A "Faction" in Warmachine and Hordes is essentially an army where the soldiers all belong to the same country, culture, or species. When you play a game of Warmachine/Hordes, all the models in your army must belong to the same Faction (although Mercenaries and Minions can hire themselves out to other Factions). So choosing which Faction you want to collect, before you even begin playing, can be a tough decision! This article tries to give a "broad brush" description of each Faction.
Factions are classified as either "Core" or "Limited Release".
- Core Factions - A Core Faction is one that has been around since the start of the game (or very close to the start). Core Factions have a wide range of models, a steady stream of new releases each year, and 3 to 6 theme forces.
There are 6 Core Warmachine Factions and 5 Core Hordes Factions.
- Limited Release Factions - A Limited Release Faction is much newer. They have a small range of models, an extremely intermittent dribble of new releases, and only 2 theme forces. To compensate for having fewer modeks to design a competitive list with, they are more well-rounded (ie they have good synergies) and often have unique rules that alter how the game is played.
There are 2 Limited Warmachine Factions (and a 3rd to be released mid-2019), and 1 Limited Hordes Faction.
That makes a grand total of 14 Factions (and there wi be 15 in 2019).
- 1 Core Warmachine Factions
- 2 Core Hordes Factions
- 3 Limited Warmachine Factions
- 4 Limited Hordes Factions
Core Warmachine Factions
Cygnar are the mostly-good guys who aren't too morally objectionable, though they have picked up a good number of grudges over the years. They are really adept with technology, which has translated on the tabletop to a "shooty faction"; they have loads of big guns with long range and high power, and the support abilities to make them eveb better. A lot of their signature weapons and spells are themed around lightning and electrical damage.
On the other hand, Warmachine has been designed from the ground up as a very melee-centric game. When Cygnar fights in melee they don't deal huge amounts of damage; instead, they rely on weapons with special abilities that damage multiple models and/or "stun" them. the enemy at least partially out of the game for a turn.
Though their troops don't match up to other Factions' elite warriors in terms of resilience, Cygnarian soldiers are highly trained or armed with state-of-the-art weaponry (and in some cases, both).
The nation of Khador fights mostly for its own imperial ends. Khador's tech isn't nearly as sophisticated as Cygnar's, but they make up for it by slapping five tons of armour onto anything going remotely near a battle. They don't have the same flashy infantry equipment as their arch enemy Cygnar, relying instead on their conscripts' number and nationalism, canny assassins of their merchant lords and hulking steam-armored troops. Khador is easy to hit, but hard to hurt, and their low basic speed may fool you to consider them slow. However, Khador is neither slow, nor a melee-only army. They actually do a decent job at range - mostly in the form of grenade launchers, rockets, and other things that go boom. Living in the cold north, many of their spells are themed around cold damage and freezing enemies in place.
A robed, religious and inquisitorial theocracy who seceded from Cygnar after a major sectarian conflict. Warjacks are technically blasphemous under the Menite religion, so the Protectorate has nowhere near as much expertise as the other factions -- something which translates to a generally sub-par stat line. However, they make up for this blasphemy by sanctifying every square inch of their warjacks, something which shows in their fine range of support units and buffs. Put the right buffs on a Menite warjack in the right order, and it can brawl with the best of them. There are also numerous fire-based attacks, and can find ways to bring back dead warriors (or put their souls to good use). The Protectorate also has ways to field zealous infantry in every size and shape: be it an unstoppable tide of fanatics massed together, a group of swift assassins, or a cadre of a few elite knights ready to defend their faith unto death and beyond.
Cryx is a faction of necromancers, ruled over by Toruk the Dragonfather, the oldest and most powerful dragon in the world. Rather than creating warjacks from steel and animating them with coal, they instead create Bonejacks and Helljacks from steel and bone, and animate them with souls. Cryx is something of a horde army; bonejacks and helljacks are fast, strong, cheap, and good in melee, but fairly easy to destroy. To back up their 'jacks, however, Cryx fields some of the nastiest warcasters in the game, who love to cast spells that debuff the enemy's pants off and absolutely ruin their day, as well as reaving the souls and corpses of their fallen enemies. They really like corroding stuff and melting enemies with acid. Their infantry assortment is as varied as their ways to mess with the enemy: half-mechanical wretches stitched together from corpses, ghostly Bane knights, corrupted Ogruns, and lethal pirates sailing the black waves of the Cryxian shorelines.
