While we are biding our time until Saturday and scour the web for possible spoilers on the new 40k, I have been doing something completely different. Yes, timing was never my forte. It turns out that Saturday is not only the release date of the new 40k, but also the new version of Dystopian Wars (so did GW intentionally try to sabotage one of its new and growing rivals? One does not know), but even though I have ordered the books for both systems and will of course be the first in line to pick them up on Saturday (or get them delivered by mail soon in case of Dystopian Wars), I am currently working on something else.
Yes, after a long time of nudging by Chris, I have decided to beat my funk by playing a game I have no idea of and thus can expect to be brutally slaughtered in every game for the next two years, in other words, I have started to play Warmachine!
Actually, this is the second time I have started to play Warmachine, the first time being when it first came out in 2005-2006ish. At the time, the Warmachine flame sputtered and died after a couple of months because the core of the players started playing World of Warcraft and when I say started playing I mean ‘Spent at least 8 hours a day and the complete weekend in front of the screen’, thereby ripping out the heart of the gaming club I was in at the time, but that’s a different story. As I had traded my Menoth army away some years ago, I had to start anew and thus decide what army to play. I was initially inclined to choose Khador, the Soviet faction, as I like the strong visuals of red and gold, as well as their subtle as a brick attitude, but then I remembered that my brother still had a box full of Cygnar miniatures from our first attempt. So that was a possibility. I could have gone Menoth again, as I like the idea of an army of religious fanatics hellbent on converting or killing all others (must be the agnostic in me), but I could not for the life of me bring myself to paint another Menoth model. This is due to the fact that their paint scheme is white with purple cloth or tabards and gold edges. Even with the better white paints you get these days, I didn’t want to do that again. Cryx, the undead faction, was out as it is the swarm army and that playstyle does not appeal to me either. Elves were also out on account of being elves and Convergence has not been really fleshed out so far, being the new army, though their clockwork style has its appeal too.
So it was Khador or Cygnar and in the end, Cygnar won, not necessarily because of the box I got for free, as I don’t think I will use that many of these units (the game has changed a lot from Mk I to Mk II and now armies are more centered around infantry than around warjacks), but mainly as I fell for the tricorn hats and pistols of the Gun Mage models, or as I should correctly call them, the Arcane Tempest Gun Mage Pistoleers. So for those of you who are not too familiar with Warmachine, here are some models!
A unit of Arcane Tempest Gun Mage Pistoleers. I did the hats and the wacky hand gestures. Might be easier to see once they are fully painted. Gun Mages have pistols that hit quite well in the first place, but can augment them to have longer range, push people back or deal more damage on a critical hit (a double on an attack roll). They also firmly believe that being the deadliest gunmen in the Iron Kingdoms is not worth anything if you don’t look suave doing so.
The ‘Black 13’, a unit of 3 veteran Gun Mages,each capable of using special attacks such as firing blasts that stay in play for a turn to block light of sight and hurt people who walk through them or being able to ignore Stealth as long as they stand still or granting better cover to the unit. Each one of them is a character with 5 damage boxes, though they don’t really have the ARM (armour) to use the boxes. Basically, to hit a model in Warmachine, your Melee Attack (MAT) or Ranged Attack (RAT) + 2d6 needs to match or beat their DEF (defence) and then you deal damage equal to your weapon’s power (POW) + 2d6 and you deal a point of damage for each point over their ARM (matching does not deal a point of damage). As Gun Mages are armoured with nothing but snappy wit and a dapper suit, they drop quickly once they are hit, though their DEF is actually quite high. Khadorans on the other hand have high ARM, but low DEF.
My three first Warcasters and Solos. The lady with the spear on the left is Captain Victoria Haley, a Warcaster with a high Focus value who specialises in spell-casting. She will be my first Warcaster to get to grips with the game mechanics. The man with the two pistols on the right is Captain Allister Caine, a Warcaster who specialises in shooting people in the head. He is not as good a spellcaster, but his main ability is to teleport behind enemy lines, then drop an insane amounts of shots into the enemy warcaster to win the game. Yes, you get one warcaster in a typical game of Warmachine and regardless of the scenario, once the warcaster is dead, you have lost on the spot. Thie is actually one of the aspects I love about the game, as victory can come out of nowhere, so every move has to be taken carefully to get into position for the kill whilst trying to prevent the opponent from doing the same.
