Sunday, April 19, 2009

Warmachine MkII is Bullshit - my second impressions

So, I went back and re-read (i also sunk a lot of time into looking at the stat cards as well) the Warmachine MkII rules to make sure I had given things a fair treatment. Most of the negative things I said, still stand, but I'd like to talk about some of the things I that I think were done right and how they affect the things that are still crap.

First the good:
Since warjacks have higher MAT, trample is much better.

Warjacks need to have every damage box checked off before they are disabled. It means they stick around and annoy people for much longer.

Timing is much better explained. there's even an appendix on it. Most of the byzantine nature of figuring out the timing of abilities and effects has actually gone away. I think there's still some clarification to be made, but the whole issue is largely solved.

Overall, the rules are much better written and all the important (but subtle) differences between model states are now explained and better keyworded. So instead of being expected to infer things from the FAQ and main rules, they come right out and tell you the difference between a model being placed and a model moving.

Model fixes
Skarre - the skarre bomb has gotten a much needed nerf. It now only takes into account he base ARM of the sacrifice and requires LOS.

Vilmon - is now correctly worded for the first time and my finally be working as intended. His abilites have also been changed to better reflect his point cost.

Monolith bearer + zealots - Oh sweet Jesus have these guys been nerfed. They're still crazy good, but man, they just aren't as terrifying as the used to be. First, they can always be targeted by ranged fire now. Second, the monolith bearer no longer gives them the run and shoot bullshit when he dies. Greater destiny is still a pain, but the unit isn't fucking broken as hell any more.

Harbinger - no longer has any of that LD test to shoot at her.

Old Witch - field of talons can no longer be centered on the Scrapjack and no longer hurts people involuntarily moving through it (no more Gorten combo). This one bums me out, but she was way too powerful in tournaments even without the limited utility of the Gorten cheap trick.

Necrosurgeon -can now actually make use of it's abilities. It used to be that if she moved, she couldn;t do anything. Kinda dumb to not move a melee unit. Now, its a thing of the past.

centurion - the magno-shield no-charge bullshit is now a special action. Thank god.

These are just the major good things that I noticed based on my familiarity with the faction. I fought the protectorate a lot and I played Crxy and Khador.

The still bad
Warjacks are still shitty. More on this below.

The Points system is still a bit infuriating as well. Actually, check that, the point system is still bullshit. Warjacks are still compulsory now and the new warcaster point system adds a pretty big potential for game inbalnce. Plus, Khador still doesn't have a warjack that they can afford while only spending the bonus points - the berzerker is close, but really sucks at DEF 9.

Remember the fixes to timing and all the model nerfs? Well, it makes things a little too vanilla and often times very boring. A lot of the models lost their flavor and, more importantly, the things that made them fun to play with.

After some careful though, I would need to play a few games to get a real feel for the 'new' game. There may be infuriating bullshit or gem that I missed. In any case, things aren't as bleak as the first seemed.

[Note from the future:] Actually doing some more research and perusing the cryx cards (rather than skimming them) has revealed to me how hard the nerf bat hit the cryx casters. Some of them are just unusable. There are a lot changes on almost every cryx unit and while I'm not too pumped about a lot of them, most are good for the game. But I do have to agree with a guy who was pissed-off mostly because so many of the units were now boring when there weird abilities got taken away. Looks like I have to completely re-learn my faction.

On the positive side: PP has a year to tweek things.. Until then - I'm not spending dime one on any warmachine miniatures.

Appendix 1: Why warjacks suck
beyond the bonus of increased MAT & RAT and the increased difficulty of killing them, jacks are still crappy - or at most, situationally good.

Even with increased stats, hitting a trooper (the real threat to a warjack) is still less than a sure thing. In a regular combat scenario, you may kill a few Iron Fang Pikemen, but the rest of them will STILL fuck you a new asshole. Any unit with weapon master makes this worse. If your warjack gets charged, kiss its ass goodbye. And guess what, it takes a lot less effort to get some fast moving infantry into a charge position than it does a warjack.

Don't be fooled by the false promises of trample. You miss one guy, and then he gets a boosted damage role. It WILL happen. MAT 6 just wont hit reliably enough.

The one thing warjacks DO have going for them is the fact that they can survive fire, corrosion, Krueger's chain lighting and various other nasty spells. But, they are otherwise too easy to disable and who the fuck uses anti-troop spells on warjacks?

The other thing they have going for them is being good at taking out other warjacks. Which is great until the other guy doesn't take any.

However, all this stuff isn't the real reason warjacks suck. The main reason here is the focus mechanic. It's great for some stuff, but it just does not interact well enough with warjacks.

A game of warmachine is a game of resource management for your warcaster. They have a set amount of focus each turn to use in one of four areas: defense (inc, spells), offense (inc. spells) and warjacks. You can't do all 3 of them and get good results, so you have to be a little thoughtful and careful. The realization that many of the smarter players came to is this: warjacks aren't good enough (not very effective and too easy to kill for VPs) to warrant sacrificing effectiveness in defense and offense.

So warjacks started disappearing. Players either took fewer of them or none at all*. The jacks that were being taken were extremely good - i.e. the broken ones. This solved a bunch of problems: it freed up more focus for useful stuff and thwarted any opponents who brought 'jacks (being that they were only really good for anti-jack duty).

Now, this first started coming into being right around the time that Hordes was released. I feel like the good players had been moving toward fewer 'jacks all along, but Hordes really put the problems with the focus mechanic into stark relief.

In warmachine, warjacks were a drain on focus. In Hordes, your warbeasts ('jack equivalent) generated fury (focus equivalent). You HAD to have beasts to use magic. Plus, the beasts were pretty good AND gave you more spells. I wont go into the details too much, but my point is pretty clear. Beasts were integral to the magic users ability to use magic and provided clear benefits. In warmachine, the equivalent unit was often a drain and never required. So why use a crappy unit if it doesn't do much for you?

Things are a little better in the MkII rules, but warjacks still don't interact enough with the focus mechanic. Free warjack points and better stats are one thing, but the incentive still isn't there to take many warjacks.

*I would also like to point out the army lists from the nationals last year - in the final battle, there were exactly two warjacks on the board. One was the scrapjack - the only warjack that comes for free with a warcaster and the other one was the most broken jack in the game. I know some of this is due to tournament format, but seriously, if 'jacks are so good then why aren't even the cryx players taking them in the important games?


  1. FYI a couple years ago I did a simple test of an all-infantry list, back when everyone was (A) still playing, and (B) running Warjack heavy armies.

    In one day, I think I killed the entire game system for every person at my local shop.

    Warjacks need to be focus free and rebalanced so infantry fear them (aka like Dreads in 40K).

    None of this ten men taking out the walking tank bullshit.

    Too bad really. The warjack models are really something else, much better than GW's boxes on stilts. Doubt PP will fix them correctly, and as I already have a better sci-fi game (with walkers AND vehicles) in 40k I won't be going back to Infantry Wars anytime soon.

  2. Agreed on all points. A great set of models made near unplayable by shit rules. In my research, I've also noticed a trend for some people to switch to Hordes once they figured out 'jacks were shit. Better rules interactions and all that.