I started painting miniature models four months ago. Most people when they are first introduced to this hobby buy something from the industry leader Games Workshop. For example, I picked up the Assault on Black Reach boxed set with models intended for use in the Warhammer 40k game system. Something you will rapidly learn if you do any comparison shopping is that Games Workshop products dependably have the highest prices you can find anywhere. The pricing is a source of bitter resentment among some Games Workshop customers. The Internet has no shortage of bitter angry forum posts, YouTube videos, blogs and so on. Games Workshop customers are consistently angry, unhappy and resentful toward this company. I don’t feel this way because I stopped buying stuff from Games Workshop.
Here is a positive action plan to help foster your own happiness and inner peace while shopping for models. As soon as you see the Games Workshop logo on a product you are holding, stop immediately, drop the box, raise your hands to a defensive position and carefully back away from the box toward the nearest exit. Then retreat to your car, quickly drive home and buy something online from another company at a lower price. At this point I would recommend enjoying a moment of silent reflection to meditate on how much your life has improved because your recent positive choices. That was quite a close call indeed.
As you read this you may ask yourself, “If I don’t buy from Games Workshop what other company would I buy from?” That is an excellent question to ask and it is worthy of thought and research. In order to help answer this question I hope to make several blog posts summarizing the offerings of Games Workshop’s various competitors. It is my conviction that many Games Workshop customers chose that company because they just happen to be ignorant of the many excellent products available from competitors at lower prices. Buying from Games Workshop is like suffering from a curable disease. It’s unnecessary. There is help out there. We can do this together.
This post is about a company called Privateer Press. I understand this company is fairly successful. I have the impression that they are the second most popular miniature war game company next to Games Workshop. I base this opinion on the number of people I know who play their games. I don’t have any survey data or anything so formal to back this opinion up. Anyway this blog post is to help you decide if you want to buy into their game system. I want to share with you all the information I have collected from the Internet and help you make an informed decision.
Balance in Warmachine and Hordes
Before I proceed let me just say that I haven’t either bought or played any products from this company. I am confessing to you that I am not any sort of expert on their games. I am like you a consumer and a gamer. This is my perspective. Although I can’t seem to resist poking fun at Games Workshop I promise that I am going to strive to be unbiased and objective about the offerings of Privateer Press. Here goes.
The flag ship product from Privateer Press is called Warmachine. They also have a second very similar game called Hordes. The Privateer Press web site calls Hordes the “feral twin” of Warmachine. The two games are intended to work together. Gamers sometimes refer to the two games together by the slang word “Warmahordes.” You could take your army from a Hordes game and have a battle with your friend’s army from Warmachine. While the Privateer Press web site insists that the two games are “fully compatible” I have read posts that suggest that the company has some difficulty balancing the rules between the systems.
What is rule balance you ask? Well war games like these have different factions. Each player chooses a faction and collects his army of models from said faction and then goes to battle against other players of different factions or in some games the same faction. There is this notion that in an ideal “balanced” game, each faction would be of equal strength and have an equal chance of winning against any opposing faction. Gamers like balance because it means that players win or lose based on their skills and knowledge and not based on arbitrary advantages gained from picking a certain overpowered faction. Games Workshop has a reputation for deliberately creating an unbalanced game. Every time Games Workshop releases new models they release a new codex (rule book) with the models. Typically the most powerful units in the game are also the newest models recently released. Cynics claim that Games Workshop deliberately skews the balance of its game to drive sales. Every time they want to sell some new models they release new rules for said models that make those models the most powerful in the game. Gamers get annoyed with this because it reduces the overall quality of the gaming experience. Knowledge and skill no longer achieve victory in the game. The way you win the game is just to plunk down your money on the newest models and then you will be unstoppable. Some gamers will switch factions constantly so that they can always be playing an army of the latest models. This is called “codex hopping.” These players tend to spend huge sums of money on the hobby and they tend to consistently beat the players that don’t switch factions. The players that don’t do codex hopping resent the ones that do. These are all the sorts of problems that arise from having an unbalanced game.
This would lead you to ask, “Are Warmachine and Hordes balanced?” The answer to that question is not a “yes” or a “no.” It is difficult to make a balanced game because you want each faction to be unique, interesting and different from all others in meaningful ways. At the same time the game designers want each faction to have an equal chance of winning. So it is hard to achieve balance. Warmachine players sometimes assert that Warmachine and Hordes are better balanced than the Games Workshop games. Warmachine and Hordes games are certainly not perfectly balanced and they do have problems where certain units seem overpowered. That said, greater balance seems to be a selling point for Privateer Press.
Warmachine and Hordes Models
Miniature models for war games are manufactured to a certain scale. Warmachine and Hordes models are described as having a 30mm scale. That is supposed to be the distance from a model’s eyes to the ground. For comparision Warhammer 40k models are in a 28mm scale. So these models are all slightly larger than what most new war gamers are familiar with.
Miniature models are made of various materials. They can be made of either plastic or metal. Plastic is cheaper. Metals are more expensive but I have heard it said that metal models have finer detail. Some people find the metal models to be worth the additional cost because of the greater detail. Privateer Press makes an awful lot of metal models. I think most of their stuff is metal. A disadvantage that comes with metal models is that you cannot modify metal models as easily. Some hobbyists will heavily modify their plastic models by cutting them apart and attaching pieces (bitz) from other model kits. Someone might cut off a monster’s head and replace it with an alternate head for example. Weapons are often replaced in the same way. They call this “converting” the model. You can’t really cut up a metal model this way so that is one complaint that hobbyists have about Privateer Press’ choice to use metal. A related complaint that hobbyists have about the Privateer Press models is that they can only be assembled in one way. Other companies might sell a model kit with extra pieces that provide a variety of options. For example one model might come with three head pieces that could be used. So often the hobbyist has some flexibility and choice when they assemble. Privateer Press doesn’t include many extra bitz and so their really isn’t much flexibility in the assembly of their models.
