Insider 12-11-2017

As 2017 comes to a close, so does our first year of Community Integrated Development, and what a year it has been!

We kicked things off with the Grymkin, introducing the world to not only the newest HORDES Faction but also to the CID process. Our inaugural CID cycle was as much a learning experience for us as it was for all of you. Make no mistake: while opening up the playtest process to the community-at-large was a daunting task, it was one that we (all of us, developers and players) tackled with gusto.

Thanks to the feedback from all of you, we saw the Grymkin take hellish shape in some incredibly interesting ways. Dev talks on topics such as the Dread Rots’ corpse collection mechanic and the introduction of all-new Arcana cards helped put the final puzzle pieces together. The end result was a Faction that hit the ground running full-steam. Grymkin are fun to play, engaging to battle against, competitively viable, and provide a unique gameplay experience found nowhere else in WARMACHINE & HORDES.

As the Grymkin CID cycle ended, we were feeling on top of the world, so we did what anyone else does in just such a situation: we tried to take on the world…and we learned a valuable lesson from it. We stacked the Steamroller 2017 CID cycle and the Battle Engine CID cycle basically on top of each other, a mistake in hindsight.

While both of these cycles provided absolutely invaluable feedback—helping us not only drastically increase the effectiveness of every battle engine in the game but also leading to the release of the best Steamroller we’ve ever produced—the strain on both the development team and the community was a bit too much. During these cycles, we began to understand how much time each cycle would need to provide the necessary data and that cycles should not overlap each other if it can be avoided. We know that won’t always be possible in the future, of course, but next time, we’ll be better prepared for how to manage it.

After Steamroller and Battle Engines came our first theme force CID cycle, Cygnar Trenchers. This cycle in particular was exciting because it allowed us to finally show how the future of WARMACHINE & HORDES releases for existing Factions would be tested. Not only would we test the upcoming models for the theme force release, but we would also review any legacy models within that Faction with upcoming changes we wanted to test. (When I say “legacy models,” I’m specifically referring to older models that have been out for some time.)

This led to not one but two awesome dev talks about Captain Jeremiah Kraye that saw the first-ever cavalry warcaster have his rules completely redefined. While we had made significant tweaks to models during the Battle Engine cycle, we had yet to undertake a rework as massive as the Kraye update. To gauge how successful a CID update, we use an online survey, which allows players to rate their happiness with the rule changes and to provide direct feedback without discussing their results on the forums. In regards to the Kraye changes, here are some players’ thoughts from the survey at the end of the cycle:

“I have always loved the concept behind Kraye, and with these changes he seems even closer to the way I envisioned him. I like that he and his battlegroup are super-mobile, but you still have to work to get real value from him.”

“Plays exactly to my playstyle and his fluff. Perfect.”

“I like what was done with Kraye. His spells are now much more useful. No one spell will always be used all the time, but it gives him good versatility. The feat is a nice change, too. Overall, the changes make him much more unique and fun to play.”

The Trencher CID helped solidify just what CID was capable of as we all worked together to tune not just the upcoming new hotness but also older models in need of some love, all of it in one cycle. Kraye is a perfect example of this—we breathed new life into this warcaster, ensuring that he was competitively viable on the tabletop and an overall treat to play with.

Ultimately, this is the goal of CID. We aren’t looking to arbitrarily change rules simply for the sake of change. Our intention is always to utilize CID to release the best rules possible for upcoming models and, as we did with Kraye, positively impact the meta by reviewing key legacy models. Based on the feedback above, it seems we achieved that goal in this specific cycle.

The Northkin cycle utilized the lessons learned from Trenchers, specifically the best practices for introducing both new models and legacy models to testing in the same cycle while making sure neither category sees greater emphasis in testing than the other. While the Trencher CID only touched on a handful of legacy Cygnar models, Trollbloods players saw a significant number of their models receive fantastic updates that opened up a slew of new tactical opportunities on the table. For example, both Borka 2 and Madrak 1 received overhauls that redefined their playstyle. Borka 2 is now the front line monster he was always meant to be, and Madrak 1 is possibly one of the strongest defensive warlocks in Trollbloods (which is saying a lot), thanks to his new feat and his unique spell Even Ground.

