Welcome to the Motherland new Komrades!
There have been a lot of posts lately from new players (which is awesome!) looking for guidance on starting out so I figured a single thread would be better than answering each one individually. This guide is specifically geared toward list-building for new players, whether building up from the Battlebox or otherwise. The goal is provide examples on how to build your force slowing while learning the game but also acquiring models that you will continue to use as you gain experience.
First, here is my advice for all new players:
1. Read Prime.
2. Read Prime again.
3. Play 10-15 battlebox games or equivalent, switching out casters once in a while (more on this below).
4. Read Prime again.
5. Think about moving up to 15 or 25 points.
That is a bit heavy-handed but I hope it illustrates my point. Warmachine/Hordes is an excellent ruleset but there are a LOT of variables and conditions that you can't learn in a single game or read-through of Prime. To really become well-versed in Warmachine, you need to play, study, play, study. Try to learn something from each and every game you play and constantly consult the rulebook (and the forums, including the Rules forum).
Searching is very important. Aside from the books themselves, it's probably your best tool to learn about lists and models. Search, search, search!! There is a good chance someone has asked or started a thread on the info you need. A useful method when searching is to search by title only (Search Forum > Advanced Search > Search Titles Only).
Aside from general comments, this guide is not a discussion of rules, tactics, the strengths and weaknesses of each list, or how to use each model. This guide also does not cover every model and unit available to Khador. The idea is that new players can use this guide to put together some basic lists and then search to find threads on specific tactics and models.
Most new players will be introduced to Warmachine via the Battlebox. It's even better now because the battlebox jacks are plastic, meaning you can magnetize them. Here's what you get:
- Destroyer 9
- Juggernaut 7
The battlebox gives you a solid melee jack, a versatile jack with a ranged weapon, and the iconic caster, Sorscha. Sorscha isn't the axe-to-face caster that you might expect from Khador but she has an extremely powerful feat and can pull off long-range assassinations herself.
The battlebox can be played in a variety of ways simply by switching casters. For new players, I highly recommend picking up the Prime versions of Butcher and/or Vlad. Both can handle jacks very well and excel in melee. Butcher is one of the toughest casters in the game and has an excellent spell list. The same can be said for Vlad, especially when he casts Blood of Kings. He also has one of the best buff spells in the game, Signs & Portents, which makes everything in his army better.
Starting Without the Battlebox
While the Battlebox gives you the most bang for your buck right off the bat, it is by no means essential. I still highly recommend starting with the casters listed above (Prime Sorscha, Vlad, or Butcher) and a couple of jacks.
Magnetizing a heavy jack kit is an excellent way to add a variety of jacks to your arsenal: you get a Decimator, Destroyer, Juggernaut, and Marauder. You could also pick up a Berserker, Devastator, or a Kodiak. All are excellent jacks that can be used with a variety of casters, although they do add some additional rules. The Berserker may explode when you allocate it focus so you have to learn how to run jacks without focus. For this reason, the Berserker is better suited to Butcher and Vlad. The Kodiak and Marauder have special rules that deal with power attacks. The Devastator has the highest ARM of any jack in the game and a special AOE attack that leaves it vulnerable after it is used.
Trying different combinations of jacks in these games is a great way to learn about the different options available while still keeping the game small as you learn the rules.
Battlebox to 15 points
Depending on the caster and jacks you use, you will most likely need about 4 or 5 additional points of models to build a 15 point list. Here are some good options:
Widowmakers - Widowmakers are the easiest and probably most effective way to get to 15 points. They add some powerful ranged ability to your army and also a good way to start learning the unit rules. You will continue to use Widowmakers throughout your Khador career and are an essential unit to any Khador army.
Manhunters (1 or 2) - The Manhunter is a great solo that has two powerful attacks and gives you the ability to deal with terrain. They work well as independent models meaning they don't need a lot of support from the caster to be effective. They also give you experience with rules such as Stealth and Advance Deployment.
Mechaniks - Khador has arguably the best mechaniks in the game. For just 2-3 points, you can quickly repair your jacks back to full effectiveness. In jack-heavy lists, these are extremely valuable.
War Dog – The War Dog is an absolutely amazing solo, especially considering it is just 1 point. Boosting your caster’s DEF (in melee) as well as being able to ignore free strikes is priceless, especially for melee-based casters. What makes the War Dog a bit tricky to use is that its abilities are reactive – they require something to trigger them and it’s up to YOU to remember. Additionally, abilities like Hunter and Return may take some practice before you get the hang of them.
Yuri – Yuri is similar to the Manhunters but adds Reach and Thresher, making him excellent at wiping out clusters of infantry. In addition to the abilities of a Manhunter, he also has the Treewalker ability. Yuri with 2 Manhunters is sometimes referred to as Yuri & Friends.
Widowmaker Marksman – The Marksman is a slightly more accurate Widowmaker and has a special rule that called Swift Hunter (giving him extra movement), which he also grants to Widowmakers in his command range.
Great Bears – The Great Bears are an amazing 3-man unit capable of taking out casters and jacks alike but come with a host of rules and abilities, some of which are unique to each model in the unit. The challenge is remembering which model grants which ability. And while they are extremely powerful, they tend to be a high priority target and can be taken out quickly, making it difficult for you to get them into battle.
- Juggernaut 7
- Kodiak 8
- War Dog 1
- Destroyer 9
- Juggernaut 7
- Berserker 6
- Kodiak 8
- War Dog 1
Great Bears 5