The models for Warmachine and Hordes tend to be a lot of larger models. They have a lot of these things called Warjacks and Warbeasts. Much of your army will include these large models on bases that are 30mm wide or even larger. Other games might have you making a lot of infantry units on 20mm wide square bases or 25mm wide round bases. Privateer Press likes using larger models.
When two players play Warmachine or Hordes, the first thing they need to decide about their game is the point size. Every miniature war game that I know of has some kind of points system. Each player receives the same amount of points and their models are “bought” by using points from the pool. This is supposed to ensure that each army is of approximately equal strength. Adjusting the point cost of each model is one of the main ways that game designers attempt to achieve balance. Most games of Warmachine or Hordes are 25 or 35 point games. Some times I have seen battle reports online with games of 70 points or higher. You can play with as many points as you want to. Most games though are 25 or 35 points. A 35 point army usually consists of between 20 and 25 models although you might end up with more or less based on your unit choices. Based on the army lists of other players that I have seen in online forums, I would say that a 35 point army of models will cost you between $260 and $350. It varies depending on your specific unit selections. If you opt for an army with more models then you will have to spend more. This is a rough estimate. A 35 point game between two players who are each familiar with the rules will take about 45 minutes to complete. When you haven’t yet got a good grasp of the rules your games will take longer as you have to keep looking things up in the rulebook.
Almost all the models are sold individually or in small units of six models or less. There is one product called, the “Two Player Battle Box.” This boxed set contains 17 models, dice, ruler, rulebook and some other literature. The models are divided into two forces one group of Khador and the other a group of the Protectorate of Menoth. The Two Player Battle Box sells for one hundred dollars and it is a good value. If you are interested in either the Khador or Menoth factions you should seriously consider it. If you like one of the other factions, you have fewer options. There are one player Battle Boxes for almost all the other factions. Each one sells for fifty dollars. The Battle Boxes always tend to be the best value for the money. Once you know which faction you want to play, look for a Battle Box for that faction. The Battles Boxes make ideal first purchases.
Choosing a Faction
Which faction should you choose? That is a difficult question to answer. There are six factions in Warmachine (if you count the mercenaries as a separate faction). There are another four factions in Hordes. You could choose any of these. Some people choose a faction based on the fluff or the fiction that goes with each faction. If for example you think that undead skeleton monsters are really cool, then you will likely enjoy playing the Cryx faction. You might choose a faction based on what type of models you like to paint. You can take a look at the sculpting of each model and base your decision on that. Often players will choose a faction based on the game tactics that go with each faction. Each faction lends itself to certain tactical play styles in the game. I don’t really feel that I know enough about this game to make recommendations on which faction to choose. I just recommend that you put some thought into the decision. Remember many players collect multiple armies from multiple factions. This is not a decision that you have to be married to until your death. I want to include a link to this helpful guide for choosing a faction. This is a great guide by Fireman Tim that I found on a forum. It is incomplete because it has no content about the Retribution of Scyrah faction or the Mercenaries. I believe that this guide was written before those factions were released. There is nothing at all in this guide for the Hordes game. This a Warmachine only guide. For further information and guidance on choosing a faction, I encourage you to research on your own.
Other Games and Products by Privateer Press
That is essentially all that I have to say about the Warmachine and Hordes games. I also want to also briefly mention other products sold by Privateer Press that you might consider. Privateer Press has a free iPhone app called “iBodger.” This is a great little app for tracking your collection of models. If you have an iPhone and you’re into Privateer Press then definitely download this app and make use of it. There is also an Android version of the same app. Privateer Press has a magazine called “No Quarter.” The magazine has articles about all things related to the Warmachine and Hordes games. Game tactics, model painting, terrain building and product previews are the magazine’s contents. They come out with six issues a year. A single issue is $5.99 and an annual subscription runs at $48. Privateer Press sells its own range of paints called, “Formula P3.” These paints come in little pots. They sell them in six pot packages intended to include all the colors needed for a specific faction. One of the six pot packages is $18. You can also buy individual pots for $3.50 each. They sell other hobby supplies including paint brushes, black and white spray primer, a wet palette, a “How to Paint” DVD, plastic clippers, a pin vice, a file set, hobby knives, supper glue and so on.
There are a number of other games sold by Privateer Press. They have a Role-playing Game rule system for their fantasy world. It’s called the Iron Kingdoms RPG. You can use miniature models with this RPG. They sell a good number of models for this specific purpose. The have a game that uses prepainted models called, “Monsterpocalypse.” This game is about fighting battles between creatures such as King Kong or Godzilla. Each player uses his own collection of models. The rules for this game are constantly being changed and updated as new models are continually being released. To remain competitive as a player you need to keep buying the booster packs that contain new models. They have a science fiction “sports” game called Grind. Grind is a sport played by giant steam powered robots. These robots kick around a giant spiked steel ball on a playing field suspended over molten lava. This is a board game that uses miniature models to represent the robots. It is five models to a team with two teams. They also have a few other board games and card games. I will not mention these because they don’t use miniature models.
Well that is my overview of all the products sold by Privateer Press. I hope that this information is helpful to you and interesting. I send my best wishes to you my readers. Take care.