Insider 12-15-2016

I’m not quite sure how it happened, but somehow it’s already almost time to say goodbye to 2016 and hello to 2017. Crazy.

However, even though this year is fast coming to a close, we still had time for one more installment in our Q&A series. And, because this will mark the last one until after the holidays, our fine Community Team pulled together quite a doozy of a list to try and wrap up the series as much as possible for the year. In fact there’s even a bonus “Lightning Round” wherein I attempt to survive an onslaught of short yes/no questions (or at least that’s what Marketing Manager Jackson sold me when pitching the idea. As you’ll see his idea of yes/no questions doesn’t quite pan out to be so simple).

So without further ado, onwards and upwards!

1. Will the Mercenary, Minion, and Convergence theme forces to be released in No Quarter also contain new models? If so, can we expect those models to follow the same "models will release within three months" guideline?

Those theme forces do not necessarily introduce new models to their Factions. If an issue of NQ does introduce a theme force containing new models, however, then those would follow the same “release within three months” guideline.

2. Where did you feel it went wrong with Mk III Skorne?

I’m sure all the people involved in the Faction’s development would have their own answer to this question. So I’m going to take off my Privateer Press badge for a moment and just give my own personal take on this question, based solely on my personal experiences and reflections.

I think in the case of Skorne we wound up focusing too much on dialing back the problem areas from the end of Mk II. However, I think we became so focused on this goal that we lost sight of making sure that Skorne wasn’t just balanced, but also enjoyable to play. Somewhere along the way we lost sight of Skorne’s identity and what made it stand out from its fellow Factions.

In the end, what we created was balanced overall, but in a way that didn’t have much life in it. When Skorne was compared to its fellows, that last aspect shone through more than anything.*

The larger lesson in all of this, I think, is that while trying to design and test for balance is important, it’s just as important that certain decisions and choices be made that, while they may put some models on the higher end of the power curve, become touchstones of fun and excitement. Watching a Rushed, Enraged, Ignited Bronzeback Titan tear through two enemy heavies in a single turn might put the Bronzeback at the top end, but seeing it all come together brings a certain amount of joy that is vital to any game. After all, if you aren’t having fun, then what is the point of playing?

In the end, the trap is to believe that fun always comes from the most perfectly balanced game possible. But I think this is ultimately untrue. I think balance is important. But just as important is the experience you get from playing with models that evoke character and immersion and that reward clever play. Whether models fall into the low end, high end, or middle of the spectrum, you have to have a little bit of everything in the game in order to create entertaining experiences and develop the kind of dynamic that allows for player skill as well as luck to really shine.

*To clarify, what I mean here when I say "balanced" is that nothing was broken. However, that caused it to be unbalanced because a big part of WARMACHINE and HORDES balance is about those outliers and the fun and flavor they add to the overall experience of the game. Thus, while Skorne was "balanced," it was ultimately un-balanced. Hence why we have dedicated ourselves to acknowledging and addressing them.

3. Grievous Wounds and Sniper Models: Why did you intend for snipers to be able to cripple models so efficiently?

First, we wanted to increase the number of counters to the Tough ability. Making snipers ignore Tough not only gave us another counter, it also made a lot of sense thematically. Even a trollkin can’t regenerate when his head’s blown clean off. Grievous Wounds is another game element that helps to counter Tough, but it also adds a counter to the increase in Repair in WARMACHINE.

Secondly, there’s a question of thematic role and its expression on the tabletop. Snipers by their very nature are supposed to be incredibly lethal and dangerous—especially to single-wound warrior models.

Since this question is a bit open-ended, I’ll go out on a limb and assume the real issue is with Grievous Wounds and its impact on warbeasts and warjacks rather than its effects on multi-wound warrior models or Tough models. If that is the case, then know that for the upcoming errata we did take a hard look at Grievous Wounds. While we didn’t feel that altering the rule itself was warranted at this time, we did decide to add a new rule to Massive for colossals and gargantuans that makes them immune to the effects of Grievous Wounds. We also increased the points cost on Alten Ashley. In the end, the threat posed by Grievous Wounds is good for games, because it pushes players to offer counters and make important tactical decisions when building lists and in play.

4. What’s up with Drago? It feels weird for it to have Poltergeist and be such low defense while potentially exploding.

Well, my first response would be that it doesn’t risk exploding if you are using it with Vladimir and keeping it in Vlad’s control range. In addition, while going from DEF 11 to DEF 13 may not make Drago the nimblest ’jack of them all, that two-point difference is a fairly significant mathematical swing. Suddenly MAT 6 warbeasts and warjacks go from needing 5s to needing 7s to hit Drago, which in turn means that the safe bet is to boost your critical attacks—especially since missing can result in your model being pushed out of range for further attacks. Is this applicable in every situation? No, but it is a valuable piece of Drago’s kit in the right circumstances, when coupled with its favored warcaster. And if you never use it with Vlad, you still have a MAT 7, Berserk, ARM 18, 32-box heavy warjack that has two initial attacks with Critical Amputation at P+S 17 for 14 points. Sure, it might explode, but that’s just a risk you’ll have to be willing to take if you decide to run it in a list without Vlad.

