Warma-Teach #1: The Set-Up
The title for the first week’s Warma-Teach has a rather obvious double meaning. While I will get around to talking about the topic of formation later in the post, I want to start with introducing the concept of Warma-Teach and outline what I hope will be the successful paradigm for which it was built. I’ll start today with what Warma-Teach will strive to be, and what it will strive to avoid, in small enough terms so that we can get to the nitty your need grittied.
First of all, Warma-Teach is for everybody, but maybe not for you. One of the foundations of Warmachine (and by extension Hordes) is that the learning curve is long and flat for a good long time while players struggle to learn the basics of every rule, faction, or warcaster/lock. This series of articles will not be discussing these topics related to basic rules lawyering or model overviews. There are plenty of websites (like BattleCollege) that do a fantastic job of pointing out these basics to a novice player. Instead, I’m going to be examining the larger arcs of the game, and I will point to individual model, factions, or rules only in as much as it helps to illuminate the topic at hand with concrete examples that players can get their hands on and try. Using the experience that I have as a teacher (my day job), the library I’ve accumulated in my personal fascination for the game, and discussions with similarly passionate players, I’m going to examine the facets of construction and play that are just beyond the reach of the beginning player. In short, this is a guide to bring your game to the next level, whatever that may be. I’m going to show you the forest for the trees, and while you gape at its majesty, hopefully you’ll glean something insightful from our discourse, and use it to crush your opponent utterly. That being said let us start with the first topic.
One of the hardest beginning lessons that table top gamers learn upon visiting their first Warmachine game is in army deployment. Very quickly they learnt that they’re not playing a game with 48” sissy elves bolt throwers and Spesh Mehreens guns. This is Warmachine. You’re in your opponent’s face, or nowhere near them. This leads to many players lamenting the perceived loss of tactical combat concepts such as flanking and rear guards, and with rare exception (eMagnus’ Tier 4 flanking Sword Knights and Bog Trogs), they are correct. Most games happen in the center 24” square, but make no mistake, deployment can make or break you in Warmachine just as easy as any other game. It may appear that these tactics are simply lost, which in turn creates a perceived lack of tactical depth to the game. In actuality, they are replaced by other tactical deployment stratagems that the growing player can use to great advantage.
Stratagem 1- The 10” Wall
In my opinion, the strongest opening play available to 99% of casters/locks, though it is somewhat reliant upon terrain features. In this style of deployment, the first model deployed is your warcaster/lock, and they are placed at the front edge of your deployment zone, approximately 10” away from a wall (also known as a linear obstacle.) The best walls are right in the middle of board and reaches out into more of the central board space. The reason for this is that first turn; you cast your upkeepables/ effects and charge straight toward your opponent and the wall (this is where the 10” comes from, as most casters/lock charge 9”.) Your movement should stop within as close to an inch behind the wall as you can. From this point on, it’s your little natural command bunker. You have +4 DEF and are virtually un-chargeable by anything save 4” reach weapons, and if you let that happen 2nd turn, you have more problems than deployment.
From your warcaster’s deployment in range of the wall, deploy your army to either side of him, making sure to always follow the basics of deployment (not accidently blocking line of sight for spells, slower models in front, support models as far back as they can and still generate their effect next turn, etc.) This creates a strong-center formation that can respond well to numerous threats or objectives as-needed. It also allows you to keep your warlock/ caster in the middle, contributing his abilities to the widest range of possible tactical requirements. Most casters/locks in the game are virtually impregnable behind a simple wall, though beware any ability that knocks down or stationaries (Sorscha’s and Kreoss’s Feat, double hand throws, etc.) Fortunately, these abilities are few and far between, and as long as you use your army to mitigate these hazards, you caster/ lock will be free to punish the bad guys with impunity.
Stratagem 2- Combo-Riffic
As players begin to accumulate knowledge and models, clearly disgusting combinations of effects can arise to them. I am not talking about the what-ifs (every one of your Berzerkers explode, your Forsaken Blight Shrouds the Testament with 30 focus, ANYTHING that has to critically hit.) The exponential growth of certain model combinations is akin to mathematical formula, and equally deadly in its confidence. Garryth+ Madelyn Corbeau+ Lanyssa Ryssyl= WPN master caster on caster. Gorman DiWulfe + Aiyanna and Holt + Eiryss + Dougal Macnaille= 20” RNG caster complete debilitation. These are combinations for the ages and need special deployment to facilitate them. While I can’t detail every facet of each combo-riffic deployment, some obvious trends exist:
- ALWAYS deploy your killer-combo in the middle of the board, or directly across from your opponent’s caster/lock (since most of these combinations are to facilitate or just outright kill a caster)
- ALWAYS deploy directly engaging models (Eiryss, Gorman) at the edge of your deployment/ advanced deployment zone. The combo has to have the initiative and that means proactive board position.
- NEVER deploy support models anywhere near the army. Let them stay in your deployment zone if it means they can move and still give the intended buff/ effect.
Stratagem 3- The Second Wave
Warmachine is a brawl, no doubt about it. The most defensive lists out there always count on getting their nose bloodied a little bit, and it’s the exception, rather than the rule, that an army wins without taking a casualty. Most lists, therefore, contain redundancies of models that perform similar tasks but in duplicate to make sure the job gets done. These “Second Wavers” are designed to join the battle after the initial clash has been made to provide the one-two punch needed to extricate the front line so they can continue to push into the heart of the enemy. There are models in every faction that excel at these roles either by bringing inordinate amounts of power (hammer dwarves, Demolition Crew), wave clearing potential (Phoenix, Thunderhead), or both (Steelhead Cavalry.) Usually, these models are slower than the front line shock troops, because they naturally expect their opponents to come crashing into the first wave. Therefore, make sure you ALWAYS deploy these Second Wavers at the forefront of your army, at the edge of deployment zone. Don’t worry, the shock troops will overtake them Turn 1, and then you’ll be sure to have the second wave in position when they need to be. No front-line troop in this game can last against an opponent’s combined force for more than one turn, so you have to make sure your second wave is in position at the end of that first turn, if need be. Furthermore, NEVER spread out your army, or let your second wave hold a “flank.” They are not designed to hold anything and exposing them to enemy fire only dilutes your ability to counterattack.
Thank you for visiting Warma-Teach, and feel free to join the conversation through Facebook, where you can find the original article in the MOKAN Warmachine group. Teach you next week!