-By: Elliott (PG_E2lio2tR)

So, you have had your demo game. You decided you want to play Warmachine over Hordes. Now comes the hard question. What should be your first faction? This question will lead to many, many others as you try to pick out which battle box to buy first. In this article I hope to help with some of these questions. Some will be easy to define, others not so much. I will share some common questions I ask new players as they start to make this choice.


Have you played a miniature game before and if so what type of army do you like? If not, what did you enjoy in the demo the most?


The first question I usually ask is about player experience and what they like to play in other game systems. Why I find this to be an important question to ask is because each faction plays differently and will require a mindset to enjoy playing. Do you like units that work with one another to produce a bigger impact on the board then they could on their own? Do you like to mess with your opponent’s models and make them weaker or change where they are located on the table? Do you want a horde of models on the table or just the elite troops running with your big stompy robots? Range or Melee focused?

It is true that all factions can do most play styles to some degree but not every faction can do it as well as others. I have many times watched new players want to run Jack heavy Khador, but feel frustrated because they can not get the army to work and are limited in casters to make this play style work. The key to this is to learn the different factions and what their strengths and weaknesses are. Ask your fellow players or the Press Ganger if one is around. You will be hard pressed to find someone in the community that is not willing to talk to you about the game.


Which army’s looks appeal to you?

The next question is what army looks the coolest to you? You will be spending a lot of time playing games with these models. If you enjoy the hobby side of the game, you will spend even more time painting them. Do you like the look of rotten corpses mixed with mechanical parts of Cryx or the electric, gun slinging style of Cygnar? Is the fire and robes of Menoth your thing, or does the ice & brutality of Khador attract you? There is no right or wrong answer to this one. It is fully based on your taste and what you like.


What to buy first?


I always suggest to newer players that they start with one of the main factions of the game. There are several reasons for this. First is that they have access to a premade battle box. This will help them get a good feel for what the faction offers but also the core of the game as a whole. These boxes are also a great deal and help them start playing quickly. Each comes with a warcaster, enough warjacks to use up all of the Warjacks Points provided by the warcaster as well as tokens and a smaller version of the rule book. If you are getting into the game with a friend, then by buying two of these you will be able to start playing almost right out of the box. You will just need to build the models first.


Let’s take a closer look at each of the main five Warmachine factions.


The boys in blue, Cygnar, are the Jacks of all trades but the masters of none (except lightning, they do that quite well). You can find a way to play any style using Cygnar but you will always find that other factions are able to do so better. The style that they excel at is a balanced force of troops, jacks and support. Cygnar has access to elite melee units like the Stormblades and Sword Knights,, ranged units like the long gunners, and more common troops like Trenchers. They also have access to several types of Gun Mages. These models combine magic and guns to cause devastating effects that can be changed to help with what the situation calls for.

The Cygnar Warcasters offer very different play styles from one another. From the assassination potential of Striker2 to the board control of Hailey2. Other factions may be geared more to these styles, but Cygnar gives you the flexibility to play all of these styles within one faction.  


When you hear the phrase “apply axe to face”, you should think of Khador. Khador is built to endure weathering attacks to get their models into combat. With the lack of actual light warjacks with, you will usually find an army running two or three non-character heavy warjacks, and a good amount of troops to do the bulk of the work.  With access to heavily armored Man-o-War shocktroopers to the nimble and deadly Kayaza Assassins, you will have access to models able to get the job done when applied right and with the right support for your caster. The Shocktroppers for example are able to get up to ARM23 and become immune to blast damage when Iron Flesh is applied to them while in Shieldwall. Add their new command attachment to them, and now you have a unit that also can not be knocked down or pushed. Place them on an objective or in a zone and your opponent will have to work to get them off it.

Even though Khador is geared a bit more for melee, there are several range options as well.. From the scalpel of the Widowmakers to the blunt hammer of Winter guard mortar crew. Most of the time your range attacks will come in the form of AOE attacks. The mortar crew as well as several of the jacks you have acess to have AOE ranged attacks. This allows you to dictate how close your opponent can bunch their models together, as well as, having a chance to damaging multiple models with one attack.


With the cleansing power of flame doing their bidding, the Protectorate of Menoth (PoM) brings their god’s wrath to their enemies.  The best way I have ever heard PoM described was a knot that every turn you need to untangle in the right way to get the best results. What this means is that every model is in the list for a reason. You will have your support models that buff your attacking models. If you forget to do one key activation before starting your attack, you will not get the results you want. An example of this is the PoM jacks with the Choir of Menoth. On the way in to battle, the Choir will protect your warjacks with protections from either ranged attacks or from enemy spells. When it is time to get into the mix, they will make your warjacks do more damage. Forgetting to do any of these effects  will hamper your effort to get the most out of your warjacks.

