I just picked up my delinquent copy of No Quarter 55 the other day, and I just heard the rumblings of a Theme Force for Dr. Arkadius, the mad scientist of the Thornfall alliance. This has got me thinking about theme forces, and what they do for all games, not just for Warmachine.

I started tabletop games playing Warhammer 40k, and in that game, there was a ton of theme built into every army. While every codex presented the vanilla force of the faction, they also had tons of themed forces you could run. Cadians, Evil Sunz, Black Templars, Biel Tan and specific Hive Fleets dictated your army selection and gave you different benefits for taking them. From the beginning, though, some were obviously considered more powerful than others, and certain books, especially campaign books, boosted it to a completely different level. I remember playing an army of Warp Spiders that was completely bonkers, and might have even been good if I could have proxied it to try it out. Instead, I ended up buying and owning the very characterful Lost and the Damned, which was dropped from the main lineup as soon as the Eye of Terror campaign was over.

The LaTD list was really powerful because it combined sepecific aspects of armies that were otherwise balanced separately into a single force, while limiting the forces that would normally be available to the main (Imperial Guard) force. This is the core of almost every themed army I’ve encountered. Its also why they have such a pull on the communities that they are involved in. If your allowed to run only your favorite model/unit in an army and get bonus’ for it, who wouldn’t?

But thats the rub, here. Most people don’t want to limit themselves because its creative, fluff filled, or interesting. Many people simply want bonuses to how a game functions for limiting themselves in their model choice. I don’t think theme forces really have a place, and though they are tempting, they are generally loose/loose for the communities they are part of.

Inherently, themes break the rules of the game in a drastic way that is extremely hard to balance correctly. This leads to themes that become either the default play style, or that are never used. They are simply black and white, with no gray in between. In Infinity, the use of sectorial armies, and by extension their link teams, is a large part of their discussion of list building and play strategy. I don’t vehemently hate them like I once did but I still cannot see why I wouldn’t just use them in every game, because the link teams are so extremely strong, in my opinion, that they can only be overcome by out-skilling your opponent, becoming a win-more button. Warmachine and Hordes have the signature theme lists for each caster, and sometimes more than one. These, too, I find moderately bothersome. These give various bonuses to the army you play because you restrict yourself in unit choice,  but sometimes the restriction is a moot point because the caster in question would only want to use those models anyway, thus rewarding the clear and normal build for a caster. I wouldn’t be against this if it was true for all of them, but many of them are fairly divergent from the normal way the game encourages you to play, and instead promote strange and janky army lists.

I think Malifaux does it the least wrong, but that’s because it has rules on the models cards that reward you for taking thematic models with them. The Ortegas have family, and the Drill Sergeant buffs models of the guardsman type. This form of theme building is interesting and more balanced to me because the model as it is intended has synergy with other specific models, thus rewarding you for taking them. It is build into the basic premise of the game instead of adding another layer of rules on top.

So, what do you think? Are themed lists and armies the way to go?

 

I’ve been playing Dark Souls II for months now. And I’ve not been extremely committed to it. Something about the game has just slowed my progress to a crawl, where it didn’t in the original. Maybe I should just bulk up and approach the game much like I did the first time, but I’m not sure even that will stave off the sheer brute force I feel I need to have to beat the game.

This time around, as I’ve mentioned, I am trying to play the game as it feels it is supposed to be played. I’ve leveled up my stats in a way that seems more educated, I’m using a weapon that takes a bit more finesse, and I am wearing armor that doesn’t make me roll around like I way a million pounds. Unfortunately, that seems to not be what the game wants me to do, as I keep running into areas that routinely bash my head in.

Whats worse, and this is exacerbated beyond even the woes of the first game, is that I don’t feel any sense of wonder from the in game drops. I loathe the need to go online and check stats, upgrades and other such trivial information to make a good in game decision. I guess its how a game like this really needs to be in the modern age, reaching out and embracing the technology around it, but I find it cumbersome. What’s more is that there are dozens of stats and each piece of armor or weapon has a dozen or more attributes that you can compare and try to get the best out of the game. This simply frustrates and annoys me, and it turns into me looking at the items to see how many numbers turn blue, and therefore better, which will allow me to equip it.

