[WM/H] Direct from Limbo-Land

Well, that’s put the cat among the pigeons and no mistake – Privateer Press have announced third editions of Warmachine and Hordes. Apparently:

  • the points system is being un-gimped. Over the years it’s gone from being too granular to not granular enough, in my mind, so hopefully 100 points as standard game size will allow some breathing room and appropriate pricing of things which are just like that thing except they have a gun that’s slightly better than this other gun on the same chassis.
  • theme forces are being reined in, by some means or another. A tricky one: some people have bought two or three of a given piece purely because of a theme force and pissing on their chips after the fact of purchase is a dick move, but some of those theme forces are out of control and make a joke of the balance which should be ensured by Field Allowance and the internal disadvantages of some pieces.
  • pre-measuring is now a thing, a proper thing rather than a series of “well, I can measure my control area at any time, and I know that scenario zone is this big and that far from the edges and blah blah blah” calculations. I am all in favour. I liked the “measure your control zone at any time” mechanic – that was fun and thematically appropriate for warcasters and warlocks with varying degrees of arcane perception – but I like flow and reduction of cognitive load more. Once we know that something is out of range we are able to make tactical decisions in a suitably pacy and forward-looking manner instead of hanging around either doing sums in our heads or umming and ahhing because we’re no good at sums. The modern wargame rejects such hesitance and stickiness and the Privateer lads are doing well to move with the times.

Fold in the last five years of errata documents, address some of the issues around legacy pieces (*coughGreylordTernioncough*) and put some decent scenarios in the core book at last (it’s 2016, we need to accept that Mangled Metal/Tooth and Claw does not belong on a random scenario chart and that Steamroller, for all its faults, has the right idea about objective markers and deployment zones), and I’ll be happy. It’s been a long time coming and I’m glad to see all the regular forum topics have been considered and addressed.

It does mean the three posts I’ve been sitting on for months (waiting for some painted models with which to illustrate them) are a bit pointless now, though. Bit daft giving advice on pieces and list building when rules for pieces might be changing and list building certainly is. I shall doubtless play the odd game under Mark II rules while they’re still valid, but acquisitions and content creation are on hold until I’ve seen the colour of the new black, as it were.

In the meantime, I shall finally be completing some of those single player computer games I’ve bought over the years. It’s insulting that I have never finished the original Baldur’s Gate or touched its sequel beyond a desultory clickabout. I bought Undertale, hearing that it was both new and hot, and have yet to touch it. I have also, at the indirect behest of my friend and comrade the Prince of Nothing, acquired Planescape Torment in the cause of giving it another go and seeing if my brain (addled and poxed by the sculpted, guided MMO experience) can handle emergent gameplay where investigation and initiative are the order of the day. I doubt it, but then I’m the sort of thickie who thinks Warmachine benefits from pre-measuring.

On that note, I’ve just finished Dawn of War II, though I have yet to assault it on any serious difficulty setting (I know myself: I am here to see the content and will ramp up the challenge if I want to rather than as a matter of course). For what it’s worth: original campaign = enjoyable but overlong and burdened with boring defence missions; Chaos Rising = solid, replayable, morality system with more than two endings and noticeable impact on gameplay; Retribution = actually a bit disappointing, faceroll on Normal difficulty and let down by a generic has-to-work-with-seven-different-factions core plot.

Blame this and the works of Aaron Dembski-Bowden for a brief resurgent interest in the Grim Darkness of the Forty-First Millennium. It hasn’t made me want to advance the cause of my Oldhammer Orks at all, but to be honest the thrill was in the chase rather than the capture there. Once I had them they were more miniatures demanding paint and paint is the most obligatory and tedious part of the process for me. The problem I have is that Chaos projects snowball into grand undertakings and Ork projects, while controllable, involve so many models that they are a grand undertaking in terms of labour and costs. Between that and the mounting cost of osteopathy (my crooked leg requires fortnightly straightenings at present, although new drugs have the arthritis in remission, praise Nurgle and hide the silverware) I might have to let the lead pile go.

[WM/H] Lyoss Is Burning

Had a cracking game of Warmachine vs. Hordes last night.

