Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Last Weekend... The Good, The Bad and the Ugly Part the Second


Image via Flickr.
Alright, time to make good on my promise to finish my description of this tumultuous weekend of gaming.

It’s got drama, it’s got suspense. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry.

The first part I discussed “the bad” wherein I screwed up and it cost me some moolah and a few reputation points.

Next, let’s discuss the “ugly” and then I’ll finish up with the “good.”

One of my tournament players had brought a 57 Jokaero and Coteaz list to play.

57 monkeys of doom.

He had one “large” squad of 6 or so monkeys, and then 15 units of 3, so a total of 16 troops choices plus Coteaz.

Now, I had several people (not the player’s opponents) raise concerns about the legality of this army. The two basic arguments were that either the henchmen warbands did not actually use up a Force Organization Selection, and thus did not fulfill the minimum Force Org requirements (2 Troops and an HQ) or else they DID fill a Force Org selection when taken with Coteaz, and thus were limited to six.

I reviewed all relevant rules, including the codex and the BRB. In the end I decided to allow the player to continue on with his games unless and until one of his opponents complained at which point I would require him to collapse his army down into six squads.

My reasoning here was very similar to the NOVA modeling policy. If it was a situation where his opponents had an advantage in keeping the player’s forces split into 17 very easily destroyed Kill Points, they wouldn’t raise an issue about it. If the opponent felt like this hyper-MSU approach would be advantageous, they would say something.

Essentially the idea here was “you gain no advantages from operating in the grey area, and your opponent gets every advantage.” Because this is definitely a grey area.

The player in question is not a bad guy. In fact I quite enjoy his banter and company under many circumstances. He had obviously put hours and hours into converting the army – all of the Jokaero were based on Ork Boyz but were painstakingly greenstuffed with fur (Note to self: If you have an army that is clearly designed to go for the throat, but convert and paint it well, people will take more kindly to the ass thrashing you are handing them).

But he has a tendency to push the rules of the game and of polite society to the limits. I think at the end of the day he enjoys putting himself in positions where people will come after him for something that he believes is technically correct so that he can argue the point.


I was left in an awkward place. As a TO, I had to essentially “make something up,” because the NOVA FAQ has not yet been updated for the new Grey Knights, and the GW FAQ has not yet been released.

I made a call in the moment that I feel was reasonable and caused a minimal amount of drama. The tournament went on, none of his opponents seemed to particularly mind and in fact he lost two of his three games. He explained that he had not really tried to make the army hyper competitive, keeping all of the Jokaero on foot rather than mounted in Chimeras. As a result he took loads of shooting casualties, failed a lot of leadership checks and was effectively combi-assaulted off the board in one game and simply out maneuvered in the late stage objective grab in the other.

So the outcome was fine. The player actually ended up taking home Best Painted, his army really did show a lot of love and the theme was obviously there. I suggested converting Coteaz to look like Charlton Heston for that added “pizzaz” but hey, it’s his gig.

But it was an uncomfortable situation. At the end of the day, do I really blame this guy? No, not really. He merely stepped through a door that Games Workshop left open through their own ineptitudes. The questions around Coteaz were immediately apparent upon the release of the Codex to everyone in the community with half a brain.

Why were they not apparent to Games Workshop?

The company releases a product that’s only half finished. The FAQ is “required” in order to navigate the gaps and holes their design team left in place. Now, someone like me simply avoids those grey areas because I don’t like arguing with idiots. Likewise, I often have strong suspicions as to the ultimate outcomes of many of these areas and how GW will ultimately rule on them, but until they come out in a document they are just suspicions.

The ultimate problem is the system, and the ultimate responsibility lies at the feet of the company that designs and profits from that system.

If you’re still with me till this point, thank you. Now that we have the Ugly out of the way, let’s turn to the Good.

I have been toying with the idea of playing Warmachine/Hordes for some time. I did some innovative trading a while back and got the core of a 35 point Circle of Orboros army, but still was about a hundred dollars short (of new product) from the full army that I found interesting.

I dabbled around with Forward Kommander and browsed Battle College and the PP Forums, but did not take the plunge.

Then about a week and a half ago I was in the shop looking for a game of 40k. As has been somewhat common of late I noticed that everyone was playing Warmahordes and the only game I could find of 40k was a teaching game against a ten year old. Now I was happy to play with the kid, but the point is that on a Saturday night, there was not a real 40k player in sight, and every table was filled with Warmachine.

I talked to a couple of guys from my gaming group that were throwing dice. These are players that I consider to be “Old School Gamers.” Really great guys, but definitely not of the same mindset as someone like me who surfs the forums and creates optimized 40k lists. These are the kinds of guys that would show up with a gorgeously painted Ultramarines battle company with a single Dreadnought, lots of Tactical Marines with Power Fists, etc. You might here them muttering a lot about “cheese” and “WAAC” and longing for the “good old days” of comp scoring.

Yet these guys proceeded to describe how much they loved Warmachine and Hordes, how they actually had fun playing it, and didn’t end up hating their opponents. I found this surprising a bit as Warmachine is supposed to have an ultra-competitive, take no prisoners attitude. But after talking to them a bit I think I’ve figured it out, and after now playing the game for a little bit I think I understand.

Warmahordes works.

It’s rules are clear and comprehensible. Their staff provide rulings and interpretation on a frequent and ongoing basis. In short, when these guys lose at a Warmachine game, they feel like the loss was fair.

Like it or not, there is a strong perception among 40k players that the game is inherently unbalanced and unfair. I tend not to see it that way, because I swim with the sharks and know how to beat them, and see that the game is more balanced now than at any previous point.

But after seeing what a truly balanced game looks like, with truly well written rules… I get their point.

Plus, I have never participated in something that had such structure and organization. I imagine that Magic players know what I mean when I say that I showed up on Warmachine night, met with the local Press Ganger, paid him 4 bucks for my starting kit for the league and soon had a laminated battle record card hanging on a board on the wall, a little booklet where I could earn stamps by beating or losing to various factions and casters, and was informed about the frequent tournaments that occurred in the area.

Warmahorde’s release strategy is fundamentally better than GW’s, something that has been obvious to me for a long while, even before actually playing the game. Privateer Press uses something much more akin to a CCG model for their game. They release everyone’s stuff all at once (after extensive and public playtesting) and then have flexibility inbuilt into the system to correct any errors. Have a unit that doesn’t work quite right? Perhaps a bit overcosted or underwhelming? We can release a Unit Attachment and bam, unit is fixed. Your faction feeling a bit neglected? Haven’t had your codex updated in a few years (or decades)? Lol, who are we kidding, we roll out new models and units for all the factions on an ongoing basis!

Warmachines has a much lower barrier to entry, because 15 point battles are both fun and accessible.

$50 for a fully functioning mini-army? I’ll bite.

40k players playing 500 points is NOT the same as Warmachines at 15. One is a bastardization of the game, the other is the full gaming experience writ small.

Plus, painting Warmachine miniatures with their slightly larger scale almost feels like cheating, lol. The sculpts are great and the models look amazing on the table.

At the end of the day, I’m not “quitting” 40k. I’m still painting those models, I’ll still play the game. I’m still planning on playing at Ard Boyz and tournaments.

But I gotta say that Warmachine/Hordes has gotten me more excited about miniature gaming than I have been in a long time.
And it’s a good feeling.