Ok to start off with, this isn't a singular faction, it uses a system of Contracts to determine what units can be taken and to provide a more coherent theme. The two Contracts that actually have a theme will get their own pages because they are pretty much just regular factions that have bugger all choice.
Four Star Syndicate
The Four Syndicate (or 4*) is a large reaching criminal empire that is made up of lots of various bandit groups, smugglers, thieves guilds, mafia families, merchant leagues with shady backgrounds and many other morally questionable types working in a strange alliance under the guidance of the Syndicate leadership based in the port of Five Fingers, wherein they enjoy a "special" relationship with the Kingdom of Ord.
The concept of this contract is that these guys have the dole to pay for the services of Mercenaries, both commission and as straight forward employees, in other words its Western Immoren's first megacorp and first giant nefarious PMC with ties to corrupt government officials and meddling in international affairs. Pretty much the idea is that the 4* is so powerful it can protect its interests with military assets and often does so to further its goals of controlling the entirety of the Iron Kingdoms.
Why Play Four Star Syndicate?
Because you hate Cygnar, because you can't really decide what Mercs you want to play, because you want to Magnus without the restrictions of tier lists. 4* is very much the most generic mercenary contract and its restrictions are that it can only take merc/partisan units that fight for Khador (Technically its Cryx and Khador, but anything that can be hired for Cryx can be hired by pretty much everyone and the list itself doesn't allow the Cephalyx allies) with the exception of Rupert Carvolo and Sam MacHorne.
This gives it the most diversity of all 4 contracts at the tradeoff lacking a lot of theme and no extra bonuses like the other contracts get.
Its also the only place to field Magnus who is one of the nastiest badasses in the Iron Kingdoms lore that has a model.
Well... This is awkward. Unlike other factions, there is very little to say that is common to all 4* lists. 4* has the metagame advantage that you can tell your opponent you're running a 4* list and they still have no clue what you can do until they sit down and read through your list and check every model's rules. This is strong in tournaments but makes it hard to advise on general strategies to use.
Fundamentally this is not shooting faction, or a pure melee faction, or one that runs lots of infantry, or even a "dirty dozen" handful of solos. This is any one of those at a time. Mercs trade off things like faction bonuses and friendly unit buffs for having access to every trick in the book. Because they are meant to be a way of acquiring said tricks for factions that lack them, mercs are overpriced compared to in-faction equivalents or not as powerful when looked at from the perspective of including them in a faction list. As a merc player building a merc list we have to look at things differently, we can do everything, but it will cost us and it won't be as good.
4* has the following things you can really count on: mediocre shooting, access to cheap spammable infantry units (anything Steelhead or Sea Dog), rugged warjacks, utility character solos and niche character units. Overall you're looking low def/high arm stats for pretty much everything but a handful of solos and stealth units. Mercs don't have good choice for generic units so expect character units. This lends a feeling of running overspecialized units and losing one removes a whole branch of functionality, but in practice its pretty normal to see people picking similar choices like Croe's Cutthroats with Kayazy Assassins, Gorman di Wulfe and Ragman for a bunch of stealthed infantry killers to wipe out that Winter Guard Deathstar.
* Asheth Magnus the Traitor: One of the main reasons people choose to play this faction is because they want to play Magnus with an actual choice of what their list includes. Magnus the Traitor, pMagnus or "T-Mags" is an interesting warcaster, he has synergy with jacks and units but doesn't like to run too much of either. His Resourceful rule and his sword make him pretty damn focus efficient as a warcaster and having Iron Aggression pushes him further to the supposed "jackcaster" that a lot of ignorant players label him as being. In practically terms Magnus can't run more than 2-3 warjacks before it becomes an issue, he has a strong battlegroup but he needs a decent sized army making him a combined-arms warcaster. He's no slouch in combat with the ability to knockdown on hit with his fist. Just reread that, he doesn't need to do anything but hit the target to drop them for subsequent auto-hitting. The sword is pretty damn good, very efficient with boosting, meaning that you should be boosting on the hit every time for the free damage boost. His gun has the same range as charging, he is a lot better in melee, the only reason this gets used is when you need to clear a path to the enemy caster by blowing some screening units away. His feat is pretty simple, free move after activation, bear in mind this requires you to activate pMagnus before the rest of his battlegroup, other than that you can use it to rush down the board by running on the feat turn or as a way to GTFO after the battlegroup hits something it and needs to bail.
