Monday, 29 August 2011

Happy Eid Mubarak!

IK Daily is taking a 1-2 week's break from articles due to the festive season. Happy Eid Mubarak to all Muslim Warmachine Players around the world!

Do you know any muslim warmachine players in your LGS? How many and where?

Saturday, 20 August 2011

The Great Jack Marshal Debate

JACK Marshall, not Sarah Marshall!
I got into Warmachine with my awesome Khador Battlegroup (classic, not plastic) and playing it was a blast. I quickly got it painted and the feeling of coming back into the tabletop wargame scene is absolutely exhilarating. After a couple games under my belt, my mentor (Wayfarer of Wolf’s Games Shop) then mentioned that it is about time I graduated to a 15pt game. The best part about it all was that I got into the game when Prime Mk.II was just out. Everyone in the gaming group was still in its “learning stages”. How awesome it was to learn a game with other peers who are all at the developing stage!

My first solo bought to expand my battlegroup was a Koldun Lord. The powerboost ability is nice, but what is this ability on its card called "Jack Marshal"? After a brief rundown on the rules and a couple of games jack marshalling my destroyer comes one of the longest-standing debates in Warmachine. To Jack Marshall or Not To Jack Marshall?

Jack Marshall allows a warjack to run, charge, make an additional attack, gain one boosted attack or boosted damage as long as the warjack is within the Jack Marshal’s command range. This implies that you can technically run more warjacks in your army without burdening your warcaster's focus points to make the warjack effective. Your warjack can also move freely and not be bounded by your warcaster’s control area. Besides that, there are a few Jack Marshalls that gives different benefits to the Jack Marshalled warjack. Some of these benefits can potentially turn the tides of the battle. Best of all, a marshalled warjack does not suffer the effects of Disruption! Cortex busted? SO WHAT!

There are a few disadvantages to Jack Marshalling though. The jack marshalled warjack is not considered in your warcaster’s battlegroup. This means focus allocation to the warjack is not allowed (you can only allocate focus to warjacks in your battlegroup). Some of the best spells in the game only affects your warcaster’s battlegroup. Since the marshalled warjack isn’t in the warcaster’s battlegroup, the warjack cannot benefit from these spells. Also, if the Jack Marshall dies, the warjack in particular becomes autonomous. To make it “effective’ again, your warcaster needs to bring it into his/her battlegroup. Finally, your marshalled warjack cannot shake knockdown/stationary effects.

When deciding to Jack Marshall or not, you have to ask yourself whether does the benefits outweigh the disadvantages at hand when marshalling a warjack.

Let’s take a look at models with the Jack Marshall ability in the game. Models with * grant special abilities (listed in the brackets) to the jack they are marshalling. Models with # indicates having the Power Booster ability.

Arcane Tempest Gun Mage Officer *[Rune Shot]
Arlan Strangewayes #
Field Mechaniks
Stormblade Officer
Sword Knights Officer *[Drive: Pronto]
Trencher Officer
Alain Runewood

Battle Mechaniks
Koldun Lord #
Man-o-War Kovnik *[Drive: Boosted Attack]


Iron Lich Overseer *[Cloak of Darkness, Soul Matrix]

Dawnguard Invictors
Dawnguard Sentinels *[Drive: Pronto]
Dawnguard Scyir *[Drive: Reroll]

Dirty Meg *[Drive: Off Road]
Hammerfall High Shield Gun Corps
Sam MacHorne *[Drive: Pronto]
Thor Steinhammer *[Drive: Pronto]
Rutger Shaw *[Drive: Reroll]

Some of the abilities granted to the warjack from being marshalled is amazing. A warjack with rune shot should pretty much be modelled wearing an arcane tempest gun mage’s hat. Pronto gives that warjack an extra distance to get into combat or simply some repositioning for that open charge lane. Cloak of Darkness makes a warjack becomes annoyingly stealthed. Power Booster pretty much says your marshalled warjack is granted 2 focus instead of one. This is quite useful to average-stat focus factions with expensive spells (i.e. Khador)

I would also like to point out that Power Booster is such a strong ability. It basically says you can jack marshall a warjack without actually jack marshalling it. I believe Power Booster is one of the strongest and underrated ability in the game. It deserves another column for further elaboration on it.

