Warhammer vs War Machine

Posted June 27, 2012 by Stewart D Wallace in Gaming
Stewart talks about why War Machine has taken Warhammer's place in his heart and why you should check it out yourself
I have just blown nine years of dust from a regiment of Skaven clanrat warriors. As I breathe in the memories of marching forth into battle against platoons of armoured man-flesh, the thought strikes me that I have wasted nine years not playing this darkly quaint tabletop wargame.

The recent state of curiosity in which I found myself digging deeper into the cupboard for more shoeboxes of half- and poorly-painted miniatures came about because of the following reason: I have been playing a lot of Magic: the Gathering. It’s cheaper than Warhammer and I get to maintain an expansive set of easily-transportable and inconspicuous decks; to slowly but surely refine those techniques and strategies that leave my opponents writhing in the defeated shadows of envy and malcontent. MtG is also less time-consuming, but perhaps best of all it is easy to teach and learn. This element of the game is its raison d’etre, the engine that drives it forth across generations, sweeping helpless souls into its addictive furnace and spitting out impressed soldiers to carry on the torch. Any game I can teach my wife to play in less than twenty minutes has my vote on ease-of-use.
Magic cards
Stewart’s not unimpressive Magic collection. Photo by Stewie Wallace.
Sadly, MtG is lacking in that it is not a board game. Its rules are basically as stripped-bare as you can get, and form the basis of a sound game mechanic from which many, many other games have taken inspiration. But I want figurines! I want tiny versions of something that looks cool. And I don’t want to have to spend upwards of five hundred dollars and invest in a fortnight’s reading in order to be ready to play my first game. I want a marriage of Magic and Warhammer.

Enter Warmachine, from Privateer Press. Rather than listing the pros and cons of each game, let me explain why I find this particular one so appealing. The primary reason I became interested in Warmachine was my belief that this could be a fantastically low-cost alternative to Warhammer (note: I have never played 40K, so all my experience and references come from the fantasy half of the leviathan of Games Workshop), since you need fewer models for a Warmachine game.
War Machine
War Machine. The perfect marriage of Magic and Warhammer?
Each Warmachine faction has a starter box containing a Warcaster and two to three warjacks, the steam- powered brutes that are central to Warmachine’s gaming mechanics. A starter box will set you back $50 and includes a set of rules designed to get you playing in an abnormally short time. Both games use a points system to lend value to units and leaders, so constructing an army should be familiar. You will want to eventually get the rulebook as well as expanding your army from your base of (about) 300 points which you will obtain from the starter box (one gripe that I refuse to
omit is the frustration I found in ascertaining which codex was the actual ‘rulebook’. For those interested readers, it is called Prime: Mark 2). Here lies the magnificence of Warmachine: you can get started with a smaller investment, but more importantly you really feel like you are in command of the game and in control of your understanding of the rules (in Warhammer I felt like I was always second-guessing myself and my knowledge of the rules).

However, like the majority of tabletop games there is no way of getting around spending more money, but at least there are no codexes (codices?) or army books to buy and you need less figures so again the cost-benefit analysis swings in favour of Warmachine. At the risk of letting this article mutate into a vitriolic spray on Games Workshop, I won’t get into petulant greivances such as the sometimes year-long wait for a revised army book or the switch from pewter models to resin (a cheaper material, yet incidentally coinciding with another price-hike).

Another reason I have to respect Warmachine is the condensed action. You are not playing with odious blocks of thirty goblins or Imperial soldiers; infantry units in Warmachine seldom exceed 5 models. The central facet of Warmachine is the use of “focus points.” Each turn your war caster receives a designated amount of focus, usually tracked by the ubiquitous glass beads that anyone who has played Magic: The Gathering is familiar. Your Warcaster (you, the player) then allocates his focus points to cast spells, boost his defense, or add dice to attacks. Like Warhammer, the combat
system is d6 based; players usually roll 2d6 to both hit and then to damage. The intention is to get to close combat as quickly as possible. This causes Warmachine games to be shorter but more action- oriented as both forces get into melee rather quickly. No more tedious marching across a table while a wood elf player whittles away your black orc bodyguard with bows from 36” away.
Warhammer miniatures
Stewart’s Warhammer armies will always have a special place in his heart.
I will always have a soft spot for my Warhammer armies (I have several thousand points worth of Orcs & Goblins, Skaven and Empire), and you won’t find me far from the latest release of core decks and expansions for MtG (though I have never played competitively), but in the near-future I can see myself spending more and more time invested in Warmachine. Privateer Press are really giving GW a run for their money, and their assistance in running charity tournaments such as the Breast Cancer Brawl is adding feather upon feather to their otherwise stacked cap.

I’ve only begun to scratch the surface of an extraordinarily deep well of discourse on these games. Hopefully this will inspire disenfranchised Warhammer player-collectors to give Privateer Press a white-hot go.

About the Author

Stewart D Wallace