Review: Warmachine High Command – kingdom of iron and fire
We wage wars since I can remember. We received bowl of milk from our parents for breakfast every day to be sufficiently bloodthirsty, when we grow up. We have raised purely for battlefield, where two brothers of mine have already gone. And they will not return. Their bodies were swallowed by trenches. When news of the death of the second brother came, my parents suddenly started talking about my way to the front. I ran away from home. I have never personally been in battle, but only watching this ceaseless struggle destroys me. Hopefully, war will end soon.
But we do not want to empty the battlefield. On the contrary, battle is exactly, what will become our daily bread in new card game Warmachine: High Command. Published in 2013 under the auspices of Privateer Press with authors of the game being David Carl and William Shick.
Box offers classic deck-building squared dimension, yet units on the cover are seemingly coming from different worlds. But location is what they actually have in common. They all live in the Iron Kingdoms, although some of them might be immigrants. It becomes a little clearer, when we lift the lid up and look under the rulerook at large pile of almost 400 cards.
These can be sorted apart at first glance by distinguishing symbol on the flag in the upper left corner. This is coat of arms of the various warring parties. These include a total of four factions, called Cygnar, Khador, Crys and Protectorate of Menoth. All cards are connected by a line placed to the left of the thematic picture and it includes power, but also unit’s detachment. In top left corner command points are printed and serve as a resource for actions.
Under the picture is a box with text describing skills and at the bottom, players can find price for the card and also payment for rushing deployment of this unit. This applies to army cards and partially for warcasters, which are kind of our generals. However, box includes also fifteen locations with special texts and same number of Winds of War cards, which represent events.
Two location start the game in the middle of the table and players will fight for them. Winds of War deck is divided according to sections (beginning, middle and end of the war), each one is shuffled separately and they together create a pile (with end on the bottom), which will be revealed each turn and show, how will the bloodshed continue.
Each of the opponents simply chooses one side. His cards are divided by color into six piles and each of them has one leader (warcaster). Only three of these packages are used for each game and their choice is up to the player, according to tactics or personal preference.
They form player’s set, which must be properly shuffled, placed in a pile and top four cards are revealed, creating players reserve (barracks). But to begin the game, players only need basic resources, which comprise starting decks in given numbers. From their shuffled packages, every rival draws six cards into hand.
At the beginning of each round, players reveal one Winds of War card. Only after that, players alternate in turns. Each of the opponents alone progresses through several phases successively and then lets other players do their work. Main step towards victory for players is performed in the second stage, when they can get resources for cards played from their hand. They can then spend these not only for recruiting new units from their own barracks (four random cards) for the purchase price. This can be shown either in command (CMD) or combat (WAR) currency, according to which purpose this unit serves. Players will have to pay this amount again, if they want to send soldiers to a specific location in the middle of the board. Purchases can also be skipped by using rushing, when the card goes directly from barracks to battlefield.
At the end of their turn, battles await players in every area, where their units share space with enemy. Each opponent sums up attack value of his units and can starting with active player destroy card, whos printed number of lives is smaller, than sum of player‘s attack.
When this is happening, dominance will shift at each location. Therefore, it can easily happen, that one of the opponents has two units more, than his rivals in one place. In this case, he immediately seizes this site for himself. But this is not happening after the fight. Instead, capturing locations can be done at the beginning of a player’s turn. In order to dominate such a place, units must withstand enemy attacks. Location is then moved to the occupation pile along with units, that player had here. He must forsaken them, because they have to maintain dominance over the place (although game itself does not speaks about it anymore) and player can no longer use these units for anything else during rest of the game.
Once player runs out of cards in his drawing deck, he must shuffled his discarded cards and create a new pile. But first, he has an opportunity to take a card from the pile and set it aside. By doint this, he can improve his deck and get rid of unwanted weak cards (such as those, with which he started the game).
Players can also exchange cards in their barracks or set a single unit aside for the next round. Game ends either by revealing Judgment Day event from last part of Winds of War deck or by emptying locations cards. Whichever happens sooner triggers the end. Everyone then goes through his occupation deck (with acquired locations) and sums up victory points to determine, who became best warrior.
What distinguishes Warmachine: High Command from other deckbulding card games, which is now lined up in a long queue, waiting for you attention? First of all, its beautifully detailed graphics, which is really nice looking. All pictures are excellent quality and are not unbalanced, like with rival Dominion. But there is more to come and persuade you about juiciness of High Command, because there are new mechanisms, that keep the game interesting for players, who have already played a few deckbuildings.
