Mercenaries

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The Mercenaries of Western Immoren[edit]

The Mercenaries aren't a single faction but rather a myriad of various crews, cabals, companies and individuals of varying morals, but considerably violent repute. In times of war and strife the skilled mercenary sees only opportunities and profits. This makes them pretty bare in fluff, co-starring in someone else's story more than their own. For the record we have the following as interesting or narrative divisions, some as full blown contracts, others as sub-factions, units or even lone individuals:

  • Asheth Magnus the Traitor/Warlord and the Magnus Agenda: So you're a red-blooded patriot, a man who has fought, bled and given his own arm (but got a pretty awesome bionic replacement) for a king who understands that only those with a force of willpower that cuts steel deserve to rule... and then his soft, caring, not tyrannical little brother ousts him in a coup and makes everything the happy nice-nice. FUCK THAT SHIT! Magnus was a soldier renowned for his talent and being a pretty hardcore dude, he served loyally under Vinter Raelthorne and lost patience with the new regime. Feeling that Cygnar's losses in war and propensity to negotiating treaties over putting prisoners' heads on pikes and burning anything that resembles a building, Magnus formed a terrorist cell or 60, working to undermine the new king and put Vinter back on the throne so the civil rights violations can go on like the good old days. He managed to pull together a fair number of Cygnaran soldiers which means he often fought with a mixed force of mercenaries and deserters from the bottom of the Cygnaran army early in his storyline. After a fan and some shit come into contact he catches up with his beloved king, who happens to be ruling a whole civilization of ruthless sadistic militants by being even more ruthless and sadistic than they are. After some nice hugs cold-blooded torture, Magnus figures that Vinter has gone native with the Skorne and that the torture thing was totally unnecessary for someone who's spent time and effort trying to get him back in power, our one-armed hero jerkass decides he'll find Vinter's missing kid and heir, put the runt on the throne and rule as regent. Magnus is considered the single largest threat to Cygnar (compared to, an admittedly lazy, godzilla sized dragon god of undeath) and is public enemy number one, gun-mage extraordinaire, heroic warcaster and internationally renowned ladies man Allistar Caine is currently doing his darndest to foil the plot armour schemes of Asheth Magnus. Its not going well.
  • Alexia Ciannor, wielder of the cursed sword Witchfire: Daughter of a witch, carrying her mother's power, memories of her brutal execution by the inquisitors of Vinter's regime and also possibly her soul, this young lass carries a sword that just by existing causes undead to spawn in the area around it. She started the whole setting with the first series of modules made for the original D&D 3.5 campaign setting, back in those days, Witchcraft was what sorcerers and spontaneous arcane casters did, while prepared arcane spell casting was the only acceptable magic and breaking that taboo ended in stakes and fires. Alexia has had the sword for a while and basically goes around, never settling down because corpses will just start rising if she's there briefly, offering to fight for those with more money than scruples, except Cryx. Something about a living human that can take control of their zombies and turn them back on them has Cryx a little weirded out.
  • The Highborn Covenant: A collection of nobles, landowners and citizens from Lael who resent the occupation by both Khador and the Protectorate. The Covenant is basically a series of cells that operate with quiet support from Cygnar against their two oppressors, sort of like the resistance in WW2 France. Included amongst their numbers are the surviving gun-mages of the Order of the Amethyst Rose, veterans of Not-France's army that didn't cowardly flee or die from incompetence, not-French mercs with sentiments for their lost country, mercs paid on the sly by Cygnar to keep the Resistance going, nobles that stayed but didn't get bought by Khador or purged by the Protectorate and lastly members from several institutions connected with the Church of Morrow who are there because the Church of Menoth is muscling in on their turf (but also acting on behalf of the Cygnaran government).
  • Captain Phinneus Shae and the Talion Charter: Shae was an honest ship-caster (naval warcaster) under a dick of a captain on the great vessel The Talion. After Captain Dick did some things most dickish, the crew of the Talion decided it would be better to mutiny. So they did, tying the captain to The Commodore, a massive cannon, and firing it constantly till the bones in his body broke from the vibrations and his soul passed from this world. The Talion Charter is basically a document with the signatories of the original mutineers about the rules of being a pirate and giving their big corporate backers, who also fucked them over, the middle finger. Other nefarious pirates, Fiona the Black and Broadsides Bart signed on as well forming a fleet of pirates with a semi-unified purpose and a casual partnership with each other.
  • The Steelhead Mercenary Company: The standard by which all mercenary companies are measured. The Steelheads are men for hire, motivated by gold, but tempered by professional standards, maintaining discipline on par or exceeding some militaries in the region. Considered the finest merc company, they're certainly the most profitable with having chapterhouses everywhere, even (a very profitable)one in Cryxian territory. They even have a code of conduct should two franchises be fighting on opposing sides, mainly to treat each other as enemies but make sure the Steelheads on the losing side get returned to the company and not fed to something large and nasty. Notorious amongst them is captain STANNIS BROCKER! A captain and all round awesome dude who fights hard and plays hard. One of the conditions of starting a branch of the company is you need a deed from the local ruling bigwig to cover your ass legally when being hired by one merchant to and not fight wars against them, most merc companies consider this nice but not essential but to the Steelheads it is mandatory. Stannis however has a deed from a fallen kingdom, so as a mercenary he gets to play whatever side he wants and gets to ignore anyone with authority, even the head branch can't make him do anything, he's too profitable and too badass to fire and then risk an uprising from other branches. Another figure of note is Captain Amador Damiano, a Steelhead Warcaster who loves war, gold and his men. Brocker is more the blood knight of war to his captain of adventure.

