So, Privateer Press has announced a mega-battle variant of Warmahordes, just as the Battle Engines are being rolled out.
In the words of Roger Waters, isn’t this where we came in? Expanding the size of game to accommodate new, large, expensive kits which require extensions to the core mechanics, and encourage multiple purchases of things most players will only want in very limited quanitites? I thought so too. Still, on its own, that comparison means next to nothing – Privateer’s story has always been the same as GW’s, just a few chapters behind and benefitting from new insights into the structure and nature of narrative that weren’t there when GW blazed its trail. Unbound appears to have better – or at least more transparent – design principles than Apocalypse. The changes to the turn sequence in particular seem to acknowledge that alternating battlegroup activations are more interesting to play and arguably more accurate simulations of warfare than the sitting-and-waiting-for-an-hour that straightforward Igo-Ugo turns lead to in large scale games, and that’s a good thing. I also think that narrative scenarios, open to contextualisation, are a good thing.
A potentially less than good thing is the increasingly safe bet that Warmachine is going to scale up – not immediately, but eventually. Ye who doubt me, remember when Special Forces first appeared in No Quarter #0 and tell me they weren’t a testbed for many of the changes that would be made in Mark II (Field Promotion, Necrotechs getting Repair, Electrical Immunity on Cygnar Storm units…) as well as for the concept of Theme Forces as we know them now (limiting selections to a narratively-justified set, with rules perks as a bribe). When PP presents a new option, it’s the testing ground for the standard of the future.
Plus, y’know, it makes sense. It’s been Known, for a while, that Warmahordes’ current development strategy is not sustainable in the long run; sooner or later there will be nothing to add that’s significantly different from what’s already there. I think we’re seeing it already with the emergence of more unique variants on classic chassis, more unit and weapon attachments, and the focus on resculpts of older releases – a sense that revisiting old ground is more viable than broaching new. When a range can be extended no further, encouraging people to buy expensive elements of it twice is an attractive ploy.
|Mr. Karl Marx, renowned German
philosopher and economist.
Would have played Khador.
Without a warcaster.
It must be made quite clear that I’m not having a go at PP for this, and that they don’t need defending from the likes of me anyway: it’s standard business practice, particularly in gaming, where the commercial realities are easily mystified by the design process (“we realised we’d made some mistakes in the last few years, time for a new edition”). I want Privateer Press to stay in business and continue making good games, which means they have to do things like this, or gradually wind down development of Warmahordes and let it ‘die’ in favour of expanding and sustaining their business through other developments, which would attract attention away from the ‘dead’ system and ensure that it became effectively unplayable. That doesn’t mean I’m going to stick my fingers in my ears and ignore the sound of the Machine, though.
I’m not exactly going to cry DOOOOOM on principle – I already have quite a lot of Cryx, maybe not quite 150 points’ worth, but close, and I wouldn’t say no to a big game now and again, especially under sensible play structures – but I do wonder if Warmachine Mark III will draw a veil over the fact that the game is perfectly playable with three blister packs’ worth of stuff, or even attempt to make that case of affairs otherwise. If we’re going to make comparisons to GW, let’s not forget that poor downward scaling and privileging large collections of high-cost low-value kits are significant features of the design model. That’s good business sense, but arguably bad for the game and definitely bad for the gaming wallet.