Start Collecting Warmachine / Hordes - The Start Collecting Series Gets Real Competitive

Published: August 15, 2018 12:00 PM /


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Start Collecting moves into the competitive world of wargaming with Warmachine and Hordes. Start Collecting is a series about beginner gamers, starting out in the world of wargames, possibly with some experience in other tabletop games, video games, or no related experience at all. Maybe you have experience in other wargames but don't know where to get started with a new system. Regardless of your experience, knowledge, or even who you are as a person, Start Collecting is for you. Wargaming and tabletop games are for everyone and our aim is to break down any barriers to entry, so join us and start collecting.

Our Start Collecting journey started with Warhammer 40,000 and Infinity, then when we decided to add another wargame to our journey, the choice was obvious: we needed to enter the world of Warmachine and see how competitive the system really is. Warmachine and Hordes are the same rules set, packaged around two different settings, one steampunk-esque, the other fantasy. Both games are completely compatible and players can play factions from either game against each other.

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In Warmachine, players use powerful Warcasters who control powerful steam-powered armored Warjacks. In Hordes, players control powerful wizards who command warbeasts and other forces into battle.

Two-player starter sets for both games are available, which are great introductions to the systems, but if you're sure you want to get into Warmachine and/or Hordes, there is another path. Both systems have Battlegroup boxes available for all factions, which have everything you need for one player to start their Warmachine/Hordes journey. So players can either buy a Battlegroup each and go straight to it, one player can buy two Battleboxes for Warmachine or Hordes if they want enough miniatures for two-players or are undecided which faction they want to collect, or players can follow our journey and get one Battlebox for Warmachine and one for Hordes. Taking our options gave us a solid starting point for both systems and also gives us enough miniatures over the two forces to play two-player games with someone else if they want to try it out before buying themselves.

When we started speaking to Privateer Press about the series, they asked, "so what do you want to play?" And honestly, looking over the available factions for each game, we wanted to play everything (except Elves, never Elves).

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I asked around about the different factions and have summarized as best I can what I found out:


  • Cygnar - Good guys - shooty
  • Menoth - Religious - great support units and boosts
  • Khador - Enemy of Cygnar - slow, tough and hard-hitting
  • Cryx - Undead - horde army
  • Scyrah - Elves - hard-hitting, but weaker armor
  • Orboros - Nature based druids - very maneuverable
  • Trollbloods - Trolls! - slow and very resilient
  • Skorne - Blood magic warriors - slow but very heavily armored
  • Everblight - Dragon descendants - very fast and hard hitting
So, after looking at the pros an cons of each faction, we then opted for the factions we liked the miniatures the most for, which were Cygnar for Warmachine and Circle Orboros for Hordes.

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The Battlegroup boxes really are a great way to get into each game, and the boxes we received contained the following:


  • Major Beth Maddox - Warcaster
  • Ironclad - Heavy Warjack
  • Firefly - Light Warjack
  • Lancer - Light Warjack
  • Basic Training Guide
  • Introductory Guide
  • Warmachine: Prime - Rules Digest
  • 18" Ruler
  • 4 Six Sided Dice (D6)
  • 10 Focus Tokens
  • 3 Spell Tokens
  • A Fold Obstacle Card
  • Battle Map
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Circle Orboros

  • Tanith the Feral Song - Warlock
  • Pureblood Warpbeast = Heavy Warbeast
  • Gorax Rager - Light Warbeast
  • Wild Argus - Light Warbeast
  • Basic Training Guide
  • Introductory Guide
  • Hordes: Primal - Rules Digest
  • 18" Ruler
  • 4 Six Sided Dice (D6)
  • 15 Fury Tokens
  • 3 Spell Tokens
  • A Fold Obstacle Card
  • Battle Map
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Games of Warmachine/Hordes play with players alternately completing all stages of their turn, before passing onto their opponent, which means that a player will activate all of their units and then their opponent will activate all of theirs. Most of the action focuses on the Warcaster or Warlock, as each turn they are given Focus/Fury counters equal to their Focus stat. Any Warjacks or Warpbeasts within command range of the Warcaster/Warlock also get a focus token, so keeping your forces in a tight pack allows everyone to operate effectively. Focus is used to boost rolls, cast and maintain spells or give extra attacks.

Combat is an extremely straight-forward system, simply rolling 2D6 (two six-sided dice) and adding the score to the ability being used for the attack (depending of if it is a ranged, melee or spell). This can be boosted by spending Focus/Fury and the total result of the combined dice roll plus stat is compared to the DEF value of the target, if it exceeds, the target is hit and a damage roll is made.

The Damage roll is similar to the attack roll, with the attacker rolling 2D6 (which can again be boosted with Focus/Fury) and adds the Power of the weapon (and the Strength of the attack in Melee) and compares the result to the Armour of the defender. If the score is higher than the defenders armour, they take a damage point for every point the roll exceeds their stat.

Most individual units have a single wound, so are removed after taking damage, Warcasters and Warlocks have a wound track or multiple wounds, which are recorded by marking their stat card. Warjacks and Warpbeasts however have a damage track of multiple locations, which detail integral systems like arm weapons, movement systems and the cortex, which affects their focus points. Damage to Warjacks and Warpbeasts is done by rolling a D6 and recording the amount of damage points done to the line that matches the number on the track. If the track fills up, damage is done to the line on the right, if at any point a letter is completely covered, that system is critically damaged.

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The damage track for the Ironclad, Cygnar Heavy Warjack.

There is obviously a lot more to Warmachine/Hordes, including moving units of troops, spells, feats and abilities, but they all flow around the solid system of straight-forward combat. The Warmachine/Hordes rules system is refined around its competitive nature, with minimal issues in regards to timings and action. Warmachine is an easy system to learn in terms of basic rules, but there are lots of abilities, some individual to specific units that make the game complex beyond the standard rules, but they are also what give it depth. So while there is a lot to take in for new players and beginner wargamers, there are a lot less issues in terms of event and action timings and rules contradictions, specifically because this has been designed as a competitive game.

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While some miniatures come with unit cards, all the unit cards are available from Privateer Press' Card Library and can be selected and downloaded in group PDF formats, which makes putting together your army list extremely easy. As an example, here's a link to the PDF of our Cygnar Battlegroup. The card database can also be used to check if you are using the most up to date rules for your units.

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Next time in our Start Collecting Warmachine series we will look at how we've got on with out two Battlegroups and our plans for developing our armies from the Battlegroups. If you have any tips for us, let us know in the comments below.

Are you a Warmachine or Hordes player? What do you play? What do you think we need to add to our Battlegroups now? Let us know in the comments below.


These copies of the Warmachine and Hordes Battlegroups were provided by Privateer Press.

Have a tip, or want to point out something we missed? Leave a Comment or e-mail us at

A Potts TechRaptor
| Senior Tabletop Writer

Adam is a Tabletop Specialist for TechRaptor. He started writing for TechRaptor in 2017 and took over as Tabletop Editor in 2019 and has since stood down… More about Adam