What is Warmachine?

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Warmachine is a hobby game produced by Privateer Press (PP).

This article is aimed at new players who have never heard of Warmachine, Hordes, and/or tabletop wargames before.

What is Warmachine and Hordes?

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Warmachine is a tabletop wargame set in a semi-industralised fantasy world. A player's army is centred around a powerful warcaster who controls a group of giant robots called warjacks, backed up by a few combat units and support solos.

Hordes represents the untamed wilds of the same fantasy world. It is a compatible game system with different aesthetics and background, but the only real in-game difference is that your army is centred around a warlock with giant beasts called warbeasts.

How warlocks control and interact with beasts is fundamentally different to how warcasters work with warjacks. The games are compatible, in that they use the same rules for movement and combat etcetera, and a Hordes army can play against a Warmachine army with no handicap on either side.

About wargames

What is a tabletop wargame?

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A tabletop wargame is a hobby where people collect armies of small miniature soldiers, paint them, and then play a game versus each other on a large table. During the game players take turns to move their miniatures and make 'combat actions'. Whether that action is successful is determined by rolling dice and comparing the attacker's accuracy statistic vs the target's defense statistic.

Each player plays with an army made up of a variety of models, each with different abilities and skills. The elite models are better, but you must pay a higher 'points cost' to add it to your army. Both players' armies have an equal number of points at the beginning of the game. A model's points cost is not related to its real-world purchase cost.

The goal is to eliminate your opponent's models and/or outmaneuver them to claim an objective.

What makes Warmachine & Hordes different from other tabletop wargames?

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Aside from the obvious steampunk aesthetic, the main difference this game has is that it was designed for rules first, story second. By that I mean the rules are written from the ground up to have zero ambuguity - as little as possible, at least. If you're ever unsure on how a rules interaction is supposed to work, you can figure out the answer by simply reading the rules.

That may sound obvious to a non-player and not a selling point, but consider this: in addition to the core rules, every model in this game has between one-to-a-dozen special rules, and that there is over a 1000 models in this game ... tens of thousands of permutations exist and only a bare handful are ambiguous! Other game systems are known for having ambiguities in their core rules! What I'm trying to say is, Warmachine & Hordes has some of the "cleanest" gameplay available.

This clean gameplay has attracted a lot of competitive-minded players to the game and created a lively tournament scene. Once you progress out of newbie and/or casual games with friends, you'll find your opponents are ruthless and the smallest mistake might cause your entire army to get pulverized. But even when they're tearing you a new one, Warmachine players are very nice about it - anything anybody does should be within the confines of the rules and, because there is so little grey area, it's much easier to agree on the outcome.

Warmachine & Hordes games are a moderate size: larger than a squad-based game like Infinity, but smaller than battalion-based games like Age of Sigmar. A typical game is played with about 20-30 models on a 4 foot by 4 foot (1200mm by 1200mm) board and takes at most 2 hours, often much less when one player wins by 'assassinating' the other.

Where should I start?

If you're interested in playing Warmachine and/or Hordes, there are many people willing (and wanting) to help you.

Choose a Faction to play

Read our Faction Overview article to decide which Faction appeals to you (a Faction is essentially an army where the soldiers all belong to the same country, culture, or species).

Find other players

Official Training Videos

These videos were made in 2016, so keep in mind some minor rules have had some tweaks since then. But the core gameplay is unchanged, so they're still good videos.

They're about 45 minutes long:

What do you need to start playing?

Battlegroup boxes contain everything you need to start playing (except the spray template and circle templates). They're damn cheap, too. There's one available for (almost) every Faction.
Battlegroup boxes are also known as "Battleboxes" or "Starter boxes".

What you need is:

  • Models
    • (See Starter Products for a description of some of the boxed sets available.)
    • At least one warcaster or warlock
    • A few warjacks or warbeasts
    • Units, solos, battle engines, and structures are all optional
    All the models need to belong to the same Faction, you can't use a mish-mash from different armies (normally ... there are plenty of exceptions though).
    See Faction Overview to help you decide which Faction you want to start with.
  • Some "real" superglue. The material PP uses to produce their models is normally either metal, resin, or occasionally a weird plastic-resin hybrid - none of which "normal modelling glue" works on. (Normal glue works by slightly melting the plastic, which obviously doesn't work for non-plastic materials.)
  • A copy of the core rules. These can be downloaded for free from PP's website
  • A copy of your models' rules. These can be downloaded for free from PP's card database
  • Six-sided dice. At least 3, preferably 5.
  • A measuring tape (marked with inches)
  • A set of templates. 3", 4", and 5" AOE circle templates, a 10" spray template, and a 4" x 0.75" wall template
  • A set of tokens to mark in-game effects (small bits of scrap paper can do in a pinch)
  • Some terrain (medium size pieces of scrap paper can do in a pinch)
  • A 4' x 4' (1200mm x 1200mm) playing area
  • An opponent

What you'll probably want is:

  • A decent set of tokens, templates, and terrain. You can find a bunch of that stuff from our sponsor Broken Egg Games.
  • The official Warroom2 app. This app does a lot of things:
    • Contains a copy of all the model rules (each different Faction requires an in-app purchase, or you can get everything including all future Factions for a one-off purchase)
    • Can be used to create army lists
    • Can be used to record damage models suffer during a game
    • Contains a copy of the core rules (this feature is laggy as hell, don't bother)

The Fantasy Setting

Warmachine

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Warmachine is a game about industrialized "Full Metal Fantasy" minatures combat. The Warmachine universe is about the warring nations of the Iron Kingdoms, located on the continent of Immoren, based in the world of Caen. Plus some armies that have invaded from the afterlife (Urcaen) and/or a place "beyond" Urcaen. Each Faction has its own attributes, such as the advanced technology of Cygnar or the proud patriotism of Khador.

Magic is real in Caen, and due to the perpetual state of war, it is mainly harnessed to improve the war industry of each nation.

Huge, lumbering "Steam Jack" robots are given a sort of semi artificial intelligence by a magical node called a "cortex" that animates it and allows it to function somewhat independently. When armed, they are known as "Warjacks" or 'Jacks for short and are deployed amidst the soldiers to wage wars on rival nations.

The limited cognitive capacity of 'jacks demands guidance and instructions however, so they are led by battle wizards known as "Warcasters". Every game of Warmachine revolves around the Warcasters. If your 'Caster is defeated, you lose the game.

Hordes

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Far from the borders of the human nations there are other, less civilized factions. The resolute trollkin that refuse to succumb to human civilization, or the distant empire of the sadistic Skorne, to name a few.

These savage factions lack the level of industry to create the intricate Warjacks, so they rely on furious Warbeasts in stead. The battle wizards of these factions are called "Warlocks", and they harvest the wrath of their beasts to unleash their deadly spells.

More backstory

There is a wealth of more information about the world of Warmachine and Hordes, from short stories attached to the rulebook to full published paperback novels.

Unfortunately it is not within Warmachine University's Mission Statement to document all this "fluff". If you wish to learn more I suggest checking out the following sites:



You've just finished reading one of the articles in our Introduction series. The other articles are;

Once you've finished those, you may want to check out the Basic Training series.