Company of Iron: A Warhammer Fan’s Excitement

It is no secret that I like Warhammer 40.000; after all, I am writing for an English gaming site – it’s the law, right?  (ED: Well, not really…) And as with anyone related to any nerdy hobby, I have to be extremely territorial and derisive of people with marginally different interests. I turn my nose up at Privateer Press and their whole ‘Warmahorde‘ thing… except, I’m incredibly excited about Company of Iron, their newly announced skirmish variant.

Before we get into further detail, let me drop a little background. Warmahordes is the colloquial name for a table-top miniature ruleset that is the most direct competitor to Warhammer/Age of Sigmar. It covers two games: Warmachine and Hordes. Both of them are set in the world of Iron Realms and are compatible to such a degree that armies from one game can face off against the forces from the other. In both cases you build an army around a wizard general – Warcaster in Warmachine, Warlock in Hordes – the death of which spells the end of the game. Warmachine is the steampunk-fantasy game, where mage engineers channel energies into warjacks, semi sentient steampunk robots. They are aided by armies of conventionally armed mortal men, minor wizards or tiny supernatural horrors. Hordes is a more primal reflection; their warlocks channel the rage of their beasts rather imbuing them with power, and they’re supported by less technologically sophisticated forces. Both games rely on a great deal resource management to invoke devastating synergies and combos.

I tried Warmachine… once. I woke up in a ditch and my breath smelled of gasoline.

But while Iron Realms is a setting interesting enough to have a thriving pen-and-paper RPG, I don’t really care about it. However, I can barely muster any passion about Infinity‘s lore either, yet I play it. What draws my greatest ire is the fact that every warcaster or warlock is a named character. You can’t bring in a generic general to customize, name, and make your own. In fact, the game has very little customization in comparison to Games Workshop games. You can express yourself by building an army, but unit attachments is as far as it goes. Plus, all other dudes in your army play second fiddle to the wizards and their pets, either mechanical or fleshy.

Enter Company of Iron

This upcoming product is going to be a squad-scale skirmish game. No warcasters, no warlocks, only armies of 10-15 miniatures or up to 20 points. This doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to squeeze in a minor wizard or a light warjack, but the scale is a lot smaller, a lot more intimate. So much so that every model, down to the lowliest Khador Winter Guard, will be moving and acting individually. What’s more, you won’t have to wait for the enemy to stop pummeling your forces before getting a chance to act; the players will alternate activating one model at a time, which will make for a very dynamic, fast paced game, where both players will be on their toes all the time.

This fine bunch of pauldron elves might just be your army!

And it’s taking some good ideas from other games, too. For example, much like in Shadow War: Armageddon, a downed miniature won’t necessarily be out of the game. There will be a chance that it will come back to action later on, though the exact mechanics are unknown at this point. And Company of Iron will offer a limited form of customization via a new card system for upgrading your team leader, making him or her (or it, considering some of the forces involved) much more powerful than the model usually is. If the limitations for those upgrades turn out to be lax, you might even be able to make some nameless nobody a jack marshall, allowing you to bring in a tiny jack! You will also get to use command cards, which will bring some of that characteristic sneakyness and comboing into this smaller scale game.

Let us not forget that warcasters are out of the game, and as such, the usual victory condition of ganking the named mage is out of the window. Instead, the game will run on scenario missions, such as raids, demolitions and other sneaky stuff that doesn’t warrant the attention of high officers and important spellcasters. This is great, as all serious wargames are based on scenarios rather than just two point-matched armies clashing over random bits of the map and seeing who bleeds the most. Personally, I got into miniature games to play out the battles that I saw unfurl in my mind – and not to pore over statistics, probabilities and other stuff that doesn’t play well with the suspension of disbelief. Moving the game towards scenarios is great stride towards this noble goal.

It’s also moving the game away from huge, expensive, hard to transport models!

The smaller scale also makes the game a lot cheaper to get into – at least, that’s what the local experts tell me. Warjacks and other big hitters can become expensive once you start playing games larger than your typical one-caster-and-two-jacks starter box. And there are even bigger models out there, big enough to break a cat’s back and sink your wallet. Joke’s on them, though: with Company of Iron, you’ll be able to take your 10 Man-o-Wars (Khadorand steam power armor dudes) and crush everything in your path. This will be the time for all the units and solos (lesser characters and officers) to shine on the field.

It will also make it easier on new people to get into the game. You won’t need to know all the exacting maths and synergies that make certain casters work with certain units. It is likely that, with some allowances for the local meta, that you’ll be able to just grab a unit and make it work. The game will still have some sort of resouce managing, but not nearly at the scale of regular warmachine battles. Plus, even having light jacks or warbeasts will teach you about their management and damage mechanics. Entry level stuff to be sure.

The start of a Company of Iron game might look just like the end of a regular Warmahordes game!

Another benefit? Less painting. Having to spend less time painting miniatures is awesome, and you get more time to play. It is a know fact that miniatures don’t like being played unpainted. And with some of the more elfin models in the Privateer Press line, you will have enough problems assembling them! Keep in mind that everything you’ll buy for your skirmish warbands will also be usable in the main game. This is the tricksy way of getting you into the Warmahordes, you see.

Skirmish games are awesome, and the more of them are out there, the better off we are. Warmahordes have a ruleset that is widely regarded as good, and the miniatures are pretty. The setting is an interesting take on regular fantasy tropes and themes. A way to get into it without a huge financial investment is a boon to us all. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to take into account this world of undead evil dragon spawn, lighting slinging gun mages, Scottish trolls and magical automata, and build a force of blunderbuss wielding fantasy Russians, because I hate fun.

Company of Iron is due to launch in October 2017, and the starter box will retail for $74.99 USD.