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Warmachine: Unbound- Lessons From the Table

5 Minute Read
Jun 8 2011

I’m sure you all remember my article from a couple weeks ago discussing the Unbound rules for Warmachine & Hordes.  You know, the rules for big games.  Well, Bigred & I got a game in, and I’ve got more to say.

This past week Bigred pulled out his Khador and I grabbed my Legion of Everblight and we threw down using the new rules set.  To he completely honest, we didn’t quite reach the 150 points per side mark; Bigred just isn’t quite there yet; but we did play 140 per side, so I feel like it was close enough to really get a feel for how the system plays.  I present you with: The Good, The Bad, and The Surprising results from our game.

That is a ton of Warmachine models down there!

The Bad
1) The game took quite some time to set up and “get into”.  This was partly because we were counting up points, pulling things out of our army transport bags, and figuring out which battlegroups it would all be in. Arranging that many cards and tokens takes longer than you’d think.  That said, it was Bigred’s first big game in WM, and my first in a long time.  I can tell you from experience that you get faster the more you play.

2) Time.  Big games can take a while, no doubt about it!  It takes time to determine your strategy, move all those models, roll all those dice, and mark all that damage.  Throw in a few restroom breaks, drink breaks, etc, and you’re looking at an all afternoon or evening event.  Again, practice will make you faster, but there’s still the potential to take a while.  If you’re playing Unbound with a group of friends as a multiplayer game, then there’s still a reasonable chance that some players will have significant down time.  To try and get past this, Bigred & I decided that we would stick to time limits the next time we played.  With a minimum 150 points on each side of the board, you’re looking at slightly less than 50 points of models and battlegroups activating each player pulse/turn.  A 10 minute turn keeps things moving (just over 1hr per round), and should still give lots of time to play.  And since Unbound isn’t a tournament system, you can always go over the 10 minutes without any penalty.  It’s simply something to shoot for, and a way to keep the game moving along.

3)  Record keeping.  Now I noticed this much, much more as a Hordes player than Bigred did.  There can be a LOT of record keeping.  With all that Focus, Fury, abilities, aura’s, upkeeps, animi, effects, etc, etc, etc, there is a lot to keep track of.  Even keeping track of which Jacks/Beasts are in which casters’ battlegroup can be tough at times.  I’d actually go so far to say that record keeping is the number one culprit for slowing the game down.  The bigger the game, the more it’ll come into effect.  Interestingly, multiplayer games should suffer less from this, simply because each player only has to be totally responsible for his/her own models.  It’s a lot easier to keep track of what’s going on in my 50pt or 100pt force than a 150pt or 200pt one.  That one simple fact is why I think Unbound may work better in multiplayer/group games than in 1v1 situations.

The Good
1)  The alternating turn sequence.  The alternating activation/turn sequence within each round works fantastically well.  It gives a great back and forth effect to the game, with players acting, reacting, and acting on their own in turn.  You have to think in a completely different way from a normal WM game- trying to outguess what your opponent will activate when.  It puts new dilemmas on when to Feat, and to the importance of solo’s and small units that add flexibility to your activation count, as well as units that can handle multiple roles and allow you to adapt to the changing battlefield.  You have to try the system to really understand just how much of a difference it makes. 

2)  Scope.  Bigred put it best during our game.  He said, roughly: “When I’m playing a normal 35 or 50 point game, I feel like I’m the commander of a small force.  But with Unbound, because of the turn sequence, I feel like I’m the general looking at the tactical map and moving my army around the battlefield.”  Personally, I’m all about that.  Besides, most WM gamers will pick up quite a few units over time as they try out different casters and lists.  You’d probably be surprised at how many points you actually have, and it’s nice to field them all once in awhile.

3) Encouraging team games.  As I mentioned in above, I really do feel these rules are great for team games.  The quick play, the alternating sequences, the number of models, etc, just works.

The Surprising
A lot of unexpected surprises came up during the game.  Just a few examples include the importance of the turn order, and how small, ambushing units or fast solos which can sneak around to contest a control zone really come into their own.  There are enough models where you can really run with the concept of sacrificing units in feints to distract your opponents’ attention and get him reacting and moving where you want him to go.  With the much smaller number of units in tournament-sized games, you just don’t often see that sort of tactical complexity.  Heck, which battlegroup and the number of units you choose to activate in a given turn can be a tactical lecture itself!  During the game, I found myself knowing what I wanted to engage with each battlegroup, but really struggling over how to activate those models without either opening up my casters for an assasination or putting my most expensive units right in the path of a nasty counter-stroke.  It made for a very deep game of which I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface.


Unbound is an awesome way to spend an evening playing Warmachine, and I encourage everyone to try it out at least once.  If you don’t own 150 points yourself, get together with a couple friends.  With a few tweaks to the rules you can even have multiple factions on the same team.  If you’ve already played a game (or three), tell me what you thought!

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