Okay, so, the previous article in this series got… uh… a level of response that I was definitely not expecting.
Love to get ratio'd
Seriously though, I got a ton of very useful feedback on everything that I’d proposed in it, which means that people were invested enough to read through the whole thing and have a serious think about what I’d said, which is amazing – thank you all so much! What I’ve decided to do in today’s article is revisit some of the proposals that I made in light of the feedback that I’ve had so far, and to change or remove them as appropriate, also adding some new ones as I go. I won’t cover everything that was touched in the previous article, because it was hella long and I’d rather focus on bits of it. However, I intend for this series to be an ongoing one, because this topic really interests me, so I’ll be sure to get to everything in due course. Thanks btw to Attillio Ceretti for being a babe and editing this one for me!
First off, I’m going to tackle the big one, that got easily the most negative feedback out of the things that I suggested – the removal of Fury and Essence as distinct systems. Oddly enough, the majority of comments that I read in various places were far more against the removal of Fury than Essence. As an Infernals player, this absolutely shocks me. I mean, one might be forgiven for thinking that the community has something of a salty disposition towards them as a faction…
Immoren, 609AR, colourised
But, leaving that aside, a lot of points were raised about what you do to make Hordes factions play in a unique way, because fundamentally this change would have required a massive design adjustment, basically ripping up a decade plus of work on things like Fury management solos, balancing spell lists against animi, and essentially starting scratch on a ton of stuff. Now, when I’ve got my idealist head on, I look at that and say “cool, let’s get to work!”. I’d personally be completely okay with doing all the testing that would be required to help the Hordes factions rise from the ashes and reclaim a unique identity that’s separate from the Fury system. One of the neat examples of this that I saw suggested (big thanks to Anthony Shaw!) was to use the pre-existing Imprint system to represent Animi, which is an absolutely cracking idea which I wish that I’d thought of and suggested at the time, because it preserves at least one unique aspect of Warbeasts. Give them a variable cost that you either specify with Imprint[X] (where X is cost), or in the text, so that something like Rush still costs two Fury, for example. This preserves the idea of taking Animi off Warlock spell lists, meaning that you only have to balance them around what’s on their card, not a zillion random spells. It also maybe lets you bring back some defensive Animi that weren’t really okay when a Warlock could spam them, but would be much better balanced if spamming them required spamming a given Warbeast (looking at you, Tenacity).
However, if the majority of the player base doesn’t want this change, I can understand why. The huge amount of work that this would require, with the constraint that all other systems would be merged into the Focus system, could easily result in a multitude of balance issues. Furthermore, a lot of people seem to like the risk/reward dynamic that Fury has, making it a pretty good way to add a different flavour to a lot of factions at once. As much as I supposedly favour simplicity (I’m not 100% sure I do in practice, but we’ll get to that next article, when I revisit Power Attacks), I’ve probably went too far here – frankly, it’s not necessary for a lot of the changes that I would want in order to simplify things. Like, the game can still be rebranded as Warmachine. We can still change Animi to work like Imprints. We can still have a defined ‘battlegroup’ keyword so that we don’t need seventy different versions of our spells to cover all the things that they can work on. In this case, we can still achieve a fair bit of simplification, while preserving something that the community clearly loves. As such, this is going to be one of the proposals that I just outright scrap, because here at KnightsMachine, we respect the will of the people.
My rules writing is very clear
Secondly, I’d like to come to something that I actually missed off the initial article, but was pointed out in the Facebook comments (thanks, Justin Juan!). I can’t believe that as a Retrtibution of Scyrah player of some years, I forgot to say something about ROF D3 as a rule on cards (and all the other associated variants like D3+1 etc). I’m absolutely convinced that, as stands, there isn’t really a reason to keep this in the game in its current form. I absolutely cannot take credit for the suggestion to at the very least roll the D3s in the Maintenance Phase, allowing you to plan your turn accordingly – I’ve seen it proposed more times than I can count, and it offers a good middle ground compromise between the various available options. However, I’m much more a fan of just scrapping the concept of D3 rolls in general, so I’m going to briefly sidetrack into talking about this, because it’s my article and I can do what I want.
