There were various reasons why I stopped playing 40K and have been selling off the Space Marines and Tyranids that I had lavishly collected and painted, but I don't want this to be another post comparing the two games and companies. Instead I'd rather discuss one of the stumbling blocks I had entering the game of WM/H. And that was aesthetics.
Privateer Press make some gorgeous models. Since I drank the PP Coolaid they've just been going from strength to strength. But even then there was an overall problem I had with the look of the game. And that was the whole steampunk setting of Warmachine.
I loved the background setting of 40K, and I'm a bit of a sucker for a rich and detailed background setting for my games and stories and what not. To me, steampunk is just weak window dressing for oft flaccid stories. It establishes a setting on the basis of looks, rather than having a foundation in developed concepts. There are some attempts to try and reason out why steam power becomes a pioneering power source in these alternate worlds, but things devolve to 'magic' or some other deus ex machina explanation that does nothing to actually address why people bother with steam powered crap if they could focus their efforts on the 'magic' instead (or is it magick? ugh).
I'm going to check myself, because I know I'm talking about how I'm getting all uppity about a make-believe world. But for these worlds to work in narrative there's the need for internal consistency. Neil deGrasse Tyson said he could enjoy movies like Star Wars because while they were works of fantasy, they had a set of fundamental rules that they adhered to. Steampunk settings and stories continually fail to do this, and instead presents a style-over-substance situation. All this leads to me having certain prejudices towards thing labeled 'steampunk' or that use the steampunk pseudo-victorian styling to define the look and feel of a fantasy setting.
steampunk inevitably leads to all sorts of weird
While my opinions on steampunk are thoughts that I used to entertain in relation to the Warmachine setting, I'm glad this is no longer the case. The writers at PP have obviously done a great job in expanding the world of Immoren to include a whole variety of fantasy concepts and cultural constructions. Many of them are pretty heavy handed in their approach *cough* Khador *cough* but for the most part, something that I used to see as a defining feature of the WM/H world actually only plays a small part of the whole background story (and the game actually, considering how few 'jacks are in your typical WM army).
Beyond THAT however, the aesthetics of the models in the game have fallen to the wayside far more than I had anticipated. I want to say this is testament to the strength of the game, where a particular unit brings an obvious gameplay advantage, so the way a particular model looked became insignificant to the influence they could bring to the tabletop. The Satyxis Raiders are a prime example of this for me. Used to hate the look of those ladies. I guess I still do. But they're worth to me is no longer related to how they look, but how they perform. I'll never judge another mini based on looks again.
I was wondering when I would make a segue into gender politics....
Anyways, I had similar issues with starting Skorne; I just didn't like the look of them at all. Stupid looking elephants, goofy looking armour, weird elven vampire looking dudes. That didn't last long. I've now got a pretty extensive backlog of Skorne models to paint, owning a good chunk of their available units and models. From there, PP continue to release fantastic models and expand the lore, and along with it my investment into the model range also grows. The look of so many things that I previously had problems with (pirates is another, fuck pirates), give way to me dreaming up lists. Its a struggle having to suppress my faction-ADD and not jump into something else before I've finished with what I've got. (Though the Shae tier is looking pretty damn tempting...fucking pirates....)
There's still some models that test the limits of what I consider to be worth getting. Like Ferox. So ew.