Last night’s game has me wondering how well I know the rules in the new Warmachine Mk4 format, how often I’ll have to pull down previous videos on the youtube, and how I’ll shake out as a player this year. I know, it’s all about me, right? There’s more to it than that, since part of this newfound anxiety is brought on by a desire to accurately represent the game, and also to give my fellow players a good, fun time on the table.
This is, after all, a form of entertainment. It’s a hobby. Something we do in our spare time, after work, when we’ve decided it’s time for a little self-indulgence. And while I mostly desire for everyone to have a good time, and be entertained for a few hours, I also have an agenda. I want to bring more variety and life into the game that I play.
With the idea that new terrain would help spice up the game, I spent a few hours on Wednesday gluing together a set of guard towers from Tinker House. I also drafted a set of ladders in Inkscape for cutting on the Glowforge. When I packed my bag that evening, I found my Infernal army left enough room in my bag for both towers, a set of ladders, and one of the chemical vats I made a while back. Eager to try out the new elevation rules, I loaded everything up on Thursday after work, and set off with Dessa to Isle of Games in Tucson, for some toy soldier action.
A 75-point game was agreed upon, Omodamos vs Captain Jeremiah Kraye. We set the table up, and I went second. Both sides of the table were pretty balanced, so I picked the one I was already at, due to my bag facing me. It was a decision driven by laziness, but maybe that was a good thing.
A trencher sniper ran up a ladder, claiming a tower. Another sniper climbed up one of the new ladders onto the chemical vat. The rest of the army ran up-field.
The lamenter and Nicia take to the closest tower. Saxon Orik walked into the cloud and tried to pop the sniper on the catwalk, but missed. Omodamos punished Saxon’s sloppy aim by claiming his soul and summoning a Desolator. He casts Synergy, but probably should have thrown out Locked Horns. That’s a mistake that will be relevant next turn, even though right now it appears as though none of the Cygnaran forces are near enough to land a charge on Omo’s army.
Rather than try to shoot Nicia (who has stealth), or the Lamenter on the tower, the sniper takes a pot shot at the Tormentor. It makes a full advance due to its hyper-aggressive nature. Due to this error in judgement, a single trencher has a line on the Tormentor.
The brave little trencher led a charge, and soon the whole unit was upon the Tormentor. They jabbed it with their tiny bayonets, and in a moment it returned to the void from whence it came. On the other side of the battlefield, the infantry and long gunners fired at the former Saxon Orrik. During it all, two Umbral Guardians appear to block bullets from striking true.
Omodamos sacrifices a nearby cultist. Immediately, the remainder of that unit run into a trench, claiming a strategic location (the circle zone). Nicia pops a shot into one of the trencher infantry that took down the Tormentor, managing to kill two, and send the souls to Omodamos. The wretch moves out of the crowd of Howlers, and Omo turns it into another Tormentor. The infernal master casts locked horns and walks forward. The Lamenter flies down from the tower, tearing into the trenchers below. Valin charges one of the trenchers.
Meanwhile, the Howlers manage to take down infantry nearby, making room for the Desolator. Before the Desolator can move, the cultists heal it. The Desolator takes out a few more trenchers, and removes the budding warcaster commanding the grenadier light warjack. Between the Tormentor, Lamenter and Desolator attacks, Omo has a stack of souls. To prevent any slams or charges, the new Tormentor (formerly a wretch) walks to engage the Centurion heavy warjack.
Turn ends, Infernals leading by 1.
Cygnar pushes back hard, and tries some things to keep the field from falling to the infernal invaders. However, we both forgot a few things. For starters, Kraye moves into a zone, hoping to wrest control from the cultists. However, Kraye cannot contest, so whoops! Unless he can kill off the cultists, it won’t help. He takes one out, and one of the snipers attempts to take down another, but the bullet just hits the trench wall. The warjacks almost take down the Tormentors, and even Hitch tries to get in on the game, charging between the two Centurions.
Unfortunately for Cygnar, the Tormentors managed to stay in the game, and although one of the Howlers got knocked down, most of the infernals remained on the table. Infernals gained another point after clearing up the confusion about Kraye contesting. Infernals lead, 2 to 0.
Omodamos sacrificed another cultist, and used the souls collected last turn to fuel his horrors. The Hermit of Hengehold reads the Word of Ruin. One of the Tormentors becomes unstoppable, and it attacks a Centurion, throwing it into the other Centurion and smashing Hitch. The trencher survives, but not for long. The other Tormentor joins in the fun, wrecking the warjack. The knight charges Hitch, killing him, and moves aside. Omo cleans up the remaining warjack, and the Lamenter takes down the objective.
Howlers finish most of the trenchers in their zone. The Desolator takes down the sniper on the acid vat’s catwalk with a boosted shot, then finishes off the remaining trencher with a spray.
Infernals capture the rectangle, own both circles, and destroyed an objective, for 4 points. Those 4 plus the 2 from earlier makes 6 to 0.