Player: Kapt. Von
Faction: The Master Race Skorne
Casters: 1/1
Points: 35/35
Lord Arbiter Hexeris (*6pts)
* Titan Gladiator (8pts)
* Titan Sentry (9pts)
* Aptimus Marketh (3pts)
Cataphract Incindiarii (Leader and 5 Grunts) (9pts)
Paingiver Beast Handlers (Leader and 3 Grunts) (2pts)
Praetorian Swordsmen (Leader and 9 Grunts) (6pts)
* Praetorian Swordsmen Officer & Standard (2pts)
Mortitheurge Willbreaker (2pts)

Player: The Laird Holmes
Faction: Elf Qaeda Retribution of Scyrah
Casters: 1/1
Points: 35/35
Adeptis Rahn Shyeel (*6pts)
* Phoenix (10pts)
Dawnguard Sentinels (Leader and 9 Grunts) (9pts)
* Banshee (10pts)
* Dawnguard Sentinel Officer & Standard (2pts)
Stormfall Archers (Leader and 3 Grunts) (5pts)
Arcanist (1pts)
House Shyeel Magister (2pts)
Mage Hunter Assassin (2pts)

Scenario: Mosh Pit
Nice symmetrical terrain layout: the Pit was ringed by a forest, hill and patch of broken ground on each side at 4″ intervals, and contained a couple of obstructions (big rocks) about 60mm in base area, for interest’s sake. Didn’t matter too much apart from giving the Stormfall Archers elevation and encouraging me to split my forces around the obstruction on my side of the board (with Hexeris hiding behind one for a couple of turns, because I don’t have a pair).

Didn’t take pictures. I had a new caster, new measuring tools and a mogul biryani to manage, and the game took a good couple of hours anyway ’cause the Laird Holmes and I are both… shall we say that we both like to think things over? What with one thing and another I didn’t want to slow affairs down any further.

The lists were gentlemanly, with no FA: C doom pieces besides a bit of caster support, no turn two win buttons – and the play focused on piece trading and Getting Shit Done rather than camping arbitrary areas of the table for abstract points. Doesn’t mean we weren’t playing to win, but we were also playing to make a game of it. When travelling to a venue and paying club fees and so on costs you a good £20 a time before the curry is factored in, you don’t want to spend more time setting up and tearing down than you do actually playing the damn game. When I approach a wargame with this in mind, all the Internet babble fades away and I remember why we’re here.

Once again, some poor Retribution player brought Rahn and then had him clipped by an Incendus shot, spending the rest of the game on fire. Titan Sentries are well hard and Lord Arbiter Hexeris is also a bit fierce – although a list with him at the helm is notably slow after one’s had the luxury of the Supreme Archdomina. I missed my Tyrant Commander and would consider trading two Arcuarii out to put him back in. People who say he’s just Black Spot on a stick aren’t trying hard enough – I have a post prepared on this topic but I want to finish painting the model first. I find it amusing that my supposedly backfield, spellslinging, not-getting-involved warlock ended up making a melee caster kill on his first day out, while my allegedly front-line sword-swinging warlock has yet to draw a blade in anger. Doin It Rong, as ever.

This was also the first game where my Praetorians didn’t make a suicidal run across the table, but settled for edging sideways, fanning out and baiting. They still died – well, half of them died, Marketh was running on a full soul count for turns two, three and four – but they mulched some Dawnguard and chewed up a Banshee a bit. On a related note, his Lairdship deserves a brownie point for being the first person to remove one of my Cataphracts, let alone three.

I am also experimenting with spod sticks for the first time. Thus far they are good for getting right in next to the model, but they break the game’s flow while I count and recount inches and screw/unscrew the measuring tools. There are two sets in different colours, so I’m thinking that it might be a decent idea to prepare an odd numbers stick and an even numbers stick to improve flow.

Profitable evening out. Here’s a photo of some semi-painted Skorne. With a relatively clear week of work ahead I might even try and have everything basecoated (i.e. inked over white primer) by Saturday’s mini-tournament down Firestorm way.

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Hark says they look like they were made by Cadbury’s. I am tempted to stick an eggcup on a 50mm base and present a Creme Egg as my objective marker for Steamroller scenarios. Destroy the objective, and you get the egg. Might do it for the Hydra event next week at least. It’s not like I can think of any other way to represent a Stockpile that isn’t “boring generic crates”.

Event report next weekend, probably. Probably some roleplaying in April.

Dead & Breakfast (Von’s SmogCon Report)

Anyone interested in a convention report covering five versions of the same RPG scenario, with no pictures of the actual content (because I was too busy running the games to faff around with any of that Instagramming-pictures-of-your-dinner nonsense), plus a single insanely casual game of Hordes vs. Warmachine?

Also, an obnoxiously British gatorman and his friend.

I hope so, ’cause that’s what you’re getting.

I have to confess that despite having forty days on the clock, I didn’t actually achieve everything on my to-do list. The models didn’t have much more paint on them than in that last post, the last player character model was actually bought five minutes after the first demo session ended, the scenario wasn’t tested and the Mammoth is still in bits. The maps, however, looked smashing, mostly because I had nothing to do with them other than describing what I wanted to Robin and then leaving well alone for a few days.

