Wednesday, January 4, 2017

2016 Year in Review: Warmachine / Hordes

2016 didn't really let up before it ended - my entire family was sick, including a trip to the ED at 3 a.m. Consequently I wasn't able to finish my series before 2016 ended, so here we are in 2017!

2016 was a pretty huge year for some of our favorite games, Warmachine / Hordes included. Privateer Press launched 'Mark Three' of the game, promising an All New War.

An All New War

I gotta admit, I was pretty excited for Mark Three. I have always loved the game of Warmachine/Hordes, and I've really grown to love the story and aesthetic of Skorne, my favorite faction. The story and setting have always been extremely underrated. PP does a ton of work on this that I think gets lost in the shuffle because some players treat the game like its just a board game.

The problem I have is that I just don't get enough time to play the game. If you want to be competitive with it, I'd imagine you have to play two or three times a week. If you want to be competent, I think you probably have to play at least once a week. My goal for this year is to play it once a month, which is tough with all the games I play. It's hard since our local game store switched their WMH day to Sunday, which I almost always use for family stuff and NFL.
All of this is to say I was extremely excited for a new edition. I was hoping it'd shake things up and maybe give me a chance to be on a level playing field. PP isn't responsible for my noobiness, but I was hoping that maybe a side effect would be I could get back on the train.

For me, personally, Mark Three didn't so much do that. It feels like they didn't really change much with the core game. 2016 has been the year of 'post-truth', so it may not necessarily be true, but this is America, and feelings matter just as much as facts. 

Some of the key things they did change:

  • Warcasters no longer overboost their armor to insane levels, they can just use lower damage once per focus by five
  • Every warjack gets one focus per turn free
  • Warlocks gain one fury per destroyed battlegroup beast
  • Players can pre-measure at any time
  • Eyeless sight doesn't work through forests
  • Morale has been effectively removed from the game
There are a whole lot more small changes, but these were the bigger ones, obviously - in my opinion. Each faction also underwent a ton of changes to specific models which was definitely a welcome change, for some factions, at least.

The changes above were pretty good - they addressed the differences between focus and fury, pre-measuring is just a modern game mechanic, etc. The only one out of the group that I didn't appreciate was removing morale. 

I know I'm in the minority here among WMH players, but morale was one of the things that really tied WMH to the traditional wargaming world. I realize that everyone is a hero or whatever, but I just don't see Winter Guard marching forward with dudes getting blasted by undead things and dusting their shoulders off. I realize it makes the game more reliable and less random, but we know from all accounts that in war, morale is one of the things you definitely can't depend on.

Overall, most of the changes were well-liked by the community, and very welcome. I have to say, though, again, just my opinion and not a fact, but there weren't a ton of changes to the core game and it felt like a patch rather than a new edition. A few of the things that I felt were needlessly complicated remained the same (like all the different power attacks). I'm not exactly sure what I would have wanted changed besides an overall simpler game that is easier to pick up and play once in a while and not feel like you're wasting your opponent's time.

The Skorne Question

It is very possible that the above opinions are really only colored by the way Skorne was treated in mark three. I may have not thought about any of that stuff that way if Skorne had been re-designed in a satisfactory manner. It definitely wasn't.

Without getting into a list fight, the overall tabletop aesthetic of Skorne changed dramatically. While most other factions got boosts to certain models to make them more appealing, many Skorne models were destroyed in terms of tabletop power.

With pre-measuring and more focus, plus changes to ROF, many Warmachine factions (and I should say - my number of games of mark three is less than a dozen, so this may be way off and just purely hypothetical BS, but this is my impression) became much more powerful in terms of the shooting game.

One of our key aspects, ranged durability, suffered greatly. The Krea went from being a beast that could shelter its allies from ranged attacks to one that will probably not make it on the board. Losing the ARM bonus against ranged attacks is just too much. 

I definitely understand and agree with their point of making it so there aren't crutch models that everyone takes - I definitely get that. But they went a little too far in making the Krea bad. Combine that with making our Titan beasts DEF10 (instead of 12) and now we're getting hit by most ranged attacks and taking damage before we make it into combat. 

I understand that huge elephant things shouldn't be dextrous but man, a RAT4 warjack is now hitting a DEF10 titan with ranged fire reliably, and doesn't have to boost the hit. We didn't get compensated with higher ARM, although some titans became cheaper.

Another faction staple, the beast handlers, lost their ability to grant free charges to beasts. This, combined with a lowering of fury total among most of our beasts, means we effectively lost two fury on a lot of beasts when they charged. This hammered the effectiveness of our beasts, the thing that we really felt our faction was made for. True, they're cheaper, but an extra 5-10 points in a list isn't going to bring you the game breaker you need when your beasts are dying to ranged fire.

Other beasts, like the archidon and rhinodon, were hit with such crazy changes that almost nobody can understand them. They were not used as much before and will be used less now.

Skorne players in Mk2 legitimately felt their faction was underpowered, and were looking forward to Mk3 for some changes that might bring them closer to the top. A martial culture that has infantry might have infantry that is better than average, right? Maybe more control warlocks? 

Hope and Change

Privateer Press is giving the players a re-do! I have to give huge props to Privateer Press in admitting they were wrong and changing things for the better. At the end of the day, they want to sell Skorne models, but I have to respect how transparent they are. In reviewing the issues for errata:
Skorne. Yes, the whole Faction. After reviewing the community feedback and game data so far, we realize that we fell short with the Faction in the new edition. However, the Skorne community has provided an incredible amount of measured and insightful feedback over the last several months, which has certainly helped guide us in our efforts to identify where we need to make critical fixes in order to bring Skorne back into line with the other Factions in both power level and, most importantly, fun. While this errata document represents only a small and measured first step in reaching this goal, we hope it will provide a strong foundation on which to build going forward.
The creator of WMH, Matt Wilson, came out and wrote an impassioned letter to the fans. This kind of stuff really builds respect.

While MK3 may have started off as 'not what I wanted', I am definitely putting in the effort to re-evaluate what is there when the Skorne errata gets finished.

1 comment:

  1. Premeasuring everything still feels weird but overall I'm enjoying the latest edition.