Monday, June 14, 2010

Played my first game of Warmachine this weekend.

So after months of moving apartments, managing life, getting used to a new city and being the proud parent to two dogs, I finally got a game in. It was warmachine and so this post will be a little lengthy to help those who've never played get a feel for the game flow compared to 40k/WFB.

The store where the Fail Gamers club plays in Frederick is called Hobby Town USA and it is quite frankly massive. The front part of the store must be 150x150 feet easily. It's about 10 times the size of most GW stores I've been in. It's not just wargames though as there are every kind of hobby option in there. In the back of the huge store is a seperate area with workbenches for radio controlled car fiddling (based on how many people were workign on it) then there is a huge (100x50) track for racing those cars on. Next to that is a long room where they have half a dozen tables set up for wargaming. There is a goodly stack of terrain that the club owns and it was cool to see it looming over us from the shelves.

I found two Warmachine players who were good enough to not only give me a starter game, but one of them sat out so I could use his models. He basically gave me free reign over his collection so I could play a small game with the other guy. What a nice gesture.

Our game was at 15pts, which is the starting level for most WM games and represents a small skirmish (units generally go in cost from 4 to 10 points, warjacks are 4-12, solos 1-5, just to give an idea of the game level). The only model that is free is your warcaster, who represents your general and is critical not only for their power, but because you lose the game if they die.

I was given control of the Protectorate of Menoth, a group of religious folks who would be very happy if everybody worshipped Menoth. If everybody won't worship him, the protectorate would be happy to set everybody on fire. There is a strong theme of faith and fire in this army. My opponent had Cyngar, who specialise in ranged combat and lightning.

My army was (all pics from Privateer Press):
High Exemplar Kreoss is quite well rounded as warcasters go. His combat ability is strong, but not excessive, he has good spells but can't win solely through them and his feat (a once-per-game spell each warcaster has) knocks down everyone in his control area, making them easy for your other troops to hit and forcing them to waste their turn standing up.

Crusader Heavy Warjack. This is a pretty basic heavy jack that hits people with a flaming mace, or can smack them with its open hand (or throw them, headlock, armlock etc.). It's a basic, but well regarded beatstick.

The Castigator brings two open fists (now we can two-handed throw models) that also sport flame throwers. As a special ability it can set everything around it on fire, then wade in with fists swinging.

Holy Zealots bring the power of the massed faithful to Menoth's cause. They are armed with maces, but mostly go into battle to throw their hand grenades. They are a cheap unit that can bring a lot of pain if you let them get too close. Definitely a tough one to face as you either spend precious time/firepower/attacks dealing with them (leaving the other foes alone) or you risk getting grenaded to pieces.

The Paladins of the Order of the Wall are holy warriors who believe in redeeming the populace and can be at odds to the rest of the priesthood who favour inquisitors and cleansing fire. In battle though they bring magical weapons that hit very hard as they are weapon masters (meaning +1D6 damage on each attack).

This army pointed up as:
Kreoss: -5 pts
Crusader: 6 pts
Castigator: 8 pts
6 Zealots: 4 pts
Paladin: 2 pts

Now there was a big change when Warmachine Mk2 came out to make warjacks more useful. In the first edition they became overshadowed by infantry for effectiveness and the game was often called Infantrymachine. No longer though. The revamp to the entire game let the developers up the abilities of warjacks and make them more important. One method was by making warcasters cost nothing and giving them a number of warjack points. These essentially are free points that can only be spent on warjacks. So my 20 point army above is actually 15, as I can use Kreoss to save me 5 points on one of the warjacks. A good idea and it can make playing different casters intersting as they have different points (generally 5-7 jack points though).

My opponent's army was much less melee oriented and his plan was to bring me down at range.

Lt Allistair Caine - think a warcaster who stars in a John Woo Wild West movie. Two pistols, lots of speed and a feat that murders infantry (he gets one free shot at everything within 12", regardless of other models in the way)

Defender Heavy Warjack - A heavy jack with a nasty hammer (burns out jack cortex controls) and the biggest cannon in the game.

