Friday, July 29, 2022

Warmachine MKIV rules changes, and first impressions

Well, PP has put the beta rules up for the new edition! Check it out!  I was kind of hoping they'd have them up a little earlier, but I guess there was some issue holding it up, which given that they've been working on this for a long time, doesn't fill me with confidence.  Anyway.

Let's have a look, and see what the future holds.  They do a summary of the major changes at the link, so I encourage looking at that, first. 

I'm going to look at the changes, including some not listed above, and I'll talk about the individual faction rules... I don't know, likely tomorrow.  These are the Beta rules, so things could change between now and actual release.

Warcasters and Warlocks are now Commanders:

They still have distinctions in the rules in that one uses Focus, and the other Fury, but the combined term Commander will help keep rules a bit shorter.  Seems like a smart change.

Unit changes:

Quite a lot is happening here.  As they mention in the article, there are no more command ranges or unit leaders.  It looks like you don't get to choose a min/max size anymore- the unit has a standard size, which is roughly what its minimum size was before.  Unit movement has changed to how it works in Warcaster: Neo-Mechanika- you choose a model, move it, and then place the rest of the unit within 2" of that model.  Additionally, Weapon Attachments have changed- you actually replace models in the unit for weapon attachments, keeping the size of the unit the same.  Units don't ever block the line of sight of models in their own unit.

When units deploy, they have to deploy so that every model is within 3" of every other model in the unit.

The way a unit charges is a bit odd now - the movement is as above, but the rest of the unit only has their attack count as a charge attack if they attack the model/unit the original moving model is engaging.  That's faster, but it feels like a bit of a strange rule.

Honestly, I do like these changes.  Units tended to be the most cumbersome and time consuming parts of the game, and although they were valuable, these changes will make them a lot more flexible as well, which will increase their utility on the table.  

Stat changes:

So they dropped Strength (STR), which wasn't meaningful except for power attacks and a few spells, and dropped Command (CMD) which is needed less due to the changes with units, and added Arcane Attack (AAT) (used when a Commander makes a magic attack), Control Range (CTRL) (same as the Mk3 control range, but now not tied to your Focus/Fury stat), and they changed Focus/Fury to Arcana (ARC).

Kind of hard to find any faults with these changes.  Indeed, separating a Commander's FOC/FURY into three stats actually will provide more flexibility for making the characters unique.  Finally, those 5 Fury warlocks might not seem like such a hindrance!


Some have probably been dropped, but it's nice to see that they've converted some special rules into Advantages, so you now just have an icon.  Ambush and Dual Attack are now Advantages, and Headbutt, Slam, and Trample power attacks are now permitted by the appropriate advantage.  It looks like Parry becomes Unstoppable (for a similar-ish effect with Free Strikes removed).

Gladiator is a new Advantage, giving a +2 on power attack damage rolls and collateral damage rolls.  Kind of a neat inclusion.  Again, these all seem fine.

Resistances have changed, dropping a die from the damage roll.  That's worse than they used to be, but better for the game health.  For plenty of models, the dropped die will still make them effectively immune, so another fine change.  Resistance: Blast was added, dropping a day, which helps standardized the Blast Resistance in the previous edition.

Melee range minimum increased to 1":

Per their article "We have increased the default melee range in the game from .5 ̋ to 1 ̋ to further deemphasize model placement and to account for base overhang. Coupled with the removal of facing, the placement of models has never been easier."

So, they took a game that really was all about positioning, and took it away.  This is a pretty minor change, but I don't like the change in focus, myself.  Of course, this isn't the change that will cause the biggest impact.  Overall, this particular change does make games a bit easier.

Weapon Traits:

The Pistol Weapon trait seems new.  You can fire them in melee.  They mention this in the article.  Anything that makes weapons feel more unique is a plus in my eyes.  They've changed Open Fists to a Throw quality.  I don't know that this has any real change on the game, other than making Power Attacks something that isn't intrinsic to a model's type.

Running is +5":

Great for slower armies, meh for faster armies.  I guess it's a good thing, but I don't really feel like this was needed.

One thing that they didn't call out is that you can cast spells before running now.  You are limited to what you do AFTER running, but you can do things prior, now.  Am I reading that right?

