Decisions, decisions

New Kids on the Block


So you’ve decided to start playing Warmachine and Hordes. You’ve got a small wad of cash in hand, but you don’t know where to start because the models all look so damn cool, but you want a particular play style.

Well look no further. Over the next few weeks, I will be building a comprehensive breakdown of all the battle boxes for both games for those new players who want just a pinch of wisdom when starting with their army. Maybe you want some obscure synergies; maybe you want to deal death from afar; or maybe you just want to get in there and tear the limbs off something with impunity. This series will help you figure out where to find those, and more.

Every two weeks I will cover one Warmachine battle box; one Hordes battle box, and one alt battle box from the Journeyman documents. These lists will assume that players will have an insight on the basic terms of the game. If not, then I encourage you to visit and download their free rules set to get familiar. Alternatively, every battle box has a rules digest, and I guarantee you that anyone you know with a warmachine or hordes army will have at least one of these serving as a coaster, or sitting patiently on a bookshelf waiting to be opened up. Without further adieu, lets get on with it.


So, assuming that you’ve done a bit of reading on the game and its universe, then you may have figured that at least *part* of the Cygnaran army is what we would’ve seen if Nikola Tesla got in to weapons design. They like lightning, magic guns, and lots of utilitarian jacks. the battle box comes with four models: Warcaster Major Beth Maddox, a Lancer, a Firefly, and an Ironclad. Lets have a quick snapshot look at the models before looking at the big picture

Major Beth Maddox

Major Maddox is a good toolbox caster for a beginning player. at Focus 6, and a decent toolbox of spells, she offers a varied list of support spells and abilities that work in her battlegroup, as well as in larger armies. In addition, she has some relatively decent defensive stats and her damage output, while not overly impressive from a numbers standpoint alone, still offers the ability to lay some chop where needed. Spell list and feat are as follows: includes

Assail – Friendly jack can charge, slam or power attack for free; and gets +2 Movement

Snipe – +4 range to any ranged attacks by target model/unit

Electrical Storm – Pow 13 AOE 3 electrical cloud that disrupts jacks in the effected range

Dauntless Resolve – Unit or warrior model gets +3 Arm and Tough

Onslaught – Friendly faction models in control range get pathfinder when charging

Feat – Thundering Rage – All friendly faction models in Maddox’s control range gain +3 STR and beatback for one turn


This is like, the absolute staple of Cygnaran heavies, and it doesn’t surprise me that in two iterations of Battle boxes for Cygnar, the Ironclad has been a constant. its 12 point cost, coupled with a formidable 12/18 def/arm stat and to initials, one at POW 18, the other at POW 14, the Ironclad is a decent return on investment point-wise. it’s special knockdown action also offers some unique opportunities to force opponents to consider how they want to interact with this jack to make sure it doesn’t become a pain in the backside.


This one is a new battle box change, having swapped out the Charger from the earlier battle box. The Firefly is unique due to its passive abilities as well as its active ones. The ranged weapon is a paltry POW 10 RNG 10 electrical weapon, but gets sneaky when the Firefly is within 5″ of its target. It’s Ionization ability means that any model taking electrical damage within 5″ of the firefly take an additional 2 damage. As a secondary feature (only really handy when you start playing games that include units), the ranged weapon has Lightning generator which means that the attack leaps to d3 consecutive models at POW 10 (Again, susceptible to the +2 damage if within 5″ of the Firefly). While it comes with a melee weapon, it isn’t much to look at.


Lancers have always offered a little bit of jank to the Cygnaran military. Armed with a war spear and a Shock shield, the former is not overly fantastic as a melee weapon, but with set defense, it affords a -2 to hit from any model that charges, slams or power attacks the Lancer, however, this is just a side note that most folks don’t end up really noting. The capabilities of a Lancer are in the shield and the fact that it has an Arc Node. The shock Shield offers not only a +2 armor bonus, but it also offers out of activation damage to warjacks that hit with an attack. If an enemy warjack hits with a weapon, the offending scrap heap takes 1 point of damage to the first available cortex box, which is nice. The real magic is in the Arc Node. An arc noded jack basically allows a warcaster who has an arc noded jack in their battlegroup to serve as the origin point of any spell in the caster’s repertoire, and the range is measured from the node instead of the caster. in a battle box, that could be very impressive, especially when a caster wants to use Electrical storm to not just do damage, but disrupt a jack for a turn while minimizing exposure.

