Welcome everybody to another article about our listener’s favorite topic: Warmachine/Hordes!
Ok…so maybe not, but still, seeing how Travis, the Producer, and Danny have a soft spot in their cold, dark hearts for the game, and with Mk. 3 on the horizon (only a few weeks actually), we thought we’d share some of what we want to see in the new version:
A balanced meta: One of the core selling points of Warmachine was the idea that it was a competitive game for the competitive-minded gamer where tight rules and internal balance determined that skill was the deciding factor in the outcome rather than army build and/or luck. Well, that didn’t really hold true by the end of Mk. 2 as the same builds dominated the meta. Debuff heavy casters were dominant in scenario, and assassination casters started to fall by the wayside. Tier lists skewed the game into specific and predictable builds, and if you wanted to be competitive, you absolutely had to have lists designed to handle these skews, which again forced players into predictable patterns. The introduction of Colossals cut down on design space and therefore player space as suddenly each army had to be able to answer these big guys, and some armies were just not well-suited to it.
Seeing as every caster/unit/warjack is being adjusted in terms in costs and abilities, we will have a new meta, at least for a while. It takes time for the equation to be solved, but hopefully, Privateer Press did their damnedest to ensure that the equation was resilient. Part of this is also making sure certain units suddenly had a purpose like Trenchers or Man-O-Wars. Every faction had their losers, and again, in a game that is about being competitive, a sub-optimal unit is an ignored unit.
A return to community engagement: When Privateer Press first hit the streets, they definitely banked on the fact that they were the engaged, cool game company that cared about you and your experience. Their staff were active in their own forums, they traveled to cons, and they sought player feedback and nurtured the player environment, including sanctioning secondary items like tokens or army builders. These days, let’s be honest: not so much. PP is still a staple at many US cons, but they used to come armed with spoilers, new units, and even played in the events. At the last LVO, PP was there with a big presence, but that presence was really just a store. A lot of heavy hitters from the company were there, but we saw little engagement on their part with the event as a whole or even their own tournament. Hopefully, we see PP go back to form and involve and engage the community like in the old days where you’d see the guys talking with players, playing games, and even letting a few juicy rules leak into the crowd, and not just the “in-crowd”. This is the company that allowed a full field-test of its Mk. 2 rule set, yet Mk. 3 appeared like lightning out of a clear, blue sky.
Reign in Infantry-Machine: While the game is sold around the conceit of big, stompy robots punching other big, stompy stuff, the game (outside of a few factions like Legion) was more about infantry. Point for point, they were simply too efficient, and in a game designed around competition, efficiency is key. A 10 point unit could do more damage than a 10 point Warjack/Beast, and for most armies, two 10 point units could do far more damage than a 20 point Colossal. Factions like Cryx or Khador had to just “fill” warjack points and then focus on infantry, and really, in a competitive environment, that was the correct play. By the sounds of it, PP are definitely trying to make Warjacks/Beasts much more effective on the table top, and hopefully this pans out to be true.
Create Alternative Formats: Again, PP marketed Warmachine/Hordes to a competitive crowd, especially those who had become disenfranchised by GW. While this certainly worked, it still sets a bar as it heavily limits who could become engaged in the game. While competitive, tournament based play should remain PP’s focus, they need to work on creating a robust roster of less competitive formats that allow non-competitive individuals a chance to really engage and enjoy the game. Let’s face it: 40k is a much prettier game as a warmachine table really only needs colored paper to determine terrain and objectives, and for a casual player more interested in narrative play, this is completely off-putting. If PP could make a concerted effort to develop a less competitive play style, they would see a larger influx of players. Not everybody wants to win Warmachine Weekend, and PP needs to focus on these players, too.
Not only this, PP has definitely married itself to the steamroller format, and it is a strong, strong tournament rule set, but variety is the spice of life, and steamroller has been the big dog for so long, it is starting to become a bit rote. Some new, official tournament formats could really bring back interest in the game and the new edition as well as shaking up the meta.
Make Trollbloods great again: Ok, they were never great, and this definitely Travis and Danny’s desire, but for the love of god, please make Trolls a decent faction. In Mk 2, they have been heavily regulated to a few specific builds, and even these builds struggle against the dominant lists. Playing Trolls in Mk. 2 is playing Warmachine on hard mode, and the game is damn hard enough as it is. The changes to tough do not make either of them happy, and really, tough is not a great mechanic to begin with as it is far too swingy in its application on the table top, but hopefully, Trolls gain some much needed boosts.
The biggest problem has been the design decision to make them a tank, so trolls are costed with the idea in mind that they are tougher than everybody else, but they always get hit first, so each Troll list has to accept that it will likely get alpha-struck, and hopefully, it will survive it with the ability to grind through a win. This puts Trolls on the defensive, and it gives heavy-handed lists like Legion, Khador, or Skorne a chance to land the haymaker.
Lastly, Rules Bloat: The FAQ and Errata for Mk 2 is its own rulebook at this point, and that makes sense since the edition is a bit long in the tooth. The new edition will hopefully streamline the rules, cutting down on the numerous clarifications and changes. To learn Warmachine at this very moment at the end of Mk. 2, you need to read about 30 pages of rules and 40 pages of FAQ.
Another part of this is cutting down on the Trace-Busta-Busta-Busta mechanics that started to pop up like anti-Eyeless Sight clouds and anti-anti-stealth feats. This design option just pushes the game towards an arm’s race of who can have more rules that trump other rules, and that is not all that enjoyable.
In the end, there is some hope for Mk. 3, and hopefully PP has been self-reflective enough to identify these issues, but only time will tell.