I had my first two games of Warmachine yesterday against Chris´s Retribution of Scyrah, or Elves in the vernacular. Although I lost both games, I feel that the second one was much better than the first one as I seemed to gain a grasp of the game flow by then. I still think that there is a steep learning curve ahead of me until I know what to do and more importantly what my opponent can do in each situation. Chris was certainly not pulling any punches as he ran a full Mage Hunter Strike Force unit with Leader that really gave me some headaches. Basically, those guys are Elvish archers (great in any game) who can ignore DEF and ARM bonuses due to spells and Focus, as well as ignoring cover or concealment, but most importantly, they can ignore line of sight too. When used with their Warcaster’s feat, they also gained a third damage die for a round or a fourth against Warjacks, so they managed to waste a light Warjack with two hits (and there were still 9 left to shoot after that). If that wasn’t bad enough, they also had Stealth, so I had to be in 5 inches of them to shoot them with some of my units. I really dislike them after two games. But I guess the harder the enemy, the more you learn and it was an enjoyable learning experience.
But I also discovered another thing that made me realize how much better the smaller Privateer Press adapts to its customers’ needs and the Age of the Internet than the bigger Games Workshop: the War Room App. As many Apple apps, it is free to download but costs to be used to its full extent. But the value you get is much better than with GW’s e-products. First of all, getting all the cards for one army costs a crisp €5.99, with the option to get all existing armies for €54.99. Yes, that’s all the cards for significantly less than the price of two GW online codexes (btw, why did GW change the plural in its new publications from codicies to codexes?). This means that you have all the game rules, statlines and spells for one army for the price of a McDonald’s meal. Granted, there is no fluff in the app, but judging by the number of people trying to sell the two fluff books from the new 40k ruleset, many gamers don’t care about that and even if you do, you don’t look it up that often while gaming. So, if the fluff is not important to you, it is an absolute bargain. Of course, like GW’s interactive books, every card is fully interactive, so one click on a keyword gives you the complete text of the rule, saving you the time to go through the codex and rulebook to look it up.
Secondly, Warmachine uses a different release scheme than GW, publishing army books on the one hand, but also regularly publishing update books that bring the story forward and include units for each faction, as well as publishing units in No Quarter, their magazine. Now, as each unit in Warmachine comes with its own rule cards in the blister/box, you can just buy the minis without the books, but if you have bought the app, you of course get the new units for free once you have paid the one-time fee for the army. So as I have acquired the Cygnar and Mercenaries card sets, I will get each new unit card for either faction for free. So no €4 dataslates or White Dward Weeklies for a new unit. In fact, this highlights the fact that this way of releasing new models is much better than GW’s current scheme, as it avoid codex creep by regularly updating each army’s arsenal.
Thirdly, the app has an included armybuilder function. Of course, there are lots of free armybuilder programs available, such as armybuilder or onlinecodex, but most of them are done by motivated amateurs and as such, prone to having mistakes or gaps. For instance, the Eldar armybuilder file still hasn’t had an update of the Forgeworld Apoc units despite the fact that this book has been available since August or September. And even if the files are up to date, the publishers have to tread a thin line between writing a useful armybuilding tool and not being sued by GW or other gaming companies for breaching their copyright. So they have to leave out a lot of information, such as special rules or weapon stats to make sure they are not perceived as a free codex and thus get a visit by company lawyers. As War Room is published by Privateer Press, it contains all the information and not just references to page x of cdex y. It even contains the theme forces for all warcasters and automatically reinforces all restrictions of those lists (a theme list limits the units a warcaster’s force can contain, but gives bonuses ranging from extra deployment rules, free upgrades or free spells before the beginning of the game), so enormously helping you create such a force. Admittedly, GW’s online codexes now also contain an armybuilder option, but it is a bloody joke, as it is next to impossible to use properly: If you delete a unit and add a new one, the new one will automatically be at the end of the queue, you can only access the first couple of units in the queue directly, with the others being hidden at the bottom of the page, you can only save one armylist per race at one time and you don’t see the unit or weapon stats, so you have to exit the armybuilder, flick back to the army list (which takes a moment to load), then flick back to the armybuilder, wait for it to load, before you can continue building a list. In War Room, you click on the unit picture, easily look through the different stat cards and then go back again without loading time. You can also save as many armylists as you want. Finally, unlike other armybuilders, it works on an iPad, so you can use it in your work break, while you are waiting for your friends to turn up for a game, on the bus or even in the bathroom to pass the time.
So you have a better armybuilder and a codex for 6 euros per army. Still not convinced? Well, there is also a fight menu that lets you take one of your saved armylists and use it in the game. Again, you can simply click on a unit icon to get its complete rules, but you also have an easy menu to switch from unit to unit to see their stats and weaponry when attacking or being attacked and it lets you tick damage boxes for each model, saving the need to buy card sleeves and dry erase pens. Heck, it even shows you which systems are offline after taking damage, so you don’t try to activate a Warjack to set up a perfect shot, only to realize that the gun you were trying to use had been disabled the turn before, leaving your jack in the lurch.
By the way, I don’t think anyone from GW development reads my tiny little blog, but if they did, they should be taking notes on how to do a proper codex. I have only used it for two games now, but it looks so simple and elegant that I can’t help but wonder why a company like Privateer Press manages to do that whilst their bigger rival is slowly but certainly losing its customers.