Yes, I know, two game-related posts in one the same week. I’ll make it up to you on Friday with a guest post from David Farland, featuring: doom and gloom about the publishing world. It’s actually a really fascinating experiment he’s starting, and I’m interested to see how it plays out. If anyone knows enough about publishing to make it work, it’s Dave.
So anyway, remember a few weeks ago when I posted about cutting back on the number of games I buy? That same effing night Howard Tayler invited me over to try Warmachine, a tabletop miniatures game similar to Warhammer and…other tabletop miniatures games. There’s honestly not much sense comparing it to something, because you either know what I’m talking about or you don’t. If you do, good, we’ll get to you in a minute. If you don’t, here’s the basics: you have a bunch of toy soldiers that act as game pieces, and instead of playing on a board you play on a table dressed up to look like a battlefield, stretching anywhere from “pieces of cardboard that say ‘forest’ on them” to “fully-pimped model train-style scenery.” Your soldiers can move a certain number of inches, shoot a certain number of inches, and so on. It’s arguably one of the oldest forms of boardgaming–it’s like Chess without all the layers of abstraction–and I used to be really big into it. As I sit here in my office, not six feet from me are two huge plastic bins full of all the old models and terrain I used to play with all the time; specifically, if you’re interested, Space Wolves, Dark Eldar, and Warhammer Fantasy Dark Elves. I’ve got a lot of stuff. And pretty much the day my oldest child learned to walk, I put it all away and left it. I’ve moved it three times as we’ve changed houses, but I’ve never actually used it. I don’t know what that says about me.
That’s actually the reason I got into HeroClix, which happened to debut right about the same time my daughter’s mobility did. Expensive metal models that I had painstakingly assembled and painted–and the paints that accompanied them–were too dangerous to have lying around where my daughter could break them, but HeroClix models are pliable, pre-painted plastic. Heroclix also had the benefit of using smaller armies and shorter games, which made the time investment much easier for a new father to deal with. In light of all that, it seems kind of weird that now, ten years and four kids later, I’d be getting back into the modelling aspect of the hobby, but what can I say? By the time you have five kids you either know what you’re doing or you’re wanted for murder–five kids are WAY easier than one, because you’re going into it with four kids’ worth of practice. Add in the fact that I’m self-employed in a job I love, so I have more time and less stress and a more established routine over which I have more control, and there you go. I started to feel the tabletop wargaming itch on my book tour last Spring, and Howard dealt the killing blow to my reticence with a quick game in his living room two weeks ago. I bought an army just a few days later and began putting it together.
Warmachine, specifically, is kind of a steampunk skirmish game; you have fewer models than in a Warhammer army, and they have more special powers. It actually plays kind of like Herocix in that sense, but with the focus shifted from action economy to action planning. If that makes any sense. Your team is centered around a warcaster, who channels magic into both spells and warjacks, which are giant, steam-powered robots. You can add in other little units as well, like infantry and cavalry and monsters and so on. Having spent copious amounts of time poring over the different kingdoms and factions, I eventually settled on my first instinct, which was the empire of Khador, a kind of czarist Russian-inspired army full of stern Kommanders and grizzled woodsmen and big, burly warjacks heavily reminiscent of early Soviet tanks. In case you’re curious, my starting army box (the new two-player starter, which I split with my brother) included:
Kommander Sorscha, who can cast some cool freezing spells.
A warjack called a Juggernaught, which is kind of like a walking brick with an axe.
A warjack called a Destroyer, which is like a Juggernaught with a cannon.
A heavy infantry unit called Man-o-War Shocktroopers, who are kind of like men wearing mini-warjack suits. They also have the most ridiculous weapon I’ve ever seen, which is a snub-nosed cannon mounted on the front of a shield. I can suspend my disbelief for steam-powered magic robots, but a shield-mounted cannon aproximately as long as it is wide just makes me laugh and laugh and laugh.
This force I supplemented with a few extra units designed to fill out the “grizzled woodsmen” element of the army:
Widowmakers, a small, mobile unit of expert snipers.
Kossite Woodsmen, a unit of extremely light infantry with almost makeshift weapons, but with the ability to sneak in from any edge of the map and ambush the enemy from behind. They’re the ultimate example of “this is our spooky, inhospitable forest, and we want you out of it.”
Yuri the Axe, a solo character who’s like a Kossite Woodsman amped up on “living alone in the wilderness and fighting bears for food.”
A Wardog, which is just a heavily armored mastiff who tries to murder anyone who gets too close to your warcaster. I got him mostly because he looks like my dog, an English Bulldog named Charlie, and the thought of Charlie tearing up my enemies on the battlefield was too awesome to pass up.
So that’s what I’ve got. I put them all together, added some texture to the bases, and am now slowly priming them in preparation for painting. I also modified the Destroyer model a bit, lengthening the stubby little barrel into something more approaching a traditional tank gun. I’ll probably keep you updated on my progress, including pictures once I have something worth showing.