1st Turn = Win? Warmachine-Hordes 2017 SR Meta

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Players are starting to talk about how powerful first turn is in the 2017 Steam Roller Meta.  Let’s talk pros and cons.

2017 Steamroller was a big shake up to the meta compared to the 2016.  Before the game was won by whoever got 5 points first.  Now it isn’t the first to 5 but the first to get 5 points ahead  or whoever has the most points at the end of the game.

Why is Going First so Good?

I’ve has been asking around and most players agree that first turn is a big advantage in SR2017.  Here are some reasons why:


You can place your upkeeps before the enemy is in range:  A lot of casters have limited resources. Casting upkeeps is expensive and will usually take most if not all of your stack if you have more then 1 spell.  For example, Primus Jalaam has Warpath, Artifice of Deviation, and another defensive upkeep – totals all of his stack.  Getting these buffs out before he has to spend fury to boost/far strike means he will be doing decent damage starting turn 2.  If he has to wait till the bottom of 1, enemies are already in range and he will have to make a decision to boost shots or get upkeeps out.


Combined with Theme scenario deployment zone buffs, on first turn you can bully zones.  With the addition of themes we see some adding 2″ to deployment zones.  Meaning you are only down 1″ of deployment to a theme that doesn’t have this bonus.  As most zones are only 18″ up on average you can see that you can run into zones turn 1 leaving very little time for the opponent to react.  The opponent has to either:

A: Let you have that zone if they can’t head to head the unit in that zone.

B: Run into the 1st players threat range to have a chance of holding the zone at bottom of 2, or…

C: Feed the zone models.

While Warmachine is a reactionary game it really doesn’t leave many options for your opponent.


Final Thought:

We think the meta is reflecting the change as scenario casters are becoming more popular. For Example Axis’ feat can cripple a melee army and with 12+ shieldguards it has little to worry from shooting.  Zaadesh2 has hard hitting battlegroups with clouds that keep it safe from shooting.  It is almost at the point that ranged units have very little reason to still be in the game.

~What do you think?  Is going 1st really good or are people just whining? Share in the comments below.

  • euansmith

    Couldn’t the first point be addressed by allowing everyone to have a round of casting before Turn One, limited to upkeep spells?

    • Bad Meat

      Then people with the free upkeep themes will be butthurt that their theme is being stepped on.

    • Apocryphus

      That’s not all that necessary. The game is designed to minimize player interaction turn 1 to allow for posistioning and being able to prepare for an alpha or move to take scenario. I’ve never had a first game turn where I haven’t had a chance to cast the spells I need.

      • ZeeLobby

        100% this. Positioning is super important. Adjusting to your opponent decides games in WMH. Units can’t charge/shoot across the entire table.

    • marxlives

      A lot of the stuff in this is really a non issue on the scene as Apocryphus points out below.

      Going first is a big advantage and the game acknowledges this. 2nd turn players get 3 inches more of deployment when you go second and you choose table sides. It only becomes an issue with TO have tournaments with symmetrical tables rather than almost symmetrical terrain on the table. A couple of pieces that offer benefits/deficits to a player should be on one side of the table and not the other. If you have a table that is completely symmetrical, even in a competitive scene, you are erasing the entire benefit of going second which is choosing table sides.

      Shooting is where it has always been. Artillery pieces and knock down, push, or control the board while infantry squads are more anti-infantry than warjack/beast hunters. Which is where it needs to be even with CRA’s having a bipedal robot that weighs as much as a tank running at you should be pretty futile. On the scene and even the YT games for major tournaments everything is a little combined arms now where even melee alpha strike forces have ranged elements in them.

      There is an issue with WM right now but it has nothing that dovetails onto the Alpha Strike 1st turn wins going on in 8th, like this article is attempting to do. The biggest issue with WM right now is players adjusting to the game being a digital property with analog models. CID keeps the balance really tight but at the same time things are really fluid and most of the lore is distributed amongst digital resources like No Quarter Prime and novels rather than a big book update. So the question becomes, as a gamer what is more important. Everything is more static but imbalanced or everything is more balanced but fluid?

  • Apocryphus

    First turn is important if you have an Alpha list, but some lists actually do want to go second. Getting to choose table side can be a big advantage too, because you can force your opponent’s force to deal with terrain their list my not be able to handle well. As for “ranged units have no place in the game”, that is pretty typical BoLS rhetoric. Plenty of lists are still extremely vulnerable to gun lines and the presence of Shield Guards simply reigns those lists in and prevents them from being end all be all lists. This isn’t 40k :/ Cloud Walls are better defense against melee centric armies than gun lines as any competitive gun line is either going to ignore the clouds entirely or be able to mitigate their impact and find a way to shoot you anyway. One of the problem casters right now is Nemo3 because he can effectively shoot around things with electro leaps and his feat makes it all the worse. WMH has a meta that is constantly in flux and every question has an answer.

