Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Machine of War

Over the last month i have been knee deep in Warmachine, so with my interest peaked i thought i would use this blog for what it's meant for....a place for me to rant about what i am into at the moment.  So on that note i will be putting together a group of articles to bring my friends from Hammer of War into at least a decent understanding of the fundamentals of Machine of War.  Including a run down of my personal force.

Step 1: Basic's of the Game, i.e. what makes it different from Warhammer?

Size Difference

  So the first thing you should know about Warmachine, is that it's generally played as a skirmish game, it does have rules for much much larger games but like 40k's apoc they arent something you will play often in most gaming groups.  Warhammer has slowly built up the number of models players generally expect to use to the point now where it truly is a war game.  It used to be that a single marine was an important model, and taking Plasma pistols ect. were completely worth it for killing MEQ's (Marine Equivalents), but now Melta is king as the game has further broken it's boundaries and encouraged not just loads and loads more models but now vehicles o plenty.  This isn't a bad thing, but it is very different from WarMachine.
  In WarMachine my current army has 17 models, most armies i have played against have had less then this though some armies will have more. One of the fundamentals changes here is the importance of each model on the field of battle, with so few units out there i need everyone of them to perform or things will go badly.  You can of course play a friendly game with an army that's just thrown together, but generally speaking an army list of a vetern player will have a large amount of thought put into each and every choice within it.  It will have a unifying purpose and each unit will have its role to play in the plan.  Warhammer achieves this same thing, but on a much larger scale which leads to the elements within it being less and less important to the whole for most units.

To put it another way, it's generally accepted that in the scale of tactics Warhammer Fantasy is more tactical and strategic then 40k, if you accept that then know this, Warmachine is more tactical then Fantasy. Size is only one reason.


  In Warhammer you have no personal stake in your army, by this i mean while you have an HQ choice it's really just another unit in your army.  It doesn't change much if it dies in a game, it doesn't make a huge difference on your force typically.  With a few noteable exceptions, it's generally just a bad ass dude.
  In Warmachine the first choice you make when setting up a list is your Warcaster, it's "free" as far as point level is concerned as all the Warcasters are considered balanced even though they are all radically different.  Your Warcaster is what shapes your force, it's spells, abilities, and traits unlock viscous combo's with other units in the force books, they allow you to setup maneuvers and tactics not available to other warcasters.  They even provide restrictive army lists that allow you build a force that is "fluff" correct for each warcaster, while giving you bonuses for accepting the limits of such a list if you choose it.
  The big difference is that nearly every game of Warmachine you ever play comes with the victory condition "if at the end of your turn you are the only player with a warcaster you win"  This means kill their Warcaster and you win...there are objectives, there are scenario's, but keeping your caster alive is priority 1.  This gives Warmachine an almost Chess like feel to it, you can lose on turn 1, you will lose on turn 2 at some point, you can be completely wiping your opponent from the field...but if you leave him the chance he can pull out an assassination in a heartbeat from an angle you didn't anticipate.

To sum it up, in Warmachine your Warcaster is a huge choice, and protecting it while getting the most from it is a large part of the game.

Luck vs Skill

 In Warhammer we all have those tales of terrible luck, the day you rolled all one's on your Terminators armor saves against grots, ect. ect.  In Warhammer most things are done on a table basis, ie. a Marine has a 3+ to shoot it, doesn't matter what it is.  A Marine has a 3+ to save against it, or nothing, again doesn't matter what it is.  The main benefit of this system is speed, which means it isn't necessarily bad but it also means that armies who throw buckets of dice on the table are better off in the long run as their averages will even out and bad luck won't usually be able to lose the game for them.
  In Warmachine nearly everything important is done on two dice, and is usually referencing two different numbers against each other not a table.  For example, to shoot at someone you take your models shooting ability number, which usually low like a 5, and roll two dice adding them together.  Let's say we roll a 7, this gives us a 12, then we look at our opponents ability to defend it's self if that number is a 12 or less we hit! if it's a 13 or more it succeeded in evading our attack, we missed, whatever.  Armor is the same, except the amount that surpasses our armor is what is dealt in damage so no matter what armor is helping you.
  So while two dice, and no table means the ability for luck to screw is diminished it certainly still there (ask me about snake eyes).  In Warmachine you have a resource called Focus, essentially your Warcaster is psychically connected with your Warjacks(large steam golems) and can spend it's time focusing it's power through the jack each turn.  The more Focus you spend on your jack the better it's abilities.  For instance, if you know you really need your Jack to hit someone, you can spend a focus point on it to "boost" the before mentioned attack roll.  So now instead of 2 dice, plus your shooting skill, you get 3 dice plus the shooting skill!  You can boost nearly any roll, though your Focus points are quite limited and are required for all kinds of special actions.  You can also get boosts from other methods/sources, like Souls in the case of my army (nom nom nom).

