Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Warmachine: First Impressions (1)

[roughly one million years ago, Marhsall Wilhelm kindly asked for my unbiased impressions of Warmachine... at last, those impressions:]

The Game Dynamic:

- perhaps I am alone here, but I often have difficulty visualizing a game (any game, mind you) from the sterile, abstract descriptions in the rulebook. On this end, Warmachine has been no exception. I had a nose through the rules and felt a bit baffled at the end of it all; however, after an extremely practical half-hour of demonstration with the faithful and instructive FrozenJoe, I felt that I had the basics absolutely sorted. I suppose that I simply needed to see the game happen, with some practical, visual guidance, for the abstract to become practical. Joe himself suggested that to properly learn the game, one should read the quickstart rules, start playing immediately, and put the big rulebook aside for when it matters some point down the road. Certainly, I would recommend Joe’s approach. 

All this is to say, I think it indicative of a well-structured game that it function intuitively enough that a simple explanation and an example game or two should give the novice a basic ability to play the system. That’s what we’re here for after all. It is a testament to Warmachine that I was able to push through the fog of rules and on the tabletop so quickly once the matter was demonstrated clearly (I have, as an aside, only picked up the rulebook once since). All this, I believe make Warmachine a really clear and useful game dynamic.

[- While on the topic of rules, I have noted with interest that many commentators feel PP rules are more crystallized than those of other systems. I am not really capable of saying one way or the other, except that in my experience the “problem” that PP supposedly improves upon stems from the players rather than the rules. I have yet to meet a system (not just games here) that people will not abuse in some manner –which makes for fertile ground for blogs and the like that either rotate around the tournament scene or have adopted the disposition and specific vernacular of competitive players. I feel quite strongly that this is a “problem” of the player’s own creation, and is best left for those working hardest to finesse various rule systems for peculiar competitive reasons. Though my experience is modest, I have yet to find PP rules less ambiguous or more lawerly and precise than the next ruleset, but also believe that I am unlikely to encounter said “problems” because I do not play against waacs or other sundry scoundrels. ]

- the Warmachine system is cool: compelling and straightforward but complex and rewarding.

- Focus: for me, the most interesting aspect of the Warmachine game system is the allocation of Focus points at the beginning of each turn. Even on the smaller scale games that I have played (between 16-26 points), games in which there is usually just about enough Focus to accomplish all the actions I would like, if I play wisely (ahem), those opening moments of each turn are simply fraught with second-guessing and enjoyable tension. I suspect the decision process will get easier as I grow in familiarity with my faction and with my tactical disposition but, even so, the strategic opportunities of this dynamic are wonderfully intriguing (so much so, that I feel they compensate for one small reservation that I address in the “universe” section in the next post).

- one bit of concern. There is one quirk that I can see in the game mechanism itself, and that is the entirely one-sided aspect of the turn sequence. Perhaps this stems from my familiarity with 40K and specifically the fact that my little fellows get to hit back in the phase they are assaulted. The Warmachine system seems to make one player feel like a punching bag for the opposition’s turn, only absorbing and not reacting to punishment (unless dying is a reaction), who then passes that dubious honor back in the next player turn. As I said, it’s quirky and has taken some getting used to. Mercifully, the turns are usually quite short.

- the skirmish: for nearly two years now, I have been drawn toward skirmish-level games. Even in other game systems, I have wanted to play a bit more quickly, a bit less epically (see: Special Operations: Killzone). Warmachine obviously slips under that cover quite nicely. The world seems positively awash in skirmish-level confrontations. For my part, I have yet to play a game that required more than 10 models, or one that lasted more than an hour and a half. Once I have actually “learned” the game properly, I expect that to accelerate significantly even with the addition of points/models.

- on that note, every time that I have played one game, I have played two. With two babies and plans for more, that makes Warmachine an ideal “go-to” to fill a gaming gap when the limited time appears.

- apart from that, I am still familiarizing myself with the way in which units and/or models interact. I do like the word “synergy” quite a lot, and have particular interest in the way this applies to various combinations in the game. I can already sense that this particular topic will have been “netted” moreorless to exhaustion, but I am fortunate in that I am mostly oblivious to Warmablogs and have been spared the tedious exercises in mental masturbation that are most net lists. I intend to proceed by purchasing the units and models that I think are cool, then discovering how well they work (or do not work) together. To me, that is the simple pleasure of the game.

See you next time for part 2.


Unknown said...

I second many of your impressions, being a new player myself. The few games I have played have felt like slug-fests, and feel far more brutal than hammer games. Win or lose, it is a fast and fun game in equal measure.

Also- wikked Menoth 'jacks!

JoeGuardsman said...

I'm still well under the year mark as a WM player and I agree with all of your points. I had a totally different approach of course, wanting to get more into the competitive play. I figured it would make for a new and different experience which it has.

The game has grown on me greatly though. I've never been frustrated from losing a game no matter what trick of the rules or combo has gotten me. Just a learning experience and a new tool to win my own games.

I think it takes the right approach though of supporting competitive play properly to give us that outlet and then we can enjoy the game on a day to day basis.

I hope the game continues to impress upon you.

The Inner Geek said...

I like it. I've only played a game or two in the last year and a half, but I like it. It seems a bit prone to swings in advantage. That's a good thing sometimes (when it's swinging in my favor) and a horrible time at others (when I'm snatching defeat from the jaws of victory). I'm just not sure I have the wiring to take into account all the abilities, perks, skills, and what not that make one unit better than the other except when faced with an odd number of opponents lead by a certain character on a Tuesday if the table is less than 48" high. I confuse easily though.

More kids? I will ship you my two year old for a week. You won't want anymore after that... he is... challenging?!? I'd go for three if I was younger and he was tempered more like his sister. Good luck!

Derina said...

Looking good, did you finish the metal IW's I sent ya?

Brian said...

@ Ricalope. Cheers. And thanks for the nod. Moreover, I agree; there is a level of sudden, unerring brutality that I don't regularly see in my gaming experience. Kreoss, for example, just loves to smash folk with that mace of his.

@ JoeGuardsman. I find that really, really interesting -that we should have similar experiences yet significantly different approaches. That, to me, seems entirely positive, and another link the strength of Warmachine's chain.

@ The Inner Geek. Offer declined. Both Boyzilla and the Love-blob have been sick this week, and the experience has been... unique. Did I say more kids?

As for the rest of it, I think the mechanism (and quirks) get easier with more experience -though certain tricks keep popping up to make me question my own assertion.

@ Derina. Cheers. Indeed! they are up and running and coming to a post near you before the end of November. Apologies for the delay. I have a lot on my plate these days. Cheers again.