Warpath - Some Initial Thoughts
Spent some time today reviewing Mantic's sci-fi wargame, 'Warpath.' The Beta rules and a couple of test-army lists are available here.
Well there's mistaking that most of these rules are lifted directly from 40k. Alessio Cavatore's name is quite literally all over this document. You'll recognize the player turn phases, the true LoS rules, and such details as difficult terrain and the run-or-shoot mechanic.
What this means is that many of us fence-sitters waiting to see how this franchise will pan out don't have to leave our "comfort zone" when testing these rules. The calm, cautious side of your brain will scream "It's a trap!" over and over like a Star Wars .gif. Some buttered, syrupy pancakes are sitting in the middle of a forest with some dead leaves barely concealing the rope and Mantic is behind a bush wringing their hands in anticipation…
Well just one taste can't hurt… can it?
Let's start with the fact that there is an open beta testing phase to the rules. Is this just a ploy to underscore GW's terrible product support? Will it get yanked if the 40k community decides to jump ship and support Mantic? How will they organize the feedback if the game catches on and tens of thousands of emails are coming in every week?
The rules are already pretty streamlined and the use of 5th edition as a foundation already means that nothing too terrible will be uncovered during testing. Mantic just wants us to know it's there if we want it but I won't bet on feedback leading to any significant changes.
Even those parts of the rules that are not found in the 5th edition rulebook may seem a little familiar. Modifiers to hit based on movement? Streamlined movement? Cover is a modifier rather than a 'save'? Flyers rolled into the main rulebook - not an irrelevant expansion? Squad leaders gaining new importance? The 6th edition rumors are still cooling on the windowsill and now we get a beta ruleset with some striking resemblances. This could be Alessio telling us he knows what 6th edition has to offer from his time at GW and he plans to stay one step ahead.
The rules breach unfamiliar territory in that squad management is handled slightly differently. Models are not removed until the entire unit is destroyed. This streamlines casualties quite a bit and makes squad performance a little more predictable. There's no chance, say, of having only the Meltagun in the squad die rendering the rest of the unit functionally useless.
Speaking of special weapons Alessio allows us to fire them at separate targets to the rest of the squad. Finally! Combined with the damage counter system models not carrying special weapons (or BFG's as Alessio likes to call them) are more than just ablative wounds. This is an obvious snipe at one of 5th edition's flaws and a good shot at that.
On the the negative side IGOUGO deployment is resurrected - I don't think anybody missed that structure from 4th edition. Also with only three different missions, the third being a combination of the first two, I can see the game getting a little stale after a year or so of regular play. I suspect frequent rules injections will keep things fresh however. After all stagnation is one of GW's primary issues and Mantic is attacking those issues with a vengeance.
The entire ruleset is just 16 pages long. Obviously it doesn't have any fluff but it does manage some pictures and it's really easy to imagine the final document being under 50 pages or more but with all of the armylists included. I was unable to find a copy of the Kings of War rules but that could be used to confirm my suspicions of a very concise final rulebook.
So those are some thoughts for now. I'll try to get a team of brave and naive young playtesters to see if the game really is as fun as it appears to be. Is Warpath a "40k-killer"? Only the models and the background can say for sure.