Which, of course, is the wrong way to go about it. Most items don’t reach their peak until upgraded with Titanite of some sort, which seems to be in drastically short supply, so I hoard it until I think I have a piece of armor or weaponry that seems like it could be a neat upgrade to my current weapon. Excited to get a new toy, I upgrade the item only to find out that it was not better than my current gear and become disappointed.

Much of the game is in how you play it. Almost every boss and challenge is beatable given the right timing, play-style and grit. Some seem to be based on tricks and gimmicks but not every game can have awesome boss fights every time around. Instead of being excited that there is a boss around the corner, and glad to try and grind out a cool fight, I am instead avoiding or dreading the amount of time, experimentation and sheer mind numbing grinding that I will have to do to beat the boss.

Its getting to feel like a job, but it is one I continually push forward with in the light that it will become better over time. I’ve only put in a third of the hours that I did in Dark Souls I, and I already feel that I’ve been at this game longer.

Beyond all of that; beyond the frustration of the boss fights, the disappointment of the drops and even beyond the cumbersome comparisons I have to do perhaps the largest part is that the only time I have to play the game is the hours after my little one has been put to bed, the article for the next day has been written, and I get to sit down and relax. Most nights, it turns out, that time is between 10:30 and Midnight. Probably not the best time to be playing such a taxing game.

The NOVA open has come and gone, and with it a great burden off my shoulders. I didn’t manage to get my Cepahlyx painted in time, but I still threw down on the tabletop despite my constant judging. I managed to eke out wins in both games – one against Siege and one against Sorscha 2. It was great playing against Dan and Bill.

The events were packed all weekend, which amazed everyone involved. Here is the breakdown (from what I remember)

Thursday Tier Tournament: 37 players
Friday Team Tournament: 13 teams of 3 – 39 players
Friday Hardcore – 31 Players
Saturday SR2014 – 39 Players
Saturday Iron Gauntlet – 16 players
Sunday Masters – 16 players
Sunday Scrambles 21 players (of which 16 actually got to play, sad!)

That is a fantastic turnout for our fourth year, and a 100% year over year increase in attendance.

What really mattered, though, was that there were so few incidents. The players were, overall, excellent, and the level of competition was exceedingly good. We had pull from several states, and it really felt like it, as I saw lists that we just don’t see here in my meta. We pulled in over 80 players from around the region, and with an Official Iron Gauntlet Qualifier next year, I am thinking we can really become an excellent tournament.

That’s not to say that there weren’t hiccups. There are always things that can be done better, clearer and faster, and we are really looking into them but for the most part they were, while serious to the individual players, minor to the overall scheme. Tighten up communication about alternates, Make sure all the information is the same in the booklet, the primer, and the draft primer, and get the tournaments running in heats to save time.

What I heard that made me the happiest, though, was the direct, honest feedback from the players of the game. It ranged from effluent praise to frustrated critisism, but for the most part it was suggestions on how to make next year better and run smoothly. I got suggestions on what events to pair against each other, what sizes everyone liked, and how to get the most out of every tournament. Its great to know that the people you run these events for, the players of the tournaments, are just as invested as you are in an event. I can’t wait to see who makes it out for next years Iron Gauntlet and Warmachine Weekend Qualifiers!

But I’d be hard pressed not to include my favorite moment of the weekend, which happened not to be Warmachine, somehow. Instead it was when I saw Gutier from Corvus Belli sitting at the cafe and sat down to have a chat with him.  He was pleasant, energetic and extremely cool to talk to. Its good to know that I’m not the only one who gets so immersed in their own worlds that they become real.

I have to give a tip of my hat to both the Infinity guys and the Malifaux guys, who seemed to be running some awesome tournaments where everyone was enjoying themselves. I was sad to see the infinity guys pushed out and into their own small room, but they had some really awesome terrain. The Malifaux guys were just so exceedingly friendly and pleasant – though I knew nothing about their tournaments – that they were a blast to share space with.

