Warmachine and Hordes, often called Warmahordes, are tabletop wargames produced by Privateer Press. Uniquely among other games of the same genre, Warmachine and Hordes are actually built from the ground up to be played with one another. They are essentially the same game with two different flavorings: Warmachine factions are more civilized and make use of giant steam-powered magitek robots, while Hordes armies tend to be more barbaric and use huge-ass kaiju instead. Other than this, the two games are functionally identical to the point of most tournaments allowing armies from either game to be fielded against one another. This has led to most players referring to the game as Warmahordes. Both games are currently in their
second third edition (06/29/2016 edition), referred to as Prime MkIII for Warmachine and Primal MkIII for Hordes.
Both games are set in and around the Iron Kingdoms, a group of warring states on the western coast of a continent called Immoren. Everyone hates each other, as is par for the course in a wargame setting, and some major power players are dedicated to constantly stirring shit up among the more good-aligned factions so that they keep fighting one another and make themselves too weak to oppose the inevitable zombie invasions. Just as planned.
Immoren is basically what you get if you take a standard high fantasy setting and inject some Industrial Revolution. A long time ago, a bunch of evil sadomasochistic sorcerors from
SPAAAACE across the ocean showed up and kicked everybody's shit in. Since only divine magic existed at the time and everyone was basically a bunch of barbarian tribes anyway, humanity didn't really have much in the way of ability to actually do anything about this, so everything sucked for a while. The citizens of Immoren progressively invented better and better weapons to try and get the Orgoth the fuck off their collective lawn - guns and wizardry were both initially developed as ways to fight them - but it wasn't until the dwarves decided to be fuckin' bros and start supplying the rebels with resources and teaching them the secrets of magitek that things really turned around. This led to the creation of some huge-ass, steam-powered magic robots called the Colossals, which promptly steamrolled the Orgoth right the fuck off the continent and allowed the modern factions to form.
Of course, all of these factions hate each other, so Immoren has been in a state of constant warfare pretty much since it was freed. This would be
weird awesome enough given the anachronism stew that is the setting, since you have knights using powered armor and lightning spears to charge down Soviet Russians with shotguns, but the Iron Kingdoms have since refined the technology that created the Colossals and miniaturized it, giving us the modern steam-powered warjacks that are emblematic of the Warmachine half of the setting. Meanwhile, on the Hordes side of things, several remaining barbarian kingdoms have decided that using Imperial Titans to keep them subjugated is cheating, so they've leveled the playing field by bringing Godzilla along for the ride.
The setting differs greatly from most other tabletop wargames in that the story actively progresses as Privateer Press releases further expansions. Characters grow, change, and die, while countries are born, conquered, or razed to the ground. Perhaps the most obvious example of this is the small country of Llael, once a peaceful merchant land. It was a point of contention between the other factions for quite some time until it was conquered by Khador, then partially counter-conquered by the Protectorate of Menoth, making it one hell of a dangerous place to live and adding quite a few Llaelese models to the Mercenary lineup to represent the new rebel underground.
In terms of scale, Warmahordes is considered a skirmish-level wargame. Battles are generally much smaller than those taking place in Warhammer 40,000. Indeed, the smallest games can be run with no more than four or five models. However, the game can expand to a scale similar to 40k, with armies numbering fifty or more models per side. Even at this scale, though, it tends to play faster than the two Warhammer games. It is much smaller, faster-paced, and aggressive (see the tagline), with a greater focus on tactics and positioning of individual models.
Warmahordes is generally a well-balanced game (with one exception, though even that isn't as pronounced as it used to be); all of the factions have their niches and are all able to pull off a win if the list is well put together. Furthermore, almost every unit in the game has something to make it at least somewhat useful. There are very few instances where a unit is completely without merit (though they do exist), and if you like a unit that much, there's almost always some way to make it work.
That being said, there is a downside: whereas 40k and Fantasy are strongly focused on your dudes, with a ton of options for every unit, Warmahordes is much less open to customization. Units are taken as-is, with no options for kitting out individual troopers beyond whether or not you want to add an Officer or a Rocket Launcher Dude to the group. Beyond that, every army must be led by a warcaster or warlock , and every one of these is a named character within the Warmahordes universe. It's entirely possible to use, say, Allister Caine and just act like he's another character of your own creation who happens to share the same model and abilities, but those who are a fan of Games Workshop's "forge a narrative" style may find this irksome.
- 1 Unit types
- 2 List Building
- 3 Mechanics
- 4 Factions
- 5 Getting into Warmahordes
- 6 See also
Warcasters and Warlocks
Games of Warmahordes tend to revolve around each player's warcaster (Warmachine) or warlock (Hordes). These are powerful battle-wizards who have forged a mental link to your army's robots or kaiju, giving them direct control over their actions. Beyond this, each warnoun brings a list of spells to the table to further augment your army's abilities (or to just blast enemy models to ash), and every one also has a single-use Feat ability. This can only be used once per game, but is almost always devastatingly powerful and can basically win the game on its own if timed correctly. They're also generally no slouches in combat, with some of them being able to wipe out entire squads of normal soldiers or go toe-to-toe with heavy warjacks (though there are quite a few who aren't that fantastic in a brawl). What your warnoun does and what types of unit they synergize with is one of the most important parts of building an army and how that army works on the tabletop. No two warnouns are alike; you might be running exactly the same army list, but if you swap out one warnoun for another, you can completely change the playstyle.
