23 May 2012

Why WMH over WH40k?

I was having five minutes downtime the other day at work and found myself scrolling through the Privateer Press forums. Somebody had posed the question "Why Warmachine/Hordes over WH40k?" and it got me thinking…

My first proper 40k army

I used to play 40k exclusively – nothing else could sway my attention. I loved Space Marines; the concept; the visuals; the models; the stories. As time went by I moved over to Chaos Space Marines as they were normal Space Marines with benefits. Then came the tournament years. It was all about pushing the limits of codex lists and rules to gain the upperhand – very competitive and rather addictive. The flip side of that is that everyone else is doing the same and some people are quite happy to cross the line and cheat… I mean really cheat, and there's bucketloads of attitude to go with it.

In the middle of this tournament time we had dabbled with Warmachine and Rackham's Hybrid board game (such lovely models). A great distraction but ultimately just a space filler before the next big 40k competition.

It wasn't long before I burned myself out and wargaming lost it's shine.

Warmachine Mercenaries

When I finally went back to the models, about the time this blog was started, I decided to just do it for the models – painting and converting was my new thing. I was still buying 40k models to feed this new-found hunger, but within six months the fire had burned itself out again.

Along came Malifaux and seemed to tick all the boxes that had been missing. I got addicted big time – "skirmish games are the future, no more big armies". However, at the same time as buying the Malifaux rulebook I had also picked up several other books, including the Warmachine MkII rulebook. When the Malifaux bug died (about a month ago) it coincided with me going back to repaint some old Warmachine models one Saturday afternoon. So began my Warmachine/Hordes journey of (re)discovery.

Back to the question in hand… if I'm back into Warmachine (which is not really a skirmish level game) is 40k not the same, and something that I'm more emotionally (and financially) invested in already?

Here are my thoughts. Disagree if you will, and by all means use the comments box below. I'm interested to hear other people's perspectives.

Warhammer 40k

Vet. Serg. conversion
I lost my faith. The problem with 40k is Games Workshop and their evolution into a big business. Now, I'm not going to use this post to bash GW – we're all aware of the issues and they've been talked to death across the internet. They're not going to change for the better, or go back to how it was so let's all move on.

The 40k game itself has become something that has to be re-written and re-packaged every few years to drum up fresh business and so what happens is there is no balance. The newest army is usually the king of the hill, purely so that the punters buy lots of stuff. Rules are changed just enough so that long-term collectors of a given army still have to buy new stuff just to compete, or new units are invented that they won't have. The more popular armies are usually the easy win armies and flogged to death, everything else gets left by the wayside. The whole thing is aimed more and more towards kids and this has become apparent across the IP. Because of this, quite often you've lost a game before it's begun – that's not fun for anyone.

My (still) unfinished Blood Angels

The 40k models are (for the most part) still looking great, and GW's move towards more and more plastic kits is excellent. I'm a particular fan of their plastic scenery, which is superb and suitable for any and all same-scale games. Not so convinced about Finecast, but haven't had much experience with it so can't really comment. The prices of these models, however, is getting extremely high and Finecast (which was to be a cheaper replacement for metal) has reached ridiculous levels with this latest price hike. Add into this mix the fact that you need a lot more models in your army now than when I played in tournaments six or so years ago.

40k heavy metal

So at the end of the day, in my opinion, we have a game that has an unbalanced, ever-changing rule system and extortionately-priced models. I would hate to have to start an army from scratch. I know you have the skirmish rules for 40k now, which is great, but the rules are still unbalanced. Back in the day we used to, on occasion, play massive Apocalypse-sized battles with Baneblades and Forgeworld flyers – these now seem to be creeping into regular 40k games, which illustrates the escalating spiral.


When I came back to Warmachine (which coincided with Salute 2012) I actually concentrated on the Hordes route, so had to start from nothing as it was completely new to me. Their starter box sets are an awesome way to get going – a skirmish sized entry-level (11-13pts) was ideally suited to my mindset and pocket. As my interest has grown so has my model collection (there's a surprise!) and I am now at the point where I could field a 20-25pt army (albeit unpainted). I'm only a couple of models away from 35pts or even 50pts, which seems to be the levels at which most games are played. I don't feel I've moved too far away from where I was with Malifaux – similar model count at this stage but could expand if I wanted to.

Newbie Hordes gaming

It seems like any faction can beat any faction (albeit down to which warcaster/warlock you chose to lead your army) and that the game rules, and individual model rules, are created and tweaked with the aim of retaining overall balance. I'm still pretty new to this, so no doubt veteran gamers could mention several imba models or combos, but I wouldn't feel intimidated facing anyone right now (foolish boy!).

My fledling Cryx army

The models are good overall. There are some dodgy sculpts (and some awesome ones) and there is a lack of pose variety in units, but generally speaking they're bloody good. The cost of these models is what I'd expect to pay from Privateer Press – you'd never say they were cheap but they don't render you penniless. There is a move towards plastic but it's more of a solid resin-like plastic than the GW sprue-based kits and are not nearly as nice or detailed (imo).

Plastic Deneghra

Another thing I like is that the Warmachine story seems to have evolved/moved on over time. I bought the current Cryx faction book only to discover that my favourite 'caster had been killed off, then later on brought back to life with a new set of rules and spells. What a cracking idea!! I can field either versions of said 'caster with my Cryx army, giving me plenty of choice. Having said that, the fluff doesn't grab me nearly as much as the 40k fluff used to. The faction books also offer Tier army lists for each 'caster, applying choice restrictions but making an army very fluffy and giving additional freebie benefits for sticking to the list.

