101 - Warcasters & Warjacks

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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.


This article is a recap of the Warcaster and Warjack rules. (For a verbatim copy of the rules, refer to Warcaster and Warjack respectively.) If you've just read the 101 article on Warlocks and Warbeasts, you'll find this article is very similar; the only real differences are how warcasters and warjacks generate focus, and how warcasters reduce damage.

More unususal caster types, such as Infernal Masters, are covered in the Intermediate LPG series.

Note: Most players use the word caster as shorthand for warcaster and/or warlock.

Warcasters

Intro

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.

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 (note that the statistic is always in full capital letters). In other words, your control range does not shrink as you spend focus.

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

Battlegroup

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

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

You can add more warjacks to your battlegroup mid-game, but only if that warjack's original controller died earlier in the game.

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.

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    

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 (which means they can't run), and what happens if the warcaster in a unit doesn't have LOS to a legal charge target. What if casting a spell changes the LOS? What if moving one of the other troopers changes the LOS?

This has had Infernal Rulings, clarifications on the ruling, updated rulings, and clarifications on updates. As of 2020.08 I've given up making sense of it, so instead here's a link to the 7th August 2020 ruling.

    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.

Junior Warcasters

The official name for Junior Warcasters is Battlegroup Controller. This is a special rule that shows up on a few solos, units, or battle engines. It basically turns that model into a mini-warcaster except they don't get a feat, and if/when they die you don't auto-lose the game.

One thing worth noting is that they have a completely different battlegroup to your main caster. They can't swap warjacks, allocate to each other's warjacks, etc.

Also, when a Junior Warcaster dies, their death 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 - refer the core rulebook for those rules (it doesn't come up that often).

'Jack Marshals

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

Warjacks

Crusader warjack from the Protectorate faction.

Intro

Warjacks are powerful weapons of war, that are turned up to eleven when properly controlled by their warcaster. They have a swathe of special rules, mostly to do with how they interact with their warcaster, receive & spend focus points, and making Power Attacks.

Mostly they are the big, hulking brawlers of the battlefield (although smaller, support-style ones do exist). They are immensely strong, crush bones and grind enemies to dust. If equipped with ranged attacks, they are the most powerful guns that can be mounted.

Warjacks & focus

    Gaining focus    

As long as their cortex is working, warjacks can gain and use focus. Warjacks can have up to 3 focus points at any time. As mentioned above they gain focus in 3 ways:

  • If, at the start of your turn, they are in their warcaster's control range and they get 1 focus for free. This is called Power Up.
  • After that, their warcaster can allocate them extra focus.
  • There are various special rules that can give warjacks focus (such as Accumulator, Empower, Spirit Harvester, etc)

    Spending focus    

A warjack can spend focus to gain a benefit. The restrictions on spending focus are:

  • A warjack can only spend focus during its activation - except for when it shakes an effect.
  • It needs to have a non-crippled cortex.

The benefits a warjack can gain are:

  • During the Control Phase, after allocating focus, a warjack can shake knockdown, stationary, Blind, and other shake-able effects.
  • Warjacks can spend focus to buy/boost attacks the same way as warcasters can, described above. One warjack, the Deathjack, can even use focus to cast spells.
  • Warjacks must spend a focus if they want to run or charge (nearly all the other model types in the game can run/charge for free).
  • Warjacks can spend a focus if they want to perform a Power Attack. Most of the time, though, they're better off to make their normal attacks (which they can do for free).

Warjack health

Examples of warjack damage grids

Most models in the game just have a health bar, but warjacks have a damage grid. This is a six by six grid with each column labelled 1 to 6 (colossals have two grids). When you damage a warjack, you roll a dice to see which column takes the damage. You start at the top, work down, and then overlap to the next column to the right. Column 6 overlaps to column 1. Colossals overlap from 6 to 1 on the same side, unless the whole side is filled; if that happens it overlaps to a random column on the other side.

Dark grey boxes are ignored, white boxes are the warjack's outer armour layer, and the letters correspond to the warjack's systems. If you knock out all the same letters, that system becomes crippled and the warjack suffers these effects:

  • A - Crippled Arc Node = The warjack can no longer be used to channel spells.
  • C - Crippled Cortex = the warjack loses all its focus, and cannot get any more.
  • I - Crippled Induction Node (Convergence only) = the warjack loses all its focus, and cannot get any more.
  • M - Crippled Movement = the warjack's base DEF is lowered to 5, and it cannot run, charge, slam, or trample. Also, if Movement gets crippled while charging or slamming, the warjack has its activation end immediately.
  • L - Crippled Left Weapons = Weapons mounted on the Left side roll one less dice for attack rolls and damage rolls.
  • R - Crippled Right Weapons = Similar
  • S - Crippled Superstructure = Loses a special rule (what is lost varies between warjacks).
  • F - Crippled Field Generator (Retribution only) = the warjack cannot heal its force field, and loses another special rule (what is lost varies between warjacks).

When you repair a warjack, you can heal any boxes in any order.

See Also

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