Finally, I want to mention Greenman Designs, who make some really cool acrylic measuring templates and other tools. He was extremely enthusiastic and mentioned getting a whole line of warmachine stuff up and running, including some omni-measuring tools as well as sliding scatter template. My buddy has the first Cygnar Flavored one, and its really awesome. He even takes whatever custom design and can cut it out in whatever color you want – Color is independent of product, so you can always get what you want. His prices were reasonable, as well. Give him a look if you have a chance!

Till next time,

Jonathon

Gencon is like Nerd Christmas, and boy was it fun this year. Information poured in from every direction about every game I play and it was a glorious Thursday and Friday. Honestly, I am still trying to digest it, and some of the information still will be in its raw form.

Malifuax had the pre-release of its Crossroads book, which has both the Wave 2 models from the edition conversion, and some new models here and there. This is the one I’ve spent the least time Digesting. Gmort on the forum loaded up these daily congregations of pics, which I’ll just link here.

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4

There is some really cool art in there, and when the book and decks finally release, I look forward to playing some more Malifaux. The Beta wore me out just reading about it, so its nice to have that joy creeping backin.

Infinity, with its coming 3rd edition, had a ton of information to share as well. Almost all of it was revealed in a video Here.

I do like the Japanese dude on a bike, showing off the the new style bikes and the larger 55″ footprint

Yojimbo, I assume?

There is also an awesome pic of Bostria giving out one of the changes:

adding 15% to the retreat threshold for 3rd

We’ve also got some fantastic concept and 3d sculpts, and a ton of pictures of them, that they are working on.

Of course I focused my attention, though, on the Haqqialam, because its my faction, and I have to say: When I first saw the Jannisary model, I cried out that the jannisaries were fine. When I saw the HMG model, I was instantly corrected, that model is freaking great.

This guy!

I look forward to the new Hassassin with a Missile Launcher

One day, I'll play a Hassassin army

One day, I’ll play a Hassassin army

A new Kum Character

to go with the thousand bikes I am going to buy

to go with the thousand bikes I am going to buy

And  a resculpt of the Maghariba Guard

A bad ass machine, here

A bad ass machine, here

 

Finally, there are the Warmachine Gencon pre-releases, which came out like a flood last Thursday, as the store opened and the pre-release cards were unboxed.

Overall, I like them all. They have their own flavor and I really think that they will stand on their own once the Doom Cycle shakes out.

Bradigus is a caster after my own heart. He is a druid that plays well with wolds, which is the only thing I want in a Circle caster. One day, I’ll probably build an army for him.

Absylonia 2 is an intriguing model to me, with a host of strange spells and abilities. Most of the time when that happens its because I just don’t get it, and get suckered on the table. I look forward to facing her.

Helga is crazy-fun. I initially thought that Cyclone was Twister, and was exceedingly unimpressed. Simply changing that one spell makes her 1000% more fun. I approve!

Jaga Jaga is freaking bonkers! I really like both her new spells, Gravewind and Spellpiercer. Her feat, as well, is completely awesome, and I look forward to using it one day here soon.

Xerxis 2, being that I play Skorne, is going to be a blast to play. Mobility is a ton of fun, and his beast bond is exceedingly good. 13/19 with transfers and 19 HP is nothing to scoff at either. Ignite is good, but is nothing extra special, as Skorne has a ton of high end damage buffs. I do look forward to sending Tiberion some 11″ and outside 10″ of Xerxis area during the feat. Who knows, maybe I even use Fate Walker to get him back in his standard control area after the turn ends.

Till Next time!

Warmachine Tactics had an update today, and I have mixed emotions due to it. One on hand, all of the backers will be getting a beta key very soon, but on the other hand the release of the single player missions will be delayed until at least November.

I get to play Tactics now, and I am excited! I get to play against people all over the place, and might even be able to set up some games with people I know. I am also looking forward to making suggestions and changes to the game.when I wastTalking with Jay at Lock and Load, he made me realize they are looking for every stupid suggestion and every idea and thought. Everything is taken seriously, even to the point that he took notes while we were just having a friendly conversation.

