It’s Not for you!

Author: Jason Enos

Theme forces – they are like buses you wait for ages then 2 (or in this case 9) come at once. And a little like the poor dishevelled commuter who has been waiting in the pre-dawn, light drizzle for their daily commute we all jump on board with a sense of elation welcoming the warm relief offered by air conditioning & lumpy seats. Then you realise your friend just got on the next bus… one of those new eco friendly numbers with the free wi-fi  & plush cushioned seats & your bus doesn’t seem so great anymore.

Theme forces are like that – you eagerly review yours first thinking through the cool things it brings to the party, then you browse the others, or even worse head to the forums to see how they were received.  That was probably a MISTAKE.

Now, naturally I looked to the Circle theme “The Devourer’s Host” and it had the things I look for:


  • A clear actual “Theme” in this case: Tharn models.
  • Free stuff!
  • A fix known to work for some “Almost there” models.

Is it perfect?  No, it asks a lot for very little reward.  Maybe the limits are too much to make for a competitive list.  Maybe a competitive list will come out of it we’ve just not seen it yet?  Should there be more tokens to help the underpowered units or make them easier to get?  Tharn Ravagers, through three editions now, have fallen flat with their rules.  Ravagers and Blood Pack have always been poor, but usable with the right buffs, but this isn’t enough to give a full Blood Pack a token each and have some for your Solos and even Warlock if that’s who you’re playing.

The common summation for the theme list is this:
“It lets me use Tharn but it doesn’t make them good enough to play at a tournament.”

If nothing tournament worthy can be done does that mean the Theme List is a failure?  Does it need Errata?  Emphatically NO!

The tournament-playing, masters winning, competitive players are (Not literally) Warmachine’s 1%.  They are few in number compared to all the players but they get the most attention.  I bet you know the name of someone you’ve never met who won a masters but how many gamers get attention on their games in local shops or clubs who will never even attend a masters?  The competitive players often suggest every release should be tailored directly to them.  You hear “For the good of the game all models should be competitive and playable in a tournament list” or “This is not Tournament worthy so the designers have failed”.  As if some kind of Trickle Down game design means making everything for the Competitive Scene means the game is better for everyone.  This is a nonsense.  Going to multiple local gaming stores and clubs I see more pure Tharn lists than I do Una 2 and Wurmwood.  The reason is because feral, barbarian, shapeshifters are cool and people want to play them.  Not everyone is playing the game to win every time or even to improve their play ability.  Some players collect models and just happen to play to have something to do with them, others are narrative players, they don’t care about winning or losing they play just to see what happens.  These players and other “Casual” players are often looked down upon by tournament players but you know what?  They outnumber the tournament player by a fair margin.  I was chatting to two gamers playing locally and they didn’t know about the Forums, Facebook groups or even that there was an errata out.  They were playing just with the rulebook and cards.  You know what?  The game didn’t explode or catch fire, they had a fun game and that was that.  When I told them about the new theme lists they were interested and decided to go on the PP site to check them out.  It doesn’t matter how good they are, only that something new and cool has come out.

Some releases are tailored to these players.  Some are “Fun” models, maybe their rules are a bit random or unreliable so tournament players intending to win stay clear but at the local store tables are crowded trying to see what it does next!  Others are “Narrative” models where players may just want to see what their favourite character from a novel can do on the table.  It’s even possible to get to a point in playtesting and say “This model is slightly underpowered, lets leave it that way as a challenge piece for players who are really good”.  I don’t know for sure that PP do all these things, I know other game’s developers do and I see similar trends but the end result is the same.  We are getting close to 150 releases per faction and not all of those will see tournament play.  The rest aren’t “Bad” or “Failed” they are for other types of gamer.  Lots of people are really happy they got a release aimed at the 99% instead of the WAAC crowd.

So next time you look at a Theme list, new model or errata and think it’s terrible, could never be used at a tournament or ruining the game just remember it’s not a bad tournament model, it’s not a tournament model at all.  It’s just not for you.