The game is played with white metal and plastic miniatures manufactured by Privateer Press representing military characters from the Iron Kingdoms D20 Role Playing Game setting. Battles are fought between warcasters from rival kingdoms, the large steam-powered warjacks that the warcasters control, and troops consisting of humans and fantasy races.
In 2004, Warmachine won the Origins Awards for Best Fantasy Miniatures Rules of 2003 and Best Fantasy Miniatures Series of 2003. In 2005 Warmachine won Game of the Year at Origins and Gamers Choice for Best Miniatures.
A compatible companion game involving the savage factions is named Hordes.
Warmachine's most distinctive feature is the inclusion of warcasters and warjacks (the war machines from which the game derives its name). Warjacks, or 'jacks for short, are techno-magical constructs designed for waging war. They are, in general, powered by a coal-burning steam engine and guided by an arcane supercomputer-like 'brain' called a cortex. Heavily armored and often carrying over-sized weaponry, 'jacks fill a role similar to traditional military armor such as tanks and artillery. They are several times more durable and powerful than normal troops, but are far more costly.
Warcasters are the pivotal characters of the game. Warcasters are powerful spellcasters who have learned to control warjacks. Warcasters serve multiple roles: in addition to guiding the warjacks' destructive power, they are the army commanders and potent combatants. Each Warcaster has a special feat that can be used once per battle; their effects range from subtle to explosive and can be enough to change the tide of battle.
In addition to warcasters and warjacks, armies can field supporting infantry troops of many varieties. Some are infantry or gunners, while others have more specialized roles, from warjack repairmen to spellcasters. Most of these troops come in groups and move in formations, but there are also independent characters called solos.
In the first expansion Warmachine: Wrath, battle engines were introduced. Battle engines are huge mechanical constructs that are not warjacks and thus does not require focus. Each faction has one battle engine available at the moment.
The second expansion Warmachine: Colossals gave each faction towering warjacks known as Colossals. Taking a role similier to a battleship, each Colossal is heavily armed and capable dealing and receiving large amounts of damage. Their powerful presence is balanced by their high cost to include them in an army, making the loss of a Colossal during the course of a game a heavy loss of resources.
The third and most recent expansion Warmachine: Vengeance added new Epic versions of older warcasters, as well as new units, solos and warjacks. The new Novice warcasters introduced with the video game Warmachine: Tactics (see below) were also added.
The overall gameplay is supposed to encourage aggression rather than defensive tactics, such as sitting behind fortifications. This is referred to amongst players and the game's developers as the 'Page 5' code of ethics: "Play Like You've Got A Pair".
Warmachine is similar to many other miniature wargames in that each army consists of several units, each of which acts during a turn. Individual units move, attack, and may perform other actions such as repairing a warjack or casting a spell. The primary mechanic unique to Warmachine is the use of focus points. Each warcaster receives a certain number of focus points each turn, which represents that caster's magical power. At the beginning of the turn, focus may be spent to pay for ongoing abilities and allocated between the warcaster and 'jacks in the caster's battlegroup. Focus allows warjacks to become more accurate and powerful by "boosting" their attacks, and to perform special actions such as slamming or throwing an enemy model. Additionally warcasters can use focus to cast spells that perform all manner of arcane effects. Good focus management can often be the difference between winning and losing. The Warcaster is the single most important model on either side in the game. If your caster is killed you lose the game, no matter how many casualties, or how much damage, you've inflicted on the enemy.
The Warmachine game is set in the world of Caen, upon the western portion of the continent of Immoren. Western Immoren is divided into the following political powers:
The kingdoms of Cygnar, Ord, Llael, and Khador are the main human kingdoms of Western Immoren, collectively referred to as the Iron Kingdoms. They were created four hundred years ago by the signing of the Corvis Treaties. In the in-game storyline that unfolds through the fiction in game manuals and other supplements, Cygnar and Khador are currently at war, and Khador has annexed almost all of Llael. Ord is decidedly neutral in the war.
While the Protectorate of Menoth was historically part of Cygnar, it has recently declared independence (and in fact war on Cygnar). The Protectorate is populated by members of the Menite faith, historically alienated by Cygnar's Morrowan government. Recently, the Protectorate has declared a crusade against Cygnar, and is mobilizing secret armies that were in existence in breach of treaties with Cygnar in addition to police forces and temple guards.
Cryx is an archipelago off the coast of Cygnar. It is ruled by Lord Toruk also known as "The Dragonfather" as he is the sire of all the dragons of Caen and is a haven for piracy and other evils. The raiding parties of Satyxis and undead are constantly harrying the shores of the other kingdoms.
Ios is the country of the elves. Little is known of it as their borders have been closed for years. What is known is that the elves have lost their gods, but one has returned and another was imprisoned (until recently) by Khador. These gods are dying, and the elves believe that the magics used by the humans is what is killing them.
