Thursday, 14 July 2011
Warpath- Bryss' Thoughts
Hello! Yes, I'm still here, I've just been quiet! Hello and welcome to Top Bryss, where tonight I shall be reviewing the cheapest new wargame marque out there, the Italian-built Warpath. It's a small company, with only two models, the Marauder and and the Forgefather, to its name right now, but that isn't going to stop me being brutal about what to expect with Warpath.
So, the basics. It costs zero thousand pounds, it comes with minimalistic bells and whistles, goes from nought to Turn 6 slightly faster than the heavier 40k stuff and comes with few optional upgrades. Because of the way the armies are laid out, the manufacturer of Warpath has ensured you can even buy other parts from other companies and still use them with no problem in this game, a key example being the Forgefathers' ability to easily utilise the iconic Space Marine parts (and I'm guessing from the Corporation art I've seen the Imperial Guard will get a look-in, too).
But this is all well and good on paper, but how does it perform in real life? To find out, I had a traditional Top Bryss drag race. After some more serious tests also, I have formed a conclusion about what to expect, what I like, and what I hate.
The first thing to expect is that you will miss. A lot. For a system that claims to be far-futurey, the guns of this realm have the accuracy of a blind duck. Expect most shots fired for at least half the game to hit on 6s due to the mind-boggling number of minus modifiers. The enemy moved an inch? That's a modifier. More than half-range away? That's a modifier. Enemy in cover? That's a modifier. The makers suggest using Warpath in off-road areas with lots and lots of terrain, so expect at least two of those, plus more, to apply at any given time. And as most units in the two shown races hit on 4s, well. This is all well and good for medieval archers, but in a sci-fi setting it's just stupid.
This also feeds in to the another thing to expect. This game, unlike 40k, doesn't let you down slowly. Rather than have squads depleted gradually, they flat-out vanish into thin air, while in combat you're expected to watch as your men die with no hope of fighting back. During my drag race, there were times my opponent was nearly set on giving up as the game simply refused to let his army fight back properly, and that's not something a wargame should encourage.
Now, at this point you may shout at me "You blithering idiot! 40k does that too!" And I agree. However, 40k does provide lifelines, like krak grenades, S4 vs Rear Armour 10, and the ability to hit back in combat, often on a reasonable 4+, something I refer to as Flukey Combat Mechanic. Here, you can either damage something, or you can't. Which brings me to the thing I hate the most.
Mantic forces and encourages you to build armies THEIR WAY much more than 40k.
Mantic cites Warpath as a "sci-fi mass battle" game, and boy, do they mean it. Let's start at the bottom, with 500 point games, a reasonable total for beginners. For that I should be able to have as my Forgefathers army two squads of 10 Steel Warriors and an Iron Ancestor or Heavy Drakkar. Because of this and the ludicrously poor shooting skills of everyone in this universe, my opponent must take lots of anti-tank BFGs in order to win. However, they cost 40 billion points each (nothing is cheap here, nothing), which means not a lot of room for bodies on the ground, which makes his army easier to wipe out. Of course, he could take an identical army, which leads to a luck-based mission where inevitably all that's left is the Ancestors/Drakkars, and that's no fun either.
Now let's look at 2000. Here, Mantic give me sizeable discounts for 20-man squads over 10 and options for more BFGs per unit, BFGs I can actually afford because of said discounts. Although this creates a better experience all-round I don't feel like I've built an individual army. I just feel like I'm playing one game over and over. And that's fine for chess, but here I want to have individual armies, not one consisting of 6 blobs and 6 tanks.
Combined with a lack of long-range outside one choice, this feels like it belongs in the past, as a fantasy game. Like my co-presenter Atrotos, I haven't seen a copy of the other model Mantic manufactures, Kings of War so I can't confirm my suspicions, but I strongly believe in them.
That's not to say I despise this game. I do like the clever mechanic that lets you Not-Outflank further up the board as the game goes on. I like how cover isn't simply a cheap, irritating shot nullifier. I really like how the Monsters here are just as tough as vehicles, something 40k really lacks and makes Nids suffer for.
But I can't shake the feeling that all I'm doing is praising technicalities, like on a McLaren, rather than praising how fun it is, like a Ferrari ( and I know them well, I've been in at least three). I suspect many people like 40k because it is flawed. Well, it's probably why the British took to it anyway. Warpath offers a cold, soulless experience where there are winners and losers. And that's all it is to me right now.
About the Author: Master Bryss is a lower middle-class wannabe playboy teenager. He enjoys tea, gaming of all sorts and getting an adrenaline fix, preferably from something loud and fast. His handbrake turns need a bit of work, and he has only crashed once, into a fence he swears wasn't there when he looked.
Anyway, hopefully this proves I'm not dead. I will return to a state of regularity soon enough, although Shawn has done an excellent job of giving me a few weeks off.