Every once in awhile, there’s that shining, glorious moment when you actually finish a project. One of my goals for the Brush Wielders Union for 2021 was to complete a Brawlmachine list, so that I can get my Menite on when we’re all comfortable playing in person again. Don’t ask how the other goals are going right now (expect for the Warcry warband, that one’s done too!). Behold!
I opted to lean in on the Paladin subset with Anson Durst as my warcaster of choice. I had originally planned to include a Champion of the Order of the Wall, but when I finished up the Archon, it was just too pretty not to switch in as a visual centerpiece for the project.
Reading through the Virtual Team Championship wrap-up, one list in particular caught my attention, and those few poor, sad souls who’ve had to face me in a tournament may now why. Mykhailo of the Ukrainian Boars present a team with a heavily skewed “What the heck?!?” list pretty much guaranteed to leave any opponent scratching their bonce in confusion. My love for this sort of list event overrides my general loathing if Cygnarans and their filthy Morrowan puppeteers.
[Jakes 2] Captain Allison Jakes
Field Mechaniks (min)
Morrowan Battle Priest (3)
Field Mechaniks (min)
Morrowan Battle Priest (3)
Field Mechaniks (min)
Morrowan Battle Priest (3)
So that’s 8 warjacks in the list. 7 of them Heavy warjacks with no ranged options, just a pair of clamps (Give ‘em the clamps!). The rest of the list is inconsequential to me, because there are 7 heavy warjacks in the list. Is it an earth-shakingly competitive list? Can it cover all the bases in terms of squaring off against a range of opponents? Does it have any gaping vulnerabilities? WHO CARES! IT HAS 7 HEAVY WARJACKS!
This is the kind of shenanigans that makes playing Warmachine fun for me. I enjoy a good balanced list, the cut-and-thrust of a fair game against a seasoned opponent (but not too seasoned, I’d like to have –some- chance of winning), but show me a fun, thematic list based around a whimsical idea and I’m a happy bloke. In MkII I ran an Amon Ad Raza theme force that spammed the board with Idrians, Allegiants of the Order of the Fist, and warjacks surging forth under Amon’s Mobility. Spud built a list that for lack of a better term equated to the Cygnaran equivalent of Hogwarts marching to war – Siege at the fore and then a horde of Journeyman Warcasters, each with their own warjacks (and custom-sculpted house scarves, but that’s a topic for another day).
Mykhailo’s list is an example of someone having a wacky, left-of-center idea, and deciding to just throw it at the wall and see if it sticks. My experience with the Amon theme is that if you take a concept that everyone’s written off and practice until you’ve figured out how to make the most of it, the loss of competitiveness in the build is at least partially counterbalanced by your opponents not having played any practice games against that kind of list and being caught flatfooted when you start revving up your combos.
Remember, Amon was considered very sub-par in MkII, the Allegiants were considered a waste of points, and the Idrians were considered overpriced. Thing is, Amon’s theme ‘fixed’ the Allegiants by giving them Advance Deploy and allowing them to be fielded in higher numbers. The versatility of the Idrians with Prey both in melee and at range provided flexibility. And Amon? Synergy wasn’t even the point. Mobility was. I played one game against a Legion of Everblight “Flying Circus” list – generally known for being one of the fastest and most mobile lists in the game at the time. My opponent barely left his deployment zone, and not a single opposing model made it into my half of the board.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with building competitive lists, with striving to win, but I encourage you not to ignore the potential of rogueing it, of playing something completely out of left field, and watching your opponent’s brain stutter as they try to recalculate their options in the face of something they haven’t in any way prepared for.
We could start by quoting Meatloaf and talking about flying rodents launching out of the abyss, but the Menite Archon isn’t a bat and Urcaen doesn’t directly equate to Hell, so… Like a flaming manifestation of Law out of the shared afterlife of the Iron Kingdoms, I’ll be soaring across the battlefield burning heretics when the morning comes. Man, that really doesn’t roll of the tongue…
After a hiatus while we upgraded some of the equipment in the Gdaycave (I can now type blog posts at the exact same speed on a computer that’s much faster than my old dinosaur!), we’re happy to be back with the model that kept me busy painting over the last while. You’d think that, as a long time Protectorate of Menoth player, I’d be more comfortable painting flame… but the Archon took it to a new level with its blazing pinions and the conflagration on which it rises, not to mention the adorable little burning head.
