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Subject: Meet My Metal Plated Fist, GW: A review of Warmachine Mk II. rss

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Josh Look
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If I thought it would be given any attention whatsoever, I'd write a letter to Games Workshop on a Privateer Press letterhead with only four letters it in big font on it, reading: E.S.A.D.

I'll let you figure out what that stands for.

I can honestly say I'm done with GW and their miniatures games (note the omission of any future reprints of board games. Even after the great BGG Purge of '09, I would still buy a reprint of a large number of their classic board games. I, for one, have the maturity to not submit to embarrassing and useless nerd-rage). Now, I've been done with their miniatures games for a couple years now, but I've been tempted by their games time and time again, to the point where I had intended to return to Warhammer Fantasy. But now I believe that there really is no excuse to play GW's tired, overpriced games. For the last week I've been extensively playing Warmachine with the new MkII rules, and as far as I can tell, the game is near perfect...not to mention that Warmachine has more substance in it's huge, metal pinky than 40k has in its entire body.

Even before the MkII rules hit, Warmachine was already a very solid miniatures game. It's game about huge, steam-powered robots called Warjacks (or just 'jacks) who are magically controlled by a single model called the Warcaster. The most common victory condition is “Caster Kill,” since when the Warcaster dies, the 'jacks go inert. A number of things sets Warmachine apart from the other miniatures games on the market. For one, it's ultimately cheaper. I've heard complaints that the prices have gone up over the years, or that the models are just as expensive at GW's, but the fact remains that YOU DON'T NEED AS MANY MODELS TO PLAY. A starter set goes for $50 SRP, but they can easily be found online for as low as $34.99. Each starter includes 3-5 models, and not only is that enough to play, but it's enough to play a decent game since each starter is balanced against all the others. It also includes a set of quick start rules, which unlike other games, “quick start” does not translate to “watered down.” The only rules missing don't apply to the models in the starter. Speaking of rules, every model gets its own card, so there's no going to books or charts to see what the model can do.

But the real charm of Warmachine comes from the resource management system that fuels the game. At the start of each turn, your Warcaster gets number of points called “focus.” At the start of your turn, focus is divided amongst your Warjacks, enabling them to charge, run, make more attacks, make more powerful attacks, and all other forms of badassery. However, your Warcaster also needs focus for their spells. This constantly gives players important decisions to make on a turn-to-turn basis, and you'll often find yourself torn between giving the focus to a 'jack to make that huge attack and keeping it on the Warcaster for what could be a game-changing spell.

While Warmachine has always been an excellent game, it sort of broke down along the way. Units of footmen started to take the spotlight from the Warjacks, earning the game the sad title of “Infantrymachine” from some players. The overall balance of the game changed, and some models were downright broken. Privateer Press did an admirable job along the way trying to right these wrongs, but the damage was done. The game was still fun, but there were times where you'd just look at what an opponent was playing with and say, “Do you want to just write this off as a win for you?”

Along comes MkII, which I should point out, was released onto the internet this last Spring for players to playtest and report back in on. Some ideas were accepted, other were not. To me, this shows that the company genuinely cares about making players happy. The biggest deviation comes from the point system. For example, instead of agreeing to a 500 point game with your opponent, you now play a 35 point game. No more going for the calculator. You can easily build a list with mental math. Warcasters don't cost any points, and each Warcaster now has “Warjack points” which can be spent on Warjacks without going against the agreed upon point limit (so if you're playing a 35 point game and your Warcaster has 6 Warjack points, you can actually play a 41 point game).

