Wednesday, April 13, 2016

New Warmachine/Hordes Edition - General Rule Spoiler Thoughts

Heads are still spinning from Privateer Press' announcement of a rules revision for Warmachine and Hordes, mine included. After having some time to digest the deluge of information we've received so far (most of it from Primecast #30), I wanted to collect my thoughts about some of the bigger changes and what they may mean for WM/H.

Thoughts after the break.

In rough order of magnitude:

- Universal pre-measuring. Every edition revision worth its salt has at least one change that makes people freak the absolute hell out, and we're getting it right out of the gate. This change is particularly amusing in light of the off-and-on debate about pre-measuring in WM/H that has happened over the past few months.

My take on pre-measuring in WM/H is that it will be totally fine. Experienced players already used a lot of different methods to effectively pre-measure during games in the current edition (including the always available Control Area measurements), while inexperienced players had a lot of other things to keep in mind (the wall of model rules and interactions that you have to learn when picking up this game). The inclusion of strong scenarios (Steamroller covers this in events but PP needs to have similar scenarios included in the core rules) and adequate threat ranges should do enough to keep players active and engaged, instead of staying at arms length forever (a common fear of what pre-measuring could lead to).

Malifaux made the same move (from guess measuring to pre-measuring) when they changed editions, and I was really surprised by how little difference it made to have pre-measuring instead of guessing then measuring. In my experience, that change eliminates unnecessary negative feelings (anxiety about making a move, frustration/anger over failing a crucial charge) and cleans up a lot of interactions in a way that makes the game generally smoother and more accessible (almost certainly a primary design goal for PP).

This is a helluva hairy subject that I'm sure will be gnashed about right until the next edition is released, but if you're having anxiety about it: trust me, it will all be fine.

 - Removal of fear and terror mechanics. Some folks are probably doing backflips about this (it is a consistent source of frustration that I hear from some competitive players). While I do not share that same level of enthusiasm, I am perfectly happy to see these mechanics (at least as we know them now; "spooky" entities may manifest in other ways) be removed.

My reasoning is similar to what competitive players would rage about: in a game where every activation is crucial, it really sucks to lose one or more of those activations to passively triggered dice rolls. Few things are as frustrating in WM/H as having a full/nearly full unit charge into combat with a terrifying entity and then fail their command check (especially since you probably buffered against it as hard as possible with a high CMD commander and/or re-rolls).

What interests me most is that this levels the playing field a bit more between what makes a model/unit "good" and "bad". Fearless in WM/H Mk. 2 is a lot like Reach: you're almost always better off having it than not, so you try to jam as much of it into your list as is reasonably possible. At a micro level in factions, this makes models (particularly melee combat models) that aren't Fearless much less desirable than ones that are, and it heavily encourages stacking "command fixers" if you can't get Fearless units (most prevalent in Cygnar and Mercs). This creates the macro balance issue where factions that naturally field lists with a higher number of Fearless models (Cryx, most Hordes lists due to support models or running beast heavy) are naturally advantaged, if only in a minor way (but little bonuses add up).

 - Re-balance of every model. This is a very simple point and also the one that makes my head spin. I doubt we'll see changes as big as what they tried at the start of the Mk. 2 beta (when Stormblades and Knights Exemplar were bumped up to 6/10 model units, a change they obviously walked back by release time) but even without fundamental changes there is a lot of room to shake things up just by improving the rules some models have.

Just thinking about this in Khador is enough to give me a nosebleed (and something I'll tackle on its own in another post). Then multiply that across all the factions and what those changes can mean for playing as and against those factions, and July may prove to be a very exciting time to be playing WM/H. 

 - Address differences in focus and fury. This could just be a lip service statement, but it at least gives me hope that they've noticed over the (many) years that the two systems are not at all equal. Smoothing that out on both ends would be fantastic for the game as a whole.

