101 - Warcasters

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This article is part of Warmachine University's Crash Course (101) series, which is "Basic Training" aimed at new players who are still learning the core rules.
 
The 101 series is intended to help you understand the rulebook, but you shouldn't be reading this instead of the rulebook.


3 quick notes before we begin:

  1. This article is a recap of the Warcaster rules. (For a verbatim copy of the rules, refer to Warcaster.)
  2. If you've just read the 101 article on Warlocks, you'll find this article is very similar; the only real differences are how warcasters and warjacks generate focus, and how warcasters reduce damage.
  3. More unususal caster types, such as Infernal Masters, are covered in the Intermediate LPG series.
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Tip !
The term caster is used as shorthand for warcaster and/or warlock and/or Infernal Master.


Venethrax1, a warcaster from the Cryx faction.

If Warmachine was chess, then Warcasters would be a King piece and a Queen piece combined. They are extremely powerful (like a Queen piece) but if they die then you instantly lose the game (like a King piece). They are very skilled combatants, leaders, and spellcasters in and of themselves - but their true potential is unlocked when they lead a battlegroup of warjacks.

Warcasters have access to focus, a supply of magical energy, and they can use this focus to either:

  1. Cast spells - Perhaps the primary purpose of focus is to fuel the spells you cast. Different casters have different spells available that can be offensive, self-buffing, army-buffing, and/or enemy de-buffing. This "spell list" shapes the caster's playstyle, strategy, and the types of models they like to put in their army.
  2. Boost attacks - Casters can spend a single focus to add one die to any attack roll or damage roll the caster makes. Each boost must be bought separately, and each roll can only be boosted once.
  3. Buy attacks - Casters can spend focus to make extra attacks. Most ranged weapons cannot make extra attacks, but all melee weapons can make an unlimited number of attacks.
  4. Reduce damage - Casters can choose to not spend their focus, and instead use it during the enemy turn to reduce the damage your opponent inflicts on your caster. This is called camping your focus.
  5. Allocate Focus - warcasters can give their focus to their warjacks, so that the warjacks become more powerful. More on that below.

You will never have enough focus to do all the things you want to do in a single turn - the game is designed such that you are resouce-starved and so you need to make meaningful choices about what you spend focus on.

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Tip !

  • FOCUS (in all capitals) always refers to the focus stat (printed on your card +/- buffs)
  • focus (lower case) always refers to how many focus points are currently on your model.

Name and Number

You will see casters with a number beside their name, such as Caine1 and Caine2. These refer to the same character at different points in the overall storyline. They are different physical models and they'll have slightly different abilities and spells but have the same "feel" to them.

You cannot use multiple versions of the same character in the same army - for instance you cannot have Caine1 fight alongside Caine2. Each player can, however, have the same characters - you can have Caine1 fight against Caine1 if you really wanted.

Note that any model with a number is a character model. This is relevant for a few special rules such as Fortune Hunter.

Feat

Every caster in the game has a once-per-game ability called a Feat which, if used smartly, can really turn the tide of battle in your favour. Every feat is unique (barring one exception: Sturgis1 and Sturgis2).

Control Range

A caster's control range is equal to double its current FOCUS statistic, not its current unspent focus points. This means your control range does not shrink as you spend focus.

A control range is used to determine which warjacks can get focus at the start of the turn, which makes them much more powerful. Also, many spells and feats will work on all models in your control range.

Focus

How focus is generated & allocated

Warcasters auto-replenish their focus resource each turn (warlocks do not). The steps are:
  1. At the start of each turn, any focus warcasters had left over from last turn expires.
  2. Then warcasters replenish focus - New focus then appears out of thin air to top your warcaster back up to their normal limit.
  3. Some casters then get bonus focus that can take them over their limit (such as with the Cull Soul rule).
  4. Warjacks then Power Up - if they have a working cortex and are in their caster's control range, they get a single focus point for free.
  5. Certain spells are upkeeps which will stay in play as long as you pay their upkeep cost. You have to spend one focus per upkeep spell you want to keep in play.
  6. Once you've finished upkeeping spells, you can allocate focus from your warcaster to any of their warjacks that are in their control range. Each warjack can have up to 3 focus total.
  7. Whatever focus is left on your warcaster after all this, is how much you have to use during the rest of the turn.

