Lesson 4: Strategy

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This article is part of Warmachine University's Learn Objectives, Tactics, & Strategy (LOTS) series, which is "Intermediate Training" aimed at intermediate players who are trying to become better players.
(You may also be interested in our "Basic Training" series, LPG.)
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As of 2018.11 the LOTS articles are still a WIP. If you have a question that isn't answered, or a topic you'd like to see added, we'd like to hear about it. Post your thoughts on the Talk:Learning to Play the Game (LPG) page.

The game phases[edit]

The game starts before the models meet, it starts when the dice is rolled to see who goes first, and who chooses which where to deploy. You have to read the terrain to see where you want to start your deployment. It depends whether you have special units that have unique ways of movement such as amphibious units through water, ethereal units through walls or Circle through forests that you might want to take that particular side of the table. You generally don't want to spend too many additional inches to get around terrain, so plan accordingly. But as the game begins with the first player going first, most games follow a certain amount of phases. The early game, mid game and the end game. The game begins. There is a scenario, and it prevents you from hanging back and taking your time. The scenario forces us on the table. Both players start to lose forces and our capacities are stretched. We can't apply pressure everywhere, and as such, someone breaks through and ends the game.

Game begins: Rushing in[edit]

But as both players see the need to get closer to each other and the objectives, they begin to run (all of) their forces closer to the middle of the table. They get into the zones, they hug the objectives and the flags. Models who can might shoot at potential targets that present themselves. You really want to get your forces as far ahead as you can although you want to optimize your opportunities for cover. If you are the first player, you really have no excuse, maximize every movement trick you have to get as far ahead as you can, and as such, extend the threat range for your next turn as much as you can. If you are the second player, you must consider how you interact with your opponent's threat range, but you will still want to commit and get your forces up the table as quickly as you can.

Mid game: Committing your forces[edit]

Round two or three finds the armies clashing. This might be a screened charge where expendable models attempt to open charge lanes for the heavies of the army, or stop enemy charge lanes from creating openings in your own army. It might also be a strike where the opponent is completely crippled in one swift hit, where all possible resources are committed successfully. This is also known as the Alpha Strike, and may leave the opponent crippled beyond recoverability. Maybe the armies hit each other where they can't inflict their maximum damage, or where screening forces slash at each other while the heavier beasts and jacks wait in queue, trying to find juicy targets to strike. They might wait several rounds before an opening is created. This is where casters that mainly support their troops come into play and must maximize their influence on as many friendly units as possible.

Step 3: Grinding away[edit]

By now, hordes of warriors may be dead, but if they've matched their kills with their losses, they might still stand their ground. At some point, however, a line breaks. Either one player simply wears the other one down, or someone goes for broke to get the upper hand, and gambles their way to glorious success or bitter defeat. The further down the game we come, the more important the warcaster becomes. A warcaster with strong melee abilities will become ever more important as potential heavy warbeasts and elite infantry that might pose a threat whittle down and die off.

Winning the game[edit]

During the game, the players will find a winner though either 1) the death of a caster or 2) scenario victory. To achieve one of these, you usually use either attrition or board control strategies.


Your attrition capacity is related to your destructive power, but really has a lot to do with your defenses as well. If your army is able to stay alive on the board longer than the enemy, you are playing the attrition game. The army might combine really numerous and / or tough elements, or powerful spells that increase the resilience of the army. It can dish out enough damage to remove more of the opponents models than the opponent can remove of yours. This should allow you to gain a progressively better position every turn. At some point this should open up for either the possibility of assassination or gathering enough scenario points to win.

Piece Trading[edit]

As a new player, it can feel like holding back your models outside of your opponent's threat range is a good strategy. This generally doesn't work for two reasons:

  • Some armies have extreme threat ranges. Cygnar, for example, has no trouble in getting models to threaten in excess of 20" from some models' starting positions with their ranged attacks.
  • Hanging back means you lose on scenario.

If you can't be the player that delivers the first crushing attack (The "Alpha Strike"), then you have to be able to absorb it or mitigate it. That's where piece trading comes in. Simply, you want to lose something of relatively low value compared to your opponent - it's OK to lose a 12pt heavy if in return you can easily destroy one of your opponent's worth 18pts. Similarly, with units you can have a front line of models that your opponent has to commit to and probably destroy. This allows the models behind (which can even be from the same unit) to then charge in the following turn and hopefully remove more valuable models in the process.

You don't want to set up a poor trade. Committing models to not kill enough of the enemy or severely disrupt their plans is not a good use of your models. Sometimes using units solely to pin the enemy in place so you can get ahead on Control Points can be effective, but beware of what the enemy has behind their front line and how well it can remove models. If the enemy can remove all of the models jamming up their heavy...you may find that your attempt to jam was not successful if that heavy can go forward and do what your opponent wanted it to do anyway.

Board Control[edit]

Some warlocks and warcasters mainly smash face. Others are able to stand back and through other means dictate what the enemy can and can't do. This can happen through feats or spells, such as the feats of The Harbinger of Menoth, The Old Witch of Khador or Krueger the Stormwrath that dictates tactical limitation around them by punishing and discouraging movement. Since this allows the player better tactical possibilities than his opponent, maneuvering should allow the player to set up assassination or gather enough scenario points to win. Board control is a highly efficient tool that, while in itself it does not assist attrition or destruction, though it may provide scenario victory by denying access to areas or moving the enemy away. But board control is everything that allows you to regulate the position of the opponent, such as throwing enemies, knockdowns and some cloud effects, and to some extend tactical control as well, such as critical denial through tactical jamming or flanking. Board Control might also help you open up an attack lane by moving enemy models out of the way. Creating "attack vectors" this way might even enable assassination.

Attack Vectors[edit]

Sometimes you'll hear about this concept in theoretical warmahordes list-discussions. Newer players might confuse the attack vector with an "Attack Vector". Its not. It's about finding out how to get rid of enemy models, most often tricky casters or solos. Its about enabling your own guys to find an attack connection between this model, and that. That would often be a charge, but sometimes not at all. High Paladin Dartan Vilmon has Righteous Vengeance allowing additional movement, and Shifting Stones can move about other, setting them in up in odd places. Praetorian Ferox can move and jump, and thus have extreme flexibility.


Killing the enemy warcaster/warlock wins the game. These models have enormous influence on the field and, generally speaking, are more effective as they come closer to the middle of the battleground, to varying degrees. In an attempt to exert their casters influence on the game, the chance to kill the enemy's leader may arise. Based on this, a player will have to decide how many resources you can commit to trying to kill the enemy caster. Assassination lists frequently try to force the enemy to use their caster to push the lines to win the scenario then punish them with an attack on their caster.

Lesson 1: Lists / Lesson 2: Tactics / Lesson 3: Resources / Lesson 4: Strategy / Lesson 5: Factions / Lesson 6: Steamroller / Lesson 7: Meta