The Retribution is an Elven religious militant sect. The elf-kingdom of Ios does not officially endorse them, but they still manage to recruit enough troops and warjacks from the major noble houses of the nation to be a serious military power. It is central to the Retribution's dogma that humanity's use of magic is responsible for the dying state of the elven gods, and that all non-elves who use magic should be destroyed. Scyrah is a dualist faction; they can be either top-class tanks or première glass cannons, but never really both in one game. Their choices of warcasters, infantry and solos reflect this duality; most of them are either tough combined-arms units, or squishy assassins. They are good at both melee and ranged combat, and shoving the enemy around the battlefield and locking down their movement options. Their Myrmidons (the Elven equivalent of warjacks) strengthen further the combined-arms approach, bearing both ranged and melee weapons on themselves. Many of them also sport force fields, a signature trait in this faction.
Mercenaries are generic troops that most Warmachine factions have access to, so they will appear in a great many collections. But you can also create a full-fledged mercenary army if you add a mercenary warcaster and his warjacks. It is hard to talk about Mercenaries in general, as they are an extremely diverse branch. The psychically powerful Cephalyx who use mind-control to enthrall their opponents, the slow but sturdy Dwarven nation of Rhul with their Ogrun auxiliary forces, the reckless raiding parties of the Privateers, the remnants of the Llaelese Resistance fond on guerrilla-warfare, or the run-of-the-mill sell-swords of the Steelhead regiments all fall under this category. Various mercenary solo models are often highly sought-after, as they provide efficient ways to fill gaps in your army composition.
Core Hordes Factions
The Trollbloods are probably the least morally objectionable army in the game. They are a nature people fighting the spread of hostile human civilization. Trolls are extremely Scottish, complete with kilts, sporrans, kegs of ale, and a guy named "Grim Angus". One of their battle engine is a huge booze cart, carrying an inhumanly large keg from the finest whisk... I mean, hooch around. They've been shoved around by the human nations for years, but have recently learned how to command the truly monstrous Dire Trolls, and are now on the march. The Trollbloods are a fairly slow army that's easy to hit, and easy to hurt, but much harder to actually kill. They're excellent at healing and buffing themselves, and Dire Trolls are in the habit of eating models they kill for some quick and easy health. Between self-healing, buffing, and the near-ubiquitous Tough rule, they are quite resilient. Their Trollkin warriors come in all size and shape from gunslinger bandits to mighty champions and bison riders.
The Circle is a mostly-human order of druids, charged with protecting the balance between the human god Menoth (Law and civilization) and the feral god Orboros, also known as The Devourer Wurm (Nature, red in tooth and claw). As civilization is on the rise in Immoren, that means the druids act to stop it. Do not think, however, that this makes them nice people; the Circle believes that their ends justify their means. The Circle is a maneuverability- and terrain-based faction; quite a few circle warlocks can create forests and/or teleport themselves and their armies about the place. Their warbeasts range from shape shifting warpwolves to the birds of prey of the skies, and their druids can summon even the rocks and stones of the earth to do their bidding, and stride forward in the form of relentless wold constructs. Most of their troops are not hindered by forests the way that other factions are. Among the troops you may find druids wielding the powers of the very elements of the nature, merciless hunter tribes of the Tharn, or the de-facto military arm of the Circle in form of the Wolf-Sworn units.
