Talking Tactics In Warmachine – Where To Begin?

March 20, 2015 by crew

Warmachine is a deeply tactical game…

Learning How To Deploy

It’s fast, furious and highly competitive. For a beginner, entirely new to wargames, it can be extremely unforgiving. I am constantly learning and relearning rules each and every time I play.

I am writing this at my local club, hovering over a game of Khador vs Minions. I find it an enjoyable thing to watch games but, often, I am hoping I will learn by osmosis. I watch players confidently line up their army and accurately execute their rounds, in a seemingly expert dance of war.

Today I want to talk about tactics.

I feel like I am often witness to tactics, rather than the employer. One of the biggest stresses, for me, is deployment. Knowing where to place your key models and their support, how to protect your caster, thinking about your first turn and your intended placement can be overwhelming. It is something that I still struggle with. I am sure I have lost games based on my ill thought out front line. The idea of tactics in general is something I have struggled to implement in my infancy in this game.

So what can I do?

Studying The Cards

Knowing your models is key. Whenever I am having a hard time gaming, I return to my cards. It is my greatest advice to new players and advice that has served me well. Rereading my stat cards nearly always gives me new ideas. Even something as simple as spotting the word ‘unit’ in the wording of an offensive spell that I previously only used on single models. I often became preoccupied with the disabling of an enemy warjack in early games as (psychologically) they are the biggest thing on the table.

My First Game

Knowing your cards is a great way of spotting complementary tactics across your army and knowing this is the best way to improve how you deploy and how you advance. Of course, the very best way to improve your knowledge of your cards is to play more games.

One way to change a game of Warmachine is to include terrain and one of the many fun official scenarios that Privateer Press publish in their Steamroller Tournament rules pack. Scenarios combine zones, flags and/or objectives to conquer in order to start scoring control points against each other. It also greatly encourages each army into the middle of the table for an aggressive skirmish, rather than a long winded game of hide and seek.

Face Off

Removing your opponents objective in order to prevent them from ever scoring control points can become an important part of your tactics. So I’m told anyway. I would give my Mechanithralls right arm to take out my opponents objective just once!

The best I have managed in a game is to control an enemy zone whilst dominating my own for a scenario win (woo!) but so far, my enemies objectives have remained quite comfortable. Dominating a flag or zone involves the use of your Warcaster and this is where a protection tactic needs to be employed. It can be risky and in most games I have played, it’s slightly redundant due to the amount of enemy models contesting flags.

Trust The Dice

I feel like most games of Warmachine could be made much more interesting (read: harder) with the use of terrain. Many tournament tables are so devoid of terrain that the few pieces that are laid down are almost pointless. A short wall here, a small hill there. I enjoy the tactical advantage of a big wood thank you very much. Of course, the best way to get used to scenarios and improving your tactics is to play more games.

I’ll tell you what else I love. Death Clock.

Time Waits For No One!

Playing against a clock is something that I never thought I would love. As if Warmachine isn’t frantic and stressful enough, you now want me to play quicker? Good luck getting me to agree to that, Warmachine maniacs! Except here I am, preaching the wonders of the clock.

Beyond The Battle Box

My first game against the clock ended in possibly the closest and most fun, and definitely funny, game I have ever played. I fully believe the clock actually removes stress! It makes crazy things happen and I truly think it’s a better game for it! Plus, you can cram way more games into a club night!

There are two ways to play against the clock in Warmachine. Death Clock and Timed Turns. Timed Turns rules varies depending on the points size of the game. For example 35pt games usually mean each player must complete their turns in seven minutes. Once per game, if you wish, you can extend one round. Death Clock allots a fixed time to each player in which to finish the game.

If you haven’t played against a clock yet, I demand to know why! I throw wholehearted recommendations in your general direction!

Nerdiest Thing I Ever Bought

If you are new to Warmachine, one mechanic you might have yet to master is the game changing rule known as The Feat. Each Warcaster comes equipped with this powerful once-per-game spell. I have had great trouble figuring out the best time to use this power, often forgetting it entirely in an attempt to save it for a last minute all out desperate attempt to turn the game around. As I have matured in the game I have come a A) definitely not forget to Feat and B) Feat when I can use it to create the most damage, often much earlier in the game than I originally used to.

Around turn two armies are often in each other’s faces, ready to spar. My Warcaster, The Great, Beautiful, and Lovely Warwitch Deneghra, has a Feat named The Withering. The Withering, when placed well and cast at the right moment, can take -2 from pretty much every enemy stat for a whole round. If this is cast early on in my turn, I can use it to batter my opponent in my round, as well as crippling their round too. Ain’t she a beaut?

Of course, the easiest and best way to get your head around when to Feat is to, wait for it, play more games.

Go For The Throat!

Assassination is arguably the most satisfying and exciting way to end the game and is a great way of involving nearly all the tactics discussed here and more. In order to inflict a successful assassination it helps to have a keen eye for weaknesses in your opponents defences and a thorough understanding of your army and cards. Spotting opportunities to employ your knowledge in an assassination run is a skill in itself, one I have yet to wholly master.

Learning Battle Box Game

I have a ‘Plan B,’ a model that I love, that I protect as fiercely as I protect my caster. Together, they have nailed many an enemy to the wall in desperate circumstances. However, sometimes assassination is not possible and all you can do is employ damage control. All too often I have seen the odds stacked against me and I have given in too early. Lately, I have started not trusting my opponent to finish the game as cleanly as they would like and I’ve tried to remove as many models from the table as I can, using everything I have.

Sometimes, just sometimes, my caster has survived the inevitable attempt on her life and gone on to claim a victory! Leaving your opponent with no support can be as crippling as damage on the ‘caster themselves. I have definitely matured as a player. Probably because I played more games.

…So What Did We Learn?

I’m going to finish this on a transparent note. I have, so far, managed to ignore most of my own advice here and have learned by error. The thing that keeps me going in Warmachine is playing what I love. I think this is the greatest (and at risk of being the fluffiest) tactic. I appreciate (nearly) every person who has bent over my game and given me advice. I even recently learned what ‘meta’ means.

However, the best way I have learned how to play my army comes down to two pieces of advice: own your mistakes and play what you love. Yes, I might not have the best units, the most effective solos, the best combination of infantry and heavies, but I have fallen madly in love with Mechanithralls and that’s OK.

Oh, and play more… Nah, you get my point.

Do you love talking tactics? How did you learn and evolve your own tips and tricks?

What do you think?

Dani Abram

If you would like to write articles for Beasts of War then please contact us at for more information.

"One of the biggest stresses, for me, is deployment. Knowing where to place your key models and their support, how to protect your caster, thinking about your first turn and your intended placement can be overwhelming. It is something that I still struggle with..."

"My first game against the clock ended in possibly the closest and most fun, and definitely funny, game I have ever played"