App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
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When it comes to Games Workshop video games, it seems like Warhammer 40,000 gets a lot more attention than its fantasy progenitor, Warhammer. Mordheim: Warband Skirmish is a game that's trying to correct that by serving up turn-based strategy in a fantasy setting. In its current form though, Mordheim feels like a pretty cheaply cobbled together game that doesn't capture the fun and unique aspects of what makes Warhammer great.
The App Store's version of Mordheim is actually a digital port of an old board game of the same name. In it, players battle with small groups of fighters rather than the massive armies used in traditional Warhammer play. These skirmishes are set in the city Mordheim, with each individual warband fighting to collect valuable shards of Wyrdstone to grow and upgrade their own troops.
The battles in Mordheim play out using a turn-based system that doesn't use a gridded map for fighters to move around on. Instead, movement is a lot more freeform and allows for characters to take cover in particular places and even hide themselves from enemy eyes. For the most part, this action feels pretty standard, but there is an emphasis on careful troop placement and managing your fighters' morale that encourages you to play things safely and slowly.
Mordheim's structure feels very much like that of its board game roots. Instead of an overarching narrative or progression of levels, each skirmish in the game is essentially a random encounter. The goal here isn't to advance a story as much as it is to beat down the enemy to build your own troops up to be better fighters.
There are a few different ways to make sure your army is getting better. The first and easiest way is to make sure your troops survive their fights. Simply by doing this, they earn experience points that you can use to unlock and upgrade abilities that make them more effective on the battlefield. Beyond this, you can also spend money on new gear or even hire out more people to join your warband.
Where's the fantasy?
While all of this sounds like pretty standard stuff, Mordheim unfortunately suffers from myriad issues that really hamstring the experience. The game has a really chunky and unappealing aesthetic, battles can be frustratingly tedious, and–most notably–Mordheim doesn't feel like much of a Warhammer game at all.
In its current state, Mordheim has only one race (human) and two unit classes (warrior and marksman), and most of the fights boil down to who can bait enemies out into the open and get lucky. Most other strategies result in a huge morale loss or troop injury, which then requires you to spend premium currency reviving them or trying to earn enough gold to replace them with new recruits. From top to bottom, Mordheim's structure seems unbalanced, and it definitely doesn't feel like Warhammer in the slightest.
The bottom line
When I think of Warhammer, I think of Elves and Orcs battling on a grand scale, and Mordheim completely fails to deliver anything resembling this. What it does offer is small scale battling, which could be fun if not for the game's lack of content and balance. In future updates, the developers say they'll be adding new factions and other things to the game, which might help things some. For now though, Mordheim just doesn't feel worth the price of admission.