101 - Warlocks & Warbeasts

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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 Warlock and Warbeast rules. (For a verbatim copy of the rules, refer to Warlock and Warbeast respectively.) If you've just read the 101 article on Warcasters and Warjacks, you'll find this article is very similar; the only real differences are animus spells, how warlocks get fury, how warbeasts generate fury, how warlocks reduce damage, and how warbeasts frenzy.

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.

Warlocks

Intro

Kromac2, a warlock from the Circle faction.

If Hordes was chess, then Warlocks 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 warbeasts.

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

  1. Cast spells - Perhaps the primary purpose of fury 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 fury 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 fury to make extra attacks. Most ranged weapons cannot make extra attacks, but all melee weapons can make an unlimited number of attacks.
  4. Transfer damage - Casters can choose to not spend their fury, and instead use it during the enemy turn to redirect the damage your opponent inflicts on your caster. This is called camping your fury.
  5. Heal battlegroup - Warlocks can heal themselves or their warbeasts.

You will never have enough fury 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 fury on.

Tip lightbulb.png

Tip !

  • FURY (in all capitals) always refers to the fury stat (printed on your card +/- buffs)
  • fury (lower case) always refers to how many fury 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.

A model with a number is always a character model. This is relevant for a few special rules like 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 FURY statistic, not its current unspent fury points. In other words, your control range does not shrink as you spend fury.

A control range is used to determine which warbeasts can be forced for fury, 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 warbeasts to be in your warlock's battlegroup. In fact, you have to assign a minimum number. A caster can only gather fury from their warbeasts, and many spells/feats only affect battlegroup models.

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

It is possible to add more warbeasts to your battlegroup mid-game, but only if that warbeast's original controller died earlier in the game. This doesn't happen very often in real games so we won't cover it, but you can find the rules on the warbeast page under "Warlock Destruction".

Fury

How fury is generated & leeched

Warlocks do not auto-replenish fury (warcasters do). Instead warbeasts generate the fury, and next turn the warlock harvests it. The steps are:
  1. How warbeasts generate fury is covered in the warbeast section below. Essentially anything that a warjack would spend a focus to achieve, a warbeast instead generates a fury to do the same thing.
  2. At the start of each turn, fury left over from last turn does not expire.
  3. The warlock leeches fury from their warbeasts that are in their control range. You move the fury points from the warbeasts to the warlock, up to the warlock's current FURY stat.
  4. If there is still any fury on any warbeasts (ie your warlock wasn't able to take it all) then you have to check whether that warbeast will frenzy this turn instead of acting normally.
    Tip: You don't want your beasts to frenzy.
  5. If your warlock has less fury points than their current FURY stat (ie your beasts weren't furious enough to fill you back up), and if any of that warlock's warbeasts have died in a previous turn, then the warlock can spirit bond the dead warbeast(s) and gain 1 fury point per dead warbeast, up to their FURY.
  6. If, after spirit bond, your warlock still has less fury points than their current FURY stat then the warlock has the option of leeching their own lifeforce for more fury points; they can gain one fury point per damage point they put on themselves.
Also, if a warbeast dies to an enemy attack or continuous effect (Fire & Corrosion) while in the warlock's control range, the warlock can reave that warbeast's fury.
  • The warlock has to take all the fury currently on that warbeast, up to the warlock's current FURY stat.
  • You cannot reave from warbeasts that you kill with friendly models.
  • You cannot reave from warbeasts that you kill with transferred damage (see below).

Casting spells

Each spell has a COST, and you have to spend that many fury 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 fury to cast all your spells.
Upkeep spells: Once they're in play, you only need to spend one fury 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-warlock models with the Channeler advantage. This is much rarer for Warlocks than it is for Warcasters. 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.

Animus spells

Warbeasts have dormant arcane spells that warlocks can unlock. The warbeast can cast their own animus during their activation. Also, a warlock can cast any animus from any of their own warbeasts as if it were a spell on their own spell card (as long as that warbeast is in their control range).
This allows you to tailor your warlock's spellcasting ability at the army-list building stage, because you can choose warbeasts based not just on their prowess but also on how useful their animi is to the warlock.

Buying/Boosting attacks

Warlocks can ramp up their prowess and become true monsters by spending fury on attacks. This does, however, leave you with less fury to cast spells, or defend against enemy attacks.
  • Warlocks can spend 1 fury 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 fury to afford it.
  • Warlocks can spend 1 fury 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 fury to afford it.
  • Some warlocks can spend focus to buy ranged attacks, but they need a special rule to do so.

Transfer Damage & Heal Damage

When a warlock suffers damage from any source, it can transfer that damage to one of their warbeasts.
  • The warlock spends 1 fury point each time it does this.
  • The warbeast needs to be in the warlock's control range.
  • You can't transfer to a warbeast that is already at max fury.
  • If the transfer damage kills the warbeast, then you cannot reave fury from that warbeast. Also, if the damage exceeds the warbeast's hitpoints, any leftover damage must be applied to the warlock - you can't transfer it a second time.
  • Whether or not there was leftover damage, the warlock counts as being damaged (for the purposes of stuff like Drag, Vengeance, etc).
Also, warlocks can spend fury during their activation to heal damage on themselves or on their warbeasts that are in their control range. You heal 1 hitpoint per fury spent.

