When I was asked to write an article about Warmachine and Hordes (“Warmahordes”) for this blog, I asked myself; “what would benefit the readers of this blog the most?”
Quite a number of the frequent visitors to the blog primarily play GW games, so I figured a beginner article would be the best, hopefully to inspire many of you out there to try this game out for yourself.
Beginner articles for Warmahordes are a dime a dozen out in the interwebs, but I figured I’d take a more critical look at the game, and leave it to the readers to decide for themselves whether they want to try this game out, and if so, which factions would suit them the most.
Remember that these are all my opinions, and may differ from your own. Feel free to leave comments :)
The Nature of Warmahordes
Its been said time and time again, but the main gist of the game is that it is an aggressive game with ever-shifting tides of battle, as opposed to the more attrition-based style popularized by GW games.
This type of playstyle rewards those who plan every move carefully, and in practice the game is fairly balanced; skill generally takes precedence over list building and theory. The downside is that sloppy play is often (dramatically) punished, particularly due to the “kill-the-king” nature of the game where a Warcaster/Warlock death is instant defeat for the player.
Speaking of Warcasters (Warmachine) and Warlocks (Hordes), they are the central piece of your army. They act as this brilliant combination of your “life”, your “spell list” and (sometimes) a combat piece in their own right, although there is great diversity in the specific capabilities and abilities of each one of them. Some play more aggressively, while others are more defensive, or favor control tactics. Others may be able to take the fight to the enemy themselves, while many act more as enablers for the rest of your army.
Warjacks (Warmachine) and Warbeasts (Hordes) are the second key type of unit. Their functions diverge slightly due to the difference in game mechanics; Warjacks are fueled by the “Focus” generated by the Warcaster, while Warbeasts generate their own “Fury” and use this Fury to fuel your Warlock.
Essentially, both systems work in reverse but are fairly balanced out despite these differences. Warmachine armies tend to use Warjacks like tanks, supported by a network of infantry and solo operatives, while Hordes armies tend to use Warbeasts as their main offensive power. Although the game is so diverse that these sweeping statements do no justice to the myriad of possible army builds, in general Warmachine armies do better in the long attrition game, while Hordes armies often hinge more on the alpha strike.
There are currently six factions in Warmachine and five factions in Hordes.
This is my take on the factions based on a gameplay perspective, rather than a fluff/aesthetic prespective. Remember that these are general statements about the factions – the game is diverse enough to have exceptions to the “norm” in every faction.
Cygnar is a combined arms faction with a heavy tendency towards ranged combat. Most of their units have a bunch of special rules which give them considerable flexibility, but cost more as a result. Many of their infantry choices tend to be considered sub-par, leading to the heavy reliance on Mercenaries in competitive lists. List building is exceptionally important, as it tends to be difficult to balance survivability and hitting power, neither of which are outstanding aspects of the faction.
Cygnar does however have quite a bit of threat management; they may not necessarily kill everything they face, but are able to reduce their effectiveness and possibly long enough to pull an assassination (Cygnar’s favored win condition).
The greatest strength, by far, is their incredible Warcaster selection. Almost all their warcasters are incredibly powerful (matched possibly only by Cryx) and enable their armies in a variety of ways that would make the faction downright broken if they were in other factions.
Overall, I think that resourceful and adaptive players would find the most enjoyment out of the faction.
Protectorate of Menoth
The Protectorate is a synergistic, self-buffing army. It tends to be slow and the army tends to stay clumped together, but have considerable offensive and defensive abilities. Offensively, the faction has the highest number of Weapon Masters (a special rule predominantly on infantry that makes them hit very hard) and the Choir, the trademark Warjack support of the Protectorate, makes their Warjacks hit a lot harder. Defensively, the Protectorate is all about denial; denying status effects, denying shooting, denying magic – you name it, and they have it. As a result, they are often considered the king of denial and attrition in the game. It should also be noted that they have the best Warjack support in the game, but also have access to great, cheap infantry thus giving them the reputation of being more of a horde army.
This however can make them rather boring to players who expect a faster game, and this is compounded by their horribly squishy Warcasters – even those that look like fighters are poorly equipped to do the job themselves. They rarely get the first hit, but are designed to survive being hit and then proceed to grind the opponent down. They also have to pay a decent amount of points for their support, which are integral to their playstyle but do not directly contribute to the fight themselves.
I think Protectorate would appeal to those that like control-through denial, and don’t mind slower, somewhat more defensive/counterpunch-based armies.
As one would expect from the Russian analogue, the entire faction is full of hard-hitting, survivable models with no bells or whistles. This makes the army horribly predictable (their biggest weakness; you often play as if your “hand is revealed”), but their raw stats tend to make it so that they don’t really care anyway. However, Khador is an infantry-based army; Warjack armies are viable, but generally inferior to infantry armies in this faction. On the plus side, Khador has quite possibly the best infantry in the game in terms of sheer quality – most are a combination of considerable survivability, incredible hitting power and good accuracy. It is however easy to overestimate their survivability, particularly that of their warjacks.
Khador looks slow but is deceptively fast, and even in games where the enemy is even faster, they have the ability to take the punch and counter with vicious force. They also have fewer Magical Weapons, which can sometimes matter particularly against Cryx and Protectorate. If you like raw power and no pantsy tricks, this is the faction for you.
Khador is a great starting army, and would appeal to those that like reliable, independent models.
Cryx has a reputation for being “tricksy” often due to its heavy tendency towards magic (particularly debuffs), but to be honest, for the most part Cryx is an undead infantry swarm that just runs screaming towards the enemy. Its Warcasters are amongst the best (probably tied with Cygnar) but with swarms of cheap infantry and/or good infantry, and being undead, they tend towards being able to regenerate their number when they kill others.
