From Then to Now – Warmachine Changes this Edition

Last summer, Privateer Press released a new edition of Warmachine and Hordes. They probably rightly judged that this was enough change for the moment, and purposefully planned to give people time to play the new rules, try out all the newly redesigned models, build new and different armies…

They planned for about 6 months of that, with changes starting to hit in December. The changes represent changes not only to the game but to their fundamental business practices. And the changes have been increasing in speed and there have been some pretty big surprises for the community. So I want to try to keep this short and high level for if you don’t play the game, but oh man, there’s been a bunch of stuff. Thoughts!

Army Command Books

The first thing that we knew was coming was that Privateer Press changed how they were going to release new models. In the past, they had released what they called “anthology books,” full of new story pieces and then a few models each for a number of armies. They tended to release fairly even releases across the armies, as well, with everyone getting the same sorts of things in the book (units, warcasters, whatever it was).

It would often take a year or more for all of those models to actually come out once the book was out, so in actual practice people weren’t getting synchronous releases, but it felt that way. The rules existed, at least. They could think about the models.

To try to make the rules releases and the model releases closer together, they decided to change how they release things. The story elements are all coming in novels now. Then they are releasing books based on the individual armies, with them getting new models, and those models coming out in a few month window afterwards.

In practice, this reduces that lag time between the rules existing and the models actually being available for purchase and use. However, it also creates both the feeling of and the actual practice of the armies having an uneven amount of releases.

Somebody has newer toys than someone else.

I was fine with it, what with the first book out being the Trollbloods book… Which also with it came the rules for the first Theme Forces.

Theme Forces

They’ve been racing through on the base Command Books, resetting the basics for the armies and releasing a few new things each – oh, and they’re not similar releases anymore. But coming up this fall, the rest of their new releases and new models will be coming out with Theme Books centered around thematic elements of the armies.

One of the things that stands out about Warmachine and Hordes is the way that there are themes and sub-themes within the various armies, and they create rules for playing a limited options army with perks for following the theme. They’re cool. They’re a fundamental part of how the game works in the minds of Privateer Press, as far as I can tell.

One of the big things they changed with the edition change was that the themes used to be associated individually with each warlock or warcaster in the game – hundreds of them. The majority were cute, perhaps, but not necessarily good. Or just subtle variations on a theme. Now, they’re releasing a handful of themes per army (fewer than that even now), but that are open to a much larger part of the army.

The really good themes in the old edition were played a whole lot, and were generally considered a problem with the game. They tended towards singular list builds. Everyone is holding their breath, since the themes started showing up in December, as to whether a handful of them will once again break the game, or otherwise be just plain better than others. And the related question: is the “right” or “only” way to play the game be to play a theme?

I think the answer they’re going for might actually be “yes,” so, we’ll see how that goes. The first Theme Force book will be Trollbloods, so again, I get to see how it turns out first…

Errata, Errata, Errata… or… Dynamic Update?

There have been quite a few errata at this point. After a bit of rules cleanup shortly after the edition dropped (wording mainly), but then since December there have been quite a few. Balance updates: nerfs, buffs. A lot of things players wanted, although especially with the buffs, not as much as players wanted.

There has been renewed effort to communicate with the community about the changes to the game, as well. For people to ask questions of the designers. To recommend things that need changed.

The most surprising was a “Dynamic Update” that we weren’t warned about in advance – fixing some last items that the community was upset had not been changed in the official errata. And it also sounds like… the official errata, previously something on a 6-month rotation, is a thing of the past. In the future, we’ll have these Dynamic Updates hit.

The thought is, it’s like an app or video game updating. Cleaning up the rules, the balance. It’s a good business model. If done well, it’ll be great for the game.

Community Integrated Development

Along with talk about the errata and the work they put into balance… they also revealed that they are now working on integrating anyone in the community who wants to into the playtesting process. Basically, to continue the video game analogy, it’s like a public test realm, or a beta test. The models and rules will be close to release, and they’ll send the rules and their thoughts on how they’re supposed to work out to the community, and we’ll playtest it.

What’s amusing to me is that this moves back to the realm of getting rules for models far earlier than they release… But they might change, so hey.

This has been met with a lot of cautious optimism. It seems like it could be good. It seems that it makes it harder for us to complain about things. That process began this week, with a whole new army available for playtest!

But we’ll see what happens with the community input. Cautiously optimistic. But also distracting!

The Forums

In preparation for the Community Integrated Development to start this week, they took the Privateer Press forums down for maintenance, to update them and create a spinoff forum for development talk.

Aaaaaaand in doing so they decided not to bring everything back. They especially took down the army-based sub-forums, which was the main place I went on the forums. No more place to go talk to the other Trollbloods players. At least, not officially.

They said that discussion like that are better suited for social media, which is interesting, because that moves the discussion away from them and their sphere. Away from their moderators and rules. I mean, okay, most of them can be found in the Facebook groups, but still…

We didn’t quite get a solid answer on it, either, until it was done and gone.

No More Press Gang

And then, the news after the forums were gone… after we started Community Integrated Development this week… we found out they were ending their volunteer program, the Press Ganger program. I talked about this program with Chad a couple months back.

Chad is our area’s Press Ganger, so this affects him most directly. Press Gangers had a special forum, could talk with each other and got inside information. They organize leagues and events and tournaments. And for doing so, they get points which they can redeem at the Privateer Press store. Okay, so free stuff… in exchange for volunteer work. Seems like a fair trade.

Taking this away impacts the rest of us too, though, because if it removes some of Chad’s motivation for running events and getting us engaged with the game and playing with each other… that takes a lot of wind out of our sails.

They claim they will be working more directly with the game stores and such, but our game store doesn’t do much with the game so that doesn’t help us.

That’s all my local thoughts on this, and I think that all sorts of small communities playing this game around the world are having similar thoughts right now. We’re all hoping that our Press Gangers keep doing what they do, now just out of the goodness of their hearts and the love of the game. To be fair, that’s the majority of the reason they did it before. I think we’ll be fine with Chad here locally.

Still, we’re only a couple of days into this. I guess we’ll see.

Final Thoughts: Coming Soon

Well, so much for short post. It’s been a lot that I have been processing in the recent months, about the game, about the company that is bringing it to us. I think I understand the business reasons that most of these things are happening. Maybe the rest – the most recent things – will make more sense given some time.

But the rate of change has been increasing. They gave us 6 months to ease in, sure, but it’s been a rollercoaster since then.

The next big change we’re seeing down the way is the new Scenario packet, which are randomly chosen before games for what zones and objectives you’re fighting over in your game. They had decided to keep the last set basically unchanged so that it was one less thing changing along with the new rules. Part of the nothing-much-going-on-for-6-months. But now, they’re looking at big changes to that.

In the midst of all of this change, we’re hoping to travel to Privateer Press’s big tournament they put on themselves, Lock and Load, this summer. I just hope between now and then, things remain fun… because in the end, the element that’s true other than that this is a business, is that this is a game.


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