Despite their incredible power, however, most games of Warmahordes require you to protect your warnoun rather than throw them into the mix. This is because they are functionally equivalent to the king in a game of chess: lose the warnoun, and you've lost the game.
What makes warcasters and warlocks so powerful is their ability to make use of FOCUS or FURY, respectively. These are the fuel that makes your army work.
Focus is the simpler of the two: warcasters generate focus, which they can then give to their giant robots in order to make them more powerful. Alternately, they can keep it for themselves, to cast spells. Focus is awesome and you want as much of it as you can get. What's worth spending those precious points on?
Fury is slightly more complicated, but still not too bad. Warlocks still use fury to cast spells, but they can only generate it themselves by taking damage. But your warbeasts will also generate it as they fight, and your warlock can leach it out of them. This is important, because any warbeast with fury left on it has a chance to flip its shit and just nom the closest unit, whether friendly or enemy, and every warbeast can have only so much fury on it at once before it tops out and needs to remove it to accumulate more. Your warlock can only handle so much fury per turn, so you need to manage it efficiently to keep your army under control. On the other hand, if you aren't generating enough fury, your warbeasts probably aren't doing the work they need to be, and your warlock might not have enough to fuel their spellcasting. How much can you handle safely?
How much focus your warcaster generates (or how much fury your warlock can leach) each turn is determined by their FOCUS (or FURY) stat. This ranges from 5 (abysmally low) to 10 (stupidly high), with 6 being about average and 8 or higher usually indicating that the warnoun in question is a squishy spell-slinger rather than a frontliner. This also determines the model's control range, which is a distance equal to twice your FOCUS/FURY in inches, and is the maximum distance at which you can manipulate focus or fury. Keeping your robots or kaiju inside that bubble is important, since 'jacks without fuel aren't terribly effective and 'beasts without a babysitter can't hulk our and are liable to start devouring friendly infantry.
It's also worth noting that, when building an army list, a warnoun is effectively worth negative points. Your army's warnoun costs nothing themselves, and comes with a few free points to spend on warjacks or warbeasts.
Warjacks and Warbeasts
Warcasters and warlocks are your generals. Warjacks and warbeasts are their heavy hitters. While there are a few special rules that make the two play a bit differently (mostly regarding how they fuel their attacks with focus or fury), they're pretty much identical on the tabletop - save that one is a giant robot and the other is a giant monster.
Warjacks are basically seven-ton steampunk Hunter-Killer Terminator golems, tactically equivalent to how we use tanks in Earth warfare but with 100% more awesome and +2 to legs. Meanwhile, warbeasts are huge, hulking mountains of muscle and RAEG, with even the smallest of them capable of reducing a man to paste with one Giant Meaty Fist. They all pack crazy powerful weapons, heavy armor, and huge amounts of health, making them the most powerful individual models in an army that aren't warnouns. They also come with a slew of special "power attacks" unique to the larger models, which range from body-slamming a fucker across the tabletop to chucking them like a softball over the nearest building. The downsides are that they're usually slower, easier to hit, and less accurate than infantry, and they cost a bundle for a single model, so losing one hurts more.
Both warjacks and warbeasts also rely heavily on their army's warnoun to unlock their maximum potential for murder. They're plenty big and stompy on their own, but in order to do anything more than simply walk around and swing at things with standard attacks, they require outside help. Warjacks need a warcaster to hand them focus points, which they can then spend to run, charge, make power attacks, make bonus additional standard attacks, or increase the power and accuracy of any attack they make. Warbeasts can do all of that on their own, but every time they do, they generate a fury point, and the longer that fury sticks around, the more likely that the 'beast will lose its shit and just start snapping necks like Slim Jims. They also have a maximum fury limit, and when they hit it, they can't do any of those awesome things any more, so they need a warlock about to leach all their anger away. Both can act normally outside of their warcaster/warlock's "control range," but 'jacks can't be given focus, and 'beasts can neither generate Fury nor have it leached.
There are also a handful of models other than your warnoun which can control these giant fuckers: Marshals and Journeymen. Marshals are basically just novices who have learned to shout loud enough that their orders will get through their charge's thick goddamn skull. This is roughly analogous to trying to use a computer without a mouse; it can be done, but it's never as easy, efficient, or effective. It can still be useful, since they take some load off your warnoun, but it's not always what you want. Journeymen, meanwhile, are basically mini-warnouns, complete with their own FOCUS or FURY score, spell list, and so on. They can control things more efficiently than Marshals, but they're still strictly downgrades from your standard warnouns, so again, it's situational as to whether or not you want them. They're primarily useful for edge cases, when you absolutely must have another 'jack or 'beast but your warnoun is already run ragged.
