One of the things that the early months of mark III made very obvious was that lots of infantry, in general, was not the optimal way to play Warmachine anymore. This was a radical shift from mark II, where most Warmachine armies featured a heavy or colossal and a ton of dudes.
There were a lot of reasons for this, including a Warjack/Warbeast point pool on most Warlocks/Casters that would have amounted to roughly 10-15 points in mark III and the Power Up mechanic not existing, but whatever the reason Mark II was the age of infantrymachine and Mark III ushered in the era of Warjacks.
That is, at least, until SR 2017 hit the streets and suddenly armies needed to be able to spread out, control zones with units, and play an entirely different kind of game.
One of the things that we've repeatedly had requests to talk about is how to use units. Lots of Warmachine and Hordes players have never had to work with them on any large scale before, and as a result find them difficult to play with and against.
While this piece is by no means an exhaustive guide, here I will tackle four different types of units and the ways in which I typically use them. Part II will cover others, and I am going to stay far, far away from regular Cavalry units in this piece - they deserve their own article. Their combination of high speed, high cost, and high game impact is difficult to talk about side by side with other pieces.
The unit types I will discuss in this piece are:
Tar Pit Units
Armor Cracking Units
Each of these unit types play in radically different ways, and each of them has a place in the game. Furthermore, every unit has the capacity to fill different roles depending on the game and what their opponent has on the table. It's a complicated topic, but we'll do our best. Let's go!
Jamming units are expendable. Their job is to get thrown in front of enemy models to control the way they move. This can range from dictating the order in which your opponent has to activate their models to forcing your opponent to abandon getting to the meat of your army so as not to lose on scenario.
Jamming units typically are some combination of pretty fast, fairly cheap, durable, or plentiful.
Good examples of these include:
Bog Trog Ambushers
Wolves of Orboros
What you are hoping to do with a jamming unit is either 1) get an alpha strike with them that your opponent cannot avoid and push them out of Scenario with that or 2) run at your opponent and force them to handle the models in the way.
If your opponent can't do that without spending a lot of their resources, the jamming unit has done its job.
Let's have a look at a couple examples of this.
In this example, the Grymkin player has taken a bunch of infantry into a list that excels at killing infantry.
That being said, the sheer volume of jamming models has pushed the Menoth player back far enough that the "friendly" flag and right hand zone are basically untouchable by the Menoth army without just sacrificing pieces to the Dread Rots (which also double as Armor Cracking units).
This game ended on turn 4 or 5 with Grymkin taking it on Scenario 5-0.
In this game, the Retribution Halberdiers are sitting pretty after having run only about 70% as far as they could have on turn one, followed by a blistering alpha on turn 2 that destroyed a battle engine and nearly killed multiple heavies.
Only a well-timed Sacrifice Arcana to regenerate the Grymkin army and a Rattler (which is an excellent anti-jamming model thanks to Overtake and Berserk) allowed the Grymkin player to pull off an assassination run here. Without that, the Retribution player had ground the Grymkin forces down to two heavies and the caster while maintaining a significant scenario lead.
Something VERY important that the Retribution player did here can be found in the second photo.
In the left hand zone, the Halberdier unit has Repositioned backwards so that they can come in again the next turn to jam for even longer, preventing anything from reaching that far flag for multiple turns and allowing the Arcantrik Force Generators and Hydras to shoot for as many turns as possible.
So to sum up, Jamming units are there to:
- Set the line of engagement where you want it.
- Force your opponent to change the way they place their models by threatening areas of the table OR by being in their face such that they cannot move.
- Give you scenario pressure and relief.
Tar Pit Units:
Tar Pit Units are almost the opposite of a jamming unit, although often both roles can be performed by the same unit depending on the matchup.
The goal of a Tar Pit Unit is to make it very hard to reach your models by virtue of their presence. This is different than a Jamming unit because a Tar-Pit Unit tends to be on your side of the table, protecting pieces that you care about from attack.
Tar Pit Units tend to be some combination of highly armored, highly defensive, tough (the ability), multi-wound, or difficult to remove by some other ability such as recursion.
