What is Warmachine?
The Short Version
What is Warmachine and Hordes?
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 is a compatible game system. The aesthetics and background is different, but the only real in-game difference is that you have a warlock with giant beasts called warbeasts. How they control them is fundamentally different. Since the two games are compatible, a Hordes player can challenge a Warmachine player.
About the game
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'. The results of the combat actions are determined by rolling dice, with more elite models requiring lower dice rolls to succeed. Each player fields an army made up of a variety of models, each with different abilities and skills. More 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. A model's points cost is not related to its real-world purchase cost. The goal is to eliminate your opponent's models or outmaneuver them to claim an objective. The game is very competitive, and has a lively tournament stage. Right from day 1, the producers of Warmachine and Hordes (Privateer Press Inc.) aimed to design a game that appealed to competitive players. Their focus is producing rules that are well-worded and smooth-flowing so that players don't get bogged down in arguing over ambiguous rule interactions. If rule interactions become problematic, official rules and erratas are published.
Where should I start?
If you're interested in playing Warmachine and/or Hordes, there are many people willing (and wanting) to help you. For starters, you could read the Long Version (below), then start reading the Faction Overview to decide which faction(s) appeals to you (a faction is essentially an army or race or species). You should also create an account on the Privateer Press forums and post in the New Members Area and Community and Game Clubs to find out how you can meet local singles in your area. Opps I mean local players. You can also post in one (or more) of the Faction-specific subforums to get advice on which Faction you should choose to play.
The Long Version
What is Warmachine and Hordes?
Okay same question, a little longer answer. Warmachine is a tabletop wargame about industrialized "Full Metal Fantasy" minatures combat. The Warmachine universe is about the warring nations of the Iron Kingdoms, or Immoren in the world of Caen. 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 War Jacks and are deployed amidst the soldiers and used 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.
Far from the civilized borders of the human nations there are other, less civilized factions. The resolute troll-kin that refuse to succumb to human civilization, or the distant empire of the Skorne, to name a few. Both reside far beyond the culture and great cities of men, and are described in Warmachine's rural sister game "Hordes". These savage factions lack the level of industry to create the intricate War Jacks, so they rely on furious War Beasts in stead. The battle wizards of these factions are called "Warlocks", and they harvest the wrath of their beasts to unleash their deadly spells.
So, Warmachine is about magically animated steam robots smashing each other, and Hordes is about frothing monsters tearing everything apart. Besides this, Warmachine and Hordes are completely compatible, and their factions are largely balanced against each other. All the core rules are the same: movement and combat, how units work, wounding and killing the enemy and so on is the same. While there is in fact a rulebook for Warmachine and another (almost identical) rulebook for Hordes, it is seen as a single game. For this reason it was quickly given the more idiomatic sobriquet "WarmaHordes" by many players. The main difference between the two games of Hordes and Warmachine is the mechanisms of Fury and Focus. Warmachine Warcasters use Focus Points to fuel their spells and warjacks, while Horde Warlocks use Fury Points. Both systems are used roughly the same way. They are used to pay for spells and certain effects, as the generic "mana-points" of so many other games. Focus points, however, are "top down" ressources. The warcaster generates a set quantity of Focus each turn, and uses it to cast spells. He may also give a quantity of his Focus Points to his warjacks, who can then run out and use these focus points for extra attacks and powers. Fury Points, on the other hand, are "Bottom-Up" ressources. A warlock uses Fury Points to cast his spells, just like the warcaster uses Focus, but he generates none of his Fury points by himself. He must force his warbeasts to generate fury by prodding them into combat or riling them and then harvesting their Fury Points at the start of the next round. He might force his beasts to generate more fury (resulting in more carnage) than the warlock can harvest, but at the risk of losing control of his beasts as the Fury overload makes them frenzy. Thus, Warcasters are more stable with a fixed Focus quantity each turn, while the Warlocks are required balance a flexible amount of Fury. This allows for much greater flexibility, but with the risk of control loss. As his beasts are eliminated throughout the game the warlock may have trouble getting Fury enough, while the warcaster maintains a constant supply.
About the game
Again, same question, a somewhat longer answer: A game is played out on a large board (typically 4' x 4' or 1.2m x 1.2m). Each player picks a faction to play and agree on a point-limit of, say, 25, 50 or 75 points per side. The player then picks a Warcaster or Warlock for their army (really big games can have more than one 'caster or 'lock). The points are used to buy:
- Warjacks or Warbeasts
- Units (possibly with a Command Attachment and/or one to three Weapon Attachments)
Each Warcaster/Warlock is also granted an amout of extra warjack points (usually some 28-30 points depending on the 'caster). You can spend these on even more Warjacks or Warbeast in addition to your agreed point-limit, but they can't be spent on other things. In this way, you can actually play "0 point games", where you play only with the beasts or jacks provided by your warbeast/warjack points. These games are excellent for learning the game. All the stuff you listed up to buy with your points will be your army, and is often just known as your "list". During each game round, each player has one turn. In a turn all forces are activated once. During one of these activations the model may move and do an action, such as an attack or a assisting in some other way. When all your forces have been activated, your turn ends. The object of the game is to score an amount of points. This done depending on the mission by holding zones, capturing flags or destroying objectives. However, if your 'Caster is killed, you instantly lose the game. Many games are won through assassination of the enemy 'caster. Most games last between 3 to 5 rounds. Lets go a little further into detail with your list-building options.