Mercenaries as a faction[edit]

While all mercenaries are generally playable in actual WMH factions, a small number are closely tied to particular faction that they always count as in-faction units. This diversity results in there being no overall theme for the faction beyond being a jack-of-all-trades. Mercs can build a army to do anything. But it can only do what you built it for and does it at less cost-efficency and with less effectiveness than a faction that also does the same thing. They can do gunlines like the Swans but they can't do a better gunline than Cygnar. They can do synergy buffing of weak infantry into killer tarpits but they take their hats off to the Protectorate's ability to do it better for less.

Thus there is a running theme of "I can do a thing better than you, but you can beat me at your thing quite easily" amongst merc players. Whilst factions like Cryx may rely on tricks and exploits or complex activation sequence synergies like the Retribution, with Mercenaries beginners are screwed from the start with the first point being "what do you want to do?" and "do you know what this piece does for you in this role?". Beyond that one moves into similar issues as those other factions but with a "make do with what you have" mentality. Except for the classic across all games of man-spamming your cheapest bodies and drowning in a tide of cannon fodder and hoping to not run into something like the Butcher of Khardov, there isn't much in the way of clear starting choices if you don't have a grasp on the rules and the ability to assess a unit's strengths and weaknesses.

That said, in the metagame, both at tournaments and leagues, the Mercs have the ace up their sleeve of not being something you can prepare for without seeing the actual lists. In the two list format, expect both lists to be entirely unrelated in playstyle and composition. Few merc players will run two lists in the same Contract thanks to having Tier lists on top of contracts (the exception is The Four Star Syndicate which is the most generic contract and has the most number of choices).

Another thing that Mercs have going for them is their access to good character solos and good character units, after all everyone else gets 'em. Getting the likes of Gorman, Eiryss, Thor Hammerstein, Dirty Meg and Rhupert for solo support. While getting Greygore & Co., Cylena Raefyll & Nyss Hunters, Croe's Cutthroats and Lady Aiyana & Master Holt to put some bodies on the field with some quality abilities and stats.

How to build a Merc list[edit]

Way back in Warmachine Prime MkI, Mercenaries were expansion options for existing armies rather than a full army. You could hire them to fill gaps in your army's tactics, thus ensuring that you were less likely to have two identical faction armies slugging it out. However, the Mercs proved so popular that people demanded that they be allowed to field nothing but Mercs. For the sake of preserving the fluff, Privateer Press made it so you couldn't just drop every mercenary model you owned on the table; instead, you had a choice between five Mercenary Contracts, each representing a different agenda, but with some models and units shared between Contracts. When the MkII edition of the rules came out, this order was slightly disturbed by the addition of tier lists to the game (the Magnus's Agenda contract got demoted into Magnus1 and Magnus2's tier lists), but the other four contracts remained the same.

