Friday, 7 February 2014

My Cryxmans Let Me Show You Them

I'm going to play Warmachine and you aren't going to stop me. Fuckers I end up playing against might but right now I'm not listening to your well-intentioned warnings.

War-Witch Chlamydia along with her pet warjacks, Tiny Clanger, Small Clanger, Granny Clanger and Cuntdestroyer (the big one).

These little mans were effectively free as I poured a few months worth of loose change into the change machine at Sainsbury's and I had just over thirty quid there and just over thirty quid was the price of the Cryx box at Titan Games Stourbridge so that was that sorted. Also, I had been ruminating on the idea of starting Warma for quite a while now as I don't play any "points values" games and felt that accordingly I was missing out on quite a bit of gaming. You know what I mean, "40K next week, 1850 points" that sort of thing. This is quite easy to arrange - when every game is a special scenario it starts to become too much work to cope with all the time.

(The last game I planned in was a special scenario job - Battletech using the cardboard buildings from Dropzone Commander. One of my 'mechs had the engine fall out. Another overheated on the last turn. It was if I was piloting 1970s Lancias.)

This isn't actually the first time I've looked at Warma and Cryx. Years back I bought the metal starter box, opened it, looked at the number of pieces, closed it, left it on the shelf for six months, swapped it for something else at the club. This version of the warband is the newer plastic/resin aka restic and went together nicely with a bit of superglue even though the Warjack had the largest piece of flash I have ever seen on a wargames model - I seriously contemplated grinding it off the Dremel FFS...

So it was cheap, I needed something to play, wanted a quick-and-dirty paint slapping project and... alright so I'm trying to self-justify it to myself.

Well the rulebook (Warmachine Prime) is nice, it was £18 in softcover and comes with four mini army list sections so you can sit down with your new rulebook, a cup of tea and a couple of Eccles cakes and decide upon what you want to play. This is nice and in considerable contrast to another company that would charge you £45 and give you precisely no army lists.

You might be picking up a slight air of apprehension about this whole thing. It's a new army, painted (I'll say that again shall I - clears throat - painted), a new game to play and there is a whole shop full of players in my old school town. Hooray!

Well, maybe.

The problem I am keen to avoid is this - I really like Magic the Gathering. I particularly like multiplayer Magic the Gathering and the Commander/EDH format is fantastic. But what I really like is Magic the Gathering played against a small group of friends who have actually the same attitude to the game as me.

I do not like MtG when played in the tournament style - optimisation, optimisation, optimisation, the win is all. There is nothing inherently wrong with this and for some people that style of play is enjoyable and why they play. And I can see the attraction of that as an intellectual exercise. I'm not even suggesting that there is something unpleasant about that style of player or it's fans - it's simply not for me. It's not a matter of sportsmanship or being pleasant/unpleasant company so I'm not character assassinising(*) anyone.

When I've played MtG against the tournament crowd, it's been a boring and deathly dull game. In many ways this isn't surprising - the nature of blue cards in that game basically specialises in stopping the opposing player from doing anything. It's tempting to view the mathematically perfect game of MtG (at least from the victors point of view) as one in which you go first and set off a long chaining combo of draws and plays that wins the thing without the other guy getting a single draw. And many people would applaud the cleverness of that even if they were on the receiving end of it. Personally I would regard it as a waste of my Saturday afternoon.

My wargaming is similar. I play the game to push stuff around, roleplay/make believe that I am a great Captain-General/Space Marine Chapter Master/ Fighter Pilot, enjoy the tactile and visual appeal of figures, laugh at some outrageous fortune (good and bad) and see what story unfolds within the game.

I don't regard it as some form of competitive sport that demands self-improvement and study/analysis. I can't help but feel that people who do are missing the point and trying to cram and manipulate a loose-structured game form that requires player co-operation(**) and isn't really about win/loss into a competitive format.

(In fact, going back to MtG for a moment in multi-player games we have seem to have developed, quite without any agreement to do so, a social contract that governs how and why we play. Players who start badly get left alone to allow them to build up something they might want to play with. Sometimes players would be finished off but get rescued by someone else in order to keep them in the game. Players get ganged up upon until it's no longer funny. People wait for amusing or ridiculous combos to come out so they can witness the effects and revel in the chaos rather than strangle them at birth with not-fun blue instants).