And the guy in the middle? Well, he is a Journeyman Warcaster and as you can deduce from the lack of proper name, he is not as important as the other two. In fact, Cygnarans send their young Warcasters on a tour with a more experienced guy, letting them handle a Warjack or two to learn the ropes, so to say. They are therefore the only faction who can get a second Warcaster model on the field, though one with vastly inferior abilities. He also does not count as a Warcaster for victory conditions. As Haley is primarily a spellcaster and Caine an assassin, they both need to keep their focus for themselves, so they cannot use it to enhance their Warjacks. Therefore, having a Journeyman (or Junior) around lets you have a Warjack with Focus without having to use up your Warcaster’s own focus.
Close-up on Caine.
Warcasters are the glue that holds a Warmachine army together. Not only is the game over once they die, but they provide most of an army’s punch. They come in three categories, broadly speaking: 1) the Warjack Caster: these casters use their spells, abilities and focus to fuel a couple of Warjacks. The Warjacks do most of the work and either kill enemy troops to clear objectives or go for the caster kill. Cygnar’s prime Warjack Caster is an old geezer called General Adept Sebastian Nemo who can as his feat give all his Warjacks 3 Focus (the maximum a ‘jack can have per round) and still use his own focus to cast spells on them. 2) The Spellcaster: surprisingly, uses spells to kill things, freeze things or push them out of the way, so either the caster or his friends can hurt the enemy warcaster or take objectives. Haley, especially her epic (second) version, can do that very well. 3) The Assassin: either shoots enemy warcasters like Caine does or kills them in close combat. That can be done subtly with movement spells or using Stealth or the way the Butcher of Khador does it, by simply carving Butcher-sized holes through everyone in the way. In addition to spells, focus and regular guns or swords, they also have one feature only they have: a feat. Each Warcaster has an ability they can use once per game, typically either generating a one-shot effect (like the Menite Feora who sets everyone in range on fire or Nemo who gives 3 Focus to every ‘jack) or an effect that lasts for a turn, such as Caine’s pistols becoming stronger after each hit they generate, Coleman Stryker giving everyone +5 ARM for a round and so forth.
So I have talked about Warjacks, so what are they? Well, they are big steam-powered robots that can do amazing things when empowered with a Warcaster’s focus. They come in two categories: light and heavy, though each faction also has one Colossal Warjack at this point. Khador predictably only has heavy ‘jacks.
Ironclad Heavy Warjack. It can punch things with its hammer or use it to cause tremor waves and knock down the people around him. The Open Fist on theother arm can be used to punch things, but with a bit of Focus, it can also use it to pick up and throw things (and letting them crash into other things) or lock other ‘jacks head or arm to prevent them from executing certain manoeuvres.
Three light Warjacks. The one with the Chain Gun is called a Sentinel, it can strafe multiple targets and use the shield to block shots from nearby fragile targets like a Warcaster. The middle one is a Lancer with an Arc Node on its carapace. It has a shield and lance to attack people, but the main attraction is the Arc Node. A Warcaster can use an Arc Node to cast spells, using the Arc Node as the point of origin instead of themselves, so the Arc Node ‘jack can advance and be used to cast short range spells while the Warcaster is hiding somewhere safe. The one on the right is a Charger. It has a decent gun that can actually get boosted attack AND damage rolls for one Focus point in total (boosted rolls roll 3d6 instead of 2d6 and usually it costs one focus point to boost either an attack OR damage roll) and a hammer to hit people in the face.
WIP Heavy Warjacks. The one on the left is looking a lot like the Ironclad on top, isn’t it? That’s because it is Ol´Rowdy, a character Ironclad, so a unique Warjack that has developed its own personality. Ol´Rowdy has slightly better stats than an Ironclad, but most importantly it can Charge without spending focus (charging is here a more powerful form of engaging, one can also attack without charging), counter-charge guys that get too close and other nice stuff. The one on the right is a Defender, boasting a 16 inch range gun (that is the longest range in the game) with a whopping POW of 15 (which is great too). Once they are painted, I will post more pics.
The next models in the painting queue. The one on the left is a Squire, a tiny Cygnaran construct that augments its Warcaster’s focus and magical abilities. The goblin with the dapper hat is Reinholdt, a Mercenary Solo that likes hanging round Warcasters. As he has pockets full of ammo, the Warcaster gains a free extra shot. You can also use his Spyglass to measure the distance between two models (normally, there is no premeasuring) instead. As he is one lousy point, there is really no reason not to use him.