Friday, July 22, 2016

Post Mortem

Like all good death metal, a post from beyond the grave.


No, I haven't started playing again. Well, sort of.

Here's a summary:
  • I sold all my Gator stuff a little while before Mk3 was announced. No regrets.
  • I got pretty hyped about Mk3 release, almost entirely because of the super fresh memes that were created, including leading the Memesider Committee. Good times. Also Hungerford is single-handedly carrying that company on his back in terms of PR. What a boss.
  • Upon release, I was pretty disappointed, and didn't have my hopes up too high to begin with. Mk3 addresses the stale meta issue and the living updates issue (both pretty well, in theory anyway) but not the other problems I have with the game . Circumstances around the release have also made me generally pessimistic for the mid to long-term health of the game. 
  • I've played maybe 5 games of Mk3 now, and it is very much the same game. Needless to say I didn't really enjoy any of them.
  • If you really liked Warmachine before and have lots of disposable income, you'll love Mk3. If you're like me and that bus has passed you by, then you look elsewhere.

No matter. There are plenty of fun minis games out there to play, and my life is plenty busy between family, work and other hobbies.

In terms of minis games to use up my limited free time, I've picked up Guild Ball (to the best of my knowledge the best competitive minis game on the market at the moment) and Infinity (perhaps the best mass-produced models out there, and a fun and cinematic albeit not super tight/competitive game experience). IMO both have significantly better quality models and fluff on average than present day Warmachine, and produce fun gameplay experiences for entirely different reasons.


TL;DR

The main reason I am posting here is to say that I will be playing in the WM/H World Team Championship with my old friends on Team Slovenia. I am borrowing some Menoth for the event and fully expect to go 0-6. Given that I started playing in Slovenia with these same guys almost 10 years ago, I thought it a fitting end to my almost decade-long Warmachine "career".


So if you happen to come by this post AND you're going to be in Amsterdam for the WTC, drop by and say 'hello', maybe buy me a quality european beer or six. I can regale you with nostalgic tales of old, salty tales of the present, and nihilistic tales of the future.

Cheers!



PS - I think Minions are one of the better Hordes faction in Mk3. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Swansong

Soles no longer has power over me, and I can fly free once again.

It seems my last post was on 20 October 2015, just over 5 months ago. According to Iron Grudge (great little app), the last game of Warmachine I played was on 22 October 2015 using Calaban and a proxied Blindwalker against Shae and a Galleon. I remember I won the game convincingly, even considering the extra unit of Swamp Shamblers I'd placed on the table...

What I do remember however is how much of a negative play experience this game was. It was maybe my 3rd proxy game with the Blindwalker and my first game with Calaban in a long time. I wrote up a large, very negative article about the Blindwalker following this game, as well as a "Calaban 2.0 - Post Blindwalker" article.
However I can't bring myself to post them. I don't know whether it's because I don't want to be crushingly negative without some follow-up in terms of constructive or positive thought, or because I just don't really care about Warmahordes Mk2 anymore.

The Mist Weaver spoilers made it quite clear to me that I am not going to be playing Warmachine again until at least Mk3 (with one notable exception).

There are a lot of deep systemic and meta issues in both the game and Privateer's game development/growth model that has finally reached a boiling point for me after seething for so many years, as anyone who has read this blog can attest. While I think rage and whining are part of the lifeblood of competitive gaming, there is cause to pause for thought when passion turns to apathy.

Coming back to the Mist Weaver, ignoring the fact that it is a very weak Minion model outside Gators (the ever-present Minion power problem), it has also put the nail in the coffin of Gator design and given me late-Mk1 Skorne flashbacks, when Skorne went from slowest grind/denial faction with no pathfinder and limited ranged power to fastest faction with great assassination tools and pathfinder everywhere in the space of a single book.
I started Gators when power attacks were necessary, when they had basically no guns and made up for it with some anti-ranged tech. Now you have almost no power attacks, and you have a gunline to rival Legion/Cygnar as a legit list build featuring arguably the best ranged unit in the game and arguably the best battle engine in the game, all backed by a bevvy of Eyeless Sight/Magical shooting. I loved the Sacral Vault as a game piece, but with the Croaks and now this Mist Weaver (plus that useless medium based Bog Trog guy), we're too far gone. This approach to PvP games design is not for me.


There remains little flavour (thematic or strategic) in the game's design - just skews and SKUs, and a game which has meant so much to me over the last 10 years running on auto pilot.


See you on the pitch.


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Blindwalker Sculpt preview


Trapped in a box!

Hopefully the final model looks less derpy.

EDIT: It doesn't.

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Slow Death of Power Attacks

"You're playing with power now. Don't be afraid! Few things are more satisfying than slamming your opponent's warjack into a unit of soldiers and watching them fall over like bowling pins...Try picking up the enemy warcaster (with a warjack, of course) and throwing it across the battlefield! It's almost more fun than you should be allowed to have in a miniatures game."