    • marxlives

      That is true, I dialed in a Sorscha 2 theme that is pretty gun heavy since the battle engine CID and I played against some really great CoC lists and it is like the most exhausting, intense, and stupid fun attrition game ever. (CoC) I bring guys back, (me) I kill guys and round and round she goes. Then again, I back up my guns with some really hard hitting melee jacks. The biggest issue I have is determining how I use Beast 09. Sometimes he’s a jack killer, others he eats medium base infantry.

      • Apocryphus

        You’re on the CID? Oh no, you’ve probably seen me spew plenty of nonsense on there! >.<

        Yeah, I find recursion is the most effective defense against shooting.
        Playing Cryx and Grymkin, any advantage I can get to close with the enemy before I vanish in a hail of bullets/rockets/electricity/fire is welcome. I've ended games with a Death Knell on full corpses (all from my models) even after having loaded a Skin & Moans turns prior, with the same number of Dread Rots I started the game with simply due to recursion. It's a good feeling. :3

        • marxlives

          Ya, I am still learning to play against Grimkyn and with them. Skin and Moans + Death Knell = A long day. It is not impossible there is something to be said about jamming any large base model and setting up your own heavies for the point exchange game, but ya #fthatguy!

          • Apocryphus

            Depends on the caster. If it’s The Child, it’s generally a short day if she gets the alpha. 🙂 I actually think Khador has some great tools for building a combined arms list. Their shooting can bring a lot of hurt where it matters and heavy lifting, durable beaters help round out the kit. Grymkin definately has a learning curve to it, but Khador always gives me a good fight.

          • marxlives

            For the core factions in Warmachine (Cygnar, Protectorate, Cryx, Khador) There are a lot of options for sure. I remember when I first started back in Mk1, Khador ranged was a joke. Then in Mk2 it was Winter Guard Death Star but not to many in the way of options. Right now the core factions are in a good spot. Many different ways to fight. Each core faction has a melee, shooting, alpha strike, or combined arms build but they behave differently. Khador and the other core factions definitely have a ranged game but each one has its own style and feels different from the other.

            I have not had the pleasure of playing against the child YET but her reputation precedes her for sure. Right now my casters are only the Heretic and King of Nothing. I want to grab the Dreamer next though, just for the Khador Mouse.

          • Apocryphus

            Beware The Child, she’ll throw a P+S 23 Skin & Moans at you from 14″ with a free charge and 5 Fury while screaming “DIE DIE DIE!” (or maybe that’s just me) The Khador mouse is awesome and if a Khador player ever wanted to use it as a WG leader, I’d let them.

            The core factions have a lot of options for pretty much any playstyle for sure. To your testament, I played a Slaughter Fleet yesterday with the new Scharde Pirates and blew a bunch of Khador ponies off the table with them, so even Cryx can shoot you down now. The myriad of different playstyles available to each faction is what holds my interest about the game over 40k in a lot of cases and it’s nice to be able to own obe faction and be able to build whatever suits your fancy with it.

          • marxlives

            I think the difference between 40k and WMH is that they are deep in different way. 40k has a great horizontal range in strategy and the keywords mechanic is kind of a doubling down of this. While WHM is vertically deep, you get into a faction and you see how far the crabbit hole goes.

            Not one is better than the other, honestly if GW opened up crowd sourced playtesting and just move things like unit profiles to free digital resources like Infinity, I think it would solve a lot of issues while being a horizontal force building game. It works with Mantic and with the Command Point system from Warpath, 40k and Warpath are pretty much the same system.

            Whether your force building game is horizontal or vertical in structure each is viable. 40k does offer players a lot of faction mixing and CSM, cultists, and daemons and that has something to offer. At the same time WMH is digging into a faction and that has something to offer too.

            I get it, I am way more into the vertical force building and exploring a single faction over the horizontal approach. I have been playing Khador since Mk.1 and I am still learning new stuff even with old casters like pVlad.

            I saw the Child on Wargamer Girl’s YT vid and I would definitely charge some very unfortunate winterguard into the SnM’s. It would be a bad day for them but no one ever said re-establishing empire was going to be easy. And lore wise I can’t wait to see where all these sin hunters end up.

          • Apocryphus

            That’s a good breakdown of 40k. I feel like 40k used to be verticle, but it could also be nostalgia and it’s rise tinted glasses. I do enjoy both, but I generally only play 40k with friends at scheduled times, while I’m happy to play WMH against anyone at game night.

            I hope we get a bit more with the Defiers, it would be interesting if there were particular characters on their hit list. Sin hunters though they may be, they’re still pretty wicked, and getting a novel or something from the perspective of these twisted individuals would make an engaging read.

    • ZeeLobby

      It’s nice to have a game where getting into melee doesn’t require gimmicks. My circle “gunline” list also puts out a ton of effective shooting.

  • Nosebleed

    First turn is only a huge advantage if you play a symmetrical board. Surprisingly, most players do this.

    Scatter around 7-10 obstacles with a couple of obstructions and place them assymetrically. NOW choosing a side (i.e. going 2nd) matters.

    • ZeeLobby

      Asymmetry does a lot. One side having a wall while the other doesn’t can be huge. We always try to do that.