Casting spells

Each spell has a COST, and you have to spend that many focus points to cast it. After that, it's a matter of finding a target in range and, if it targets an enemy model, rolling to hit/damage them. You will never have enough focus to cast all your spells, let alone if you spent some allocating to warjacks.
Upkeep spells: Once they're in play, you only need to spend one focus next turn to keep them in play next turn (rather than the full COST). On the other hand, you can only have one copy of an upkeep in play at once - if you cast it on a new target, the earlier version immediately expires.
Target: SELF spells: Some casters can put a buff on themselves. Sometimes this is purely a self-buff (like Engine of Destruction) but othertimes it affects everyone in their control range or command range (like Fog of War).
Channeling spells: Some armies have access to non-warcaster models with the Channeler advantage. Arc Nodes are also common, which is just a warjack with the Channeler rule. Channelers allows the warcaster to cast spells "through" that model. Basically, after paying the COST of the spell, you can target any model that is in range of the channeler model (rather than just targets in range of the warcaster model).
  • The channeler needs to be in your control range, but you don't need LOS to it.
  • The channeler needs to be not engaged by an enemy model (but it can be engaging an enemy model).
  • The channeler needs LOS to the target, you can't cast spells on stuff behind the channeler.

Buying/Boosting attacks

Warcasters can ramp up their prowess and become true monsters by spending focus on attacks. This does, however, leave you with less focus to cast spells, power your battlegroup, or defend against enemy attacks.
  • Warcasters can spend 1 focus to buy one melee attack.
    • This is a basic attack, with one of their melee weapons.
    • You can continue buying more attacks as long as you have the focus to afford it.
  • Warcasters can spend 1 focus to boost any attack roll or damage roll (ranged, melee, and/or spells).
    • Each roll is paid for seperately.
    • Each roll can be boosted only once.
    • You can continue boosting different rolls as long as you have the focus to afford it.
  • Some warcasters can spend focus to buy ranged attacks, but they need a special rule to do so.

Reduce Damage & Heal Damage

When a warcaster is damaged by anything, they can spend 1 focus to reduce that damage by up to 5. You can't go negative - if something inflicts 3 damage, you can spend a focus to reduce it to zero.
During a warcaster's activation, they can spend any amount of focus to heal themselves on a one-for-one basis.
If you leave focus unspent on your warcaster, in preparation for using it to reduce damage from enemy attacks, this is called camping your focus.

Interaction with Warjacks

Interaction

Unlike their warlock counterparts, warcasters have comparatively little interaction with their warjacks. The warcasters 'fuel' the warjack with focus, but that's about it.

  • In the Control Phase, any warjack in their control range gets 1 focus for free. This is the 'Power Up' focus.
  • After that, the warcaster can give any warjack in their control range extra focus from their own stack. This is 'allocated' focus.
  • Warcasters can't Power Up or Allocate focus to warjacks that aren't in their battlegroup, whether or not they're in control range.

Battlegroup

When you build your army list you assign warjacks to be in your warcaster's battlegroup. In fact, you have to assign a minimum number to each battlegroup. A caster can only allocate focus to their warjacks, and many spells/feats only affect battlegroup models (such as Energizer).

A battlegroup is a shared noun, a bit like the word "team"; the warjacks are in the warcaster's battlegroup, but also the warcaster is in the warjack's battlegroup.

It is possible to add more warjacks to your battlegroup mid-game, but only if that warjack's original controller died earlier in the game. This doesn't happen very often, especially in beginner games, so we won't cover it here. Instead it is detailed in the intermediate lesson LPG - Death of a Controller.