To summarize, In Warmachine Luck is still present, it can still screw up your plans royaly, but thanks to low model count and the games mechanics of not relying upon charts and allowing you to spend resources to increase your needed actions, the affect of luck is lessened.


  In Warhammer the designers don't have a real clear vision of the purpose of the game, they start by telling you just have fun no matter what which is fine, they take this notion into most things they do like their "FAQ's" online that actually state "this is how we play it, but it's not an official ruling", or for another example they recently put up 2 army books online in pdf format after taking the time to edit them quite a bit removing many of the issues those books cause in the game due to their age and ability to interact with brand new books, they then say "use whichever version you want".....  After all this it seems clear this is just DnD with minatures and space right?  Wrong, we have Ard' boyz a GW sponsored tournament for "hard core who's da best", we have a brand new tournament circuit being brought back to life by GW, we have huge tournaments held all the time for Warhammer.  Army books escalate in power every book generally speaking, the number of models fielded by new armies is staggering compared to older books.  It's not super broken, the system works in it's own way, but anyone really into it will tell you warhammer is not balanced and needs quite a bit of love to get it there, but GW seems unwilling to give it said love.
  Warmachine however is much closer, it's not perfect either, but the message is clear, this game is meant to be played to win.  When the new edition came out they updated every unit in the game without exception.  New units were not necessarily better then old and "official" ruling are made all the time on their own forums.  They still provide fluff based scenario's, unbalanced event games, loads of fluff on each unit and even as mentioned earlier the ability to take an army list that is correct fluff wise based on your caster.  As mentioned before though even the fluff based list provides in game bonuses for accepting it's limitations to help make sure it can at least be competitive.  All in all it's just nice to know that their is direction in game design.


  I will start this area off by saying GW models are better then Warmachine models, art design and personal taste aside, the quality of GW minatures is leagues above Privateer Press.  The recent kits from GW are all super amazing in Quality, Customization options, and Duality.  One thing does Erk me about Warhammer though in the hobby aspect, because the new system relies upon true line of site and things like 50% of the model for cover, you can be punished for overly dramatic or enlarged custom jobs.  On the same token a serious power gamer may go the other route and have say his Wraithlord squating down to create a much smaller model than intended...
  Now all that said the PP minatures are not bad at all, their pewter kits tend to be of better quality with much less flash and junk to remove, their plastic kits also are kinda neat in that they don't come on sprues...all the bits are in bags and ready to be assembled more or less.  As PP moves more into plastics i hope this subsides, they are doing the right thing releasing Jack boxes that contain parts for multiple jacks, but the number of these kits is very low right now and you should be prepared to field mostly pewter models.  On the second point Warmachine has no issue, there is no TLOS in warmachine, in fact the models are entirely for show, instead all things like cover and los are based entirely on a unit's base size not the actual physical model size.  This also leads to fun bits like the "extremes" available from PP's online store, they are "extreme" re-sculpts of popular units that tend to be much larger then the normal model.


Lastly from a painter's perspective is that Warmachine has far fewer models required in each army, thus allowing you to lavish more time on each or have a fully painted force in much less time then your average Warhammer army.

That's it for this post, cya next time!


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