While the Menite Archon was one of the first released, it’s no less potent than any of its counterparts. With sword and flail both limned with righteous flame, anything it strikes will soon be rendered naught but ashes. Convenient, since the Archon defends itself with an ashen veil, the burning haze blurring its outline from a distance, and choking opponents in close.
The sword channels the essence of Menoth’s Law, denying those who would use magic to bend reality and dispelling their enchantments. Meanwhile the flail swings wide, threshing everything within range as the flames burn hotter. Divinely inspired, the Archon’s strikes are even more accurate and deadly than you would expect, and woe betide any who harm its charges, vengeance will be swiftly delivered, with righteous fury.
There, I think I managed to sneak in an obscure reference to every rule on its card, except for Grievous Wounds on the flail. No matter how you want to look at it, the Menite Archon is a powerhouse of blazing destruction, and a perfect fit for flame-centric lists, with Fuel For the Flames making all damage rolls for the Fire continuous effect burn at +2 to the roll.
Of course, the Menite Archon recognizes all who venerate the creator, not just those devout citizens of the Protectorate. The adherents of the Old Faith in Khador can welcome the divine manifestation of judgmental third degree burns into their lists as well.
When you come up with a new paint scheme, it can be a challenge finding one that translates nicely across different model types. My old scheme of bright white and mid blues yielded to off-white armor and purple cloth, with blue menofixes as an accent. I wanted to have this model look almost like it had a ceramic feel, baked in the purifying kiln of Menoth’s love. The Archon is the second 50mm base model I’ve painted in the new scheme (the other being Hand of Silence), and by far the largest. Aside from being a shameful reminder of how few Menites I painted last year, it’s also an encouraging step forward as I work on my Brush Wielders Union goals. There’ll be a Brawlmachine list done by the end if the year, by hook or by crook!
I figure I should prime some Paladins next time I’m prepping some models… need to get those Shield Sisters ready for war.
I will freely admit, when I first saw that Black Bella was getting a new model for the Wintertime Wasteland block, I was trepidatious. Not because I was scared of playing against her, not because I was nervous to figure our how to use her in either Riot Quest or Warmachine, but because the Duchess of Dread’s model from the Mayhem block had for some inexplicable reason been a huge mental stumbling block.
I was nervous about painting another Black Bella.
I was wrong.
Stonecold Black Bella was a lot of fun to paint, but we’ll get to that in minute.
In RiotQuest, Stonecold Black Bella os a Rpgue class hero, complete with the Sneak ability to help her get around the board. Given that her earlier incarnation was a Fighter, apparently it’s just too chilly in the Wintertimd Wasteland for her to fence with her dueling blades, so now she’s armed with a Telescoping Whip for melee attacks, and she’s made friends with Frostwing.
The… owl? I wanna say owl… harasses opponents from afar, forcing them to drop their bounty tokens with the Snatchability,
Stonecold Black Bella doesn’t have anywhere near the damage potential of Black Bella, Duchess of Dread, but that doesn’t mean she won’t be impactful. With Frostwing forcing opposing models to scrabble to pick up dropped bounty tokens and the Flankability to help allies, she’ll find room in more than a few rosters.
For Warmachine, Stonecold Black Bella is a mercenary who’ll work for most of the Warmachine factions. Even the Protectorate, despite her filthy Thamarite tendencies (Where’s a scrutator and a wrack when you need one?).
Frostwing is a basic POW12 ranged attack, and the telescoping blade – while still limited to 1″ melee range – is a P+S10 Weapon Master Chain Weapon attack. In and of itself, solid, but not about to one-shot a warcaster. The real value of our avian airborne assault is that while he’s flapping about the target’s head, he’s also picking their pockets for loot tokens, which Bella can then use to boost attack and damage rolls.
Stacking with this, Dual Attack allows Frostwing to attack in melee, ignoring the target-in-melee penalty thanks to Black Penny, looting a token which Bella can then use to boost the attack or damage roll on her Telescoping Blade.
Given that the blade also extends to 4″ reach thanks to Chain Strike, that’s now a 13″ threat range with a boostable MAT7, rolling 4d6 damage with a chain weapon (buh-bye shield bonus), and potential boostable attack and damage on any other targets in melee range since they’ll be targeted by Blood Reaperas well.
This means you can charge Model A, launching Frostwing with a boosted attack roll for a little nibble (and to replace the loot token you just used), swing wildly at your initial charge target, and then potentially boost the attack and damage roll on Model B, who you couldn’t see to charge at the start of the activation.
