My Commission Tracking Journal: fav.me/d4lk5fs
This guide is designed to assist complete newbies on how to actually have fun war-gaming using Warmachine and Hordes from Privateer Press. This isn't for people that actually know how to play, or frequent tournaments, or top the top players lists compiled from said tournies.
So you want to be a baby seal?
- Step one: Avoid all the forums, sites, and other google results for Privateer Press, guides, strategies, army lists, and advice blogs. While normally I'd say go for it, but in this case its all extremely useless. The official forums have strict rules where any negative talk about models or rules are squashed, the major and most minor gaming sites are nothing more than marketing shills for the models coming out, and the blogs are full of biased information based on the local meta they themselves play in and won't represent what you'll find in your own area.
- Step two: Don't read the fluff if you actually want to play. This includes marketing, the books, and blogs. Here's the problem in a nutshell: The marketing and fluff for Khador stresses their big awesome huge warjacks, but they suck (slow, easy to hit, most armies have boostable damage, and are very inaccurate). The best units Khador has is their infantry shooting units. So be prepared to wade through shit to get to the meat of the information.
- Step three: find online pdfs of all the rules manuals. OMG PIRACY! Every single un-fun game, loss, fucking cheaters, and miserable experience I've had comes directly from not knowing what the opponent can do, field, threat ranges, and rules exemptions they employ. It means I couldn't call out an opponent for cheating. Don't pick an army based on how it looks, or how you feel about it until you've read through every single book out there. The marketing material lies, and the blogs just want to hype the newest models. Not a great way to start the game. Also the local players usually don't know all the rules, blatantly ignore key rules, or just enjoy getting the jump on the new players (see #iloveclubingbabyseals). You can avoid this by knowing what most of the units can do by having, you know, read them in advance and reading the rules. Now, another fun fact is that if you don't understand the rules, or find it too complicated, well congrats! You've wasted no money!
- Step four: Buy the army that appeals to you now that you have some freaking clue what each one does, not what looks cool. Interesting concept eh? Be prepared to spend about $300 on your first army. If that sounds a bit much, remember, the wargaming community is a pretty niche and exclusive group and the paywall is there to keep out the undesirables (people too poor to play).
I'm not going to tell you how to play, how to find a non-asshole group (because it doesn't exist), or how to win. What I am going to do is tell you the no bullshit faction advice for the primary four. And common missteps by new players.
So you've got a group of friends or random strangers and you'd like to start a group. First off, stop right there. This game doesn't work without a stable backbone group that plays every week at a regular time, starting a new group isn't usually looked friendly at because wargaming takes up a lot of room and time, and your friends/strangers taking up tables is game time someone else can't play a game that actually makes the store money. Enjoy playing on weekdays in the middle or beginning of the week, because Friday's, Sat, and Sun are all spoken for unless its been allocated by Warhammer 40K players. In fact, most Warmachine/Hordes players ARE Warhammer players and take their mentality with them. So if you aren't one of them, expect to be treated like shit because you're using THEIR tables, THEIR boards and scenery, and THEIR time slot.
Solution! Play at home/friend's house. You can play at your convenience and time and usually do whatever you want without having to deal with cliquish behavior by starting your own clique!
Problem: Your table sucks, your scenery is usually books and mostly empty drink bottles. So you won't be learning how to play tournament style, but that's not the point, you're just starting and you don't want to be clubbed. So this is OK! Take your time, read the rules and do everything step by meticulous step. Its the only way you'll learn. AND YOU WON'T LEARN ANYTHING BEING CLUBBED LIKE THE BABY SEAL YOU ARE AT THE GAMESTORE. Losing in the first turn or two because you don't know what you're doing isn't fun, and not a learning experience because you'll have to wait turns and be lucky to play more than one or two games a night.
Rule of Thumb 1: Everyone plays Cryx or no one plays Cryx.