The second biggest change is that the attention is now back on Warjacks (where it should be). To understand this difference, you need to understand how Warjacks take damage. Each Warjack has a damage column on their card numbered 1 to 6, so when they are damaged, a D6 is rolled and the damage is applied to that column. Towards the bottom of the columns, you'll find boxes with letters in them. These letters represent the different systems of a Warjack. “R” and “L” means right and left arms, “M” means movement, and “C” means Cortex, the thing the enables a 'jack to receive focus. In the old rules, when all the boxes of a system were damaged, that system could no longer be used. This was extremely crippling to the point that when certain systems went down, there was no reason to even try to do anything with the Warjack. Now, you can still use the system (with the exception of Cortex, which works the same way it used to). Disabled weapons can only roll 1 die instead of the usual 2 when making an attack. Where a disabled Movement system used to mean that you could only move 1” per turn, you can now still move your normal distance, you just can't charge and you're a bit easier to hit. These changes are hugely welcome. There was nothing more disheartening than seeing your favorite 'jack be rendered completely useless for the rest of the game just because it lost a weapon or could only move a measly 1” per turn. Finally, a Warjack used to be “wrecked” (meaning it could no longer be activated) if it lost three systems. In MkII, all system must be disabled before a 'jack is done for.

To top it all off, the broken stuff has been fixed. Overused models lost a few abilities, underused models gained few, units lost a point in stat here and there, and all Warjacks gained a few points in theirs. I truly feel that this is where the game should be. I, probably like many 40k players, once saw Warmachine and thought, “Cool, someone made a game where you use nothing but Dreadnaughts,” only to be later saddened to find that the game was still largely supported by waves of infantry. MkII restores that initial excitement, without making infantry completely useless (just much less effective). I've spoken to players from all of Warmachine's 6 factions, and everyone seems to be extremely pleased with the changes made to their models. Everything seems to be just right.

If there's a dent to be found in MkII's armor-plated hide, it's that now is not exactly the easiest time to get into the game. The starters have yet to be updated, so they still have MkI rules and MkI cards. If a new player does decided to get a starter, they'll need the deck of MkII cards for their faction, which runs another $18. It's still cheaper than getting into pretty much any other minis game out there, but it's still a larger initial investment than it was before. I'm sure Privateer Press has plans in the very near future to rework the starter boxes, so new players may want to wait for those. In the mean time, there's a printable demo (which does feature the MkII rules) of the game on PP's website.[urlhttp://privateerpress.com/warmachine/the-game[/url]
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Hunter Shelburne
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May have to check it out once the model packs and whatnot catch up with the rules. I've always looked at it, but I won't be dropping Warhammer like you, just picking up another game, so I have to make time for it. Definitely on the radar.
 
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Joseph Kopena
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Come on, why mar this otherwise great recap of the MkII changes with tired, predictable, lame anti-GW rage? Have they been holding a gun to your head, forcing you to buy their models? Threatening your loved ones if you don't roll just a couple scatter die? Dropping your statically-posed, soon-to-be-plastic, metal 'jacks off tabletops to their grisly demise?

If any of those are the case then I sympathize completely. Otherwise, I don't understand this sort of teenage envy rage. 40k's a great game. Warmachine's a great game. Stargrunt is a great game. AT-43 is a great game. Shockingly, and I know this is hard to conceive of, there is room in the universe for multiple great science fiction miniatures games!

Clearly a great many people get a lot of value out of the many hours spent modeling and playing with the admittedly larger armies in 40k. Like any game, the costs of the game are reasonable for discussion, but I don't know what meaning that has. Most of FFG's big boxes don't hit my price/value threshold either, but clearly that's not true for a lot of people.

As far as the claims of more substance, that's necessarily pretty subjective. I was initially skeptical myself, but I've found that 40k gets a fair bit more strategic and interesting the more you learn the game and the better you become. I'm a pretty smart guy, if I do say so myself, and a decent player by now, and I definitely consider 40k one of the more challenging and strategically rewarding games I play.

The two games are just different. I find Warmachine to be more static and a little boring in the first couple turns with the heavy focus on melee and consequent (un)necessary opening rush toward each other, and a little fiddly with the importance of arcs and facing, but it also has a lot of great mechanics and tactics, especially focus allocation. I could believe others would find 40k to be unnecessarily complex and to have fairly disappointing quality and control problems over rules editing, but it also has great mechanics and tactics.