WJP

Each warcaster has a stat called WJP. These are bonus army points that must be spent on warjacks and those warjacks must be assigned to that warcaster's battlegroup. This forces you to play with a minimum number of warjacks in the game.

Junior warcasters and 'jack marshals do not get WJP.

Warcasters: Model Type

Stryker3, a cavalry warcaster

Most warcasters are a simple warrior model. But sometimes casters have extra/different types, which complicates their "normal caster functions" as follows:

    Warcaster Cavalry    

Cavalry can make impact attacks, which allows the cavalry model to "pause" their movement mid-charge. Caster cavalry are not allowed to cast spells or trigger their feat during this "pause".

    Warcaster Unit    

If your warcaster is part of a unit, here's a few things to be aware of:

  • You have to issue orders before anything else, even casting spells or using a feat.
  • Even if the troopers die and you're down to just the warcaster, the caster is still technically a unit so is susceptible to anti-unit effects (such as Rebuke).
  • The non-warcaster models can contest scenario elements (but the warcaster cannot as per normal).
  • The way you score zones and flags alters a little bit; see LPG - Steamroller.

Also there's a weird interaction between a unit getting a Press Forward order (which means models must run or charge), a warcaster casting a spell or using a feat before they move (which means they can't run), and what happens if the warcaster in a unit doesn't have LOS to a legal charge target. In this situation, the spellcaster basically casts the spell(s) before moving, can't charge, so makes a full advance (not a charge) then their activation immediately ends.

    Warcaster Battle Engine    

There is no specific interaction between the battle engine rules and the caster rules.

    Companions    

Some casters come with a Companion model, normally a solo but sometimes a warjack or warbeast. These Companions are completely separate models, with their own activation, and don't interfere with the normal caster rules at all. Essentially, they're just a free bonus model when you take that caster.

Warcaster Destruction

In a normal game you lose when your main caster dies, so "what happens when they die" doesn't come up that often.

When you expand to larger games, you might start using a Junior Warcaster alongside your main caster, and the game will continue after the Junior's death. So in that scenario you'll need to know what happens to the dead Junior's warjacks - we cover this in the intermediate article LPG - Death of a Controller.

Warcaster-adjacent models

Warcaster attachment

Certain models serve as a Warcaster Attachment. These models normally buff the caster's arcane power in some fashion or another, and follow their warcaster around the entire game giving that buff each turn.

A few notes:

  • A warcaster attachment must be attached to a warcaster - you can't add it to your army "by itself".
  • Each warcaster can only have one warcaster attachment.
  • An attachment is not part of your battlegroup. It won't gain benefits from certain spells, feats, etc.
    • Sometimes an attachment has a separate rule, Companion, which does make it part of the battlegroup.
  • An attachment has a separate activation to the warcaster.

Junior Warcasters

The official name for Junior Warcasters is Battlegroup Controller.

This is a special rule that shows up on a few solos, units, and battle engines. It gives that model all the same rules as a warcaster except 1) they don't get a feat, and 2) if/when they die you don't auto-lose the game.


Just a couple of things to keep in mind:

  1. A Junior Warcaster's battlegroup is completely different to your main warcaster's battlegroup.
    • They can't swap warjacks mid-game.
    • They can't allocate focus to each other's warjacks
    • They can't cast spells that specify "target battlegroup warjack gains XXX" on each other,
    • etc
  2. When a Junior Warcaster dies, it short-circuits their warjacks and those 'jacks go inert.
    • While inert a warjack can't do anything ... but other warcasters or a 'Jack Marshal can manually restart the warjack.
    • We cover this in the intermediate article LPG - Death of a Controller.

'Jack Marshals

'Jack Marshals are covered in the intermediate article LPG - 'Jack Marshal.


