Insider 1-04-2011

The earliest development work on the battle engines did not start a year ago; it began over seven years ago. The concept behind the Khadoran Gun Carriage has been around longer than the game of HORDES (much like the concept behind HORDES was around long before it became a reality). In early 2010, these mammoth models entered the playtest process, and that’s where my part of this story begins.

Some models just click from early on, but there are also plenty of models that follow a more adventurous path through the development and playtesting process. For example, most warcasters and warlocks present unique challenges and are worthy of blog entries of their own. The battle engines, too, definitely fall into the category of models that chose to take the path of blood, sweat, and tears rather than the freeway. Each one of these models went through numerous revisions before reaching its final rules.

The battle engines truly provided a unique challenge. A 120 mm base alone guarantees a big difference in how the model plays. It cannot move through formations of troopers easily, even if they’re fairly spread out. Charge lanes need to be massive or the battle engine will contact another model and fail the charge. Simply getting from place to place requires some adjustments to the very concept of “how to play WARMACHINE.”

Now add in the battle engines’ unique position within the setting. A battle engine takes up more space than a warjack, but a horse-drawn gun carriage is not as rare or powerful as the Behemoth. Creating battle engines that complement warjacks and warriors but do not overshadow either of them was quite a challenge.

The very first issue to rear its head in the development process was in the model type itself. Battle engines began as a sub-category of solos rather than their own model type. It quickly became clear there was no efficient way to patch an existing model type to work with these huge-based creations. Thus, the battle engine model type was born. As non-warrior, non-warjack models, the battle engines had a relatively blank slate with regard to model interactions. With that issue resolved and with some rough global rules about battle engines in hand, we were ready to begin playtesting.

In the earliest playtest rules for battle engines, a tactical tendency quickly emerged. Players would frequently devise ways to shut down a battle engine’s offense as efficiently as possible and then work around it. Even without smashing through the engine’s armor, a few Reach models in the right positions had the potential to mitigate a battle engine’s threat. This quickly changed as battle engines gained abilities like Gunfighter or the new Weapon Platform rules that allowed them to operate effectively even when surrounded by enemies.

The next hurdle was that early incarnations of the battle engines had too many support abilities, often far-reaching in their effects. During one round of playtesting, some playtest games revolved around the battle engine more than the warcaster. This was certainly not the desired effect, and each support ability was carefully reassessed when the offending ability was removed. Some were tweaked and others were replaced with abilities for the battle engines rather than the army.

All said and done, I think we wound up with a solid balance of where a battle engine fits within its army. They are powerful models, to be sure, and many still boast some sort of battlefield impact beyond raw damage output. On the other hand, they do not overshadow the core of the army: the battlegroup.

With this in mind I present the second battle engine of the week, the diabolical Wraith Engine!

Think BIG,