* Asheth Magnus the Warlord: The first epic merc caster, eMagnus is very similar to his older self. While pMagnus is combined-arms with mostly jack support, eMagnus is the same but with absolutely no infantry support. His Mobility spell is pretty key to his playstyle as it keeps him and his jacks very mobile, when he's not spamming it he's a slow brick. Killbox is an odd feat, its amazing for fucking up your opponent's plans because he suddenly can't move in 2 directions. Picking your table edge and your opponent's table edge is pretty much locking them in place, they may try to move to the sides but they are pretty much unable to move out of threat range of eMagnus or his battlegroup without running. The backstab and warjack bond are ok, but outside of a well timed Killbox you will never get either of these off because no one is going to let you get a battlegroup that close to their backs. He's a pretty competent fighter, he won't beat either Butcher but he isn't going to be on the frontlines outside of setting up his feat. He's hard enough to be safe against most assassination plays but nasty ones like Garryth or either Caine can be a problematic if you can't pop killbox and block them.
* Drake MacBain: General consensus for quite a while was that this guy a)had the most manly name in existence and b) was meant to be printed with Steelhead in his type line. We now have Captain Damiano for that second part, but prior to his release, MacBain was the leading infantry caster and manly man in the Mercs faction. He favours running a single heavy warjack and several units of tough infantry, Boomhowler & Co. being mandatory, with a few combat solos rather than the usual merc tricksters. He has a focus dependant feat so expect to have Sylys Wyshnalyrr on hand to keep Failsafe up on his feat turn. Speaking of which, Failsafe is probably one of the best warjack buffs in the game, in larger games running MacBain with Failsafe on a Galleon is on par with murdering parents in front of their children in terms of cruelty, so long as it has a single box left on its massive damage grid, it is 100% functional.
* Captain Amador Damiano: While MacBain is the premier heavy infantry warcaster in Mercenaries, Damiano is the premier HordeCaster. Although this is about running Damiano in the Four Star Syndicate, its hard to resist the urge to run his tier list where wave upon wave of Steelhead infantry fight and die for gold while Steelhead Cavalry ride onward to GLORY!!!! He is a Steelhead, so until someone other than Stannis Brocker cares about the Steelheads this means little, except that you will usually run Stannis Broker with Damiano and you will run steelheads anyway. His Paymaster ability is another reason why steelheads are important, he makes them more mobile by granting them the ability to advance after activations and the ability to buff range attacks. His feat is another unit buff and is great for the turn when the Steelhead Cavalry manages to charge a unit that is engaged with Halberdiers as it makes it a guaranteed execution of whatever is between them. In 4* with few or no steelheads he struggles to justify himself as he has some neat buffs to all infantry but is pretty much pure support with little threat himself. Always run him with at least Rocinante, maybe another light like the Talon but fundamentally this guy runs on steelhead swarms. TL;DR: Build a Damiano list with Rocinante and steelhead units first, then add a few independant niche units or solos like Eiryss. Or just run his tier 4 theme list.
* Captain Bartolo "Broadsides Bart" Montador: The first ranged jackcaster in warmachine. Unlike the other 2 pirate warcasters he doesn't really need the super-synergy of Sea Dog infantry to be effective so in 4* he tends to run a more "normal" list, well as close as normal as 4* gets. Currently infamous for a dirty combo involving the Galleon, Wrongeye and Snapjaw, and a Bullsnapper. It results in a functionally immortal Galleon with an ARM that has Khador heavies looking squishy.
