Theory: PSA for New Warmachine and Hordes Players

So you’ve decided to try Warmachine or Hordes. Great! They’re excellent games. And you’ve looked through some of the books and you’ve decided to try a Cygnar gunline. All ranged attacks, all the time. You’ll annihilate them before they even get close! Right!?

Wrong. This is completely wrong. The gunline will not work–and there are solid game design reasons why.

Imagine a universe where a gunline can realistically plan to wipe the opponent’s army from the board before it can get into close combat. In that universe, a close combat-focused army (like, say, many of the steampunk and fantasy armies in WarmaHordes) is unusable. You’re playing Rock, and they’ve got a lot of Scissors. They lose every time–and that kind of lopsided game is boring.

What’s more, if gunlines are successful scenario-based play is pretty much out the window. Experience has demonstrated that all-ranged armies do not move forward. After all, moving forward makes them more vulnerable to being engaged in close combat! Hence, all-ranged armies tend not to push into scenario zones, or capture flags, or otherwise take advantage of all the board’s real estate. They are resistant to incentives to maneuver, and in the process an important part of the game is lost.

Privateer Press knows that Warmachine and Hordes will suffer if gunlines work. As a result, the games are balanced so that they won’t. You must have a close combat aspect to your army, because if the opponent wants to, he or she will be able to get to you.

Isn’t it a cost to have gunlines be weak in this way? Why should all-ranged armies suffer so that close combat can function? It’s because gunlines shut out so many other options and considerations. Scenario-win armies don’t work because the gunline just eradicates them. Close combat units are irrelevant because they get swept off the board without doing anything. Even setting up the board gets reduced to “where are the clear fields of fire.” Unworkable gunlines are the price we pay to keep Warmachine and Hordes interesting.

The gunline doesn’t work. It has never worked. There is no reason to think it will ever work. Please, please, don’t spend your money on one. Spend it on Warmachine and Hordes, they’re great games! But buy a unit of Sword Knights or a Centurion to go along with your Gun Mages.

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