Anyone else remember Fell Calls? The podcast about Warmachine and Hordes, back when the definite article was applicable to such things? No? OK fine, I technically nicked this from Elite Cadre anyway.
- 75 points should be the minimum threshhold for two-battlegroup games. At the moment, there’s a big jump from the standard 50 to the 100 point threshhold for a two-caster game; you have to put a lot more stuff on the table to justify that second battlegroup and it makes the games unwieldy. 75 points is not an attractive size of game at the moment, it has nothing to recommend it – it’s 50 points with more stuff but nothing especially fun. I’ve played 75 points with two casters and it’s been challenging but not to the point where it’s too cumbersome. You basically have a second battlegroup, and thus all the synergygasm fun, but you’re spending most of your extra points on it; you don’t have that much more non-battlegroup-stuff than you would do in a 50 point game. That keeps the games on the outer edge of “playable in a normal club night” and the armies well within “I can fit this in a man-portable figure case and set them up in a reasonable span of time” territory.
- Some serious changes need to be made to units, in order to address this. Since the dawn of time (or at least since that one year in the Mark I era nationals when the top tables had 300 points of models and one friggin’ jack, and it was the Scrapjack), we have had an issue where Warmachine armies in particular don’t field many warjacks. Much effort has been made to bugger around with warjacks’ stats and rules and the focus system and eventually just giving the damn things away via warjack points, but it doesn’t really work because it doesn’t address the inherent advantages possessed by units. I have been struggling to articulate this point since early in Mark I and have never quite managed to do it, but here goes!~
A ‘jack is a single point from which threat emanates, and most ‘jacks concentrate their threat on single points too. It is no accident that the popular ones have high-ROF AOE guns or Covering Fire or have Reach + Thresher or are good at trampling or are basically arc nodes on legs; these are the ways in which that single ‘jack can spread its threat out and engage multiple targets OR focus on one.
A unit can do this all the time – each of those ten guys can choose their own target – and their threat doesn’t come from a single point of origin, it comes from a broad and diffuse area defined by the unit leader’s CMD radius and the unit’s movement options and whether it has guns or not. All units can innately concentrate their efforts on a single point or spread them out; not every ‘jack has the same luxury and many ‘jacks rely on inefficient or mechanically inelegant means to attempt it. I love Trample but it’s a ballache to administer and it’s still fairly limited and linear on most models.
This is before we factor in the number of buff spells which affect a target model or unit. Let us consider Snipe. What’s more useful: buffing ten attacks that are just there, with all the advantages of flexibility discussed above, or buffing two attacks, one of which costs you a point of focus, and which will at best engage two targets from a single point of origin? What about 2d3 attacks? 2d3+2? Let us consider Blur. What’s more useful: buffing ten models with a wide footprint (able to jam effectively, in other words) from DEF 13 to 15, or buffing one model from DEF 12 to 14? In the majority of cases, your extremely finite focus is best spent on affecting the greatest number of models, and on affecting models which do not require further investment from your warcaster in order to see a return on investment. Don’t throw good focus after bad, basically.
I don’t know how to fix all of this but a good start would be to throw away model/unit buffs/debuffs, especially upkeepable ones, and introduce more whole battlegroup buffs or upkeepable single warjack buffs. A battlegroup should behave like a more flexible unit (due to each element activating individually) rather than a bunch of individuals all wanting to hog the same finite resource. I’m aware that this makes focus seem less focussed, as it were, but it is one way of having warjacks suck less. Nonetheless, a warcaster’s power should be focused on their battlegroup and not on the miscellaneous dudes who are there to deliver that battlegroup to the enemy.
- Newer, better contexts for play. At the very least they should be updated with the ‘new’ deployment zones which have been tried and tested through years of Steamroller. They should be simple – Mosh Pit, Incursion, Destruction levels of simple, and maybe chuck the Hardcore one in there too. Mangled Metal is not a scenario (it’s a mode of play and should be doubled up with a scenario) and neither is Assassination (it’s the reason scenarios are necessary), get them out. Bring back Theatre of War, only keep it simple. Let’s have a straightforward campaign system with cool maps that inspire and indicate gameplay rather than governing it, or a demonstration of how to Forge A Narrative out of your regular games, or how to turn the abstractions of the scenarios into something that isn’t pure game but actually feels like a battle – but let’s not bloat the core game too much. Campaigns already represent a commitment: people will be showing up to play every bloody week until they’re done, and on a map they will probably be playing the same people a lot because of where the territories are. Putting more rules on top of that increases the buy-in and puts people off engaging. Also, put the Escalation campaign back in print already.
- No more toeing the zone, or toeing the forest. You must be completely within a forest in order to gain concealment and you cannot have concealment without also being in rough terrain. You must be completely within a zone in order to contest it. We need to address this quibbling over millimetres in a game of tactile objects which stray and wander all the time. Eliminating this thing where bases can be just touching something for rules perks means that people will be less keen to prove that they are not in fact just touching but are slightly outside. If it’s in it’s in, fine, but let’s have it acknowledged that there is a margin of error involved. Print a new Page 5 based on the great works of Duncan Huffman. Oh, and produce your own line of bases with the arcs already marked, or switch to a shape which has corners. I don’t care which, but one or the other, please?
- On a related note, there should be detailed guidance on how to define and set up your terrain. We should be shown how to use key terms like Rough Terrain, Elevation and Obstacle to model areas of a complicated hill with a cliff face on one side; we should be shown how to set up a board so that it offsets the advantages represented by the turn order; and we should be shown why it’s a dumb idea to put a wall on a hill (+6 DEF that can’t be bypassed even with Eyeless Sight?), or rather that doing so has consequences and should be done in a considered fashion. Even Warhammer grasped this, which is why the defenders in fifth edition Warhammer Siege had half the points of the attackers.
I wanted to add something about Theme Forces and making their purpose more consistent, but I said I’d stop at five, so I will.