* Fiona the Black: Our only mage warcaster. Fiona is pretty much about debuffing/buffing units rather than spamming damage spells. She can run without a jack, though in truth she wants a Vanguard and/or Rocinante. A mule or mariner works ok provided its just there to be another artillery piece. She loves having a unit of sea dogs for the cultists bonus and Sylys Wyshnalyrr is a major boost considering the number of upkeeps, especially Telgesh Mark/Nonkrion Brand, which she wants online at any one time. Her feat is a nice little fuck you as it removes 1 die from attack and damage rolls, if they have a MAT/RAT below 7 they cannot hit anything with DEF 13 or higher, ditto for P+S versus ARM. This can be fucking brutal against armies that don't have easy access to boosting rolls and can blunt the damage from weapon masters etc. Works ok with Damiano in a Two Caster list because he likes infantry and cares for them and she likes infantry and can't give a shit about them. Her Cultist rule applies to Sea Dog type units, which includes the Deck Gun Crews and Press Gangs. The first probably the best choice as Press Gangs need a Sea Dog unit to add models to and the regular Sea Dogs need a boatload of solos to be worth taking over Steelhead Halberdiers and would rather be forward in combat, while the Deck Gun is likely to want to sit back next her and blast at things she has debuffed. Fiona is also a Thamarite with Animosity to Morrowan, this means nothing to us because everyone who is a Morrowan is a Cygnar puppet.
* Gorten Grundback: One of hardest nuts to crack. Considering how he plays in Searforge is different from 4*, I'm going to talk about him without reference to Rhulic units excluding their warjacks. Gorten is tough; only Gorten and the mean machine that is Karchev the Terrible are able to shut down any assassination list. Gorten can get retardedly high STR and ARM. He is also infamous for his synergy with the Ghordson Driller, the only Rhulic Jack to have an open fist. Gorten can make that one warjack strong enough to one-hand throw pretty much any other heavy warjack. Or if you want to have fun, use it to destroy Khador heavy jacks with a P+S attack thats higher than their ARM, better yet use the drill on the warcaster and laugh as you have them held in an inescapable grip (the driller's open fist with Strength of Granite is pretty much unbreakable unless you are Gorten against Gorten) and drilling them into a fine vapour with a 3D6+21 damage roll. Gorten is also slow as fuck, so don't expect him to be able to fight on his own terms unless your opponent tried to assassinate him and now has his eCaine sitting in drill destroyer range. His feat is another reason why killing him is hard, because he can make you fuck the fuck off or come the fuck in to be drill destroyed.
* Durgen Madhammer: Rhulic caster Searforge Yadda yadda yadda. AOE god. Loves AOE, very powerful against hordes. Quite possibly the best warcaster to wipe out Winter Guard deathstars or Steelhead Hordes. In 4* we can field him with Dougal MacNaille and 3 Sea Dog Deck Gun crews. On his feat turn that hits fucking hard. On his feat turn that is a crap load of accurate AOE shots that have boosted damage. Not on his feat turn that is still some pretty good pie plate spam, as long as you aren't against a list running only a few heavy infantry like stormblades or Man'O'Wars (pfffa ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Like someone would ever touch those things) it may be more of grind, a grind with pies but still a grind. Actually a Searforge list would be troublesome as Rhulic infantry aren't pushovers, which is exactly what you would expect of dorfs really; not sucking.
* General Ossrum: The third Rhulic manly man. Although not personally familiar with him, I can see that he's easily a more infantry focused caster than the other two. His feat and only special rule pretty much scream "I LIKE MEN!" and they're nice, because they give you the ability to make your whole list, not Friendly Faction models (the three words that piss off every mercenaries player) draw LoS and move through allies, until this guy you only got this on Steelheads with Stannis motherfucking Brocker on the field and that basically mandated you were up to your eyeballs in Steelheads. Arguably this guy is the dwarf version of Axe Cop, because if you let him, he will chop your head off. His axe is nice, not something to wipe out hordes, but something that is likely to kill shit when the dice goddesses smiles upon thee. Unlike the other two who are somewhat defensive in playstyle, Ossrum can be pretty mobile with a few tricks, or rather if you actually are the type to think about what you're doing he is a very mobile brick otherwise he is just a brick. His feat doesn't give him the SPD bonus, but it does give the rest apparently, the issue is whether to use it for offence to move forward and hit them in one foul swoop or defence to get the ARM buff for that painful turn when they hit your lines/counterattack. Again this is mostly conjecture based on his stat profile and battlecollege entry but even with just those its clear this guy is probably the better of the 3 dwarves for overall play compared to shooting spam in Durgen and the grindfest of Gorten. In 4* we can use him to help run Alexia Ciannor's screen for Steelhead Riflemen (actually not that good, Steelhead Riflemen aren't really a static gun line unit and Steelhead Halberdiers are better because they're cheap as fuck and then you can take Stannis motherfucking Brocker, or you can have Alexia raise them to keep her numbers up and screen another unit) or say Sea Dog Deck Gun crews (ok maybe another meh example as most people only take them in Talion Charter or Durgen lists, but you get the point, Ossrum is great for the fact that we can use other units instead of Steelheads for these shenanigans).