Good examples of Tar Pit Units Include:
Iron Fang Pikemen
Gatorman Bokur and Shamblers
Alexia and the Risen
All of these are hard to kill for sure. TFG in the new Flameguard theme are tough and steady, Iron Fangs are just really well armored and don't die easily to small arms fire, etc.
Remember, if your opponent has to put their own models in the way to kill your Tar Pit, that means they will still have a hard time getting to your key pieces, so being resilient to small arms fire (unboostable pow 10-12 guns) is critical.
Another key point - you shouldn't be spending more points on your Tar Pit unit than the thing they are protecting. A common example here is a Marauder - why screen a 10 point heavy with a 15-20 point unit when you can just screen it with another Marauder?
Finally, most Tar Pit units have the ability to hit back pretty hard, since they will potentially need to clear whatever came into them and then move up the table to do it again the next turn.
Let's have a look at some examples:
In this example, the Press Gangers are screening a Marauder, Old Witch, and Ruin, all while recurring themselves, being Tough, and giving Alexia souls to make even more models to screen with.
You'll notice that the Tar Pit unit moves up the table over a few turns, but still stays spread out to prevent the opponent from killing too many at once with blasts or sprays, and to deny landing spots.
Notice in the second picture how on the right, there are very few things screening Ruin from the extreme right flank. This is because there isn't anything actually threatening Ruin at that moment, and so the Khador player allocated his resources (wisely) somewhere else.
Tar Pit units are really hard to use because they require you to know what your opponent can and cannot do and where they can and cannot get to.
Let's look at another example.
In the first picture, that Feral Warpwolf has next to no chance of getting to Blood of Martyrs, even though there's a Woldwrath sitting back there providing artillery support.
If the Temple Flameguard are in Shield Wall, the Woldwrath easily forces a tough check on the actual target of his AOE 5 gun (assuming the TFG are in theme so they have tough and steady) but then needs 10s to force tough checks on the others, and he needs to kill a solid clump of three to let the Feral in at all.
Even then, the Feral would take free strikes, and Feral Warpwolves do NOT like taking free strikes.
The Circle player can choose to commit his Feral to killing some TFG (a bad decision), or he can choose to back up out of charge range and bring his Woldwrath up front to screen his Warpwolf (also probably a bad decision).
In the second example, the Feral has a clear charge lane to the Protectorate Warjack. Nothing about the Flameguard positioning has changed, but what was a fantastic Tar Pit or screen in the first picture is now completely useless.
To summarize, Tar Pit Units:
- Protect other pieces or parts of the table.
- Need to be resilient to shooting in some way.
- Must be able to take more resources to remove than your opponent is willing to commit.
- Have to be able to deal somewhat significant damage to clear themselves off.
Armor Cracking Units:
Armor Cracking Units are the simplest to use in theory - simply charge them at their targets and blow them up.
Armor Cracking Units are really hard to use effectively though, since your opponent will almost certainly prioritize them if possible, and remove them from the table before you can do anything with them.
Really good Armor Cracking units have some native threat extension built into their card, like Apparate or Vengeance, have immunity to infantry guns through high ARM or DEF, and can deal with terrain by nature of their card or something common in their faction.
Some good examples of Armor Cracking Units include:
Neighslayers (I know, they're cavalry but they're not normal cavalry)
And many factions have access to spells such as Fury which gives +3 to melee damage at the cost of one defense, Blood Fury which gives an additional die to melee damage at the cost of two defense, Battle Lust, which gives an additional die to melee damage, and others.
These that I've mentioned all have some sort of out for terrain such as Relentless Charge on Neighslayers, Dawnguard Sentinels, and Champs (although you have to take the CA for the latter two), Ghostly on the Banes, and Battle Driven on the Knights Exemplar.
Sentinels and Champs survive to make it to the fight by dint of high ARM values, Neighslayers by recursion, and Exemplars by bringing a lot of them and recursion.
Each of these units only needs to deliver 4-5 guys to start seriously hurting heavy Warjacks and Warbeasts, and that's the important thing to remember about these kinds of units - you just need a few to do a lot of work.
Let's have a look at a few examples.
In the first picture, you can see how the Grymkin player is keeping his Neighslayers far back on the right because the Troll player has ranged attacks over there.