The intricate tactical synergies used in Trollbloods armies, such as the various layers of buff-stacking available to their models, meant that testing the Northkin along with a portion of legacy models required we stay on track at all times and squeeze the most feedback out of the time available to us. As many of you have seen with the most recent Trollbloods rules update, I believe we nailed it. However, don’t just take my word for it—here are some of the players’ thoughts from the online survey:

“Borka feels great. He has great options and synergy with the Northkin.”

“I like the addition of Defiant Rage to Borka, it feels like he is better able to survive. Attuned Spirit [Northkin] is nice to allow him to conserve fury while placing animi on his beasts. It feels like he is in a good place, particularly with the additions of Arcane Repeater and Awaken the Stone to alleviate some of the restrictions of the fury 5 warlock.”

“Rök is awesome and doesn't feel over-costed or under-costed. Free upkeeps on him in Northkin theme was great.”

Next up was the 12 Factions of Christmas cycle, and I’m not going to lie: the dev team was braced for this one. We were excited, to be sure, but we knew that cycles involving all of the Factions (such as Steamroller and Battle Engines) get more playtest feedback than single Faction cycles. With so many awesome new models and several updated theme forces, we had no doubt that this cycle was going to be huge and very, very busy.

We were right.

The 12 Factions cycle was a whirlwind of activity, and it took a massive amount of effort on our end to keep things running smoothly. With the model variety in this cycle pulling in so many players, the quantity of feedback we received was staggering.

It wasn’t just the new holiday models we tested, of course. In addition to all of the sweet new holiday releases, we continued our efforts to improve the play experience of legacy models by honing in on models and themes related to one of the Christmas releases. For example, as we introduced the world to the bizarre and terrifying Wold Wight, we also performed an overhaul of nearly every Circle model related to Wolds in some manner. This included updates such as increasing the STR and lowering the cost of the Wold Guardian, reducing the cost of both the Wold Warden and the Wold Watcher, and providing to Blackclad Stoneshapers a new ability called Earth’s Power, which allows them to increase the STR of a friendly Wold by 2 for one turn. Here are some of the players’ thoughts on those changes:

“Change to Stoneshaper makes this model much better. Cost reduction is very welcome. Feels very well situated now.”

“The Warden has been excellent in all my of testing sessions. I believe that its animus may be a tad overcosted at cost 2, but honestly I am perfectly content with its current rule set.”

We learned another important lesson during the 12 Factions cycle: never, EVER say the phrase “X model is very nearly perfect.” Ho boy. During the first week of the 12 Factions cycle, one model that had received a decent (but not insane) amount of feedback was the Protectorate Champion of the Order of the Wall. The feedback received had been positive, and we in the dev team were all happy with the rules, so in an update, Development Assistant Will Pagani used the words, “The Champion of the Order of the Wall is very nearly perfect.” This led to what we believe is roughly the entire population of Earth letting their voices be heard that no, he was not.

Good news, though: we got there in the end and came away with an incredible holiday lineup of new models…Champion of the Order of the Wall included.

From the 12 Factions of Christmas we jumped right into the Blindwater Congregation cycle. As before, we tested new models such as Barnabas, Lord of Blood and the Dracodile while reviewing legacy models such as Jaga-Jaga, the Death Charmer and the Swamp Horror (just in time for it’s super-sweet MiniCrate resculpt!).

This cycle went incredibly well. Every cycle has gone well ultimately, but some just go smoother than others. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why, but the Blindwater cycle was just…pleasant for us internally. Perhaps it was because we had just come off of the busier 12 Factions cycle, and so this felt easier by comparison. Regardless, we didn’t learn any new lessons about the CID process itself during this cycle, and that’s a good thing. Sometimes, it’s great to know that the procedure is working as intended!