* Rocinante: Our only character warjack, is basically a Nomad with a gun, 1 less ARM from the lack of a buckler and better MAT and RAT or a Mule with a more streamlined loadout and being good. Rocinante is a pretty common sight in 4* because he is very good with the many warcasters who just want one heavy warjack and this jack does a lot for them with its decent AOE and sufficient melee capabilities. Marshalling this guy is a crime when he has Guard Dog. With Damiano he is pretty much the first thing added to the list because they are amazing as a pair. Just about everyone but Rhulic warcasters will get more from Rocinante than any other warjack, barring Magnus and Renegades (but its not like you can't have Rocinante and 2 renegades in 4*...). The only downsides are his kit is an upgrade sprue and requires the Merc heavy warjack kit and secondly his name is pronounced "Rothe-e-nawn-tay". Rocinante was the name of Don Quixote's horse. Its meaning boiled down to "a broken-down nag, no longer good for riding." It's actually a pun in Spanish supposedly.
* Nomad: Melee beatstick was pretty much the default mercenary warjack prior to the above entry. Very little special about it other than it being rugged and reliable. If you already have Rocinante in your list, this guy is nice as a buddy or a marshalled heavy if you want to do that sort of thing. It has an open fist which is nice and is pretty decently priced, but ultimately what you buy this jack for is it being a no-nonsense brick. Its fine, not amazing, just worth its cost.
* Mule: Ranged warjack and pretty meh about it. the ranged boost for standing is about the same for moving and shooting the cannon, the only benefit is the aiming bonus. Good on the occasions you can get Snipe on it, in 4* thats pretty much just pMagnus as it makes its steam lobber a decent range, but pMagnus has issues when it comes to jack selection that we will discuss lower down. Overall its kind of in need of a buff to its stats, though PP doesn't do that much now, at the moment Rocinante is better for a heavy warjack ranged+melee, its melee sucks compared to pretty much every other heavy warjack. It can challenge the Mariner for best cannon lugger in faction, but it only beats on the defensive gunline comparison where it can pretty, with lucky crits, hold off a heavy assault.
* Mariner: Ranged heavy warjack with a nasty melee surprise. This one is a pirate jack so it has two good rules, Amphibious and Lash. The first means your opponent can't knock it into deep water to kill it. In fact you should use the benefits of Amphibious by having it camp in lake or river thats on one of your flanks. The second ability is great because it needs a model adjacent to it to fire and Lash protects them by making them immune to knockdown, situational on a jack marshall, but on the other hand its great when knockdown is often the setup for an assassination run on your caster. It also has Thresher so unlike the mule, if it gets mobbed it can punish infantry. Lastly, it requires a loader, a warrior model in B2B to fire its gun. This can be awkward with movement as you need to have someone waiting for it at its destination when it activates and moves, but its ok with marshalls and warcasters that like to hang back next to free KD immunity.
* Freebooter: Melee brawling heavy warjack. It has two open fists and ok P+S on them, great for fun shit like Two-Handed throwing heavy warjacks into other jacks or passing an enemy warcaster into the centre of your battlegroup for a warjack dogpile. It has access to all Power Attacks and its Chain Attack is quite handy. Also note if you can give it a knocked down target it does a crapload more damage. Not a hugely competitive warjack but great in casual games where trying to bowl their army off the table with their own models is the goal. That said, Amphibious means you can say throw your opponent's jacks into deep water without worrying about them trying the same thing. It also has Lash so if you're worried about pop'n'drop the Freebooter is a nice choice for its low price.