The final real difference between warjacks, warbeasts, and regular models is the way damage is tracked. Most models just have health boxes to mark as they take damage, but these guys are too beefy for that. Warjacks have a whole grid of damage boxes, while warbeasts have a damage spiral. These really aren't as complicated as they sound: whenever you take damage, you roll a die to see which column of the grid or spiral to start marking boxes off in, rolling over to the next one if necessary. As these fill up, your 'jack or 'beast might get weaker - it's still standing, but it's taken a pounding, and something important is broken. It might get slower, or weaker in combat, or lose the ability to use focus or fury entirely.
It should be noted that in general (there are exceptions, of course), Hordes armies tend to have an easier time bringing lots of warbeasts (3 or more) compared to Warmachine armies who tend to have fewer warjacks (1 or 2). This is because FOCUS is a finite resource and most Warmachine factions have few ways to generate extra, while most Hordes factions tend to have more ways to get rid of extra FURY. Also, the FURY system, while not strictly better than FOCUS, does give you a little bit extra flexibility in that there are certain cases where it's okay to leave extra FURY on your warbeasts. For example, if you have a really strong turn but end up generating more FURY than you can leech, you may leave the extra on your beasts because you're hoping you'll get lucky and they won't frenzy, or even if they do frenzy it won't wreck your plans, or you're expecting your enemy to kill one or more of your beasts and take care of that extra FURY for you, or if charging the nearest enemy is your goal. The Journeymen mentioned in a previous paragraph were specifically designed to help ease the FOCUS or FURY burden on your Warnoun, allowing you to take more warjacks or warbeasts if you so desire.
Colossals and Gargantuans
Colossals are like warjacks with more FUCKHUEG, because Privateer Press wanted to charge $100 per model for something, and the only way to do that was to make it really big (and, unlike Forge World models, almost actually worth it). Roughly equivalent to Titans in 40K, they can be fielded at any point level and are surprisingly well-balanced, since they have about the same defensive stats as a heavy warjack and cost about the same as two of them, but have loads more health and tons more dakka. Oh yeah, and they have TWO 6-column damage grids to play with, although they generally have less than double the health of a heavy warjack. Gargantuans are the same thing, but for warbeasts. Because of the differences between the Focus and Fury mechanics, colossals are generally seen as mechanically superior, since their resource-manage system benefits from shrinking the number of models the caster has to juggle between.
Basically exactly what you'd expect. Units are groups of infantry which operate as, well, a unit on the tabletop. They range from bog-standard foot soldiers to well-trained and heavily-armored specialists and elite assassins, and everything else besides.
Like in Warhammer, most models in a unit only have a single wound and are immediately killed if they take any damage (though there are a few elite infantry units whose models have quite a few health boxes). Unlike in Warhammer, models in a Warmahordes unit act almost as individuals, with the primary restriction on them being that they must stay within a certain distance of the current unit leader, and that the entire unit must run or charge as a group. Other than this, models move on their own and can make attacks individually (and are targeted individually in turn). This removes much of the "shapeless gunblob" that plagues Warhammer.
Other than the basic models, units can be expanded by adding Unit Attachments (UAs) and/or Weapon Attachments (WAs). These add a couple more bodies to the unit, as well as an Officer (a better leader, usually with some handy buffs accompanying them) in the case of UAs or a guy with a better weapon, like the Winter Guard Infantry's RPG dude, in the case of WAs. Other than their better stats and weaponry, these models work in basically the same way as the rest of the unit members.
Single models which act individually. Like units, this is an extremely broad category that covers everything from dedicated support models to axe-wielding maniacs. They're also usually more durable than standard infantry, with at least five health boxes being the stardard, though not enough that most can survive a direct hit from a warjack or warbeast.
Battle Engines are recent additions to the game. They are big, durable, vehicle-sized models on the same 120mm base as colossals, built with a certain task in mind, like support or shooting. They cost about as much as a heavy 'jack, and are generally much more specialized and slightly less durable, but don't need to draw from a warcaster's focus to do their thing.
Characters are not a unit type of themselves; rather, they are uniquely named units, solos or warjacks that are exceptional in one way or another. All warcasters are characters, but other characters include talented mercenaries (Rutger Shaw, Eyriss), charismatic leaders and their followers (Alexia Ciannor and the Risen, Greygore Boomhowler and Co.) or warjacks that have been around long enough to develop a distinct personality or other unique traits (Ol' Rowdy, Beast 09). Characters are unique and you can only take one of a single character in any list, no matter how big the army size; they are typically more expensive than their non-character counterparts, but also have better stat lines, abilities, weapons and skills.