Having spent a lot of time throwing Mage Hunter Assassins across tables in my Retribution days, it’s a fun thing to do, and Bella can bring it to every Warmachine faction as a mercenary. Granted, she brings it with an active threat to every model in her melee range, be they friend or foe, so she’s less of a Mage Hunter Assassin scalpel, and more of a Stonecold Black Bella blender.
The last piece of the Bella puzzle is Call To Sacrifice. While the Mage Hunter Assassin has Stealth to keep her safe as she runs up the board, Stonecold Black Bella is a target. The solution isn’t cheap, but let’s face it, you’ll get plenty of utility out of a unit of Sea Dogs, especially with a pair of Riflemen and a selection of the other piratical solos that usually come to port with them.
And then there’s painting the model. In hindsight, the job may have been easier if I’d left the telescoping blade off while working on the model, but I’m occasionally a glutton for hobby punishment.
Painting Black Bella, Duchess of Dread, brought my table to a standstill for some time, as I struggled to get the studio scheme white armor down. Changing tack to blue armor was the trick in the end, but I’m pleased to say that Stonecold Black Bella gave me no such headaches.
I tried for the pale armor again, and while it’s not as crisp and neat as I usually like to get my white armor, I’m happy enough with the end results, layering up through light blue/greys to the white. I am absolutely chugged with the rich blue cape, the purple hair, and while Frostwing isn’t pure white as in the art, I’m still pretty darn happy with his flappy self.
Stonecold Black Bella was a challenge, to be sure, but a very satisfying model to work on in the end. Stonecold Black Bella is one of the five heroes in the Riot Quest: Wintertime Wasteland starter box, available through your FLGS and online retailer.
The Archons have been a very popular addition to Warmachine and Hordes for Privateer Press. Is it the idea of divine manifestations soaring across the battlefield, the literal power of deities made tangible form to smite thy foes? The Menite, Morrowan and Thamarite Archons led the charge, only to be followed by the Dhunian, Primal, Blight and the Defiled Archon of the Grymkin. Now the Death Archon has taken flight.
The troublesome ponderance here is, who is the Death Archon beholden to? Each of the other archons is bound to a specific deity or cosmic being. Menoth, Thamar, Everblight, etc – but the Death Archon materialized at the battle of Henge Hold over a pile of corpses, perhaps drawn into being by the massive carnage of a conflict bigger than any the Iron Kingdoms had seen before.
An embodiment of the concept of death itself, perhaps, or a cosmic counterbalance. The Death Archon didn’t appear until the other archons had entered the field. For every action, an equal and opposite reaction. If the gods of Caen were going to make themselves manifest, perhaps the universe has filled the void on the other side of the scales with bone and blades…
Ah, the life of a Kossite. Those city folk w’ their high-falutin’ indoor plumbing, steamjacks and pasteurized milk can go hang, just give me a hand axe, a bolt-action long gun, and an unhealthy preference for furry hats. Yuri the Axe was a legend among Khador’s manhunters long before the Infernals came to claim the souls of mankind, but the events of the Claiming left Yuri a changed man.
No longer was he driven to decapitate Southerners; rather, when the perfidy and corruption of his leaders was unveiled, Yuri’s own soul was similarly laid bare. The Infernals didn’t come for him, but the weight of his own deeds brought him to his knees. He tried to eschew a life of violence, but it was only a matter of time before Greygore Boomhowler crossed his path, a limb was severed, and Yuri once again found himself embroiled in a world of conflict.
Yuri the Hunter is the post-apocalyptic incarnation of Yuri the Axe, but he’s changed from being a frenzied maniac lumberjack to a fur-clad archer. He’s a Gunner class hero for Riot Quest, moving slowly with SPD4 but being able to take a heck of a punch and being lethal at a distance. While his speed may be low, Swift Hunter lets him move an additional 3 spaces when he hits a target with his purloined Tharn Long Bow.
As with all Gunners he has the Aim ability, and the as he closes in for the kill Trapper slows down his targets, giving the burly bowman a degree of board control.
For Warmachine, Yuri is still loyal to the Khadoran crown. The Empress’ court may have been eviscerated, but Yuri is unwavering.
Yuri is no longer a threshing machine, though he’s still a MAT8 Weapon Master with his hunting knife, so his melee threat is not to be ignored. With his having Advance Deploy, Pathfinder, Stealth and Ambush, he’s going to get wherever he needs to be if he really wants to poke you with his Hunting Knife.