Arcane Tempest Gun Mages - Tricksy pistol wielding folks who have access to special ammunition. Like a squishier version of Sternguard veterans.

Arcane Tempest Officer - Leader for the gun mages who also can be a jack marshal, giving him control over a warjack.

Hunter Light Warjack - A very Tau-like jack that isn't so tough but wields a nasty armour piercing cannon designed to take on big jacks and do damage to them. This jack was marshalled by the AT officer, meaning he could fire the same special shots as the mages. Imagine a dread who can fire special sternguard-type ammo....yep, nasty.

The Game

I won the roll to go first. Kreoss gets seven focus points per turn and I gave one to each warjack as they need them to do anything other than move and attack. This means running, charging, special attacks, boosted attacks (more likely to hit/more powerful) and extra attacks all need focus. I knew I would have to close to stop getting shot to pieces so basically everyone ran forward this turn. Running doubles their speed at the cost of any other action. Kreoss didn't run until after he'd cast a defensive spell on the Crusader warjack. He and the Paladin also tucked in behind the warjacks so they couldn't be shot easily. I wasn't too worried at this stage as Kreoss had 3 focus left and each point added 1 to his armour. In my opponent's turn, he used the hunter's armour piercing gun (boosted by the jack marshal's special ammo) to cripple one arm from the Castigator (ouch) then used the gun mages special ammo to push it backwards. The defender killed a zealot and not much else happened.

My second turn I charged in again, getting as close as I could while still being protected. Nobody could reach anything at this point sadly though. In return, the gun mages pushed the castigator back, opening up the Paladin to be shot and he was duly taken to pieces. My zealots also lost two more of their number to Caine's deadly pistols. The defender managed a sniped (extended range) shot into the Castigator and cripplied its legs, meaning no running or charging, drat!

It was crunch time on turn 3 as I couldn't keep taking all this fire without doing anything. I moved Kreoss forwards so that all of my opponent's models were in my control area (a cirlce 2x the size of your focus stat, so 14" in my case) and popped my feat, knocking everyone down. My crippled Castigator waddled forwards, the zealots moved up to bomb the downed defender, crippling the gun arm and my crusader came out menacingly, ready to charge next turn. Kreoss was the star though as he dropped a flaming template spell that killed off four of the gun mages, including their officer. The marshalled Hunter warjack became inert and could only be recovered by Caine getting all the way over to it and spending a turn in B2B...not going to happen. My opponent had to spend his turn standing up but he moved the Defender into B2B with the Crusader, hoping to block off a charge against Caine. The warcaster used his focus and deadly gun skills to wipe out the zealots.

In my turn, I pumped focus into the crusader to give it multiple attacks and it happily smashed the defender into pieces. Knowing I had no way to get Caine this turn, I ducked Kreoss into cover behind the jack. My opponent then used his gun mages to push the crusader back, just far enough for Caine to get a shot. Caine went all out, popping his feat so he got a free shot at my three models, then buying as many shots as possible to try and gun down Kreoss. I took a lot of damage but hung on with 5 points left.

In my turn, the crusader and Kreoss both charged Caine and by using all of the focus we had, managed to land a hit on the tricksy warcaster (he's evasive but not tough) and defeat him. I also move the Castigator into combat with two of the remaining 3 AT gun mages, just in case we don't get Caine down this turn. Phew, close game!

Thoughts on a new game system

Well I really enjoyed my first foray into Warmachine. I can definitely see this being a game I keep up with. Unlike 40k, where I like to stay at range for the most part, I found myself itching to get in close to hit things and make a mess in melee. The models are really fun and the way they play together is very interesting.