As the story of Warmahordes progresses, so do some of the characters. "Epic" characters are alternate versions of a given character based on things that have happened to them in the story. For example, when War Witch Deneghra was killed, she was resurrected as Wraith Witch Deneghra, and both of these are available as models for use on the tabletop. You can only use one version of any given character in an army.
Epic characters are not intended to be more powerful than their previous incarnations, just different. Of course, there are some power differences, in the same way that some warjacks or warbeasts are simply better than others, but don't think that it's not worth fielding a given character if you aren't going to use their epic version.
Regular and epic versions of characters used to be referred to with the shorthand "pName" (for "prime") and "eName" for ("epic"). However, recently, some characters have gotten up to their third incarnation. The Privateer Press forumgoers played around with terminology like "lName" (for "legendary") or "eeName" (for... "double epic"?) when referring to the third-incarnation characters, but Privateer Press has stated that it officially prefers the terminology Name1/Name2/Name3, which honestly is much easier.
In the grand old wargaming tradition, every model has a points value and opposing armies have to be the same size. However, the points values of Warmahordes are very small compared to GW properties. 15 points is a small-scale learning game with one warcaster, their battlegroup, and a few infantry or solos. 35-50 points is brick-and-mortar-store tournament scale (roughly equivalent to 1500-2000 points of 40K). 75 points is for all-day convention tournaments. Anything bigger than 100 points borders on Apocalypse scale; Privateer Press has released "Unbound" rules to streamline games at 150+ points, and while they're still a bit on the clunky side it still keeps games of that scale to less than a day.
The majority of tournaments allow you to write two different army lists and choose between them at the start of the game. This allows you to build one list which can cover for the shortcomings of the other. 1d4chan's official recommendation is to have one Searforge Commission Mercenaries list and one Talion Charter Mercenaries list, allowing you to field both dwarves AND pirates at the same tournament.
During the game, Warmahordes uses six-sided dice for almost everything. The basic rule is to roll 2d6, add the appropriate stat and bonuses, and compare to the target's defensive stat. There are also ways to add bonus dice, resulting in a 3d6 or even (in the case of some truly terrifying attacks) 4d6 roll.
The system never uses tables or charts, and every unit you purchase comes with its own stat card which contains all relevant rules and statistics needed to use it. As such, Warmahordes players never have to buy a Codex equivalent (though these do exist for those who wish to purchase them, in the form of the Forces Of... line, and come with all the lore you could wish for in the bargain).
The game system heavily rewards aggressive play, to the point that the game's official tagline is PLAY LIKE YOU GOT A PAIR!. The most obvious way this is enforced is that a charging unit gets a bonus die on its damage rolls, so the player who goes for the jugular first will probably get in a brutal alpha strike. This does not mean that ranged armies are at a disadvantage, however, as there are plenty of ways to bog down advancing units, and many ranged units bring additional utility to the table in form of special abilities or AOE attacks.
Warmahordes currently has either ten or twelve factions across the two games, depending on who you ask. There are six primary factions in Warmachine and four in Hordes, but each game also has a catch-all pseudo-faction in the form of Mercenaries and Minions, respectively. These are primarily intended as supplemental models which the primary factions can use to fill strategic holes in their forces' capabilities, but due to popularity among the players, Privateer Press has released rules allowing the Mercenaries and Minions to be fielded as independent forces with their own warnouns leading them.
Cygnar are the “good guys”. The nation itself is not unimpeachable or always morally correct, but its characters are clearly protagonists. Even when taking a darker turn, they always have a core of moral fiber, etc. If Han Solo is the most evil member of your crew, you are the good guys.
Cygnar is the most advanced human nation; they tend to shoot things with guns, hurt things with lightning, or hurt things by shooting them with lightning guns. They're made out to be a fairly nice place to live if not for the fact they have some bad blood with Khador. They also have the Protectorate of Menoth wanting to overthrow their government (and religion), with the Cygnar/Menoth border literally running right through the Cygnar capital in a Berlin Wall arrangement (except that the Menites were smart enough to put their capital somewhere else). Just to make things all better, Cygnar's the closest to Cryx, who are aiming to exterminate them and everything else on the mainland. The other factions may not like each other much either, but Cygnar is basically in the middle of them all.
Their advanced understanding of magic and mechanics is reflected in that they have most of the best ranged weapons in the game, are best known for their Lightning attack type, and play less aggressively than most other factions (though they do still have some powerful melee models, which almost always have ranged attacks as well). They tend to be more accurate and mobile than the other factions, but don't always hit as hard and are markedly less durable. They aren't helpless in melee, but it isn't their forte. They, like Khador, are generally considered one of the best factions for starting players.
If Cygnar are the good guys, Cryx is unashamedly the faction of bad guys. In a world of moral grays, they paint with the deepest blacks.