His potential with the bow is more interesting, and a little more tricksy. The Tharn Bow is POW14, being shot with Yuri’s RAT8 at a total 18″ threat range, making him a solid threat to errant solos, and a surgical tool for removing single infantry models that are otherwise blocking lines of sight or charge lanes.
Huntermeans that Stealth is the only real protection from his sniping a target off the board, but it’s Arcing Firethat makes the bow shine. You can’t hide behind a barricade thanks to Hunter, but Arcing Fire means you can’t hide behind your friends either, unless you’re snugged right up behind them.
So again, with a high tier RAT, Yuri can plant a shaft in your Attendant Priest or Steelhead Arcanist from 18″ away, potentially angling in from the side of the board and generally being able to avoid any ranged threats himself as he gets into position.
Trapper makes Yuri more of a threat to massed infantry, but only in his immediate vicinity. A 4″ AoE doing POW10 to any living or undead model entering or ending its activation in it will mess up lightly armored models, but the template must be placed in contact with Yuri himself.
This works as a effective deterrent to a charge against light to medium infantry, or can be used more offensively by having Yuri stalk his prey, get in a back arc and then drop the template, forcing them to exit the immediate area – perhaps around an objective or flag?
His being able to put the template down after killing a target with a ranged attack thanks to Cover Tracksmeans the ability’s going to be used more frequently as a freebie than as a Special Action in and of itself, but its utility isn’t to be discounted should the right circumstances arrive.
Much like his Kossite brethren, Yuri’s not going to be a significant threat to heavily armored targets (though don’t discount the potential of a P+S10 + 4d6 Weapon Master charge with that knife), but his ability to get wherever he wants to on the board and then to start cleaning out the opponent’s solos and support models with a degree of impunity means he’ll find a slot in lists accordingly. If a Brawlmachine list can find room for his points, he’ll earn his keep.
Yuri the Hunter is one of the five starting heroes in the Riot Quest: Wintertime Wasteland starter set, available through your FLGS or preferred online retailer.
Being a part of the Brush Wielders Union means putting some thought into planning painting projects. Begone, pure whimsy! You have no place here! Given how Warmachine is so damn near and dear to my heart, and how the True Law guides the faithful to serve Menoth both in this world and the next, is it any surprise, like, to anyone at all, that when I said one of my goals was to paint a Brawlmachine list, that the Protectorate would by high on the list of potential factions? No. of course not. You know better.
What *may* surprise some of you though, is that in my ponderings I put together a list with a grand total of NO Allegiants of the Order of the Fist. Not a kicky monk in sight. I did, however, build a list bearing in mind the Shield Sister alternate Paladin model that was released through Mini-Crate.
Anson Durst, Rock of the Faith
Scourge of Heresy
Champion of the Order of the Wall
Paladin of the Order of the Wall
Initiates of the Order of the Wall
Choir of Menoth (4)
Alright, who can guess the concept?
This works out at a neat little 25 point level for Brawlmachine.
Nice and thematic, a Paladin warcaster with some of his peeps, a couple of jacks and a support unit of choir
It’s all models I already have in the basement at the gdaycave, awaiting paint in the new scheme
The model count isn’t enormous, so it’s not as mentally daunting
For such a low model count there’s a *lot* of wounds in the list.
Very limited anti-infantry. No shooting to speak of and the only AoE’s are on Durst himself.
Everything’s going to need to wade in – delivery in the face of a gunline will potentially be a pain.
The list largely relies on higher ARM; I’m normally a high DEF player
What’s Scourge of Heresy doing in there? Well, frankly, I just really like the model. He’s been a favorite of mine since release, punishing opposing lists for daring to use upkeep spells. Arcane Vortex can be a nasty surprise for spell-focused foes, negating their wizardry as long as there’s FOC to fuel it. The Indictor’s Sacred Ward plays into this concept as well, your enemy not being able to target it with spells -and- if it can get within 6″, Consecration means they won’t be able to cast anything anyway. It’s rather rude on a model that’s lumbering across the battlefield at ARM 25 under Durst’s feat.
The flipside to not having any AoE’s is that the bulk of the army is conversely immune to blast damage as long as the Champion is on the board. Durst, the Paladin and the Initiates will all gain Girded thanks to the Champion. Direct hits will still be a concern, but the Initiates can use Shield Guard to redirect fire and cover the advance of the heavier hitters.
