Tag Archives: playtesting

Trollbloods in Theme

With my upcoming appearance on the Trollbloods Scrum, well, I’m thinking a lot about Hordes, and my Trollbloods army. Rather than stop myself and write something else, it seemed like time for one of my occasional Warmachine & Hordes articles. I’ve been thinking about doing these more frequently – “Warmachine Wednesday” has a nice ring to it, since alliteration is all the rage online…

If you’re new to the site because of my appearance on the Scrumcast, welcome! (I remembered to plug the site while I was on the ‘cast, right?). I tweet about the game occasionally @CompGeeksDavid (also my forums handle). And write about it occasionally. And I want to interview my former PG about his experience at Lock & Load, so when we catch some time for that it’ll be part of our podcast, Comparative Opinions (here’s the last time I interviewed him). And you should be able to find all my posts about the game under our Tabletop category (and there’s related tags as well).

For normal readers… yeah, this one may be more of a deep dive than usual. Whereas I often try to talk about the game at a high level, because I’m currently way more into specifics, that’s where I’m going to be writing. I’ve talked about how the game is mainly envisioned now for play in thematic groupings (like the Northkin), and with the Northkin Trolls will now have 4 themes to choose from. So I’m going to go through each of the Warlocks and talk about which theme I think fits them best, and which one is a good secondary, and a few thoughts on each. Like I said, deep dive! Editor’s Warning: Long Post!


A quick breakdown on the 4 themes:

Power of Dhunia: This is the theme based around the Warbeasts in the faction, as well as the various sorcerers and magic users. Troll beasts are quite good, as are troll beast-focused warlocks, and this theme is very popular and good.

Band of Heroes: This is a theme based around the elite, hearty Trollkin infantry. It also allows some of the other excellent melee infantry. It’s basically just a bunch of melee, so any guns you want need to come from beasts or your warlock. It has a distinct advantage in removing destroyed enemy models from play, stopping a whole host of abilities – basically, when they kill you, you’re just dead and gone. Not a bad rule for the elite trolls!

Kriel Company: This is a newer theme, based around the various shooting Trolls. These are not considered super great, but you can bring a bunch of them in the list and it tends to have the largest number of models and attacks you can fit into any one theme. There are several ranged support warlocks, and there’s promises of new models in the works (like the Pyg Lookouts) which will hopefully all focus on support. Because you generally play with two lists, I like this one as a counter-point to a melee force.

Storm of the North: The upcoming Northkin theme force. With the other three highly focused, this list feels like a generalist in comparison. I think it will often have a solid mix of melee and ranged, of warbeasts and infantry and often a battle engine. If the change sticks to make all of the infantry in the list Northkin models, there’s a lot of list building potential here. Several excellent support pieces tie the whole thing together with great buffs. It doesn’t seem overly strong, but it does seem well balanced for a lot of potential.

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Distracted by: the Northkin Theme Force!

Well, get back from vacation, and lo and behold! Time for the new thematic playtest rules for my Trollkin army! It’s the Northkin, who are the drinkers and brawlers. There are already some models out in this style, and they’re some of the ones that Holly especially was most interested in. They just have a lot of character, with their booze and kegs all over, things like that.

And in the concept art we got for the new models (which will all release in several months time, as this is all currently in playtesting), oh man, they just kept going with the flavor on these models. Behold!

First and most obviously, it’s the beer! Their last set of playtesting introduced “structures” to the game, and I had theorized that Trollbloods would get a beer hall. Well, we did, except the beer hall is on wheels and being pulled by armored bears. Because of course it is.

Oh, and on top? That’s a catapult where a Troll jumps down and sends out a barrel of high-proof stuff that makes things burn more. Because this puppy lights things on fire! Because that’s what you need when it’s cold out.

Also, I mean… it’s called the Hooch Hauler.

Speaking of bears… OMG BEARS! These things seem like they are going to be a ton of fun on the table, with lots of strategic play and counter-play. For instance, they can be deployed mid-game (Ambush being the rule for that) and attack. Counter-point, if the Troll Bear Handler is killed, the bears aren’t as effective without him. The bear pelt is such a fun touch!

One of the things I’ve liked the most about the Northkin stuff in general is their flavor, and these little guys have that in spades! A small unit of scouts, these guys look like they’ll be interesting to play. More importantly, it looks like the leader is camouflaged as a snowman. That might just be the best model out there…

And finally, because they’re so important to how the game functions, there’s a new Warlock! Most of the Troll Warlocks are either gunners (either sneaky hunter types, or more straightforward artillery types), or frontline fighters. Oh, or a few do more leading from the back, hanging back and buffing up their army.

So to step totally out of that, Privateer Press has come up with a Winter Witch Troll! I love the owl. I’m excited to see that pose executed on the table, as well. Meanwhile, she has an incredibly counter-intuitive hard-to-envision playstyle that I think is going to be a lot of fun to master on the table, and which is going to force really hard decisions on my opponents! Which means I think a lot of replayability with her.


