Gaming, Review

Thoughts on Warmahordes Mark III

I had the full intention of reviewing the four casters I set as my season 4 active duty roster but after spending six months figuring out the new pace and structure of the game, I figure I should share my thoughts on the state of the game as I see them. I’m a Cygnar player and I play at a semi-competitive level. All my opinions are seen through that lens.

The Jack/Beast Meta

Warmahordes iconic image has always been around big stompy monsters and big stompy robots. I’m glad to see they are front and center now. The addition of more jack/beast points, the Power Up and Spirit Bond rules, and generally making jacks/beasts more efficient has made the game more focused on the iconic aspect of the game.¬† I agree with this change wholeheartedly. The game had become so infantry heavy, especially medium based multi wound infantry, to the point that jacks and beasts were just filler.

There are downsides to the new jack/beast focus. Infantry becomes less common so infantry to counter infantry becomes less useful. As a Cygnar player I find my pow 10 infantry staying in the foam as I build a list. No need to take a counter to a non-existent threat or a threat that is easily countered by the jacks I’m already going to take. Single wound low damage infantry has almost no place competitively.

Ability Overkill

A lot of abilities either became more prevalent or very scarce. Tough showed up on many units. This gives units more survivability. Or it would have if Grievous Wounds and similar abilities hadn’t become so prevalent along with the change to Tough. It is almost as if those don’t have Tough at all. On the other side, Stealth became less naturally common but so did much of the anti stealth abilities. Since stealth is still available as a spell and some units retained stealth, anti stealth abilities value inflated making the solos and caster that can see stealth models a “must take.”

Journeymen League

With the release of Mark III the new Journeyman League rules dropped. These rule immediately confused me. I was fine with no alternate battle boxes. It is a new release so it might be a little while before alternate battle boxes are finalized. The weird point scaling? Strict army lists? Best painted? Best sport? I thought Journeymen Leagues were to get new players into the game and teach them not for experienced players to just crush the new players. If Privateer Press was trying to write rules to introduce new players into the system, they utterly failed.

The army restriction rule is especially egregious for favoring the experienced players. Someone who has been playing Mark II and has an understanding of the synergies can easily plan out a list all the way to 75 points. A new player has no idea if their new unit, solo, or warcaster works with their list or even if it is something they’d like to play. Then telling them they are stuck with their choice for the rest of the league. Restricting the list building puts new players on the back foot and doesn’t allow them to adapt.

The rule would work well for a slow growth league aimed at more experienced players. Add a few alternate battle boxes fix the point scaling and you’d have a great start to a league.

The Skorne Issue

I think this is probably the most telling problem from Mark III release. We had a few rules with unclear wording and some models with broken abilities. That is expected from any major release. Some things won’t be caught before they hit a wider audience. The fact that an entire faction need a major rework speaks volumes on the rush that Mark III was released. Internally Privateer Press might felt they were ready for the release but externally, form the point of view a customer and a player, it felt rushed, poorly tested, and released too early.

*mic drop*

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Gaming, Review

Cygnar Active Duty Roster – Season 3

Cue Joan Jett because this season of casters is all about reputation. I can’t count the number of times my opponents saw my selection of casters and audibly groaned. Even people who have played against me dozen of times showed signs of worry despite my reputation of bad dice and goofy list builds.

Captain Victoria Haley aka Haley1 aka Ms. Feats-Every-Round

Haley doesn’t have the same universal hate that her epic version does but melee focused armies know the pain of slowly advancing into her wall of gun fire.When they can’t run or charge every turn it can seem your opponent’s army will never reach Haley’s lines.

Haley1 is a solid caster. She makes Cygnar’s accurate firepower even more so and keeps her enemies from advancing as fast as they like. Her only drawback is she can be pigeon holed into casting temporal barrier every turn. Which is sad because her spell list makes her a great support caster. The range of option gives her flexible¬†of how to build and play her lists but temporary barrier is powerful enough and expensive enough to overshadow those options in most cases.

Her feat is great for the alpha strike to maximizing damage output but in the competitive environment it can also eat a lot of your clock time if you are not careful.

I really enjoyed playing Haley throughout the season. My favorite list was a Oceans like list; including a Stormwall, a Lancer (or Thorn), Black 13th and a handful of Mercenary solos.

Lord Commander Stryker aka Stryker2 aka The Butcher of Cygnar

Stryker got buff, a bigger sword, and new bad attitude. If they gave him a leather jacket and a pair of shades it would have been fitting. His new found threat is deadly enough no caster really wants to stand toe to toe with him. Except maybe Zoktavir. Stryker can eat a colossal on his own; slice down two heavies, or one shot most casters. All because of his signature ability Overload.

Stryker2 is a missile on two legs (and the husk of a Protectorate jack). His ability to support his army has drastically changed from his original version. While sitting in the back waiting for an opening to assassinate their caster, he can rebuke a few enemy units or buff the unit armor against shooting and magic. His army and him take turns playing delivery method for each other. They Stryker finishes the job.

With the kind of power Stryker wields there will always be risks. In a handful of games, I’ve had Stryker kill himself with Overload. Which can be sad when you were winning and I was just being greedy but totally worth it when I was losing and Stryker – capital m – Murders the opponent’s caster.

