We’re passing 2 years into Warmachine MKIII—well past the honeymoon period with several CID cycles in the rearview mirror. So it’s time for my hot takes on the game state, community, faction, and hobby. Obligatory disclosure, I’m a casual player with less than 50 games under my belt this edition. Please do not take my opinions too seriously.
I got into warmahordes back in the early days of MKI—back when there were only 4 casters per faction and the model range was in its infancy. This edition is functionally an entirely new product. MKIII is a better rule set in every particular. Privateer press has obviously put a lot of thought into making jacks and beasts integral list elements again. While I do not appreciate all their design choices, they have done a ton of work to insure a clean flavorful experience at the model VS. Model level.
After that point, the experience degrades for me. PP’s continued insistence on basing its game on a straight 75-point SR tournament pack—it’s the only model discussed or tested these days—restricts the scope of play. Company of iron and colossal wrestling do not represent serious alternatives in my experience. Company of iron may come into its own—it is a very new product and will benefit from more publicity and manufacturer support—but for most of us steamroller is the game entire. If you are a serious player desiring meaningful competitive play that’s fine. If however, you’re like me, it’s difficult to choke down the steamroller experience even after a couple journeyman cycles. SR is a huge animal with 2 static formats, an ever-changing model set, and a high skill requirement. As a result, Warmachine has become more about objectives, flags, and zones and less about the narrative three dimensional skirmish interactions that drew me to the property.
To be fair to Privateer Press, I want a game that has a low bar to entry that is played at many point-totals. I like the way PP unapologetically sets the bar; I just wish there was more diversity in accepted points levels and formats. Themes fall into the same hell mouth—they are the way PP wants the game played—not the agent I want driving my list construction. We just have different visions for the desired end state.
I have this temptation to think of the community as a monolith heralded by the vocal contributors on lormahordes, chain attack, fully boosted, battle driven, combo smite, dark guidance, dominate for two, and all the other random places I go for my PP fix. In practice, I suspect they represent a small percentage of players worldwide. So, when I say “community” I’m talking about all the casual people catching a game here and there not just the globetrotting tournament goers. I have not seen a demo day, tournament, or PP open gaming event since March 2017—and I live near 3 game stores that used to have regular MKII events. The edition swap was always going to drive some attrition. Stores come and go. People move on—these things happen. Even so, I hear a lot of people suffering from the same malady.
I used to blame the end of the official PP forums and the press ganger program for this “decline.” Upon reflection, I was wrong. Those programs did not drive the hobby—they just provided a convenient forum for hobby development and community interaction. I used to be the guy running demo games as people walked into the LGS. I used to be the guy helping run small events—I just don’t have the time or resources to do that anymore. MKIII’s launch killed warmachine in my area but the local community’s inability to reconstitute around a flagship store, organizer, or forum is what has kept it in the ground. I feel honestly bad about that. I want to help—I just do not have that much hobby time. Organizing events and running demos is work—rewarding work—but still work. I’m talking to a local game store about doing a twice monthly warmachine day. There have to be other players like me out there. Maybe an open game day will be enough to start the ball rolling again. It makes me worry about the game’s future. Where is PP’s outreach? What about all the people not in a thriving meta? These things trouble me.
Khador is in a weird place. There was a time when a Khador list was Sorscha and some destroyers killing your caster by turn 2. Then it was butcher 1 with 2 MOW kovniks and 3 devastators. Khador’s shtick has always been quality of stats be it armor, boxes, or elite infantry. If you listen to people discussing armored korps, you’d think Khador was back in its hay day—unbreakable elite models requiring an unusual effort to repel. The days of berserker spam and defense 19 assassins must have scarred the community. The thing is, Khador is not that faction any more. Gone are the days of armor 25 devastators. Heck, those dirty Swans have a reach jack with armor 21 that can’t be charged most of the time and SPD 5. I think people remember all the good parts of big red and forget how much less unique we are now and how much we’ve lost in translation.
It feels like people focus on the armor 20 34 box aspect and completely ignore the defense 10, SPD 4, RAT 4, no light, no arcnode part. No other faction is defined as much by the game elements it lacks than Khador. Every other faction breaks the rules in some meaningful way—whether through theme, model design, or caster impact. Khador just tries to out-fundamental its opponents. In a world where Other factions have access to themes providing mass carapace, RFP, and free battlegroup models I feel just a little homely in comparison.
On the other side of the coin, I have never had this much jank to build lists with before. My demolition korps are fixed and the rest of my MOW are playable again. Old Witch II (if I ever find someone to build and paint her) is mind blowingly amazing. Victor is everything I wanted him to be at a price I can afford. Khador is…in a weird place.
Warmachine is a top-tier wargame with a constantly changing meta and a responsive community. It used to be a small skirmish game with a low entry threshold. Now, the larger relative points values and the massively evolved product line make it a more daunting challenge. I feel as the game has improved—and it has whatever my reservations—it has also become a little more insular—a little more elite—a little harder to start. The fluffy narrative books of my youth are gone in favor of a more competitively focused experience—one where the glorious art and writing of old has given way to a clunky app and articles in NQ Prime. The game is different now and I don’t know what to think of that.