An honorable but brutal nation of warriors marching into the Iron Kingdoms with conquest on their minds, supported by torturous blood magic and armed with angry pachyderms. Skorne are seemingly the slowest, tankiest army in Hordes. However, with outstanding support tools at their disposal they can make their slumbering warbeasts to run forward from downtown and with the strength buff available to them they will hit like a freight train. They have several "retaliation" effects, allowing them to take a hit and strike back afterwards. For this reason they excel at "attrition melee", wherein the longer you fight them, the more they gain the upper hand -- partially through their tankiness, partially due to their special rules. For the infantry you can choose between the venerable Immortals, the elite rank of hulking Cataphracts and the legion-like Praetorian warriors, or the aspiring but less trained Venators who prefer to hunt prey at range.
The Legion has been formed by Everblight, one of Toruk the Dragonfather's surviving demon dragon progeny. Everblight is currently an entity without a true physical body, his soul shared among his warlocks in the form of athanc (soulstone) shards. His greatest desire is to conquer Cryx and consume Toruk, so he created large quantities of blood spawned monsters and enslaved an entire subrace of elves and ogruns to do his bidding. Most of the Legion's warbeasts can navigate terrain with frightening ease and are bound to do so in order to make an alpha-strike - i.e. hit the enemy before it hits you. They must avoid protracted combat, and to help that they sport outstanding mobility tricks beside their innate abilities. Infantries can be summoned from capable elven fighters, twisted Grotesque herds or brutally effective, wild ogrun tribes. If you look for a fast army of twisted dragon creatures, and a bias toward hit-and-run warfare, look no further.
Minions are generic troops that most of Hordes' factions have access to, so they will appear in a great many collections. Fully-fledged Minions armies can be fielded using monstrous Gatormen and pig-like, cannibalistic Farrow. Gatormen can be fielded, along with Bog Trogs & Croaks the other peoples of the swamps, in the Blindwater Congregation led by the living demigod Barnabas Lord of Blood. Farrow, along with bigger pigs, can be fielded in the Thornfall Alliance, led by Lord Carver and the sinister Dr Arkadius. Both sub-factions play hard and fast, with a selection of cannibalistic warbeasts and some of the best Lesser Warlocks around.
Limited Warmachine Factions
The Convergence is a minor warmachine faction. Cyriss is the goddess of science and mathematics, also known as the Maiden of Gears. Inhabiting a celestial realm far from Caen, Cyriss was recently discovered by human scientists. These scientists formed the Convergence of Cyriss, a cult dedicated to changing the very planet so that eventually Cyriss can be summoned to inhabit Caen itself and bring in an eternal age of perfection. Most followers of the Convergence seek to transcend human flesh and live on as a soul inside a machine body, a clockwork vessel. The Convergence has a unique type of warjack, the Vectors, and are unusual in that most of their models are constructs.
This faction has been released in 2018 June. The Crucible Guard is the military wing of the Order of the Golden Crucible, the largest and most respected alchemy guild in Immoren. The alchemists of this ancient and venerable society used to reside in Llael before Khador invaded. After the loss of their key fortress they had to flee into the Kingdom of Ord, furthering their operation under this - seemingly neutral - state's aegis. They use alchemical drugs to give a normal human arcane powers...but at a great cost to their health. Much like Cygnar, the Order is pretty adept at ranged warfare. Being the masters of the arcane sciences, they rely mainly on fire and corrosion-based attacks, while robbing away the enemy's protection against said weapons. They also have various ways to de-buff the enemy via alchemic substances, especially undead and construct targets.
This Faction has not been released at the time of writing.
Limited Hordes Factions
The Grymkin is a minor faction in Hordes. As Menoth returned to humanity after battling the Devourer Wurm, a few willful individuals led by the one known as the Heretic defied him. As punishment they were cast into the afterlife, known as Urcaen, where they have suffered since. Now they have returned, and with them are the nightmares and tormented souls of Urcaen. This is the stuff of legend, folk lore and nightmare. This is the Grymkin. On the battlefield they are an army with a strong bias toward close combat. Their unique mechanism is the Arcana system, 3 pieces of - part set, part chosen - cards, which can triggered upon certain events to turn the tide of battle. Their armies heavily rely on gathering the corpses from both sides in the battle to further strengthen their own forces.