If you’re a wargamer and you’ve been sleeping you may have missed the blockbuster announcement of a new edition of Warmachine. To be honest though, it’s not just the announcement of a new edition – there are a whole slew of other details and honest looks into the wargame production world that make this announcement so interesting.
Musterkrux, Swiftblade (Dan R.) and Mugginns (Michael O) take a look at the announcement and their immediate reactions to everything packed in there.
Swiftblade: Well, I didn’t think I ever expected to think about Warmachine again. After walking away from the game a few years back, today’s announcement fills me with many different emotions. The best way to format this is probably just taking a straightforward look at the announcement blog post on the Privateer Press website and giving thoughts on each section of that post.
Mugginns: Agreed. I’ve still got all my Skorne, pretty much the entire line, painted and in foam in my garage. The Skirmish variant of the game gave me some time a few years ago, but the game just died off for me – I don’t think because of MK3, but because our local crowd was a LOT more competitive than I was and I couldn’t spend the time knowing everything. It’s crazy to think that Warmachine & Hordes (now just Warmachine) has been around 20 years!
New editions are controversial but necessary, and “Living Games” with a large catalog of models and rules become harder and harder to sustain.
Swiftblade: Privateer Press addressing the “Living Games” issue here is an interesting way to start, and I’m intrigued that they considered just calling the game finished and walking away from it after MK III. Maybe if there was more positive feeling on the MK III ruleset as a whole, the company could’ve gotten away with this and kept a decent community going. As it stands though, the community is extremely niche and needed a jolt of something exciting to get the game back into the larger miniature gaming conversation, so I’m glad they went with this new edition to resolve that.
Musterkrux: Perfectly reasonable rationale. Though, a villain might question the ‘living’ part of the equation when it comes to the game of Warmachine. Thankfully, I am not a villain. On reflection, I think Mk IV might be a year too late, sadly. The momentum WMH was carrying at the peak of Mk II as a ‘Games Workshop Killer’ is long gone and while we did have a minor renaissance a year or so ago I’m seeing the community flat-line again.
Mugginns: I thought it was very interesting how honest writer (Matt Wilson, head of Privateer Press) was in this part of the article. They actually considered shelfing the game and calling it ‘Finished’. He’s definitely right that a new edition, with a new philosophy will attract back lapsed players.
Blowing up the world
In order to not overwhelm retailers, distributors, and players alike, the new edition will focus on new armies specifically designed for MK IV. Pre-existing factions will become “legacy” factions, where some legacy models will be legal in “Prime” mode of play, and all legacy models will be legal in “Unlimited” play. Legacy models will likely not all have rules until the end of 2023.
Swiftblade: RIP my beloved Protectorate of Menoth. I think that limiting the scope of the game like this by creating “Legacy” armies was 100% the right move though. PP was very smart in identifying that with the complexity that all of the different models brought to the game, it would’ve been a disaster. Especially with the Warcasters, each one of those hugely changed how an army played on the tabletop and made for frustrating gaming experiences for new players. A hard reset like this was needed.
Besides, all of the old factions will get some legacy armies that are legal in their new tournament “Prime” format. They spend a lot of time speaking on how legacy armies will lack many mechanics that the new MK IV armies will have, so I’m curious to see if PP can pull off making these armies balanced against the newer stuff designed for MK IV, or if legacy armies will suffer too much from being behind the power curve. Only time is gonna tell on that.
Also, riffing on AoS there, yikes PP. Not who I would want to throw a stone from my glass house at.
Musterkrux: Enacting the ‘Legacy/Legends’ protocol for Mk IV, Privateer Press? It’s a bold strategy, Cotton. Let’s see if it pays off for ‘em. I see the reasoning behind this and even endorse it, though I think the transition from Mk III to legacy play for some factions would be much better received if everything Legacy was ready on launch for Mk IV. Doesn’t have to be perfect, doesn’t have to be balanced. Just give the existing players something to fiddle with for all of their armies when Mk IV launches.
