The elves of Ios are angry, very angry. They believe that the magic wielded by mankind is killing their remaining god, Scyrah. The Retribution of Scyrah, once a small and outlawed rebellious sect, but now a popular movement amongst Iosans, aren’t willing to sit back and watch their gods die. Every nation of man that supports and promotes the use of magic is a legitimate target, particularly those who use magic to wage war.
The nation of Khador has been expanding their borders aggressively, having consumed the country of Llael and encroached into northern Cygnar. Their warcasters have been at the forefront of this empire building, leading massive armies to conquer their former neighbours. This activity has not gone unnoticed by the stealthy Iosans and their rapid armies have moved to intercept and assassinate these human warcasters. The Retribution of Scyrah cares little about the wars of other nations. It is the scalps of those warcasters that they seek.
This battle report is aimed at giving an overview of how the mechanics of Warmachine combine to make a compelling, tactical and exciting wargame. Steve Coleman and I lined up two 25pt armies with a very simple mission – assassinate the opposing players warcaster. 25pts is a smallish game, but sufficient to show the main aspects of the game. I had my beloved Khadorans led by the walking beatstick that is the Butcher of Khardov. This warcaster lives for the sound of battle and the smell of blood. He is an unstoppable monster that can support his troops with his potent magic and push his warjacks to excel in combat. The rest of my force was comprised of two warjacks, a Juggernaut and a Devastator, a couple of small units and a couple of solos. The ‘jacks of Khador have the most formidable armour in the game also have the ability to absorb as well as dish out a lot of damage. They are typically slower than the ‘jacks of other nations, but what do you expect of constructs that are over 10 tons in weight!
Focus: this represents magical ability in Warmachine. Every warcaster has a Focus stat and this finite resource is what they use to cast spells, boost attacks and support their warjacks. It is replenished every turn, but there is never quite enough to go around!
Facing the might of Khador would be Adeptis Rahn, an arcanist beyond compare. His ability to manipulate magic and support other mages in his force is stunning. He has amazing spells to support every element of his army and blast his enemy with arcane blasts while doing so. He has one of the highest focus stats in the game, so he can put out a lot of support and/or hurt every turn. Making up the rest of Steve’s army was made up of two myrmidons (warjacks to you and me), a the much feared Mage Hunter Strike Force with Commander, a unit of Battle Mages and a couple of solos. The warjacks of the Retribution tend to be more specialist and nimble than those of Khador. They also sport an Arcantrik Field that can absorb damage before the ‘jack itself is damaged. Nifty! One of Steve’s warjacks was a light ‘jack named a Chimera. This ‘jack has a couple of nice tricks, but it also has a feature known as an arc Node. All factions (apart from Khador, doh!) have access to arc nodes that allow warcasters to bounce their spells through the ‘jack. This are very useful in keeping your ‘caster out of harms way. Remember, the mission in this game is to assassinate the opposing ‘caster.
Warmachine is usually played on a 4’ x 4’ battlefield with deployment in 10” wide on opposing sides. Steve’s Retribution force deployed between a wood and hill with the large Manticore myrmidon in the centre of his army. It was surrounded by Battle Mages who had Rahn in their midst and a Soulless Escort capable of absorbing enemy magic attacks attached. The Iosans view the phenomena of Soulless being born as a true sign that Scyrah is dying. To the left of this unit is the Chimera and beyond it is a Magister, a veteran Battle Mage. deployed. The Mage Hunters and Commander are advance deployed (up to 6” beyond the standard deployment zone) to the front and right of the rest of the force. Finally, an Archanist, a Retribution mechanic deployed beside the Manticore.
Casting Spells: Every spell has a Focus cost and this is deducted from the wascaster’s total when cast. If the spell is cast on a friendly unit then only the range needs to be checked. If it is in range it’s cast. If a spell targets an enemy the ‘caster check range and then must roll to hit. They player rolls 2D6 and adds their focus (FOC). If this total equals or exceeds the enemy’s defense (DEF) it is a hit. Spell effects are then resolved.