The faction has the worst ranged firepower, but considerable melee hitting power particularly due to the numerous debuffs that they can put on the enemy. Their heavy Warjacks tend to be pretty bad (except the Deathjack) but they have more Arc Node choices than other factions, enabling them to sling spells from unexpected directions many inches away from their Warcasters.
The best way to describe Cryx is simply “Black in Magic the Gathering”. It is a combination of magic, debuffs and hordes of low-cost infantry. If this appeals to you, then Cryx is hands-down the choice for you.
Retribution of Scyrah
A new faction that came about in Mk.II, the Retribution is quite possibly the premier ranged faction, although some Cygnar players may contest this statement. Many things in the faction have guns (all their heavy Warjacks have a gun!) and they have access to the Mage Hunter Strike Force, quite possibly the most disliked shooting unit in the entire game. They are also quite fast.
However, just as good shooting and speed is something you’d expect from an Elven faction in any setting, they are similarly often few in number and not overly tough, nor do they hit exceptionally hard. The faction has a fairly steep learning curve and currently has fewer choices due to its status as the newest faction in Warmachine.
Although PP does a good job at trying to hide the Elven nature of the Retribution through their oddly chubby Warjacks and infantry, the fact is, this is an Elf army – they shoot, they are fast, but they are also fragile, don’t hit too hard, and cost a lot. Players with a natural tendency towards Elf armies in other games would find themselves at home in this faction.
Mercenaries are a difficult faction to categorize, as they themselves are not officially recognized as a single faction, but are categorized into different Contracts. Note that in addition to being able to stand alone as its own army, Mercenaries are also able to work with other factions.
To minimize confusion, I won’t go into the breakdown of the Contracts, but rather just talk about the faction as a whole. The faction has a diverse selection of models, so incredibly diverse that it is practically impossible to discern their playstyle. What they do have, however, is scores of great solo’s, and dirt cheap Warjacks and infantry which appeal to those who want simple efficiency. The downside is that their effectiveness is fairly middle-of-the-road and lacking sheer offense/defense that the major factions have.
Players that like Mercenaries tend to be those that like the underdog, or those that like flexibility and/or cost effectiveness.
Trollbloods are the infantry faction of Hordes, with amazing infantry, that are literally Tough (a special ability that effectively gives them a 5++ save in a game that doesn’t usually have saves) coupled with Warbeasts that are able to regenerate themselves. They are divergent from the other Hordes factions in that they don’t usually rely too much on their Warbeasts as the major thrust of the force, and play a little bit like the Protectorate of Menoth with the clumped-together-synergistic-buffing-type playstyle, but have the toughness and hitting power that brings makes them somewhat a little similar to Khador as well.
They tend to be fairly predictable and not necessarily very versatile, but they remain a good faction for those looking into having a very hard army to crack with good hitting power. However, be warned that Trollblood armies hurt the wallet since most of their models are medium-based.
The tricksy faction in Hordes, Circle is all about movement and terrain shenanigans, and they have some denial elements (particularly against magic). Almost everything in the faction is a glass cannon (despite being often melee-oriented), fairly costly points-wise, and most of them don’t hit too hard. This horrible combination of traits makes the faction quite possibly the most unforgiving of all the factions in Warmahordes, but their ability to create threat vectors in impossible locations makes them by far one of the most highly-respected factions in the game when handled by an experienced player.
Players that favor guerilla warfare-type playstyle would love this faction, as would those that feel confident in trusting their own wit to out-think their opponent and win the skill matchup.
Despite having some good infantry, the bulk of Skorne’s firepower comes from its Warbeasts, and it has the support to match. Extremely aggressive and fairly survivable, they play like a combination of Khador (tough and hard-hitting with deceptive speed) and Protectorate (buffs and support), but lack the ranged ability of the two aforementioned factions and the control/denial aspect of Protectorate.
To be honest I find it difficult to say anything more about them, due to the simple nature of the army. If you like just getting into grips with your opponent with some quality Warbeasts and infantry, this is the right faction.
Legion of Everblight
Legion has some poorer infantry, but hands-down amongst the best Warbeasts, Warbeast support and Warlocks in the game. They are capable of playing both the ranged and melee game well, but are a glass cannon faction with an extreme bias towards sheer firepower. All the Warbeasts also have Eyeless Sight which enables them to ignore a vast majority of the LOS rules in the game, and Pathfinder/Flight is fairly prevalent, meaning they also ignore a vast majority of the terrain rules in the game.
This in part lends to their infamy; there is sometimes a risk of losing friends when you play Legion, but they are not without their weaknesses; while they have quite a lot of shooting, a massive infantry swarm will still give them a headache, and while they have considerable hitting power, too much armor would also give them a headache.
If you like losing friends and being a loner, this is the faction for you.
(Nah, I’m kidding. This faction is good for those that like aggressive armies with a lot of Warbeasts).
Minions are divided clearly into Thornfall Alliance (pigmen) and Blindwater Congregation (gatormen) with little in-between. They are by far the least developed of all the factions in Warmahordes, and at the time of writing, they are not recommended as a primary faction, although it is possible to have success with them.
Blindwater Congregation – There is a little more synergy in this faction, and have the (arguably) best medium-based infantry in the game (Gatormen Posse). They do very well against armies with lower armor, but lack hitting power against heavily armored targets. They are however not short on staying power.
Why would anyone play Minions? If you like the underdog, or bacon/turtles/octopi then this is a good faction. They are a great second faction for those on a budget, since their extremely limited range of models won’t strain the wallet too greatly.
I hope this article has shed some light on the game, and inspired some of you to try it out.
Images used are owned by Privateer Press, the Warmahordes logo was taken from a Google search result without permission.