Yeah, I broke down and subscribed to Beasts of War (about $6/Month) so that I could download the alpha test rules for Warpath, Mantic's upcoming 40K competitor, from their members-only area. What's it like? Well, I've got some good news, and I have some bad news.
First, The Good News
This game is very similar to 40K. In contrast to Kings of War, which felt more like a complete re-write of Fantasy (at least as I remembered it), Warzone looks as though they took 5th Edition 40K as a template and then simplified each major rule in a KoW-like vein. So Warzone should feel very familiar to veteran 40K players.
Now, The Bad News
This game is very similar to 40K. So if you wanted, for instance, to have variable movement for each unit (instead of 6"/12" for everything), you're out of luck. If you have a gripe with some major part of 5th Edition 40K, expect it to be streamlined, but not really changed in a big-picture sense.
Mantic's not rocking the boat very hard with this one. While I personally would have liked a more 'pure' ruleset, free of some of 40K's stranger kludges, I have to admit that their strategy is probably the better one. The more different you make the rules, the less of the current 40K playerbase that you will attract.
So, What's Different?
I'll hit the high points. Keep in mind that these are the Alpha rules. They may already have changed for the beta. I'm also using 40K terms for a lot of the rules to keep things simple.
- Unit coherency is now 1".
- You move the Sergeant/Leader and then fill the rest of the squad around him.
- Every member of the squad must be placed within 5" of the Sergeant.
- Vehicles can't move when infantry is mounting/dismounting from them.
- If you exit a vehicle, you place the Sergeant anywhere within 1" and then fill in as normal.
- To enter a vehicle, you move the Sergeant within 1".
- Squad movement is similar to KoW. 1/2 movement for area terrain, 2x in the open, etc.
- Assault moves are always 12", no matter what. These happen in the movement phase.
- Vehicles are not slowed by terrain, but can still be immobilized exactly as in 40K.
- Tank shocking does D6 hits to a target unit.
- But you must be able to clear the unit with your movement, or you can't tank-shock.
- Melee to-hit is the same as in 40K. (i.e. 6's to hit if moving fast, auto-hit if stationary)
- Hovering vehicles can't begin/end their move in area terrain at all.
- Hovering vehicles can't be assaulted.
- You measure LOS from the Sergeant to at least one model in the enemy unit.
- -1 to hit for long range (greater than half), -1 if moving, -1 for cover.
- Cover is >50%, not >=50%.
- The squad always rolls the same number of shooting attacks.
- Heavy weapons are allowed to fire at different targets from the rest of the squad.
- But you have to completely finish firing each squad before moving on to the next.
- True LOS for everything.
- Vehicles have Defense values of 7+, so you need piercing weapons to do anything to them.
- 'Laser Cannon' example in the rules is Piercing (6).
- The highest vehicle defense in the provided test lists is 10.
- Vehicle defense values are lowered when you shoot at the flank (-1) and rear (-2).
- Vehicles test for nerve like everyone else, but on a 10 they are immobilized.
- Vehicles that rout are also removed like anyone else. No wrecks in this game.
- Open-topped vehicles let you fire out, but the squads inside take the same damage from shots that the vehicle does. (Nice!)
- Aircraft are always placed in reserve.
- When an aircraft comes on, you place it anywhere you want and shoot.
- Ground units add 18" to the range they measure to an aircraft.
- Aircraft always hit the top armor of tanks (same as bonus for shooting them in the rear).
- On your next turn, you pick up the aircraft (it's pulling away).
- Then, on the following turn you can place it again. (rinse, repeat)
- The reserve roll you need is the same as the game turn you're on. So you would need a 3 or less on turn 3, for instance.
- Outflanking is built into the reserve roll. Any unit can outflank.
- You're allowed to outflank 12" from your table edge multiplied by the current game turn number. So on turn 3, you could outflank from a short edge 36" from your table edge.
- On turn 6, a unit can enter on your opponent's table edge. Up to 12" from either side.
- No rules for deep striking. Though I suppose a transport aircraft could unload some troops.
- Works the same as in Kings of War.
- Set number of dice as a shooting attack. Each die hits on a 4+.
- Number of hits determines the degree of effect. Effect depends on the power.
- No way to block powers, but they're not as big a deal as in 40K either.
- The alpha rules come with 2 lists. 'Forge Fathers' (Space Dwarves), and 'Marauders' (Space Orcs).
- The allies rules for each also mention 'Corporation', 'Rebs', 'Asterians', and 'The Eighth Race'.
- All units come in 3 set sizes, just like in Kings of War. Mostly 5, 10, or 20. With some exceptions.
- Each 'solid unit' (medium or large size choice) that you take unlocks a Hero, Ordinance Unit, Monster, and a Vehicle.
- You can mix lists of the same alignment freely. But only units from the same list can unlock Heros, Ordinance, Monsters, and Vehicles from that list.
'Forge Fathers' (Space Dwarves)
- Are sort of like Vulkan Marines mixed with Space Wolves and a sprinkling of IG.