Warlocks - Model Type

Morghoul3, a warlock unit (one warlock, two followers)
Saeryn & Rhyas, a unit of warlocks (two warlocks)

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

    Warlock 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".

    Warlock Unit    

There's a weird interaction between a unit getting a Press Forward order (which means models must run or charge), a warlock casting a spell or using a feat (which means they can't run), and what happens if the warlock 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.

    Warlock 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.

Lesser Warlocks

This is a special rule that shows up on a few solos. It basically turns that model into a mini-warlock 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 warbeasts, leech from each other's warbeasts, etc.

Warbeasts

Ice Troll warbeast from the Trollblood faction.

Intro

Warbeasts are powerful weapons of war, that are turned up to eleven when properly controlled by their warlock. They have a swathe of special rules, mostly to do with how they interact with their warlock, generate fury 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.

Warbeasts & fury

    Generating fury    

A warbeast can be forced, which will both give the warbeast a benefit and generate a fury for the warlock to use later. The restrictions on getting forced are:

  • A warbeast can only be forced during its activation - except for when it shakes an effect.
  • The warbeast needs to be in its warlock's control range.
  • It needs to have a non-crippled spirit.
  • If its current fury points are already equal to its FURY stat, it can no longer be forced.

The benefits a warbeast can gain are:

  • During the Control Phase, after leeching and doing frenzy checks, a warbeast can shake knockdown, stationary, Blind, and other shake-able effects.
  • Warbeasts can buy/boost attacks similar to the way warlocks can, described above.
  • Warbeasts must be forced to run or charge (nearly all the other model types in the game can run/charge for free).
  • Warbeasts can be forced 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).
  • Warbeasts can be forced to cast their animus as a spell. Each animus will have a COST listed, which is how much fury the warbeast will generate when it casts that animus.
  • Lastly, warbeasts can be riled for fury, even if it runs. Buy/boosting attacks, running/charging, or making a power attack will give the beast 1 fury each time. Riling it will give the beast as much as you want - essentially its a way to stockpile fury ready for your next turn.

    Depleting fury    

Fury does not auto-expire. The main way you get rid of fury from a warbeast is by the warlock leeching it at the start of the turn, as described above. There are various other fury-management tools such as Serenity, Soothing Song, Consume Fury, etc.

If you don't get rid of all the fury points on your warbeast, then you need to do a Frenzy check at the start of your next turn (see below).

Warbeast health

Examples of warbeast damage spirals

Most models in the game just have a health bar, but warbeasts have a damage spiral. This spiral has six branches, labelled 1 to 6. Some of the branches merge near the centre of the spiral. When you damage a warbeast, you roll a dice to see which spiral takes the damage. You start at the outside of the spiral and work inwards, and then overlap to the next spiral to the clockwise.

The six spirals are divided into 3 aspects: Body, Mind, and Spirit. If an entire branch is knocked out, that aspect becomes crippled and the warbeast suffers these effects:

  • Crippled Body - The warbeast rolls one fewer die on damage rolls.
  • Crippled Mind - The warbeast rolls one fewer die on attack rolls.
    Additionally, the model cannot make chain attacks, power attacks, or special attacks.
  • Crippled Spirit - The warbeast cannot be forced.

When you heal a warbeast, you can heal any spiral in any order.

Frenzy

After your warlock has leeched fury, if any warbeasts still have any fury on them, that warbeast must take a threshold check.

Roll 2d6, add the warbeast's current fury points, and compare it to the warbeast's threshold (THR) stat.
  • If the roll is less than or equal to the THR, then the warbeast behaves normally this turn.
  • If the roll is greater than the THR, it frenzies.

When it frenzies:

  1. It immediately activates.
  2. Without being forced, it automatically shakes knockdown, stationary, and any other effects that can be shaken.
    A frenzied warbeast also ignores effects that would cause it to forfeit its Normal Movement or Combat Action during an activation in which it frenzies.
  3. It immediately charges directly toward the closest model (friend or foe) in its line of sight without being forced.
    The frenzied warbeast cannot voluntarily stop its movement before contacting its charge target.
  4. It makes one attack against the model it charged with the highest-POW melee weapon that has range to the target.
    The attack roll is automatically boosted.
    If the warbeast moved at least 3˝ during the charge, the attack is a charge attack and its damage roll is boosted.
    A frenzied warbeast cannot make Assault ranged attacks or additional attacks.
  5. At the end of the warbeast’s frenzy activation, it is no longer frenzied and you can remove any number of fury points from it.

Frenzies happen during the Control Phase of the turn, but you can't activate the warbeast later in the normal Activation Phase. The warbeast can't use or trigger any optional effects (such as Snacking or Sidestep), but it must trigger compulsory effects (such as Berserk).