In my last post (which was quite some time ago, I meant to write this sooner) I talked about my shift from Warhammer into Warmachine and the emotional ramifications of that move. In the wake of this I feel it makes sense to talk about the differences in mechanics and more of the technical contrasts between the two game-types.
The Technical Bit:
So moving from Warhammer (either 40k or fantasy) for me meant a shift away from large pools of dice skittering across the table and landing precariously all over the sceanery, to a different system, one that used considerably less dice per roll and approached the mechanics slightly differently.
The main contrast is that Warhammer uses a single dice for each attack being made, meaning that models launching multiple attacks or armies that could level hordes of models against a target could easily be rolled by pooling all the dice together. Occasionally you would want a different coloured dice due to a model having a slightly different Weapon Skill or Strength stat but largely you’d just lump your 5 or 10 or -gulp- 40+ dice into your hands and send them spiraling across the table.
I liked this method. I really did. There was something immensly primal (to a geek at any rate) about cupping your hands and filling them with rattling dice before telling your opponent “This is 22 Glade Guard bows against that unit of skeletons. Looking for 3+ to hit.”
Now Warmachine works on a different system, using 2 dice (that’s 2D6 to the initiated) and adding the results in order to generate your roll. This means that the plot of dice results it is possible to get should map out into a bell curve, meaning that average results are more likely, a mechanic I heartily approve of. Throw in the ability to boost a limited number of rolls by adding additional dice to the final result and you get a nice bit of flexibility when trying to roll against long odds.
However this can slow the game down just a touch since every model/attack needs to be rolled seperatly so that dice pairs don’t get confused. However this usually isn’t a problem since the scope of Warmachine differes from the Games Workshop battles and you are more likely to have fewer, more decisive models on the field and smaller units. When you also take into account boosted rolls (basically adding another dice into the mix to further raise your total) it becomes clear why each attack needs an individual roll.
I like this mechanic for the boosted rolls and your options to constantly attempt to skew chance more into your favour, but it does lack the swamping wave of incomming attacks that Warhammer added.
But here’s where it really gets me. I have bad luck with dice or with any single events of chance. In Warhammer this balanced out because my multiple 1s and 2s were hidden behind a cavalcade of 5s and 6s, but in Warmachine they glare at me from the table-top, refusing to let my Mage Hunters actually hit anything or causing my charging Pheonix Myrmidon to deal an embarrasing lack of damage. I can boost to try and remedy this situation but the number of times I find myself paranoid about my own rolling has reached comic hilarity amongst the guys I game with.
Dice rolling aside what else has changed? Well Warhammer was about large armies and by the time I bailed on the hobby Games Workshop was heavily encouraging you to take and entire Space Marine Chapter and driving it against half an Eldar Craftworld. Individual models and units were useful and important in this collosal meat-grinder but in the end they were expendable.
Warmachine takes a slightly different approach. Your entire army is centred around your Warcaster or Warlock (if you’re playing Hordes) and it is though them that you control your Warjacks, the hulking steam-powered mecha that you’re going to flatten the other guy with (or Warbeasts if your once again playing Hordes). Long story short, you lose the game if your Warcaster is slain. Warjacks deactivate and your troops either surrender, lose the will to fight or just plain head for the hills. This often makes your Warcaster both the most powerful piece in your force and the most vulnerable, something that took me a while to get used to balancing (and I’m still working to get the hang of it).
The great fact about this mechanic is that there are several ways to win against an opposing Warcaster. You can throw your forces against theirs and hope to crush them and roll right over their ‘caster. You can opt to construct an elaberate snare for them, hitting them where it hurts and fighting only what you need or where you know it will do most damage. Or you can go for the throat, make yourself an option and attempt to rip the Warcaster asunder before their army can do its thing. The way you try to win depends greatly on the Warcaster you take and the units you kit them out with, meaning that even gaming with the same faction can result in many games with a slightly different feel of play simply by swapping out the leader.
And now the point that makes that vein in my head pulse. The reason that so many people I know are abandoning Games Workshop for other games or giving up on wargaming entirely.
The business model.
Fist things first: I don’t claim to know everything about this. All I can say, and all this blog attempts to be is a rambing collation of my thoughts on the subject and a recount of my experience. Here’s the issues I had.
As I remained in the Warhammer hobby I began to notice the prices for miniatures rising. A box of 10 Tactical Marines cost $45 (that’s New Zealand dollars to anyone overseas reading this), then it moved to $50 and the last one I brought (many years ago) cost me $55. Since leaving the hobby I have noticed that $55 will now get you just 5 Space Marines, barely enought to start an army especially when you consider what Games Workshop considered to constitute a full force.
I’ve watched from outside the hobby as Games Workshop replaced their metal sculpts with resin ones and yet the prices kept rising. The minis were still of good quality, I don’t wish to detract from that and I have more than once been tempted to buy a Warhammer figure and paint it up just for old time’s sake. But it’s that price tag that prevents me from coming back.
To give an example of the price differences take a leader figure from both games, Kaelyssa the Night’s Whisper from Warmachine and an Eldar Farseer from Warhammer 40,000. Both models are roughly the same size and are considerably likely to be included in their respective armies. My Kaelyssa model cost me around $17 and though I brought my Farseer years ago when it was cheeper it would now cost me something approaching $28 and I just cannot understand the sense behind that.
It’s not as though Games Workshop doesn’t have enought customers and has to squeeze every profit out where it can, yet every new Codex and Army book comes out more expensive than the last and accompanied by a power creep that just plain depresses me.
I could go on. I could talk about how the way Privateer Press supplies stat cards with every model means you aren’t forced to buy the army book but can still play with your minis, or how the last few Games Workshop army books I’ve seen have been a confusing mess, constantly referencing you back and forwards just to deal with one unit, but I will save further ranting for another time.
I liked Warhammer and would have gladly stuck with it and I enjoy Warmachine and would eagerly have played both gametypes. However my time and my income will not allow that so I’m forced to pick between the two.
So I’m sorry Games Workshop, Space Marines just aren’t a match for Techno-Arcane Mecha and angry xenophobic elves.