There were other new models, and some interesting changes to existing ones, but this is some of what I’m excited about. One thing I’m trying to think through is how much of any of this I want to actually buy. Getting Kolgrimma, the new Winter Witch, lets me play in new ways with existing models, so that’s high value! And I think the bears for sure. And the Keg on Wheels… Yeah, okay, new stuff is dangerous, but fun too! I’m glad that this is all coming out later (maybe closer to my birthday and Christmas time?) so I can worry about all that later! For now, to brainstorm on new army lists!

Are we doing more than playtesting?

I mentioned a while back that for the wargame I play, Warmachine & Hordes, they have opened up playtesting to their community. They’re a few cycles in now, and it’s interesting to reflect – especially given how much it’s getting talked about on the podcast circuit. Like normal, I’ll try to talk broadly about the game so you can follow along if you’re interested!


The first thing they put through the testing paces was a whole new faction coming out in July, so that got everyone interested/excited in checking out that many new rules at once, and got everyone playtesting as well on either the side of the new army, or playing against them.

Then, after a short break, they started testing the new scenario & tournaments ruleset, which they change on an annual basis so that they can keep the game changing and shaking up without having to redo the core rules and model rules constantly. Just changing the rules of engagement, so to speak, can do a lot to shake up the game. With this testing, they invited everyone to join in, and to even run tournaments using these playtest rules, so that they could get a large amount of playtest data.

Then (and concurrent with the end of the last test) they put through testing the Battle Engines in the game, which exist in every army. These are the large engines of warrior, so chariots and siege engines and such. So once again, they got everyone theoretically interested and involved, following the rules changes on models in their army, and in other armies as well, and playing test games where maybe both players had a Battle Engine, but maybe just one player did.

Last week, again after a bit of a break, they’ve finally begun what they have billed as the “normal” sort of playtesting cycle. This is the testing for the first of their new Theme Books, so it’s centered around a subset of one single army faction, with a number of new thematic releases, as well as testing for the existing models in that theme. It’s bled over a bit to the rest of the faction on a few things, but they’ve still kept a pretty tight focus on what they want people playtesting/talking about.


However, by this point – and especially if you listen to some of the podcasts – people are beginning to feel exhausted by the playtesting cycle. For the last several, we’ve all been engaged and paying attention, and so I imagine at a whole lot of game stores around the world, people were playing playtest games and not “real” games of Warmachine Hordes.

Many people consider those game night games to be their practice for the few tournaments they get to play in every year; maybe a bigger number locally, and then a lot of people seem to make their way to a convention or three a year and play in bigger tournaments. Stuck in Alaska, that’s a lot harder for us; the people who get to road trip for a weekend to do it obviously have a much easier time of it.


Which brings me to us playing, locally. We really liked the new scenario rules in playing them, and the shift it brought to how the game progressed. However, most of the guys at game night are headed to the big Privateer Press convention in July, Lock & Load, and they found out that they will still be playing the “old” scenario rules there (in fact, it’s the last hurrah for those rules, and the new ones start the Monday after the con). So we played our playtest games, started to wrap our heads around the changes, and we’ve had to try to snap back to the “real rules” and play games so that they can practice before they travel and compete!

And I imagine this is the sort of thing that others are experiencing and feeling. There’s a time and a place for playtesting, but it shouldn’t be at the cost of not playing the core, “real” game. Changes have been coming fast at times in the playtest realm, and so the things you play might not remain at all for future games.

Indeed, the last lingering doubt we all seem to have is that we have not seen any “final” models out of the community playtest yet – the first ones will be out next month. So we’re assuming that this is progressing well, but the proof will be in the “real” rules that come out at the end of it.


Meaning it feels like there is a bit of a backlash against playtesting right now, right as they get into full swing of doing “normal” playtesting. Luckily, it’s a narrower focus with it being just one army involved (and whatever opponents they can rope into playing a playtest game), and by all expectations it’s my army, the Trollbloods, next – but again, still just one army). So we can all take a breather now and play more normal games.

So maybe they just did a bit too much full-community-engagement playtesting right from the get-go. Or maybe it has to do a bit with the old Privateer Press forums going away – so now the interesting forums to go to are the playtest forums.

Maybe it has to do especially for the podcasters with them trying to keep up with the news. The news used to be, hey we saw this art, or they announced this thing coming soon, or oh hey a whole new book is out with tons of legal rules (even though the models wouldn’t be out/legal often for a year or more) to go over. Now, all of those sorts of news items are happening through the playtesting – so trying to give the news and talk through rules, when they then change the following week and you’re about to podcast on them again and go through the minute changes and details… it’s perhaps a little disheartening. The podcasts very quickly seem to have dropped going into details about the changes and playtest model details – but with that, they’ve kind of generally lost the ability to talk about the news in a detailed way.

More than anything, this feels like growing pains. We’ll have a better sense of this all in about a month, when we see final rules after playtest. And then we’ll see if there’s something new to be concerned about!

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.