That joy is tempered by the fact that we will miss the target launch date, and not by a small amount of time. Originally set for an ambitious August release, I had backed the game specifically for the single player content, and was not very interested in the multiplayer aspect of the game, as I have a largely established and consistent real life playgroup.  The announcement that they will be delaying the release of No Mans Land and the subsequent Fire and Ice and Dark Seduction first player missions is disappointing, but not something unexpected, honestly, and I am going to keep confidence that they’ll put out missions that are fun, balanced, and engaging with only minor bugs. That confidence will only last so long, and though this is only the first delay, If the product keeps getting pushed back until there isn’t anything resembling the time frame they expected, I’ll be more than a little upset. But kickstarter isn’t something I expect to even be close to on time, really. I can’t think of a scenario in our modern times where you hear about a product being on time and under budget, and kickstarter is no different.

I am looking forward to trying out Cryx in multiplayer. I want to see the differences in play style and feel, but I also want to see how long the games take. I have limited interruption-free time, and I would love to visit the digital realm of Warmachine,  even if it is a beta of a game that’s not really like Warmachine in a way that I can really get better at it.

And, remember, this is a true beta. I’ve heard horror stories about how its not ready for release, and its very slow, unoptimized and buggy. I think thats the point, really. This is the first beta in a long time that really goes for its name, and that is OK with me. The more people that they can get looking at the game and trying to break it wide open, the more likely they are to find a bunch of problems and fix them before the game hits the virtual shelves.

I’ll be standing by, checking my spam and inboxes for my beta key, and I’m going to look to get a few games in here and there. Look me up when you get a chance!

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A while back I mentioned that Infinity was going to have a new version of their game come out this year, and over the last few weeks, their has been a flurry of activity around what these changes will bring.

Infinity is sticking to the time tested version of edition change, and has already done all the work. Unlike Warmachine, Malifaux, D&D and numerous Kickstarters, there will be no public beta test of this edition. I think this is a bold move, in the modern age of minis games, but not one without its perks. The game is built buy a Spanish language company, but a large portion of its community are decidedly not. While this includes the USA, it has a broad appeal across Europe. This has created problems with translation to other languages, including English, obscuring the original intent of rules. The decision not to let the community test the product signals confidence in the product that they have,  it also signals that they don’t feel they need the community input to make a balanced, enjoyable game. It also shows that they feel they have achieved a very solid translation, and I hope that they have achieved that goal. I think one of the defining traits of a good minis game is the tightness of the rules set, and Infinity, while good, has a ton of growing room in the clarity department. I don’t like arguing over obscure or strangely interpreted rules in any system. I have high hopes for N3, something I try to keep myself from doing.

These are the changes I have found and/or been exposed to:

  • Combat Camo – What used to be an unopposed shot will now be an opposed shot, but the target suffers a -3 penalty on their return fire. Almost all the math shows that this is a nearly lateral change. Before, you could only shoot back, with no penalty, if the sniper completely missed, you now get a chance to defend yourself, but with a penalty. While it is a lateral change, it does make the game easier to explain and more enjoyable to the defender due to rolling v. not rolling.
  • Capped Modifiers: Supposedly, all modifiers are being capped at +12 and -12. I don’t think this is incredibly common, but in a game that can stock mods, making shots impossible is something to try and avoid.
  • Ranges are being changed, and though I don’t get the particulars and nuances of the numbers, many people smarter than me are extremely enthused. Changes of note
    • Double effective range of grenades, from 0-4″ to 0-8″
    • Double the bonus of the shotgun at short range (+6) which is the only gun to achieve the +6
    • HMG’s have reduced good ranges, making other guns stronger chouces.
    • Sniper Rifles are stronger at long range than they are now, and also the penatly maxes at -3, which X-Visors ignore.
  • Climbing: Climbing is now a long skill that does not require a roll, no longer being betrayed by the dice and plummeting to your death.
  • Discover gets a minor range buff, now being +0 at 8-36″
  • Measurement: Ranges are now measured from Edge to Edge, instead of Center to Edge.
  • Silhouette LOS – When determining LOS from/to a model, you may use a pre-determined silhouette instead of true LOS.
  • Inaction: A rule that allows you to activate a trooper/model but they don’t do anything. It just forces an opponent to declare ARO’s
  • MSV1:  reduces combat camo and TO camo by -3
  • Kinematika is a new skill, that adds 1 inch further with every ARO Dodge, and has levels
  • BTS: is now a positive stat, like all the rest.
  • Smoke: A model touching smoke is considered part of the smoke cloud its touching. I assume that it simply means that he is completely concealed, not that his base can conceal others.
  • And, my favorite change:
  • Loss of Lieutenant – The loss of your LT will no longer cripple your order pool and loose you a turn. Instead, each model becomes Irregular, only able to spend orders on themselves. Using the LT order will now also reveal the LT. You also get an auto-promote of a new LT
  • The dispersion template has been changed in N3 too, it now has ten scatter directions instead of eight – the 9/10 and 2/3 results have been ungrouped.
  • Finally, there are some significant changes to models points and stats here, but they are of factions that I don’t really understand the significance.

