Pete aka The Masked Minstrel
Australia
Perth
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Ok time for another Masked Minstrel Review!

As the title says this will be a biased review, biased from the standpoint of my history of playing many different miniatures games and a notably long stint with Games Workshop games which I have all sold off recently.

Please note that I am in no way an expert at Warmachine / Hordes, still having to break myself out into the local community.


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THE BASICS

Warmachine and it's companion system Hordes is a miniatures battle game by Privateer Press.
As there are many examples of gameplay I won't explain turn sequences etc but focus more on an overview and my opinion of this game.


Despite some people calling this a skirmish game, I firmly believe that this is what I call an 'Army vs Army' game - the main reason people refer to this as being skirmish is due to a lower model count required.
That single quality however does not qualify as being a skirmish game in my book.

To me a skirmish game is a more involved type of miniatures game where you have even more details and options involved like Carnevale for example where each figure has its own mini inventory of weapons and tools plus skills or talents that really make each individual figure you control unique.
Typical gameplay mechanics that really emphasise a skirmish game are things like alternate activations (where you take a turn with a figure or two, and then play passes to your opponent) and opposed dice rolls for melee combat - maybe its just me, but I often feel that when you play opposed rolls for melee combat it really gets that 'there can be only one!' feeling happening as opposed to your enemy just standing there while you roll a dice targeting a static number.

Warmachine / Hordes uses an 'I go, You go' format with an elegantly simple 2d6 + Stat vs Target number and modifiers for combat resolution.
While this system is extremely solid and simple, there are a multitude of abilities that affect the unit or its attacker - sometimes this can cause confusion for newer players who are interpreting the rules but Warmachine and Hordes is VERY specific about its wordings in the rulebooks so that most issues can easily be resolved though maybe requiring some searching.
As an example: A Vassal of Menoth uses his Ancillary Attack special action to allow a friendly Warjack to make a free attack.
Sounds straightforward, but could the Warjack spend any focus it has been assigned that turn to improve its attack? - the answer is no.
The reasoning is because Warjacks when they are activated for the turn can spend their focus to improve attacks etc but because the Warjack has been giving a free attack by the Vassal of Menoth's action it does not take place during the Warjacks activation and therefore cannot spend focus.
Looking through the rulebook, I found this ruling under the 'Unit activation' heading and not under the 'out of turn activation' heading.


Took a little searching, but a definitive answer was to be found.
This is a very fresh experience for me, as having played many Games Workshop games in the past I found many issues of rule contradictions which were simply handled by a 50/50 dice roll - fast resolution but not necessarily a good thing, an important factor in gameplay should be consistency which rings true for Warmachine.
Warmachine is very specific about how you move your miniatures, how you place them, what they can see etc.
The Moral of the story is, Keep your rulebook at hand, read it, and download the latest errata.


THE BIAS

1)I am a big fan of skirmish games and in particular those two mechanics I mentioned before - Warmachine does not use those, yet the gameplay is solid and surprisingly dynamic due to the interaction of certain mechanics.
Even a small game of less than 10 miniatures per side can be very enjoyable and still deceptively tactical.

Contrary to this, Games Workshop are really pushing for Apocalypse battles which equates to needing ridiculously large armies which costs far more money - lots of figures that might just be sitting on the table to bolster numbers only to be removed by one ridiculously large template.
Malifaux on the other hand uses a very small model count but never struck me as a very dynamic game, it always felt very static.

Also it should be noted that pretty much everything you can take for your army in Warmachine has a purpose, there are no 'chaff' units that are completely useless but have to be taken in your army.
Everything you take has a purpose, even if it is just to die slowly and take the heat off the rest of your army - this gives greater quality to any purchases you make as you are not simply using figures as expensive health trackers.

Still Miniatures games are a costly hobby, but if you don't go crazy collecting everything you can have a quite affordable and effective force for Warmachine.

2)Privateer Press have a nice method of expanding Warmachine, with an expansion they focus on certain elements and release those elements to each faction - those particular elements are suitably faction oriented so that there is a notable difference between how an army benefits from their addition.
This simply destroys the cruddy system GW use where they release a single army book at a time that attracts people with the new kid on the block and then by the time all the armies have been redone they release a new rules set that in turn makes some previous choices defunct.

Privateer Press have a nice system for product replacement too, I have had a couple of issues with some mispacked figures and they replaced them free of charge.

3)The Rules.
Because the rules are so tight with proper resolutions for any confusing moments available this game will benefit the gamer who knows those rules better than someone who doesn't.
These rules are written with Tournaments in mind, and if you do not know your rules you will experience some nasty surprises.
Even if you learn the rules, if you do not know what your opponent can do you will be setting yourself up for some nasty surprises too.

