How to Play Warmachine and Hordes (Quick Start Overview)

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Are you looking for a quick overview of how to get started playing Warmachine and Hordes, the tabletop miniatures game from Privateer Press? If so, you’ve come to the right place! In Warmachine and Hordes, players take control of powerful armies of steam-powered war machines and savage warriors in an epic struggle for domination of the Iron Kingdoms. Each army is led by a mighty hero called a Warcaster or Warlock, who possesses arcane spells and superhuman combat abilities.

In this article, we’ll give you a quick overview of how Warmachine and Hordes works, including the basics of army construction and gameplay. By the end, you should have a good idea of what it takes to get started with this exciting game!

RELATED: WHAT’S IT LIKE TO PLAY WARMACHINE/HORDES?


What is Warmachine / Hordes?

Warmachine and Hordes is a tabletop miniatures game that pits two players against each other in an epic battle for supremacy. Players take control of powerful armies of steam-powered war machines and savage warriors, led by mighty heroes called Warcasters or Warlocks. The game is played on a tabletop battlefield, using miniature models of the troops, war machines, and terrain.

How to Play Warmachine and Hordes (Quick Start Overview) - warmachine horde art work photo circle khador trollbloods
Warmachine and Hordes is an intense tabletop miniatures game for those who enjoy tactical gameplay

Warmachine and Hordes is set in the Iron Kingdoms, a world of steam-powered technology and arcane magic. The Iron Kingdoms is a land of danger and adventure, where mighty kingdoms vie for supremacy and monstrous creatures roam the wilds. In this world, powerful magic and mechanika (steam-powered technology) have fused together to create an explosive mix.

How to Play Warmachine and Hordes (Quick Start Overview) - Menoth colossal
I painted this large “Judicator” model for Warmachine (Privateer Press). It won a prize in a painting contest.

Warmachine and Hordes is published by Privateer Press.


What Do I Need to Play?

To play Warmachine and Hordes, you will need the following:

  • Two players
  • A copy of the Warmachine or Hordes Rulebook
  • An army (see below)
  • A tabletop battlefield (a flat surface on which to place the models)
  • Terrain (obstacles and terrain features to add realism and tactical interest to the battlefield)
  • Dice
  • Measuring tape or ruler
How to Play Warmachine and Hordes (Quick Start Overview) - dice from dice cup falling out

How Do I Choose an Army?

In Warmachine and Hordes, each player controls a powerful army, led by a mighty hero called a Warcaster or Warlock. There are many different armies to choose from, each with its own strengths, weaknesses, and unique abilities.

How to Play Warmachine and Hordes (Quick Start Overview) - gameplay of warmachine hordes

The first step in choosing an army is to decide which faction you want to play. Warmachine factions include the mighty Khadoran Empire, the noble Cygnaran Republic, the enigmatic Cryxian Legion, and more. Hordes factions include the brutal Trollbloods, the enigmatic Circle Orboros, and the fearsome Skorne Empire.

How to Play Warmachine and Hordes (Quick Start Overview) - close up cygnar colossal

Once you’ve chosen a faction, you’ll need to select your Warcaster or Warlock. Each Warcaster or Warlock has a unique set of spells and abilities, and leads a particular type of army. For example, the Khadoran Warcaster Kulgan the Butcher leads a force of hulking brute beasts, while the Cryxian Warlock Skarre Ravenmane leads an army of undead pirates.

How to Play Warmachine and Hordes (Quick Start Overview) - a grymkin warlock for hordes game

After you’ve chosen your Warcaster or Warlock, you’ll need to select the troops you want to include in your army. There are many different types of troops to choose from, each with its own strengths, weaknesses, and special abilities.

You’ll also want to select a warjacks or warbeasts (for Warmachine or Hordes armies, respectively). Warjacks and warbeasts are massive steam-powered war machines or large “creatures”, heavily armed and armored. They are the core of most Warmachine and Hordes armies.

How to Play Warmachine and Hordes (Quick Start Overview) - a khador warjack

They are controlled by the Warcaster or Warlock, and act as their bodyguards on the battlefield or as the main fighting pillars of your army. There are many types and kinds of warjacks and warbeasts, from the heavy, light, and giant colossal sized models, to the nimble fliers.

Once you’ve selected your Warcaster or Warlock and the troops you want in your army, you’re ready to start playing!


How Do I Play Warmachine / Hordes?

Warmachine and Hordes is played on a tabletop battlefield, using miniature models of the troops, war machines, and terrain. The game is played in turns, with each player taking a turn to move their troops and cast spells.

On your turn, you’ll first need to decide which of your Warcaster’s or Warlock’s spells to cast. Each Warcaster or Warlock has a unique set of spells, which can be used to buff your troops, damage your opponent’s troops, or create terrain features (not every ‘caster will have these abilities; choose them wisely).

How to Play Warmachine and Hordes (Quick Start Overview) - a legion of everblight gargantuan

After you’ve cast your spells, you’ll need to activate your troops. You can activate one unit at a time, or multiple units if the rules allow. When you activate a unit, you’ll need to decide what action it will take. Units can move, attack, or perform special actions (such as repairing war machines).

After you’ve activated all the units you want to, your turn is over and play passes to your opponent. They will then repeat the steps above, until one player has won the game.


Winning the Game

The goal of Warmachine and Hordes is to achieve victory by meeting one of the following objectives:

  • Destroy all of your opponent’s troops
  • Capture all of your opponent’s objectives
  • Force your opponent to concede the game

Games can also end in a draw.

If you’re just starting out, it’s recommended that you play a shorter game (25-35 minutes is a good length). As you become more familiar with the rules and your army, you can start playing longer games (up to 2 hours).

I’ll note that there are also many types of game scenarios, e.g., narrative campaigns, among other ways to play the game. Check online or with new rules scenarios that get released for variations in how to play your game of Warmachine and Hordes.

person about to catch four dice - d6 dice in hand
Photo by lilartsy on Pexels.com

Do you have a competitive spirit?

Tournament play is also a popular way to enjoy Warmachine and Hordes. There are many different types of tournaments, from small local events to large national and international gatherings.

Tournaments typically use a points system to balance the armies, and use special scenarios and rules to create a unique and challenging experience.

If you’re interested in tournament play, talk to your local game store or search online for upcoming events.


The Basic Rules of Warmachine and Hordes

Now that you know the basics of how to play Warmachine and Hordes, let’s take a look at the basic rules of the game. The following quick-start videos will teach you the basic rules of Warmachine and Hordes in just a few minutes. After watching these videos, you’ll be able to start playing immediately! For more detailed information, please consult the full rulebook.


Final Word

Now that you know the basics of how to play Warmachine and Hordes, go out and find your nearest game store, or order a starter set online. With just a few models and some dice, you’re ready to enter the exciting world of Warmachine and Hordes!

For more info about why I love playing Warmachine and Hordes, check out this article.

Do you play Warmachine or Hordes? What do you think of the game today? Let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!

Happy gaming!

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