All players that know what they're doing shut up, I don't want to hear from you. Yada yada all armies are balanced, blah blah lies. To new players Cryx has the most rule breaking, word heavy rules. They ignore everything in the main book, and make their own shit up. Its really hard not to feel like you're not being unfairly beaten up when your army has to play by the rules and the opponent doesn't. Either everyone learns to play the game playing Cryx or no one does. Also Cryx are balanced out by EXPERIENCE and money. Cryx at low points are brutal, and are countered when you have about 35 points or more in an army. They have lots of powerful cheap units and most of them come in box sets that way too.
Rule of Thumb 2: The box sets are garbage
The box sets, the fluff, the rules, and most "hey here's what warmachine is all about faction info" pimp warjacks as the main warmachine army unit. The box sets usually come with a warcaster and 2-3 jacks and maybe a small unit. This is bulllllllshit. The first thing you need to know is how handicapped warmachine is by needing to field warjacks. Warjacks EAT focus (the caster's mana) to even use, are usually slow, easy to hit, and shit at hitting things without spending more focus (mana) to make them hit. However, they do hit hard.... Unlike Hordes, which has beasts that GENERATE mana, warmachine consumes mana. This means that in Hordes, you usually field mostly beast armies with one or two units of troops, and in Warmachine you field mostly troops with maybe one jack per 15 points in the army. (ya yah, there are warcasters that focus on jacks/beasts/troops, but new players don't know how to do this yet). Remember specialized casters are one trick ponies, and if you counter them, they're done. But they hit hard.
Rule of Thumb 3: This IS rock paper scissors.
I've heard counters to this ever since Mk1 back in the mid 2000's. But everything is balanced, there is no overpowered faction. Yeah? Bullshit. Every tournament forces you to bring TWO armies. TWO. count them ONE, TWO. Can they be the same army? Sure, if you want to lose. This company wants you to buy as much as possible, so to encourage this, they let you sideboard a 2nd army in case you come across a list that you're weak to. Prepare to make a main list and sideboard the specific answers to annoying armies that won't let you shoot them, can't hit them, can't target them unless you've got a backup list that has all the "i ignore your specific rule that doesn't let me hurt you" units. These counter units are expensive and rarely make main lists because they're small, cost a lot of points, and don't work well with other units, usually. There are exceptions...
Rule of Thumb 4: Average dice rolls on 2 six sided dice is SIX.
Suck my jagons math people, because in wargaming, dice and players do not care about percentages. oh but the average range on 2d6 is actually 5 to 9 with an 11% chance increasing 3% to 7, and then declining back to 11% at 9. To hit average (7) is only 16%. yep, you have a higher chance of rolling anything other than 7 than actually rolling 7. Usually lower. And if you need to hit average to even hit the enemy models, then you're in trouble. You want, YOU NEED, your hit dice to be at least 70% to be reliable. and with needing a six or better to HIT you're at about 71% with needing a five or better brings you to 83%. For the love of god analyze your units with this number in mind! All the damage in the world does you no good if you can't hit targets. If you have a shooting unit with a RAT (ranged attack stat) of 5 or lower, its garbage. Hell, I think six is too low, since most units you need to hit have a defense score higher than 12. In fact most units that aren't warjacks or beasts have defense of 14 or higher.
**This applies to damage too! If your opponent has an armour of 18 and you have POW (weapon damage) of 10, grats, you hit them but it bounces off unless you roll 9 or higher and anything less than 12 at that point is minor damage anyway.
Rule of Thumb 5: The dice gods hate you. AKA, more dice is moar better
Your warcaster needs to have abilities that enhance your ability to hit and damage opponents. You're starting off, you're new and you don't know what you're doing. If you have a way to boost your attack and damage by adding another dice (3d6 being most common), use it, use it, use it. Also, if you can make your opponent waste focus trying to hit you, do it every turn. Its amazing what just 2 more def/arm will do to dice rolls. Unfortunately, this is mutual, so any benefit you'd gain by tying up focus is balanced by you doing the same.
Rule of Thumb 6: In Warmachine, you get more out of buffing your troops than running Jacks, and this is your shackle. Hordes warcasters get more powerful the more beasts you play.