No more facing:

Boooooo to this one.  I didn't find facing that challenging or problematic.  Clearly, some people did, and it slowed the game down too much for them to keep it in.  I don't particularly care for this change, as I feel the positioning aspect of the game was a core identity of the game.  No longer, however.

The Free Strike change:

So, there are no more free strikes.  This isn't a change I love... but the more I read, the more I think maybe it'll work out.  There are definitely restrictions caused by being engaged.  You can't charge while engaged (this also stops that weird thing where you'd charge the model you're engaged with for extra damage).  You also lose your combat action if you leave combat (Disengaging).  This isn't actually a bad way to handle things, if you ask me.  Moving out of combat has a cost, but doesn't drag the game down at all.  

Being engaged doesn't stop you from shooting, but you can only shoot at who you are engaged with.  They may get +4 DEF as a result, if I'm reading that right (they reference that in the article, so I'm guessing that's right).  So engaging ranged troops is still useful, and again, I think this is a nice solution.

One thing to note is that there doesn't seem to be a penalty for walking an arc node out of engagement. As a former Cryx player, that's great, but I wonder what that will mean for balance and tactics going forward.

I think even in the span of this section, I'm starting to come around on this.  Easy and quick.

Power Attack changes:

Slam attack ranges are increased to 1" for non-huge based models.  Thrown models don't deviate, can't be targeted at another model, and don't require any additional work other than hitting with the attack.  Damage from power attacks depends on the difference in base sizes between the attacker and target (14 if the attacker is bigger, 12 in all other cases).  The POW of collateral damage is determined the same way, comparing the attacker against the model suffering collateral damage.

Height returns:

Hills are back, and that means that 3D terrain is likely back.  That's a good thing, and should make the game more visibly appealing to potential new players.  Falling damage is back as well, which I have no real opinion on.


Only works on a successful charge.  Good change.  It works a little weird for units - you can assault attack any model you are engaged with, even though there are restrictions on who you could get boosted damage against with your charge attack.  Strange, but probably the simplest and cleanest solution.  Anyway, this is all good


These have changed a bit.  No more templates, instead the profile will like something like this:

If the attack hits, you'll resolve the damage against the target, and then you'll hit the X closest models within X inches of the target, where X is the AOE value (so two closest targets within 2" in this example).  The directly hit target takes a damage roll with POW equal to the number to the left of the slash (15, above), and the additional models hit take a blast damage roll of the number to the right of the slash (10, above).

If the attack misses, but the target was in range, they would take the blast damage roll (10, above) instead.

This is a change that will speed up the game, but the lack of templates and lack of deviation is something I will miss a lot of.  I actually found the additional uncertainty to be quite enjoyable.  However, that's not a core part of the game for me, so this won't dramatically decrease my enjoyment of the game.

Spray Attacks:

As with Warcaster, spray attacks no longer use a template, instead you measure a line, and then attack all the models on the line.  One other change that seems notable is that Sprays don't seem to ignore the model in melee penalty anymore.  So being stuck in combat can help protect you from sprays.  Kind of nice.

This is another change that will speed up the game quite a bit, but unlike above, I actually quite like this.  Faster, simpler, and it actually reduces the area of effect for sprays without dramatically hurting them.

Warjack damage:

Mechanically, this works the same, but seem to be some small changes here.  The F no longer stands for Field Generator (for Retribution myrmidons), but apparently will correspond to the Front weapon system?  G is now the Power Field Generator, and the rules mention that this works just like the Warcaster version of a power field (reduce damage by 5).  Maybe the new Retribution/Dusk warjacks will work with that rule?  I think we're just going to have to see some more new warjacks to see what these look like.

Racking Spells:

This is mentioned in the above article, but I just want to mention that the article says the choices are based on the Army, but the rules state the choices are based on Faction.  This may not end up being a distinction, but I kind of like the idea that a Faction will have some special spells (like all Cryx can choose Occultation or something) but specific armies also have spells they could choose (the Bane army could choose Scything Touch, for instance).  We'll see!

Choosing spells at the beginning of the game is awesome- how many times have I played a game with a caster with an anti-warjacks spell (say, Grind) with no one to target?  Well, it's happened.  This is a thing of the past though.  I absolutely LOVE this idea.