It's an island nation of zombie pirate demon witch robots that was taken over by a Godzilla sized dragon named Toruk, the father of all dragons. Toruk wants to rule the world (or wreak random destruction, it's a little confusing), and created Cryx as a weapon to use against the dragons that he created (since he created them from his own essence, so they're just as fucking arrogant as he is and refuse to submit to his will, and they're the only beings on Immoren that can really threaten him directly). Due to his concern about them ganging up on him, he spends his days sitting around doing nothing while claiming everything is going Just As Planned. Whether or not that's the truth is unknown.
Cryx is an interesting evil army, composed of pirates, undead pirates, ghost warriors, heavily armored liches, and demonic mutant witches. Their army is generally the fastest, cheapest, and largest on the table, and also hits like a ton of bricks. The problem is that they can't take a hit in return, so they have to use dirty tricks to dictate the flow of battle and choose their engagements carefully. As such, Cryx is one of the hardest armies for new players to make proper use of. Still, if utilized properly, Cryx can punch through almost any defense and savage the enemy warnoun before they can blink.
Leave heroes and villains to Cygnar and Cryx. Khador is unconcerned with such things. Military might, honor, and love of the Motherland are all that matter in the cold, frozen north.
Cries of "For the Motherland", red banners, gold triangle-stars, frigid bitches, and beardy berserkers personify Khador. They're a northern Imperial Russia/Soviet Union style nation bent on imperialist conquest. They claim that this is because they've been screwed out of the world domination they once had and rightly deserve, and while this is almost certainly revisionist history b.s., it's been the glue that let them begin to build a modern nation out of disunited scraps.
Despite the fact that most newbies think of Khador as the guys with the biggest, stompiest warjacks, Khador is almost exclusively a dedicated infantry faction. Khador warjacks are durable, and they do hit like a goddamn steam train in melee, but they are also slow, expensive, inaccurate, and extremely focus-hungry in a faction known for its focus-hungry warcasters. Fortunately, to make up for this, Khadoran infantry are some of the best in the game. They are durable, reliable, mobile, and pack an incredible punch for their price. Whatever the job, Khador has an infantry unit that will do it with style.
Need a squad of elite shocktroopers in steam-powered armor ripped from a warjack chassis and wielding weapons that will make even the hardest targets sweat? Man-O'-Wars have your back. Heavy infantry stalling your advance? The Widowmaker snipers are on the job; watch those heads go pop! Need an army of screaming psychopaths charging across the field to decapitate your foes? No problem! We have Doom Reavers for that. Just need some reliable, flexible, reasonably shooty infantry to swamp a point and hold it against all comers through sheer weight of numbers? The Winter Guard have your back. And, no matter the squad, Khador has the buffs to make them into a true terror on the tabletop.
Because of the reliability, simplicity, and flexibility of their infantry, as well as the straightforward way their warjacks function, Khador is, like Cygnar, considered a great faction for new players.
A bunch of religious fanatics that worship Menoth, the god of civilization and mankind (just not this guy), who is kind of an asshole. The Church of Menoth began falling out with Cygnar about a thousand years ago, since a more benign god named Morrow began gaining favor. While the two churches were able to coexist for hundreds of years, relations between them eventually turned sour, especially because the then-king of Cygnar favored Morrow. Eventually, the Menite church got sick of his shit, wandered off into the desert, discovered petroleum, and endured even more oppression under Vinter Raelthorne IV before the Cygnarans also got sick of his shit and voted him out of office in the traditional feudal manner: with a military coup. The chaos resulting from this allowed the theocracy to form its own quasi-legal nation: the Protectorate of Menoth.
Technically speaking, the Protectorate is not allowed to have a military, which the Protectorate actually adhered to during its early years, but has lately began to ignore. They aren't really evil, per se (they have legitimate Lawful Good paladins), but the leaders of the theocracy are, by and large, a pretty awful bunch. The Protectorate's main goal right now is to forcibly convert everyone back to the True Faith (well, at least the humans, anyway - Menoth couldn't care less about everybody else). Most recently, they invaded the eastern half of Llael, who quickly found that they preferred Khador's iron-fisted rule to the Protectorate's.
On the tabletop, the Protectorate is all about synergy. Menite armies field the best support units in the game, which take their other units from "decent" to "oh my fuck what". The most iconic of these units is the Choir of Menoth, which is hands-down the single best 'jack support unit out there. Menite 'jacks have only middling statlines on their own, but with the Choir (and Menoth's other servants) backing them up, they can become seriously terrifying. As such, the Protectorate is one of the more 'jack-heavy factions in the game, though its infantry is also no slouch.
Menite armies also have a decidedly Crusades-y motif, with a dash of Spanish Inquisition thrown in for good measure. As non-divine magic is considered heresy by the Menite church, Protectorate armies have a lot of ways to counteract it. Dispel magic abounds, as do plenty of other denial-focused abilities which will put a serious crimp in the style of any opponent. Defensive buffs are also exceptionally common, which makes a Menite army a tough-as-nails brick that's very hard to crack open - so long as its support units are protected. On the other hand, Menite units tend to be quite slow, and there aren't many ways for the faction to increase their mobility. Menite warcasters also tend to be fairly fragile and vulnerable to assassination, so it's important to protect them.
