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.
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.
|Vet. Serg. conversion|
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).
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…