Last spring, I spent some time discussing the Kickstarter for Privateer Press’ new game, Warcaster: Neo-Mechanika. The game is something of a spin-off from their popular Warmachine miniature wargame, which allows players to field an army that includes hulking metallic warjacks. Warcaster is set thousands of years in the future, in a distant galaxy, where human refugees from the Warmachine setting have set up home, technologically advanced, populated the galaxy, and, not surprisingly, found new and more impressive ways to kill each other.
To get you up to speed on the setting, the game is played in battles of armies composed of three different factions that have ample reasons to fight against each other:
- The Iron Star Alliance are the troops representing the major government in the Warcaster galaxy, the towering monolithic empire that is seemingly necessary in any sort of space opera-style setting. They’re not necessarily evil, but they like order, and they exist to enforce that order.
- The Marcher Worlds is a loose ragtag group of independent worlds that resists the order the Iron Star Alliance seeks to impose upon them. If you’ve watched Firefly, these would be the equivalent of the Browncoats that Malcolm Reynolds fought for.
- The Aeternus Continuum represents a darker faction of human society, a vast cult of pirates and murders that is banned across both the Iron Star Alliance and the Marcher Worlds. They are dedicated to a form of techno-necromancy that seeks to use medicine and sorcery to grant immortality to their leaderships.
That initial Kickstarter has been fulfilled, with a surprising amount of speed given that their production facilities had to deal with a pandemic lockdown for COVID-19. I’ve now had the chance to play through the game several times, to develop some more detailed thoughts on the game … and let you know about their next plans for the game, including a current Warcaster: Collision Course expansion Kickstarter that ends at 3 a.m. Eastern Time on Friday, November 6. You can buy any of the factions’ existing or new products through the Kickstarter, but they’re also available through the Privateer Press store or your local game store.
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The current storyline in Privateer Press’ Iron Kingdoms setting is leading toward the apocalypse, as otherworldly Infernals swarm across the nations of Immoren. Characters familiar from the Warmachine/Hordes game setting will (and already have) died, but others may escape Immoren to become the progenitors of the upcoming Warcaster science fantasy wargame (with 3 days left on its Kickstarter).
But what of those who survive, left behind on the Immoren after the Infernals have harvested souls, and broken the nations that make up the Iron Kingdoms? When the swan of Cygnar has fallen, and even the undead cannot remain safe within the land of Cryx? Well, at that point … might as well start some looting.
That is the theme of Riot Quest, released at GenCon 2019. It is a miniature arena game, where players field teams of models to go up against each other to collect treasure and cool equipment. As your team appears on the field, randomly located near one of 6 spawn gates, players try to make it to treasure chests located at randomly-determined treasure points. Once a treasure is obtained, another treasure spawns, and the race is on again. As you gain treasure, and defeat opponents, you gain loot tokens that can be used to buy special Riot Gear cards to boost your characters’ abilities.
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I recently covered some of the new storyline that is coming out for the main product line of Privateer Press, the Iron Kingdoms fantasy setting that is used for their Warmachine and Hordes miniature war games. Part of the impact of that storyline (unrolling through microfiction at the @HengeHoldScroll Twitter feed) is that some denizens from the Iron Kingdoms are escaping, guided by the clockwork god Cyriss, through a portal into another universe.
Fast forward five thousand years, and the Cyriss universe is populated by humans, who have gained dominance over the native Architect and Guardians of the Cyriss galaxy. The overwhelming governmental and military power in the universe is the draconian Iron Star Alliance, who constantly finds themselves in conflict with the independent Marcher Worlds and the shadowy cult-dominated Aeternus Continuum, through a new miniature science fantasy wargame, Warcaster: Neo-Mechanika, now available on Kickstarter and fully backed within just a few hours.