Lazy lancer prefers getting marshalled. (image from PP Forums)

Now comes the important question. Are those stated benefits worth the disadvantages that comes with marshalling a warjack? Keep in mind that unless you are running a gun-line, most Jack Marshalls will die in the heat of the battle. An autonomous warjack simply isn’t fun to play with. Due to this, it is likely that your marshalled warjack will be nearby your warcaster (should your jack marshall die, your warcaster can still bring the autonomous warjack into his/her battlegroup). A marshalled warjack also cannot benefit from battlegroup-based spells/feat. Imagine a Juggernaut not benefitting from Karchev’s Unearthly Rage or a Defender not benefitting from Kara Sloan’s feat, Firing Squad. Not pretty! In fact, some if not most, Jack Marshalls are much better on their own. Without the need to "babysit" a warjack, they can roam freely without worrying about the setbacks should their demise occur.

Due to some of the disadvantages stated above, it is wise to note that if you decide to marshall a warjack, the warjack’s role and its play style is different from a warjack in a battlegroup. Unsurprisngly, that statement isn’t as easy to implement as it sounds. I have seen some marshalled warjack working wonders, even when it is marshalled by some of the worst jack marshalls in the game. Think differently and out of the box. You will be rewarded!

Would you consider Jack Marshalling a warjack in your army? Why?

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Paying The Price Without Thinking Twice

Is WM actually cheaper than WH 40k?

Let’s face it. The wargaming hobby in general is expensive both in monetary terms and time. Customers want quality products (model and rule-wise) at an affordable price. Although it is interesting to note that most players would pay for good looking miniatures, there is simply a limit to how much one can spend.

As of last year, there is an increasing amount of Warhammer 40k (WH40k) players converting to Warmachine (WM). Among the few reasons behind the shift is, apparently, Warmachine is cheaper in both monetary terms and time compared to Warhammer 40k. However, it’s been argued that if you tally up the total cost of an army, both cost the same! In order to investigate this claim, let’s take a look at the following points before we dive into the cost comparisons.

*Unless stated otherwise, all prices are based from Maelstrom Games.

- Starter Sets

Warhammer 40k: Battleforce = USD$ 89.64
Contains: 500pts

Warmachine: Battlegroup = USD$ 49.22
Contains: 11pts

The WH40k Battleforce and WM Battlegroup was taken as a comparison and oh my, what a difference in price it is! Both forms a basis of an army for a player and enough to get a player familiarised with the rules.

It is interesting to note, however, that WH 40k’s Assault on Black Reach is cheaper than WM’s 2-player battlebox.

- Game Size Comparisons

In order to compare army costs, we would need to first compare game point sizes. Even though comparing the 2 systems is like comparing an apple to an orange, we can pretty much estimate how similar the game sizes are by looking at the gaming community’s most played points level and general perceptions of game size comparisons. After all, a player would need to build an Xpt army that matches his opponent’s Xpt army if he were to start an army. From some surveys that I did recently, this is what I came up with.

The table above basically means that there is almost an equal amount of 35pt WM game compared to a 1750pt WH40k game. Therefore if you want to get into a game of WM, you’d eventually need to build a 35pt army whereas for WH40k, you’d eventually build a 1750pt game at the very least. Hence how I got the game size points comparison.

Before we proceed any further, I would like to point out that yes, army builds are mostly dependant on the individual. The army lists displayed in this article are army lists I have taken from competitive gamers and, perhaps, one that includes models that a player would definitely have played before in his specific WH40k/WM army lifetime.

Cost Comparison

Let’s take a look at the following 1750pt WH40k army lists.

Prices were taken from Maelstrom Games. Weapon outfits were not considered in the above (note: exotic weapon options would require more investment for bits) and prices highlighted in yellow are taken from e-bay (for some reason, I can’t find the actual price of these).