Most interesting achievement are common locations in the middle, for which players compete among themselves. But complete control can be declared only at starting of their turn and a great advantage is needed to seize it. Since there is always same number of locations as there is players, there is always something to compete for. Once a location is captures, its place is filled with next from the deck. And these cards have not only different values, but also some effects, that activate after their capture.
Overall, this is a very interesting goal of player’s endeavors. They do not attack each other directly, but instead are fighting directly for specific battlefields (locations). This often tangles the whole game and fortunately units killed in the battle go directůy to discard pile, from where they find their way into your hand again some time in the future.
Second interesting feature of the barracks is, that each player has his own one. This reminds us of Nightfall (review), where everybody also has his private archives. This time, however, everyone has his unique cards and this provides great versatility across games. Generals are recruit troops from a random sample of four cards, which is sufficient for planning and still limiting not to have everything you need.
Strategy is significantly influenced by splitting resources to two parts. Each unit requires one of these values and players must try to find harmony between their barracks and cards in hand. Offer of recruits is random, but it is partly possible (discarding them by paying one card) to influence it.
We did not emphasize in the description of the rules, that in addition to conventional units, also warcasters will participate in battles themselves. They are waiting to start a party with players, but their emergence onto the field depends only on the decision of players, who can send them for a certain amount of command points.
Due to variable number of locations, you are struggling for, game is just interesting as interesting with two as with highest number – four. In two, your opponent at both locations is clear, but the better and more tactical feeling radiates from the struggle. Game with two is a matter of half an hour to complete, while with more players, you should always add about fifteen minutes for every additional player. And this is still good timing.
Fights are of course far from real rivalry. It is a mere comparison of card values, that can be easily calculated at any time. So players clearly know in advance, what will happen in locations. Some players might be missing a little more atmosphere and dragging over those location.
Although this is a deckbuilding, that you can simply unpack and play, it also includes possibility to adjust and prepare your own decks at the same time. In doing so, however, game still remains simple and accessible to beginners. Its all thanks to rules, which are really simple. Even rulebook does not have any deterrent effect, its easy to read and everything important can be found in it.
But the most important is tactics and a need to monitor development of the whole game. Each location is important, players must not only get locations for themselves, but also prevent others from obtaining them too easily. Each side of the conflict has a unique approach and requires right tactics to gain victory.
Warmachine: High Command has a great future. Now, not only thanks to evident quality of the game itself, but also because of Privateer Press attitude, which clearly has big plans with this game. There are small expansions already published, with some bigger boxes full of other fun and even four new factions coming to your house soon enough.
Although Warmachine and Horde is not well known, it will soon become very popular. It is an elaborate universe, some short stories are set in and even a miniature game, which has been talked about by our partner video podcast Deskofobia: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2mCAZtz9kZ8
The box is well organized, but it does not contain any labels for grouping cards. The most worthy of praise but is already said graphic illustration of cards, because they are really unique. But in addition, even with colorful graphics, everything remains clear, because frame has sufficiently distinctive color.
It may be the right time to take deckbuilding seriously again with Warmachine: High Command. All those recycled card games seemed to be already too much, but asymmetric approach is possibly the right step forwards. But in addition, game includes several other elements, that together work really well and promise fun, moreover when set into popular world. Warmachine: High Command is a nice game, with which you should give deckbuilding another chance. What do you think?
Review: Warmachine High Command – kingdom of iron and fire
Warmachine: High Command is a deckbuilding, that will surprise anyone expecting another Dominion. This is the game with a lot more and it all starts with asymmetric factions, that compete on the battlefield. A large number of cards allows even to really prepare your deck in advance (true deckbuilding), so that each match is a lot different. These options will be even more increased with other expansions. Whole battle revolves around locations, that players are interested in seizing for themselves and their clan. It is also only those fighting game elements, that can significantly bring criticism to this game, which is otherwise special and very atmospheric. Everything else is great, from faction balancing and speed of the game, and ending with accessibility for any inexperienced player. Everyone has his own barracks, where he could recruit his own soldiers, but even send them directly into combat at a higher cost. And yet somewhere deep down beats the classic heart, in which you take care of your own deck and assemble cards, that suit your plans the most. Warmachine: High Command is definitely one of the best deckbuilding games, that recently came on the market.