Being an elf sucks. For a while, everything's good, until you decide to build a bridge to Heaven so all your gods can come over for a few cold ones and sleep with some sexy elf chicks. Then the bridge works, but also explodes and wipes out pretty much your entire civilization, so instead of hanging out and partying with your gods you have to pack up and move next to some dwarven hicks. Then you all start aging and getting AIDS and shit, and also babies start getting born without souls, and the gods say it might have something to do with the fact that they aren't in Heaven any more so the entire universe might be out of whack. Then, when they go back, something kills them all, and things just keep getting worse until, one day, the goddess of spring just turns up out of nowhere, wanders into her temple, and then goes into a fucking coma while dying slowly and with no one having a goddamn clue how to fix her.
So when someone says "hey, did anyone else notice how the day the gods died was also the day humans discovered arcane magic?", it is, perhaps, a bit understandable that more than a few elves picked up a rifle and went to kill some round-ears.
Retribution units have a very distinct visual design, with a notably sleek, curvy, anime-esque look, complete with neon hair. Most of their army tends to consist of highly specialized, elite units with clearly-defined roles, without much in the way of generalist infantry. They also have an abundance of options for assassin units, up to and including entire units of ninja elf infantry with magic crossbows. They are mobile, shooty, and tricky, and surprisingly beardy considering that they're, y'know, elves. The Retribution has fantastic infantry and solos all around.
On the other hand, Retribution warjacks and warcasters are generally not too fantastic. Its warjacks (called "myrmidons") are mobile, but fragile, and require a lot of backup to be effective. Its warcasters tend to be utility-based rather than individual powerhouses, and exist largely as sources of buffs for their infantry. On the other other hand, Retribution infantry are generally solid enough to make this work, and if they can't, then you still have the option of an assassination run - which the Retribution can do with incredible reliability from a frankly disgusting range.
Because of the Retribution's reliance on tricks and sensitivity about order of activation (certain units really, really want to go at certain times, and messing this up will cause your army to fold like a house of cards), the Retribution is an incredibly difficult army to play well. It's not weak, but it's not particularly newbie-friendly, and is generally limited to more advanced players.
They're also fans of shaved heads, and can even grow beards, making them the manliest elves ever - not that this is a high bar to
jump step walk over.
Beware of mittens.
The newest faction, both in and out of universe. The Convergence is a cult dedicated to the worship of Cyriss, the Machine Goddess, the personification of logic, order, science, and mathematical perfection. (Pfft, like any woman god could be close to understanding those things, amirite guyz?) They have taken the technology used to make the artificial brains used in warjacks and applied it to themselves, uploading their consciousness into machine bodies in order to become closer to her. They're actually not bad guys, really - it's just that the driving belief behind their faith is that Cyriss really, really wants them to turn the entire fucking planet into a giant clockwork robot, exterminating all organic life and rendering the world perfect in her eyes. Since the rest of the factions take issue with this, they've turned their technological expertise towards developing more advanced versions of warjacks, called "vectors", to punch their way to the Rapture.
The Convergence is the absolute weirdest faction in all of Warmachine, and comes with a slew of special rules that make it play completely differently from anything else on the tabletop. To start with, its warjacks don't have a complete statline; their accuracy in combat is determined entirely by which warcaster you are fielding, as they share their stats with the vectors under their command. This means that your warcaster selection doesn't just alter the basic idea behind your strategy - it completely alters the basic functions of your warjacks.
They also handle focus very differently, with the bottom line being that Convergence 'jacks are exceptionally focus-efficient, allowing the faction to field more 'jacks than any other without breaking the bank. In 2014, a Convergence player went all the way to the grand finals of the Warmahordes championships with a list consisting almost entirely of vectors, and only lost due to running out of time on the clock. The faction does have some nice infantry, though, if the player wants to field a warcaster with lower combat stats and not have to sit there crying while every attack misses.
Basically, the Convergence is very, very strange, but not at all weak. It is somewhat limited by a low model count, as Privateer Press hasn't released too much for it yet, and no Mercenaries will work with them, but the faction has the capability to answer any threat with proper planning. If you like clockwork robots or the idea of turning the entire world into a chrome-plated paradise, they're well worth looking into.
As mentioned above, Mercenary models were initially meant to just be options available to multiple factions rather than an army unto themselves. Due to player demand, however, Privateer Press has since released rules for fielding entirely Mercenary forces. These range from dwarves in powered armor, fielding the O.G. warjacks that served as the basis for the tech that ousted the Orgoth to Llaelese rebels fighting for their homeland's freedom to pirates being pirates. Basically, when playing Mercenaries, you pick a Contract, which is a sort of sub-faction that tells you which models you're allowed to pick from (along with what special rules apply to your army), and then go as normal. Alternately, you could play a specific Mercenary warcaster's theme list.