* Rover: Despite looking like another bodyguard warjack, the Rover is a shock trooper kind of warjack. Its cannon is notably not AOE, this is good because otherwise it be hitting itself half the time. It can't be used as a cannon lugger like the other heavies, it wants to get in and mix it up. Assuming the excellence that is Rocinante is not available, this compares more to the Nomad as a tough heavy hitter, only with a ranged attack it can shoot in combat for 3 attacks versus the Nomad's 2 attacks, Open Fist and discounted price. This is probably better marshalled as it only needs 1 focus to be effective and it kind of wants to be closer than most casters are comfortable with being.
* Mangler: Originally a Magnus only design, till he either sold it for funds or it was stolen, the fluff disagrees with itself, the Mangler is a generally used as a dedicated anti-infantry warjack. Its combination of Thresher, Reach and Chain Weapon screams Shield Wall annihilator and it really does break through them with ease. The open fist is nice for the few times you run it against warjacks, but ultimately why you are using this is because unlike the Nomad, the fabulous Rocinante, Freebooter or Rover, the Mangler practically gets a hard on when infantry pack around. The others are superior against single targets but its the Mangler for breaking through that Iron Fang wall or to transmute those Winter Guardsmen into a thin red paste on the snow.
* Ghordson Driller: One of the most popular Rhulic jacks for the sheer value it gets from Durgen and Gorten's STR buffs. Buffed it is one of the few things with an Open Fist that can one-hand throw heavies, or even Gorten for the old MK1 Gorten Bowling strategy. When buffed its going to make a massive hole in a warcaster with its drill unless its Karchev (Who would still be fucking worried because its one of the few things that can kill him if not immediately dealt with.
* Renegade: At one time the best warjack in the game, now its the best light warjack and a serious contender for the best ever title. Its got nice ARM for a light, an affordable cost and a decent P+S chainsaw that keeps on hitting with crits and can make a dent in even heavy warjacks or chew through warcasters. Oh and only Magnus can field them at a max of 2 (In Two Caster games he can take 4, in three you should run 6). Whats that? Oh yes, its called Magnus the ______'s Real Feat because it carries the Obliteratr Rocket, a single use, long range, high pow, high aoe missile that auto knockdowns anything underneath allowing you to wipe units of the board or draw LoS to the warcaster to fire the other Obliterator Rocket for massive damage and a knockdown assassination. Seriously if you are running Magnus and don't have both of these you are beyond help. This thing could only be better if it had tits and was on fire. It works so well with other units like giving the Freebooter a downed warcaster or warjack to charge and obliterate with its Trash bonus damage die; 5D6 plus P+S if you boost that first hit. The only downside to the Renegade other than it being Magnus only is that the rocket affects allies so you can't have it hit a bogged down Mangler that then threshers everything for autohits and eats the whole unit well you can but the Mangler is going to have to stand before it gets bashing. Also it has an arc node, the only one in Mercenaries, a fucking arc node.
* Talon:The last originally Magnus only, but retconned into being an old model Cygnar Light. Unlike the brutal Mangler or the fucking superpower that is the Renegade, the Talon is disappoint. The Talon is basically designed to 1v1 other jacks and buzz them with Stall while you do other things. Its cheap as chips but chips are a better buy. All in all this is a jack marshall warjack rather than battlegroup jack. Its good with Sam MacHorne as its pretty well suited for assisting the Devil Dogs hunting their prey, the Buccaneer is a slightly better choice but the Talon is hardier and the Devil Dogs don't need knockdown help, and Rutger Shaw isn't bad with it, just don't put it on Dirty Meg as she is a classy greasebitch who deserves the very best her fat oil stained ass desires not a second rate light warjack.
* Buccaneer:This little beauty is quite the sneaky git. It can knockdown targets and isn't afraid of being the cheapest non-Rhulic. Its Net can piss off people because it just knocks things down easily so you could field 2-3 in a small battle (for piss all cost) and have them just bog the few solos or warjacks down while the rest of the battlegroup/army wails on the warcaster. If you ever run 2 warjacks on a marshall, especially the Devil Dogs, make it a Talon and Buccaneet tag team as they can keep a warjack pinned by stallin its move away and forcing it to use its action to stand, knocking it down and repeating it till it dies or the game ends.
