Age of Swords

The new edition of both Warmachine and Hordes have been announced for about a month, as of this writing, and since that time there have a been a number of changes, both large and small, that have been made to the game. These range in scope from massive to minute to everywhere in between.

We’ve been handed glimpses, via their Privateer Insider platform, of some of the changes they are making to Factions, Model types and even basic game concepts.

From these previews I feel we are starting to get a glimpse at what the game is going to evolve into as well as starting to piece together the clues behind some of the more interesting design philosophies that are being expressed.

First, the Primers: 

Each of these gives us a little bit of a glimpse into the mind of what is going on in the changes that are coming in June. I have overwhelmingly felt that there are two factors driving the majority of the adjustments in the upcoming edition: Consistency and Concept.

Streamlining was the overall objective int he change from MK I to MK II. In the first years of the game, there were slightly different rules on numerous models that all functionally did the same thing, but with slight, sometimes trivial differences. If I remember correctly there were three different versions of thresher, two different version of Pathfinder (one for Jacks, one for troopers) and a whole host of similar effects. MK II took all those rules and simplified them into a single, more comprehensive rules set, and the game was better for it.

Consistency

This transition seems to be taking many of the counter-intuitive rules, the rules that act slightly differently for no reason, and rules that are similar but unnecessary and making them all work together. Sometimes, in the case of Beat Back, the rules have been changed to make the one outlier function like the rest of the situations you can get into with the same circumstances – After an attack I move a model. I then can move. With Follow up and Ram, you were unable to make the move if you destroyed the model you attacked initially, because you cannot advance directly toward a model that isn’t there. Beat back, in its wording, was out of place and didn’t really fit the feel of the ability. Instead of using beat back to, say, Slowly push a heavy out of a zone while also crushing it, it was instead used to crush infantry by the dozen as heavy warbeasts with reach used it as a mini Berserk. This conflicted with both Overtake and Killing spree for design space, I think, as they all accomplished the same thing, but only slightly differently, with overtake granting move but not a free attack after destroying a model, beat back moving both the target and model making the attack but not needing destruction, and Killing spree granting both an additional movement and an attack after destroying a model. Overtake and Killing spree allowed any-direction movement, but needed destruction to trigger. Ram and Follow up dictated direction, but did not require the model being attacked to have been destroyed. Beatback strode the line, neither requiring destruction or dictating movement. Now it functions like all the other abilities that do not require destruction, and dictates movement direction.

This was the first example of their method of cleaning up the rules, and it is the one that sticks with me the most because it exemplifies so strongly the concept. It feels like similar design steps have been taken with a number of other abilities – Dodge and Evasion are other ones that stick with me.

Another direction they have become consistent with is what I like to call the Whippoorwill problem, when models don’t look like their expected abilities would indicate. This is most often realized in the reach of their weapons. Many models with reach have short, stubby weapons, and there are even more models that have long, lengthy weapons have stubbly, .5″ reach. Thankfully, this is being rectified in the new edition, and you should rarely be surprised by a models melee range.

I am glad that they have taken this direction, not the least because I am a judge. This approach, of keeping similar abilities in line as well as not overlapping abilities just for the hell of it, shaves away at the rather large barrier of model rules to learn when starting the game. Its a positive direction, and I hope they can keep it up through the editions lifespan.

Concept

Many times during the life of the game, models have escaped their envisioned concept and become either too multipurpose or worse at its stated job than the models occupying different concepts. The example here are the Legion Swordsmen and the Legionnaires. the Legionnaires, due to their suite of abilities, became both a go to defensive unit and a generally more competent offensive unt than the swordsmen, overshadowing the swordsmens role as premier damage dealers in the faction. Now, in the new edition, they have strongly evaluated every unit and model and are stressing that they feel each and every unit now has a defined role and function which should enable them to fill specific niches better than any of the other model in their category.

This worries me, as I play two factions that have a metric pile of infantry models, but I am also excited to see what they do with two factions worth of melee infantry and making them all unique, strong, and worthwhile to field. from the models we have seen previewed, they have done a solid job differentiating units that used to occupy the same space. It is only about 2% of the cards in the whole game, however, so taking the game based on those scraps seems a bit premature.

Terrain Matters

Finally, they have convinced me that Terrain will matter in third edition. I say that because many of the recently revealed abilities that used to ignore terrain have had those sections of their rules removed entirely. As Stated above, its only a small fragment of the rules, but there weren’t many to begin with. Hunter has lost the ability to see through Forests, as has Eyeless Sight. Phantom Hunter lost the ability to pas through buildings and to ignore Cover.

Camouflage , too, has been removed from the game.This is significant because pathfinder now takes its place. Models without pathfinder will have a harder time utilizing terrain to gain the +2 bonus from a forest/concealment due to needing to be completely within terrain to benefit from the terrain. That indirectly creates a situation where the Pathfinder models get double the benefit while standard models receive none. 

 

These changes make me, in aggregate, positive for the new edition. Skorne and Cryx both got hit pretty hard, but it looks like the overall game is going to be balanced for the power levels shown. I don’t think a single model or unit is really set, so far, to take the stage the same way some of the MKII units did. I look forward to Lock and Load and our new, shiny, Cryx Warjack overlords!!