Colossals and Gargantuans:

The Great Machine (and Great Beast) rule doesn't prevent a colossal from having to forfeit its movement or action from game effects (say, from Stagger).  I don't like that one bit- nothing feels worse than your huge investment in points being unable to do anything.  Now, the solution will likely just be the removal of Stagger and effects like that... but we'll see.

Jack Marshals:

They seem... pointless currently?  I have to think that Jack Marshals will have rules on their individual cards to make them worth taking.  We'll see when they release the rules for one.  But right now, they've basically been cut off from any form of utility.


Lost impact attacks!  That's disappointing, but with the current movement rules, it might have been too complicated to keep.


Apparently they aren't required to be on a base, but will count as 120mm models even if they are not. 

Assassination and Execution modes:

This is again, mentioned in the article.  The only change is that Execution mode is new, and requires the killing blow to be dealt by the opposing Commander.  It's interesting, and looks like a lot of fun.  We'll have to just see if it becomes the standard format for a game, because if not, it probably won't see a lot of play.

Army Construction:

A few things are new here.  First, you no longer have warjack/warbeast points.  Instead, you're force to take a certain number of warjacks/warbeasts (1+ for 50 pts, 2+ for 75 pts, 3+ for 100 pts).  I'm not sure what will become the standard size yet.

You are required to spend every single point you have available.  Thankfully, there are command cards to suck up some points, but we'll get there in a second.

We get a note that when playing in the Unlimited Arena, we can actually build a Custom Army, letting us play with any models in a particular faction. 

Warjacks (well, MKIV warjacks) can be customized - you basically choose one option for each 'Hardpoint' on a warjack, and the choice will change the model's cost.  In the samples we see, the choices are for heads (giving the model a special rule), and a left and right arm (giving a choice of weapons).  I imagine in the future we'll see a lot more variety in choices.  You decide the loadout during army construction (because it affects the cost of the warjack).  

Oddly, the addition of customizable heads adds a bit more interest to the jacks, because the H damage spaces in the damage grid will turn off a special ability.  Kind of a cool side effect.

There will also be customizable warbeasts with customizable animi at some point.  Again, really cool.

You also choose a hand of five command cards when building an army.  They each have a once per game effect, and you can play up to two per turn (but only one per model/unit per turn).  Your choices are not secret.  There are going to be faction specific cards at some point, it sounds like, but all they've shown us so far are Generic ones.  These could cost army points!  There are a lot of free choices (enough to take only free cards), and so far the most expensive card is Spotters at 2 points, which gives a warrior model/unit Mark Target (shooting at targets nearby gives +2 to attack rolls).  Kind of a unique way to customize your army.


Mentioned in the article- Terrain gives -2" of movement.  They added hills, as I mentioned earlier.

They also added in ladders and stairs.  Now that we have elevation again, you can move up and down on ladders to get to higher points.  The rulebook has an error, and it doesn't actually say what the cost to do so is, but hey, now we may see some really cool boards and some great battles over them.


Aaaaaand, that's basically it.  There's quite a lot different.  Some things I like, some I don't, but overall, I think they've made an interesting and compelling system that I am eager to try out.  I definitely was more down on the news and rules on first reading... but they've grown on me.  I can't wait to try the new game, and I'm eager to both try my old models, and get some new ones to fully take advantage of the rules!

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

New version of Warmachine announced!


Image from the Privateer Press website

Well, in case you hadn't noticed, Warmachine is getting a new version!

I wanted to spend a few minutes talking about my thoughts about the new edition, or at least what we know so far.  I'm a big fan of Warmachine, and honestly, a big fan of all of the Privateer Press games.  And I have proven that I'm committed by spending quite a lot of money on their games- I've backed all of their recent Kickstarters, and I'm own a ton of Warmachine miniatures (as in, I could play every faction).

There are things I'm very excited about, and things I'm concerned about.  Now, this is the same day as the announcement, and there is still a lot we don't know yet, so maybe my feelings will change in the coming days, as more info comes out.  Maybe I'll post my thoughts about that, too!

Anyway, let's talk about my concerns first.   

From the article: In order to maintain the playability of the entire catalog of existing models, we have created two arenas of play: Unlimited, which will allow all existing and new MKIV models to be playable; and Prime, which will provide limited model options in building armies from the preexisting catalog as well as incorporate all new MKIV releases.