The one thing I will say here is that a big motivator for this little mental listmaking is that for me, Warmachine has always been about putting models on the table that look cool. I don’t care if model X is the most OP borked crazy bananas piece of whatever Privateer’s every released – if the model doesn’t make me squee a little, then sure, it’s a consideration, but it’s not a priority. The fact that Anson Durst, in all his roly-poly tubby armored glory, just happens to be a MAT8 P+S14 Weapon Master is just gravy.
Will this be the final form of the 2021 BWU Brawlmachine painting goal? We’ll see. I’m not quite ready to start this project just yet (I’m partway into another BWU project and have some other models that need painting first) but it’s good to have a launching point for further consideration.
Most think it can be hard to shop for gamer pals, but in truth, it’s not as difficult as it seems. Worried about gifting a model for the wrong faction? Congratulations, you’ve just provided inspiration to for a whole new army! Worried about gifting a duplicate? Truth be told, the percentage of models that can’t be used in multiples is very low, and there’s always the chance to convert a model. What about roleplaying resources? Sure, no-one needs two Dungeon Masters Guides, but there’s always something missing from their library that can be identified with very minimal research. Worst comes to worst, have you -ever- heard a roleplayer say they have too many dice? Today I thought we’d drop some hints for shoppers, or last minute additions to your wishlists
Everyone’s well aware of Games Workshop’s Start Collecting boxes. Almost every faction in Age of Sigmar and Warhammer 40K has a Start Collecting box available. They’re all excellent value, and they pretty much all have kids that can be built with multiple options, so there’s very little fear of duplication.
If you’re looking for something a little more affordable though, that can welcome a new player to miniature gaming? Privateer has you covered.
Warmachine/Hordes starters provide everything you need to gets started, except a table and an opponent. Each has a complete rulebook and a selection of curated models that are suitable for learners, but that will still provide fun play for veterans. Suitable for the Fantasy/Steampunk fan.
Monsterpocalypse starters follow the same philosophy but aimed at those who really enjoyed Godzilla or Pacific Rim. Will you level the city and crush the puny humans, or will you save mankind from monstrous invaders? Either way, you get to slam your opponents into building and stomp their puny tanks. Good times.
If you’re a sci-fi junkie, Warcaster starters are the newest kids on the block but still pack a punch with plenty of pew-pew in a distant galaxy. Player communities are developing and the feedback on this game is positive and an exciting opportunity for someone looking for a dynamic new venture.
Dungeons & Dragons is the biggest name in town, and there’s a world of supplements and resources available. From the Starter Set for someone who’s never played before, to the Players Handbook for someone keen to take their first steps into a campaign, to Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything – the very newest resource for players and DM’s alike.
If you’re looking for a different roleplaying experience, the options are all out there – you could pre-order the Dune RPG for hardcore sci-fi fans, combat nazis and elder things with Achtung! Cthulhu, or sink your teeth into the award-winning Tales From The Loop for fans of Stranger Things.
Not looking to commit to a whole new campaign, but think a one-off would be good times? Steamforged’s Epic Encounters are self-contained adventures that can also be worked into an existing campaign.
Subscription boxes are all the rage nowadays for a variety of industries, and gaming hasn’t been overlooked. Privateer Press offers two different monthly subscription lines – one for Warmachine/Hordes and the other for Legend of the Five Rings – over at Mini-Crate. Dungeon In A Box, RPG Crate and Dungeon Crate all cater to Dungeons & Dragons fans, and there’s even dice subscription services like Libris Arcana.
Additionally you could look into a subscription to D&D Beyond, perhaps a membership in a subscription-based community like the Brush Wielders Union, or even hook them up with a link to a favored author’s Patreon so that they can get sneak peeks at upcoming works.
The worlds inhabited by tabletop gamers can be dizzying and confusing for those on the outside, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be navigated with a little assistance. I wish everyone the best in navigating the coming weeks as we close out 2020. We may be isolating for the good of the community, but that doesn’t mean we can’t find ways to get our hobby on, or to help end encourage the gamers in our lives to do the same.
Everyone celebrates the holiday season differently. From family gatherings with a big meal to taking off for sunnier climes, from going skiing to hitting the beach, from midnight mass to spinning a dreidel, different cultures and difference traditions can make the season marvelous. As we go rapidly approach the holidays under the shadow of a global pandemic the holidays are going to look very different for a lot of families, and many of us are looking for alternative ways to mark the holidays that will allow us to do something special without putting ourselves or those we love at unnecessary risk. Enter: Jolabokaflod.
