This past weekend, as I write this, there was leaked information on the coming SR 17 Organized play documents. I want to take a few minutes and go over my thoughts point-by-point, sometimes from a Cryxian perspective.
First, lets go over the source
While I dislike party fouls approach and style, I can’t deny that they have some legitimate sources. Their spoilers have a great degree of accuracy. This was eventually corroborated by Will Pagani in this post, where he takes PP’s Position.
What I like about Will’s post is that it was quick, honest and upfront.
What I don’t like is the content, honestly.
I will say this as a disclaimer, though: I am willing to, and will, test the entirety of the packet. I will not be giving feedback in the CID that is not completely within the bounds that they have set. Just because this is my initial reaction to the changes does not mean that they will stay that way. I will try to keep my bias in check as I test them and adjust accordingly.
So, that said, lets move on.
Random Game Length
Well. We might as well start big.
I hate this. I mean, I don’t like it in any way and I hope it doesn’t make it past the first revision of the SR17 package in CID. I’m sorry, I mean I don’t even know why this rule would be considered fun in any circumstance known to man, god or earth.
Now, I know that is harsh, but its how I actually feel. Its not a gut reaction – that was much more vitriolic, but let me give a breakdown why I think its a foolish move that benefits no one.
I personally hate games that end in an arbitrary and unsatisfying manner, and its one of my personal litmus tests that will ensure I either play a game, or don;t look at it. That doesn’t mean I hate games that I lose, on the contrary, I have played some awesome games that I have lost, many of which have been grueling, 8 round slug-fests that end with awesome plays by one side or the other. Even games that I lost due to mispositioning and bad play are fine by me, I can see that they were my games to lose. What I cannot stand are games that are simply a race to the end. I want the game to end because of a victory, not in a victory. The difference is a simple pair of words, but the meaning is extremely complex.
What many players of Warmachine and Hordes, who I do think I am a part of, enjoy about the game is that they have complete control over when it ends. They score 5 points, They assassinate the enemy caster, or They run out of clock. Two of them are positive, and one of them is negative, but its that feeling of ownership of the game, the agency over how the game comes to an end that is the driver of satisfaction over the game. I can never say “if the game had gone on longer” with any conviction, because I used up all my time, or I got my caster killed or I wasn’t able to hold on to zones in a manner that made is so that my opponent couldn’t score. With a damned random roll, there is no agency over the game end. If an opponent pulls ahead in scenario points, and I need a few turns to try and catch up, its not guaranteed that I even get to try. To have to play all of turn 5 with the hope that a die roll saves my ass will leave at least one player walking away upset at the dice. either the player with the lead will feel cheated because they lost on a 66%, or the person catching up will feel cheated because if they just got that one turn, they could have pulled ahead. Putting that sort of issue in the hands of a worthless die is really disconcerting.
I know. This isn’t something that happens often. But that is also kind of the point. If its something that isn’t happening with enough of a frequency to need to be addressed, then what is the point. Let them play the last few turns instead of stealing a perfectly good win from a good player, or a last second assassination from a bad one. I’ve not heard many complaints from TO’s since SR16 was introduced about tournament round length.
Furthermore, there is this lurking thought: Maybe these turn limit rolls don’t happen because the turn limit rolls themselves have been implemented? What if the threat of the roll is enough to push the players into desperate measures.
Which brings us to Cryx. As a faction, I don’t like this because it can often take a long slog through the mud, blood and muck in order to make my way to victory. if I need 5 turns to score 5 points, and I can’t start scoring until round 3 because I’ve been battling back from the edge of defeat, I can simply stare at the board and tell them good game. I know that five points doesn’t simply win games any more, but the point stands. There is a chance that this can turn into our favor. I think we often, after the initial engagement, have a leg up, Many times we will simply get wiped out in the alpha, and then be putting pressure on in retaliation when they win on 5 points. This can’t happen anymore (due to CP’s not ending the game), and may instead push the importance of an alpha strike jam off the table. Cryx is positioned to be able to last out some versions of the long game with some of the recursion that is being built, and may be able to out-last deep into the “die roll” territory, forcing the opponent to do something probably foolish.