5. Will you fix Spell Slave?

At this point in time we do not believe that Spell Slave needs to be fixed. I’ll infer that this question stems from the discussion of the Skarlock Thrall in my last ask-and-answer Insider. So, if you’d like to know why Spell Slave is the way it is on the Skarlock Thrall, then the answer is that when looking at the Skarlock Thrall—or other models with Spell Slave, although for this discussion I’m just going to focus on the Skarlock—we determined we didn’t want the Skarlock to be an auto-include with every warcaster in Cryx. We also knew we needed to be careful of how focus-efficient warcasters could be with Power Up. Thus, we changed Spell Slave to provide more of a benefit to certain warcasters over others, and we narrowed the focus for its application, to ensure a warcaster still felt the pressure of resource management. Captain Aiakos probably isn’t going to run around with a Skarlock. I’m sure he could find better options for those 4 points. Pirate Queen Skarre, on the other hand, still wants one to make sure she’s constantly swimming in free Ritual Sacrifice focus. The same reasoning can apply to other models with Spell Slave. In the end, we wanted Spell Slave to be an option, not a must-have, and we adjusted it accordingly.

6. Do you acknowledge there is currently a gap between WARMACHINE and HORDES system balance?

No. Are there perhaps match-ups where WARMACHINE has a leg up on HORDES? Very likely. Are there other matches where HORDES has an advantage over WARMACHINE? Also very likely. Does this prove that one game is simply the superior game and that it will always come out on top between equally skilled opponents? I don’t think there is nearly enough data to prove such a point. WARMACHINE certainly received a power up (pun intended) in the new edition. That was one of our big goals. In doing so this certainly swung the pendulum from the fury to the focus mechanic in terms of basic power level. Did it swing it too much? That certainly has been a subject of much debate, and this is an issue we will continue to watch. My current thought on the matter is that the Focus system now is much more forgiving, but just because it allows a player to recover more easily from a streak of bad luck or a misplay doesn’t mean it is the more powerful of the systems. We’ve definitely seen high-level players do well with HORDES against equally matched WARMACHINE players. In the end I don’t think anyone can unequivocally claim that WARMACHINE > HORDES when taking into account all variables, but we have indeed seen a shift in the focus vs. fury power level between the two systems.

7. Is Ossyan’s feat part of the gunline problem?

Well, his feat certainly increases the effectiveness of his army’s ranged attacks, but I don’t think that the feat is any more or less powerful than many other feats out there. Ossyan has certainly been a subject of our errata testing, and where we came down was that it was Deadeye more than anything else that was pushing the Retribution’s ranged game a bit too far over the edge. As such we’ve swapped Deadeye out for Fortune. In our tests since then, Ossyan still does what he wants to do but doesn’t casually shoot the opposing warcaster or warlock off the table with his mage hunter strike force friends.

8. Are Bradigus and/or wolds being looked at? What is his design intention moving forward?

Currently we are not looking at Bradigus. However, we will be adjusting the damage output of the Woldwarden and Woldwyrd up slightly in the upcoming errata.

As for our design intention for Bradigus moving forward, I think it’s the same as it is now. He’s a warlock who focuses on running Circle construct warbeasts per his background in the Faction. As Circle’s construct warbeast options expand, so too will his possibilities. What will those new choices bring to the table? I don’t know, since those elements haven’t been designed yet. But even when they come, I doubt they will change the core of what Bradigus does: run construct warbeasts well.

9. What is the intention, moving forward, to deal with spam lists?

This question assumes that spam lists by definition are a problem or unintended. The fact is that they are part of the nature of the game at the moment. Whether or not someone dislikes seeing multiples of the same model fielded across the table has no bearing on game balance foundationally.

Now, that being said, we will be watching such trends closely and, as always, doing our best to discover possible areas where a model (whether due to its abilities, stats, points, or interactions) is over-performing and thus leading to a situation where it becomes the best option, period. In fact, I just watched a playtest game yesterday where our developer Will Pagani brought Xerxis 2 and 26 Reptile Hounds to stress-test some of the changes we’ve made to both models.

Of course, sometimes items will be missed. We’re not perfect, which is why we will continue to expand our playtesting resources over the coming months (because more testing is always good), and we will remain vigilant and committed to addressing elements that are detrimental to the health of the game—but that doesn’t mean eliminating “spam.” After all, if someone wants to build an all-Feral Warpwolf army, why shouldn’t they be able to do so?