The Good
- Sequential models, not phases. Each model does its own thing before the next goes. This is a huge change from 40k where everybody moves, then shoots etc. It adds a whole different layer with the combinations that come up with it. This was a simple game but I figured out to activate Kreoss first when I did his feat so that everyone else could take advantage of the easy-to-hit knocked down foes. My opponent used his AT gun mages to open up lines of fire to my paladin and warcaster for other models to take advantage of. I think this will take a while to get used to as it is quite ingrained for me to consider my own models as cover that can't be removed unless they are totally destroyed.
- Damage grids. I love how the warjacks and warcasters have damage boxes that need to be filled out before they are destroyed. It gives a good challenge to hit them hard enough to bring them down, while still letting units contribute until they are completely destroyed. I don't like how a penetrating railgun round has the same chance to blow up a rhino as a Land Raider once it gets past the armour. Here you can tell the difference between a Cryx Bonejack with maybe 18-20 damage boxes and a Khador heavy jack with 34.
- Spells and funky abilities. Nearly every unit has some cool thing it can do that can work really well with other units. Combinations are a big part of the game and finding the best ways to use your units together is the difference between winning and losing.
- Feats. I love the way each warcaster gets a great big dollop of kick*ss once per game. It really gives you a way to turn things around and make the opponent pay but also adds a layer in that you need to be careful not to pop it too early, or too late.

The Bad
Nothing much so far ;-)
- In the future though, I can see the frustration at playing against somebody who knows the models inside and out and pulls out a combination that I haven't even considered. I'll reflect on this after more games though.
- The expense. I know that I'm tempted by so many models and they can be relatively pricey ($20-45 per warjack). The good thing is that the game can be played from the lowest points levels upwards so there is no feeling of having to buy another $200 of models just to play (like I feel about my Tau).

So hopefully you enjoyed reading this far and I look forward to hearing any thoughts or questions.



  1. Sounds like it was a good game!

    I really think Kreoss is one of the best casters to learn the game with, his feat is very good, and has a use with almost any combination of other models, his spells are versatile enough to both help you out, do some damage, as well as screw with your opponent's plans some, and his stats are decent enough to do almost anything you need to do. Everything else in the army is just ‘sprinkle to taste’.

    A few minor things. Marshaled jacks whose Jack marshals die become autonomous, not inert, I believe. It means they can still function, but don’t get any of the marshalling benefits. You can control them later with casters or other jack marshals. That’s a VERY minor thing though (but yet another benefit of jack marshalling, which you can’t really take advantage of as a Menoth player :( ).

    Handling the people that know the models inside and out isn’t too bad. First is obviously to read the cards, and see what they are taking, to get a feel for what they do.

    That gets you part of the way there, what also helps, however, is looking at the Battle College page at which can give you an idea of the basic strategies each caster/model is known for. It’s not an in-depth tactica of everything, and it’s no substitute for experience, but you can generally learn about the gimmicks of individual things prior to seeing them in battle by looking there.

  2. Hey Asmo.

    It was a great game for learning. We touched on enough rules to make it challenging but not so many that it got confusing with killer combinations. Kreoss was definitely a good, well rounded caster to work with. From what I can tell, the battle box casters are well designed in terms of being quite balanced.

    Ooops, having an autonomous Hunter would have made some changes to the game. The way we thought it worked was that the jack went inert, but could be reactivated by Caine or another Marshall should one be able to get into B2B with it. I'm sure I'll have to read up more on these rules when I get into playing cygnar as they seem to have quite a few jack marshalls, which is cool.

    The good part of my slightly obsessive nature is that I will get a lot of info about something before even starting. I have read just about everything on Battle College and keep checking back every day to see what has been added. It's a good place to see the models as well as get a feel for how they work. The guys I played with were kinda glad I wasn't a total newbie and at least had read the rulebook well.

    Can't wait to play some games against other forces now. Perhaps we can have some Cryx vs Menoth games if I get up to Glen Burnie.

  3. Yeah, all the battle box casters are pretty well-rounded. They give a pretty good feel for how the faction works, as well, which is very handy.

    I'm almost positive I have the autonomous rules correct, but it's always possible I'm wrong. Would definitely be worth checking. I know that when the warcaster dies, his jacks DO go inert, but that's only relevant in games where a caster's death doesn't end the game.

    That's a great start too- I like to point that page to everyone, it's such a handy tool for getting started. Too many times I've bought a new model and had no idea what to do with it in game, only to have th battle college give me good ideas. Would recommend it to anyone playing.

    And I'd love to play games. Still kind of in flux time-wise though, since I'm about to move, I'm really hoping my time clears up in a few weeks (once I get used to having the girlfriend around alllll the time).