There are five Mercenary Contracts to pick from:
- Four Star Syndicate: Pick up every Mercenary you own and put it on the table. Done. Basically the Mafia, so that's cool, but it doesn't come with any bonuses.
- Highborn Covenant: The aforementioned Llaelese Resistance, making them a sort of French-Italian mash-up. A slightly shootier and more mobile Contract, but less durable than the rest.
- Note: Between Four Star and Highborn there exists 2 sub-themes that can be played in either: Steelhead Battalion (Be the premier franchised mercenary company/meatshield manspam horde in the region) and Dogs Of War (Character units that are the rockstars of warfare, small elite armies, sort of like The Expendables)
- Searforge Commission: They're dwarves, and come with everything you'd expect from the same. They aren't going anywhere fast, but they are ludicrously 'ard, and they hit like a ton of bricks. It's also worth noting that the signature dwarven warcaster, Gorten Grundback, is pretty much the most stupidly tanky thing in the fucking game and is functionally immune to damage. Note, however, that the dwarves in this universe are not Scottish, because the Trollbloods are already Scottish. It is generally agreed that the dwarves in Warmachine have a New Zealand accent.
- Talion Charter: Pirates. Lots of pirates. How many pirates can you imagine? There are more than that. Also, a peg-legged Napoleon dwarf. Also, a fuckhueg cannon that is easily the best damn artillery piece in the entire game if you manage to get anything in its line of sight. This group is all about synergy with their units, which on their own are the worst in the game. Start adding in their solos and unit attachments, though, and suddenly you've got yourself a unit that can do some damage to anything, is annoyingly hard to kill, and can add models to it after killing them.
- Puppet Masters: The Cephalyx are rising. A strange, alien race which has apparently dwelt beneath the surface of Immoren since time immemorial, and has a lot of ways to brainwash and mind-control their hapless victims. Extremely new, with very limited unit options - but that's okay, since they can steal a unit from another Mercenary faction thanks to the Cephalyx Dominator. Has a focus on dirty tricks rather than straight-up brawling, also has a "human resources" approach to super-buffing its infantry.
Scottish Orks, and also the good guys of Warmahordes. Awesome. The Trollbloods are a dying race, as the superior technology of nations like Cygnar and Khador is continually pushing them to the borders of habitable land, and they lack the resources to build warjacks themselves. On the other hand, what they do have are some seriously fucking scary relatives, so now that the fate of the species is on the line, the trolls have united and called in the inbred redneck cousins as backup - only, in this case, the redneck cousins in question are basically walking mountains that could flatten a building with one hand. They drink, fight, and basically just brawl their way through the world, trying to establish a homeland for themselves, and only occasionally eating someone. Hardly anyone, these days. No one important, anyway. You'd never miss 'em, we swear.
The key word here is tough. Trollblood models can take a stupid amount of punishment. Most of them are Tough (as in the mechanic), on top of having ridiculous amounts of health boxes and high ARM. They will also kick the ever-loving shit out of anything they reach in melee, because they are pissed off, drunk as shit, Scottish, and also Orks. They run forward, punch whatever they can reach, and then repeat until the enemy is a smear on the pavement. As such, they are one of the simplest armies in all of Warmahordes, and an excellent choice for new players - though they aren't entirely without their own little tricks, and can be just as rewarding for experienced warlocks.
Trollbloods have the dubious honor of being the most shit on faction fluffwise. Cygnar promised them a bunch of lands, but neglected to tell them that said land was in the way of a gigantic Skorne army. Then when they went to the king of Cygnar, Leto, to get the lands they were promised, he basically told them to fuck off. The trolls were not pleased. This, coupled with the fact that the Menite priest-kings used to enslave trollbloods for use as beasts of burdens and menial workers, has caused the leader of the Trollbloods, Chief Madrak Ironhide to unite all the warring kriels. Picking up the cursed axe of Rathrok out of desperation, he is leading the race into a new, uncertain future, carving out their own land, and Dhunia help any pink-skinned human, elf, skorne or undead construct that dares stand in their way.
So, on the one hand you have Menoth, who is the god of mankind, order, and civilization. He's sort of a prick, but he's got the right idea. On the other hand, you have the Devourer Wurm, the avatar of all that is chaos - nature, red in tooth and claw. It knows no mercy. It probably doesn't even understand the concept. It cares for nothing save that the cities of the world be torn down and all that is not of nature's domain be rent asunder. This thing is so cruel that in the wars between its worshippers and Menoth's, many of the Wurm's followers converted to Menoth after losing because his treatment was actually KINDER
And the Circle worships it. Well, half of them full worship it, some of them just want to placate it, some of them want to bring it back. It's weird. The Circle is weird.
So, basically, you have a bunch of fucking insane druids, all of whom are assholes, running around and shanking anyone who isn't a hippie tree-hugger. For those who cannot be shanked by normal means, they have
werewolves warpwolves and kung-fu goats, along with giant golems, ents, and weird-ass Stonehenge magic. They love terrain and messing with unit placement, making them one of the tricksiest forces in the game, as well as extremely situational - if there are a lot of forests about and your opponent isn't particularly good at dealing with them, you're golden. If not, you're probably going to get your shit kicked in.
