Lincoln Based Tabletop Gaming Club

Warmahordes 101 & Faction Overview Part 1

Warmahordes is one of the most popular games played at Gobstyks, so today we’ve got a detailed article written by Chris Pymm explaining how the game works and going into details regarding the varying ‘Warmachine’ factions, if you enjoy reading this article be sure to check out the 2nd part that will explain the ‘Hordes’ factions later this week. Now lets get stuck into Warmahordes 101.


The game is set in a world where magic exists, but technology has advanced to the point of steam engines, telegraph, and reliable firearms. The various nations and factions are roughly split between the more civilised nations which fall under the Warmachine side, and the more savage tribal nations which fall under the Hordes side of the game. Warmachine armies are led by Warcasters; gifted battle-mages who are able to mentally control steam-powered battle robots called Warjacks by bonding with the techno-magical cortex that acts as the warjacks brain. Hordes armies are led by Warlocks, power shamanic spellcasters who bond massive monsters called Warbeasts.

The two halves of the game, Warmachine and Hordes, are completely compatible with each other and are balanced against each other. In effect, it’s one game with two flavours – stampy robots and stampy monsters. At the moment, the Warmachine side is generally considered to be slightly “ahead”; however, the gap between the best things and worst things in the game is the smallest of any wargame I’ve played. The skill of the player is far more important than the perceived power level of the models they’re using.

Games can be won by killing your opponent’s warcaster or warlock (they only have one), called an assassination victory. Or, it can be won by controlling certain areas of the board, as defined by the scenario, to score victory points. Of course, killing your opponent’s models helps you achieve either of those. If it’s being used, a player also loses if they run out of time on their deathclock.

Online resources

The game rules, all stat cards and the current Streamroller document can all be found free online at the Privateer Press website. The Steamroller document, which changes each year, contains the scenarios and tournament rules; almost all players use these scenarios, as they are well balanced and help to balance the game. The official app called War Room 2 will let you get all the rules, stats and scenarios, and even track damage in-game. However, you have to buy it.

Unofficial resources include Battle College (, a wiki of all the models; and Conflict Chamber (, a list building website.


Almost all the factions have a Battlebox – a starter set consisting of a warcaster (or warlock) and selected warjacks or warbeasts which fill the ‘caster/’locks bonus points. [All warcasters and warlocks bring a number of extra points which can only be spent of his or her battlegroup.] These battleboxes are a good way to start the game, but note that (in order to keep the battleboxes nice and cheap) the quality of the models isn’t as high as normal. The warcasters/warlocks from the battleboxes are designed to be relatively simple for new players – this tends to mean they’re regarded as solid but dull.

The Factions

For each faction, I’m including the following sections.

Background: Where the faction is from, what they want, and what they’re doing.

Playstyle: The various factions can have radically different styles of play. There are always exceptions, so these are generalisations. Please note that I play (in descending order of frequency) Mercenaries, Khador, Circle, and Cygnar; what I say about the other factions may be a little less reliable.

Theme Forces: Each faction has a number of Theme Forces, which are thematic subfactions. Each Theme Force has a list of allowed models, and a list of benefits you get for being “in theme”. Almost every army is in a theme force, as that’s the way the game is designed to be played. This makes it easier to get into the game, in my opinion, as you can choose from a smaller selection of models to start with, then expand into other of the faction’s theme forces.

Essentials: Any recommended models that will be in most of the faction’s armies.

New Player Notes: Things a new player should consider.

–Warmachine Factions–


Background: While not the largest country, Cygnar is the most populous, has the most natural resources, and is the most technologically advanced of the human nations. It is also surrounded by hostile nations and often forced into war on multiple fronts. Recently, a new king has taken the throne who is far more aggressive than the previous king. Well represented in the background stories and is generally the protagonist of the fiction.

Playstyle: Generally elite, expensive models means that Cygnar armies tend to be outnumbered, but each piece is highly effective at its role. They emphasise shooting over melee, and use a lot of lightning based weapons.

Theme Forces:

Gravediggers – the Trencher theme; think WW1 infantry, smoke walls, mud and bullets.

Heavy Metal – the Warjack theme; almost entirely big stampy robots.

Sons of the Tempest – the Gunmage theme; gifted individuals who channel their powers through firearms.

Storm Division – the Storm Knight theme; high-tech warriors using lighting based weapons.

Essentials: A Journeyman Warcaster and a Squire (both solos) are very popular.

New Player Notes: While not a forgiving faction, due to the high points costs, Cygnar is a solid starting choice.


Background: The former kingdom of Khador invaded parts of northern Cygnar and most of the small country of Llael and promoted itself to the Empire of Khador. Huge, snowy and northern, Khador has a strong Russian feel. It is brutal, expansionist and pragmatic, with soldiers willing to die for the motherland. Expect the biggest warjacks (Khador doesn’t waste its limited cortex supplies on mere light ‘jacks!), cursed relics, cold themed magic, and lots of explosions.

