With Absolutely No Reference To Anything Games Workshop Have Ever Done

I think what would interest me in Warmahordes is if someone could tell me what was good about it without referencing, directly or indirectly, 40k. It should stand on its own merits.– Nomeny

All right. You’re on. Let’s try and do this without the Universal Greeting of tabletop wargamers, and hope the natives don’t turn restless on me. I don’t actually know if I’ll be able to do this; a common frame of reference is a really useful tool in introducing and demonstrating new things, and this ‘hard sell’ without that tool feels a bit like trying to play the Masters qualifiers without a tape measure.

  1. Warmahordes is tight as hell. I have never encountered a situation which hasn’t been adequately covered by the games’ collective rules – not once. If you can read, and keep a level head while you read (racing to conclusions based on the first clause of a sentence is not advised), you will find that the rules are precise to the point of pedantry.
  2. Commanders are interesting. The battlegroup mechanic is, I think, the big draw here, affording constant opportunities for decision-making and constant challenging questions. In Warmachine, you have ‘allocate focus here, or here, or retain it for the caster’, then ‘spend focus on spells, spend focus on attacks, or camp focus for armour, or spend focus to heal’, then ‘spend focus on a charge, a power attack, extra attacks, boosts’. In Hordes you have ‘how much fury will I need next turn?’ ‘do I actually want that warbeast to frenzy?’ ‘do I need attacks, or spells, or animi?’, ‘how many hits do I expect to have to transfer away next turn?’ On top of that, it’s quite possible to build an army list and change nothing but your caster (or almost nothing if you don’t have casters who conveniently share the same number of battlegroup points) and have a very, very different game. I do this a lot with my Retribution. While I don’t own much stuff for the faction, it’s easy for me to change things up if I’m feeling all Ossyran’d out – I just take Ravyn or Issyria or Rahn with exactly the same force and see what happens.
  3. Two ways to win. Even the simple scenarios in the rulebook generally offer two possible win conditions; seize the ground, or slay the caster. Attrition or assassination. My Cryx are generally trying for the assassination condition; I can lose three quarters of my army but if the last quarter can get to your caster I’m in with a chance. Chris’ Convergence are generally in it for the board control; he likes walls of heavy infantry enclosing his objectives and warjacks plugging away at anything that gets near them. The games are tense; I’m trying to contest the objectives and align multiple threats against his caster, he’s trying to keep his caster safe while deterring me from ploughing into his infantry. We both have a couple of prizes to keep our eyeses on, as it were – and if you want something simple after a hard day’s work, there’s always Mosh Pit.
  4. Amanda Janik‘s ace photograph is used without permission in the spirit of Fair Use.
  5. Scalability. Yes, really. At 15 or 25 points you’re knocking around with a caster and a couple of ‘jacks and maybe one unit, and it’s a nice in-between sort of game, something you can have done in under an hour and have a laugh with. At 100 points it’s an experience and a half, something you could and should devote a day to and make a big deal out of. At 35 or 50 or 75 it’s a battle game, tunable to your preference – personally, I find 50 points a bit of a headache unless I can take my time over it, but there’s no denying that the game sings a different song at each point level. My point is that there are more ways to play Warmahordes than even its adherents really realise – the same rules work for a four-model skirmish or a forty-model scrum or a hundred-model pitched battle.
  6. The IKRPG. Stop laughing, I mean it. Your Warmahordes collection doubles down as a set of NPCs for a detailed, tactically rich RPG with a detailed setting, complex allegiances, and a breadth of strong, archetypal characters. If you’re into stuff with single models and funny voices and co-operating with your friends rather than trying to smash them, Warmahordes is one extra rulebook away from offering you that, and if you know how to play Warmahordes, you know how to play the IKRPG. It’s a really neat synch-up.
  7. Organised play. The Press Ganger network (rewarding TOs with free stuff and licencing judges for events) ensures that there’s a healthy churn of tournaments running, and with the rise of SmogCon and TempleCon as Privateer Press’ flagship events there’s something big on either side of the Atlantic. There are generally active seeded events for people wanting to be the Official Best Nerd (the Steamroller Series over here, for instance, and the SmogCon Masters), and generally something lighter on for people who are more into the tournament-as-social-gathering than tournament-as-test-of-skills (the Oxford Tier Tournaments or Fun Quick and Dirty).
  8. Shake-ups. Although there’s an element of ‘solved game’, new releases generally have an impact on what’s available to the various factions and what the others have to deal with when facing them. For instance, the emergence of the Houseguard Thane has turned Houseguard Halberdiers from ‘tarpit that hurts’ into ‘viable aggressive infantry’, and the Houseguard Riflemen from ‘budget gunline’ into ‘right tool for a given job’ (to whit ‘shooting at enemies with Stealth’). That’s a two point solo which has changed the way two units work, and had knock-on effects across a faction and people who play against it; ‘Retribution can’t handle Stealth’ is no longer the truism that it was a year ago. This would be a problem if only the Retribution had had a new release, but everyone gets something at least every other year; if you play a Warmachine and a Hordes faction there’s always a new toy to look forward to and even if you don’t, there’s always something coming up that’ll change the way your games work.

    I don’t like this phrase, but it’s common parlance, so here goes – the meta shifts. At the moment, multi-wound heavy infantry are becoming more popular in the UK scene, as are big scary Colossal things and raw damage output casters; previously we had more of a focus on high-DEF light infantry, casters that lock you out of the scenario condition, and movement shenanigans. All of those things remain viable, but the pattern of recent releases has been ‘stuff that makes multiple wounds good’. The game rewards you for buying heavily into one or two factions and having a variety of stuff to play with. Being a bit of a completist when it comes to a couple of ranges, I like that.

Obviously, not all of these are going to be super mega hype fuel for all of you, and I haven’t mentioned totally subjective things like the models (you either like ’em or you don’t, and I’m not here to change your aesthetic tastes, I’m here to tell you about a game), nor Page Five!!!1! (the most embarrassing thing about Warmahordes, really, and not even that indicative of how the game plays in its current incarnation). Nonetheless, there’s seven things about Warmahordes and no mention of anything Games Workshop have ever said or done. I hope that suffices.

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