The evolving nature of High Command

Just a quick ponderance today. No pretty pics, just some mental meanderings based on a brief Twitter interaction this morning.

When High Command came out – either the Hordes or Warmachine version, whichever tickles your fancy – it was essentially a boxed board game. You’d pull it out when you had some pals around, spend 30 seconds choosing your warnouns and their divisions and bam! It’s time to get yer High Command on! If you played a fair bit, you had an idea what was in your opponent’s decks – much like my opponents know that somewhere in my Protectorate decks there’s always going to be an Allegiant of the Order of the Fist – and fun was had by all. Oh, sure, there were rules about customizing your divisions, but we had no additional cards to customize with, so they were largely glossed over.

High Command was essentially Dominion, or Smash Up, or any other number of similar card-centric box games.

Then came Big Guns and Savage Guardians.

We grabbed the new Warcasters and Warlocks and embraced their new colour combinations and feats, but the cards they came with were something of a mystery. We could pepper them into the divisions, but the true act of customization was still a little alien, and we only had a very limited number of new cards to squeeze into our divisions. There was some confusion on some fronts, and the hardest thing was trying to work out optimal balance for these new cards. What do we take out to make room for them? Are we leaving enough CMD and WAR in our decks from a resource perspective? Okay, that last one’s still with us, but I look at it as a growing pains moment.

It’s still a box game, but there’s some extra options that we’re not quite sure about. Looking at it like a box game means that we can’t strictly speaking store the divisions customized, since it’ll hamper the pick-up-and-play aspect that we cut our High Command teeth on.

Most recently, we’ve had Into The Breach and Elemental Rage.

At this point, the game has changed.  We’re now at the point where we can essentially gut a division and rebuild it with less than half of the core cards making it into the final cut. Options that weren’t available in terms of playstyle early on are now easily accessible. Menoth knows, the inclusion of Daughters of the Flame and Flameguard Cleansers dramatically changed my win ratios, the Ravagore is as bonkers in the card game as it is on the tabletop, and the Trollkin have an assortment of Elemental options to fuel the Earthborn.

And all of this is before we consider the addition of Epic Warcasters, Epic Warlocks, and character cards with the April and May releases, Heroes & Legends and Immortal Tales.

Thinking of High Command as a box game or card-centric board game no longer works. The game started that way, sure, but now it’s at a point where it’s evolved into something more. Now it’s a Living Card Game – an LCG. Much like Netrunner (my favourite non-PP card game), you pick it up and it comes with a core set that gives you everything you want for a handful of factions, and then every couple of months since release there’s been an expansion to go with your core set, alternating between Warmachine and Hordes. Each expansion gives you a handful of cards for each of the factions from the pertinent core set, and your games can change accordingly.

Now I find myself sitting down at the kitchen table with a box open in front of me and rather than thinking “Hey, I’ll take High Command with me to X”, I think “I’ma build me a Protectorate deck and take it to X to play against the decks other players have pre-prepared”

At its heart, High Command is still that Pick-Up-And-Play game that first caught my eye, but with more and more options becoming available with each expansion, it’s turned into so much more… The game has definitively changed its classification from box game to LCG.

And to think, it’s not that long before we kick up the paradigm with the Invasion of Sul and Castle of the Keys campaign expansions.

It’s not a bad time to be a cardflopping Warmahordeser.