Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Warmajournal #2: Privateer Press, Why Do You Make It So Hard For Me To Love You?

In my last post, I was looking forward to getting into a regular rhythm with WarmaHordes, taking the new edition as an opportunity to build up mastery of the rules. To this end, I started paying a bit more attention to the community at large and to announcements from the game's publisher, Privateer Press.

I wish I hadn't.

The latest FAQ and Developer's Notes from Privateer include some very dismaying news. To wit:
  • Starting this summer, Privateer will no longer include cards with its models. For those unfamiliar with the game, cards are essential to playing. Going forward you can download the cards for free as PDFs or use their for-pay War Room app. There is also talk of offering cards as POD, but that hasn't been finalized as of this writing.
  • The latest FAQ includes a bunch of updates, but for the Skorne (the only faction I play), it simply says: "Skorne has many, many changes coming. They will be receiving their own errata update in January of 2017. Stay tuned for some exciting changes!"
Exciting changes? Oh boy! I'm just so...

Seriously, what a way to get the wind taken out of my sails. Right when I'm settling in with the new edition, familiarizing myself with my warlocks and beasts and troops and whatnot, I get hit upside the head with the promise of "many, many changes" to come. I don't really care if the changes are good or bad at this point. The timing is just awful.

That's very much a personal beef on my part, of course. The decision to stop printing cards is something that affects the whole community. Judging from the tone struck in the Developer's Notes, I don't think this is going over as a very popular decision, either. Nor should it.

The high-quality cards that come with each pack are very much part of the game's charm for me. To replace those with PDFs printed off my inkjet (costing me time and money) or to go all-digital (and pay Privateer for the privilege) seems like a pretty cold lunch in my estimation. The claim is that this is so cards can stay "current" and they can engage in a more-or-less continual process of tweaking based on "fan feedback."

Aesthetic considerations aside, this is extremely dismaying. "Fan feedback" is what leads to these massive errata and FAQ documents, reams of clarifications and rules amendments that seem to reach absurdist levels. For example:
p. 93, Hill
Add the following to the end of the Hill text:
A model moving off of a hill does not fall or suffer falling damage.
Oh, thank you for that clarification! I wouldn't have known what to do about that otherwise! (Note that they are talking about a hill here, not a cliff.) What kind of pixel-bitching asshole necessitated that pointless clarification? Whatever happened to applying common sense during a game? Eventually we'll get to the point where every possible permutation of play gets covered in a 50-page errata document that's almost as long as the core rules themselves. (The current doc is already up to 20 pages.)

WarmaHordes has always been a fairly pixel-bitchy game, and Privateer has always catered to the hardcore tournament crowd. It's just unfortunate, as increasingly I feel like the more friendly/casual player is being edged out in favor of making the game almost exclusively about tournament/competitive play. I've seen this process before (::cough::Magic::cough::) and in my opinion it is always detrimental to the hobby at large.

So I'll wait and see what all this Skorne errata looks like before I play another game of WarmaHordes. I have no intention of selling my Skorne miniatures, as I like their look way too much to part with them, but increasingly I'm thinking I'll have to use them with some other rules set, one that takes itself way less seriously and actually acknowledges that the majority of wargamers play friendly games that don't require errata to tell them that moving off a hill doesn't cause discomfiture. Dragon Rampant or A Song of Blades and Heroes, perhaps. We shall see.

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