Starting Warmachine & Hordes (WM&H) can be such a daunting task. Right from the start there are a ton of interactions that a player have to learn. Due to the game’s competitive nature, most of it can cost them the game prematurely. Veterans reached where they are after surviving dozens, or even hundreds, of unforgiving defeats. Therefore, I can understand why some veterans consider streamrolling newbies with excessive victories to be an “initiation” that can give two results: Either the newbie is proven to be too casual to play this kind of game and quits; or the WM&H community gained an additional player whose resilience is proven.
With that in mind, through these series of articles I’m trying to share my experiences to aspiring Warcaster and Warlocks who wanted to learn how to play this game and win. I hope to help ease the learning curve so that there will be more players who survived the initiation and become a long-lasting member of the community.
This doesn’t mean that I’m a perfect player, far from it; I’m not even sure I qualify as a very good one. But I’m sure years of experience playing the game gives me a significant advantage. These articles also assume that you are a new player that already cover all the basics of the game; I won’t explain things like how Focus or Fury works and what are Power Attacks. These articles also won’t suit long-time players since I will most likely be sharing things that they already know.
That being said, let’s end the unnecessarily long intro and get into the main course.
Part 1 – Goal of the Game
Whenever I explain things to people, I’d like to start from the end: What’s the goal of the game? Of course the goal is to win the game and to have fun, but then, how to reach that victory?
Assuming that you’re playing using Steamroller scenarios (which I highly recommend, but that’s a story for another time), there are multiple different ways to win:
- Winning through Assasination. Achieved by killing the opposing Warcaster/Warlock either by melee, ranged, or spell/magic attacks; but it is not as easy as it sounds. Performing an assassination is almost like a trying to solve a puzzle: there’s easy and difficult ones; and most of the time order of activations is a crucial part of the whole plan. Basically, you need to reliably deliver multiple numbers of solid hits to the enemy’s casters, because usually one big hit is not enough due to how Focus and Fury works and their good defensive value.
- Winning through Scenario. Achieved by gaining enough points for you to win the game by scenario, usually that means 5 points. To do this is you need to think several turns ahead of yourself: at the beginning of the game, check where do you need to be in order to score scenario points as soon as you can; then plan for it. If you need to be on the left flag at the second turn, then don’t move too far from it on the first turn so you don’t have to run there later. Movement denial abilities is usually very useful in scenario play, so that you can prevent the opponent from contesting your flags.
- Winning through Attrition. Achieved by being the last army standing after a significant piece-trading with the opponent, then usually finished by assassination or scenario victory. Fill your list with models that have a very good defensive value, either DEF or ARM, or high number of models so that you can survive last. However, you can’t forget your offensive capabilities because you need to be able to (reliably) kill them to outlast them. At the end of the game, you need to be able to make sure that you have more significant models left than your opponent.
- Winning through Time. This is the most obscure and hard of all the winning strategies but it actually exists: achieved by being the last player with time remaining in their clock (assuming you’re playing Deathclock, which is quite popular in competitive events). The key to play this kind of game is almost the same with attrition, but with a slight modification: the goal is not to survive last, but to make the opponent to waste too much time to get rid of each of your model. Therefore you don’t need to have too many good offense here. Accumulated, you’ll have significant advantage in time left over your opponent. This can be achieved by combining good defensive value with abilities that can deny damages or even kills such as eMakeda’s stay death or Harbinger’s Martyrdom.
Each faction and good caster in this game have an affinity to one or more of these victory conditions, and you need to identify that early on. Legion of Everblight lists usually prefer assassination because they can’t play attrition due to their high SPD and low ARM models. Casters with many movement denial capabilities such as Haley or eMagnus are proficient in scenario play. Trollblood lists is really good at attrition due to their innate Tough ability and high ARM. But even then there might be one or two casters that breaks his/her faction’s stereotype.
After you identify which winning condition that your caster favors to, you need to plan your game towards that direction. In order to plan for it, you must:
- Start from the List Building process: tailor your list to aim to a specific winning condition. The best lists have plans for multiple winning conditions, but most of the time your list will have one preferred winning condition over the other. If you’re playing for assassination, put more models with high threat range with reliable delivery method. Playing for attrition? Then add models with good defensive abilities and sprinkle some hard-hitters.
- You also need to have a Game Plan: how will you play the list to achieve your winning condition? Usually you formulate your game plan while list building as well, because both of them goes hand-in-hand. How do you plan to deliver your assassins; by giving it incorporeal? How do you handle that LOS-blocking model; by arcing fire or shadow fire? How can you prevent enemy models from contesting your scenario pieces?
- Lastly, Test and Train yourself: you have to test your hypothetical list and game plan, then refine it multiple times, before you find your optimal version and completely comfortable with it. Turns out that having that unit in the list doesn’t add any value, or, turns out that the tarpit unit is not as hard to kill as you’d like; then make changes accordingly. A single game where a certain model performs poorly shouldn’t be your baseline on determining whether that model is good/bad, test it a few times to get a better feel.
Well that’s it for now. I’m planning to have more articles to go into details in each victory condition, because to put them all here would make this article endless.
I hope you get a better general understanding over how to win your games and how to plan for it from this article. If you have any additional questions, please drop a comment below and I’ll try my best to answer them.
– Daniel –