The Silent Days
Mark III has been a particularly turbulent time for the company, the game, and the community. People I fondly remember as foundations of the community have slowly trickled away. Some quietly and others not. This has left me thinking about where the game is going, and privateer has given little voice to their plans. Inevitably, a silence like this leads to speculation. I figured that today I could give thoughts on what that silence portends. Some of these are my own, and others I have overheard. I’m not privy to any special or specific information, I am simply vocalizing trends and patterns that have emerged and I have noticed over the last two decades being a customer of the company.
Recently, we have seen a dearth of news, reveals, or information of any kind about Cryx, Skorne or really Privateer Press in general. While there was a recent CID for Convergence, this is the only one we knew of for the coming year, which I measure as Lock and Load to Lock and Load. It is, however much necessary, the cap on a system that feels like it was put into place to redeem the errors of the edition change. All of the current factions, if I’m not mistaken, have now received their CID, and we’ve had three new factions come into existence since MKIII began.
This lack of information was somewhat disrupted during both the Primecast and Dev Hangout, revealing some interesting fragments of information, though even accounting for those crumbs it has been quieter than normal. Prior to the current edition of the game, there was a steady drumbeat of spoilers, information, and releases, ones that, while not carved in stone, where reliable enough that it created a cadence that was easy to follow. Every year came with its anthology book, alternatingly Warmachine and then Hordes. Each book had plenty of releases for all factions in that game and was meant to be played with and against each other, to solve meta issues, and to change the way the game fundamentally worked and played. New unit and model types, characters and stories would be introduced, and the game would take a step forward.
This cadence slowly merged into a single unending sound, with the release of Devastation its final crescendo. It came out some 4 months after the previous title with no stated book reveal during its build-up to show off the next big thing for the game. That preview and release cycle had always been a part of the Privateer Brand, and one that made it recognizable and appealing. You knew what was coming next, being able to see the horizon constantly kept you hungry for more. To make matters worse Devastation was announced very early and with no follow-up, there was nothing on the calendar until they revealed MK III months later.
What Was Once is Now
Now, I believe, we are in a similar position. This year’s keynote focused on things that were in close proximity but there was a suspicious lack of a CID or theme force preview for the upcoming year.
The Presentation contained Monsterpocalpyse, Riot Quest, Oblivion, and Warcaster: Neo-Mechanica. Outside of Warcaster, each of these have come to pass in just under half a year. What we are left with is a future with only Warcaster on the horizon. Well, at least until this week’s chats, which brought a few things to light.
First, they mentioned that Riot Quest is going to release 20-30 models a year, for the next few years. This strikes me as an amazing declaration. I know few people – Honestly, I want to say I don’t know anyone who is interested in the game but that type of blanket statement always (HA!) goes wrong – that are interested in this game. The models are handy to have, contain new rules and seem relatively balanced, but as I stated before, having them in Warmachine makes me salty as it stretches the reasonable fabric of the games already stretched lore, setting and immersion. (Editor’s note. See the end for a small rant on tangential topics)
The Riotquest models in Warmachine may be the only method of injecting new units and models into the game for the next year, and that is worrisome. Without a steady stream of new models to change the dynamics of the game, the meta and the enjoyment of that game will sour. In a game as complex and rich with interactions, certain models and units will be relegated to unplayable status forever, and others will rise, as is the way with all systems, to the top.
For some time, this idea leads me to believe that there will be a strong shift with the game, either MKIV or a remix (kind of like what Oblivion did) or another foundational change to the games flow to address the many issues surrounding it. This attitude was reinforced by a number of models being released without CID cycles or testing, and the peeling back of CID cycles in general. There have been final rules for a few models given to the community to gather feedback, but it seems less for testing purposes than for final proofing before heading off to the printer. This is a good habit, as they have missed some small wording choices that create unintended interactions, and the community can often catch those quickly. .
I do think that the winds have shifted and that a new era is in the future, and I think there are three paths that are likely to manifest.
The first option is the one I have the most hope for, yet believe has the least chance to be true. I would be overjoyed for a return to the alternating release schedule. 2019 was packed with Warmachine, with CIDs for Talion, Convergence, and Infernals. The Oblivion book came out and with it a number of new themes, and a pile of Morrowan models. Additionally, while I am sure that there were hordes releases during the year, I cannot recall any. Clockatrices and Exalted perhaps early in the year. This hope for the return to a traditional PP release schedule is bolstered by comments from the Primecast telegraphing that 2020 will be a good year to be a Hordes player, and mentioning that we will finally see how those factions respond to the events of Oblivion. This notion is very much in line with the old-style book releases, that progress the story forward with each book, showing a different viewpoint each time. I don’t know that this is what they are going to do, but I really hope that this is the future.