 - New mechanic "Power-Up", each warjack gains a Focus for beginning the turn in their caster's control area. This is a biggun'. One of the most consistently irritating things about running multiple warjacks (heavies or lights) is that the burden of turn 1 set up usually leaves you with precious few Focus left over to run your warjacks up the field. Frequently, at least in Khador, it was rough to actually run more than 2 warjacks in a given turn without Power Booster (making the third warjack effectively +2 points), and warjacks that don't run probably aren't going to be affecting the game in a good way. 

I see this being most valuable for the other factions that have light warjacks, because most of them can make do alright with just one Focus. Moreover, taking a couple of extra lights now isn't a tremendous Focus burden in the early game (when you're just trying to get into position). Might open up some more interesting builds, and should be really interesting along with...

 - Upped the bonus points for jacks/beasts that each 'caster has (doubled or so). This point implies that 'casters and 'locks will have a lot more wiggle room to bring extra warnouns to the table, and it really hits home with another point:

 - Each battlebox is actually 0 points. This brings to light how much more aggressive PP has been this time around with warnoun pricing. Taking Khador as an example, the current Battlebox is actually similarly priced in regards to warjacks - 7 for the Juggernaut and 9 for a Destroyer - and with Sorscha1's +5 WJP you have a final cost of 11 points. You're starting off with 1/5 of your list spent if you choose to take that combination of warjacks.

Considering that Koslov + Juggernaut + Decimator will cost you a whopping 0 points, that gives you much more of an incentive to bring a meaningful battlegroup along (especially with rules like Power-Up, and other potential tweaks). This is a dramatic improvement over the current environment where, at least in Khador, I'm either investing in a character heavy or colossal or spending the bare minimum of points possible (frequently a Rager). There are a lot of other factors that may or may not lead to a golden age of larger battlegroups, but this is a damn fine starting point.

 - Spirit bond mechanic where Warlocks can gain Fury for beasts they have lost each turn. This is a nice buff to the endgame efficacy of warlocks depending on how it scales. One of the biggest issues with warlocks is that they need to have the explosive early game that they do because their ability to affect the game drains away pretty sharply as their beasts die and they lose sources of Fury and transfer targets. This rule doesn't help with transfers (though being able to take more warbeasts due to restructured costs will) but it does help to keep at least a steady drip of Fury coming in so that they can try to drag a game across the finish line without having to saw their arm off (related: it will be interesting to see if they keep the ability to leech Fury from their own health pools with this new rule).

 - Each 'caster/'lock has a unique spell or rule. I read this most specifically to be: "We know that the early Mk. 2 'casters/'locks were pretty lame. That will be fixed." That crop of 'casters/'locks were the biggest offenders in regards to being a collection of existing rules, and were largely dull because of it. It is interesting to note just how many 'casters/'locks already have at least one unique rule or spell, so this isn't going to be a total rewrite for anyone. Hopefully it will mean that the Sloans, Strakovs, and Thyras of the world will be more noteworthy after the edition change.

 - Doubled point scale. With the follow up apparently from Will Hungerford on Twitter that the new competitive standard will be 75 points. So not quite a doubling of points straight out (i.e. 50 to 100) but this revised scale sounds like it will allow for more fine grain costing of models.

 - Huge based models, too conservative with their design. I read this as "Gargantuan and Battle Engines kinda suck, eh?" However the implication I also get is that PP wasn't impressed in general with how the Huge bases turned out. They wanted them to all have a big impact on the tabletop and be really remarkable, but for the most part they were just really big 'jacks/'beasts with some extra rules, or sort-of solos that almost no one takes. 

This point in general makes me a bit nervous, as colossals were one of the things I felt like hurt WM/H overall (especially with powerhouse models like Stormwall, Galleon, and Earthbreaker). The thought of making those models stronger, or that they weren't as powerful as imagined, is sort of unsettling. My hope is that PP learned what made these models oppressively strong and can somehow address that sort of problem without gutting them, or repeating the same mistakes elsewhere. It will also be interesting to see how Huge warnouns fare in an environment that will theoretically have more non-Huge warnouns running around to take them out (and may also be why PP wants to step them up a bit).