- Warcasters in Warmachine, and Warlocks in Hordes - (or sometimes colloquially known as warnouns)
They are the focal point of any army in the game. Their spells, special abilities and profiles designate, what kind of army they like, and what sort of force they synergize well with. They are resilient - thanks to their mastery over the primal energies or arcane might, they can survive wounds that would kill a normal trooper ten times over. Make no mistake, that does not make them invulnerable. Regardless of the scenario you play, caster/lock kill is always a valid way to win an engagement, so a last ditch assassination run can always turn the tide of a seemingly lost battle. They also come with a number of warbeasts / warjacks under their control, thanks to the above mentioned warjack/warbeast points. Together, they form a battlegroup. The last thing about these warrior-sorcerers is their Feat. It is a one-use trick, that can be game-changing, if popped at the right time.
- Warjacks (Warmachine) and Warbeasts (Hordes)
The big, hulking brawlers of the battlefield. They are immensely strong, crush bones and grind enemies to dust. However, an army containing only beasts or jacks are hardly viable on the field of battle (with some exceptions). Warjacks need FOCUS to operate at peak efficiency. They produce some on their own by being close to their controlling warcaster (Powering Up), but to make outstanding performance, they usually have to drain the controlling warcaster's FOCUS reserve, leaving him/her with less resources to cast spells, support troops, or defend him/herself in combat. Warbeasts suffer no such limitation. They can be forced to cause even greater mayhem among the enemy ranks. However, if a warlock does not leech the built-up fury, there's an ever-increasing chance, that a forced warbeast will frenzy, and will charge headlong at the nearest model (friend or foe). Losing control over your most prized assets is hardly a way to win battles. A warbeast has a secondary role, providing your warlock with its animus, adding it to its controller's spell list. A warlock can use that spell, until the providing beast is alive. Gargantuan Creatures and Colossi are essentially even bigger versions of the "standard" warbeasts and jacks, with a bunch of special rules. Special mention for Battle Engines - they have no distinct category, and almost as large as Gargantuan Creatures or Colossi. They usually sport the price tag and defence level of a heavy warjack, while having about the same bit-boxes, as a light.
Now, that you have those fearless wrecking balls to dominate battlefield, what is the use of basic, rank-and-file soldiers? The keyword is flexibility. Units vary in size and role; from 2-men character units to a dozen-large warband, from lowly militia to artillery teams and thundering cavalry. A warjack or beast can be only at one place at a time. A unit can spread out within the command range of its leader to cover a much bigger area. They can contest areas, or get in the way of the enemy. Some of them has the option of throwing out a large number of weaker attacks, or to combine it into fewer, stronger shots and blows. They are also more or less autonomous and independent. They do not need FOCUS of FURY to operate, but they are grateful recipients of support spells. Spells with a target restriction of model/unit affect each and every member of a unit, not just a single one of them, as it is in the case of jacks/beasts. Fast units, like cavalries can outflank enemies, and can strike from an unexpected quarter. Units with the ability to deploy far forward or set up an ambush can put early pressure on the enemy lines. Remember, even a lowly trooper can contest a scenario piece from a mighty colossal, so their role on the battlefield is often crucial.
We have few, but strong warjacks, we have numerous, but relatively weaker units - what is the use of solos, then? Utility. Almost every solo offers some form of tools, with which you can tweak your army list, fill gaps in your battle line, command troops more efficiently, or help your warnoun during the course of battle. There are also raw damage dealers among them, something, they do better than their rank-and-file equivalents. Filling up your army with an excessive amounts of solos is however, not advised. Even though many of them have multiple hit boxes, solos in general tend to be squishy, and point-for-point they are more expensive than simple units. They also cannot adequately secure an area, and can be easily bypassed. Support spells, which could affect an entire unit, will only support a single model if used on a solo. Also, some of them have abilities that help units, so including one without the unit it can support will be a waste of its full potential.
The Epos of Immoren
The great chronicle that is the story of Immoren is progressed through different iterations of each 'caster and 'lock. Two years passed between MKII and MKIII. As time goes by, some of these characters' stories progress. New versions of some of these characters appear, affected by the clashes and drama between them. The characters change and develop new abilities and affinities. Sometimes they change a lot. The story of Feora is a story of humility. A brutal career Protectorate priest who sees defeat on what was supposed to be the greatest hour of victory. The defeat shapes her ambition into devout fury. Her story is closely linked to that of the ascension to power of Grand Scrutator Severius, who becomes the leader of the Protectorate. The Warlock Tyrant Xerxis is a general of the Skorne, but when he is defeated by Kaya and Grayle and left for dead, he did not die. He was broken and maimed, but he survived, scarred and battle hardened. Now he rides a huge Rhino to war instead, and he is known as Xerxis Fury of Halaak. So he changes priorities from infantry general and warrior to being infantry and beast supporter (on an angry rhino no less). The noble hero Commander Dalin Sturgis is a swashbuckling gunslinger from Cygnar. He dies however, and pleadges his immortal soul to the Dragonfather, efficiently changing him into an undead cryxian warcaster Sturgis the Corrupted. A common misconception by new players is that the later iterations of the casters (previously known as "epic" casters) are more powerful, brutal, or easy to play than their former, but this is not the case. Both warlocks can be fielded legally, and while they are tremendously different warlocks, the general idea is that one should not be better than the other. While their priorities shift due to the stuff that happens to them, they change, rather than improve. The main role of the developing warcasters and warlocks is to develop that grand story that is the Epos of Immoren. A huge story where the main protagonists meet each other, fight each other, form friendships and suffer betrayals, and shaping a narrative for the entire world of Caen. Privateer Press has even indicated that there will be casters than may be killed off in these stories - which equates to making any future versions of that character non-existent.