So, there are a number of changes to models in which they have been given a Shield Weapon but not the Shield Icon. For several of these, they were given Unyielding, but this doesn’t quite track.
A Shield provides +2 ARM. Flat. This applies to ranged attacks, magic, and other miscellaneous damage sources. Chain Weapons will ignore this.
Unyielding only applies to melee attack.
So, while Unyielding is nice, it isn’t the equivalent to a Shield in many cases.
If it was meant to be equivalent, then they would’ve kept it all as shields or all as unyielding. Idk what the official word is on this but I believe s lot of the time it has to do with the intentions of the unit. Take the exemplar errant. At face value they appear to be a ranged version of Knights Exemplar. But looking closer at Unyielding and their Weapon Master sword… They’re actually more of an all-rounder exemplar. If they had a shield instead, I wouldn’t even bother taking them into melee.
Why? A Shield is the same in melee as Unyielding. Both give you a +2 ARM there.
But, a Shield also provides +2 ARM vs ranged and magic?
Now, the ARM values of models didn’t change as well, so I can see a designer note for not wanting them to become too strong defensively.
The bigger problem though is that we now have models with Shields without the Shield Icon, and models with Shields with the Shield icon. As one of the stated goals of the game was to streamline and make things more predictable and uniform, this is going against that design goal as a player now needs to remember which things actually have shields and which don’t.
Technically, they aren’t. As you said yourself, unyielding requires you to be in melee. If you’re designing a model that is good in both melee and ranged, people are almost always going to prefer ranged because your models are safer. They can hide behind cover or in forests, and they are not in as direct danger as they would be in melee. A good way to fix that would be to boost their survivability in melee - hence unyielding
Alternatively, if it is a model that you want to thrive in melee, and be vulnerable on the way to melee/if they aren’t in melee, unyielding is a good way to give them an extra +2 ARM when they’re in the zone but not when they are exposed.
They didn’t have the shield ability before, so the shield weapon is a nice little addition for me. The Errants didn’t have Shield Wall before either. I think giving them a niche (Unyielding vs Shield Wall vs Shield) is more interesting from a gameplay perspective. The Cinerators are almost light jacks as is.
Looks like most of this is pure WYSIWYG. Models that had a… modeled… shield, now also have a shield weapon. The +2 is left out, because it was already factored into the model’s rules beforehand (Shield Wall, Unyielding, etc).
See the Convergence Reciprocators, for instance: never had the +2 rule for the shield, but the shield’s armor was reflected in it’s higher armor, compared to the other mediums, and the Shield Wall rule.
PP has always been a bit inconsistent with shields - well, at least since Mk2, I dunno about Mk1. Warmachine is just not as WYSIWYG as… some other games, at least in terms of weapons and other visual language elements. But it didn’t need to be because:
a) units were less configurable, and
b) unit cards had all the info to hand (unlike other games that originally had all the model and weapon profiles in books, so being able to tell exact numbers by looking at the models was more important since no-one wanted to have to flip through a book to resolve every attack).
I think it’s something that just makes them a little more interesting if nothing else.
Regarding WYSIWYG: the way other big games do that is actually a turn-off for me, as is the extensive building my army down to the MRE they’re having for lunch. It’s a bit too much. Maybe a small skirmish game? Sure…
Been that way since Mk1. Warrior models didn’t have a shield weapon with a Shield icon back then, it was built into their ARM stat or represented by the Shield Wall rule. It was always weird how half-naked Doom Reavers and full-plated, shield-bearing Iron Fangs had the same defensive stats.
Perhaps the new-era “Shield” weapons that don’t give an ARM bonus should be named “Bash” or something so as not to cause confusion about the weapon’s shieldness.
The rules question was primarily one of intent, which Erik was able to address via email with me.
But, I would also point out that for consistency we now have Shields with the Shield Icon and Shields without the Shield icon. For those without, calling the weapon Shield Bash or something would allow for consistency across the board.