Mugginns: I can definitely understand the philosophy here, and the strategic nature of the planning for what they’re doing. I can’t say that I am not disappointed that my Skorne won’t be among the first releases. I started the game with Khador and so I’ll be picking up their stuff with the new re-launch for sure. To be honest, I will likely never be a competitive tournament player again, so maybe the Legacy rules for Skorne will be fine for me. I just wanna whip elephants and gather up those souls.
I could definitely see returning players being annoyed that their guys didn’t get on the release table – and I definitely understand it. I think this will be great for new players. I’m also very impressed again with the honest behind-the-curtain look at their planning and ideas that didn’t make it.
Command Cards are something that were in the WMH Skirmish game and to be honest they’re somewhat similar to Stratagems in 40k, but only one-shots per game. I’m excited to see how they work. I imagine they won’t be game-breaking stuff as the focus in WMH has always been the leaders and how they lead their battlegroups.
Factions and Stuff
Forces can be divided now into Factions, Armies, and Cadres. Factions are an umbrella for several Armies all sharing the same allegiance. Armies are smaller and self contained, and don’t share models between them. Cadres are even smaller groups of models that can be used in multiple different Armies of the same Faction.
Swiftblade: Okay, so PP really wants you to play in theme lists, gotcha.
Thinking about how this system of factions, armies, and cadres will work, I will see how it will not only make understanding what an army will do easier for a new player (I Imagine Storm Legion would be good at making lightning guys, so you can expect that when playing them), but I think it will make new releases much easier for PP in the future. If you want to shake up the game and keep excitement high in the playerbase, you don’t have to release a whole new faction with a drastically different playstyle a la Gyrmkin or Crucible Guard. You can just add on to the existing factions already there. Honestly, bravo PP, I think this is a great idea. Plus, when you do release new factions, it’ll be an even bigger shakeup to the game.
Musterkrux: Agree. The interactions available to players at this stage are staggering, ring-fencing factions into smaller, more easily balanced chunks is the correct choice. I’m sure we’ll hear some whinging about people not being able to play their Mk III wombo-combos anymore but, honestly, even if PP doesn’t release a Phil Ken Sebben game-mode, someone else will.
Mugginns: I’ll be honest, this part was really confusing to me. I hope it works out for them, or I’m sorry that happened, whatever.
Hordes legacy factions will still get rules releases with other factions legacy rules releases. Hordes mechanics will also be featured in the base rulebook. However, no new hordes armies will be made available with the MK IV rollout. Two new Hordes factions will be released in 2023.
Swiftblade: Another decision that’s kind of a bummer, but I get it. Explaining to people that Warmachine and Hordes were different but also both the same game was tricky to do when I was a Press Ganger, so rolling it all under Warmachine is smart. And this new edition of Warmachine feels much closer to a whole new game entirely than just a rules update, so it’ll need time for the game to get its legs underneath itself before reintroducing new Hordes content.
It does make me wonder how they will handle the legacy hordes armies, but it does look like they’ll get released in that same Legacy window.
Oh, also, if I had to guess one of those new MKIV hordes factions will be Trollbloods. The other one though? Anyone’s guess, I have no idea who’s left around after the events of the Infernals release. Also I don’t know the events of the Infernals release. I think there was an apocalypse?
Musterkrux: I’ve already blown my quota on ‘Bold Play’ references for this article, so I guess I just have to shake my head sadly at this revelation. I’m not saying Hordes was 50% of the player-base but you’re still wiping out a large number of models/armies for competitive play (it’s Warmachine, the existing community isn’t likely going to play much Legacy) and that’s going to have consequences within the community. I’m just going to post a picture of my lovely Legion Ravagores here and hope that Matthew Wilson sees them and changes his mind before it’s too late. Unholy monsters born from the blood of the Dragon Everblight are for life and not just for Christmas, Matt.
