As I take off my Warhammer training wheels and veer off into the unknown I keep asking myself “what do I want that warhammer does not provide?” Since I am not very knowledgeable on all the difference game systems and mechanics within them, I figure starting with what I disliked about Warhammer was a good place to start;
On a side note these opinions are based around competitive match play Warhammer 40k. I understand this isn’t the only way to play the game and a lot of what I talk about can and has for some been curbed with casual games or Narrative & Open play… but for me it has not.
Mathammer. Look, everyone loves gushing over D6 math. Calculating out that the new beauty you painted does 12 wounds on average to a tank gets the blood flowing. Unfortunately though, math completely dictates what decisions you make within the tabletop game play. Warhammer is not tactical, you are not providing a support by fire so your dismounted infantry can book it across a street. You base your decisions on what gives you the best mathematical efficiency. Warhammer 40k puts a premium on critical thinking and analysis based on math at the detriment of wargame mechanics. This isn’t inherently bad though and tons of people are completely content with it (me included to a point). It’s a great game once you stop thinking of it as a war battle and more of chess game with abstract pieces.
The barrier of entry for Warhammer is astronomical, not from just a monetary standpoint but sheer time investment too. Games Workshop undoubtedly has a ton of awesome models and has recently begun really engaging the community in developing a central source of resources for hobbyists to pour over. Unfortunately this all comes at a premium; a basic 800ish point Space Marine force with the absolute hobby basics and 15% discounts from online stores is going to cost 300 USD.
Another less talked about barrier of entry is the knowledge gap. Intelligence on the battlefield is crucial. In Warhammer it is a massive advantage to be able to know exactly what your opponents army does. You can analyze what the greatest threat is to your army and move to eliminate it; “My X model will carry the game if it survives, my opponents threats to that model are Y & Z so I will kill those first.” People who can do this undoubtedly deserve this advantage, but you can’t discredit that it takes a significant time investment to reach that point (and taking a lot of lumps along the way).
When you combine these two, you get an interesting combo. Your need for knowledge is fueled by making sure you have less unknowns in your math hammer, not to become a tactically better player. Right now the Castellan Knight is the big meta bully and can be used as a perfect example of this. Think about as newer player playing into a Castallen, you’d think you would want to blow that thing up right? Do you know the knight can get a 3++ in shooting? Do you know even if you degrade the Knight he can still fire at full profile? These are huge unknowns in the equation and when known they end up making you not want to deal with the Castellan.
So i’m looking for a game system that feels more like a battle. Something that doesn’t require extensive time investment to fully grasp or enjoy. Needs to be cheap enough to field 2 Armies, since anything non WH40k is hit and miss to find opponents for. Sounds like historical wargames are the first place to start.