When it comes to the judgement we make about our little toy soldiers, Miniatures gamers sometimes can get a little bit feisty. Every stat, every ability, every rule is scrutinized to try and glean the greatest advantages, the sickest combos and the most powerful synergies. This desire to rank, categorize and break down the game into its very base parts extends even beyond the miniatures themselves and into the game as a whole, trying to quantify the conceptual amalgamations of the factions into a quantifiable rank.
Earlier this week was reading a thread in the forums, a fairly old one, about the results of Warmachine weekend and how we should perceive the strength of the factions based on the results, or even lack of showing. Fairly quickly was brought up that the results of WMW cannot be particularly judged against the game as a whole. That thought continued the same thread of logic from the WTC. we can’t use these, either, for judgement. Further discussion brought me to Team Astra. And those, too, are dismissed. Where do we go, then, for judgement, if these events and people can’t be trusted, and why can’t the be trusted anyway?
Well, lets start with Warmachine Weekend. This is the Ultimate Warmachine Mecca, where everyone tries to qualify over the course of the year, going to conventions to score points and even running the gauntlet of the Last Chance Qualifier the day prior. Everyone yearns to be there, and to be crowned the King of Warmachine for a day. It was this way, as far as I know, for a number of years, and it was seen as the legitimate judgement of who’s who and which factions were strongest. Recently they changed the format, however, and have removed some of the applicability to the community as a whole by introducing brackets. Brackets are a fun and engaging system that gets the crowed involved in a number of different ways, but it is also not a completely representative form of the game either. It is much easier, all things considered, to tech out for your bracket than it is to tech out for a tournament. You know the players, their preferred factions, and what they like to play. You know who and, likely what, you’ll be facing in round 1, with a solid knowledge of round 2, with three even a significant concept. This creates a much easier system to prepare for the possibility of the first three rounds. You have, within a fairly reasonable margin of error, knowledge that most tournaments don’t. That knowledge skews the results in strange ways and can create results that are inapplicable to the whole of the game. Comparative Faction Strength is very hard to judge off of these 32 players, who they bring, and what faction they play. The bracket system invalidates it.
The WTC suffers a very different, but no less valid, problem when it comes to determine the best of the best. The ability for one of the two teams to choose the match ups in the round, within a reasonable amount of error, is very strong and has the ability to skew faction results either uphill or downhill by a significant portion. Haley 2, say, has a weakness to Lylyth2. within a normal tournament, she will have to worry about possibly playing into her and therefore need to cover the weakness with either a list or some sort of insane as-of-yet unknown tech. In the WTC, you can, if your teammates agree, simply never, ever play against her, thus skewing Halye 2, and the whole of Cygnar, in the standings. It is a fun, interesting and challenging way to play the game, but it is surely not representative of the general talent of the players or the strength of any one given faction. Instead, it shows the intelligence and cunning of the players on a given team, and that is why Australia did as well as they did: They worked as a team.
Finally, with the two premier events out of the way, we come to opinions, which Team Astra has provided for us in significant quantity. Their rankings are fun, and a bit of a cool turn on what the forums generally wring their hands about every day. They have taken some of the best minds in Warmachine and simply decided on the strength of each faction, compared them to everyone else, and published their thoughts and conclusions. These, though, are simply the experiences of specific players, and aren’t representative of the climate of the game as a whole. The players are good, well traveled players who have been there and back again and have a fantastic view of the game, but they are also simply people. Their tournaments, as many as they are, can be dismissed.
With each of the main three formats of determining greatness repudiated by many, where is it that we can turn to truly understand the strengths and the weaknesses of the game we play? What rubric is there that isn’t either biased (Astra) or innately fallible (WMW/WTC) for trying to determine what the best and worst factions are? Who is on top and who is scraping the bottom of the barrel?
Honestly, I think there are only two solutions. it is either a massive database, controlled by the tournament organizers and representatives of the game (either Privateer or the Press Gang as a whole), tracking as many tournaments as possible within the framework of the database to compile accurate statistics on how and what is happening each tournament, each caster, and each scenario within the game and pumps out cold, raw data. The other possibility is that it just doesn’t matter, and that a players loyalty to the faction and their knowledge behind the models and how to play the game is stronger and more powerful than any faction. Good models may be Overpowered, but nothing is as busted as a good player.