Remember when we mentioned that Cryx is led by the evil dragon-god Toruk, who seeks to hunt down and devour his children in order to conquer the world? Yeah, Everblight is one of those children. And, since dragons in this setting are eldritch abominations that leak corrupting blight into everything around them, he's started up his own army in order to keep his daddy from chowing down on his bones. After he got his ass kicked in his initial fight with Toruk, he fled into the north, where he corrupted a bunch of elves, started spawning warped creatures to serve as his weapons, and found an ogre crazy enough to cut open his own fucking chest and shove Everblight's crystal-body into his heart, thus providing him with a new host body.
The Legion is, in many ways, quite similar to its Warmachine equivalent of Cryx. It is brutally fast and does incredible amounts of damage, but is not particularly durable. However, while Cryx is primarily an infantry-focused faction, the Legion loves its warbeasts. It has many of those that Hordes players would list among the best in the game. Whether at range or up close, the Legion's warbeasts will absolutely wreck whatever you point them at. Plus, they look like freaky eyeless dragon-things, and that's pretty cool.
A barbarian empire hailing from beyond the deserts to the east of Cygnar, which were previously thought to be so inhospitable that no one could live out there. As it turns out, this was wrong - it just means that the people living out there are crazy, sadomasochistic pain-worshipers with an insatiable thirst for blood. Think of Conan the Barbarian mixed with Hellraiser. Now they have come storming across the sands full of piss and vinegar in search of somewhere to live that sucks marginally less and they're not going to stop murdering the shit out of everyone until they get it gosh-darn it.
On the tabletop, Skorne is roughly equivalent to most newbies' idea of Khador: slow, durable, and pretty much guaranteed to crush whatever they get into melee with. Their warbeasts are brutally dangerous in close quarters, and their infantry aren't any less threatening. They're not really going anywhere fast, but if you want some Roman-style phalanx combat and an army that can take a beating and give it right back, this is your go-to.
Also, they field tortured baby elephants to demoralize their foes. Because, in case you hadn't figured it out yet, they're pretty messed up in the head.
The Hordes equivalent of Mercenaries. Everything said there applies here, save that Minions tend to be more along the lines of kobolds, gatormen, and such.
Their Contracts are called Pacts instead, and they are:
- The Blindwater Congregation: Voodoo gatormen who dwell in the swamps and have been slowly assimilating the other scaled races. They have tough infantry and excel at beating up living models, but have some difficulties with high-ARM, non-living models like warjacks. They also love them some undead somethin' good, with their voodoo witchcraft and their tendency to speak in a southern drawl.
- The Thornfall Alliance: A new proto-nation, like the United Kriels of the Trollbloods. Unlike the Trollbloods, the farrow are pig people, which is awesomely ridiculous. They have awesome warlocks with vastly different play styles, but no fucking variation in their faction list, due to having a ridiculously limited unit list. Still, the War Hog is beastly enough to do the job in nearly every occasion. Less flexible than Blindwater, but able to smash through with the direct approach when tricks won't work, Khador-style. They have some weird voodoo like magic of their own what with their bone grinders making protective amulets out of various parts of dead bodies.
Getting into Warmahordes
The best place to go for community thoughts on anything in Warmahordes is the BattleCollege community wiki. It's a great starting resource for any player, whether newbie
or experienced tournament contestant. Do some reading on any faction that interests you and see what units work and what don't. Take everything they say with a grain of salt, because the contributors don't always know what they're talking about and can sometimes get shit horribly wrong.
No matter what you choose to buy, you'll need a copy of either Warmachine Prime MkII or Hordes Primal MkII, which are the core rulebooks for the games. Except you don't need to buy them anymore, because the rulebook is free. You should also look up Privateer Press' token sets, which are very handy for keeping track of status effects, focus and fury points, and so on.
Once you know what you want to play, you're very likely best off getting either the Battlegroup Box for your chosen faction or the All-In-One Army Box, if it's available. Both are absolutely incredible deals for the price. The Battlegroup box will come with a single warnoun and a handful of warjacks or warbeasts, while the All-In-One Army Box is more expensive and comes with a basic starter army (which is usually fairly solid, if not exactly top-tier). Both are great places to start your collection, and will save you a lot of money.
If you like a faction, don't let the "beginner/expert" bits above scare you. Some factions are generally trickier than others, but none of them are completely inaccessible. You may just have to put some work in before you start seeing results.
You do not need to pick up the Forces book for your chosen faction. It's fun to have, but every unit comes with its own stat card which will tell you everything that you need to know to field the unit in question.
EDIT: At time of this edit, Warmahordes is going through an edition change. recommend visiting the Privateer Press main website for more information before you buy. Rulebooks will now be free online.
|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|