BoLS logo Tabletop, RPGs & Pop Culture

Warmachine: The Basics of Cygnar

6 Minute Read
Oct 10 2014

Cygnar is a proud nation beset on all sides by enemies and must use any means necessary to defend her citizens.  Here is what you need to know to master the faction!

What’s up guys, this is Trevy the Great on loan from over at Way of the Swan here to talk to you about my favorite Immorese protagonists, the proud nation of Cygnar!  This article will delve into the basics of the armed forces of Cygnar, the nation’s first line of defense against her many invaders.

So, you’re interested by the nobility of Cygnar’s fighting forces, but what actually do they do on the table?  Traditionally, Cygnar has been known as Warmachine’s “gun line” faction that relies heavily on the “keep calm and continue shooting” ethos on the tabletop.  While Cygnar has significant ranged firepower, it supports that strength with flexible options that allow players to build a variety of successful army types.
Cygnaran Strengths
Cygnar’s primary strengths tend to lie in the area of infantry removal and denial; the faction boasts some of the most fearsome anti-warrior troops and technology in the game!  Long ranged units such as Long Gunners or Arcane Tempest Gun Mages can pick off lightly armored infantry with precision; lightning attacks such as blasts from Storm Striders main guns or Stormcalls can ignore some of the most powerful defensive abilities in the game; like Stealth (which causes attacks originating from greater than 5” to miss) and Force Barrier (which grants +2 DEF against ranged attacks, or even the DEF bonuses granted by terrain).  Even Cygnar’s heavier-hitting melee troops such as Stormblade Infantry, Stormguard and Storm lances can clear infantry with their lightning-charged weapons, many of which able to generate multiple attacks with Assault (allowing models to charge and make both their melee and ranged attacks) and Electro-Leap (dealing a POW 10 roll to the nearest model to a model hit with an attack).  By the same token, Cygnar is in general, excellent at dealing with high-Defense models using spells such as Deadeye (giving a model/unit an additional die on their first ranged attack roll) or Captain Haley’s Temporal Barrier (reducing the DEF of enemies in her CNTRL by 2), or effects such as Runewood’s Path to Victory (giving +2 to a warrior model/unit’s charge attack rolls) and Viktor Pendrake’s Beast Lore (boosting a warrior model/unit’s attack rolls against Warbeasts).  On the flip side of the coin, the faction tends to have a little trouble dealing with forces that boast a high ARM without building specifically for the task.
You feelin’ lucky, punk?
Fortunately, flexibility in list building is another of Cygnar’s strengths.  As the nation with the deepest coffers and the most accepting outlook, Cygnar has the widest access to Mercenary options out of all the Warmachine factions.  This gives the faction the ability to tailor their lists for almost any opponent.  Cygnar tends to have trouble with significant ARM values, but the inclusion of damage buffing models like Ragman or Lady Aiyana and Holt and weapon master troops such as Horgenhold Forge Guard can significantly mitigate this problem.  Combined with a wide range of options; from the high ARM units such as the mercenary Forge Guard, Stormwall Colossal or the Centurion Warjack to light infantry like Gun Mage Pistoleers or Nyss Hunters, Cygnar can create vastly different styles of lists that will leave your opponent reeling.
On the tabletop, Cygnar tends to play a slow, grinding attrition game.  Outside of a select few Warcasters such as Kraye and Major Haley, the armies of King Leto tend to lack the speed to deliver a significant alpha strike in melee.  Even when they can strike first, Cygnar troops often lack the backbone to cripple the heart of an opponent’s force.  However, what Cygnar lacks in speed and hitting power is made up for with ranged superiority and control effects.  The nation’s armies stand back and let fly with salvo after salvo of punishing firepower from the heavy artillery of the Defender Warjack or Stormwall Colossal as well as accurate fire from Gun Mage Pistoleers or Long Gunners.  When the enemy threatens to gain ground, spells such as the aforementioned Captain Haley’s Temporal Barrier (denying enemies in her CNTRL from running or charging), Lieutenant Caine’s Thunderstrike (a long-ranged slam spell), Lord Commander Stryker’s Rebuke (stopping a unit from giving or receiving orders), Major Haley’s Time Bomb (delivering a punishing -2 SPD and DEF penalty to models hit by its 4” AoE) or abilities such as Disruption (stopping a Warjack from being allocated focus), Gun Mage Pistoleer’s Thunderbolt (a D3” push on a hit) or Covering Fire (3” AoEs that cause POW 12 damage rolls to models entering them) can stop them in their tracks.  Even if you don’t have many of these control effects available to you, throwing cheap troops such as Sword Knights, Press Gangers or the stout Boomhowler trollkin can slow your opponent down just enough to buy you some extra shooting.  When the opponent finally reaches Cygnaran lines, they’re met by powerful melee troops like Stormblade Infantry or Horgenhold Forge Guard and the punishing fists of Warjacks that deliver the killing blow to an enemy force.

That brooding glare means that you don’t get to make melee attacks anymore.

And Weaknesses…
While not every list or Warcaster plays this way, that is the style at the heart of most Cygnar builds, and the faction is geared specifically to be very good at it; unfortunately, there are some things that this method isn’t great against and against which that Cygnar tends to struggle.   High ARM infantry or heavy, 8-wound infantry models are problematic, especially in large numbers; they can’t be controlled as easily as a heavy Warjack or Warbeast, but often pack just as much of a punch and they aren’t particularly worried about the POW 10 shooting Cygnar troops carry with them in spades.  Stryker2 or Siege have no trouble with these kinds of troops, however, and bringing Aiyana and Holt for Aiyana’s Kiss of Lylyss (giving +2 to damage rolls against the target model/unit for one round) can help even your little guns chalk up the damage on them.  Heavy Warjacks or Warbeasts that are hard to shoot at on the way in are also difficult for Cygnar to deal with; effects like the Skorne Krea’s Paralytic Aura (+2 DEF and ARM vs. ranged attacks) or spells such as Shadowpack (giving models in the ‘casters battlegroup Stealth) can give Cygnar big guns fits.  Fortunately, we can work around these defenses by building lists with a significant melee punch, and a lot of our strongest ranged models, such as Stormblade Infantry or the Stormwall, offer lots of melee hitting power as well.  If these sorts of lists are giving you trouble, try playing a more aggressive, melee list to get around those anti-ranged defenses.
I hope this little write up helps in your continued defense of Cygnar’s embattled borders!  Cygnar is a fun and rewarding faction to play, with enough diversity that it’s hard to get board playing it and I hope you enjoy fighting for her as much as I do!
Are you a veteran Cygnar player?  How do you approach the game in command of our boys in blue? (If you want some more awesome Cygnar talk, check out my blog at

  • Warmachine - Lieutenant Allison Jakes