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Warmachine: Editorial- The Theory Trap

3 Minute Read
Jan 25 2012
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I see far too many Warmachine players fall victim to theory when it comes to evaluating their units.  It’s a big mistake that causes a lot of people to overlook otherwise solid choices.
It’s a common feature of any wargame- you see a new model, you read its stats and you immediately try to think about how you would use it in-game.  You also tend to compare it directly to other similar options.  It’s a game of theory.  “X has better long ranged attacks, but Y is almost as good and cheaper.  Therefore Y is better.”

There’s nothing wrong with this comparison, except that far too many players seem to stop there, and never actually try out out many options on the table.  What’s worse, a lot of the conventional wisdom is espoused by people who never appear to even try the models out on the table.  This is a big mistake, since the plethora of combos available in the game is too many to consider with theory alone.  It takes game time and practice to get the most out of your models.  This can be months or even a year in the case of a new caster.  I’m not suggesting there aren’t stronger and weaker options, or that everything is perfectly balanced.  But relying on theory alone causes you to miss otherwise solid combos. 

Consider the following.  Most people look at pDeneghra and immediately think “Bane’s!”.  And why not?  Bane Knights and Bane Thralls are excellent for their point costs.  They pair well with Crippling Grasp and her Feat, and everyone on their mother on the internet talks about how fantastic they are.  And so people get locked into this mentality that when you play pDeneghra, you should play Bane’s.

What they miss is the possibility of utilizing Deneghra’s Feat to make a ranged army.  The weakness of Bane’s is their slower SPD.  They can often be out-charged by opposing infantry, and their DEF and ARM stats aren’t good enough to allow them to absorb the blow.  That slower SPD also means it can be difficult to get them into charge range against a caster.  More veteran players also tend to bring anti-stealth options to deal with your Bane Thralls.

But that’s where I see a lot of people stop.  They get locked into a group-think mentality that pDeneghra should be played with Bane’s, and never really try out the myriad options available.  I recently heard a podcast from some guys in Detroit.  One comment briefly came up of one of their players using Mercenary Sea Dog Pirate Crew in his Cryx lists.  With a knockdown effect, or the numerous de-buff’s available to Cryx players, not to mention the buffing solo’s available to the Sea Dogs, he’s reportedly turned this unit into a nasty ranged assassination threat, and for very few points.  Revenants and Pistol Wraiths allow a similar element while staying in-faction.  By changing the list to a ranged-assassination list, this player has completely changed the way his opponents have to react.

This isn’t limited to Cryx.  Most factions have units that people will immediately write off as worthless.  My suggestion to you is this: give them a try.  I’m not suggesting you buy every model, but you can proxy them.  Try them out for a few games in different types of lists.  Who knows, you may find out the conventional wisdom is wrong.

Have you fallen prey to the theory trap?  Do you have favorite models that conventional wisdom has written off?  Tell us about them!

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