Opinion – Warmachine: Tactics – Finally Done Right?


Sometimes dreams come true.  Like discovering the tabletop system you always wished someone would convert into a video game has collected almost twice its Kickstarter goal.

Having a keen interest in both mecha and strategy gaming, a few years ago I purchased a Protectorate of Menoth starter set for Warmachine, the miniatures tabletop game by Privateer Press.  I converted my den into a workshop and began the process of assembling and painting my newly acquired Warjacks and Warcaster, my mind filled with the battles that would rage on, and the victories I would achieve.  Two weeks later, I sat back, looked with pride at the models I had built with loving care, and gave voice to two words with all the sincerity I could muster: screw this.

Warmachine Tactics (2)

The premise of Warmachine was tailor-made to hook me. Giant semi-autonomous robots (Warjacks), factional warfare, turn-based strategy, swords-and-sorcery meets steampunk environment, with an elaborate world to play in, nuanced army management, and giant robots!!!

But while the game was to my liking, the logistics behind it were not. I am not a man possessed of much patience or steady hands, so the construction of the miniatures – particularly the painting – was a time sink of immense proportions. Then came the matter of inserting myself into the local gaming scene, which would’ve involved drive times likely longer than the games themselves would’ve lasted. So I amused myself with following the development and expansion of the system, ordering the sourcebooks to delve deeper into the canon of Immoren and the Iron Kingdoms, drooling over the awesome artwork of the Warjacks, all the while thinking how much bank could be derived from introducing Warmachine into the digital world. In 2011 the announcement came that Privateer Press had partnered with Whitemoon Dreams to do exactly that.

Warmachine Tactics (4)After the heavens were done parting and the angelic choirs finished singing, I took a look at the trailer shown at the San Diego Comic Con, which showed Warjacks and Warcasters running around in a third-person squad-based action format, not unlike Mass Effect or Dragon Age. After incinerating my monitor and scorching everything else in a ten-foot radius with a compressed blast of incoherent fanboy rage, my thoughts quickly turned to abject bafflement at just what Privateer Press could have been thinking, to take an artfully crafted system they’ve spent years building and tuning, then dumping it into a hack-and-slash format. I could not have been more dismayed than if I had been promised steak, with images of a carefully prepared filet dancing through my mind, then sitting down to dinner to find a lump of salmon on my plate (full disclosure: I detest seafood in almost all forms).

Someone (or likely, several someones) out there must have had thoughts parallel to mine, as the project went dark, with few to no updates for some time. Then, on July 10, 2013 a Kickstarter popped up for Warmachine: Tactics. As could be derived from the “Tactics” portion of the title, this is a game far more faithful to the source material. Turn-based, strategic combat, and did I mention the giant steam-driven death machines? Those too. With an initial funding goal of $550k which was hit about 48 hours after the initial post I must ask (rhetorically): interested much, internets?

Dialing back the scale to a squad-based affair keeps things manageable for folks new to the thick, thick stew that is the interplay between the truly massive number of units in the Warmachine universe. Sorry for any purists out there reading this, no 1000 point lists here… yet.  The gameplay appears to be a classic turn-based affair, with players moving each of their units in accordance with their game plan and the surrounding terrain, and selecting actions according to the now standard wheel. Lather, rinse, repeat, until one side or the other is exceedingly dead. Whether the perished enemy in question is the computer AI or a fellow human will be up to the player, as Warmachine: Tactics will have a single-player campaign as well as multiplayer of both the real-time and asynchronous flavours.

Warmachine Tactics (3)Graphics are difficult to judge at this point, given a promo reel with some in-game clips is really all we have to go off. However, as what I’ve seen thus far is a faithful digital recreation of the miniatures, it’s safe to assume the art department at Privateer Press was in constant contact with Whitemoon Dreams during the initial development stages.

Having just checked the Kickstarter a moment ago, I show the tally at $1.19 million, with less than a week left to go. This has resulted in a slew of stretch goals being met, perhaps the most notable being the four core factions being available from day one. If nothing else, this provides a pretty clear picture that a lot of people are looking forward to this as much as I am, and see the same potential I did years ago. With an ETA of August 2014, we’ve still a long way to go before we get to the finished product, but at the very least, it looks like this ship is finally moving in the right direction, and under full steam!

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  • Duh?

    with so many recent titles that failed to live up to the hype, lets hope they get WMT right!

    My fiend and I had the exact same experience with painting the WM miniatures as you described, but we made our favorite squad lists for all the factions and spent hours discussing strategy of the different warcasters.

    I hope the the final game has widowmakers!

    can’t wait to see the final product, but no way in hell am I going to spend money on prerelease – been burned on that silliness enough times to know better.

    • Dominic Marzolino

      A faithful translation will be a must for Privateer Press to green light release. Seems they weren’t hot on the idea of officially entering the digital space for some time so they’ll be pretty demanding about quality control.

  • Hahboo

    Look up the Warmachine and Hordes module for the Vassal program. That might be exactly what you’re looking for with the tabletop!