Mugginns: I’ll be honest, this was the most disappointing thing for me. I started the game with Khador, played them for a few years, then got heavily into Skorne. I love Skorne. I love Skorne.
I get that explaining that the two types of playing was confusing, totally fine. I totally get that for new players it’s easier to just have Warmachine stuff. I’m really not enthused about this part. Easily the worst thing in the whole news release for me.
Differences between editions
The new edition will feature “Command Cards”, that act like mini feats and can be purchased at list building. Warcasters will have customizable spell lists, and Warjacks will have customizable weapons and cortex options.
Swiftblade: The name of the game here is customization. Everything is customizable, from spells to your feats to the loadout of your Warjacks. I like this, but I do worry that we may get a little too in the weeds here and end up with the same issue of confusing newer players or giving them information overload. Also, customizable weapons on the Jacks are neat and reduce the number of individual profiles PP needs to make, but customizable heads may be hard to parse for a player unless PP makes each head very different from one another and very clear how they work. And doing all this customization at the start of the game also sounds like a judges worst nightmare to keep track of during an event. Hopefully, there’s a way here to make sure that customizability isn’t used and abused by bad faith actors.
Musterkrux: PP: We’re going to simplify the game by compartmentalizing entire armies to reduce potential interactions and, by extension, complexity down so the game is easily accessible for newer players.
Also PP: Did somebody say customizable spell lists!? Command Cards?
Mugginns: I think the spell ‘Rack’ will definitely help new players to be honest – if you have a list of 25, or 30 or whatever spells that are all the spells in the game, you can memorize that a lot easier than bespoke lists for every single caster. I also love that you will get some spells automatically but you can tailor your caster – I love that. For some of my favorite Warlocks (Makeda!) there were some spells I absolutely never used.
They talk about area-of-effect but not how it will change – I’d love to get rid of templates. They don’t mention Caster Kill, but I assume it will still be there because it’s always been there. It’s an important pillar of the game.
Embracing magnets and customizing warjacks etc. is neat and an interesting development. I think they’re rolling with the times on that one.
Metal and injection molded plastic can hit da bricks. Warmachine is all 3D printed now, baby. Also, Warjack kits will come with magnets.
Swiftblade: Ah, PP can’t afford factories anymore. I mean this is fine, I have no strong feelings about a company 3D printing their models in house versus at a factory. I’m sure the model quality will be fine. I just don’t believe that this is a change because they’re “engineering the future” and not because it was fiscally necessary.
I really like magnets in the Warjack kits though. Nice touch, that makes the prospect of magnetizing models less intimidating for new players.
Musterkrux: Seeing the quality of 3D prints these days I’m really not surprised that at least one company is going to try them. That said, high quality is all well and good but I haven’t heard much about 3D printing wargaming models in commercial quantities (or, at least, within commercial timelines). Someone clever prove me wrong, please. That said, I’m excited to see how this plays out.
Fucking Magnets, how do they work? Another interesting choice. Assuming they go with the classic 3-in-1 box configuration, a kit is going to need something like 12 magnets (3 for the torso, then another 3 for each of the three variations: Head, Left Arm, Right Arm). Magnets are cheap, sure, but I would have figured they’d just either ship the models with magnet-friendly plugs and then sell magnet-kits on the side (or let people source their own). There are minor complications in shipping magnets (at least by air), so I remain a little confused at their commitment to the bit here.
Mugginns: I really don’t have a ton of opinions here. I’m glad they’re doing magnets and customizable models etc. I believe that PP has done the research to figure out how to 3D print these models in the quantities that they need. There’s a lot of honest info in there and I’m not an expert, and I’m not gonna pretend to be one. I think that perhaps if you think of it as PP looking to make this game a good game, a fun game, with a great community, but not one breaking sales records every month – then it makes more sense to me.
Rollout Launch Strategy
Privateer Press posted a timeline of estimated releases for MK IV. Rules will be made digital and free for the game and all models on the new War Room app, with a subscription service for additional content and features. The new starter kit is estimated to MSRP at $200 and will have a ready to play army for that force.
