Warmachine and Hordes Teaching Tips: First Encounter

Hey all, Jaden here taking some stolen moments away from wedding planning. 

Something that has come to my attention as I've tried to introduce people to the game over the years is that beginning to play Warmachine and Hordes can be REALLY REALLY HARD. 

Actually, it's almost universally accepted that learning Warmachine is insanely difficult, and that it isn't a whole lot of fun for the first little while as you lose games repeatedly to people who know the rules better. 

I've talked about it a bit on the cast before, but my day job is teaching elementary school students how to play music, and somehow I've never thought to apply the principles that work for educating students to teaching a game before. 

This is the first part in a series of articles that will discuss best practices for how to teach the game to newer people. Give it a try and let me know how it goes!

Let's have a look at some common things to avoid, and then talk through my suggestions for a first encounter with Warmachine and Hordes. 

DO NOT:

- Begin by explaining how scenario works. 
- Go over the entirety of a stat card. 
- Explain what focus and fury are, nor should you wax eloquent about the advantages and disadvantages of each. 
- Talk about spells in specifics, nor feats, nor special abilities, nor orders or unit cohesion. 
- Build them a list in Warroom and go through what everything is. 

These are all important aspects of the game, but they're not what a new player wants to do or learn or hear about. I've taught the game to close to fifty people at this point, and I've learned over time that the only way that they will stay engaged should I start out like this is if they're really close friends who are doing this out of love/kindness/pity/longsuffering. 

DO:

- Have physical cards printed out for your models. 
- Bring a small selection of models with you to teach with. A minimum melee unit, a minimum ranged unit, and a couple Warjacks. They don't even have to be from the same faction necessarily. 
- Have a forest, building, a wall template, and a circular zone. 
- Make sure you have two tape measures, because sharing them is no fun. 
- Use painted models if possible

Physical cards are really important for learning the game. They're something you can touch that has rules on it and physically interacts with you. 

Bringing a smaller selection of models that have both melee and ranged options gives you the opportunity to show people how melee and ranged attacks work. Warjacks add a layer of complication to the game, and I recommend showing them how those work after the fact. 

Terrain is exciting and interesting to a newer tabletop player. It's not like anything in a board game, and it adds visual appeal to the table. The zone provides you with an option to demonstrate a simple scenario if necessary. 

And painted models look pretty! But they're definitely not required if you don't have them. 

THE FIRST ENCOUNTER:

New players want to know two things at the beginning: How do I move stuff around? How do I hit things? 

For the first encounter, I recommend a static target (probably an inert Warjack) for a melee unit to run at and kill in the middle of the table. Explain the three main types of movement in the game (running, walking, and charging) and how they look on the table. DO NOT use special rules associated with a unit or the units weapons for any of these encounters. New players need to understand how combat works before they add in more complicated ideas.

Once the melee unit gets to the target, it's time to explain how MAT/RAT + dice have to equal or exceed DEF to hit, and how dice + P+S deal damage once they exceed ARM. 

This is one of the things that newer players often struggle with the most, remembering which stat is relevant to what in combat.  

Be patient and help them remember that MAT and RAT are just abbreviations for Melee Attack and Ranged Attack. 

Have them repeat this a couple of times. Give them challenges (if appropriate) such as "see if you can get from your deployment to the center and kill this within 3 turns". Do not ever do their math for them. Be helpful and present, but make sure to have them say the terms and do the math on their own. 

Once you've done that, take their unit away and replace it with a Warjack (or Warbeast) of their own. Say the Warjack gets one focus a turn and run the simulation again, explaining how Warjacks use Focus to run, charge, and boost. Similarly, talk about Fury and explain how warbeasts generate it to run, charge, and boost. 

At some point, start putting terrain down and explaining the way that models interact with it. Pathfinder (if they have it) should be one of the first abilities that they discover. 

The simulation should be run about 6 times total, 2 each with melee units, warjack or warbeast, and then ranged unit (if you feel so inclined). Each simulation should only take 5 minutes or so. 

Next time, we'll talk about introducing Warcasters and Warlocks, and playing a battlebox game now that your new player has experienced the rules a little bit.