Among the lot, the most expensive army tallies at USD$625.61 while the cheapest at USD$ 334.70. It surprises me that the one I’d think to be the most expensive (28 terminators!) turns out to be the cheapest.

What about the other races? Surely they should be cheaper than a Space Marine (GW’s pet race) and a Blood Angel (was recently the army flavour of the month) army? I randomly took some 1750pt lists found online and got the following.

Check out the Tyranids! Topping off at USD$510.20, that surely is one heck of an investment! Surprisingly, the Tau are also equally impressive at USD$378.43! Note that I took the price of a Carnifex for the Tyrannofex and Tervigon. Further modifications need to be made to convert a carnifex to a Tervigon/Tyrannofex, hence requiring more money.

How about the Warmachine side of things? In this exercise, Khador  and Cryx (notorious for having some of the most expensive models $$-wise in the game) will be evaluated.

Note that for the sake of argument, I have included Warmachine’s most expensive model in the above armylists (the Gun Carriage at a whopping USD$90!).  

The Warmachine list shown above include an infantry heavy army and a warjack heavy army, hoping to mimic WH40k’s horde-based armies and tank-based armies.

Comparing the 2 game systems, it seems that the average cost for a 35pt warmachine army is USD$200-USD$300 whereas the average cost for a 1750pt WH40k army is at the very least USD$300!

What about 1500pts WH40k armies compared to 25pts WM armies?

The above is the Sample Spearhead list (tank-heavy list, although I must admit that I've seen a heavier tank-heavy list!) that I took from the Games Workshop (GW) website. The reason why I actually evaluated the above is because tanks WILL be played in WH40k, whether a lot or only a little! GW has been indirectly pushing players to play vehicles over the recent years and we have already seen tank-heavy army lists appearing in major tournaments (i.e. the Imperial Guard’s Steamblower list). I can understand if you find this “unrealistic” for the purpose of comparison, so let’s consider the below instead.

Prices highlighted in yellow are taken from e-bay as I somehow could not find their actual prices. However, it is safe to say that e-bay has some of the most competitive prices in the market compared to major online retailers out there.

From what I understand, the above army list is one of the few expensive ($$-wise) configurations you can get in WM 25pts. It is surprisingly cheaper than the WH40k list above by approximately USD$10.


It seems like at smaller point levels, WM and WH40k cost somewhat similar. However once you expand your armies to the generally played points level, Warmachine is the cheaper game.

I believe this is partly due to the game design itself. In Warmachine, changing from one army list to another isn’t as $$-consuming because most of the units will be re-used. Even though your unit is the same, each warcaster yields a different gaming experience. Therefore, the player would be forced to play his unit differently, hence getting a difference experience out of it. In Warhammer 40k, changing from one army list to another (for a different game experience) would require new weapon outfits, different unit combinations, etc and this means investing more money in bits, models, etc.

On paper, I actually like the way WH 40k was designed. The game design itself helps generate revenue because players are required to spend more and more for different weapon load outs, new essential units, new tanks, etc. However if I am on the receiving end of it all, I actually get pretty uncomfortable with this whole idea only for the army to “phase out” when the next army of the month comes out. GW also has a habit of phasing out units or weapon options, hence making your heavily invest squad (in money and, most importantly, time) obsolete. I’m not blaming them though. It is just the way forward due to the way the game is designed.

Warmachine might seem rosy at this point, but take my word for it. Prices for Warmachine will increase. It is known amongst many tabletop gamers out there that Privateer Press (PP) is currently having supply issues. The demand for the game is ever increasing (and rightfully so). It would be only a matter of time till the directors decide that they can do better and over-achieve their revenue plan compared to their previous year. It is simply human nature to do so. There are families to be fed and if we were in their shoes, we’d probably do the same too.

There could not be a clearer winner here. Warmachine IS the cheaper game system compared to Warhammer 40k. However, would you still continue investing in Warmachine should the price of PP miniatures increase?