Relic Knights is lucky that its game play seems to be fun, different and completely cool, because otherwise, I’d have just pitched the bunch of models I’ve assembled into the trash or to someone else, because I supremely disappointed.

Nearly every model I put together was either boring, stupid, flat or some combination of the three. The saving grace of the Corsairs line is Calico Kate and The Iron Chef. Every other model falls extremely short of my admittedly low expectations that I had for them.

Battle Box:
Harker: This model is the definition of sad. His art is cool and posed well, but his model is completely static and flat. I was originally really stoked to get him, but this really tempered my enthusiasm for him.
– Caesar – This model is actually not that bad, but its really hard to mess up a bird on a sword. I do believe that part of my disappointment was that they had planted the idea that it was going to be a dude holding the bird, but due to rules, Caesar has to be a separate model

Corsairs: Man, this is a trifecta of terrible, with each model worse than the last. Lola Bunny Ears honestly isn’t that bad of a model. She’s cylindrical even though she could have easily been made more dynamic by splaying her army just a little bit. Then, we have Scoliosis Boy.  His pose is so weird it just pulls me away. Finally we have Flatso. I’m just so rottenly disappointed by this model that it makes me angry. That they give you two in a box of Corsairs, and then foist two of the units on you is just icing on the crap cake.

Broadsides: Now, here is a model that doesn’t make me want to hurl chunks. Its about as average as you can get, but that seems to be the bar set for this lineup of models. What makes this thing aggravating is that is a huge pain in the ass to assemble!

Extra Models
Kenobo and Moffet: I don’t violently hate Kenobo, His sword is a bit large, and his nose is freakishly large, but I can get over both of those. Moffet is another story. I don’t think I like anything about her. Her face is mashed, her hand lost a ton of detail in plastic, and her sword is uninspiring.

Iron Chef and Squall. I like Iron Chef, I really do, which is great because he is one of the models I expected to like the least. I might change out his strange circular weapon for a blade, but that’d be it. Squall has a strange stance, but otherwise is a really cool model.

Blowhards: Man, am I disappointed. They look nothing like the art I wanted and are extremely static. Just not my cup of tea here.

Wildspace Gabe and Fleshreaper: These models look like they have to be painted to really get a good look at them. I originally thought that Gabe had an awful face, but I think its just sculpted weird to get the effect they needed. Fleshreaper is both tiny and not terrible.

Isabeau Durrant: I’m not upset with this model for anything other than her hair being a separate piece.  Unless paint can save it, its going to look like a whig. Not ok

Calico Kate: I’m over my 500 word count, but I didn’t want to leave without stating how pleased I am with this model, the one I was most dreading. With the bomb-and-Sword pose, I think she looks really cool, though I did have to re-position her sword. She’s got that Cheesecake flair, but it doesn’t look terrible on the model. Skully, however, is freaking TINY!

the more I look over the line, the more convinced I am that there ins’t a single faction that I’d enjoy every model from, or even most models, and thats a shame. Thankfully, the game plays pretty cool, and I like both resource management systems they have going. At least for now, those rules are a saving grace.

I’m also upping my word count to 750. Jesus is 500 small! so tiny! its Fun Size, not even Bite Sized