Across the table my red Khadorans deployed beside a hill with the warjacks up front. Just behind them was a unit of Mechaniks, the Butcher and a War Dog. The Mechaniks, as their name suggests, are adept at repairing ‘jacks in the heat of battle. The War Dog offers protection to a ‘caster through counter charging the enemy if he gets too close and increasing the ‘casters Defense stat in melee. In my previous article I mentioned the stats briefly, but I’ll go through the basics of combat when the action kicks in. On the far right flank a mounted Drakhun was ready to chase down whatever came near it. On the left flank stood the formidable Great Bears of Gallowswood, a trio of battle hardened veterans with the capacity to utterly destroy both ‘jacks and units.
Steve won the dice off, so the first Turn would go to him. He allocated one focus, from Rahn’s eight, to the Chimera to allow it to run on its activation. Warjacks function like any other unit, but they can be allocated up to three focus to allow they to run, charge, boost attacks and perform power attacks, such as slams, throws, and headbutts. Rahn cast Force Field (three focus) which allows him to control the direction of missed blast shots. He also cast Polarity Shield (two focus) on the Battle Mages which prevents them from being charged. The remaining two focus are left on Rahn and they boost his armour. He then advanced forward. The rest of his force moved rapidly forward and the Arcansist assigned one focus to the Manticore to allow it to run.
On my first turn I allocated one focus to each ‘jack and then ran most of the army forward. The Butcher walked up behind them and cast Iron Flesh (two focus), from his total of six, onto the Great Bears, which added +3 to their DEF. I was afraid of the Mage Hunters firing their crossbows through the wood at my precious (and expensive) unit. The Commander with the Mage Hunters granted them the Phantom Seeker ability allowing them to ignore line of sight when targeting. Of course I forgot they have an ability to also ignore the focus boost to armour and spells that add to DEF and armour (ARM). They are Mage Hunters after all. Doh!
On his next turn Steve had Rahn upkeep both spells. Some spells can last from one turn to another. The ‘caster must spend one focus at the start of the turn to keep a spell of this type in play. Again his army advanced up, thankfully he wasn’t in range of the Great Bears. On his left flank he moved the Chimera up to arc spells at the Drakhun. Rahn first cast Chain Blast, an offensive spell, through the arc node. He hit the Drakhun with ease. This spell has a power (POW) of 12, so Steve would normally roll 2D6, add it to the 12 and compare that to my ARM. If the total exceeds my Drakhun’s ARM it does the amount of damage it exceeds by. The Drakhun’s ARM is 19, so Steve decided to boost the damage roll giving him an extra D6. Thankfully he only rolled 9 on the 3D6 and only managed to do two points of damage. The Drakhun has ten boxes of damage. Since that wasn’t enough Steve used the Telekinesis spell to move the Drakhun 2” and spin him around. This is important as models need line of sight (LoS) to charge. They can still walk into combat, but they don’t get a movement advantage or cause more damage on their initial attack. The Magister charged the Drakhun, but failed to cause any damage. He missed with his first attack and the second just bounced off of its armour.
The Drakhun got his revenge on my turn; he spun around and smashed the Magister, but the Chimera was still lurking nearby, so his vengeance was going to be short-lived. Again the Khadorans advanced forward. The Devastator is the most heavily armoured warjack in the game so it ran right up close to the Battle Mages. It couldn’t charge them due to Polarity Shield spell. The Butcher decided to send his Obliteration spell towards the Mage Hunters. I knew it would miss as they have the Stealth ability (all ranged attacks originating from more that 5” away automatically miss), but I was hoping for a lucky deviation. Attacks with a blast template scatter when they miss, just like in Warhammer, and I was hoping for a lucky deviation. However, I forgot Force Field allowed Rahn to decide the direction of deviations in his Control Area, so he sent it harmlessly away from the Mage Hunters.
Part 2 of the battle report continues here.