Friday, March 25, 2011

Inferring from Tournaments, Warmachine Style

by Ishamael

Time to look at Privateer Press' notion of how a tournament should be done. I cannot even begin to talk about Warmachine without talking about PP's statement of purpose, Page 5. There are a few guidelines here talking about how to play Warmachine, but it reduces to this: give as good as you get, be aggressive, don't whine, and don't be a douche using Page 5 as an excuse. As far as mission statements go, this one is pretty sweet, although I would prefer some statement about experienced players being required to bring newer guys up to their level, in painting and the game. So, here we have the ground project of Privateer Press' approach to everything. What about their tournament structure?

Showing here.

Let us begin from the top. So, we start here with just a little something about how players should come to the event with all their gear to play the game. Oddly, it lacks some sort of penalty for being forgetful, but some things are easily replaced if someone forgets, like stat cards. Next, everyone brings a couple printouts of their army lists, and may bring up to 2 armies, subject to the same points restrictions, and not using the same warcaster/warlock. From here I will combine modeling, painting, and converting. In all cases, you can only use PP models in tournaments. While painted models look better, you don't ever have to paint a single model to play in these tournaments. Finally, conversions must be easily recognizable, and you must use the appropriate weapons on jacks and beasts. As for sportsmanship, I love that the TO does have the basic right to kick people if they are being belligerent. They deserve this power.

What's that? I call bullshit on GW immediately, but skim over PP's stuff? :3

Well, allow me to methodically go over every point in the above paragraph.

Everybody loves it when one's opponent comes fully prepared. Sometimes we forget things, and hopefully people will be willing to help out, maybe even let someone else use one's dice or tape measure. From here comes a huge beef I have with Warmachine and Privateer Press, which is how we are allowed to come to a tournament with two lists made up. Sure, they have to be from the same faction, but what does this option say about the design philosophy of PP? Let us look at what stems from some examples of different casters meeting. I take the Khador caster Old Witch (all you need to know is that she makes warjack shooting awesome). I bring a balanced list consisting of answers for heavy/light jacks, mass infantry, multi-wound infantry, even incorporeal things. I walk up to the table, and see that my opponent is using the Epic version of Kaya the Moonhunter. Her army is almost nothing but Warbeasts. So, we set up, I move forward and get ready to pew pew. Kaya moves up with her beasts, and casts Shadow Pack, which gives all her beasts Stealth, which makes any ranged attack outside of 5 inches automatically miss. Wait. So every single shooting element of my army is virtually useless? Then how can I stop the enemy from reaching my lines and wiping the floor with me? Kaya's beasts are all melee-based, and are virtually immune to any form of shooting! How can I ignore Stealth? Blasts can't directly hit, so they're useless, and any spray attacks I have don't have the power to scratch the paint on some bipedal wolf's crotch protector, and the only way I could possibly get around Stealth in Khador is to bring at least one Spriggan, which has flares. Or a specific warcaster. Fuck me running, did I lose this game before we even set up, even with a balanced approach to list building? Depending on the scenario, I may be able to eke out a victory, but her beasts are going to get to my line virtually unscratched, so I'm up pooper creek without a paddle. Man, if only I knew that my enemy was using Kaya beforehand, then I could have brought a Spriggan with shooting elements, or an army of flying warjacks with heavy cavalry support so I can get the charge. This is my issue with Warmachine, and it is a fundamental one. I has been confirmed by my asking experienced players, and it's utter bullshit. This game is based on matchups. Caster X trumps Z, but Z fails against Y. Really? This random warlock walks up, and, just because she has ONE specific spell, just neuters my army? Something I did not mention earlier is that the players choose their lists secretly before their opponents see them. What's the advantage of bringing 2 lists then? Why are we allowed to bring 2 lists?

Fix your game system, and then require only ONE list. Man up.

Warmachine is so fundamentally flawed it cannot even function as a competitive gaming system, let alone as a successful tournament one. In 40k, you bring a balanced list to a tournament to handle as many foes as possible, and you don't get "trumped" because someone else brought a specific HQ with a random spell, or even a specific army. This is my main beef with Privateer Press, and I will come back to it later.

To begin with modelling, only Privateer Press models may be used. Period. Oh, you can convert something and make a model for something that is in an army book, yet does not yet exist as a model, but it's gotta me mostly Privateer Press bits! People gripe and complain about how GW is a giant money-grubbing machine, yet PP is right here, telling us that we cannot make completely new models from scratch, even if we have it on the right base and our opponents know what they are. Bullshit. This is little more than a statement telling the player base to buy only their product. This also disenfranchises folks that like a particular unit, yet hate the model for it. I've seen scratch-built models made of mostly green stuff that have been allowed into Warhammer tournaments, and they look great. Doesn't GW have a standing policy that we don't have to use precisely only their models? Aren't utter proxies allowed when easily identified? Now for their lack of painting as a priority.