* Vanguard: Like Rocinante it can be a bodyguard jack for support casters. Its gun is.... not why you take it. Its gun is shit and will rarely kill things but its ability to take hits for your warcaster is why you take it. Its ok against infantry with its shield and reach, it functions as a way to prevent combat rather than to win combat as your opponent will not apwant to bog a good warjack down in combat with a mediocre Vanguard. Despite being entirely different from the Renegade, like all merc Lights, it pales in comparison to that magnificent stallion.
* Steelhead Halberdiers: Probably the most disposable infantry in the game, they're certainly quite cheap and are still good for their price, but not great. They will likely die if any good units come for them, but its honestly a win for you as they are the worst possible targets unless your opponent is dependant on soul/blood tokens and needs to load up quickly. Any damage they do validates their purchase, any time a warjack has to charge them, they are paying for themselves. They grant a bonus to Steelhead Cavalry that flanks anyone they're hitting so use them together in a "Hammer and Anvil" combo.
* Steelhead Riflemen: Cheap mediocre ranged support, they don't form static gunlines, losing out to Teenchers and Longgunners, instead they have a major advantage to moving and shooting with a reroll. This means you can have them move up behind an assault unit to fire on any flankers.
* Steelhead Cavalry: Oh these guys are great when paired with SHH, where they are hitting obscenely hard for Steelhead units. Reasonable on their own, they're not as good as other heavy cavalry but they're cheaper and paired with the Halberdiers they match the competition for brute force. Practically mandates Stannis Brocker though, which isn't really a negative unless you hate success.
* Kayazy Assassins: SOVIET RUSSIAN COSSACK NINJAS! A nice unit for 4*, the Kayazy are a potential assassination threat and work well with the Rhulic casters because its able to hit soft units in the flanks which is something they never get in Searforge and covers a base they need.
* Alexia Ciannor & The Risen: Postergirl of the setting and super-necromancer. Take her with a full unit of SHH, she can raise Risen from them to prolong the light infantry tarpit. This is one of the units to take when you run Damiano out of tier, because all those Steelhead bodies are now coming back to soak up damage again. She can also create Rune Thralls from Risen which are solos with some ok to meh stats and weaponmaster. Rune Thralls are good to use as homing missiles rather than as elite fighters, just craft one and throw it at a ranged unit or block someone's charge lane.
* Greygore Boomhowler & Company: Say hello to one of the best tarpits in the entire game. There a decent heavy infantry choice, with good melee capabilities and a decent threat range. Where they really shine is their tarpitting capabilities however. They naturally have Tough, and Greygore has the ability to let them make their tough rolls on a 4+, making them one of the hardest to kill units in the game. They also have medium bases, so you can use them to block Trample sheninagans as well. Their blunderbusses aren't that great, you want to get these guys in melee as opposed to shooting.
* Gorman di Wulfe: Because gas masks are cool! More serously, Gorman is one of the best toolbox solos in the game, being really cheap for what you get from him. He has three different AOE grenades. An acid bomb that can melt single-wound infantry with Corrosion continous effects. A Blind Genade that reduces both their MAT and DEF by four, prevents them from running, charging, or making ranged or magic attacks, and finally they have to forfeit either their movement or action. And a Rust Grenade can give any warjacks it hits -2 ARM. He can also pop down a Cloud AOE as his action and has stealth naturally. The mad alchemist is great for setting up assassination runs, as his blind grenade helps eliminate one of the biggest defenses of a warcaster, their high DEF. However, his attacks are very short-ranged and he is very squishy, and his only defensive buffs are his cloud effect and Stealth, neither of which are enough to keep him alive from a dedicated effort. Overall Gorman is a good utility solo that can provide a lot of support for armies.
* Kell Bailoch: Kell is a ranged support solo. Stat-wise he has amazing RAT and slightly above average DEF, with a low MAT. He gains Advance Deployment, so you can chose a good snipers nest with him. Dual Shot let's him take two shots as long as he stays still, letting him pick off two models a turn. His gun is magical, so you can snipe at Pistol Wraiths. He has Prowl, which means that if you position him right he will be able to fire on anything with near impunity as they will auto-miss their return shots. His final rule is sniper, where instead of rolling for damage you can isntead chose to auto-inflict one wound. This is great for picking off pesky high ARM models that are really hard to kill. Overall Kell is a good ranged character that excels at picking off expensive infantry two at a time. He suffers against warjack heavy armies, and is a very defensive oriented model, but is still a good pick.