This means that, when you build a Mercenary list, you have two options to work with;

  • Tier lists. You'll find tier lists for every Mercenary warcaster in either Forces of Warmachine: Mercenaries or the expansion book where that warcaster was released; there are also special tier lists that have been released in No Quarter Magazine. Basically, you'll have a limited selection of models to work with, and if you meet the requirements for each tier, you get bonus special shiny rules for your stuff. Tier lists are usually a useful guide to what goes well with a warcaster, and sometimes the special rules are truly sweet, but most of the time it isn't worth bothering.
  • Contracts. Contracts are similar to tier lists but less restrictive; you are limited to certain models and in return you (usually) get the benefit of a single special rule.

If you're allowed to build multiple lists for a tournament, you can bring two different tier lists or contracts; you could, for example, field a Searforge Commission list and a Talion Charter list. This allows you to mess around with your lists way more than most other armies, and that's awesome.

The Mercenary Contracts[edit]

Four Star Syndicate[edit]

This represents the armed forces of the Iron Kingdoms Mafia, as well as the de facto military of the kingdom of Ord (as in, the Ordric army is so small that the king usually just throws money at these guys until invaders go away). Basically, it's full of mercs who will either work for literally anyone who can pay for it or who are too insane to work with a more organized army. A Four Star list can take any Mercenary models who will work for Cryx and/or Khador, which is a substantial majority of all Mercenary models, making this the most generic of the Mercenary lists. The trade-off, however, is that you don't get any extra army-wide special rules.

Highborn Covenant[edit]

The army of the Llaelese resistance, consisting of those few Llaelese who aren't complete cheese-eating surrender monkeys, as well as mercenaries who are willing to contribute cash to the resistance and a few Cygnaran warriors left over from when Cygnar actually had the resources to care about defending Llael. You can take any Mercenary model that will work for Cygnar, which means you have a slightly smaller range than Four Star, but you still get most of the Mercenary models in the game, and have a lot of crossover with the Four Star list. Every solo in a Highborn army gets Advanced Deployment, which is pretty damn cool. Highborn lists can also include one unit of either Long Gunners or Arcane Tempest Gun Mages and they'll count as a Mercenary unit, representing either Cygnaran forces staying behind in Llael or remnants of the Llaelese military (such as the Gun Mages representing members of Llael's own gun mage order, the Amethyst Rose, rather than being members of Cygnar's Order of the Arcane Tempest). The main attraction of Highborn lists is that you can take the ATGM Officer and have him marshal a Mercenary warjack. Giving the Mule some Rune Shots is pretty devastating.

Searforge Commission[edit]

DWAAAAAAARVES.

That should be all you need to know, but if you're not convinced yet, the Searforge Commission is the company which arranges trade between the Dwarven kingdom of Rhul and the human kingdoms, and this army represents the Rhulic mercenaries that they occasionally hire to settle disputes. If you prefer, you can use it to represent the Rhulic military, although fluff-wise Rhul has never been invaded by another kingdom -- it's the Switzerland of the Iron Kingdoms. In a Searforge Commission List, you can only take Rhulic or Ogrun mercenaries, meaning that this list is much more limited than the Four Star or Highborn lists. As a rules benefit, the size of your deployment zone is increased by 4" (which is pretty awesome when most of the models in the list are SPD 4), and you get a +1 bonus to the FA of all non-character models and units (which compensates somewhat for the small selection available).

Tactically, Searforge is quite different to most other armies, being a turtle-tastic SPD 4 list in a game which is focused on speed and aggression. Dwarven warcasters are tough as nails, but they have terrible FOC scores and not a lot of magic to play with. The army has trouble dealing with some scenarios, as the enemy will almost certainly be able to take the objective before the Commission army can get there. On the other hand, assassination-based play simply doesn't work against Searforge, and most anti-infantry tech will be rendered useless, since even their small-based infantry is armoured like a light warjack.