I like taking Stryker with Ol’Rowdy and a ton of Storm Nouns. Plus a few lane clearing pieces like Black 13th or Arcane Tempest Gun Mage Pistoleers.

Captain Allister Caine aka Caine2 aka The Gate Crasher

With a non-linear threat and the power to kills most casters and heavies. Enemy casters hiding as players play cagey to not accidentally open an unseen assassination vector. Caine is a killer and everyone knows it.

Like I talked about previously, I originally didn’t like the Caine’s play style but after getting some quality time with his prime iteration I’ve become a fan. Unlike Caine1, Caine2 is more about himself and the epic threat he provides. With virtual no support for his army they must survive on their own merits and support each other.

As Caine is a ranged assassination caster my lists included models that helped clear up line of sight issues. Taryn di la Rovissi, Eiryss, and Rangers were a main stay. Gun Mages and an Avenger became very useful a few games.

Artificer General Nemo aka Nemo3 aka Sparky-sparky-boom-man

Out of all the casters listed here, Nemo3 has very little reputation. Most people I throw him at have little or no idea what he is capable. Those that do underestimate his potential threat and put themselves out there for a striking revelation.

Sparky sparky boom man, like his predecessors, is all about the lightning and warjacks. Nemo and Caitlyn can tune up a decent size battlegroup with two focus each turn and still upkeep and cast. On feat turn he becomes a weird assassination caster. Looking for ways to bounce lightning into a caster putting pow 10 plus 4d6 electrical damage into them.

My Nemo3 lists usually came with a lot of lightning rods, the Stormwall being the most reliable one. Stormblades played double duty as serious damage dealers and lightning rods. I played around with Thunderhead and Dynamo but never got them to work well with the rest of the army. Reinholdt was probably the most useful model in any of his lists.

Going forward…

The march to Mark III is also “resetting” the active duty roster. So this is my last ADR review for now but I will be doing Mark III reviews of Cygnar casters as I get some quality time with them.

Gaming, Review

The Witness by Thekla Inc.

I’ve been playing The Witness. A first person puzzle game along similar lines of The Talos Principle. The beautifully stylized island is colorful and engaging. The puzzles, although similar, are challenging and require experimentation and discovery to complete. Thekla use of space, angle, color, and lighting to great effect to create an atmosphere that feels expansive and familiar but still mysterious and magical. The Witness is another great step the in genre of first person puzzle games.

I recommend checking out The Witness to anyone interested in puzzles and environmental design.

Gaming, Review

Boardgame Night – Zombicide Season 3: Rue Morgue

“Helicopter was out of fuel. We made an emergency landing near to a hospital. We thought it might be a good idea to check the place for supplies. But we made a mistake. The morgue was still occupied and the local were restless.”

A friend of mine called for a board game night to play Zombicide. I enjoyed my first run through with the original Zombicide. The Season 3 box looked like it was going to be just as much of a blast.

We quickly pulled together a scenario, picked 8 survivors (2 for each of us), grabbed a few beers, and settled in for a nice long game. The scenario was “simple.” Inside the hospital are two keys hidden among the six objectives. You win by finding the keys and doing one of the following:

  1. lock the hospital doors and clear the remain zombies from the building
  2. book it to the exit

First turn, we busted down the door to the hospital and split up to get objectives or find supplies. Five survivors went in the hospital and three stayed outside to check the tents. No big issues that turn. No one is wounded and we’ve found few weapons and supplies out in the tents. Second turn is where all hell breaks loose. Abomination pops up in my face as I grab the first objective. Crawlers spring from the beds, cutting a pair of survivors off from the group. We lose three people (gaining their zombie counter parts) and almost everyone was wounded before we were able to regroup outside the hospital doors. The rest of game was a slow brutal, attrition as survivor after survivor were whittled away.

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I feel this is the essence of Zombicide. We went in with no plan and split up with no back up and, as is bound to happen, lost the game. We had fun doing it but Zombicide is a cooperative game. Unlike some cooperative games, Zombicide punishes you harshly for not working together all the time. By the time we figured out we weren’t working together enough, it was already too late. We were zombie food.

The game itself is well designed to promote the cooperative play-style and capture the zombie survivor horror feel. The zombies feel terrifying and working together is the only way to combat them. The scenarios are built to be difficult but not impossible. It is a long game but it doesn’t feel like a long game. Even when were stuck just outside the hospital I never felt like we’d been there for two hours of real time that past.

The play suffers from too much upkeep between managing inventory, recording experience, remembering noise, zombie movement and zombie spawning. A lot of stuff gets forgotten or skipped in the heat moment. All that plus looking up the keywords in the rule book (that could be explained in the extra space on survivor cards) can slow the game to a crawl. An enthusiast might want to make basic rule cheat sheets for new players and reference cards for the survivor abilities just to speed up play.

All in all, I like Zombicide. It feels like a mix between Twilight Creations’ Zombies!!! and the dungeon crawl board games. The game pieces are visual interesting. The game can appeal to those who enjoy zombie themes, tactical puzzle solving, or cooperative play.