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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

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Steamroller - Expectations in 2012

Ladies and Gentlemen of 3++, it is I, Whitestar333, here from Steam-Powered Gamer to bring you an overview of what to expect from the best public document for tournament play in the entirety of the wargaming world: Steamroller.

"Sir, that is a bold statement for you to make!"

Good sir, do you bite your thumb at me?  I shall defend my bold claim to the death with the pen (er... keyboard?) - which as we know, is mightier than the sword!

The Steamroller document (the 2011 copy can be found here, for now) is an annually-updated set of rules that explain everything that one needs to know about what a tournament should look like for Warmachine/Hordes.  While no one is forced to follow this document exactly, most events will take the Steamroller format and use it to create a challenging - but fun - tournament environment.  Long gone are the days of disorganized tournament organizers, unsure of how long the event will last.  Say good-bye to those tournaments where it seems like a local favorite won by "battle points", when you won more games.  No, Steamroller tournaments are designed to be hard, but balanced, so that the gentlemen who participate have their mettle tested.

I gush.  I apologize.  What should you expect from a Steamroller tournament?  Well the 2011 tournament season is nearly over, and in fact, many tournaments have begun to use the beta version of the 2012 rules.  So I shall give you a preview of what to expect in Steamroller 2012.  Fortunately, designing a Steamroller tournament can be as exciting as designing an army list.  Privateer Press has brilliantly designed various elements that keep things simple and exciting for a tournament organizer, with a laundry list of scenarios to choose from (or even to roll at random for), as well as special rules and adjustments.  These are called variants and take many different forms.  So what, exactly, can one expect from Steamroller 2012?

Now Obsolete!
Character Restriction - This has caused the most frustration and drama on the internet.  In 2011 this was a variant that TOs could introduce into their multi-list tournaments, but this has become standard for Steamroller 2012.  What this means is that one cannot duplicate a model with FA: C in more than one of their lists in a multi-list tournament (2-list is pretty standard to mitigate bad match-ups), however prime and epic warcasters/warlocks don't count.  For example, if I wanted to run pBaldur and an eBaldur tier lists, I would only be able to include Megalith in one of them, but otherwise am okay.  In this author's opinion, the factions most affected by this are Khador, Mercenaries, and Cygnar.  For Khador it means that Kovnik Joe can only be included in one list, for Mercenaries it means you will probably have to buy more models to field another mercenary contract, and Cygnar relies heavily on mercenary solos to fill gaps.  Minions will face a similar problem to Mercenaries, but with the added challenge that their model range is more limited.

Shorter Time Limits - One fantastic feature of Steamroller is time limits.  This prevents slow-play from players and forces one to make decisions quickly.  There are two variations: Timed Turns and Deathclock.  With Timed Turn, you have a set amount of time for each of your turns, with one extension for a particularly intense turn (like a feat turn).  Once the time runs out, your turn is over, even mid-activation (you are allowed to finish rolling).  With Deathclock, you have a set amount of time, and whenever you are performing an action or taking your turn, the clock ticks down.  Once you run out of time, you lose.  In SR2012, these limits are even shorter than they were in SR2011, with only 37 minutes for a 35 point game.  However, for an added challenge, TOs can roll to see if the normal time for the tournament round is shorter, so even if both players still have time on their clocks, the round might end prematurely anyway!  This means that a good tournament player will need to play smart and quickly.  This can be even more difficult with...

Reinforcements - There are 6 new scenarios added to SR2012 that will make tournament play even more challenging.  One can think of Reinforcements like reserves in 40k, except they are taken in addition to the rest of your army list, and you can choose when they arrive onto the board from a specific reinforcement line.  In a 35 point game, one will have 7 points worth of reinforcements and in 50 points that jumps to 10 points.  Warjacks that arrive as reinforcements start with 3 free focus (which sounds more powerful than it actually is) and warbeasts can be forced if they are outside of their controlling warlock's control area for the turn they enter play.  This basically means that a 35 point scenario with reinforcements is essentially a 42 point game, meaning that timing will be even more challenging in these kinds of scenarios.  These are fun scenarios, however, and it will be interesting to see how popular they will be in the new SR2012 season.

Interactive Objectives - These are the last major difference between SR2012 and SR2011.  Interactive Objectives can be thought of as being analogous to some of the strategems from the Cities of Death expansion for 40k.  Interactive Objectives are objectives for scenarios that also impart benefits to the player, like healing models or providing an extra ranged attack for the army.  These will be fun for players to use as they will have their own cards made and can also provide some fun modeling opportunities for various factions (I can't wait to make a Monolith for Circle!).

Predictions for SR 2012
Now that you know what to expect from the new Steamroller rules, I have some predictions about what this upcoming tournament season will look like:
1) Warjacks/Warbeasts - With time being crunched even more and the interactive objectives, I predict that we will see fewer infantry and more warjacks/warbeasts on the table.  These guys also make great reinforcements.
2) Battle Engines - Similar to the reason above, I think that Battle Engines will start to see some play in SR 2012.  In particular, expect to see the Cygnar, Khador, Retribution, Trollblood, and Legion battle engines to see some play.
3) New Warcasters/Warlocks - With character restriction standard, you can expect to see some (but not a lot) more variety from Khador, Cygnar, and even Cryx.  This doesn't mean that we will be seeing that much more of Zerkova, pNemo, or the Witch Coven, but it does mean that the Winter Guard Death Star won't be in every list.
4) Trolls - With time limits being huge and Trolls being such an attrition-based army, I can see them finally climbing up in the tournament ranks.  Being tough means that your opponent has to constantly re-evaluate what they're doing, and these guys can force their opponent to think harder and use more time than they might otherwise.  Considering also that they have fewer models on the table and some really hearty beasts and I think Trolls might see the top 3 more than they did in 2011.

I will add that SR2012 is in its final beta, so it certainly could change some of the elements that I mentioned, but I truly doubt that much will change in the final version.  I know several playtesters for PP who have playtested many of these elements for over a year, and I must say that they are fairly balanced once you actually play a game.  That said, tournament play in Warmachine/Hordes is not for the faint-of-heart and can be fairly intense.  It takes time training and practicing to get used to the Steamroller format, but once you do, it's loads of fun and since Privateer Press designs their game around such a competitive system, you can be sure that you will have minimum levels of frustration.


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