Talion Charter[edit]

The Talion Charter are pirates led by Phinneas Shae, captain of the Talion. He gets to lead the Charter because he has the Commodore Cannon. Do you have the Commodore Cannon? No? Then you can't lead the Talion Charter.

In all seriousness the Talion Charter allows you to field any Privateer mercenaries. Leaving you with a list that's about as varied as Searforge (i.e. not much variation). Rules-wise they get a +1 bonus to the roll-off to see who goes first and the (awesome) ability to redeploy all solos in the army after Advanced Deployment is resolved. Talion lists are usually focused on infantry synergy; take a unit of Sea Dogs, buff it up to ridiculous levels, throw it at the enemy and hope its support models don't die.

As we may have implied above the main reason to run Talion is to field Phinneas Shae and the Commodore Cannon. Shae only works for the Charter (he won't work for any main faction or any other Merc contract) and the Cannon only works for Shae. Both Shae and the Cannon are truly awesome and well worth the restrictive list building.

Puppet Masters[edit]

The Puppet Masters contract is sort of like the Highborn Covenant in that its a diet-lite version of a main faction and has a few differences. However this time the main faction is Cryx so it inherits its unfair bullshit tricks. This contract is related to the Cephalyx, an underground dwelling race of psychic BDSM leather fetishists in the vein of what those conservative Christians who label DnD as satanic magic think BDSM is like.

The playstyle for these guys is to take something garbage, briefly make it bigger and nastier, then send it off at something as a guided missile to explode something. Their units are crap and very soft but you can stack very strong buffs to make them scary, like a handful of single wound infantry taking down a colossal on average rolls in one turn scary, and then they die, because you sac half the unit to make the other half stronger and they'll be left naked with their garbage stats in the open.

Upside is you just put that Stormwall back into its carry case or boxed Karchev the Terrible in a turn.

Always remember to practice your Trollface in the mirror.

The faction doesn't use warjacks as such, rather 'roided up brutes subject to constant mind control with prosthetics more at home in a slaughterhouse than on human hands. These are apparently called Monstrosities. They've got lower armour than warjacks but truckloads of health, function like a warjack but don't have a cortex which means Cygnar's disruption effects mean nothing, are living with no souls and lastly are not a warjack, which means warjack specific effects and spells that say "target warjack" etc do nothing to them. Monstrosities tend to be a bit subpar for stats when straight-up compared to warjacks. But both the warcasters can make good use of these guys and thanks to having Sacrificial Pawn Monstrosities you can shrug off pretty much any ranged attack assassinations.

The infantry is mostly different flavours of Drudges (mindraped slaves with nasty prosthetics) with lesser Cephalyx hanging around keeping the mental torture going and killing them to power spells or buffing them for murder-suicide sprees. They can also take Bloat Thralls (exploding fat fuckers with shitcannons), Machine Wraiths (situational but hilarious when you have 2 of their warjacks plus your own battlegroup coming at their warcaster) and Pistol Wraiths (Essential compared to in Cryx, always take max, this is your only accurate shooting, everything else is a spray). Lastly they can take a limited selection of mercenary units (mostly good choices) with their ranking officer, the Cephalyx Dominator.

The two warcasters are the arms-length control support mages, the only difference is one leans a bit towards attack spells while the other is more battlegroup support.

Mercenary warjacks and list selection[edit]

Mercenary warjacks fall into three categories; Normal, Privateer, and Rhulic. Rhulic warjacks are locked to Rhulic warcasters and 'jack marshals, and vice versa. However, Privateer warjacks aren't locked to Privateer warcasters.

What all this means for our Tactics pages[edit]

There are three tactics pages for Mercenaries;

The games and their factions of Privateer Press
Warmachine: Convergence of Cyriss - Cryx - Cygnar - Khador - Mercenaries - Protectorate of Menoth - Retribution of Scyrah
Hordes: Circle Orboros - Legion of Everblight - Minions - Skorne - Trollbloods
Other games: Monsterpocalypse