Playstyle: Khador is a fairly straightforward faction, largely forgoing the sneaky tricks in favour of things that are a little better than you’d think. Their warjacks are cheaper and better armoured than you’d think, their infantry tends to be a little cheaper, and the faction as a whole hits much harder than you might expect. Though this can make them a little predictable, does that matter when your opponent gets crushed under your armour?

Theme Forces:

Armoured Korps – the Man-o-War theme; Khadors equivalent of light warjacks, Man-o-War are soldiers piloting huge suits of powered armour – steam powered armour, to be precise.

Jaws of the Wolf – the warjack theme; mostly big stampy robots, and assassins for some reason.

Legion of Steel – the Iron Fang theme; the Iron Fangs are an order of knights trained and equipped to fight warjacks. They use blasting pikes, which are basically shaped charges on a long stick.

Winter Guard Kommand – the Winter Guard theme; WG are a conscript army, which almost every citizen will serve in at some point. There’s a hell of a lot of them, and they have rockets.

Wolves of Winter – the Doomreaver & Grey Lord theme; the Grey Lords are Khador’s cold-themed spellcasters and meddlers in things they shouldn’t. Doomreavers are the very strongest convicts chained to cursed swords that make them into homicidal maniacs.

Essentials: Varies by theme force

New Player Notes: Strong, simple and heavily armoured, Khador is an excellent first faction.


Background: The Nightmare Empire of Cryx is unashamedly the Bad Guys. Occupying the Scharde Islands off the coast of Cygnar, Cryx is a nation of undead abominations, blighted monstrosities, brutal pirates, and ladies with horns. It was created by Lord Toruk the Dragonfather, first and mightiest of the dragons, in the hope that it would grow powerful enough to help him in his quest to reabsorb his rebellious children.

Playstyle: Cryx tends to favour large numbers of warrior models over the stampy robots. Many of these are undead, and the faction has strong recursion (i.e. bringing models back) mechanics. It has very little shooting, and many of its stats are lower than one might expect. However, it has plenty of dark magic to debuff its enemies into feebleness, effectively making its own stats far better. Known as an armour cracking faction, a handful of its hard hitters can remove even the toughest targets from the table. Possibly the best faction in the game, but bear in mind the relatively small gap between best and worst in Warmachine/Hordes.

Theme Forces:

Black Industries – the warjack theme; mostly big(ish) stampy robots.

Dark Host – the Bane theme; Banes are a subtype of undead, characterised by hitting power and being not quite solid.

Ghost Fleet – the zombie pirate theme; a very popular theme force, made up of zombie pirates who won’t stay dead, and ghost pirates who can ‘recruit’ living enemies.

Infernal Machines – the thrall theme; thralls are a subtype of undead, characterised by being mindless shamblers with mechanical additions.

Scourge of the Broken Coast – the Satyxis theme; Satyxis are the ladies with horns mentioned above. A stable subrace of humans altered by the radiation-like blight of a dead dragon, they are cruel pirates and super fast for infantry.

Slaughter Fleet Raiders – the ‘other’ pirate theme; a mix of blighted ogrun, blighted trollkin, and human scum.

Essentials: Varies by Theme Force.

New Player Notes: Cryx is probably the strongest faction overall, but that does mean everyone is ready for it and has a ‘Cryx answer’. Also, rather expensive to buy into due to the high number of troops it uses.

Protectorate of Menoth

Background: A religious nation recently split off from Cygnar, the Protectorate follows Menoth, the god of and creator of man. Aggressive, crusading, and uncompromising, the Protectorate spreads the word of their god. Unfortunately, that word tends to be “Burn!”, often followed by “heretic”. Their current focus is the Northern Crusade, bringing their religion to the beleaguered country of Llael.

Playstyle: The Protectorate boasts some of the hardest hitting infantry available – anything charged by Knight Exemplars is in for a bad time! They also have some of the cheapest and worst-trained infantry, using for soaking up attacks. Their warjacks, while unimpressive on paper, can be buffed by the Choir of Menoth. The faction as a whole also has themes of denial and fire; they have various ways to prevent your opponent doing what they want to do (e.g. casting spells at your stuff), and many of their weapons are fire based.

Theme Forces:

The Creators Might – the warjack theme; mostly big stampy robots

Exemplar Interdiction – the Knights theme; various flavours of crusading Exemplars

The Faithful Masses – the militia theme; badly trained, barely armed, but bolstered by faith. And by Paladins of the Order of the Wall.

Guardians of the Temple – the Flameguard theme; while technically not a standing army, to get around the treaties with Cygnar, the Flameguard are the Protectorate’s standing army. Spears, flamethrowers, and assassins.

Essentials: You’ll need a unit of Choir of Menoth – they’re an absolute staple, and buff the warjacks very well.

New Player Notes: Has the great advantage that nearly all it’s things are at least okay, so you’re unlikely to buy the wrong thing. Its casters tend to be old men in robes, so it has an inherent weakness to assassination.