The scenario itself was pretty straightforward: the PCs had been captured by Skorne and offered their freedom if they agreed to help the Skorne out in attacking a Khadoran border fortress, by delaying or destroying the reinforcements on their way to the fort and then meeting up with the Skorne to support the attack. Each of the PCs had a paragraph or so of motivational notes designed to thicken the plot and encourage arguments, betrayals and contrariness. Most of the NPCs were entry-level mooks, but the commanders of the Skorne assault and Khadoran defence were statted out like proper characters with about 50 XP sunk into them – in other words, they’d mulch any single PC who tried to take them on.

Only one group out of five stuck by the Skorne, honoured the arrangement and helped Razaak the Undying seize the fortress and claim his prize. One group attempted to betray him, got caught out, and managed to escape their bonds in time to backstab him during the attack. Another group fragmented, ended up killing both major NPCs and founded a petty mercenary kingdom in the deep Khadoran tundra. Yet another switched sides and agreed to work with the Khadorans, earning themselves a contract with the Greylords Covenant, and the last lot were going to play it straight but lost their cool in the heat of battle and decided to slaughter Razaak and his army before they were halfway across the field. (In retrospect, naming him ‘the Undying’ was asking for trouble…) I’m proud to say that at least one PC was taken out in single combat with the Undying in each session, though, and that – exactly as planned – every group had some internal tension over whose side they were on.

Spending the weekend running the same scenario allowed me to directly compare the playstyles to which I was exposed – the hardcore roleplayers who went back to try and negotiate with Razaak, the competitive Warmachiners who poked at the edges of the scenario and looked for ways to break it, the first-time roleplayers who took my advice about using everything on the character sheet to heart, and the one group who spent at least sixty of their hundred and eighty minutes coming up with increasingly elaborate plans to delay the Khadorans, blame the Skorne, switch sides and get everyone killed. (To be fair, it worked!) It also meant that I could run it in my sleep by Sunday morning, which is good, since that’s essentially what I ended up doing.

It’s my own fault really; myself and my roommate Charles both conked out early on the Saturday night, woke up at 2 a/m and said “fuck going back to sleep, let’s hit the Iron Arena.” The result was a leisurely game ‘twixt my Skorne and Charles’ Retribution – it had to be leisurely since neither of us could count reliably and one of us had lost the tape measure, resulting in a lot of bodged measurements with spray templates and widgets. It was… well, it was a delightful bloodbath. Praetorians fell like teardrops in the face of the Retribution’s firepower, and elves baked to a crisp beneath the shells of the Incendiarii. Charles’ feat turn saw my entire battlegroup slammed halfway back to the table edge and flat on their backs; mine saw a prized character myrmidon downed and the last Praetorians cutting swathes through the Houseguard infantry. Charles called it after that – with one battered warjack, five infantry models and a warcaster on fire, it wasn’t quite clear how the elves could punch through forty-eight wounds of Cataphract infantry to reach Makeda and avenge their dead.

Charles’ conservative, control-heavy, let-them-come-to-you-and-perish-before-your-awesome-firepower playstyle doesn’t transfer to roleplaying games, though. In the absence of players for the last demo session, we joined the Epic campaign on the other side of the hall, and… well, by the first round of the second combat Charles’ Stormsmith/Storm Sorceress was an unconscious heap in the corner, blacked out from racking up twice the recommended number of fatigue points and badly hurt from bouncing a blighted Nyss just far enough back for it to counter-charge her. I’m glad to say my Monster Hunter fared a little better… at least he managed to cut up a Nyss Sorceress before rocks fell and everyone died, quite literally. Last job for the day was to retrieve Charles’ entry to the Golden Thrall painting contest (shortlisted for the Single Miniature trophy) and crawl off for a curry and a well deserved kip.

Here’s the thing about SmogCon. It’s bloody expensive (I wouldn’t have been able to go if I hadn’t been splitting the room and food costs) even if you aren’t buying back into Privateer Press’ games in order to attend – but every time I go I remember that there’s more to PP games than tedious 50 point Steamroller tournaments where every millimetre counts and the army lists are built to win the games before they start.

One-day tournaments attract a particular kind of player. SmogCon attracts everyone. If you play anything produced by Privateer Press you’ll be able to play it there, and given that it runs non-stop from 9 on the Friday to 5 on the Sunday, you’ll be able to play a lot of it. Going to SmogCon is a breath of fresh air (as it were), and it turns me from embittered ragequitter to born-again fanboy every time.