It’s a War Thing

A big part of The Shell Case mandate is talking about all the many and awesome wargames that are out there in the hope of giving some well deserved companies some recognition and hopefully getting people to play a cool game that would have otherwise passed their notice.

I’ve written extensively about Games Workshop games, Spartan Games’…er…games and a variety of others, with plenty more in the pipeline to review. The elephant in the corner is Privateer Press and their game Warmachine.

Followers on Twitter and regular readers of this blog will know that I’m just not a fan. I can’t really put my finger on why, but it just doesn’t get me in my hobby spot. And I’ve really tried to like it honest I have. But because my feelings are so, the likelihood of me playing the game, let alone writing a review of Warmachine or Hordes (which appears to be a self-indulgent spin-off, ditching the infantry and just taking the big beasties) is quite slim. So, I have turned to @DocBungle to write a Warmachine Primer on what do if you want to start collecting and playing Warmachine.

Hello again, its @DocBungle doing his business all over The Shell Case again.

This time the illustrious leader has asked for a beginner’s guide to Warmachine from the good people at Privateer Press. I will try my best and hopefully it may prove useful. Well here’s hoping…

Are we sitting comfortably? Then I shall begin with some background information on the world of Warmachine and factions at play within it. Then we will quickly touch on the rules and mechanism as well as maybe showing some pretty pictures along the way 😉

The World

The Warmachine world is set upon the world of Caen, which has upon it the continent of Immoren which upon its western shores holds all the major players of the Warmachine universe.

The Continent of Immoren

 The major Warmachine area of western Immoren.

So looking at the map we can see 8 kingdoms not including the Bloodstone Marshes (they are for another time).

Now the initial kingdoms of Cygnar, Ord, Llael, and Khador are the main human kingdoms of Western Immoren, you will often hear them called the Iron Kingdoms. In the fluff they were created many years ago with the Corvis Treaties. This was signed after the humans had rid themselves of the Orgoth oppression with the help of the Colossi (which are the great granddaddy of the current Warjacks).

Now these kingdoms were generally not officially at war until Khador decided it wanted more land and went to war with Cygnar and as a product of this Khador are currently occupying Llael. While Ord is decidedly neutral in all these shenanigans, well except for all the mercenaries they have….

Now moving onto the other kingdoms;

Rhul is the home of the dwarves and are currently neutral in the war but they can be seen in the game as mercenaries who work for the highest bidders.

Ios is the home of the elves, now generally no-one knows much about them. Well until they got a touch angry and want some Retribution for their dying Gods and blame humanity for it. They are now ready to bring the pain.

Protectorate of Menoth was once part of Cygnar; however it has broken away and is now at war with flaming everyone but mainly Cygnar. This is a religious war based upon the Protectorates population following the Menite faith which is generally at odds with the Cygnar’s Morrowan government and King. Although both are recognized religions (Menoth being the creator, while Morrow is a twin raised to god-hood) the Menites are generally a moody bunch.

Cryx is a group of islands off the coast of Cygnar. This is an undead kingdom ruled Lord Toruk or “The Dragonfather” (he sires all of the dragons of Caen). Here you will find zombie pirates and green goo-galore. Generally they are the stuff of legend and nightmares but these nightmares are real.


That is one BIG dragon


So now we have covered where we are playing these games it’s time to look at the actual gaming factions. From the 8 Kingdoms of western Immoren we get 6 playable factions and they are described below;

This faction is the richest and most technologically advanced human nation present in Warmachine. This means that they have some of the best weaponry around, from very good guns to extensive use of electricity to cause damage

What does this mean in gaming turns?

  • Decent shooting
  • Lots of electricity
  • Middle of the road Jacks
  • Lots of toys (Squires etc.)


They are the imperialists faction based in the cold harsh north (think Russians). They are straight to the point and blunt people with no finesse really.

What this means gaming wise?

  • Very tough jacks that can take a pounding
  • Lots of AoE shooting (so not accurate)
  • No Arc nodes or Light Jacks
  • Generally slow-moving before spell boosts
  • Ice and Snowing

A nation of devout religious practitioners (re: nutcases) that will happily sacrifice themselves for the good of the Protectorate.

What this means gaming wise?

  • Generally low stat jacks that need help, but once they get it are very nasty
  • Combos and ordering of spells/buffs are important
  • Some elite troops with lots of low-cost cannon fodder as well
  • Fire. Lots and lots of fire.

All about the necromancers who worship Toruk. They are all about being evil and dastardly.

What this means gaming wise?

  • Glass cannon Jacks
  • Pirates
  • Lots of undead cannon fodder
  • Corrosion
  • Stealth and generally debuffing the enemy

A real mixed bag of options from pirates to dwarfs to exiled heroes. You don’t have something in your army chances are the mercs will fill a gap.

What this means gaming wise?

  • Pick N Mix of the Warmachine world
  • Pirates
  • Dwarfs
  • Crazy Cygnar exiles
  • Faction gap fillers

A secret angry force from the elven nation of Ios trying to save their Gods by killing all human mages. So lots of unique technology and a mix of stealthy and just smash face elves.

What this means gaming wise?

  • Unique Jacks (force fields)
  • Telekinetic shenanigans
  • Angry elves
  • Mix of stealthy elves and well armoured elves
  • Lots of jack/warcaster based spells (they hate human mages after all)

How the game plays

So now we have done the basic fluff and factions although very quickly now onto the actual game.

Game Mechanism

Simply put everything is based around 2D6. So you want to hit something use the right stat + 2D6 and if you beat the opposition stat with the total it is successful.

Now there are various in-game effects/abilities/spells that can change the number of dice you roll or change the number of your stat or their stat. So it is not completely set in stone is the 2D6 but generally that is what you use.

Next we will be having a look at the different types of miniatures you will come across in the game.



