Monday, July 25, 2011

Five Reasons Warmachine trumps Warhammer 40K...

O.K., some of your are saying "don't go there", some of you are saying" but I like both games" and some of you are saying..."yeah, that's right" as you read the title of this post.  I know game systems have their loyalists, as do the companies that produce them, but I am tired of the beating around the bush and I want to give you five reasons why I believe Privateer Press' Warmachine is a better game than Games Workshop's Warhammer 40K. This post is not directed at Warmachine already know this stuff.  This post is not directed at the GW faithful(though I can't understand this group in all honesty)...I won't change your mind.  This post is directed at two groups:
1. Disenchanted 40K players(I used to be one) considering another system.
2. Would-be wargamers deciding on which game to pursue.

So here are my five top reasons(yes the list could be longer)...
1. Game Rules: Let's cut to the chase...if you are going to play a miniature wargame, a solid ruleset is a must.  Warmachine is known for its easy to learn, yet sophisticated, rules set.  Warhammer 40K is known as a clunky system which invites debate over not just the proper application of the rules as written, but the logic behind them.  Now I could give a plethora of examples but let me pick one of my favorites.  In 40K a unit chooses whether to use a cover save or an armor save(whichever is most advantageous to the defending unit)...this make no sense(wouldn't an armored space marine still benfit from the cover of a crater in addition to his armor?).  In Warmachine the armor and cover are treated separately(through ARM and DEF) so that this is not an issue, and the matter is dealt with more logically.  It's amazing that after FIVE editions and decades of experience GW could still have such a messy, contentious rules system...while in far less time, and just two tries...Privateer Press has a tight, functional, logical model for wargaming. 

2. Entry Cost: Essentially a player can begin Warmachine for approximately $40(give or take) with a BattleBox.  A player can start 40K with a set like Black Reach, but we're talking about $100.  Now a GW loyalist will say "But WM is a skirmish game and 40K is a large scale wargame".   Well that's fine but let's be honest about that scale.  Purchasing Black Reach means you've got a small starting force for only Orks or Space'll need to spend another $100 U.S. to even begin to flesh out that force to competitive standard.  The WM player can easily expand their force in significant ways with a much smaller investment.  Also, the would be WM(and Hordes) player can pick up a battlebox for the faction of their choice to get started...they are not limited to the two in a starter set.  Even with the upcoming WM starter set(which is two factions), PP will continue to offer the battleboxes and warpacks as a more flexible way to enter the hobby.

3. Internet Friendly: Games Workshop seems to hate the internet.  From their own horrible website, their restrictions on image usage, to their shafting of online retailers with highly restrictive policies, they have a great 1986 business model.  Privateer Press seems to embrace this modern medium.  They have forums(visited by their actual employees) which are a great source of knowledge and advice(and an avenue for customer feedback).  GW uses their website as  catalog...and that's about it.  Now there are some really nice "third party" sites out there like Bell of Lost Souls that promote 40K, but the that same site is often visited by Privateer Press employees who comment on articles about their product line(you don't see that from the GW folks).  Here is a great video from that goes into detail on some of GW's ridiculous policies. 

4. Support Materials:  Privateer Press publishes a high quality rulebook and forces(faction) books.  Compare your average WM or Hordes forces book to a 40K codex and you'll see a huge difference in quality...especially in terms of color images and the helpful hobby(painting) section in all the PP supplements.  I remember dropping $20 for a thin, little Tau codex that later looked pathetic next to my Forces of Khador book(I've since sold my off all my 40K stuff). 

5. Release Calendar: This is, to me, the clincher.  Warhammer 40K is currently using their 5th edition rulebook.  Now since the release of this book(two years ago) they have gradually updated their armies with codex releases staggered over time.  Two years later there are still armies that are not up to date with their 'latest' rules system.  I knew someone who had a fairly useless Dark Eldar army that they held on to for a year and then sold off in frustration(the codex was hopelessly outdated for the previous 40K edition)...months later the new Dark Eldar codex came out that made their army competitive.  Now there are rumors of a 40K 6th the ridiculous cycle can start all over again.  I am so thankful I am now fully invested in Warmachine. Within six months Privateer Press published their second edition rules and faction books for all related armies.  Their ambitious release schedule for 2nd edition had the whole game system updated in a short time...while 40K's 5th edition came out well before WM mark II and still all the 40K armies aren't updated all this time later. I could compare the advertisement called "White Dwarf" to the magazine entitled "No Quarter" as an additional illustration of this point...but I think I'd be beating a dead horse. 

So what happens from here?  Well, I expect that Privateer Press will continue to increase their market share and a lot of people will make the switch from 40K to, quite frankly, the better game.  Now if you love the lore or the minis of the 40K universe then go about your business(and clunky rules) so you can enjoy the fantasy world of your choice.  However, if you are disenchanted by that game, or deciding which one to pursue, please consider the above.  I fall in the former group...although technically historical wargaming was my entry into the miniature wargaming hobby, 40K baptized me in fantasy(scifi) wargaming.  However, between the awkward rules, feeling I was being overcharged for product and the problems with the calendar for release of support materials, I looked for a better game...Warmachine was that better game.  In a way I'd like to thank GW for driving me away...because you really drove me to seek out a better experience. 

If you are interested, here is a video where I described my switch over a year ago...
Iron Kingdoms at War: Superior Ruleset


  1. I still love 40k, though it is plagued by many problems as you have stated. Warmachine is truly a great game. Everything you said is spot on! Pretty much my sole complaint with warmachine is the fluff is not as interesting or engaging as 40k. Don't get me wrong, I love the look and feel of warmachine. I just don't care about the history of the world or how it got that way, as opposed to how, I can never get enough hearing about primarchs and the horus heresy, etc. Great article.