Basic Strategy

This battlebox works by virtue of its flexibility. Spells like Snipe allow models like the Firefly to nickel and dime damage from models from further away softening targets for when another model wants to take swings at it; while Electrical Storm can be a real pain in the behind by forcing a caster to potentially spend a focus shaking disruption, especially when used by a spellcaster who opts to keep their distance by using an arc node. Assail becomes very important as it allows a behemoth like the Ironclad to keep all of its focus even when charging, which allows for that extra boost or buying that last attack to finish off an opponents heavy. Unfortunately, Dauntless Resolve only really finds a use either on the caster herself in the early stages, which can be handy, but with the way this battle box is structured, I don’t see this spell being used unless its a last ditch effort to try to eke out a win. it serves much better later on as a unit buff later on with something like Storm Blades. Lastly, Onslaught, as an area of effect spell, ensures that rough terrain doesn’t ruin a good charging opportunity. In summary, this list caters to a soften-and-strike method of play. Of course, as you build off of this, the strategy will change drastically based on your choice of units, Jacks and theme list.


Skorne is  a little tricky. The caster for this box, Beast Master Xekaar, is a bit unusual for a first time read; the synergies don’t necessarily look like they line up, and it takes a few rounds of playing to see how things work together. Once you’ve gotten a handle on them, they work fairly well together in creating some interesting (and potentially destructive) results.

Beast Master Xekaar

So, this guy is weird. Some of the abilities make sense, but hi spell list seems a little out of sorts, and his build feels like it caters to a hit and run strategy while making high priority targets less daunting to deal with. With Witch’s mark, he gets a spell that auto hits a model that he has hit with his pow 9 Weapon master whips (the favored spell for this in a battle box game is Mortality). In addition to this, he has Enrage, which allows a targeted model to get +2, to an already impressive damage line, and Maltreatment allows Xekaar to use his beasts as an extra fury draw out any beasts that have fury to get an extra shot at deflecting damage or clearing another spell.  His spell and Feat list are as follows

Deadweight – Whenever a model is destroyed by Deadweight, a model within 2″ must forfeit either its move or combat action for the round

Mortality – A model hit by this spell loses -2 Arm and -2 Def, loses Tough, and cannot have damage removed from it for the round.

Psycho Surgery – All models in Xekaar’s battle group heal 1d3+1. Can only be used once per round

Pursuit – When a model affected by Pursuit advances during an activation, any one model in the spellcaster’s battle group can make a full advance.

Feat – Whispers of Torment – All enemy models in Xekaar’s control range lose -3 STR, -3 ARM, -3 RAT and -3 THR for one round.

Cyclops Savage

Cyclops Savage is’t a bad beast for a battle box, as it offers speed, a decent damage output, and having fury control options due to Future Sight ( Model can choose to boost AFTER rolling to hit or damage rolls. at speed 6, he clears some pretty good ground in the first couple of rounds and can hit fairly decently with a Pow 13 weapon. In addition, his animus grants future sight to any friendly model (Warrior, beast or other) which is also effective for additional fury management.

Cyclops Raider

One of only a few ranged models in the Skorne faction, the raider is a decent complement for a battlebox. its Heavy Riever gun is a good softening gun at Pow 12, but has an additional benefit in Burst fire, where medium size models take damage at pow 13, and Large or bigger take damage at pow 14, which is fairly decent. It also has Arcane precision which permits him to ignore Stealth when standing still to shoot. its Melee weapon is not quite as hot as the Savage, at pow 11, but its not bad. Lastly. the Snipe Animus which allows him to get +4 to his range, making his threat range more worrisome much earlier in the game

Titan Gladiator

A staple for first time Skorne Players, the Titan is a hard hitting, face pulverizing wrecking ball waiting to be unleashed. With three weapons, the weakest being pow 15, the Gladiator  isn’t just damage on wheels, but also a movement freight train with abilities such as beatback (whenever the model hits another, after resolving damage, the model hit moves directly back 1″) and follow up which allows the gladiator to move the same 1″ to continue maintaining range to continue smashing, the Gladiator is brute force. His animus is unsuspecting for something as big but triply scary in this list as he confers not just pathfinder, but an additional 2″ of movement (not to be confused with speed, as speed means that a Run move is doubled that number. Movement is specifically the number of inches regardless of the action being taken.

General Strategy

Xekaar doesn’t want to be too far away from his beasts. to do so leaves him ripe for smashing. However, you do want him in combat with the biggest and meanest thing you can find in order to inflict Mortality for free. if you maintain beast proximity, then you have some excellent opportunities to capitalize on Mortality. In addition, Enrage, which gives +2 strength (meaning that ALL melee attacks are +2 damage) is a great tool from turning a tank into a freight train from a damage perspective; especially if you use it, and say, the gladiator’s animus on the Savage, making him a spd 6 +2 movement pow 15 missile. It also helps to use the same combo on the gladiator itself as it doesn’t benefit from a naturally high speed and will be hitting with a pow 17/18 in combat with enrage.