Here is where things start to get bit more complicated. Your caster is your general, main magic user and chief reason you play your army in a certain way. There are plenty of choices and all do something different.

Khador Kommander Strakhov

Focus – This is set number of ‘tokens’ that you generate at the start of your turn generally you will get between 5-10 focus depending on your caster. Now you can spend these to pay for a spell you want to cast (a number of focus per spell) or you can give some to your Warjacks (more on that later) or you can boost your dice rolls for anything (mentioned above) you are trying to do; hitting, wounding etc.

And as a bonus if you don’t spend all of your allotment this will help boost your armour and so make it harder for you to take damage.

NOTE: Although your Caster is a superhuman anything can still in theory hurt them and if you lose your caster then it is game over. So protect them and do it well.

Feat – This is a once per game ‘free’ spell of sorts that can really help swing the battle in your favour. They will tend to be more powerful than a normal spell and are unique to the caster unlike some spells.

Control Area – This is double your casters focus amount and is important not only for feats but giving focus to jacks and some spells. The reason for this it that Jacks can only be controlled probably if they are within this area of your caster and feats will only affect what is inside this area as well.


 Retribution Phoenix

The giant robots you come across and form part of the massive destruction to be had in Warmachine. So what makes them so fearsome, well they are big, hit very hard and compared to other things in their respective factions can take a real beating.


Cryx Deathjack

As mentioned in the Warcaster section they need to be kept in the control area to be effective as they cannot receive and use focus if they are outside this ‘bubble’

Focus use – Like casters they can use focus to boost both to hit and to damage. But also you will need to spend focus to make your jacks charge and run otherwise they may not keep up with the rest of your army.

Damage grid – Unlike everything else in the game the Jacks have a damage grid (1-6) with boxes to tick off when damage is done. Once all these have been filled then your Jack is scrap.


You may notice some boxes have letters in them, these correspond to various parts of the body; arms for example. Once all these particular boxes are ticked the Jack suffers a reduction in ability.

Example damage grid


(History Lesson – There was a time back in Mk1 before Mk2 of the rules that infantrymachine was running wild. What this meant was that Jacks were not as deadly as they should have been and infantry was king. Privateer Press addressed this and the balance is now much more even.)


Total War

These are your units of warriors that fight alongside the Casters and Jacks to bring glory to their faction. It is an amazing mix of choices can be found in each faction but generally they can be split into the following; Support, generic, elite.

  • Support units – These tend to be small & squishy and offer support to others, usually the Jacks as most mechanics fall into this zone.
  • Generic – These will tend to be cheap units that can be large in number and usually offer the role of cannon fodder / sacrificial lambs but also more of a Jack of all trades unit.
  • Elite – These units will tend to be very specialised in their abilities or just hit like a freight train OR take a hit from said train, they might do both. As you would expect you will pay through the nose for them.

You will find that a unit may not directly help you win a game but they will usually be very helpful in getting your Jacks/Caster in a position to win.

Unit attachments – These are additions you can add to some units (mostly a champion and Standard Bearer), all of them greatly increase the effectiveness of the unit they attach to by covering a weakness or adding something else to their abilities. Something else to note is the use of what everyone knows as a mini-feat like the casters feat it is only for one use and only affects the unit but they help a lot but timing is key.


These are individuals that can be used and fall into similar categories as can be found in units but with a great amount in the support section. You will find a great mix of support as well with any of the other 3 types (Caster, Jack and Unit) being given some sort of support from a solo.

You will also find a lot of named solos in the each faction which lets you delve more into the stories of Warmachine as you can play with characters that have been seen within the story.

Something to note about Solos and Units is that they DO NOT benefit from focus like Jacks do, so no boosting present for them although they may have other rules which offer something similar ;).

Hopefully that taster of the miniatures has wet the appetite

Starting in the game

Now the important bit getting into the game and setting up.

This is simple you need the Warmachine Prime rulebook this has all the rules you will need and also some information on the factions and the rules for some of the miniatures (the reason for only some of the miniatures is historical as the miniatures present in Prime are those first released by Privateer Press). There is also some brief history about the world and each faction in the book.

After this all you need is the miniatures as each one comes with a stat card with all the rules you need to play them (or you can just buy the cards and proxy). If you are unsure what to pick you can always go to Battle College for help or go to the official forums or visit me at The Shell Case forums.

I would also recommend the new 2-person starter set for those wishing for everything in one box. Or if you already have friends/opponents into Warmachine (or you don’t like Khador or the Protectorate) than the starter box sets for each faction are an amazing (and cheap) way of getting started.

Now if you want to learn more about your chosen faction than is present in the rulebook than the Forces book is for you. Not only does it give more information on the history (extending from the rulebook) but it also gives you some extra non-rule based information about all the miniatures.

I will really drive this home in my opinion you do NOT need the forces book to play the game but if you want to submerge yourself in the world of Wamachine as most gamers would then the forces book for you chosen faction is very much on the to-buy list.

Now for those unfamiliar with Privateers mechanism for releasing miniatures they release a new book every so often which extends a story arc they have started and also show all the new miniatures they have added to each faction. But as I have mentioned if you just want to play buying the miniatures gives you the card so you can play them without the new book.

I will say this you would be mad not to get the books they are superb pieces of art and story writing never mind the shiny things they have in them 😀

The Ending and Checklist.

Well there you go; hopefully this little intro to Warmachine has been helpful and given those unsure of it a bit more info so they can decide to give it a go. Any questions fire them my way on The Shell Case forums.

And finally a little checklist to get you started;

  • Quick-start rules (free on Privateer Press website).
  • Warmachine Prime.
  • Starter box sets.
  • Stat cards for chosen faction.
  • Have fun.

4 thoughts on “It’s a War Thing

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