Its been a busy 18 months for me, and unfortunately, that meant that many of my hobbies that didn’t have something exciting and immediate happening with them fell, mostly, to the edge. This is an unfortunate side effect of having so many hobbies. I talk a little bit about Cryx, what I want from them, and why nothing’s been really pushing me to play them.
The End Times
To be honest, nothing about Warmachine itself has changed at such a fundamental level that I no longer enjoy it. It’s a great game that operates as advertised with depth and complexity, rewarding time investments and fostering precise positioning and scenario mastery. The game has high-level competitive play available nearly year-round in a number of cities throughout the country and the world with an abundance of conventions.
That said, it a hobby that takes significant time investment to gain competency, additional investment to maintain competence, and a constant desire to improve in the game in order to maintain simple equilibrium. This need to be constantly dialed into the game can lead to a significant downhill slide once the player’s investment time lags, snowballing as you fall further behind. This, of course, can be reversed with re-engagement, but that is the rub! Re-engagement is proving to be undesirable for a number of reasons.
The reasons that I have become disengaged from the game are fairly simple and can be distilled down to one word: Boredom. This boredom stems from three specific instances, each of which compounds on the other and creates an aura of ennui around the game that is very difficult to break through via engagement because the boredom prevents the engagement itself.
It’s a catch 22 that I find myself, in, but one that I am not particularly interested in breaking as I have a lot more going on that I am enthralled with. I do not lack for entertainment, but to watch a hobby that has been a huge part of my life for the last 15 years, nearly half of my life, shift to the backburner, I begin to wonder what lead me here.
Lack of Releases
This is the basic and easiest culprit to blame. Since Slaughter Fleet released through CID and to the public in the spring of 18, There have been few releases for my faction, Cryx, and none of them engaged me in a way that excited me enough to get out and play games. The riot quest models are simply unappealing and detract from the game. Honestly, the more I think about it, the more this really hurts me. A cool warcaster was released, but other than that I don’t remember a single release that felt like it would bring me back to the table.
This is something I had long thought wouldn’t matter, even suffering through the lack of releases back in the Colossals era, when for 13 months the only releases were the Kraken and Asphixious 3. This time feels very different. Instead, there is this intense Pre-MK3 vibe, where the future holds only a vast emptiness and little hope of new releases. Back in MKII with Colossals, the company was still issuing their Anthology books, so there was always something new peeking over the horizon. Now, with no real schedule either in publishing or playtesting, we only have empty hope. Maybe we will have a new release sometime in the future, but there is a distinct likelihood that we won’t know anything for a significant period of time. This lack of knowledge creates a lack of excitement, which feeds into a lack of motivation to pick up and play the game.
Lack of Wiggle Room
Once upon a time, in the far distant past, games of warmachine were far less precise. They hinged on precision, that is to be sure, but they were not the exacting machines that they have grown into today. I know I have mentioned this before, but it is something that I have come to realize is the core of my lack of enthusiasm to play the game. The closer the game has come to abstract chess, the less I have actually come to enjoy playing the games. A powerful reason that I never took up chess as a true hobby, by instead enjoy it as a game to play sparingly, was due to the insurmountable playtime needed to become simply competent at the game. I want to be able to play a game and come out on the other side with an enjoyable experience.
This precision is compounded in the SR tournaments. Specific areas to be contested are combined with mathematical knowledge to, within sensible bounds of reason, compute what is needed to hold a zone or area, and what is not. The game, of course, holds dice, and the dice were an important part of the game until the most recent steam rollers were put in place. Now, with Turn Limits, gap scoring, and more places needing to be contested at a given time, it has turned the game from a dice-based game of aggression and risk, into a precision-based game of knowledge and positioning. I am not, honestly, against this development, but it does mean that I am less inclined to actually participate because the risk management and dice-based parts were the ones I enjoyed the most. Do not mistake me, random d3’s aren’t fun and engaging, and the argument taken to its most absurdist ends also don’t enthrall me. I want a decidedly enjoyable mix of the two, and that is something that we have lost, in my own not-so-humble opinion.
I want a game that is dead in the middle of those four engagement points, being equal parts Precision, knowledge, risk and dice. I do not think the game is in that position, and I don’t know that the game wants to be there either. It is clear to me that the path we are on now is getting stronger and more powerful, not less.
The crazy story is one of the main reasons I am feeling left out of the game, and the main reason that the game has lacked a pull or call to me. This is, to be honest, and fair, not something that has called at me in a number of years, but it was a strong and forceful call when I started playing the game all those years ago.
Back all those years ago, the story of the Iron Kingdoms was a grounded, gritty, and hardened story. It was brutal, dark, and full of steampunk technology and relateable heroes and villains. I no longer find this to be true. Starting with the release of the Grymkin, and building into the release of the infernals, the game has begun to tread into the realm of pure absurdism. To be fair, it started with colossals. I didn’t like the scope and size of the game with colossals but I was willing to accept it for the greater good of the game. They were amusing to run and from time to time would prove cool. It’s not the new base size, either, that irritates me, as I find battle engines to be a cool and interesting addition to the game that has proven itself to be tough to balance but ultimately worth it. Not so much with Colossals, as they seem to be either completely unbalanced, tipping the scale of the meta with their massive feet, or worthless and stuffed into shoeboxes unable to see the dawn.
The trepidation I felt with colossals was increased with Grymkin, which feel out of place in the Iron Kingdoms to this day, and completely broke the damn with Infernals. The Story progressed forward, it is true, but it broke the lore of the game I loved in such a way that I don’t even really wish to return to the fluff that I once deeply engaged with. While The anthology book was a great step back to what the game once presented as its true core, but I fear that those days, and the people who made them special, are forever lost.
This isn’t to say that I won’t ever play Warmachine again, as that is absolutely false. Its a fun game with good people most of the time, but these issues nag at me every time I look at my sea of painted models and unknown rules. Maybe SR2020 will be a good one that feels like a return to the playstyles of the past, but I doubt it. I enjoy miniatures strategy games, and Warmachine is the best out there, still. I’ll likely be taking a huge break – a year or more – from competitive play, and only getting a game if someone asks me directly. This is both to finish up my campaign setting book for D&D, and to let the desire to play build back up. Thankfully, experience has proven this true with other hobbies, as after 3 years my painting itch is starting to return, and D&D came back with a vengeance a few years ago, so I look forward to seeing what new direction I am able to take with Cryx once I return.
Until next month,