 - Huge-based models now feel like "monsters of the battlefield" due to point value changes, with the example being that a Conquest is 4 times the cost of a Juggernaut and 4 times the "badass". Without any other context this point is impossible to really glean info out of, other than the fact that Huge warnouns will almost certainly be comparatively more expensive than they currently are, but also scaled up to match. The current Conquest is ~2.71 times the cost of a Juggernaut, so even accounting for the fact that the Juggernaut may be cheaper in the new edition you're still looking at a sizable increase in the cost of Conquest.

This is more of an interesting thing to muse about than anything worth really delving into, as we don't have enough hard data to draw solid conclusions from. What is interesting is that the increased cost in colossals may end up inadvertently killing the "double colossal" list, either directly (literally can't afford it) or indirectly (the list is so bare after taking 2 colossals that it isn't worth it). 

 - Fluff changes. All nifty, but I stopped reading the fluff a long time ago.

 - L&L stuff. Sounds like they have a good plan in place to make distributing the new edition materials not a complete bloodbath. Kudos for that.

 - New Hordes faction. Really cool, and it will be nice to have essentially the same number of "main" factions for each system, but this news is super buried under the deluge of news and speculation about the next edition. PP looks like they knew that going in, so they seem to emphasize the debut of the new faction in 2017, and are just content to mention it now.


Overall, I find all of the new edition news to be extremely exciting.

All of these changes (divorced from more specific context) frame this edition as an effor from PP to: 1) reinvigorate/bring back established players that have lost interest in the game, and 2) make the game a less daunting prospect for new players (two very common reasons to do big re-writes).

I am firmly in camp #1 at this point in Mk. 2 so all of these changes sound like a great shake up of the system to me. The new edition is also exciting when considered with goal #2 in mind; I don't have any particular stake in the game, but anything that makes it easier for players to pick up the game (and more likely to stick with it) will be great for WM/H and PP in the long term.

It also feels impossible not to feel excited about the prospect of a major model overhaul, though this may be a perspective unique to me as a Khador player (though all the factions have their fair share of dead weight that I think players would love to have a reason to use).

Those thoughts are an essay all unto themselves though, so I'll save all that for next time. Until then, thanks very much for reading!


  1. Maybe they ripped the subcortex outta the Behemoth and just gave him Virtuoso instead. That's streamlining!

    1. Honestly, I could totally see them doing that. They'd need to make sure to update his cost accordingly but it would make sense. Or give him Virtuoso and Weapons Platform. :D

  2. The one gem I took away from the current discussion is that the system is going to be more granular than before. There are a lot of solos that should probably be priced at 2.5 or 2.75 points but the current rules do not allow for it. There are also models like the manowar Kovnic that are clearly worth less than 3 but more than 2 points and the judgment at printing was to round up. Just having a greater range of points on the value scale can breath new life into some models. Additionally, rewriting the cards means that PP can add or subtract utility from some models and value them properly. Done correctly, this will also lend more endurance to MKIII because the current range is much larger than that at the time of the last edition change. With two editions worth of models as a base, it will hopefully be easier for PP to balance new releases and meta impacts. I think PP has learned a lot after the introduction of battle engines, cav, and lesser casters/locs too. Unlike several companies PP seems to do a good job of self-criticism and adapting to community needs. Done right, I think MKIII will be a huge boon for the game.

    1. Fully agreed. The point adjustment alone can have a remarkable effect on a lot of models, and anything that doesn't cover can be fine tuned with the rule revision.

      Its a very exciting time. Every model gets a potential fresh start and another spin on the experimentation wheel. All of us get to go back to our collections and almost start fresh.

      Or at least that is what I'm expecting. I don't think every model is going to get a big rules revision, but I do expect there to be enough of those to be a shake up in each faction. And for those that stay relatively the same, the revised point totals on the new scale should make them virtually a new entry.