So one of the best things about WM/H from my perspective is that the randomness of the dice system exists on a bell curve, and that it can be addressed by certain models with the boosting mechanic. Like, I cannot stress enough what a fundamentally good system this is in terms of creating player agency, and in helping players develop their own ideas of risk assessment during games. Now, a roll of a D6 or D3 isn’t fundamentally different from a roll of 2D6 or 3D6, in that achieving at least X result still exists on a scale of probabilities, but the difference is that it’s not a bell curve; there’s no tendency towards an ‘average’ outcome. The more D6s and D3s you roll across an army, the more that they’re going to tend towards average, but given that it’s a roll that’s completely outside of player control on both sides, the tendency to see it as random and annoying is one that you usually get to see fairly often at game nights. Sometimes, that Dawnguard Trident just rolls 9 shots, and your army explodes. Sometimes, all those Field Mechanics roll a 1 on their Repair, and your big Colossal just does nothing for a turn. And, like, again, these are still dice rolls in the context of a system that works entirely off dice rolls. However, I’m picking on them specifically, because they don’t use our excellent system, and fundamentally they create a bit of a problem when costing these models – do you cost them according to their upper limit of output, or their lower limit? There’s a ton of other factors that go into model costing, don’t get me wrong, but it just feels like an added level of difficulty in deciding whether to peg things at certain levels. Finally, on the board, it just feels like a tax on my time just to activate these models – like, for a Dawnguard Trident to activate, I move it, I roll a D3 for my power tokens, I roll 3 more D3s for my shots, and then finally I get to BRRRRRRT at things. Just make all the things that have to roll for this amount roll the median outcome, and test accordingly, job done. Finally, the feelsbad moments where the Seraph has to get involved and then immediately rolls one shot will be no more!
Next up on the list are AAT and CMD, which I talked about in the previous article. Honestly, I’m not sure what I was thinking with moving CMD to the back of the card. That one was just a really poor decision, honestly. It serves to highlight an interesting problem that I had when writing the first article, though – I’d come up with something, then realise it was bad or get feedback from the boys that it wasn’t ideal, then instead of being willing to just scrap the idea and move on, I’d try and make it more palatable. Sometimes, you make change for change’s sake, and it turns out bad (we’ll get to a few more of these in the next in this series, rest assured). So consider that suggestion mega-binned. However, I’m going to dig my heels in on the other change here. I went about defending it completely wrong in the first article (restructuring the entire thing a couple hours before publication: Not Even Once; too much good and explanatory stuff got cut), and as such I’m going to have another go here.
First up, there’s a ton of stuff in the game that has no ranged attack, yet has a RAT. I was going to go through and count it up for the purpose of demonstrating my point, but I got bored, so you’ll just have to trust me that it’s Big Numbr. Secondly, it’s worth taking up a bit of extra card space for this, because it simplifies so many things, like the usual discussion of ‘this attack is a Magic Attack, that is also Magical, but this attack from a Magical Weapon is not a Magic Attack’, and having to lay out Magic Attacks as *Attacks on the back of the card. Thirdly, it creates some interesting design space for spell-slinging Warcasters and Warlocks, where you can give them the equivalent of a free cast of an offensive spell every turn. You keep the rest of the offensive spells on their cards as-is, because a free Telekinesis or Befuddle is a bit much, but it’s there for anything that might want it, and could be a nice way to make Obliteration not a waste of card space, idk. This might be a last-minute spitballed rule, but I have a stupendous attraction to the concept of a Warcaster that’s basically just an arcane artillery piece, and will happily write any old Internet Trash to justify making it happen. My personal biases aside, though, I’m fundamentally willing to defend this change through the effort it would take to change the stat card up, because I honestly believe it to be an example of ‘good simplicity’ as opposed to change for change’s sake. If you disagree, I’ll happily talk it over in the comments as always, but tread carefully, for you tread on my magic artillery dreams.
Delete Captain Kara Sloan, don’t @ me
Finally, I’m going to finish with a really cool suggestion from Johan Cea on Facebook, who suggested the following:
For your power attack, why add more? FINISHING MOVE!
The Finishing Move mechanic could allow you a free attack if you hit with your initial attacks. The free attack could have fun properties in flavor with the faction. The free attack could be applying a status effect, a devastating blow that fills out an entire system/ring/life spiral branch), or even a fury dump.
I mentioned earlier that I’m going to come to Power Attacks in the next article, because I made a fair few mistakes that I really want to address in order to get better at doing this sort of thing, and I intend to stick to that. However, for now, it’s enough to say that I really like this idea. One of the suggestions that I saw on Discord, from Tyrone of Blight Bringers fame, was that more specific Power Attacks should just be back-of-card rules, and this meshes pretty well with Johan’s idea here – there’s so much space here to add flavour, and, instead of clogging up the core rules like I was doing, you’re letting Warjacks, Warbeasts, and Horrors do flavourful things, without needing a million miles of text in order to do it. This is a great way of achieving the aim I had set out to fulfil at the time, and while I’m currently not sure whether it would outright replace what I wrote, especially in light of the problem that I mentioned earlier (hopefully I’ll have decided by next time), this would definitely make the cut for me.
And that’s it for now! As stated, this is going to be an ongoing series, because the first article generated a lot of really useful discussion, and I’d like to keep the momentum going on it. Keep suggesting things, and keep commenting on whether you agree or disagree with what I’ve said and why – I really want to be as responsive on this as I can, so the more you all give me to work with the better. Thanks for reading!