[WM/H] In Praise of Hardcore

It seems odd that someone of my die-hard casual convictions (a contradiction in terms, I’m sure, but I will fight to the death for my right to not have to fight to the death, or at least until I’m bored) would embrace Hardcore, and yet, and yet…

Hardcore’s not perfect, in its current incarnation, but it has always had the seeds of glory in it and here’s why.

Fully painted

We are not tinboys. The spectacle of the wargame is important; if it weren’t we would all be playing chess or something. There is something about these tactile objects which speaks to us on a level that has nothing to do with rules and other abstract notions. They don’t have to be perfectly airbrushed hyper-realistic works of art, they just have to be done properly, they have to look like you were trying to achieve something by painting them. If you commission someone to do this, there is no shame in that. If you commission someone to do this and you accept a painting prize for yourself, you are a heel and a rotter and you deserve a slap.

One list

List chicken is a needless faff. I think you’re going to drop ARM-skew so I drop my ARM-cracking list and then you drop your high-DEF infantry swarm instead, and we have ended up in the exact situation that the multiple lists are supposed to avoid. All we’ve done is stress each other out and second-guess each other and start the game with bluff and suspicion and “gotcha!” – in bad faith, as the current discourse has it. There will always be players who struggle to beat other players and lists which struggle to beat other lists. No amount of extra lists are going to absolutively posilutely prepare you for everything you are likely to see across the table. Cut the crap, build one list and accept that you’ll meet your hard counter eventually.

Any points value

All points values have their virtue. 15 points skips the preamble and gets right in at the deathblow. 100 points is an art form seldom practiced in our unfortunate, uncivilised age. 50 points is still an acceptable median for most and I accept the argument that it allows you to balance and fine-tune your list’s capabilities so that it has some tech for everyone. My dislike is largely down to a personal inadequacy: I’ve never quite managed to build a 50 point list that I can run smoothly.

Death Clock

In Stallroller – sorry, Steamroller – 1 and 2, Nationals finals seldom went to round three, and events were often won by the player who could manage the clock to combine the alpha strike with the last chance to move models in the game – bugger that. Timed turns have one very significant flaw – nobody uses up all their time on turn one and everyone needs an extra minute every turn when facing denial-heavy forces (like, say, most Protectorate armies, where you have to work out what you’re allowed to do and to whom). Death Clock is the way forward. Here is your time: one minute per point. You have agency, you have control. Divide and use your time as you see fit.

Mosh Pit

This game is quite complicated enough without adding in “choose your objective type and track its damage and remember which one your opponent has bearing in mind they probably all look the same”, or “you get this many points for controlling and this many points for dominating the flag and that many for controlling and that many for dominating the abstract zone and – ” No. Enough. Elegant design involves paring down rules, not adding more.

There is a circle in the middle of the board, 24″ in diameter. If you have a model completely within it and your opponent has no models completely within it, you win. If your caster is alive and your opponent’s caster is dead, you win. If you have somehow managed to go through the entire event round with neither of these things happening, you both lose.


What’s that? Some jackass is playing keep-away? OK, fine. We had a rule for that back in the Mark One days. If your caster ends their activation completely within 7″ of a table edge on any turn, you lose. Job’s done. Current Hardcore’s POW 14 is too easy to soak; this is a more effective deterrent which allows even a SPD4 caster on the very board edge to get back into play if they run. This matters: the point is to discourage hiding in corners, not encourage convoluted chain-Telekinesis shenanigans.

Four prizes

Fastest caster kill. Most games won. Most opposing points destroyed. Nicest looking army, according to the judges.

These prizes are easy to administrate and they reward individuals who have taken an aspect of the game as far as they can go (efficiency, generalship, sheer mayhem and the craft of miniature wrangling). No ‘best overall’ which invariably leaves someone feeling gipped, and no sportsmanship scores for people to tank or act like jackasses to earn or scare them away from using the judges for their intended purpose. Besides, the thing about sportsmanship scores is that they depend on who’s met/drawn whom – it’s not like painting where you can go around and inspect everyone’s contribution during the lunch break.

And on the fifth page:

You don’t have to make the kind of plays which require the precise marking of arcs, the turning of games on laser-thin lines between bases which don’t quite fit snugly because the models are bigger than their game volumes, and the abolition of three-dimensional terrain. Somewhere along the line, this game for alleged post-pubescents has become one of counting millimetres to avoid free strikes, and touching woods for a bonus without standing in them for a penalty, and blaming yourself if your opponent takes the game way more seriously than you do.

This is not what Warmachine and Hordes are about.

Having a Pair means that you’ve grown up and admitted that being the best at toy soldiers doesn’t mean jack shit and isn’t a life-defining goal. Nobody worth sleeping with cares that you can auto-win on control points with your teleporting Circle army without a single model needing to make an attack.

What I like about Hardcore is that it’s fast and furious and fun. You don’t have time to quibble over every rule or measurement because you’ll run down your clock; you have to keep things simple and brutal and straightforward instead of gimmicky and bean-counterish. I’ll even let you bring your laser lines if you’ll let me declare the intent to leave no gaps. Deal?

2 thoughts on “[WM/H] In Praise of Hardcore

    1. I do have plans to take a swing at the SmogCon Hardcore, in between fulfilling my duties in the IKRPG room. Need to work out a Skorne list that I can actually, you know, play competently in tightly timed turns (so not too many AOEs or careful angling, which rules out Incendiarii and Nihilators, which in turn means… a somewhat unorthodox Skorne army, by all accounts).


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