Yeah, Warmachine it seems full of this "it's a competitive sport, bring your 'A' game motherfucker it's time for trash talks and I'll rape(***) your army's ass" tiresome bullshit. Curiously I blame Workshop for this. Oh, and Americans. Or perhaps more accurately Workshop seen through the filter of Americans. Leastways tournament playing Americans. Well, some of them perhaps.

I am old enough to remember seeing a sea change in what people entered fantasy gaming to do and it seemed to start around the time that WFB and 40K went over to being a game of equal pointed lists from army books. Blog readers of some years standing might remember that I hold WD105 to be, in retrospect, the tipping point between Oldhammer style and points value style.

Now this isn't one way criticism. If you disagree with me, I'm not simply saying that you're a twat and you play wrong and I won't enjoy playing with you. I'm equally aware that you won't enjoy playing with me. We'd both have unsatisfying games, one where I'm not interested because you're only interested in winning and one where you're not interested but I've no desire to force you to up your game.


If we avoid each other we'll both enjoy ourselves and hopefully I will quite grow to like Warmachine.


(*) Asassinising - this is a perfectly cromulent word that refers to the use of the Assassinate card in MtG.

(**) By which I mean taking actions that aren't particularly "efficient" but help to improve the game or the "realism" (word used loosely) of the "simulation" (this word also used loosely). Quick test - how many times do you or another player say something "well this would be better for me but it's daft, or not what my little mans would do so I'll do this instead"? Probably a good acid test of whether you and I would enjoy gaming together.

(***) Am I the only person in the world who isn't happy about this modern use of the word rape to describe things as trivial as being utterly smashed in a pointless CCG game? I hope not.


  1. (*) - Asassinising is a horrible word. Cromulent, however, is marvellous.

    (**) - My little mans make me play in certain ways, too.

    (***) - You're not the only one.

    Enjoy your warmahording!

  2. Warmachine?

    That's the game with those big arse robots called Warjacks yeah? The one's with upper bodys like steroid monkeys & spindley little legs that look like they could in NO FUCKING WAY support that much weight?

    Yeah, that's the game!


    1. That's fine, I don't recall inviting you over for a game anyway.

    2. Just surprised you'd go in for this system, considering your history of championing the "oldschool" cause.

      But hey, each to their own I guess. Hope you get oodles of enjoyment from it.

    3. Right, 'cause there's never been an ugly blob of an old-school model that looks like it'd topple over in a stiff breeze. Nope. Nuh uh. Never happened.

  3. So I don't know how you feel about 'dead threads', Coop, but since I didn't even know you'd come back to life all of a sudden I'm going to stick my oar in anyway: your qualms about Warmachine are exactly the same as mine and I've been playing the bugger for eight years.

    I do think it's an excellent system for the kitchen-table casual player. If your time is limited and you have no patience for bullshit then flipping back and forth through a five hundred page behemoth to discover which random table will be fucking you over this turn, or whether there's any way out of the editing-induced blue-screen-of-death "so I have to do THIS but THAT says I can't and sure, I could just d6 it, but I can't believe nobody thought of this" booby-trap* might not be all that appealing.

    I've been saying it a lot recently: watertight rules do not forbid narrative, easygoing play. I'd argue that they enable it. When I picked up a Cuntdestroyer of my own* I was highly amused by the game having rules for headlocking, slamming and throwing my mate Dave's Flangemallet* - all the 'cinematic' stuff that I imagine 40K Dreadnoughts doing.

    For good or ill, the game is MOSTLY the province of the tournament folks. It's led to a drive in good rules but a certain... sameyness... in the actual games that get played. You're coming at it in the same spirit as I am though, and if I'm passing through the West Mids again I'd be happy to chuck some Angry Elves at you.

    (Also, I suggest looking into the Iron Kingdoms RPG. Warmachine's rules and range adapted for co-operative play. Could work very well as a co-op skirmish game for scenario fanciers, and since it says 'RPG' on the book you might be able to round up a more similar-minded group of players that way. Just a thought.)

    * - stop it.
    * - I said stop it.
    * - I think the rules call them 'Juggernauts' or something.