Other

Rules Clarifications

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Rules Clarification:  : Warcaster      (Edit)
(Click Expand to read)

 
  • General
    • Damage from a feat is neither an attack nor Damage Type: Magical (unless the feat says it is).
    • FOCUS (uppercase) is the stat printed on the warcaster's card. Focus (lowercase) refers to focus points a model currently has.
    • Your CTRL area is double your FOCUS stat, not double your focus points. (Infernal Ruling)
    • Casting spells or using feats is an anytime ability with the added restriction that you can't use them on the same turn you run even before you run.
      • See also the clarifications on Any Time abilities (below).
    • Some warcasters are also Battle Engines and thus follow all the Battle Engine special rules.
      • There is no particular interaction between the Battle Engine rules and the Warcaster rules.
    • Work out all damage modifiers (such as Decapitation doubling the damage that exceeds ARM) before reducing it with the Power Field. (Infernal Ruling)


  • Restrictions on "Any Time" abilities     (Edit)         [Show/Hide]
    • "Any Time" abilities can be used at any time during a model/unit's activation, except:
    1. Before any compulsory forfeiture of movement/action. See step 2 of the activation sequence, appendix A.
    2. After the model with the "Any Time" ability has had their activation end "prematurely". By this I mean you resolved something which includes the phrase "its activation ends". Examples include:
      • Running, failing a charge, or failing a slam.
      • Abilities that include "then its activation ends" (such as Reposition and Teleport).
    3. In between declaring your charge target and making your charge movement. (Infernal Ruling)
    4. In between completing your charge movement and determining whether it was a successful charge. (Infernal Ruling)
    5. When you're in the middle of moving. (Note: Impact Attacks count as being in the middle of movement).
    6. When you're in the middle of an attack. Which also includes effects that occur "after the attack is resolved".
      (Although the attack is "resolved" at Step 11, in terms of using an "Any Time" ability the attack is not "finished" until after Step 14. Refer to the first paragraph of Apdx A.)
    7. Your opponent interrupted your activation to trigger one of their own abilities (such as Countercharge).
    8. Warcasters/warlocks/etc can normally cast a spell or use their feat "At any time". However, there is a core rule saying they cannot do so on the same activation that they run. So, they are subject to all the same restrictions listed above, plus they can't cast/feat before running.
    9. Units: See below.

    • In general you can use "Any Time" abilities while you're knocked down or stationary (except Spells and Feats which specify you can't).
    • If you have a gun with a random ROF, you can use an "Any Time" ability inbetween rolling the number of shots and actually making the first attack. (Infernal Ruling)

    Units with "Any Time" abilities
    • You cannot use an "Any Time" ability before issuing/receiving orders. See step 1 and 2 of the activation sequence, appendix A.
    • A model in a unit can't use an "Any Time" ability after they run (Infernal Ruling) or fail a charge. Because that makes that specific model's activation to end even though the unit's activation is still ongoing, and you can't use abilities on models that are not active.
      • You can use an "Any Time" ability before running, however.
    • A model in a unit can't use an "Any Time" ability after anyone in the unit has begun a Reposition move. (Infernal Ruling)
  • Warcaster/Warlock Cavalry ( Edit )
    • Warcasters/Warlocks can't cast spells or use their feat while resolving Impact Attacks. Because Impact Attacks occur during movement - you can use spells or feat before moving, or after moving, but not during movement.
      • Exception: If your Impact target(s) include your charge target, then your movement has ended (refer rulebook, last paragraph of 'Impact Attacks') and thus you're fine to use "any time" abilities before starting the Impact attacks.