Well, Lets go to point 2 to talk a little about this foolishness.
7 Round Limit
This is one change that I am pretty apathetic about. It does seem a bit superfluous, when taken in context with deathclock staying in place and a random roll to end twice prior.
Realistically, what I see this doing is foisting choices on the game, and setting a fairly large bar for scenario (as there currently is for assassination) The big problem is that you can’t count on turn 7 ever showing up, so its fairly moot as a concept. While I am vitriolic towards the end of a game on a single die roll, preparing for a game length is a pretty fair compromise in my book.
What I really envision this is pushing is down-and-out assassination runs. When all else seems lost, and the turns are going against you, there will be pressure – the spiked wall slowly pushing in from behind – to get the caster out of the game. With Killbox in play every game, you know there will be some adjustments made with the games ebb and flow. While often the player on the back foot will attempt to constantly regroup and try to get into a position where they will be able to contest and wear down the opponent, this time limit creates an emphasis on trying to end the game more aggressively. While you may be down 5-1 on scenario, an assassination will always win you the game. You know that you have limited time to pull out the assassination. Your turn 6 and even 7 may never happen.
I think this could be interesting, and has some possible play to it. I don’t think its as fun as a long and ground out game, but I do think that it puts a different spin on the fairly typical backfoot situations. As a Cryx player, I don’t think this will come up all to early, as we will be ground away into dust if nothing else changes. I’ve had few games last past turn 4, and by then, my army is dust, and I am barely clinging to life. While I have a leg up at this point because I have more and cheaper stuff on the board, they are often way deep into my territory, shoving for my caster. the random roll could possibly win me the game here, but I’ve got a fairly strong feeling that if it reaches turn 7, I’m probably dead.
As I’ve mentioned a few times, a Scenario win doesn’t happen when you score X points. Instead, when the game ends, if it is not an assassination or Deathclock victory, then it will come down to who has the most CP. I fear that this will lead, back to the old days of Victory Points, to CP sniping. One player will simply gobble up a single point or two, and then play for the round timer to end. They will take, much like today, a durable wall of meat that is extremely hard to chew through, get their points and then simply contest until the end of time. While I don’t see it being a particularly plausible option, I do see it as something that could be problematic. We’ve not had the problem since the elimination of VP’s years and years ago, but it is clearly something to watch for. Looking at Cryx, I think this could be interesting for us. With a lot of recursion elements, we can hold/contest many scenario elements close to each other, if given the option. I dunno what types of lists I would build, but I can see that there is something for it.
Scoring control points is also very strange, and after the random turn length is the thing I am most bothered by. While I get that the goal here is to force more balanced armies in order to create a situation where I can score somewhere on any given turn, I think that it will end up heavily favoring hard to remove options, like warjacks. Being able to contest any zone or flag while also being able to score in the warjack zone makes these heavies versatile simply because they are hard to remove. More armor stacking is what I see in the future, to be able to properly contest zones while scoring the ones you want to. This bodes poorly for Cryx, in an age where we have a hard time breaking armor because there are more armored targets to crack. It used to be a thing, or maybe two things, that we could take down a turn, but with this current flood of models, especially single models with high armor, I just don’t foresee a ton of benefit.
For all the doom and gloom and dislike, I am willing to give it a try because there is so much more to each scenario than just the background noise. I will say, though, that I really think this was revealed in the poorest of ways. While it must have been great for the people at Smogcon, its really kinda terrible to get the information through the grape vine and not through a proper insider with some great explanation and a wider picture. Instead, we get the internet filtered, through a con and rumormill chain that is eventually, though quickly, validated.
Till next week! (hopefully with some more warmachine stories. Its been a slow pair of weeks)