  4. I just looked up online and the rules do say that autonomy happens. I guess both me and the other players need to read up a little more on the rules ;-) What does autonomy do? Just let them move and attack as though they had no focus?

    Don't worry about your time flux for gaming. This is the first time I've played for about 2-3 months to be honest. Moving is a big change, as is living with somebody. I have to know that with two dogs and a wife, there are only certain times I can go out and play wargames and be ok with that. The good part with the hobby is that I can build/paint/read up on the game even if I don't get to actually play that much.

  5. That was an excellent introduction to Warmachine - thanks. I really liked the explanation of what each model/ unit can do. I hope to give WM a go some day; probably Cryx, since I like their models.

  6. Hey Sholto, thanks for reading.

    I definitely would reccomend at least giving the game a try. There are enough players and I'm sure you'd get some folks who would be happy to show you a small game. The rulebook isn't expensive (18 from Wayland Games) and has some great fluff and background, even if you don't end up playing the game seriously. The nice thing is that the rules for a chunk of each faction are given in their entirety in the rulebook, so for basic games you don't need anything more than that.

    I will try to post up more thoughts as I play more games, explaining the confusing bits etc. and giving a good vibe of how things play.

    Thankyou for doing the same thing for Malifaux as it makes me interested in playing that game. Can't wait to see if any fun new stories pop up in the future books either ;-)


  7. Hey :) one comment i would make would be to swap the zealots for a unit of Choir. There a far mor effective unit to have with two heavy jacks and especially against a shooting heavy army like the cygnar list you played. I feel the guy may have ill-advised you there. Choir (although being reasonably weak) have three different buffs to make on warjacks, one makes them unable to be hit by shooting attacks, one stops all magic hitting them and the last gives them +2 atack rolls. This works well when you use the rule whereby people cannot shoot past a model to hit a model directly behind it, meaning you can sit one member of choir behind each jack and they are immune and therefore give constant buffs. keep the leader of the unit back but still make sure he is within 8 inchs of each.

    hope that i made that understandable :)


  8. Hey Marc.

    I definitely considered taking a choir but was a bit limited by the guy whose models I was borrowing's collection. His models were mostly crammed into a big bits box and so they were a bit hard to find (99% unpainted too!).

    If I was going to change up the list I would have probably gone with a second crusader, a choir and another paladin to get more punch. To be honest though the game was more about learning than about a close-fought match. The shooting protection of the choir would have been handy but overall it was a nicely balanced game.

    Thanks for the hints though, a choir is definitely on my purchase list. Going to have fun painting those freehand scrolls :-)

  9. Looks like you had a blast mate, I'm more tempted to try Warmachine now:

  10. Yeah i can see that making a nice list! My current list is Reznik, 2 Crusaders both with a mechanik for the +2 Def and Arm buffs, Choir for the pre- mentioned advantages Paladin Vilmon and a Order of the Wall Paladin. Or i swap the Paladins for Bastions. Its a pretty versatile set up really. Im glad that you enjoyed the game anyway! Btw how is your Harbinger going? I read your articles and am just waiting to see how it all went before going through with the purchase :)

  11. Hey Andy,

    I'd definitely reccomend giving it a shot. If nothing else, you can have a good game just with the contents of the faction starter boxes. PP worked to make sure that they are relatively even across the box sets so that, while everyone plays to their own strengths, nobody is head and shoulders above each other.

  12. Hey Marc,

    I'm looking forward to expanding my Menoth force as time and funds allow so I will defintely have fun once I pick up the Menoth FOW book looking through it to plan out all of the cool things to take. I like a lot of the models so it will come down to combination of money and good army building steps to sort out what I will buy and when.

    My Harbinger is going slowly but surely. The banner arm is pretty much done but the robes on the body need a lot of careful work as they are very billowing and need highlighting with good tones. It's a challenge. I also decided that I am going to add the acolytes so I will have to figure out the challenge of attaching them after I paint them up. Should be fun ;-)

    I'll try and speed it up for you so you can see if the model is of interest.