- Page 5, Warmachine Prime Mk1 (2002)

Blindwater pre-Colossals

One of the things that attracted me to Blindwater initially was the importance of power attacks to the playstyle. In my very first post on this blog back in 2012, I described Gatormans as "tactically strong, strategically weak". In other words, Gators were a faction that usually did not come to battle with a hard set plan and relied heavily on adapting to the table and opponent in order to achieve victory. This is what power attacks are all about.

One of the major issues Blindwater had was dealing with enemy heavies:
  • Calaban had Parasite to kill one a turn, maybe two if the stars aligned and you got a working feat turn, although it would usually leave him exposed and dead next turn. 
  • Barnabas' only viable answer was shallow water, namely throwing heavy jacks into Swamp Pits, which he was quite good at thanks to Warpath, or just slowing them down with rough terrain. Jamming heavies with Iron Flesh Dirged Posse was also sometimes a viable tactic.
  • Maelok relied on jamming, ignoring or sandpapering heavies down over time with multiple Posse charges. 
In any case, it wasn't easy, and you had to play smart to win games. This all changed with the release of Colossals.

Colossals & Gargossals

I often say that Gargossals as a model type were the single worst thing to happen to the game. I believe this because while I think they are quite balanced in terms of competitive power, they significantly flattened the tactical and strategic depth of the game.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of how you could deal with a heavy in 2010:
  • Arm Lock
  • Throw it away (into shallow water, behind a wall, behind a forest, into another heavy...)
  • Slam it away (see above)
  • Black Oil!
  • Disrupt / Paralyze it (KD + Thrullg against non-reach warjacks was sweet)
  • Focus/Forcing denial (ie. Absylonia1's Blight Field, Hypnos' Void Lock, Wrong Eye's Voodoo Doll)
  • Shadow Bind
  • Jamming (esp. with medium bases)
  • Control it with terrain if no pathfinder
  • Kill it

Here is how you can deal with Gargossals today:
  • Kill it
  • Focus/Forcing denial (ie. Absylonia1's Blight Field, Hypnos' Void Lock, Wrong Eye's Voodoo Doll)
  • Paralyze Gargantuans?
  • Jamming? (given that they can shoot while engaged, it's nowhere near as potent).

That's it. Following the nerfs to Shadow Bind and Black Oil, that is all that remains. The tactical options are laughable compared to what they once were, especially when viewed in the context of board control and scenario play.

From a Blindwater perspective, given the lack of high POW attacks in faction, we were left with a few options - play Calaban with Hex Blast & Parasite and go all in and die next turn, jam Gators into an impregnable iron wall to buy time or play Carver with his garbage beasts. Neither option was great.
Then we got Rask a few months before Gargantuans release, who both solved almost every problem presented by Gargossals and made me a weaker player almost over night despite winning more games.

What concerns me is that this process of removing power attacks as tactical options has reared its ugly head prominently in the last two expansions - Reckoning and Devastation.

Cornerstone & Implacability

First, Reckoning brought us Anson Durst, Rock of the Faith and Summoner of Dank Memes. Of relevance is his Rampart Guardian Stance, which allows him to sacrifice movement/action to gain Cornerstone and grant it to all b2b models (Cornerstone = cannot be KD/placed/pushed/made stationary, ie. can only be thrown or slammed).
While it does reduce the chances to use power attacks against Durst, it is limited to him and models immediately next to him, and it doesn't eliminate the two movement power attacks. I am ok with this given its limited scope.

Second, and most significantly, we have Devastation's most powerful warlock, Doomshaper3, and his spell Implacability. For 2 fury, Doomy stops all models in his battlegroup and 14" control area being KD, placed, pushed or moved by a slam (ie. can only be thrown and made stationary).
Unlike Rampant Guardian Stance, I am not ok with Implacability on this warlock, primarily because a) it is in Trolls, one of the tankiest factions with multiple high ARM heavies and b) it combos stupidly with his feat that grants an effective ~5 ARM to his battlegroup (on top of boosted attack rolls, but let's not go there) and c) it affects EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE (almost).

My initial reaction to such a feat is to KD & control since the battlegroup are otherwise invulnerable. Implacability shits on that. Not only does Implacability remove a lot of options for dealing with his super tanky, super hard hitting, goading warbeasts, but the huge amount of ARM on the table every round, and the nigh-insurmountable amount of ARM on the feat turn, drastically reduce your tactical options that turn to a degree comparable to Haley2's pre-nerf feat.
That's a bold statement, so let me phrase it another way for dramatic impact: if you do not have access to very select tools, such as focus/fury control or stationary, you have basically no option that turn but grin and bear it. That is basically a timewalk feat, and given Troll ARM values outside that feat turn, the timewalk seeps into every other turn as well unless you have significant POW values.

Conclusion


The game is moving more and more towards ARM skew / POW overload at the cost of power attacks and board control, and I am not sure I like where things are going.
It seems PP have forgotten a key tenant of their original Page 5 manifesto, perhaps the only part of the document that was uncontroversial and can truly be said to have excited players of all persuasions about the game - heavy warjacks and warbeasts fighting like pro wrestlers.

I guess that in the end they did decide that power attacks were in fact more fun than you should be having in a miniatures game.