It's easy to go out and buy models. It's bloody hard to get to painting all of them. While there exists something called a PP "Hardcore" tournament, in which everything must be painted, it's odd that their basic tournament structure doesn't entice anyone to paint a damn thing. What, is this so people just keep buying without ever worrying about finishing what they start? Isn't wargaming something called an avocation, one which entails painting? Does anyone want to be part of something that only marginally wants you to paint? Maybe, if you have absolutely no interest at all in painting. I paint so I can play, simple as that, yet this game system lacks any real motivation to even begin that arduous task.

Their conversion policy is OK. It's nice that everything needs to have its appropriate weapon on, otherwise someone's going to confuse an Ice Axe (ridiculously strong), for an Executioner's Axe (decently strong). It also lets me convert my Man-O-Wars into Bombardiers without much trouble. I should get ahold of some Guardsmen grenade launchers for laughs.

To move right along, it's nice that TOs need to have multiple copies of the scenario being played ready to hand out to players. Final standings in this are determined by wins, not points, and something called "strength of schedule." This is referred to when one has a tie, and the breaker goes to the guy that fought more guys with "wins" than his opponent. I really see no strong correlation between a win and opponent strength, but at least a tiebreaker exists. Admittedly, it's unclear to me exactly what these "control points" are, but I think it refers to something specific to each scenario that one controls.:P Another weakness of Warmachine is that, regardless of scenario, if you kill the enemy HQ, you win. If that were the case, I'd love to catch someone's HQ out in the open with a railgun. Punk!

I want to end this quick overview with a request to the community.

I have heard that bringing two lists to a Warmachine tournament is in the same vein as bringing a side deck for Magic the Gathering. Unfortunately, I cannot address this criticism, although I understand the rudiments of it. Some decks are simply more powerful and trump yours, so bring along cards that you can switch out in subsequent rounds to take care of that opponent. Funnily enough, Magic consists of multiple rounds against the same opponent, while Warmachine does not. Furthermore, since neither opponent knows his enemy's list beforehand, why are we able to bring multiple lists anyway? Game imbalance. What if someone walks around at the start of the tournament, and catalogues a bunch of peoples' lists, and brings his "better" list every time?

Something interesting that I have no experience with in Warmachine is their usage of a turn timer. In a 35 point game, they dictate that players only can have 10 minutes per turn, with a once-per-game extension of 5 minutes. This seems to favor smaller armies greatly, as a jack-heavy army will be easier to move and use than an infantry-based one. Never used it before in a game, but it helps guarantee that games end on time, and players get to have a minimum of so many turns, which is an issue in 40k games.

I want to end this with something I've been told, yet only realized while writing this. It has been claimed that people go to Warmachine because they dislike how GW approaches wargaming. GW wants pretty armies and favors a good time over a hard game, while PP wants no painting and encourages hard games. Go point by point, and PP just takes the opposite of GW. It really feels like this tournament system is tailored to appeal to people disenfranchised with GW.

Well, I have only one thing to say to people whom make the claim that Warmachine is superior:

Games Workshop has a flawed tournament system with a good game system that will only get better with their new approach. Privateer Press cannot even get the game system right, because their damn warcasters and warlocks vary greatly in power against one another. It's model euchre, and that's bad game design.

Playing both sides of the field,


  1. Interesting article. I got into PP games because I needed a break from WH40K. I have noticed that some casters are just planly better then others (the ones that come in the starter box suck).

    Any way good article.

  2. As both a Magic player, and a 40K player, and a former Warmachine player, I have to say that some times there is a need to bring a second list. I for one will not go to a tournament with my much loved Ravager without bring my sideboard. There is not a chance in hell of it. The reason here being is that is I do not being my board, I can not switch out to get those decks that just auto me on turn 3. I have to be able to continue the game. I play an Aggro deck, and they lose to Combo. Do I have tricks? Yes, but I will still lose to combo. That being said, I kinda thought that the idea of bringing a second list to a tournament is a cool as shit idea. I think it is awesome. This may just be me, but I would absolutly love to bring two lists to a 40K tournament. I would bring like 22 missiles, and then 20 terminators. I think you are fucked no matter what you are playing. But I'm also not as familiar with the rules of the warmachine game as I should be. though I should look into it more than what I have been.

  3. I think the sideboard system is terrible for the exact reason ZerkeX thinks its great.

    Magic is leagues different than either 40K or WM/HD in this scenario. Building a "balanced" Magic deck is impossible. Seems like WM/HD isn't balanced well either. It is possible to build great, balanced lists with most codices in 40K, most people just chose not to. Take my Eldar lists for instance, they have defeated all colors of opponents and I have never changed a single unit in either list since I started playing them a year ago. Great 40K lists stand the test of time, please, please none of this "OH YOU BROUGHT ROCK LIST X, WELL NOW I PULL OUT MY PAPER LIST Y". It would literally kill tournaments for me.

    Lets not even talk about having to buy/bring two freaking different armies to a tournament, no thank you.