Swiftblade: Man I’m gonna miss the $50 battlegroup boxes that came with a caster and a few jacks. They were such a great way to introduce new players into the game, and those games were surprisingly fun too. I know the $200 starter kits are a good value or whatever, but that’s a hard sell for a new player on a game that’s trying to re-establish itself.
Digital rules are good, $5 a month is a reasonable price too. As long as the app is well done, this is a great move on PP’s part and probably a huge selling point for new players.
I like the roadmap, I think it’s probably doable as far as release schedules are concerned. If anything, I bet the Legacy rules rollout stuff will be what gets behind schedule. There’s a LOT of Warmachine/Hordes models to make rules for.
Musterkrux: Swiftblade has it right. $50 Battle Boxes are king. Best recruiting tool going. Especially when GW is selling their starters at various competitive price points. Also, not going to lie, Battle Boxes caused me to ‘accidentally start an entire new faction’ more than once as an established player.
I play Infinity, so I’m spoiled when it comes to free rules and free army-builder apps so I know that this was a strong move for PP. I have a minor concern about their statement about the premium subscription allowing you to ‘store multiple army builds’. Please don’t gate-keep saving army lists behind a subscription, PP. You’re better than that.
That said, basically everything else here is straight up gold.
Mugginns: $200 starter armies are comparable to competitors but man that is a huge sell for someone brand new to the game. I agree that I wish the $50 starter boxes were still around. It sounds like? You can still get battlegroup boxes for $75 with the new mini release so maybe they’ll still be around. I do wish they had used words instead of the Faction logos because that’s kinda confusing for new players or returning players who don’t remember those guys.
Musterkux: You put Ashlynn D’Elyse in the Legacy pile and I will cut you, Wilson.
Swiftblade: I’m cautiously optimistic? It looks like Privateer Press has learned some lessons from MK III’s rollout that make me excited for the game. I’m glad I don’t have to remember the feats of several dozen casters anymore to stay competitive or to run events. Digital rules are fantastic. The new Faction/Army/Cadre system is well thought out to prevent faction bloat that started to run rampant in the game.
Still, it’s hard to shake the feeling that PP has a long road ahead of itself here. Firstly, the legacy system is smart and much needed, but it’s a huge change. Even though my collection of Protectorate, Everblight, and Skorne models will still have some rules support, the writing is on the wall here that you’ll need to invest in one of the MK IV armies to get the most out of the game. Which is fine, Orgoth look neat. People are going to complain about legacy till they are blue in the face though, not looking forward to reading those comments online.
Secondly, many of the Warmachine/Hordes playerbase back when I was playing were what I referred to as “Warhammer Refugees”, who were playing Warmachine because of their frustrations with 6th and 7th edition. When 8th edition came out and won back most of those players who were growing now frustrated with MK of Warmachine/Hordes, including myself, Warmachine/Hordes disappeared from gaming tables and shelves at game stores. The big question now is can Warmachine MK IV do enough to win some of those players back to commanding Warjacks and Warcasters once again?
One way or another, I guess I gotta dust off my Protectorate. The Lawgiver can never rest.
Mugginns: I know they won’t bring back page five, that’s a relic of something 20 years ago.
Overall, this was something totally out of the blue for me. I’ve had my Skorne models in my garage for years and I’ve never sold them or tossed ‘em because I like the faction too much. I get rid of a lot of wargaming stuff – I look at it and if I haven’t touched it in a year or two I usually get rid of it. My Skorne stuff has stuck around.
I’m excited for this new release. I’m excited to see what Goonhammer will do with it. Warmachine has always been a tight ruleset with interesting interactions, and a competitive scene that would lend itself really well to the type of reporting we do. To say I’m cautiously optimistic would be a mild understatement, I think.
Keep your eyes out for more Warmachine coverage in the near future – thanks for reading!