The second, and in my eyes most likely case, is that there will be an extended hiatus of releases for the two main games as Warcaster: Neo-Mechanica ramps ups and becomes a strong game to stand on its own alongside Warmachine and Hordes. Most development time will go to RiotQuest and Warcaster, leaving little for their other games. This is something that would likely dampen the spirits of many WM/H players, providing them only a trickle of releases as the company tackles a new challenge from a different direction. Warmachine would, assumingly, pick up where it left off, maybe a year or two from now. I think the game would suffer greatly from the lack of attention, and that suffering would cause and even greater bleed off of players than has happened from the current edition. This has the most potential of occurring as it is the easiest of the futures for the company to justify. They decide to hold off on its current flagship games, which will maintain themselves through the release of a new game, and when the time comes, return to it with a little loss, but the new game and renewed attention will make up for that. Two immediate issues come to mind with that approach. The first is that the game is much less healthy than the people at Privateer Press are giving it credit for. It is in a contracting state, with more players leaving than entering, and without proper care and feeding, the game cannot continue along this path. The second is that PP’s record of accomplishment with new games is less than stellar, and could easily lead to a dud product that shoots themselves in the foot. Monsterpocalypse was received very well, but most games the company puts out have had a rough existence.
The final option, I believe, is the most destructive to the company, but is also the one that I have heard voiced by more people as the months since Lock and Load. The theory out there is one in which Warcaster: Neo-Mechanica is planned and positioned to supplant Warmachine and Hordes as the flagship game. In this timeline, Warmachine and Hordes slowly fade to black, with a trickle of new models until they are supported only with a solo or such once a year. At that point, the juggernaut that controls the company is Warcaster. I do believe that this could be a possible future. Privateer Press has to be aware that, due to the massive number of models and variety available to Warmachine and Hordes, something must be done to handle the vast, nearly unfathomable complexity the game steers ever closer towards. This drawdown is one way that it could be addressed, slowly letting the game peter out in its natural time, and move on to a new game that can capture a stronger audience. I don’t think this is a likely future, but I’m not in the job of being good at predicting the future. Instead, I think it is an unlikely, but plausible scenario, and one that worries me because the idea just won’t die. So many people, from so many walks of life, have expressed the idea that Warmachine is no longer the favored child, and is something that will, must be, ended at some point in time. It’s a stubborn theory, and I think that this could be true of Privateer does not do something to address their massive, massive product and how it continues to expand forever.
Until next time,
A Quick Rant
Indulge me. I know that the lore, immersion, and setting for Warmachine – at least when it comes to games being played – isn’t particularly great. There are many things that shatter the realism of the game, and make no sense when it comes to the on the board gameplay, but most of that is a relatively recent addition. Originally, it was explained away, humorously but fairly reasonably, that Mirror Matches (that is, when the two players of a game are playing the same caster or named character) were the real character confronting some sort of imposter. This battle was the only way to sort out who was the REAL Allister Caine, or Eiyriss the Mage Hunter, or whoever was on the field that day. It was cheesy and hokey, but it worked within the realm of the game. Then, when the first Epic Casters (as they were originally known) came out, it was explained, as far as I remember, that these casters had gained a new suite of abilities, but that their old ones were still there if they needed it. They could cycle between powers as needed. Haley 2 fighting Deneghra 1 was well within possibilities, even if they were physically different; what with Denny being chopped in half by Haley and brought back to life. Fine, my model was inaccurate, but it was a reasonable casters toolbox. This reasoning was slowly eroded away as the story progressed, but as I was already conditioned to accept that casters fighting back and forth in time were plausible, I would not really worried about it.
What started to bring the problems forward were the past versions of the warcasters for the 15th anniversary. They are cool pieces, but there is a problem with them simply being impossible, even hand waving numerous issues, to place into the current timeline. While all other timelines marched forward, this was reaching into the past in a strange way. Again, I was able to accept it, even though it felt weird to have a game where Butcher 3 with Sorcha 0 was facing off against Tristian 2 with Sevy 0. It had bent but not broken the feel of the game. The RiotQuest models, however, aren’t even in the same timeline, they represent alternate possibilities and a future existence with a lot of bizarre rules and loot tokens and other types of stuff I find repulsive. I get that not everyone finds it as problematic as I do, but I’ll keep it as my opinion.