Warmachine Mk. 2 — Initial Impressions
By now, everyone who cares has had a chance to look at the field test rules for Warmachine Mk. 2 or at least plans to at some point in the near future. These are my first impressions and should not be taken as any sort of concrete opinion on the system as a whole, that will only come after several test games and it could take weeks given my limited schedule. With that in mind, let’s talk Warmachine.
The first thing that struck me about the new rules was the addition of the much talked about keyword effects, rules like CMA, CRA, Stealth, Pathfinder, and so on have become symbols that are placed below the model’s statline on the card. This is the one change I think will be universally accepted by Warmachine players as it allows you to learn the majority of what you need to know simply by glancing at the front face of the card. If there are any further special rules they will be printed on the back and those are usually few. Admittedly the changes when I looked at the cards were disorienting at first – I thought for a brief moment that Long Gunners had lost Combined Ranged Attack and that would have frightened me about the direction the game is going in. Needless to say, I was very happy to be proven wrong.
The other side of the coin on this is damage types, which I don’t really know what to make of. I guess they are useful in that they replace several rules that do not need to be put on the back of the card, like Wraith Bane, but I’m not sure what kind of effect they have on the game beyond the cosmetic. There are only a few examples I can think of where it’s actually interesting, such as Stormblades and Stormguard now being immune to the Chain Lightning spell, which is arguably one of the most damaging anti-infantry spells in the game for those who have it. However it isn’t terribly useful outside of Cygnar vs. Cygnar matchups. The one thing I was relieved by was that the various Storm weapons don’t count as being electric damage themselves, otherwise the aforementioned games would quickly turn into a frustrating affair.
The rules also contain numerous tweaks that I really appreciate. The first would be the distinction between within and completely within, which has lead to several points of confusion over the years as Legion players can attest to. The next would be the uniform model height, which does not punish people for using different versions or poses on a model and adds a better indicator for line of sight with regards to terrain pieces – I personally felt that the old system where it depended on the unit type and how much of it could actually be seen got absurd very quickly. I mean I like true line of sight but I don’t think you should be able to fire with full effect when all you can see is a warjack’s weapon. Facing is now dealt with from the model’s shoulders instead of their head, a distinction that probably won’t make much of a difference in the long run, but a useful one nonetheless. Privateer is also encouraging people to paint markers to denote the front and back arc on model’s bases, something I definitely wasn’t expecting before, nor did I think about it. I like that actually.
The final biggest change to the core rules was the concept of formations, an arcane and difficult concept for new players to grasp and functionally speaking, it didn’t matter unless you had Shield Wall or Defensive Line. Now troopers are simply considered to be in formation if they are within the unit leader’s command range. I like the idea, but it also worries me a little in the sense that now it makes AOEs even more viable for killing infantry because there is a limit to how far apart they can be spread. To a dedicated infantry player, this could seem like a calculated move and I am having trouble disagreeing. On the other hand it does prevent people from making absurd formations with everyone in a 10-man unit 3″ apart. That’s just annoying.
Overall I like the revisions to the core rules. They do help streamline and quicken the pace of the game, which was often burdened by rules disputes and the requirement to remember the exact wording of a thousand different special abilities, now all codified onto a few pages. Where I start to have problems with the system is when it comes to army construction and the units’ new stats. There’s only one problem in particular I have with them, and that’s the lack of variable unit sizes. I can sorta understand why they did it – some units could get away with having a point cost of 1 per additional troop but when you start getting into the really cheap units and fractions of points, things could potentially get very ugly. On the other hand I question the whole point system they used in the first place. Couldn’t it have stayed the same? Was it really necessary to change it so drastically? That’s what I want to know. There is one advantage that comes out of it though; army lists are not that hard to build anymore and the time when we needed army building programs like Armies of Immoren to keep track of all our stuff is hopefully coming to an end. People could just show up with their collection of models and figure out a list in 10 minutes tops. Not a bad idea if you ask me.
With regard to the units themselves, I think I may just pick a single faction to focus on in terms of my opinion for the changes, and put it into a separate entry because talking about all the factions would just take forever. I may make mention of other factions and units that I found particularly irritating, because there are some changes that just fill me with glee, forcing players to actually think about what they’re going to do in any given turn. I promise to be as fair as I can.