Here are some of the players’ thoughts from this cycle:

“Being able to ambush even more models always makes me a happy customer. So far, my opponents leave them alone, especially when I ambush these models [Gatorman Husk] with Bog Trog Ambushers or Hutchuk or both. Because it only has one attack, they are not looking at it as a threat, and because they avoid attacking them, I have gotten right into my opponents back lines easy.”

“Took two rounds of an entire 50-point trencher-themed army throwing almost everything they had at it [Dracodile] before it went down. Despite terrible dice luck, it half-crippled a Hammersmith and blinded Triumph before it was killed. I would rate it as the most satisfying gargantuan experience I've ever had. Both my opponent and I felt that this model was about as accurately portrayed compared to its IKRPG predecessor versions as it could be without becoming ‘too good.’”

Our most recent cycle was Cryx Black Fleet, which, I’m happy to announce, also went incredibly well. The average CID player participation continues to rise each cycle, and the variety of opinions and player discussion is a boon to us. Black Fleet was a very deep cycle in terms of rules tested and reviewed. We introduced new Satyxis models, new living Cryxian models such as the Scharde Pirates and the Black Ogrun Iron Mongers, reviewed the theme forces appropriate to this cycle, and revisited both Deneghra 1 and 2 during this cycle.

Thanks to CID feedback, we were able to test and nail down two distinct flavors of the Black Fleet. The Satyxis models and the theme lend themselves to an incredibly fast army with excellent mobility, flexibility (looking at you, Satyxis Gunslingers), high DEF, and the ability to pack a real punch once delivered into the enemy ranks. The Slaughter Fleet models, composed of Scharde Pirates, Ogrun, and Blighted Trollkin, march to battle with a strong combined arms army and an absolute horde of models. If you want to flood the battlefield with bloodthirsty living minions of Toruk, Slaughter Fleet is definitely worth checking out. Best of all, Skarre 3 works great in either theme force due to her toolbox of spells and abilities. I think the following survey feedback summarized perfectly just how versatile Skarre 3 is going to be:

“Skarre has lots of options but not the list points or the focus to do them all at once, which I think is fine. Reinforcements is awesome. Skarre offers very good output with her guns; however, she has to be careful to not be put into risk range to use them. Dash is very strong in Slaughter Fleet, letting gun units walk out of combat and models move to gang fighter locations along with the obvious bonus of being faster. I didn't use Black Tide, but I would if the moment a model like Gerlak or Kharybdis needed to be faster. Deceleration works very well with the medium high armor of the ogrun and trolls. Draconic Blessing lets Skarre not die to Legion and Menoth guns while offering a strength buff to models like the Marauders, increasing the damage of their melee and ranged options the damage increase for Skarre being a buff also means an arc node isn't needed, and she isn't susceptible to enemy spell denial. Guided Fire is very good for Skarre on feat turn and for ranged ’jacks all the time.”

I feel that both Blindwater and Black Fleet were not so much learning experiences for us in terms of running CID itself but more the application of all the lessons we had learned up to that point.

CID is on break until January, when we get rolling with the Legion Primal Terrors CID, so it’s time to kick back and enjoy some regular games of WARMACHINE & HORDES. You see, one thing we learned across all the cycles is this: CID fatigue can be real in some communities.

We know all of you are as passionate about the game as we are, and it can be very easy to get completely absorbed into each CID cycle—so much so that sometimes people only play CID games and nothing else. If there’s a lesson you can learn from all of this, it’s to take time to enjoy yourself!
Testing can be fun, but it definitely isn’t the end-all-be-all of playing with your models. Have fun with the game as it currently is; constantly playing “in the future” is something that even Haley would have trouble keeping up with.

That said, thank you all for all of your help this year during CID. We sincerely appreciate anyone who has participated, and we look forward to seeing many of you in CID during 2018!