On the left, they're still back behind another unit to keep them safe, but they're being a bit bolder since nothing can get to them.
In the second picture, you can see the fruits of their labor. Mulg is dead to charging Neighslayers (who were able to get around the rough terrain thanks to Relentless Charge), and on the right hand side, the Neighslayers are still sitting back while the other unit engages the ranged beasts, waiting for their turn to come in and do the same.
Playing with an Armor Cracking unit takes a lot of patience - you have to wait for the right moment or you'll get them killed without doing anything at all.
This is another good example of how to play the Armor Cracking unit in your list.
The Retribution player has, in the first picture, set his Sentinels up at the edge of the zone so that they threaten the entire thing. This means that if the Grymkin player goes in there with anything, it dies almost instantly.
On the left though, he's jamming with Magehunter Infiltrators, and notice how he's pushed the Grymkin player almost completely out of that zone in the second picture.
On the right in picture number two, the Sentinels are coming in in pods of three - never over committing, but doing massive damage every turn with just a few models.
Armor Cracking units take a lot of practice to use effectively, but once you start to figure it out, an entirely different way of playing Warmachine opens up.
Ranged units are a very odd one to talk about, since they play an entirely different role than any of the others.
Typically a list comprised entirely of ranged units is going to disappear on Scenario, since the second they become engaged, they're worthless. This means that they want to stay far back, but if the entire list stays way back, then you lose on Scenario very quickly.
The Ghost Fleet is (or was, depending on when you're reading this) a great example of a list that had a lot of ranged units, but also could mix it up in melee with the same units, and that was a big part of why it is so strong.
Good ranged units typically have some combination of longer ranged guns than most things can charge, a way to get unengaged, high accuracy, reposition, a way to deal damage in melee, and some way to increase the power or impact of their attacks.
Some examples of this include:
Reeves of Orboros
Winterguard Rifle Corps Rocketeers (they come with a min unit of Riflemen as a bonus)
Mage Hunter Strike Force
Trencher Long Gunners
These guys are all capable of dealing out damage at range to both infantry and Warbeasts or Warjacks through Combined Ranged attacks, Prey, Jack Hunter, etc.
They can all hit things in melee (with the exception of the Deliverers because Range 16 is usually enough), and many of them have long enough ranges or ways to get out of melee that they won't get jammed and engaged.
Ranged units are tricky to use as well - too close to your enemy and they're dead, too far away and they're useless. Let's have a look at a couple examples.
In this example, the first picture shows a unit of Karax running as far as they can to give the Grymkin player less turns to shoot at them.
Unfortunately for them, the Hollowmen simply apparated out of the way, and since they were all in the sweet spot of "not too close, not too far", they were able to blast that unit mostly off the table, securing that left hand side.
Notice though that they're definitely not the only thing in the army - there are plenty of melee options available too, contesting the bottom zone and middle zone and making it so that the Grymkin player doesn't lose on Scenario despite the attrition advantage.
In the first picture here, you can see arrows showing where the pressure is on the Protectorate player.
He has to choose a direction for his army to go, but no matter which way he commits, there are two other flanks that will collapse on him.
This is one of the huge things ranged units can do for you - they can force your opponent to make bad placement choices because they simply don't feel they have any better options.
Again, note that even after the Warjacks come slamming in for the second picture, the ranged units are sitting just safe outside of that area. Finding that balance of relevant but not dead takes practice, but it's incredibly rewarding.
Units are diverse, and I've only just touched on a few of their types here. Every faction has something unique as far as units go - that's one of the things that makes Warmachine and Hordes so interesting and engaging!
I've done my best to highlight four different types of unit here, but there are several others that I'm sure a follow up article will touch on.
For now, thanks for reading, keep practicing, and if you'd like to see even more content from us here at Line of Sight, you can follow our Facebook page or find me on Twitter under @LoS_Jaden. If you feel like supporting what we do here, you're welcome to do that on our patreon page - patreon.com/loswarmachine.
If you've got any other types of units that you think I should cover, please let me know! This list was by no means exhaustive, and each type could have had its own article. What are your favorite tricks for units? How do you use them best? I'd love to hear your thoughts!
Thanks for reading!