So a lo-o-o-o-ong time ago, I got into Warmaster. I painted up a starter box worth of troops for the Empire (following in the footsteps of my Warhammer Fantasy army) before I decided I wanted something a bit different and opted to start an Orc Warmaster army.
It was through the Orcs that I discovered the genius behind Warmaster’s rules. Let me explain this as shortly as I can:
Warmaster is a game of command and movement. (Others say it’s a game of elements, which I’m sure they’re correct about; but I’d rather bandy around terms that I’m comfortable bandying around; so I’ll stick with calling it a game of command and movement.)
Armies in Warmaster are driven by the leadership ability of their general more than in other GW games: in Warmaster, the ability of a unit to move is decided by whether or not they pass a Leadership test –in effect, players roll Ld tests for movement to represent whether the troops in question understand their orders / understand what they’re supposed to do at that point of the battle. Orders can be given to the same unit multiple times in one turn (with a negative modifier applied after the first Ld test), meaning that, should a unit roll decently enough on its Leadership tests, it can move across the whole board in a single turn. It should be noted that once a Leadership test is failed (by rolling on 2 dice a number higher than the commanding person’s Leadership score–typically a 7, 8 or 9), that unit cannot do anything else for the turn; and, more significantly, the commanding character can issue no more orders for the rest of the turn either. Once the army’s general flubs a Ld test, his army’s turn is essentially done for that turn.
Orcs, being notoriously unruly and ill led, are at a disadvantage in this game: how can they expect to pass several Leadership tests to get them across the board in one turn and then succeed in one last Leadership test to then charge (and fight) enemy regiments –did I mention that not only does one suffer negative modifiers on the dice rolls for successive Leadership tests in the same turn, one also gets penalized with modifiers according to how far away from the commanding model the regiment is.
With rules like this, Orcs would end up being a slow-moving, non-acting, always-getting-charged army and would not be very fun to play. However, with one small rule, Orcs end up being pretty awesome –all done without having to resort to power creep or other underhanded tricks. The rule, you ask? Once any orc regiment is within a short distance of an enemy unit, it is allowed to charge that unit without first having to pass a Leadership test (ie: receive orders) to do so.
Yes, the rule is helpful…but genius? Yes. Genius. The reason: with one small rule, all orc players suddenly find themselves acting like orc generals, whether they mean to or not; they surge their armies forward, trying –with reckless abandon–to just get the regiments under their command within charge distance of the enemy (because the charges will be automatic). With that one rule, all orc players play their army in exactly the same way as all Warhammer stories read. Essentially, the rules trick players to act like orcs.
So, where am I going with this? At the end of February, we’re running the Drop Site Massacre on Istvaan V tournament, the event that started the Horus Heresy. If every there was an event where the organisers would like the players to play their armies in exactly the same way as the 40k stories read (rather than just play a standard good-for-any-tournament army list), it’s this one.
So that’s my task in the coming days: to figure out how to elegantly implement a dynamic in the Istvaan V event that “tricks” players into acting in character of the Marine Legion they’ll be playing, to make their army lists –and play– for fun.