They are also the faction of No. As in telling your opponent “No, you can not do that”. There are ways within the faction to control what they can cast at or shot. You can even find ways to dictate where they can move their models. There is a lot of ways to control the game with in this faction. It is not an easy faction to master, but once you do, it is not an easy faction to beat.


If you like shambling hordes of undead and spell slinging casters then Cryx may be your faction. This faction has access to cheap Mechanithralls and harder hitting Bane Warriors. It is easy to build a list around swarming your opponent with a lot of cheap and dangerous troops. Another way to think of this faction is as glass cannons. They hit hard but when hit they crumble. It will be important to pick the battles on the field so that you can control the flow of battle in your favor.

Their casters are geared to casting spells to help control the impact of your opponent’s army. Debuffing is a strong theme in the spell lists. There are several commons spells that will decrease ARM or DEF of models so that your weaker models will hit as hard as other factions elite models. A lot of the casters in this faction like to sit in the back and cast spells through any of the plentiful and cheap arch nodes available to them. There are several that enjoy getting into the mix as well, but when they do, they want to make sure that everything is in place so that they can get the job done with little risk to themselves.


Retribution of Scyra (Ret) are the angry elves of this story. They have access to common grunt troops in the House guard as well as more elate ones like the Dawnguard and Mage hunters. They also have a few ways to manipulate the board. Battle mages can move your opponent’s models around the table with their range attacks to help bring models closer or move them out of the way to open up charge lanes for your more hard hitting models to get to what was supposed to be protected that turn. The Mage hunter in Ret. all have Blessed weapon ability as well, which makes any defensive spells pointless versus them.

Some of the warjacks in this faction come with a force field, which helps protect them. The field must be fully damaged before damage is applied to the jacks grid. These jacks can also use allocated focus to repair this field as well.


Why not Mercenaries (Mercs) or Convergence of Cyriss(CoC)?


Well this is mostly because of the mechanics of running these two factions. Here is why:


Mercs is really a collection three different types of armies: Human caster based ones, Rhulic caster based, and Cephalex passed ones.  Let’s take a moment to talk about the first two before moving on to the Cephalex. Rhulic casters can only use warjacks that are classified as Rhulic in the battle group.. They do not have the option to use any of the other style of warjacks in their battlegroups. Human caster based ones can only use non-Rhulic jacks in the caster’s battlegroup. The rest of the army can be interchanged between these two types of caster groups, but the need to have two separate groups of warjacks just to run all of the casters for your army can be a little frustrating when you are first starting out.

One of the reasons I like Mercs for a second faction is because you have already picked up some Mercs for your first faction to run them alongside each other. Over the course of learning the game, you will want to include a unit or solo from the Merc faction just to augment your main faction’s weak point. Because of this, you will have a few units & solos that will work for your main faction already. All you will have to do is pick up a warcaster you like and a few jacks to run alongside it and you have the start of your new faction of soldiers for pay. It makes the transition a bit easier to do.

Now Cephalex. In order to play any of the units, solos, or casters labeled as Cephalex you need to run them in a theme force. This will change and control how you build your army. This will not help you learn the basics of list building. This is a skill that will help you in the long run of playing this game.  Like the issues with the other types of Merc casters, they require certain warjacks. In this case their warjacks are called Monstrosities. They also have a fully different set of rules to remember. Monstrosities have different rules when it comes to focus use and do not benefit from Power Up. I won’t get into these rules right now. That is a topic for a whole other post. If you want to find out more about them in the meantime, rules for Monstrosities and the theme force can be found in Prime (including the one that comes in the battle boxes).

Convergence runs into a lot of the same issues as Cephalex. Their warjacks, called Vectors, handle focus differently. They do not get to use Power up but can transfer used focus to other Vectors with in range. They also do not have their own MAT or RAT score. This is all dependant on which Warcaster you bring. This is just another level that can get confusing while learning the game as a whole when you are first starting. Another issue with CoC is that they are what is known as a limited faction. What this means is that they will not get new releases as often as other factions do. You will have access to a very small stable of models to do the same thing on the table while other factions have access to two or three different units to perform the same role.  They are also a very order of operations focused faction. These traits can become very frustrating even to experienced players.

This is not saying if these factions are really calling to you and are what you want to play, you don’t play them. Just know what you are getting into before you get to deep into the faction. I would suggest finding an experienced player and asking to proxy the army for a game or two before starting the faction. This way you will know how they work and what you like.  
If you get yourself stuck between two factions, then find yourself a Press Ganger or another player in the area for help. Ask them if you can proxy the battle boxes of the two factions and see what one you enjoy the most. This is one of those times where the community is very useful. Ask questions. Explain why you are interested in the factions. This will help vets help you in making these first steps into the game.