The evolution of Warmachine’s development paradigm

All things change. This is the nature of life. As much as the Weaver would like to lock everything in place, they Wyrm is always there to munch away at the underpinnings and the Wyld is feeding chaos and creativity into the void left behind. Warmachine and Hordes Mk III was a massive overhaul of the games as we know them and while for the most part it’s been a good experience in terms of creating a new points scaling system and making for smoother mechanics, some folks have had a less-then-chipper experience due to what has traditionally been one of the most attractive aspects of Privateer Press’ games, balance. The very nature of their release cycle, with each faction constantly under review and new model rules every 12 months or so, along with errata, has meant to that the game has been able to be continually adjusted to allow for excellent game balance, as much as is possible for a game of this scale. Sure, there have always been bad matchups, but it’s not unreasonable to say that every faction had a shot at the top tables in most larger metas, in the hands of a decent player.

The problem is that when we’re talking about the sheer scale of the game at this time, the sheer number of models in each faction, all needing to be balanced against each other – well, it’s a gargantuan (hah!) task, and as per Matt Wilson’s recent Insider blog, somewhere in the shuffle that game balance was left askew, especially with regard to the Skorne.

As a general rule, when there’s a major hiccup that needs to be dealt with I’m less concerned with how it happened, than I am with how we’re going to deal with it moving forward. Pointing blame achieves nothing in terms of actually resolving the issue; planning, revisiting, moving forward is where it’s at, and so Matt’s Insider provided some very interesting fuel for thought as Privateer Press establishes a new design paradigm for future development.

It’s a long read, but some of the major points:

  • All new models will be made available for public field test before release
  • Model rules will no longer be printed in books
    • Instead, books will focus on fluff, themes, and hobby aspect
  • Models will no longer come with cards
    • Instead, updated cards will always be in War Room, free PDFs, or print-to-order cards

The first point addresses the balance issue in that it allows the global community to take a swing at breaking every model release, or to see if there’s a niche adequately being filled. This is to some extent what happened with the MkII Field Test. The scale won’t be the same, and of course the internal playtesters will have primary influence, but with more eyes and hands on every model, the chance of any loopholes being found that could create a negative play experience is all the greater, allowing it to be fixed.

The second and third points are required to implement the results of the first. When the MkIII cards were first released, most of us noticed they had version types on them; this allows for ready updating. With the books no longer being the primary reference source for model rules (which is already the case for many of us), the risk of someone picking up a book and playing with an outdated version of a model is high as new errata are implemented. Given the logistics of printing a book, a model could potentially be errata’d multiple times after a book release, creating confusion for all. Thus, no more model rules in books, and a refocusing of the content.

Backing that up, all cards will be available for free, all day long, all the most recent updates. All you need in an interwebs connection to download them and print them. If you have War Room and you’ve purchased the faction decks, bam, you’re covered. If you actually want hardcopy cards without printing them yourself, you’ll have the option to purchase them once the right producer has been determined. This way everyone always has access to cards with the most up to date version of the rules, which further opens the door for the constant rebalancing of the game that made me prefer it in the first place.

I’m not a competitive player – you all know that – but I am 100% in favour of positive play experiences, and if this is what it takes to allow Privateer to reduce negative play experiences caused by previously unforeseen loopholes and rules abuses,then I’m all for it. The Paradigms, they are a-changing.

Oh, and there was a bunch of model changes too. You can read about them in the Errata doc. Read the FAQ while you’re at it. Trollking Sluggers got a RAT buff and a cost decrease. Giggity.