I own a lot of models.  Like, A LOT.  The fact that they will all be available in an Unlimited format is great and all... but historically these 'Legacy' formats tend to be poorly supported, poorly attended, and just become the unwanted stepchild of the game.  I think of Malifaux, for instance, when they rotated some masters out as part of their "Dead Man's Hand" rules during an edition change.  I played Lilith, one of the removed masters... and I haven't played since.  Their inclusion in events was apparently up to the TO, but to the best of my knowledge, there hasn't been a compatible event in a long, long time.

Privateer Press will support the Unlimited format... for a time.  Or at least, I assume it will just be for a time.  They mention that these old models, unable to use some of the new rules (like jack customization or army specific command cards) will probably keep the older models on the lower end of the power curve... but what if there are a few choices that are too powerful?  What if one of the new models, played in the Unlimited format, make all of the legacy choices worthless?  Will PP actually change the balance of these models if need be?  It's not known yet.

Some of the old models being playable in Prime is great news, too.  I just wish we knew the scope.  One would have to assume that the models allowed will be generic units and solos- say, the non-character Trenchers for Cygnar, or the non-character Winter Guard, or something.  That's all fantastic, if so.  I just wish I knew about how much to expect.  About a quarter of the available models will be in Prime?  More?  Less?  What about Prime-legal models that run out of stock.  Are they going to produce more (given they are moving to solely the 3d plastic models?).  Again, who knows, and just too early to tell, I guess.

The app is the next thing I'm not excited about.  From the article: The WARMACHINE app will provide the game rules and all model rules for FREE; no “card deck” purchases will be necessary.

Later in the article, they mention that there will be no way to look at the stats or rules without the app.  Hey, this is the digital age.  I get the urge to do this... but this is a tabletop board game.  I hate the idea that I need to be tied to my cell phone or tablet just to play a board game.  Come on, I'm going out to socialize with some friends.  Why do I have to have my electronics with me?  Yuck.

Secondly, I spend a lot of time thinking about the game, and the minis.  Examining my casters, thinking about what I'm going to do.  Building lists.  I do it a lot during my down time at work... where I can't bring my phone or tablet.  So, I'm not thrilled about this.

Now, with all of that said, everything else about this announcement has me excited.

I think their reasons are great, and they make perfect sense.  The game is well balanced, but I can't imagine trying to get into the game as a new player.  There are so many models, and so many interactions, that I think PP is doing the right thing.  And hey, I get that they have to cut down the number of SKUs and move some items to the Unlimited Arena format (my first complaint).  I get it, I do.  It gives them their best chance of making this launch a success.  

I love the new army system.  I think small, limited armies is going to be fantastic for the game.  I can't wait to build new, little armies, each with their own unique character and separate choices.  And the cadre system sounds like a fine addition.  Seriously, I can't wait to see the first examples so that I can get to building.  I guess we get our first taste this week on that front, at least.

I'm not at all miffed about the delay to get Hordes into the game, or its transition to being under the Warmachine brand.  All things that will be great for the game long term and will just make it an easier sell.

I'll reserve judgement on the 3D printed models until I get some in my hand.  You can bet I'll buy some as soon as they are available.

The rules are the final thing I want to make a brief mention of.  I love the rules of Warmachine, and I've heard that this is still the same game at its core.  We'll see about that.  I hope they keep the pre-measuring and keep the facing, and keep the way damage is done, and keep the core mechanics.  Of course, we'll see. 

The changes they've mentioned so far are the command cards, spell choices, and warjacks customizations.  This feels like a movement of some rules from Warcaster into this game.  But hey, these all sound great.  Warjacks designed to be customized will mean fewer purchases to buy into a faction, and more interesting choices.  Command cards can help define your overall force's strategy.  And really, choosing your warcaster's spell list means I can adjust a caster to match my playstyle.  I think all of THESE changes will keep me very excited about the game.  

I'm nervous about the future, as I'm sure all of us are.  But I have to say, I haven't been this excited about the game in a long time.  I can't wait to see the new rules, and I can't wait to give them a try.

Anyway, I can't wait to talk more about the game as they release more information.  I hope you'll stick around and talk about it with me!