- Can be easily proxied with Space Marines and some Guard.
- "Steel Warriors" are heavy infantry. Think regular Marines with flamers and a few
- "Grizzlers" are Dev Squads (or Long Fangs). Heavy Weapons squads that can also buy Heat Hammers.
- Squad heavy weapons are either a 5-shot autocannon or a multi-melta equivalent.
- "Forge Guard" are basically Assault Terminators with Heavy Weapons options. Nasty.
- "Hel Valkyr" are (I think) bike squads. But their defense is fairly low. Like IG.
- "Scrappers" are a hoard melee option. Think IG blobs of 20 with Heat Hammers.
- The "Hailstorm" cannon is an anti-infantry Ordinance choice. Like an assault cannon on Crystal Meth.
- The "Heat Cannon" is a 36" super-multi-melta blast weapon.
- "Light Drakkar" is a light-medium tank with one squad heavy weapon choice. Sort of like a Hellhound or a Razorback without any troop capacity.
- "Fire-Wyrm" is a medium-heavy tank with one Ordinance weapon and an option for 2 more squad heavy weapons. Proxy this one with a Predator or a Russ.
- "Heavy Drakkar" is a heavy transport with lots of guns. Think Land Raider.
- For aircraft they get a "Rook" (Vulture) that can take 4 heat-cannons or autocannons (5 shots each).
- "Iron Ancestor" is a Drednought with a flamer and a heavy weapon. Don't go near this thing!
- "Huscarl" is a Hero in Terminator Armor. Lots of upgrade options.
- "Chief Scrapper" is a sort of like a Commissar that only inspires Hel Valkr and Scrappers. Weird.
Marauders (Space Orcs)
- Pretty similar to GW's Space Orks.
- Same chance to hit as the Space Dwarves in both close-combat and ranged shooting.
- 'Grunts' and 'Rifle Grunts' are obviously just Boyz and Shoota Boyz. But they do get heavy weapon options.
- "Heavies" are MegaNobs/Terminators. No heavy weapon options though.
- "Jumpers" are Storm Boyz with heavy weapon options. Wha...?
- "Stunts" are Gretchen. Cheap cannon fodder.
- "Stunt Bots" are Killer Kans. Nasty both at range and up close.
- Ordinance options are "Big Shells Gun" and "Big Tank-Killer Gun". Anti-infantry and anti-tank blast weapons. Blast means that the gun's damage is multiplied by D6 or 2D6. Ouch.
- They get 2 vehicles, like a Trukk and a Battlewagon. Each weapon added reduces the transport capacity by 5 models.
- They get a "Fighter" aircraft. Same as Rook, but with a lower defense and less than half the cost.
- "Battle Bot" == Deff Dred. Not quite as nasty as the Iron Ancestor, but a lot cheaper.
- "Captain" == Warboss. Lots of upgrade options, like the Huscarl.
Overall, I think that the rules/options look pretty solid for an Alpha. I expected a lot worse based on what we used to call an alpha when I worked in video games. Even so, they need more polish and testing. There's rough spots and what look like little in-jokes in the names and wording of certain things.
Play-wise, I'm a bit worried about the 5" rule when grouping the troops around a Sergeant. That plus the 1" coherency rule might make the battles a bit too KoW-like for my taste (albeit movement-tray friendly). But we'll see how it goes on the table. Note that there aren't any templates in this game. So your formation and spacing has no effect on how much damage you'll take when you're shot at.
I also don't like the combined WS/BS, which is a change from both 40K and KoW. As I feel it will be too limiting (for Mantic) when designing lists/units. But you do have separate attack stats for ranged/melee, which is nice. I want KoW to get that. :)
I do like how they're going thematically with the armies. One of the big problems with the Squats in 40K was that the Space Marines had already used/stolen a lot of the tropes that would have made the Space Dwarves special. So all we were left with was short Imperial Guard with bikes and some cool epic-scale vehicles. By coming out first and staking their claim to power armor and ancestor-entombing robots, they'll be able to stand distinctly apart from whatever marine-equivalents (if any) we see from Mantic later.
Which just emphasizes how much GW's Space Marine cash-grab has crippled the development of new 40K races over the years. It's like a voracious cancer that's stealing the blood supply away from the rest of the imagination in the game.
Anyhow, I proclaim Warpath to be interesting and ready for playtesting alongside your regular 40K fun. But it's probably a year or two away from appearing on GW's corporate radar to any significant extent. We'll know that day when the lawsuits appear. :)
The Marauder minis (if they're good) might cut into GW's Ork sales a bit, but the Dwarves... I dunno. You could proxy a Marine chapter possibly. But it would be a stretch. We'll see when the minis are released in October. I'm making a lot of assumptions based on the rules alone.
And yes, that is Gil Gerard (Buck Rogers) up top. :)
(My overall mixed-feelings on Warpath pretty much parallel my overall mixed-feelings on Star Trek: New Voyages. Hence the images.)