I am hopelessly ambivalent here.
The Warmachine world is interesting, but I must confess that I am using that word in the same way that I sometimes use it to describe a meal when I am being polite. I like what they have done, but there are a few aspects of the fluff haven’t quite congealed for me and, thus far, the specific beauty of the models (which I will discuss next post) has superseded any interest in the world they are meant to inhabit. It's a strange sensation, to be more attracted to the models than to what they are designed to represent, but one that hasn't really been an obstacle as yet -which is a testament to the simple strength of the models themselves.
I should mention that I stumbled a bit on that word …“world” above. Instinctively, I have bristled that the Warma-universe resides upon a single planet; to be fair, I feel the same level of room-temperature affection for the Warhammer Fantasy world, which is perhaps a suitably accurate or legitimate comparison. I would suggest that, with the notable exception of the “Storm of Chaos Campaign,” I have felt for some time the same way about WFB as I do about Warma …that is, I enjoy the game most when working through rather than directly in the fluff (see: unconventional painting choices). The borders are just a little too solid and clear for my taste. I have been concerned that this was somehow too stringent an imaginative space; however, this concern has dissipated considerably as I have warmed to Warmachine. Instead, I have tried to let the skirmish-level nature of the game offer ample room in which to explore the surface of the world in very small, digestible chunks.
Now. I feel that certain archetypes have become almost compulsory in any contemporary fantasy/sci-fi creation (not just the one in question here): for example, lofty chivalrous ambition and radical religious zealotry, to name the obvious two. I recently heard Cygnar described (astutely, I think) as post WWII US apple-pie-do-gooders-in-the-sky. That seems a fairly solid source. Without doubt then, soviet Khador makes the most compelling counterpoint to the above. Throw in the aforementioned zealotry (Menoth), perhaps some undead (Cryx) and/or elves (don’t love them), and behold the fundamental form of the Warmaverse. This is not necessarily a criticism (let’s not forget that 40K began with the simple premise of fantasy knights in space), but rather a comment on inspiration.
And herein lies the point that I have only come to circuitously. Warmachine feels (and is, to be sure) younger than 40K. The world has some lovely bits of inspiration and a tremendous foundation, but the doesn’t all hang together in my opinion. Not yet, at least.
In sum, I enjoy the inspiration (even though it seems a bit rote at times), and admire the components that they are trying to hang together; however, I’m not yet convinced that it all does so seamlessly. Instead, quite a lot feels whimsical and indulgent (the cold war and pirates, for example), both great fun and solid ideas, but not entirely cohesive when sitting across the table from one another.
Please understand that the above commentary is merely designed to describe the difference between “like” and “love,” rather than act as a specific detraction.
My taste is my taste.
…which leads me to a point of praise. I really, genuinely enjoy that the grand narrative is ongoing –that the characters develop and continue in the fluff and in the game. Besides creating an elegant way to resolve problems within the game mechanism itself, this creates the sense that the players actually participate in a story that is mobile. It is a really refreshing way to break open new chapters, to move the game into a new dimension (quite literally).
And now for another dose of that ambivalence: Unfortunately, I am not sure that this dimension has been treated in a manner worth the opportunity.
I suppose that one of my largest concerns when entering into the Warmachine game has been my reflexive dissatisfaction with proscription. As I have stated previously, Kreoss will always be Kreoss, even when he is eKreoss (I remain undecided on the matter, but might argue that the entire “e” phenomenon is a symptom of the world’s restrictive nature rather than the game’s ability to imagine new frontiers). I still find this fact rather stunting, but also feel just as strongly that the game adequately rewards attention in its other fundamental attributes as a means of compensation.
Perhaps this will undermine all that I have said above, but in a game that requires so much imagination already, it is an easy task to circumvent the above with just a little bit more of the same.
See you next time for the final thoughts on this topic.