10. Balancing control ’casters: How will they be handled? And how will future control ’casters be tackled?

Control ’casters will be handled like every other model. We’ll put them through the most rigorous testing we can to ensure that they offer interesting and challenging tactical options and gameplay. Now, due to the importance of scenarios, control ’casters certainly pose a unique challenge in balancing, because their own power level can shift based on the design of the current scenarios. Thus, it is critical that we not just look at the balance and testing of the warcasters and warlocks themselves, but also how those models may interact with potential scenarios. It's a two-way process. On the one hand we need to make sure that these types of ’casters are balanced as best as possible in the now, and on the other hand we have to be careful when introducing new baseline scenarios, so that those scenarios don’t suddenly unbalance certain control ’casters.

In the end, though, love them or hate them, control ’casters are good for the health of the game. They provide an important facet to the gameplay experience and give players a way to manipulate battle based not on brute force, but through clever tactical manipulation. The key, of course, is working to make sure that their unique ability to influence the flow of battle stays within the acceptable parameters of the overall power curve of the game. It involves scrutinizing the way this often gives them an advantage both in scenarios and when you need to keep your warcaster alive. Again, this is a task that will be aided as we greatly expand our pool of testing resources in the coming months.

11. What was the reasoning behind reducing medium-based infantry down to 5 wounds for some models and not others (i.e., Warpborn and Man-O-War over Bastions, etc.)?

A decent part of the change came down to thematic reasons. Man-O-War are humans in huge, steam-powered armor. They are, for all intents and purposes, manned light warjacks. Warpborn Skinwalkers are hulking, magically transmogrified humans who tread the fine line between man and warbeast. On the flip side, warriors such as Cataphracts, Bastions, and Champions, while certainly robust and imposing figures, are still just dudes in heavy armor. Now, could it be argued that this is a pretty arbitrary decision? Sure. But part of our development process is about trying to represent the world of WARMACHINE and HORDES on the tabletop, and choices like this are fundamental to achieving that goal.

Of course, once those decisions are made then the real work begins in balancing the model rules around these expressions—something I imagine would make a great topic for another Insider.

12. With all the changes and with new errata being pushed more frequently, do we know what is the requisite for a model to gain Partisan?

First I’d like to address the “new errata being pushed more frequently” part of the question and point out that we’re not increasing the frequency of errata currently from Mk II. Errata documents will still only occur at most twice a year, with rules questions being handled on our rules forums. The only difference is that now, if we feel it necessary, we can address those models or interactions we feel are having a negative impact on the games. The ultimate goal overall, of course, is to reach a point where we only ever need to issue errata that clarifies intent and confusing wording. As mentioned above, we are working on some pretty exciting programs to increase our overall testing bandwidth, which we will be rolling out in the next several months.

As to the other part, I don't know that a model that doesn’t currently have Partisan will ever be likely to gain Partisan through errata unless it originally had it and it was omitted accidentally during the editing or proofing process. By and large, whether a model has Partisan or not is pretty core to the overall model concept. So, sorry to the folks who want Lug to be tagged Rhulic; it’s not very likely to happen.


Alright folks, here it is. THE LIGHTNING ROUND!

13. Will the Indictor be getting a second look?

Not at this time.

14. Will Field Promotion stay the same?

Yes.

15. Is the game now balanced around pairing up two lists to fight against?

Not intrinsically.

16. Are you considering basic rule changes or mainly model-based changes?

Both?

17. Is the Command Stat really necessary to still have in the game?

Yes.

18. Why are half the ADR ’casters limited release?

Because of Hungerford. Battlegroup Warlocks and Warcasters were put on ADR so new players had a launching off point.

19. Will there be a pass looking at improving “useless” spells?

Yes, although what qualifies as “useless” is pretty subjective. So prepare to be disappointed?

20. Are you looking at units hindered by complex/clunky rules?

Yes.

21. Are spells and spell immunities the way they are because of design space?

Everything exists because of #designspace. The space must be created and it must be filled. It’s pretty much a snake eating its own tail.

22. Will Tough be changed?

Not at this time.

23. Is Ravyn going to change?

Not at this time.

24. Is Star-Crossed on the chopping block?

* glances nervously at Wrong Eye’s crazy eye * Not at this time.

25. Can the majority of Factions expect changes to their top/bottom performers?

Sort of. It’s not a karmic scale. Every Faction should expect a small number of changes to a small number of models. Since generalities only seem to lead to consternation, at the time of this writing the most changes outside of Skorne were to Cryx, at 9, and the least to Protectorate at 1.

26. Is there a possibility of re-balancing the cost of Khadoran heavy warjacks?

Yes.

27. Will Constance Blaize and a Morrowan theme be looked at in the errata?

No.

28. Will Circle get expanded options into gunlines?

Through future releases, yes. In the upcoming errata, no.

29. Will models see their classification changed in the errata?

No.

30. Are you looking at Trollbloods, Circle, and Legion?

Yes.

31. Will heavy infantry get a second look, specifically at their number of hit boxes?

We are looking at heavy infantry, but not specifically at their hit boxes.