model, that model's special rules and an area for marking damage for that model. Needless to say, this arrangement speeds game play immensely. No more do you need to flip through a rule book looking for a specific page. Now all of your cards can be neatly laid out in your backfield for quick reference. Also, if you opponent has an issue with a model, the rules are right there for you to show to him. I've heard some pushback from veteran gamers about cards and let me just say that as a veteran gamer myself, I really appreciate the cards. They are a huge boon to making the game work smoothly.

Reason # 13: Clarity

I can't tell you how many times I've seen forum posts about rules questions and the correct answer is "the rules do exactly what they say they do." This is very different from another mantra as "rules as written." The difference is this: in WM/H rules interactions do exactly what they say. In this case, rules as intended and rules as written are synonymous. In some other games, rules as written sometimes do not make sense or leave massive gaps in game play that need to be filled in by players. In this way, WM/H is all about rules understanding. It's actually good to be a rules lawyer in WM/H...because that's why the rules work.

Not sure of a rule? Look it up. Chances are, there's a very logical way to progress. In fact, I've never encountered a rules situation in which there wasn't a clear and defined answer. It's very elegant. If that weren't enough, there is an entire appendix to the rules which covers sequence of events and what to do if you think you have a conflict of rules (which typically isn't a conflict at all). It's almost like Privateer Press wanted to make understanding the rules easy so that we could enjoy their game rather than argue about the rules. Go figure.


Well, I hope this has inspired you to try Warmachine or Hordes in the near future. Trust me, you won't be disappointed if you do. Watch this space in the future for detailed tactics for Circle Orboros, product reviews, and fan fiction.

Thanks for reading.

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