This game is very competitive - in Games workshop games you have some army combinations that may be considered 'beardy' or 'cheesy' to play, but in Warmachine the attitude is far different you are EXPECTED to bring your best and most brutal gameplay.
Warmachine is a game of over the top mayhem and madness with large metal or fleshy monstrosities duking it out no holds barred, so you are encouraged to play rough - just don't be a jerk about it.

4)The Secondary Market.
I discovered this recently as I was clearing away my games rooms.
Warmachine and Hordes figures still retain some value on the secondary market which is excellent.
In fact some of the original figures are even better than the newer plastic versions - check the Pureblood Warpwolf from Hordes for a prime example.
Some of my old Games Workshop figures I can't even give away and may end up just binning, they really devalue very quickly - I have read comments about people not wanting miniatures from the Warhammer Battle for Skull Pass set because they are old.
That really confused the hell out of me because they were still pretty decent figures.

EDIT: 5)The characters have so much character.
You can play exactly the same force you have played before and change only the Warcaster / Warlock leading it and the dynamics change.
Sometimes a little, sometimes a lot.
Shooty guys will still be shooty guys none the less, but a different warcaster will affect how they do their job - suddenly they can shoot through your own models, or gain extra range from a Warcaster spell.

Each character really strikes me as a unique personality in how they operate and how they affect your army which is excellent because in a sense you are taking the role of that character as your avatar on the game table - just adds to the immersion factor.
I was initially put off by the Caster-Kill auto win victory condition, but seeing as how central they are to the game play, it does nothing but make sense now.

This all adds up for me as Warmachine being much better value, dollars-wise and time investment-wise.

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IN CONCLUSION
To sum it all up, I discovered my passion for miniatures gaming when I was 14 or 15 discovering Epic Space Marine and Warhammer 40k 2nd Edition.
As I have gone through life I have often remembered and longed for that warm fuzzy glow I got from miniatures gaming but not actually experiencing it in a very long time despite playing many different systems or editions of systems.

Now I am 35 years old, married, clinically schizophrenic - but I have found that spark that I once felt 20 years ago and still feel it regularly when I play Warmachine, and with it I have rediscovered my passion for painting which was long killed by units of Empire Spearmen and the monotony of painting them.
Now I can approach painting as a real challenge and enjoyment, and my love for terrain building has been rekindled.

Peace out!
-Pete



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Pete aka The Masked Minstrel
Australia
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Added a Number 5 point that I had forgotten to my bias list.

And I REALLY need to get over my social anxiety and get out there and get to play more.
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Les Marshall
United States
Woodinville
Washington
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Only started to play Warmachine and I generally concur in your impressions of the game (and dissatisfaction with that other miniature company).

However, because it's second nature, must pick a nit.

Skirmish. As a general proposition a skirmish is a clash of small elements of much larger forces. Given the fluff, Warmachine "battles" are between very small groups (3 models for a small game to roughly 40 as a high model count)

As to skirmish games in general you focus on two mechanics. The first being activation of entire sides as opposed to alternating a few elements at a time. Not sure why this mechanic is at all relevant to the discussion. Many war-games are I go U go. However, quite of a few of them have element activation like Lock n Loads "World at War" or Corp Command or GMT's Musket & Pike series or any other chit pull system.

The second "mechanic" you focus on is individualized and/or customizable figures as opposed to numbers of generic figures. In truth, I think the bigger factor has to do with maneuver. In typical skirmish games your models or units will move individually with little heed to facing or maneuver limits. "Armies" in most miniatures games usually maneuver in blocks or formations which are limited by initial facing and are often constrained in reversing direction or turning.

As an example, in Warhammer Fantasy, most infantry and cavalry must wheel to turn or pay a penalty in movement points to reverse direction. This makes maneuvering in close quarters with enemy formations very risky as your reduced movement often invites a charg . (Open order troops are freer to move and are classed as "skirmishers".)

Conversely, troops in Warmachine and Warhammer 40K have no units in blocks and each model is free to move in any direction without penalty for changing facing.

Not sure why this is an issue for you. Warmachine seems a fine game and the term "skirmish game" is descriptive without being pejorative.
 
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Mark Johnson
Australia
SOUTH PERTH
WA
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Nice review Pete!
I've got all the books for first edition (Warmachine and Hordes), and everything for second edition - but never actually played a game.

Not sure if you are playing now, but I think Good Games St James has a good turn out each week (Wednesday i think?).
www.goodgames.com.au/stores/wa/stjames

And you can find info on other places at Westgamer
http://gpfkxey.westgamer.com/forum/viewforum.php?f=42
 
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