I’m not normally into mobile gaming, but when I was given the opportunity to have a look at a brand new mobile game based on the tabletop miniatures game Mordheim, I couldn’t pass it up. To get a fresh perspective and a view from the other side of the Mobile market, Lin has joined me in looking at Mordheim Warband Skirmish from Legendary Games. Lin has been playing the game on iOS and I’ve been playing on Android.
Before I get into the game itself, let’s have a short look at the original game, Mordheim.
Back in 1999, Games Workshop published Mordheim, a skirmish based game set in the Warhammer Fantasy world. Mordheim was set prior to the Warhammer Fantasy storyline, some several hundred years. The city of Mordheim was struck by a comet, destroying the city and scattering a precious material called Wyrdstone. Groups of adventurers scour the remains of the city to find shards of Wyrdstone to collect and sell. Each game is a match between two of these groups, known as warbands, to see who can come out on top and take the Wyrdstone shards for glory and riches.
It differed from Warhammer Fantasy in that instead of fielding large armies, possibly with hundreds of models, each side would have less than 15 models each. Mordheim also included Campaign rules, so each game could be part of a greater story. The Campaign rules allowed players to upgrade their warband with different weapons and skills, but it also allowed the individual warriors to get injured or killed. The games were also generally shorter and were played with significantly more terrain.
This mobile Mordheim is very close to the original game. When one starts the game, one must create a warband. As of yet there are three factions to choose from; Reikland, Middenheim and Marienburg, all Empire humans. Each have their strengths to differentiate them from each other. I have been informed that additional warband factions will become available later through purchased DLC with Skaven being the first planned and others such as Undead, Cult of the Possessed and Sisters of Sigmar to follow later.
The gameplay is very similar to that of the tabletop game but with all the technical parts, like measuring distances and rolling dice, taken care of behind the scenes. The game is divided into turns, with each model having their turn in an order dependent on their initiative stat. The player is given an objective, such as kill or rout the enemy warband, or hold a marked area for a certain amount of turns. The game is over when either the objective is completed, resulting in a victory, or your warband is defeated or routed.
Graphically, the game is 3D with a cel-shaded, slightly cartoony look. This is quite suitable for a mobile based game as cel-shading is generally less graphically intensive compared to more realistic rendering. The overall colour scheme is quite dark, tending towards black in most circumstances. This fits with what is known as the ‘GrimDark’ atmosphere that is one of the hallmarks of Games Workshop games. The graphics are simple enough to work well on a mobile platform while being detailed enough to look good and encapsulate the essence of the tabletop game.
I’ve been playing Mordheim Warband Skirmish on a Sony Xperia z5 Premium, a fairly top end phone. It performed very well, with a decent frame rate. My phone did get quite warm while playing, and the battery got chewed through pretty quickly, but this might be a normal thing with mobile gaming that I’m not aware of, since I don’t generally game on my phone.
I, on the other hand, is a complete newbie to Mordheim and Warhammer Fantasy in general. While familiar with the basic general lore of the Warhammer universe, I’ve only heard of Mordheim in passing. So I am forced to regard Mordheim Warband Skirmish as just a mobile turn based tactics game, and it’s a fairly decent one from what I’ve seen so far.The game has exactly the type of game play loop perfect for a mobile game, with most skirmishes taking five minutes or less but the loot lust keeps you coming back for more. They didn’t bother to put much story into the game outside of the world building and I think it suits it here. The combat is akin to your old PC RPG’s with simple turn based move and attack which gets more and more exciting as you level up your characters and gain more skills. The game also looks pretty amazing for a mobile game. On my iPhone 7 Plus, at least, the models pop with distinct are colourful art style. The ability to change colouring of your character’s garb is also a minor but welcome addition for those wanting to build their own distinct warband.There are some minor nitpicks I have for the game. As someone who was more familiar with Japanese style turn based strategy games, I wish the movement in this game was grid based, as I feel that movement here can be less than precise. While there are reportedly other races in the work as DLC, I wish at least one other non-human race that come in the stock game so you are not stuck with the vanilla ice-cream of the fantasy universe, humans. The prettiness of the character models also makes it a bit more disappointing when the environment is repetitive and bland. Unfortunately, the setting it such that I don’t see us getting too many maps that isn’t just medieval cityscape.
The game we were given is obviously unfinished and a few bells and whistles would flesh it out immensely. However, the core gameplay for a very solid mobile game is already in place and it can be enjoyable whether you are familiar with the source material or not.
While I didn’t get a chance to experience every facet of the game, such as different warbands or PvP play, since these elements are not out yet, I feel the game is a good representation of the tabletop game. Being on the mobile platform means one can get a game in while on the bus to work in the morning, during a boring story from a relative or while having a sit-down lavatory adventure. It is certainly a lot quicker to pick up a phone and have a game rather than setting out a table with all the terrain and scenery, finding an opponents and getting a game that way. If I am looking for negatives, it is only to do with in-app purchases and DLC. I am still a proponent for having a complete game from the start, and perhaps paying for expansions later, not buying most of a game and then having to pay more later for the rest. But that is the way the mobile game market operates.
Mordheim Warband Skirmish is already available on iOS in Australia with the Android version coming soon. It has in-app purchases of ‘Fate’ coins, which can be used for various things within the game. Different warbands and Player vs Player combat will become available later. The game itself costs $5.99 on iOS and probably won’t be much different.