Although the game may start at a skirmish level it can grow to any size, the rulebook including scenarios for  multi-caster games. With the recent release of the Battle Engines and the summer release of Colossals, the game is definitely getting bigger yet appears to remain balanced along the way. Time will tell if the needs of the business overtake the needs of the gamers.


I found a great quote from the PP forums, in answer to the question Why Warmachine/Hordes over 40k?

"I got tired of Yahtzee and wanted to start playing chess."

On the surface Warmachine/Hordes may seem very similar to 40k – I always thought it was a poor man's version of the GW flagship game – but the two games are worlds apart.

Chaos Iron Warriors

40k seems to be evolving – not sure into what right now – and it seems to be in conflict with where I want to go with my gaming. The final test will be the imminent release of 6th Edition this summer. It will either draw me back in or flush me out completely (cue massive Ebay sales). I'm struggling to see how it will win me over, but I will keep an open mind on the big day of release. If they release another crap Chaos Marine codex that will definitely be the final straw – 4th Ed Chaos was awesome, so flexible and allowed so much customisation, the current one has ruined the faction.

Warmachine/Hordes has been great to get into (again). The rules, whilst a new edition, felt familiar and it took no time to get up to speed again. The fact you have two games (in effect the sci-fi and fantasy versions of the same game) that cross over completely and remain balanced is fantastic… and is a genius idea. At the moment it's all very shiny to me; I'm fighting my instinct to buy loads of new models and have another shelf that looks like my Malifaux shelf – unopened blisters and semi-painted models.


I know there is a natural cycle with these things. I will play Malifaux again (which is why I'm not selling any of my stuff) and no doubt I will eventually move on from WM/H. I'm also hanging onto my Hybrid games and models, not just because they're all OOP and their value will increase, but it was a great game and I love the models and vibe of my Alchemists of Dirz. I always thought I'd go back to 40k some day which is why I kept hold of most of my Chaos models – Bezerkers, Plague Marines, Iron Warriors.

My Bezerker beastmen

I think the only real conclusion to be made is that I am no longer a one-game person. I'm happy to move from system to system, manufacturer to manufacturer depending upon where my interests are at any given time. My hobby time is far more limited than it was before and I'm not prepared to spend it flogging one particular system for the sake of loyalty or popularity.

I guess my 40k future will live or die by 6th Edition…


  1. I know little of Warmachine only through yourself and a few other blogs, my WH40K was another story, I owned and played everything they did and I still have models and appreciate them still but one day I was in a league and turned up at a guys door and his mum opened it and it turned out my opponent was 9 and another opponent cheated so much I lost the love of playing and used a lot of models as proxy models for other rules and settings!

    1. I've been to tournaments and had to game against kids, but never as young as 9 – that's scary.

      I'd be interested to see some of your old models on the blog!

  2. I always respond with "why choose?" Sure on a PP forum you're going to overwhelmingly get pro-PP bias but in general, why the ultimatum?

    If you enjoy both games, to whatever extent, play them both. It's a HUGE gaming world right now, way too big to tie your entire boat to a single anchor.

    Don't like the 40k rules? Play an older edition, or use the (unanimously agreed excellent) models with another ruleset; there's tons of 'use whatever models on hand' third party rulesets out there.

    I'm really a "Why can't we all just get along?" kind of gamer and once we start putting rules "over" other rules it makes lines in the sand. I know it wasn't your question per se, I'm just saying.

    @Angry Lurker: Was the mom hot at least?

    1. Mik, I really like your perspective.

      I think there is a forced choice up to a point in that 40k and WMH (the two most popular games out there right now) are both big investment games and the pocket can only usually sustain one, backed up by one or two less expensive game systems such as Malifaux.

      I have mentioned in the past that I would like to have an army for several different games tucked away in the cupboard, then there would be little need to invest further. The idea of using the models with alt systems is an interesting one.

      The other thing that needs to be considered is what folks around you are playing. Where I live the local gaming group only plays 40k/Fantasy – I'm not interested so there hasn't been much point getting involved, which seems a shame. So, I don't get to game much but get my buzz from building painting and theorising.

      Yes, the PP forum was very anti-GW, but it provided some great entertainment. I should surf the GW-centric forums and see what the counter is :)

  3. Good article. I dont completely agree with you but tou make all your points really well. I got into dystopian wars and infinity for my game fix. But 40k just has that great universe that i just wish they would stop messing with with poor rules writing and odd (to us anyways) buisness decisions. I commend you on a great article. I hope when sixth comes it is decent and they make my main army platic already or its ebay for me too.
    Also pro gw forums? They barely exist. Moat of the talk on them are juwt hiw gw is messing up and how things could be better, or people telling you if you dont like it leave. Thats the big defense from.most of the fans that I've seen anyways.
    Good luck to you man. And enjoy wm/h its a good game i just couldn't really get into the fluff or most of the models my self but thats just personal taste.

    1. I do find it interesting that there are a lot of people who still play 40k religiously aren't happy with the game/rules/etc. I used to be one of them until 5th Ed Chaos codex – that was the straw that broke this particular camel's back.

      I know what you mean about the WMH fluff, I'm not clicking with it yet so the characters haven't become 'real' to me yet. We'll see how that goes.

  4. A nice post, very similar feelings to what I have experienced with Warhammer Fantasy.

    1. It's a shame that veteran 40k and Fantasy gamers are leaving the games they loved for so many years.