So the dynamic is Warmachine players rarely get to run full jack metal to metal armies because only a few casters have enough focus to run more than two (three min focus to be usueful). But Hordes players actually benefit from running full beast armies because they get focus (called something else) every turn for every beast they run. Again, the marketing lies. So to summarize, Warmachine fields troops with one or two jacks as support, while Hordes fields beasts with one or two troops as support.
Rule of Thumb 7: Privateer Press hates players knowing actual strategy.
Okay, look, I get it, its a company that makes money. They WANT you to buy all the books. They want you to buy all the models. They want you do do this, because they deliberately obfuscate how other factions and armies work by not including a base stats list to the public. If you want to know what say Menoth can do? Go buy the cards, the now three or four expansion books, the faction guide, and the main rule book. Oh and enjoy spending about $300-400 doing that. They do copyright claims on every site that tried to release the base stats of models and do comparisons, and actual strategy through understanding threat ranges, but nope! Copyright claims out the ass. Find a way to read and memorize every single freaking book out there. So many special rules, numbers, and exceptions abound and you'll be taken by surprise every single time unless you either pirate or spend about $1k off the bat. Remember, you're starting and you don't even know if you like the game yet. Support your local store if they support YOU, but don't start a new game at a disadvantage either. Buy the models and the rule book from the store after you figure out what you'd like to play. Use bottle caps, markers, cut out circles even! Use anything except spend money when first starting. The stores don't care if you never actually play the game after you've paid them money. They might claim to care, but they don't. They want you to spend more, so expect bad advice!
- The best Cygnar units are melee. They shoot, but shooting is expensive, so take one and prepare to cross swords! Their casters are mostly heros (this means they love to go and spend all their focus doing cool spells and shoot instead of buffing and supporting jacks).
- The best Khador units shoot. They shoot long, far, are extremely accurate, shoot a lot, and some ignore special rules. Their warjacks are mostly expensive garbage. They're slow, can't hit without being boosted, and are destroyed at range by just about EVERYONE. but they're so pretty and cooollll!
- Menoth are good. They're casters support the troops, and support the jacks. Choir units are needed in every list. Don't leave home without them. Think of them as the toolkit faction with units that often have answers for everything all in the same unit.
- Cyrx break the rules, they move faster, weirder, and harder than everyone except special units. Glass cannons that come back from the dead. Often times they stall your army and their dead units come back the next turn. Then explode over everything. Their armies love to say, you can't shoot me, I'm invisible. You can't hurt me, I'm a ghost, you need magic to kill me. They are also really fucking hard to assemble. Lots of tiny bits with spikes on them. I hope you like dremel tools because you'll be drilling holes and pinning arms and bits in place.
- Trolls are overpowered at less than 35 points. Don't play against them unless you force your opponent to not use Tough units. Tough means they roll a dice and on an average roll, they stand back up. I hope you like killing lots of small guys that don't fall down. Might be a good starting army though...
- Circle. Don't! stop, they look cool but are incredibly hard to play. They're combo heavy and if your combo stalls mid turn, you die.
- Legion plays all warbeasts. Their troops are garbage, don't bother. The common armies are all beasts and they love ignoring movement restrictions. Fast hard glass cannons, and can't take any hits before becoming crippled.
- Skorne. Don't. This is another good all beast army. Their troop units love to NOT FREAKING WORK TOGETHER! The player base has a word for this, skornergy. It means the troops are slow, inaccurate, or situational unless there's another unit nearby, that buffs the other troop, but doesn't affect the other unit because its not a living unit.... Basically their beasts work, but their troops do not.
I wish I'd have known this when I tried playing all those years ago. I kept getting burned every time I tried finding a good group. I kept getting beaten up, and told to fuck off every time. I'm posting this to help new people avoid the same mistakes I did, and as a reminder to myself never to play miniature games again. Unless you play or live near a major city, don't bother. Most stores would rather sell you Magic the Gathering cards than support a mini's game because it doesn't make much money (companies charge the stores near retail price and give them very low margins) unless they're an affiliate store (costs an arm and a leg in fees and needs a lot of players to support this in membership fees), needs a lot of room (expensive to lease/own), and the product itself is bulky and takes up precious floor/rack space. If you don't have a big store with a big play area, go find something else to do.
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