Having had a few days to process the theme forces I’m ready for my verdict, and it remains the same as it always is: Theme forces are bad for the game. In this particular opinion-piece I won’t rant about the difference in power levels, usefulness, or design mistakes, but solely focus on the fact that theme forces go against everything Privateer Press should be striving for, which is diversity in the lists you see at top level tournament tables.
Theme forces do the EXACT opposite. They’re either not worth fielding, or they’re worth fielding but only with a very narrow selection of models, which are then repeated ad nauseam. They also tend to force spams of something that usually isn’t worth taking, which means a resource intensive purchase spree for the players, which then means less different types of models to experiment with, which turns the entire meta stale.
We had years of minimal variation theme forces in MK2, and now we’ll have it again. These new theme forces allow for a bit more variation since they can be tailored to different casters, but it’s still the same problem. Either the theme force is worthless and won’t see table time, or it’s great and will see plenty of table time, thus making the tables less varied. The theme forces also cause a great deal of negative emotions, as PP is forced to either allow broken spam lists, or negate the hundreds of dollars worth of purchases a bunch of players made to field the spam.
Now it took them four years to realize that character restrictions was a dumb ham-fisted solution to the problem with variety, so perhaps in another four years they’ll realize that theme forces are death for the game, impossible to properly manage, and very likely wrecking their precious design space in the process. In the six years I’ve been playing Warmachine & Hordes the variety has declined continuously. The rules might be better than ever, but the game is more boring than ever, which for me is a huge problem.