Man, sometimes I REALLY hate the internet. I hate the fact that every time there's a new release from Privateer Press I have to circumvent the entire forum system until it stops resembling a blasted wasteland populated by obnoxious 12-year-olds. But I gotta admit - it's not like the complaints about War Room are without merit. I've been playing around with the program since it released yesterday, and I feel reasonably confident in giving at least some initial impressions.
On my iPad 2 the program runs fine. Great, in fact. It's smooth, goes between menus without problems, and generally does everything promised by those videos we've all been seeing. This is in sharp contrast to my Android phone. On my phone the program is incredibly buggy, freezes without warning or reason, crashes occasionally, and you can't use the back button on the phone - only the in-app button. Which only works when you make the proper oblations and ritual sacrifices. And it's feeling generous. Basically the program is un-usably bad on my phone. For the purposes of what I'm talking about here, I'm going to look at this program from the perspective of the iPad, and just really, REALLY hope that in a couple patches the Android issues will get straightened out.
All right, so I fired up War Room after months of hype, create my account, and dive in! I know that only the prime models are available without spending money, so I look at those. The program is actually pretty great as a virtual card system, I gotta say. It has all the cards in full, big formats with all the latest rules and the ability to click on them to learn specifically what certain rules do. Wondering the exact wording of terror? You can have it at a touch, no book flipping required. As someone who frequently references his cards and rulebook to try and work out specific combinations and timing issues, this rules-reference portion of the program is worth the price of admission alone.
Unfortunately, it's impossible to talk about War Room without mentioning iBodger - the free list-building tool for Android and iOS created by a fan, for other fans to use to make a great game better and easier to play. iBodger did exactly what it was advertised to do - it built lists. You could choose theme lists, it would make sure your points were right, it would adjust point values of models if a tier list did so, and even let you email lists. In preparation for War Room Privateer asked iBodger to cease updating the program, the assumption from everyone being that War Room would pick up the slack. Eight months later, now that War Room is out, I gotta say that...well, it kind of does?
This may be the biggest gripe people have - after the program crashing on their Android devices and - like me - paying for card bundles and having them just...not show up. (You have my money! I just want to use your program already! /rage) The list building part of War Room works well enough. you can select models, put them in your army, all that jazz. You can save your army, you can save the army of someone else you're playing against. Also pretty rad. My main issue comes in two forms: mercenaries and theme list support. There is no filter for mercenaries, and they show up with all the faction models. It's really unnecessary, and seems like a major design flaw. I really don't want to have to sift through a pile of mercenary warjacks I can't even assign to my caster just to find the ones I can. At least separating them out into blocks within the same category would be a major improvement. Theme forces though...man, I feel like they really dropped the ball on this one. Other than the ability to reference a theme force, there's no support. There's no graying out of models you can't take once you select a theme force. There's no model point adjustments (I get a point off of these two warjacks? Well, I suppose I better just make my list 2 points over and deal with it), there no prevention of those mercenaries, there's...nothing. You just make a theme force and have the rules for it handy. By itself it's not horrible, but we live in a post-iBodger meta. You can't get away with asking people to pay out the nose to use your program and then not give them the functionality they were getting for free.
I think the biggest crime here was the hype, honestly. We've been exposed to the imminent "War Room is coming! It's super awesome!" hype for months. With iBodger not being updated and a new book being out, everyone has been getting more and more anxious for this. No one writes out their lists on paper any more, everyone uses their phones. Privateer constantly hyped how good this program was, and how it was going to be the be-all end-all list-building program. I tried really hard to keep my expectations low - this is a new company making an app for the first time for a game they probably never play for a community that is absolutely rabid at the best of times. It was a recipe for disaster from the start. Do I think it excuses what's going on? No. Do I think Privateer should maybe have held off on hyping this thing until they actually had a working version in their hot little hands? Absolutely. Do I think they should have shut the premier list-building software down 8 months before their own proprietary system came out? Fuck no. It smacks of their dealings with Gale Force 9, except instead of a company they were doing business with it was a single guy doing them an immeasurable service because he loves their game.
I'm hoping War Room shapes up in the next few days with a series of much needed patches. It needs to act and act fast if it wants to succeed - these rabid fans will do their best to burn it to the ground if it isn't working as promised - and they made the serious mistake of promising a whole hell of a lot.