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Warmachine/Hordes Strategy – Know Your Enemy

4 Minute Read
Jul 25 2011

Since Warmachine and Hordes are both constantly growing (in terms of model selection) and evolving (in terms of meta), it can often be difficult for even a grizzled veteran to know the ins-and-outs of an opponent’s army before deployment has been rolled.  Lets talk tips to get you going.

New players in particular will find themselves victims of a perceived heinous combination of maneuvers which ultimately resulted in their untimely demise.  There is now a total 108 warcasters and warlocks between Hordes and Warmachine, all with unique feats and (save two or three examples) spells.  Consequently, Warmachine and Hordes players are constantly facing down the unknown.

Nothing has demonstrated this more than a recent “New Blood” tournament that I ran a few weeks ago that had thirteen brand-new players facing off in a series of starter box games.  Even with a fairly limited selection of potential armies, there were many occasions for a player to go from a position of perceived dominance to the recipient of some cruel and unforeseen deathblow resulting from some kind of arcane orchestration. 

In order to combat this, I felt it a good idea to give some quick tips to help new players avoid being caught off guard.  Knowing the nature of your opponent’s army is just as important as knowing your own.  In games as unforgiving as Warmachine and Hordes, these are cold, hard truths. 

If you see something new, read the card – The “card method” of displaying model information makes things really easy.  If your opponent puts down something you’ve never played against, ask nicely to see the model/unit’s card, and give it a read.  If there’s one thing that I hear from new players post-loss that drives me bananas, it’s “I didn’t know that they could that!”.  In my six years of playing Warmachine and Hordes, I have never once come across an opponent who refused to offer up a card for me to read, so don’t be shy about it.  Make sure you check out their stats, threat range (more on that later), and take a quick look at abilities.

If you plan on shooting or spell-slinging, make sure you’re aware of what has Stealth or other defensive boosts against ranged combat.  If you’re going to charge something, know what has Set Defense.  If you’re planning on eating a charge, you’ll need a rough idea of how hard the opposition will hit if you expect to stand tall.  If you haven’t played something since MkI, make sure you look at the card.  I brought shame upon my family during the Wargames Con 35-point Steamroller when my Bloody Barnabus was charged by Incorporeal Soul Hunter’s thanks to Darragh Wrathe’s Leadership ability, which I overlooked as I haven’t played against him since MkI when he didn’t have that ability, consequently resulting in my only loss of the day.

Know your opponent’s feat – Feats are balance shifters and game enders.  If you don’t know what your opponent’s feat does, you’re asking for big trouble.  Forgetting or not knowing what a feat does is another one of those things that inevitably ends up losing games for people.  Understand how your opponent’s feat works, and make sure you see it coming.  I’ve seen even long-time veterans go from having their opponent on the ropes to getting crushed because they forgot about or didn’t know about a feat.

Know your opponent’s threat ranges – This is a big one.  Memorizing SPD values and remembering what has Reach and what doesn’t can be tricky enough, but spells and abilities that grant movement buffs are another thing that can spell your doom if you don’t remember them.  Even if I’m experienced against the models on the opposite side of the table, I constantly ask my opponents at the game’s beginning if anything on the table can increase movement, SPD, or threat radius in any way.  Spells like Quicken, Crusader’s Call, Rush, and Temporal Acceleration should immediately set off warning bells and cause you to reevaluate your safe zones, as should abilities like Pronto or Desperate Pace.  Normally, a Juggernaut is of little threat to the Deathjack if it’s more than 7.5″ away.  However, if you place your Deathjack 9″ away from the Jug’ and forget that your opponent’s warcaster has Boundless Charge, you can kiss that 12-point warjack goodbye.

Tokens: Use ’em

Know all the in-play effects – I’m a big proponent of using tokens to mark spells and effects.  It reduces confusion, makes my games run smoother, and leads to happier opponents.  I’ve even gotten in the habit of reviewing all my in-play effects with my opponent at my turn’s end just for clarity’s sake.  If your opponent doesn’t use tokens, which isn’t entirely uncommon, or review the in-play effects, always ask.  Hell, sometimes people who use tokens forget to mark these things.  There’s nothing worse than setting up a turn to clear out a few screening infantry models and debuff a Centurion’s ARM with a spell or other ability, only to discover that once you go to charge, you can’t due to the fact that the Centurion used Polarity Field on the last turn, and that you forgot about. 

A lot of this may seem really obvious, but with the huge influx of new players that Warmachine and Hordes are seeing, I felt it a good idea to quickly hit these points.  Again, even veterans make mistakes like these on occasion, and we can all do with a little reminder every now and then.  Any other quick pointers for our newcomers?


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