  2. Good points, and I pretty much agree that Warmachine/Hordes is the superior system. I still have my 40k stuff, mainly because it is almost like a default start of gaming - if I go somewhere, I know that I can find a game of 40k, while Warmachine is still a little more hit or miss. That said, I can't remember the last new thing I bought from GW, but I pick up at least a new solo or caster every couple of weeks from PP.

  3. I agree with you.

    Not saying that I don't love my new Dark Eldar models anymore (after all I waited 10 years for them), but my incentive to assemble them right now is quite limited.

    I'm not happy with everything PP does (for example the prices for Bane Thralls is a bit gross), but I prefer their release schedule and tighter rule set. They may not be cheaper than GW with their new releases on a 1:1 base, but you need less miniatures and the system scales "a bit" better with small point sizes (playing 500pt 40k battles is quite nuts with the core rules). Not to mention that GW has the habit to turn half of your army into showcase models that collect dust with a new codex.

    Sure, you don't get large battles with WM/H (which is one of the arguments against PP around here), but I think that argument is only vital if you are set on playing a pseudo-SciFi game. If you really want larger battles historical gaming beats both PP and GW hands down, not to mention the price you pay for a ~50models box.

    So for me 40k is on a hiatus right now. I'm not going to sell my stuff like some people have done after the "Finecast" disaster, but I'm not buying anymore new stuff either. And I surely won't assemble and paint them until I finished both my WM Cryx army and my two small Dystopian Wars fleets.

  4. For the record, I play Warmahordes, have done for five years, and haven't successfully engaged with 40K for two.

    1. Warmahordes is hardly clunk-free. The rules are clean, but they are pedantically written and elaborate and, while they do have an answer for damn near everything, that answer will often need more flicking back and forth, more reading comprehension and more parsing of multiple, interacting texts. It's solid and logical but it's not easy to navigate.

    2. The player who buys Black Reach gets a playable game in a box. The player who buys a Warmahordes battlebox gets - well, for comparative purposes, they get either the Orks or the Space Marines, plus the quick start rules. No dice, no tokens, no expanded version of the rules, no terrain, nothing that a newcomer can unbox and play with whoever's to hand. Tom Kirby got the package for new gamers down pat when he put Warhammer in a box. Why do you think PP are copying that model?

    3. GW gives away the rules for its specialist games and has done for some time, so there's a little bit more to their web presence than just a glorified catalogue. Much of the PP "engagement with the community" is chestbeating promotional-copy-by-another-name these days, although I'll give a point to Doug Seacat for his tireless exploration of the Iron Kingdoms and his readiness to discuss tiny, tiny details with anyone who asks him.

    4. Full colour drives up prices. Much of GW's monochrome art is superb. PP's painting sections have been less useful since they became shackled to the Formula P3 paint line and didn't indicate alternatives from other ranges (to be fair, Citadel's have been that way for years).

    5. When are the Man-O-War Bombadiers coming out again? PP's release schedule is a crock - they overextended themselves with Mark II and they were having trouble before then, possibly due to their Workshop-esque everything-in-house approach which lacks the established scale and investment to work smoothly. I admire their principles in not hiring and firing to get things done, but right now new releases are something of a pot luck situation.

    Remember, I'm on your side - but you started out talking about which game was better and rapidly ended up talking about which company was better, and that's something of a pet peeve of mine, especially when one side's getting a free pass.

  5. Great comment, Von. Missing the difference between the game and the company is a trap I often fall into myself. I'm not a fan to 40K or GW, but the comment is well made!

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  7. @von:

    I agree with you that the company critic is a bit one-dimensional and only talks about GW flaws.

    Yes, PP overstretched themselves somehow and after years of 40k wargaming it's a bit disheartening when your local dealer tells you that he can't order eSkarre anywhere and Wayland cancels your order (and refunds you) after 3 weeks of "order pending" status since they can't get the stuff from their supplier. Not to mention that the WG store still lists those models as "highly available".

    So it's not that PP does a flawless job, but I think the "GW does everything right with BR" is a bit one-sided too.

    1. I wouldn't call the BR content balanced at all. neither in points, nor in gaming potential
    2. it only works if you and your friend wants to stick with orks vs SM.
    3. What they gain in terms of "bang for the bucks"/"good starter deal" with BR, they loose when it comes to every other faction around. WM/H has 11 faction, 2 of them included in the upcoming 2player box and 8 out of 11 have a battle group starter deal. Yes, you have those 40k forces but neither offer they a "bang for the buck" comparable to BR, nor do they provide you with the rules you need (neither quickstart rules, nor model stats) and on top of that no 40k army box is a legal force.
    5. There are no 40k quickstart rules out on the web...

    So I'm not really sure if GW has the better "new gamers" model. At least for the future I would hand that advantage to PP.

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  9. Re: the man-o-wars bombadiers comment??!! Yes, Privateer took a couple of years to come out with these guys, and were also delayed in coming out with the Retribution Cav. but lets look at GW's track record on this issue:

    How many units and models have rules in Games Workshop Codexs, but GW never bothers to put out models???!!! I waited YEARS for a plastic eldar wave serpent. How long did it take for them to put out SM drop pods? When are those Thunderwolf cavalry coming out? Every single codex they put out has rules for models they have no intention of ever putting out.

    And another point that hasn't been raised- Privateer still does bit orders, GW doesn't. Even when GW did do bit orders, they selectively refused bit orders to goose sales, forcing their customers to buy an entire new model just to get a few bits. Like when they came out with new rules for Harlequins, everyone wanted to maximize the number of special weapons-per-unit that the rule-set provided for. GW specifically discontinued bit sales for those models because of its popularity. That's a major "F-You" to its customer base.

  10. I appreciate everyone's comments so far, both in agreement and disagreement with my post...I welcome more.