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Friday, 8 June 2012

Warmachine- Initial Thoughts

Hi all,

I know I haven't talked about it on the Blog, but I have invested a small amount of cash in Warmachine and played a few games. I only bought the started set (Khador, Menoth, small rulebook) so I'm not heavily involved. In all honesty, I bought it to see what all the hype was about.

My first introduction to Privateer Press was a few years ago, and it wasn't really positive. A gaming club invited me to try a few games to see what it was like, so I threw down with a borrowed Khador army against a Hordes Oboros force, played 3 games, and roundly lost all 3. It wasn't the loss, that bothered me, it was the fact my opponent, the guy who was trying to get me excited about the game, wouldn't talk about any of the mechanics in the game, or how anything worked, he just made me figure it out as I went along- consequently, the games took hours for small skirmishes and I was not left with the best impression of Warmachine and Hordes as a system (this was the guy, after all, who was put forward by the club to show me the ropes...)

Anyway, that experience basically led me to ignoring Privateer for a long while, which is a pity because I could have been involved much sooner in their games. Such is life, I guess. It was only when I was browsing in a local store, and I found the starter set, that my interest was piqued again- that was about 4 months ago, and I have to say my first impression was probably wrong.

The most notable factor, for me, is the hard-nosed attitude that Warmachine exudes. This is not a game where you should feel pity for your opponent, or go soft on them to give them a nicer experience. It's win or lose all the way. that in itself sounds a little Win At All Costs, and I suppose it is, but it certainly doesn't mean that players of Warmachine are all Power-gamers, out to rub their opponents face in it. All of the people I've played in the last few months have turned out to be good guys, fun to play against. In fact, I've found that the attitude of game play the mechanics require actually leads to less tension between players- in GW games, I usually approach games with new people a little tentatively and easy-going, since I don't know what style of game they enjoy (are they a casual player? A tournament player? Are they using Netlists? Are they new to the hobby?) That just isn't an issue in Warmachine.

The mechanics take a little getting used to, since it's one unit at a time activation (you don't get to move all of your models unhindered.) this brings in a whole new set of tactics, choices and decisions, since you can affect your opponents next activation with clever play. I have fallen into the trap of playing re actively a few times, and that ultimately leads to disaster- this is a game where proactively dictating the terms  seems to be the secret for success. How to achieve that, of course, is tricky at the best of times.

This means that it plays very differently to traditional tabletop wargames. Historical games, in the main, are YGIG, as are all GW games, as are most board games that I'm aware of. I like it -it reminds me of the games of 40K I played using Initiative values for Priority. I get to try and predict my opponents moves and counter them before they happen, which is a fun challenge all in itself.

However, that does lead to my biggest problem with the system- all of the secrecy. The core rules are fairly comprehensive for standard actions, and they are well written and presented as many other people have commented. It's the unit interactions, especially with the casters, which really tell in the games- and as a new player, I just don't now all of the abilities and what to expect. What really puzzles me, is that they don't seem to freely available either- there is no central resource for all the abilities so that I can read up on them. I'm not going to buy each book for each faction and expansion to find out all the rules then try to memorise them- I'm just not that invested in the game.

I know that if I want to become an active Warmachine player, I'm going to have to invest a bucket of cash into a competitive game. The equation for me is simple- how much enjoyment will I get for the money spent? Equate it to... well, any luxury purchase. If I go to the cinema, for example, it'll cost me £20- I know this, so I'm choosy about films I go and see. Avengers- worth every penny. Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief- not so much! (Those were the last 2 films I watched on the big screen.) If I buy a board game for £50 and get 4 games out of it- worth it (it means I've got a better return than most of the console games I've purchased.) If I spend £80 on a Warmachine starter set and a few models, paint them up and play 4 games- yeah, OK, that's  fair. Spending the remaining £500 it's going to cost me to get fully involved?

I'm not going to give up my other games to play Warmachine.

So in conclusion? I'm not sure. I enjoy the games, but not enough to become a fully invested Privateer Fanboy, which is what it seems to require. This is no different to GW, I know, but there is a difference- GW games are a friendlier affair, where losing 1 model doesn't lose you the game, and the games mechanics are a little more forgiving of errors. The historical games I play are where I get my hardcore kick, if you like- I don't need Warmachine for that. So the question I have for anyone out there is this- how do you play casual games of Warmachine, and not feel like you're constantly on the outside looking in?

Comments, as always, are welcome.

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