With thanks to Magnificatz for the graphic, Jolabokaflod is an Icelandic Christmas Eve tradition where you gift books (never a bad thing), and spend your Christmas Eve with a few morsels of chocolate and a new tale. It may not be the most social of traditions, but in an environment where we’re trying to avoid gatherings, this may be the perfect time to start participating in Jolabokaflod. Encouraging people to enjoy the written word is never a bad thing, and who knows what worlds of adventure await you hidden amidst the pages.
With that in mind, some suggestions for your consideration.
Skull Island Expeditions was Privateer Press’ e-book adventure, and while the dedicated site may no longer be available, the tales of the Iron Kingdoms are still available through DriveThruRPG. Whether you’re a fan or Warmachine or Hordes, there are plenty of texts to choose from. Personal favourites include Howard Tayler’s Extraordinary Zoology, Dave Gross’Dark Convergence, Chris A. Jackson’s Watery Graves, Larry Correia’sInto The Storm, and several of the short story anthologies with tales by Doug Seacat, Aeryn Rudel, Orrin Grey, and a host of other authors.
Games Workshop’s Black Library continues to spit out books at a borderline alarming rate, filling the lore of their assorted universes with books, e-books and audiobooks. Whether you’re into Warhammer 40K or Age of Sigmar, Necromunda or Blood Bowl, you may find something of interest. This year they’ve opened up the Warhammer Crime and Warhammer Horror imprints, including the classic Drachenfels, written in the 80’s by Kim Newman – one of the first game-related novels I ever read as a nascent nerd, donchaknow. The Siege of Terra also continues in their cataloguing of the events of the Horus Heresy, the defining conflict of the Warhammer 40K setting.
If you ever ask me for a book recommendation and I don’t reference Sir Terry Pratchett’s Discworld at some point, I may be trying to subtly let you know that I’ve been kidnapped or something. There are 41 canon Discworld novels, written over 32 years. The earliest parody fantasy tropes and literature, while later books satirize elements of present day life and society. Wyrd Sisters, for example, parodies Macbeth , while Monstrous Regiment cocks an eyebrow at war, propoganda, and gender roles. Most recently I rereadUnseen Academicals, which is – on the surface – a tale about the citizen of Ankh Morpork formalizing a soccer (nee football) league, but along the way has something to say about at inclusion vs exclusion, nature vs nurture, the link between ignorance and racism. All in a fantasy setting with a smattering of both Romeo & Juliet and Cinderella. There are so many great books in the series that where to start can be a much bigger question than it would first seem, but there are Reading Order lists out there and I’d be happy to help point anyone in the right direction.
The gift of a book can amazing. It can be from an author you know the recipient loves, or it can be an opportunity to share one of your own favorite authors. If you want to go non-fiction, it can be a stepping stone into a new hobby or field of interest, or even a promise of an activity that you’ll share with the recipient once we’re on the other side of the pandemic, such as with a new RPG book (Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything just released for Dungeons & Dragons), a new sourcebook for tabletop gaming (The Broken Realms event for Age of Sigmar has started with Morathi), or perhaps something to fuel the creative side (Such as Angel Giraldez’s Masterclass). Maybe this year, since many of us can’t gather with our loved ones, the gift of reading may provide some comfort, should we take a tip from Iceland.
When starting out a new faction, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with options. When playing a faction you’ve known and loved for ages, it’s less common but still easy to get overwhelmed with options. One of the best things Privateer Press ever did with Warmachine & Hordes was to introduce the concept of theme forces. In MkII, these allowed you to build thematic armies based around a particular Warcaster or Warlock, limited to model choices that fit with the leading character or a point in their fictional history, but with additional perks and benefits to balance out the loss of competitive versatility.
In MkIII the concept changed to align with the subtypes of each faction, opening up a lot more versatility through Warcaster/Warlock choice. For example, Cygnar’s four in-faction themes are Heavy Metal (Warjacks), Storm Division (Lightning-centric), Sons of the Tempest (Gun Mages) and Gravediggers (Trenchers). Circle Orboros’ themes are Devourer’s Host (Tharn), Bones of Orboros (Wolds), Wild Hunt (Wolf Sworn) and Secret Masters (Druids). These allow players both new and old to make purchases, build their collections, and create lists using models that will thematically work together, helping combat some of the potential analysis paralysis, and you can easily just choose a concept that you really like and build an entire army around it, with the theme benefits actively rewarding you for your choices.
Basically, it’s a winning concept, so it’s no surprise that other companies have their own incarnations.