What is Warmachine and Hordes?

Warmachine and Hordes is a game of full metal monstrous combat, made by Privateer Press, and often referred to as WM/H, WMH, or Warmachine (being the older of the two parts of the game). 

This title comes from the two subsystems of the rules that the main factions of the game use – the Warmachine factions of the civilised nations employ Warjacks fuelled by the Focus resource produced by their Warcasters, while the tribal Hordes factions drive great Warbeasts into battle, whose bestial Fury empowers their shamanic Warlocks. Don’t let this distinction fool you, though – any faction in the game can fight against any other, with full support for this in the rules!

The game is centered around one powerful piece, which have a wide variety of different names like Warcaster, Warlock, and more besides, but all share the same common traits – they employ mighty magics and tactical prowess to defeat the foes of their cause, and can command mighty beings, whether of steel or flesh, to lay waste to all before them. 

This model, or in some cases group of models, represents you as the player on the battlefield. Their influence over the course of a battle and the consequences of their death can be compared to the Queen and King in chess, with their mighty once-per-game Feats and array of arcane abilities determining the course of battle, while an Assassination of these arcanists by enemy forces leads to an immediate game loss in most formats of play. 

As such, a game of Warmachine and Hordes is never fully determined until defeat is accepted – the dynamic of risk and reward inherent in the use of these powerful pieces is one of the core elements of the game, and those who master it will get to savour the sweet taste of victory.

These fighters bring with them a Battlegroup, made up of great weapons of war. For Warmachine Factions, these take the form of the robotic Warjacks, and in the wilds where the Hordes Factions lie, primal Warbeasts are bound by iron will. 

These are invariably powerful pieces on the battlefield, armed with a stunning array of massive weaponry befitting their size and importance, and with the aid of their Battlegroup Controller – the Warcaster or Warlock in command of them – they can match the martial heights of any on the battlefield, crushing their foes with the might of muscle and metal. Light, Heavy, and Colossal Warjacks contend with Light, Heavy, and Gargantuan Warbeasts, forming distinct classes distinguished by their resilience, agility, and destructive power.

The remainder of your army can be comprised of Units, Solos, Battle Engines, and Structures. Units represent forces that fight with coherency on the battlefield, whether it be a disciplined regiment of Steelhead Halberdiers or a savage Gatorman Posse

Solos are single or small groups of warriors that fight alone, such as gaggles of Cask Imps or legendary commanders like Kovnik Jozef Grigorovich

Battle Engines are great machines of war not powered by Focus or Fury, such as the sleek Dawnguard Trident or the bizarre Throne of Everblight, and Structures are similarly huge but immobile constructions fought over on the battlefield, such as the sacred Shrine of the Lawgiver or the twisted Infernal Gate.

Armies in the game are constructed using a Points-based system. Warjacks, Warbeasts, Units, Solos, Battle Engines, and Structures all have a cost in Points that reflects their usage on the battlefield. Poorly equipped and disposable Mechanithralls would have a low cost, while a mighty Gargantuan like the Mountain King would cost more to balance its power. 

A game’s size will be reflected in its Army Points, a pre-agreed total that determines what size of force players wish to play. As Warjacks and Warbeasts are at the centre of the game, each Warcaster and Warlock comes with an amount of Battlegroup points that are exclusively used to pay for these models. 

A player can go beyond this allocation into their given Points level to take even more of these huge battlers, but will always have some at a minimum. 

As an example; 

Commander Coleman Stryker, a Cygnaran Warcaster, has 30 Warjack Points.

If he plays in a 75 point game, he could spend 12 points to take an Ironclad Heavy Warjack, 10 points for a Lancer Light Warjack, and 36 points for a Stormwall Colossal Warjack, for a total of 48 points. 

After spending his 30 Warjack Points, and paying for the 18 points of excess with his Army Points, he would have a total of 57 points remaining to spend as he pleased between any other options. 

However, if he wished to take a massive force of Trencher Infantry, he would only be allowed to spend a maximum of the 75 point allocation for the game to do so, with his 30 Battlegroup Points being reserved exclusively for Warjacks.

In most standard games, an army will be played using a Theme Force to guide its creation. These Theme Forces reflect the composition of forces that fight together in the lore of the game, and provide a set choice of options in exchange for story-driven abilities and the ability to take some models without paying Points for them, known as Theme Benefits and Requisitions respectively. 

These Requisition options scale with the size of the game – a small force may only get one free option, while a larger force at the standard level of play would have access to more. A Theme Benefit generally takes the form of an ability given to a group of models within the Theme Force, or a boon to the nature of the fight. 

For example;

In the Dark Menagerie Theme Force, Grymkin models with access to Corpse Tokens get to start with one, while the Llaelese Resistance Theme Force allows the placing of a Rubble terrain piece in a strategic location, and the Magnum Opus Theme Force lets its player reroll their starting roll.

The rules of any given model can be found on its card. This contains the stat scores of the model, its points cost, artwork displaying it in battle, and its abilities. There are, broadly speaking, a few types of stat card in the game, and a breakdown of what you should expect to see is presented on the images below.

The majority of games of Warmachine and Hordes are played with the Steamroller tournament format, though several options exist for league-based and narrative play – a huge selection of those can be found here! 

The Steamroller format is an official Privateer Press publication, updated on a yearly basis with community input, and is a simple-to-understand system based on the taking and holding of areas of the board. 

For more information, check out our Guide to Steamroller!

The game of Warmachine and Hordes currently has fifteen unique Factions, each with its own Theme Forces and selections of models. To learn more about them, read our KnightsMachine Faction Primers, and if one catches your eye, be sure to check out our KnightsMachine Buyer’s Guides!