Retribution of Scyrah

Background: The elves of the setting. Like many elves, they are a dying race. Unlike many elves, they’re not going to go quietly! Long ago, their gods gave them instructions on how to build a ‘bridge’ to allow the gods to come to the real world. It worked, but then exploded, leaving a big hole in the middle of the continent now called the Storm Lands, and messing things up for almost everyone. Following (but not necessarily because of) the awakening of magic in humans, the elven gods got sick, and then went off to try to find a way back to their afterlife. Then all the elf priests went mad, and one lone god (Scyrah) stumbled back to the elves and has been full Sleeping Beauty ever since. Soulless elves started to be born, and things have only gotten worse. The Retribution, originally an outlaw organisation but now officially supported due to recent success (they found a god-cicle!), blame the human spellcasters and want to kill them all.

Playstyle: This varies heavily by the theme force they’re using, as the various Houses that contribute troops to the Retribution all have their distinct style. Many of their warjacks have energy shields that have to be battered down before you can damage the warjack itself, making it more difficult to cripple their systems.


Defenders of Ios – the Houseguard theme; the forces that defend the homeland against invaders (currently the Skorne).

Forges of War – the Warjack theme; mostly big stampy robots, and this one gives them all Shield Guard, letting them take gunshots for their squishier friends.

Legions of Dawn – The Dawnguard theme; the elite warriors of House Nyarr.

Shadows of the Retribution – the Mage Hunter theme; they hunt mages, no surprises there.

Essentials: Arcanist Mechanik solos can provide additional resources to the warjacks, and make them hit harder. They turn up a lot.

New Player Notes: Ret tends to be polarising due to its distinct model style – people either love them or hate them.


Background: Those who will fight for pay are a very diverse group, ranging from the freedom fighters of the Llael Resistance, to the professionals of the Steelheads, to the criminal Kayazy. The mercenary warcaster Magnus has been heavily involved in recent storylines, and has shaped the political, royal and military fate of Cygnar.

Playstyle: Mercenaries are the most diverse and disparate faction in the game. They consist of a grab bag of different warriors, with an unusually high proportion of character models. The faction largely splits down into the following subfactions, which will work together with the exception of the Cephalyx.

The Searforge Commission – the military of the reclusive dwarven county of Rhul (which includes the honourable Ogrun, an ogre-like race) is willing to hire itself out through the Searforge Commission. The dwarves are slow, sturdy and heavily armoured. Warcasters and warjacks with the Rhulic tag can’t be used apart from each other – their caster only use their jacks, and non-Rhulic casters can’t use Rhulic jacks. The warjack include the notorious ‘gunbunnies’ – light warjacks that are essentially guns-on-legs, and are very efficient. There are currently three Rhulic casters.

Privateers – there is a strong pirate/privateer presence in mercs, with crews of sea dogs, aquatic warjacks, and many fine hats. Their poor infantry are hugely buffed by the various character solos, which can make for a very characterful force. There are currently three privateer casters.

Guns for hire – the rest of the mercs, very wide in scope. Their warjacks are old, but not obsolete, cast offs from various militaries, mostly Cygnar.

Cephalyx – a true subfaction, Cephalyx can only be used in a theme force that specifically lets them in; they don’t play well with others. A subterranean race of psychics, they are floaty, leather clad and surgically obsessed. They take slaves and modify them into drudges with surgery, mind magic and steroids. They also make heavy-warjack sized drudges called monstrosities. Their armies tend to be heavy on the drudges, controlled by Cephalyx. There are currently two Cephalyx casters.

Theme forces:

Hammer Strike – the dwarf theme; a rather limited selection, but still viable. Gives good benefits to the dwarves.

The Irregulars – the merc theme; this theme is wide open, and allows nearly everything in the faction. It makes up for the tight restrictions in the other forces.

The Kingmakers Army – Magnus and friends; this represents the army Magnus the Warlord created to get his chosen one on the throne. It borrows some Cygnar units, and while restrictive is strong.

Llaelese Resistance – freedom fighters; this represents the loyal Llaelese forces still fighting the Khadoran invaders. This has been going on for quite some time. The theme can take up to two units from either the Protectorate or Cygnar, making for some interesting crossovers.

Operating Theatre – the Cephalyx theme; the only place to use Cephalyx in mercs. They can’t use warjacks, instead using monstrosities. They can take a couple of merc units of their choice by attaching a Dominator to them. Of their own free will, of course…

Talion Charter – Bloody pirates! This is the pirate theme, but not the only place to run pirates. Sorry, they prefer to be called privateers.

Essentials: Varies by theme force and subfaction.

New Player Notes: Characterful and varied, but the lack of overlap in model use can make them expensive to buy into.

That covers the Warmachine Factions, we’ll cover the Hordes factions later this week. Be sure to stop by the site tomorrow where we will show over a Tau Drone army.