Warlord vs Chronopia comparisonAuthor: joshuaslater
For some time now I´ve been the cynical, jaded old gamer who regularly posts around here, and in Beekeepers, and I´m starting to feel like Stadtler and Waldorf from The Muppet Show. For those of you not old enough to remember, they are the two old guy muppets who sat in the balcony making snide remarks about the show going on below them. It is not my intention to come across like this, and hopefully, in discussing where Warlord leaves me flat, I´ll encourage polite discussion and maybe offer some insight into why some gamers may not be drawn to Warlord, despite the great things about it.
I´ll take you through a game of Chronopia, and you can decide if there are elements that Warlord could use, borrow from, be influenced by, or flat out ignore. Mind you, this is the 2nd edition of Chronopia, which was vastly improved over the first, for those following along.
Army construction: Both games are skirmish games, but have different army construction. In Chronopia it´s simple. You may take 40% of your point total as missile troops. You may take one individual (solo, hero, monster) per unit. That´s it. Like Warlord, you may run an all melee army. You may however, run an army with no individuals. You may run an army with small units to maximize the numbers of individuals. Unlike Warlord, the troops are organized into units of the same type, like real world armies. If you look throughout history, all ancient armies had organization like this. Archers are trained to work together to maximize their effectiveness. I may play wargames in worlds occupied by Elves, Dwarves, Orcs, and Ogres, but I like the military organization of these fantastic races to at least resemble real world armies, to better help me suspend my disbelief. If you dig the idea that you can take a mix of archers, melee, magic, etc. all in one unit, then Warlord will be your choice. This is not something that was so dramatically different to me to turn me off of Warlord, and in fact, was a breath of fresh air for a time, but it got stale for me, as the idea of every unit being able to attack from distance with magic and missiles to close later became hokey to me.
Deployment: Here is where things get really wild. In the Chronopia game, each units´ statistics are written on a unit card. On the back of the card is the symbol of the force you are playing. Each solo gets a card, each unit gets a card, and for every 500 points of game, you get a dummy card.
Alright, you´ve got a force, you´ve got a handful of cards, and a d20. Game on.
Initiative: Each player rolls a d20, and adds the highest Leadership value that they have to the number to see who goes first. If you win in the first turn, you get to place a unit card in your deployment area, or pass, making your opponent go first. At this point, play goes back and forth with the placement of the unit cards (statistic side down, obviously) until all the cards are positioned where you want them. At this point, unlike so many other games, you have no idea what your opponent is manoevering at you to destroy you. Warlord, to me, will never steal my heart up against the double blind deployment of this game. In Warlord, you pretty much can set up to counter your opponent from the first. In the time I was playing, I would always set up my fast movers and spell casters to take out those pesky Elven Archers, or put my burrowing spawn in position to do the most damage. In Chronopia, you have to lay your cards down in a way you feel your army can maximize the terrain, and hope your deployment and plan last longer than initial contact with the enemy!! The dummy cards can have your opponent thinking you´ve got troops behind that piece of terrain that aren´t there at all. You may place Hidden markers on your dummy cards, as well as on the unit cards with the ability to Hide. Warlord has no means of stalking models other than a burrowing marker.
Activations and Available Actions: Here is where the games really differ. Both games try to capture the idea of each model acting out their part in the battle. In Chronopia, I decide to activate my Dwarven Axemen. Each model takes their two actions, then the next, until all members of the unit have activated. They may move, run (1.5 their move), spot hidden models, go on wait, from which they may countercharge an incoming model, dive for cover from AOE spells, template weapons, and Trampling models. If missile troops are activated, they may shoot one arrow each action, or spend the first action aiming to increase the chances of hitting and do more damage with the second action. There is none of this in Warlord. It seems hokey to me that the unit in Warlord all moves together, maximizes their stacking bonuses, then swings in the same activation. To me, the fluidity of battle is captured better when each model goes and does its´ thing.
Play alternates back and forth between the players until all models/units have been activated. Then initiative is rolled again at the beginning of each turn. Alternating activation ended up being how we played Warlord for a time, as we just got tired of the draw system.
Mechanics: Chronopia uses a d20. That´s it. An attacking model compares his Close Combat score, adds modifiers for charging, ganging up, etc. and compares this to the defenders Defensive modifier. My CC is 12, I´m charging, it goes to 13, and you have an Orc Swordsman with a -2 defensive modifier. I need an 11 to score a hit on the charge. My damage is 8 for my Dwarven Swordsman, 9 on the charge. Against your 17 armor, you´ll need an 8 or less. All of this information is on the unit card. Each model has a Strength rating, used to calculate how hard they hit with their particular weapon, how effective they are at breaking down a door, breaking out of a thrown net, or magic spell, or in opposed strength tests to break away from Close Combat. Armor ratings and saves are what make me feel a game has been thought out. A Sons of Kronos barbarian warrior may be wearing a loincloth, having a low Armor rating, but good luck hitting him in close combat with his defensive modifier. I feel Warlord has no means to capture this idea with their Defensive Value. It is strictly an armor rating, and has no indicator of how hard it is to swing a sword at them.
To Reaper´s credit, I will say they have listened to people on the forums here. I recall one post I made to this idea, wondering why my Isiri Warrior in his leather pants with a shield had the same Defensive Value as more armored Dwarves. All of this seems to be changing with the data cards, but I feel the mechanic is too simplistic to capture what I love about Chronopia.
Back to mechanics: A 1 is a perfect success, and a 20 is a fumble. I don´t enjoy a game that has perfect successes but no catasrophic failure, or fumble. Autohits in Warlord may speed up the game, but how much in life is certain, much less in battle?
Special Abilities and Magic: Here is where the games really differ. Some models in Chronopia have Ram Attack, meaning a successful hit and a failed armor save leave the defender prone on the ground. Trampling models!! We´ve got Chariots, Myrmadons with a howdah full´o´goblins, and Abyssal Crawlers, all able to run over and squish their enemies. Every army has its own spell list. Warlord is catching on to the idea that magic should be different for each faction. We´ve got Brace. This means your Elven Spearmen can form a hedgerow of braced spears to impale incoming models. We´ve got Leap!! Almost the entire Stygian army has it. It allows these models to leap over terrain, into the back ranks of squads, and strike first in a charge/countercharge. The stat lines and special abilities are what separate each army. No army special ability like the Pain Cage or Mercy is needed. I played Darkspawn with the Pain Cage, but found it tedious. I found Mercy silly after reading about the Crusades and watching The Kingdom of Heaven. The Warlord army special abilities are a turnoff for me, and I have no constructive criticism for them.
Getting to the crux of the biscuit: Warlord is fun, but will always be more of a beer and pretzels skirmish compared to Chronopia. I like having more options. I like having an incredible armor save come out at just the right time. I like forty pages of engaging fluff that set Chronopia apart from other games. When I talk to other gamers in my region, they can´t find the "hook" behind Warlord. The fluff is very generic, but the Bloodstone Gnomes may turn things around. The fluff that was given to the playtesters that was posted gave me some hope that the game setting will get something original.
In closing: I think I´ve laid out everything for why I choose to play an unsupported game rather than Warlord. I will continue to support Reaper by buying their models, and I hope this has been more constructive criticism and comparison than some of my other posts.
Last May we organized an event around Warzone and Chronopia because one of our forum members was in the States from Sweden on business. We had nineteen players from as far away as the midwest, one even flew in from California. This year we may see thirty players. I ask them about Warlord, but our crowd just doesn´t seem to dig it.
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