Concerns and Questions
Concern 1: Mixing measurements and LOS methodology
The first concern is how we’re mixing 2d and 3d measuring. Based on rules as written, you draw line of sight from volume. But when determining range, you measure off a base. But do you measure vertically and diagonally for ranged and melee ranges, or just horizontally?
In the following image, the skirmisher is on a structure, or hill, any height greater than 1 inch off the ground, and no model that has a 1-inch melee weapon will be engaging it. But a 2-inch melee weapon can engage it. The Skirmisher can’t hit anything because it only has a 1-inch blade, and the great bear with a blasting fist can’t hit the Skirmisher either. But the Stormblade can hit the Skirmisher.
So, if we measure range horizontally, then what about overlapping bases? Are they within 0 inches? This affects scoring and contesting as well. Could the Lamenter score or contest the rectangle?
In a really old copy of the Primal manual, there is mention of this (mk 2), where an exception exists for melee. The melee would be measured from volume, like LOS.
Okay, but we have one more. What if the Lamenter was shot while it was in the tower? Do I place the shield guarding Umbral Guardian at the same level, and then have it fall after the shot is recorded, or does the Umbral Guardian place below the Lamenter? Do I measure just horizontally, or diagonally between bases?
Concern 2: Steamroller
I’m just going to say how I feel. Steamroller 2022 sucks for anything less than a Mk3 75 point army. This means it sucks for a Mk4 75 point army. The one zone, flag, or whatever, is either unattainable, or undefendable, or both. I suppose the new defenses could help with this, but I’d rather just see a new steamroller document.
Concern 3: Change is hard
It’s going to be an uphill battle getting people to accept new table builds with elevation and either more or fewer terrain elements. It’s going to be an even more difficult struggle to get the Steamroller packet modified. Maybe over the next year, if folks try the narrative or league games, they’ll be more accepting of the new playstyle, and find that those games can be competitive.
After several years of playing this game, I think I understand why the competitive community dislikes the idea of elevation and active terrain elements. They change the game on a grand scale. It’s easy to deploy your army on the clock if you know you only have to worry about terrain after your first turn. It’s easy to find those central pieces to hide a solo behind. It’s not so easy to deal with buildings that you can climb on. It’s hard to handle choke-points, traps, or a battlefield that is trying to kill you just as much as your opponent is.
I liken it to Massive Multiplayer Online Gaming (MMO) with Player vs Player (PvP) combat. When you fight a player in a duel, you want the field to be evenly matched. You don’t want a dragon or group of space pirates wandering in and killing you just as you’re about to deal the final blow to your opponent. You’d feel cheated out of the win, or tempted to blame the loss on the setting.
However, I also look at it from another angle. It’s like the Batman Begins movie where he’s training on the ice. You have to understand your terrain. You have to prepare it, use it, and manipulate your opponent into making bad decisions because of it. That’s a Sun Tzu thing, right?
A most awesome battle
Sun Tzu said: These six are the principles connected with Earth. The general who has attained a responsible post must be careful to study them. We may distinguish six kinds of terrain, to wit:
(1) Ground which can be freely traversed by both sides is called ACCESSIBLE. With regard to ground of this nature, be before the enemy in occupying the raised and sunny spots, and carefully guard your line of supplies.
(2) Ground which can be abandoned but is hard to re-occupy is called ENTANGLING. From a position of this sort, if the enemy is unprepared, you may sally forth and defeat him. But if the enemy is prepared for your coming, and you fail to defeat him, then, return being impossible, disaster will ensue.
(3) When the position is such that neither side will gain by making the first move, it is called TEMPORIZING ground. In a position of this sort, even though the enemy should offer us an attractive bait, it will be advisable not to stir forth, but rather to retreat, thus enticing the enemy in his turn; then, when part of his army has come out, we may deliver our attack with advantage.
(4) With regard to NARROW PASSES, if you can occupy them first, let them be strongly garrisoned and await the advent of the enemy. Should the army forestall you in occupying a pass, do not go after him if the pass is fully garrisoned, but only if it is weakly garrisoned.
(5) With regard to PRECIPITOUS HEIGHTS, if you are beforehand with your adversary, you should occupy the raised and sunny spots, and there wait for him to come up.
(6) If you are situated at a great distance from the enemy, and the strength of the two armies is equal, it is not easy to provoke a battle, and fighting will be to your disadvantage.Sun Tzu, Art of War (more or less)
In our game, we had an example several ground rules. There was lots of accessible terrain, and a few examples of number 5, precipitous heights. There was advantage to be had in the towers. Number 6 was true at the beginning of the game, and Cygnar used their guns to punish the infernals for moving closer to fight. Around the towers, we found number 3, Temporizing Ground. Neither the Tormentor nor the Trencher Infantry was going to gain an advantage by making the first move. The Tormentor was the bait, and the infantry became fuel for Omodamos. A 12 point model for an 8 point unit seems bad, but due to the structure of Omo’s army, it actually played out well.
I really like the layers of strategy that the new terrain brings. My opponent more or less said the same, and so I will return with more the next time I play at the store (in two weeks).
Thanks for reading, and may your dice roll 5’s on tough checks.