In any event, this was by and large a good writeup and, just getting back into Warmachine myself after a ~4 year hiatus, I learned a good bit about what and why changes were made. It's just a shame you felt it necessary to try to enforce your preferences on other people and to cast aspersions on their hobbies and passions in some childish attempt to... make yourself... look more... awesome... or something? I have no idea. What are you people with this problem trying to accomplish?

But thanks for the good parts of this post...
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William Shick
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I actually am fortunate enough to work for Privateer Press and I just wanted to point out some information about the WARMACHINE battle boxes.

Since January 1, all starter boxes coming from Privateer Press contain Mk II quickstart rules and cards. Also Privateer offered all retailers free Mk II card upgrade kits to update their current stock to Mk II.

Thanks for playing guys! And don't be shy about contacting us if you have any problems or concerns at frontdesk@privateerpress.com!
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Josh Look
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jkopena wrote:
Come on, why mar this otherwise great recap of the MkII changes with tired, predictable, lame anti-GW rage? Have they been holding a gun to your head, forcing you to buy their models? Threatening your loved ones if you don't roll just a couple scatter die? Dropping your statically-posed, soon-to-be-plastic, metal 'jacks off tabletops to their grisly demise?


No, of course not. I have merely stated that I find Warmachine to be a vastly superior game to the point that I think GW's games are completely obsolete.

And to defend myself from looking like a hypocrite (since I did make the statement about nerd-rage), if I were going into a nerd rage, I would have complained about the lack even support given to the different factions of their games (ie, the absurd amount of time it takes to get a new codex out for some armies), greater detail about the ever increasing price of their miniatures, their recent business decisions beginning with the closing of almost all their stores and going up to their big internet purge, the fact that some models are written out of rules revisions entirely, so on and so forth. I did not attack people who do play GW's games. These are the sort of things that would be considered "nerd-rage." To honest, I don't care what GW does. I've found my game, I'm moving on from them, and that's what my review is about at it's core.

Again, all I am saying is that I've played both games, and I find Warmachine (and the way PP handles supporting the game) to be better in every aspect. It's an opinion, and I kept it as such.

On the topic of substance...While 40k is strategic (it would be around for as long as it has been if it wasn't), I think the Warmachine is a little bit less about the dice. Bad rolls will still spoil your game, but not quite as much as 40k, and nowhere near as much as in W:FB. Having to activate your models ENTIRELY before moving on to the next one adds an extra level of strategy in Warmachine. I enjoy having to recognize the best possible order to activate my models in while play Warmachine, and in addition to distributing focus, casting spells, making power attacks, etc., that's why I think Warmachine comes out on top in terms of substance.
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Graham Smallwood
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Thank you very much for this review! My whole gaming group got in to WM at the same time a few years ago. It was awesome out of the gate. I have three pinned-and-painted jacks that I just love. But then the super warcasters came out (is the mech-caster (Darius?) nerfed?), and then the infantry squads of doom, and I just gave up. The game became all about ignoring each other's giant robots for a quick caster kill.

I'd love it if the game went back to the launch-starter level of robot smacking.

(Omg, and I just looked at the quick start. Sorscha's feat got nerfed! That free turn used to be in the list of top ten worst game design decisions ever.)
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Jonathan Axelsson
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"The game was still fun, but there were times where you'd just look at what an opponent was playing with and say, 'Do you want to just write this off as a win for you?'"

Actually, I played 40k last year sereval times this way on the way home from my club, his necrons vs my berzerkers. I won every time... Silly.

I dont't understand how people, including myself untill recently had the patience to wait YEARS to have updated rules for the unbalanced armies, wich contain bad spelling and need erratas instantly.

Now in the year of MK2 I am finding myself falling into WM, and your rewiev helped me, thanks.
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