If you follow me on Twitter, are a regular reader of this blog or have listened to me on Of Dice and Men will know that I haven’t always been the kindest of wargamers towards Privateer Press‘ Steamfantasy game. But as I try to make The Shell Case a balanced and impartial wargaming blog (recent rants aside) I thought it was about time I gave Warmachine a fair crack of the whip.
So, thanks to my sponsor I got my hands on the Warmachine two player starter set so I could not only read the rules but actually play the game and have a look at the toys. To help me along I decided to break the review into two parts. The first is going to take a look at the models that come in the starter box – specifically the Protectorate of Menoth and Khador.
Now I’ve always had a bit of a love/hate relationship with the models in so much as I love to hate them. But as I sat building the figures over the weekend something dawned on me; it’s not that the figures are bad but the paint schemes. The important word is scheme. The overly bright colours in all the product photography coupled by the fact that none of the factions has colour variety within their pallets makes for very samey looking armies. And the choices of colours by Privateer Press means that the factions looks like the Power Rangers’ fan club. Complete with Zords.
But on to models specifically. What surprised me was that the models were resin (well not exactly resin but scientifically more accurate than saying plastic). I knew that Privateer Press produced predominantly resin models but I had thought the starter box would be plastics. So tick for PP for going the extra mile and producing very well cast models. The down side is that every weapon, without exception, that the infantry was armed with was warped in some way. Not enough that it couldn’t be bent or teased back into shape mind you. Also the detail is a little lacking. Not in an obvious way, just anything that wasn’t an armour-plate or a robe lacked the definition one would find with Forge World, Spartan Games and – for all its failings – Games Workshop’s Finecast.
But, as I say: the casting quality is very good. Very crisp and clean, and without a hint of flash. Take note Games Workshop. However where the holes for the injection mould were positioned means that its a bloody pain to clean. Plus, because PP kindly snap all the flash off for you, some of the models actually sport slight damage which isn’t the end of the world but it is annoying.
Design wise I’m actually very impressed with all the models that came in the box. Privateer Press cleverly designed all their components to slot together, literally, which means that you can have dynamic look models that have real depth to them and still be made of resin. Even the mace for the Menoth Warcaster (who I have named Reverend Pointy Hat) slots together. This press together approach means that models not only go together very easily but they stay together. It certainly takes the pressure off when it comes to building a lot of resin models and the headaches that are associated with that.
The Warjacks, similarly, are intelligently designed. With both the Khador and Menoth Warjacks, components have been designed in such away that both keeps the aesthetic of each faction but means you can position the arms to make them look dynamic, which makes up for the fact the legs are pretty static.
Drilling down to the specific factions I have to grudgingly admit they’re pretty cool. The Light Warjack for the Menoth faction sucks out loud. I mean it’s shit. For one thing it’s head looks like Daffy Duck in a suit of armour. Throw in the phallic flamer thingy it’s got and the absurd disproportion of the design and it’s more than a little bit comical. But that particular turd aside, the rest look the tits. The Exemplars look pretty pimp and by making the shields separate they give the models feeling of rapid movement rather than organised ranks, which suits the game style. It makes them look huge. Which they are anyway on account of the shoulder pads that’d make Wall Street blush. More than that though they look like exaggerated Knights Templar – which is the point – and the huge swords and shields is as much a symbol of faith as it is about cleansing the unholy. They’re a nice contrast with the more improvised look of the Menoth Warjacks.
The Menoth Warjacks impressed me more than I thought. The traditional colours in the photography make them, to me, very flat fronted but once I actually saw the models up close they’re actually pretty good. I like the crudity of them and as I’m reliably informed they’re re-purposed worker ‘Jacks this makes sense. There’s also the kinds of detail one would expect from both a major player in the wargaming market and a game that has its roots firmly in the industrial. Complete with furnaces and smoke belching smoke stacks, and even a hatch to shovel in the coal.
But the big surprise for me was that I actually liked the Khador stuff. As in really liked it. As in if I were to collect an army for Warmachine it’d probably be them – based purely on the models mind. Background wise I understand they’re a bunch of bastards. My new-found fondness for the Red Rangers is because the Warjacks are actually pretty awesome. Big, bulky and with intelligent enough design that I can believe they won’t buckle under their own weight. And they don’t have stupid comedy faces. They still follow the standard point face that all the Warjacks seem to follow – for reasons beyond my understanding. The Khador Warjacks look like they mean the business they were built for. And I absolutely love the weapon styling. Although my favourite part of the model isn’t a specific detail or even the overall look, but the elegant simplicity of the arm joints. A ball and socket joint that mounts on the body means that the Khador Warjacks can look dynamic and varied without having to sacrifice the stocky, made for war, design.
Equally the Man-O-War shocktroopers are in massive suits of powered armour meant for face kickery. Again, the detailing is lacking some definition and on mine the mould lines were a pain as they ran down over the detail. And, as it’s resin, trying to file it off would have destroyed said detail. But they’re imposing looking dudes and feel as Russian as they’re clearly meant to be. I’m not entirely sure why they all look fat but presumably that’s a tech limitation thing. And despite that they still look cool. The shields are daft though but you can’t win them all.
So generally, the models I’ve seen for Warmachine are pretty good. The exaggerated design doesn’t look so bad on unpainted models and if painted sensibly will actually come out well. I’m still not 100% sold on the wider range but I suppose that’s true of all companies. There are always going to be models that don’t appeal. But for a starter set both factions offer up some appealing models that will look the part when painted.
The Warmachine starter set is available from Firestorm Games priced £62.96