Abingdon Wargames Club

Warmachine and Hordes

Introduction

Despite their distinct titles, Warmachine and Hordes are in fact two halves of a single game. Both are set in the same steampunk-fantasy setting, and share the majority of their rules, with only a handful of special rules that are unique to one game or the other. The game's setting is Immoren, a world embroiled in constant turmoil as the various nations and factions battle desperately amongst themselves - whether to conquer or merely survive.

Warmachine covers the more industrialized nations of Immoren. Powerful Warcasters — rare and incredibly valuable magic-users — lead armies anchored around large, steam-powered humanoid constructs known as Warjacks. These machines possess a level of artificial intelligence that allows them to operate relatively independently and follow simple orders, but really come into their own when controlled by a warcaster. Warcasters are able to see through their eyes of their warjacks, speeding their reactions and sharpening their aim.

In contrast, Hordes covers the more savage nations and factions of the world. Rather than warcasters and warjacks, Hordes forces are centered around Warlocks, wielders of powerful spirit or blood magic, and their Warbeasts - furious monsters intent on carnage. Warlocks can telepathically drive their warbeasts into a frenzy of destruction, but must be ever vigilant lest the beasts break free of their control.

Gameplay

On the table, Warmachine and Hordes offer a fast-paced midsized-skirmish game that is full of tactical flexibility and depth, as well as rewarding aggressive play (no setting up camp in your deployment area in this game!). The factions are large and offer a lot of variety in listbuilding - two different forces from the same faction can be very different, depending on the plans and taste of the player building the force. The variety of model-types means that forces can be quite varied in size - a typical 35-point force can range from 20-40 models.

Uniquely, both Warmachine and Hordes contain a 'sudden death' mechanic, in that the death of a player's Warcaster or Warlock will instantly grant their opponent victory. This keeps both players on their toes at all times, and encourages a 'never give up' attitude - no matter how badly things seem to be going, many a victory has been snatched from the jaws of defeat by a high-risk, last-minute thrust that results in the assassination of the opponent's leader.

Both games possess an element of resource-management. On the Warmachine front, a warcaster generates a number of Focus tokens each turn, which they can use to cast spells and to push their warjacks beyond what their limited artificial-intelligence can achieve. Over on the Hordes side, warbeasts will generate a number of Fury tokens depending on how hard they are pushed, and the warlock must absorb and disperse this Fury to prevent the warbeasts breaking free from their control (with potentially disasterous consequences if that warbeast then turns on them!).

Playing at Abingdon Wargames Club

If you're considering playing at Abingdon Wargames Club, then whether you're a new player or a veteran you'll be interested to know how we tend to play the game.

  • Game Size: Nationally, the most common game sizes are 35-points and 50-points. We tend to play at the 35-point level, although some of our players are able to play at 50-points if asked. We are of course willing to play at smaller sizes to help new players learn, so if you're just getting started all you need is a battlebox (the official starter sets that contain 3-6 models depending on faction).
  • Scenarios: Rather than use the very simple scenarios found in the core rulebooks, we tend to play using the most recent set of Steamroller scenarios - the same as those used in official tournaments. This doesn't mean we're fixated on a tournament-style approach to the game, merely that the Steamroller scenarios are considered more interesting. New players will often be advised to play without scenarios for the first few games, to help focus on picking up the rules themselves.
  • Clocks: It's common for games to involve the use of a chess-style clock, to keep things moving and ensure that both players have the same amount of time available. Clocks aren't mandatory though, and we do play a lot of games without them. If you're not comfortable playing with clocks, that's fine! Where clocks are used, we usually adopt a more casual limit than is usual - one hour per player at 35-points, with deployment taking place before the clocks start. If you'd prefer to play using the stricter tournament timeframes, check with your opponent.
  • Faction Coverage: With a fairly small (but growing) meta, not all factions have been represented at the club. This can be beneficial, though, if you'd like to start playing a faction that others aren't used to seeing! Factions that have been seen recently include Circle Orboros, Convergence of Cyriss, Cygnar, Protectorate of Menoth, Skorne, and the Blindwater Congregation.

Getting Started

If you're interested in playing but aren't sure where to start, the conventional wisdom is to start small. Although the rules themselves are not hugely complex, Warmachine and Hordes possess a lot of tactical depth, and it really does pay to keep things small and focused for your first few games. The battlebox starters include a warcaster and two to four warjacks (for Warmachine), or a warlock and two to five warbeasts (for Hordes), and are generally a good way to begin although some are considered better than others (for example, the Trollblood battlebox is unfortunately considered to be quite poor). We can give advice tailored to a particular faction if requested. The game holds up well at these small levels, offering a much more interesting experience than some other games manage at lower model-counts.

Once you've played a few battlebox games and are ready to grow, you can move on from the battlebox to 15-points, 25-points and then 35-points - you can of course skip all the way to 35-points straight away if you're feeling confident. Once you've selected a faction, we're happy to offer our advice on how to build your force - most factions have models that, while not mandatory by any means, are sufficiently useful that they're seen in a lot of forces, and we can either give you some suggestions or steer you in the right direction to learn more about your faction before you buy anything.

The Factions

Warmachine

  • Cygnar is the largest, wealthiest, and most technologically-advanced of the human empires, although their central position leaves them beset by enemies on all sides.
  • Cryx is an empire comprised of undead, pirates, and (best of all) undead pirates, all led by the father of all dragons - Toruk - who seeks to consume his rebellious children.
  • Khador, the empire of the tough inhabitants of the cold north, with dreams of reconquering the land they long-ago lost to the southern nations.
  • The Protectorate of Menoth has recently broken away from the oppressive heathen nation of Cygnar, and aims to restore the true worship of Menoth - the creator of man - by any means necessary (particularly fire).
  • The Retribution of Scyrah are a violent and determined sect of the technologically-advanced Elven nation of Ios. Believing the fall of their gods to have been caused by the rise of human magic, they wage war against the human nations.
  • The Convergence of Cyriss are a technological cult who worship the clockwork goddess of machinery, Cyriss, aiming to impose her Great Work upon the world.
  • Various factions of Mercenaries also wage war across Immoren, whether by serving the other factions for coin, or to achieve their own ends (usually involving, well, coin).

Hordes

  • The Circle Orboros are an ancient order of druids. Technically neutral in the war between order and destruction, the rise of the industrial nations has tipped the scales - leading the druids to wage destructive war to restore the balance.
  • The Legion of Everblight are the blighted followers of the dragon Everblight, who seeks to consume the essences of his siblings in order to take on his father, Toruk.
  • The Skorne are a savage warrior race from the east, guided by a strong martial code, who have recently turned their eye to conquest of the western nations.
  • The Trollbloods are a historically-peaceful race, but the loss of much of their homelands to the races warring around them has led them to take up arms.
  • The Minions force comprises two distinct factions - the Blindwater Congregation, a race of savage gatormen from the swamps; and the Thornfall Alliance, a race of half-human, half-pig scientific experiments.