Wednesday, 22 February 2012

A NOOBs guide to Warmachine - Part One


I’ve only been playing Warmachine for a few months now, and I think I’ve learned a fair bit in that time thanks to some excellent mentoring from the local community (Shout out to Sean and Chris O in particular).

I thought I would write about getting into the hobby, what it’s about, how to get started and if the hobby would be right for you. 
This is one NOOB talking to the rest of the NOOBs out there…. come join us!


Throughout I will refer to the whole game system as Warmachine. Hordes is a valid part of the game system and should be counted as an equal player. The issue is I can’t be bothered typing Warmachine and Hordes every time, and the conjoined twin variant “Warmahordes” is just a bit naff. If they do a third edition they should end the brand diversity…. This isn’t Smackdown vs Raw people! 
Would I like Warmachine?

So, you’ve seen the models and heard people talking about the game of Warmachine and your thinking, “hey, what the heck is this crazy game….. can I play the space marines?”

 Well, no, no you can’t. You can do a lot more than that.

At its core Warmachine is a skirmish game. It’s designed to work best with a small number of units fighting a close encounter battle. It’s brutal, bloody and quick. Games can turn in a second and there is an inherent natural tension that runs through the game, once false move and you’re in for a world of hurt. 
Its about epic characters leading small forces of giant steam belching Warjacks or monstrous beasts of war. 
This is a Warbeast
If you like games where you sit on a hill and rain death on people with massive howitzers, this isn’t the game for you. 
If you like games where you command hundreds of models in big units, this isn’t the game for you. 
If you like games where you can play the same way, using the same tactics every game and win, you will really hate this game.

If you are risk adverse and just want to stay in cover and shoot…. Then this really isn’t the game for you. Seriously, standing and shooting doesn’t win you many games…. I should know!

It is one game where you can have as much fun in a loss as you do in a win though.

How do I start playing this game?

First of all, try and find someone who knows how to play. It’s much easier to learn off a veteran. There are also people called "press gangers" who work as community leaders for the hobby. Ask at your local games store or check out the privateer press forums to find your local press ganger. If you're in sunny New Zealand check out Thrall Blacks, our community page.

If its just you and a few friends, consider buying some battlegroups or warpacks, these are cheaper than normal boxes that contain one hero and a few warjacks/beasts for that faction. They are a really good place to start. You may also consider the two player battlebox as well. 
I would recommend playing a few "battlebox" games with an experienced player to learn if the game is for you and what army you might like to field. Battlebox games are short, small, fun games where you have one hero character and 2-4 Warjacks or Warbeasts. It's the best way to learn and will give you an idea if you want to go further.
Should I pick Hordes or Warmachine, what faction to play?

Don’t make this decision too early is all I can say, I’ll go into selecting a faction later. There are two major differences in the two games. One is the aesthetics of how the models look. The other is more complicated and involves two major mechanics in the game (Focus/Fury). That distinction is probably too complex to go into here, and doing so probably wouldn't be much help without a few games experience.
Look at the faction models, talk to friends, play a few demo games before making that decision. 
The worst thing is to commit to playing a faction based solely on how they look and then finding out they really don't work for you. 

What’s a Warmachine army look like?

As I said before, this is a skirmish game. Most games played consist of one hero and their retinue going toe to toe with each other. 
Your force starts with your hero character. In Warmachine forces this is the Warcaster, in Hordes force this is the Warlock (for shorthand, I’ll use caster to describe these characters). You pick one of these heroic individuals to be the star of your force and pick the rest of the army to suit them. Each hero has a spell list, weapons, abilities and a once per game special ability called a feat. The variety amongst caster is huge, and playing the same faction, with the same troops and a different caster will be a very different experience. 
Some casters are mighty warriors in their own right, who’s main contribution to your force is through their own sheer combat ability. Some are focused on spell casting and may sit back, deep in your lines cast spells at people. Others are inspiring leaders that increase the effectiveness of their forces. Most are a combination of all three skills sets. 
Once you pick a caster that’s right for you (more on that later) you pick some Warjacks (for warcasters) or Warbeasts (for Warlocks) to be their personal battlegroup. Warjacks are towering steam belching juggernauts made of iron and steel, they are controlled via Warcaster magic and can be considered and extension of their caster in many ways . Warbeasts are bound to their warlock, and the Warlock feeds of their rage to power their spells. Battlegroups need to stay relatively close to their caster to have maximum effectiveness (outside of range, the caster cannot control them well)

After picking the battlegroup you can fill the army out with units and solos. Units are your usual war gaming standard and range from men in massive power armour suits carrying force hammers to small goblins armed only with an improvised smoke machine (I’m serious). Each force has a plethora of units to choose from. They key is to pick ones the work well together. Models within a units need to stick together during the game.  
Solos are lone models that operate independently of the battlegroup and units. They can be assassins, scouts, advisors, snipers, heroes, spellcasters and much more. Solos add an extra level of the game as they move around by themselves, not bound to any command ranges. 
One key thing to note is that you caster is your king. If your Warcaster/warlock dies you lose instantly. Some people hate that aspect of the game, but this is a game about heroes and if the hero snuffs it the story is over.

Next time I'll talk about picking a faction that suits you. I play Cygnar personally, that's mainly for the big guns and lightning.... as shown below.

See also

Warmachine and Hordes has a lot of options, figure out what one works for you

Some helpful advice on what things to pay attention to during your first few games. Or.... how I learned not to suck so hard. 

A quick highlight of the differences between the two systems, what they have in common and how they differ. 

A quick guide with some advice on how to put together an army list, and some of the common pitfalls new players fall into.

Considering going to your first tournament? Don't be too scared, read the helpful guide!



  1. Really informative post. I'm new to the Warmachine(ie, haven't played yet) and can't wait for the next part.


  2. Cheers, Ill work on it this weekend and hopefully have it up on Sunday

  3. Awesome post mate (particularly the bit about me *blush*) but seriously, nice to see the game from another angle. On the Focus vs Fury angle, you can think of focus as resource management - I have a set amount of focus to allocate each turn, how best do I use it, whereas Fury is about risk management - I can force my beasts to as much as I want in my turn but the more I do the more I risk loosing control of them next turn..

    1. That is a good way of thinking about focus/fury. I still reckon the best way is to play it though, see how both work and what one works for you best. I think i'm more of a focus person, I like to know exactly what i have to work with from the start.

  4. VomKrieg really a good introduction to warmachine ! thanks for this.

    Duende Miniatures

  5. Thanks for doing such a great write up. I'm now super keen to get into Warmachine. The faction explanation really helped! :)


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