I typically like to experience a game multiple times to absorb the rules and investigate the subtleties before writing a review. This allows me to formulate a reasonable opinion of the game and make recommendations – both here in print, and also face-to-face talking to customers in the store.
That being said, I don’t know this game very well at all.
Don’t get me wrong – I understand the rules of Warmachine, but to try and wrap my mind around the strategic options available to Warmachine players given the wide variety of factions and troops available would be a time consuming process to say the least.
Even though I consider myself a beginning Warmachine player, I still thought it would be a great game to review since it is – well – a great game. So here goes…
First and foremost, I have to make it clear that Warmachine is a miniatures based war game. You – as the player – command forces in the mythical realm of the Iron Kingdom, vying for territory and power over those who stand in your way. These forces are represented by plastic and metal miniatures which you assemble, paint and then play on a table with three dimensional scenery. One part of the game itself is the joy of assembling and painting your own forces to make them unique.
A typical 2-player game plays quick – in under 90 minutes – but this can vary wildly depending on the scenario and the number of forces.
Warmachine is primarily intended as a squad level game – with anywhere from 3 to 30 miniatures on the field for a given side.
In a nutshell, your forces represent a faction in the Iron Kingdom consisting of magic wielding humanoids (Warcasters), individual troops and steam-powered mechanical constructs (Warjacks). Your Warcaster is the ‘king’ in this game – lose him, and your battle is over with your opponent the victor.
Each turn your Warcaster will be allocated a resource known as “focus” – the amount determined by the particular Warcaster being played and denoted on a cool stat card.
This focus can be used directly by the Warcaster to pay for spells and abilities, or it can be apportioned out to your Warjacks enabling them to activate special abilities, extra actions or modify attacks. After allocating focus, each of your units are activated – moving and/or attacking as you see fit. When all of your units have been activated, your turn is over and your opponent then takes their turn.
As is typical for miniatures games, a tape measure is required to measure movement and check distances of ranged attacks. Terrain and objects on the battlefield are handled easily without bogging down the game play. The rule set is understandable without a huge amount of detail and minutia – compromising by putting special rules and exception on units’ stat cards so as to not overwhelm the core rule set. Warmachine appears tailor made for the modern gamer who cannot spend hours playing a single scenario.
Finally, unlike some of the larger scale miniatures games out on the market, a player can easily get started in Warmachine by buying a Battlegroup box consisting of 3-5 miniatures. This will allow you to play numerous matches and determine if miniatures games in general, and Warmachine in particular is worth your time.
It certainly hit a great combination for me – the “closet miniature gamer” in that the small unit count, the easy to learn and unique rule set and the quick games all add up to a perfect fit.
p.s. I would be remiss if I did not quickly mention Warmachine‘s beastly brethren – Hordes. Hordes is a very similar small-unit miniatures game which plays in the same realm as Warmachine. The game mechanics are similar, yet subtly different – enough to make the game experience really unique. Instead of Warcasters, players field Warlocks; instead of Warjacks, Hordes has the Warbeast. Finally, instead of Focus, the Warlocks deal in Fury.
As an added bonus, the rules for both Warmachine and Hordes allow play in either system – so it is not at all uncommon to see Warmachine and Hordes forces battling fiercely on the game table together.