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Rules Clarification:  : Warcaster Unit or Warlock Unit     (Edit)
(Click Expand to read)

This summary is specific to Warcaster/Warlock units. You may also want to check the Warcaster and Warlock pages respectively, for the "regular" rules clarifications.
  • All models in the unit count as part of the battlegroup. So, for instance, Butcher3's argus can be moved via his Energizer spell.
  • Warcaster units can have attachments. They can even attach units (such as the WSC). (Infernal Ruling)
  • The non-caster models are trooper models but are not normally Grunt models. Therefore they're not normally eligible for stuff like Revive.
  • If any member of the unit start to do their reposition movement, the warcaster or warlock in the unit would no longer be able to feat.(Infernal Ruling)
  • Press Forward Order vs Spells cast at Any Time (Edit)
    • You must issue orders before anything else. If you issue a Press Forward order, you must run or charge.
    • If you cast spells before moving, you can't run so you must charge.
    • If you cast spells before moving, then start the spellcaster's Normal Movement but have no valid charge targets, you are in a situation where you must charge but cannot charge.
      In this situation the spellcaster must either:
      • forfeit their Combat Action, use their Normal Movement to make a full advance, then their activation ends. (Note that you cannot cast more spells after the full advance).
      • forfeit their Normal Movement, then their activation ends.
      • (Infernal Ruling)
  • Steamroller 2018
    • The non-caster models can contest scenario zones & flags.
    • The caster model cannot contest.
    • The caster model can control zones and flags by itself, but:
      • to control a zone, the entire unit remaining in play needs to be in formation.
      • to control a flag, the entire unit remaining in play must be within 4" of the flag.
  • Units Buying Attacks (Edit)
    • If you make attacks with model [A], then start making attacks with model [B], you cannot 'go back' and buy more attacks with [A]. Because:
    • A model can only buy additional attacks during its Combat Action.
    • A model in a unit must complete its Combat Action before the next model starts theirs (with some exceptions, like CMA).
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Rules Clarification : Unit of Warcasters or Warlocks     (Edit)

  • Even though they're warcasters, if they're out of formation they suffer the normal penalties (can't make attacks, actions, spells, etc).
  • They can't upkeep each other's spells.
  • They can only dominate one SteamRoller scenario element at a time.
  • Each warlock/warcaster can have different upkeeps on them if those upkeeps are "target SELF" or "target model". If you cast an upkeep that is "target model/unit", that is the only upkeep any of them can have.
  • Units Buying Attacks (Edit)
    • If you make attacks with model [A], then start making attacks with model [B], you cannot 'go back' and buy more attacks with [A]. Because:
    • A model can only buy additional attacks during its Combat Action.
    • A model in a unit must complete its Combat Action before the next model starts theirs (with some exceptions, like CMA).
  • The Legion Twins
    • Rhyas cannot dominate a zone while out of formation.
    • Rhyas can use the feat while out of formation.
  • Haley3
    • Only Haley Prime is an 'actual' warcaster model, and as such she is the only one that can dominate a scenario element.
    • The echoes can Control/Contest scenarios like a normal unit.
    • Haley Prime can dominate an element even if the echoes are out of formation.

See Also

War-Nouns   (Edit)
Warmachine (Focus)
Recap for Newbies Official rules Category
Warcaster 101 - Warcasters Warcaster Category: Warcaster
"Junior Warcaster" Battlegroup Controller Category: Battlegroup Controller
'Jack Marshal LPG - 'Jack Marshal 'Jack Marshal Category: 'Jack Marshal
Warjack 101 - Warjacks Warjack Category: Warjack
Colossal LPG - Colossals & Gargantuans Colossals Category: Colossal Warjack
Vector LPG - Convergence Vector Category: Vector
Monstrosity LPG - Cephalyx Monstrosity Category: Monstrosity
Other LPG - Death of a Controller
Hordes (Fury)
Recap for Newbies Official rules Category
Warlock 101 - Warlocks Warlock Category: Warlock
Lesser Warlock Lesser Warlock Category: Lesser Warlock
Warbeast 101 - Warbeasts Warbeast Category: Warbeast
Gargantuan LPG - Colossals & Gargantuans Gargantuans Category: Gargantuan Warbeast
Other LPG - Death of a Controller
Infernals (Essence)
Recap for Newbies Official rules Category
Infernal Master LPG - Infernals Category: Infernal Master
Master Infernalist Master Infernalist Category: Master Infernalist
Horror LPG - Infernals Category: Horror