* Master Gunner Dougal MacNaile: The Master Gunner is an auto-include for any ranged list, and especially one that is using a lot of blast templates. As an action he can give a friendly mercenary unit a bonus to hit with an AOE attack that also lets them re-roll the deviation and scatter distance. He can also as a mini-feat add some extra range to the guns of neraby mercenary units. He isn't to spectacular on his own, he has decent RAT and his quad-iron is a decent gun, and Tough makes him more survivable. His rules are Mercenary only, so he isn't going to find much use in a non-mercenary force.
* Reinholdt, Goblin Speculator: This little bugger is a walking purchasable buff for your warcaster. For his very cheap cost, you get a model with no attacks and no good stats besides his defense. Where he shines is in the special rules he has. The first, Lucky Charm, lets your Warlord roll an extra dice on an attack or damage roll, then drop the lowest die roll. This can help out with warcasters with great weapons, letting you hit more accurately or harder. His second ability, Reload, also is useful for offensive Ranged caster by letting you make a second attack ignoring the ROF of your warcaster's gun. For the right warcaster, this can be a huge buff that helps warcasterw ith very poweful one-shot weapons. His final ability let's you premeasure the distance between two models in the Warcaster's LOS, useful for making absolutely sure that your positioning is good.
* Rhupert Carvolo: Surprisingly not an unit attachment, so you activate him seperately of whatever unit you want to buff with him. Rhupert is a unit buffing machine for your army, capable of handing out one of three buffs each turn by playing his pipe. The first, Dirge of Mists, hands out a defense buff and Terror. Useful for making hard to hit units like Kazay Assassins, Daughters of the Flame, Arcane Tempest Gun Mages even harder to hit, and with less and less fearless units Terror is pretty useful as well. His second song, Heroic Call, gives out Fearless and Tough. Fearless is useful for going up against Terror causing units, but the real draw here is Tough, which increases your forces durability drastically by replacing killed with Knocked Down for every 5+ you roll. His third song, March, gives Pathfinder, which is useful for increasing threat ranges and pulling off charges your opponent didn't see coming.
So the Frenchies have a few differences from 4Star. Namely that they don't get Kayazy, Thamarite/Morrowan actually matters, Arcane Tempest Gun Mages and a few new solos.
How do they play?
As the diet-coke Cygnar faction. Considering Cygnar often has 1-2 merc units these days, and these guys get one of the Swan's signature units, this is often the easiest 2nd army for a Cygnar player to pickup. Contrast to 4*, HBC has a few differences, its mercs are more heroic/ethical than 4* and it has that flavouring of a scrappy underdog resistance. HBC has the following special rules:
- All Solos gain Advanced Deploy: This means that you get to see your opponent's overall deployment and can place your lone assassins, support solos etc, where you need it. Deploy your units as per normal, but don't plan to place your solos, instead wait for your opponent and then adapt your solos to match. As merc solos often have pretty powerful effects or are just assassins, this rule lets you line up targets.
- You may take a single unit of Arcane Tempest Gunmages OR Long Gunners: You get one or the other. Long Gunners are nice for a reliable range unit as mercs really only get Steelhead Riflemen. But instead you will take Gun Mages, because they're a multi-purpose toolbox unit while mercs tend to be specialists with narrow options.
Ashlynn D'Elyse: Joan D'Arc expy, a master duelist turned warcaster, she has the best infantry threshing spell "Flashing Blade" and thanks to Weapon Master, Riposte (if an enemy misses in melee, Ashlynn gets to swing back at them) and very high defence will be killing light infantry tarpits on her own very quickly. The downside is that this is widely known so don't expect to get her chopping up Winterguard when your opponent can throw Man'o'war shocktroopers that will just take ages to cleanup. Her feat heavily boosts the chances for a crit, so both Gun Mages and Mules are great with her.
* Mule: A significant improvement over its normal variant simply because you can marshall the damn thing with Gun Mages and give it snipe. And applying Thunderbolt or Critical: Brutal Damage to everything under the template is cool too. Roulette lets it crit a lot more often, especially if the free marshal point boosts to hit.