Use the raider to pick off the more threatening of models while you close the gap. his best ability is to continue to shot the larger models and take some key hit points and opportunities away from them before they can get into combat. Remember that Psycho Surgery affects ALL of your battle group, so don’t forget to keep that spell in the back of your head when your beasts are slugging it out. It could mean the difference between victory and defeat.


Alt box 1 – Mercenaries

Magnus the Traitor

This list is very interesting, and I think, one of the most fun. Magnus the Traitor offers a great spell and abilities list, and some solid resource options. As a caster in combat, he has the ability to really hammer out the damage, and offer great combat support at the same time with Knockdown n his Mechanikal Arm; and Powerful attack on Foecleaver, his trusty sword. With Resourceful, Magnus doesn’t pay to maintain upkeep spells which is  huge benefit considering his collection of such spells; with Backstab, he becomes a sneaky damage dealer )dealing 4 dice of damage on a charge in the back arc), and feign death means he can’t be targeted by ranged or magical attacks; and he can repair jacks which makes him doubly beneficial to his list. Overall, Magnus is a great utility caster with some serious field. His spell list and feat are listed below:

Arcantrik Bolt – Damage spell that causes jacks to become stationary

Blur – Target model/unit gets +3 def against ranged and magic attacks. Upkeepable

Death Ward – Model/Unit gets +2 arm. when this model takes damage, you choose where the damage goes

Iron Aggression – Warjack with Iron Aggression can charge, Run or slam for free; gains boosted attack rolls

Scourge – 3′ AOE that knocks down anything under area of effect.

Snipe – target model gets +4 RNG on all ranged attacks

Feat – Hit and Run – all battle group models can make a full advance or Run and gain parry.


The Mangler is a beast of a jack. Offering a pow 18 wrecking ball with thresher (instead of making an attack against a single model, this model can make an attack against every model within its weapon’s attack range). with POW 18, this jack can clear a unit with a well placed Thresher attack, or can really do some damage with the wrecking ball. the punching spike weapon offers a good secondary follow up attack. To make this jack even more devastating, Aggressive permits more focus management by allowing free charges and runs.


The Rover is only slightly more modest than the Mangler. Firstly, its the only model that gains any benefit from Snipe, but the benefit is remarkable, as it offers a base stat of RNG10, POW 14. With Shield Guard, it offer Magnus some extra protection from some of the more annoying range attacks your enemy may lob at you; and has exceptional staying power with Tried and true, which means that it gets an extra damage point removed when repaired. In close combat, the Shield cannon ranged weapon can be used as a close combat weapon AND offers a POW 17 Battle axe.

General Strategy

Magnus’ battle group has a LOT of different opportunities, but the most straight forward is mobility into combat, and resource management. Iron aggression is effective on  both jacks, as it auto boosts the attack on the Mangler; or offers free charges AND auto boosts to hit on the Rover.. While closing the gap, snipe on the Rover provides a significant advantage by offering a decent ranged attack in both power and range to knock down a few hit points on some of the heavier models. Death Ward is a good follow up spell to consider when your jacks are already in Combat (But it gets it greater effect in a list with Units), and Blue makes it difficult for ranged attacks to hit while also closing the gap. My go to is snipe on the rover until the +4 is no longer relevant, and then replace it with Blur until the last round before combat, and then replace it with Iron Aggression. The only spell I normally put on the Mangler is Death Ward ofr additional Damage control while closing the gap into combat, and miking him all the harder to wreck by controlling the systems affected by enemy attacks.

Also, keep Magnus relatively close to support the jacks. If there is a high priority target that needs to be taken out, Get Magnus in there with his Knockdown Arm, but don’t throw him in alone. Only do it if you can immediately reap the benefit of a Def 5 model. otherwise, keep him handy in repairing jacks and slinging spells. His weapon capabilities are kind of a red herring, as he looks combat capable, but unless the risk warrants a definitive reward, keep him close but behind the jacks. AS for his feat, it allows you to lay down a pattern of severe damage, but also allows you to secure the jacks to a more safe area to avoid return attacks and charge lanes. The fact that Hit and run allows jacks to RUN as well as advance offers a great opportunity to do exactly what the feat name implies: Hit and Run.

Ok, so at this point, maybe youve got an idea of what you want to do for your army. Or maybe not… This is only three of the fourteen factions available in Warmachine and Hordes, and a few of the factions have alternative lists for additional options and fun. Next issue, we’ll have a look at Khador, Trollbloods, and the Grymkin Battle box. Until next time….