Warmachine has warcasters, as the main leader model in an army, who commands the giant mechanized warjacks, and channels magical focus to empower them. One major difference in Warcaster is that the warcaster isn’t a model on a table, but a distant commander, jacked into a command ship (called a rack) in orbit over the battle. You, in other words, are the warcaster, and you can wield the power of Arcanessence, or Arc, to empower not only the warjacks on the battlefield, but any of the units under your command, through their augmented neo-mechanika armor and weapons.
In other words, in Warcaster you can’t obtain victory by killing one uniquely-important model on the battlefield. And that isn’t the only difference …
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For twenty years, the folks at Privateer Press have been creating games, primarily set in their Iron Kingdoms steampunk fantasy setting. They began with a series of RPG volumes, including an award-winning trilogy of adventures from 2001. These adventures, later collected into The Witchfire Trilogy, was built on the D20 System from Dungeons and Dragons 3E.
Then Privateer Press really came into their own with the introduction of the Warmachine miniature wargame, focusing on armies that control massive metallic warjacks, one of the iconic creatures from their Iron Kingdoms setting.
It was Warmachine that got me into their world, in about 2005. I like heroes, so I went with Cygnar, the faction that is most stereotypically the classical honorable kingdom of knights and warriors. For those who aren’t inclined toward heroism, there was the religious fanatic Protectorate of Menoth and the undead Cryx. And for those in the middle, there was Khador, thematically based on Russia and known for having the most massive, hulking warjacks in the game. And missiles. Lots of missiles. This miniature line expanded, through Hordes, into battles with savage monstrous warbeasts, fully compatible with Warmachine. The Hordes included the blighted Legion, the druidic Circle of Orboros and their werecreatures, the Trollbloods and their giant troll cousins, and the sadistic Skorne.
It was actually my reviews of Privateer Press – both their wargame line and the RPG supplements – that first landed me in the pages of Black Gate, back in Spring of 2007 in Black Gate 10, when Black Gate actually had physical pages.
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Ever have one of those days where you wake up disoriented in an underground government laboratory, surrounded by military guards and alien clones? Yeah, me neither … that is, until I got the cooperative board game Level 7 [Escape] (Amazon) from Privateer Press.
I’ve reviewed several Privateer Press games before and one of my favorite things about their games is the strong emphasis on story. Level 7 [Escape] is no exception to this trend, as between 1 to 4 players (Yes, it can be played as a solo game.) use cunning, speed, and brawn to negotiate their way through 7 levels of terror in the hopes of reaching the surface before the base goes into full lockdown. What’s up with the alien clones? Why were they released from their cryogenic chambers? Who is orchestrating all of this? Will the escaping prisoners be able to work together and make it to the surface in time?
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For me, a good game is really a window into another world. It’s like a miniature story that is told with a set of pre-defined rules. The war games I play are rarely just games, like tic-tac-toe or chess, but instead a single battle in a larger war, which in turn is part of the story of the rise and fall of nations and the struggles of the people within them.
It was this perspective on gaming that first drew me to Privateer Press’s Warmachine line of miniature games. Though I loved the physical look of the figures, the fact is that I’m not an artist or a visually-compelled person as a rule, so it was really the setting that drew me in, the possibility to, in some small part, take part in the stories set in this world. And the giant warjacks didn’t hurt.
In fact, the first article I wrote for Black Gate was a review of Privateer Press’s Iron Kingdom roleplaying supplements, exploring their magically infused steampunk-style world of giant mechanical behemoths. Soon after, though, my involvement in Warmachine died off. I got married, became a father, and the disposable income to buy metal miniatures and disposable time to sit painting them went by the wayside (and there was a vast increase in anxiety, as little two-year-old fingers would inevitably seek to play with “Daddy’s dolls,” as they became known in my house).
Fast forward to the present, and it’s as if Privateer Press has found a solution to getting me back involved in one of my favorite gaming worlds. In addition to a whole new Iron Kingdoms line of RPG supplements (Amazon, Privateer Press) and digital fiction set in the Iron Kingdoms (Amazon), they have released a new deck-building game, Warmachine High Command (Amazon).
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