Rhul is the country of the dwarves. It is currently neutral in the Cygnar-Khadoran war, but it has recently had a friendly attitude towards Cygnar.
The various powers listed here are explored in more details in the Iron Kingdoms RPG. In Warmachine, the focus is on the four major factions: Cygnar, Khador, Menoth and Cryx.
There are currently seven playable factions in Warmachine.
Cygnar is the most prosperous and most technologically advanced human nation of the Iron Kingdoms. Recent releases (specifically the Retribution of Scyrah and the Convergence of Cyriss) imply that other nations may surpass Cygnar's technology in at least some areas. Cygnar's ballistic technology is highly advanced, and the Cygnaran specialty, arcane electrical energy, can fry opposing warjacks' cortexes, rendering them far less effective in combat. Prominent Cygnaran warcasters include Lord Commander Coleman Stryker and Major Victoria Haley. Recently, the Thunderhead, an advanced jack powered by electricity, has been developed by Commander Adept Sebastian Nemo. Cygnar also has a Colossal-class warjack called the Stormwall, which are the largest warjacks in the Iron Kingdoms.
The Protectorate of Menoth
The Protectorate of Menoth, formerly part of Cygnar, is a nation of devout religious practitioners. Menite troops are sometimes individually weaker, but their abilities combine to great effect, and they are often designed for denying opponents the opportunity to attack. Menites have a penchant for setting their heretical enemies on fire. Led by the charismatic Hierarch Severius, the Protectorate has embarked on a holy war against their great enemy, Cygnar. Prominent Menite warcasters include Grand Exemplar Mikael Kreoss and the leader himself, Hierarch Severius. The most powerful Menite warjack, the Avatar of Menoth, is guided by divine power rather than a warcaster. The Judicator is the Protectorate's Colossal warjack, built from designs stolen and modified from Cygnar.
Khador is the imperialistic, expansionist nation to the north. Their warjacks are much slower than similar combatants, but they possess several abilities and spells that allow them to move faster. In order to make up for their speed, they have the heaviest armor and can deal out massive damage. Khadoran troops, however, are some of the most mobile and best-trained in the game. Khador specializes in freezing enemy troops, making them much easier to hit and destroy. Prominent Khadoran warcasters include Forward Kommander Sorscha Kratikoff and Orsus "The Butcher" Zoktavir. Khador recently fielded the Behemoth, the largest warjack in the Iron Kingdoms, excluding Colossals. The Colossal Conquest is a brute-force warjack of enormous power with thick armour and heavy cannons.
Cryx is a nation of necromancers who worship Toruk, father of all dragons. They are the masters of dark magic. Their troops, nearly all undead, are numerous, and their warjacks are fast and nimble, but lightly armored. Cryxian attacks often coat their targets in acid, slowly melting flesh and metal. Prominent Cryxian warcasters include Wraith Witch Deneghra and the Lich Lord Asphyxious. Lord Toruk's legions have finally managed to harness the power of the Deathjack, a fearsome construct commonly thought to be a myth. Additionally, the forces of Cryx have been authorized to use Krakens, Colossals which gain power as they slay living opponents with their mechanikal tendrils.
Retribution of Scyrah
The Retribution of Scyrah represents the secret forces of a rising sect within the elven nation of Ios as they fight to save their few remaining gods, and kill all human mages. Composed of covert mage hunters, soldiers of the noble elven houses, and the legendary Dawnguard legions, they strike against the arcane magics of human kingdoms using warjack-like constructs called Myrmidons, running completely on magic as opposed to steam and coal like standard warjacks. Prominent warcasters of the Retribution include Dawnlord Vyros and Kaelyssa, Night's Whisper. The Retribution recently received permission from the Iosian government to deploy the enormous Hyperion Colossals against their enemies. The Hyperions have the single most powerful cannon yet seen in WarMachine.
Convergence of Cyriss
The Convergence of Cyriss is a mechanical force composed of mathematicians and other learned men who desire to physically manifest the goddess Cyriss on Caen. They desire to fulfill that dream through vectors, warjacks directly controlled by the warcaster, and clockwork soldiers. Their Colossal warjack, called "Prime Axiom"s, generate new autonomous combat pods as well as a host of powerful ranged and melee weaponry.
Mercenaries run the gamut, possessing many different types of abilities. Each mercenary will fight for two or more of the main factions; in addition, there are mercenary contract armies composed solely of mercenary troops and designed to fight for minor powers such as the Highborn Covenant and the Four Star Syndicate. While there are a few of the Iron Kingdoms that produce warjacks for Mercenaries (specifically the nations of Ord, Rhul, and the former nation of Lael), many Mercenaries make due with scavenging surplus or mothballed military warjacks, refitting them into working 'jacks capable of doing battle with newer ones. Ashlynn D'Elyse, Magnus the Warlord, and Gorten Grundback are prominent mercenary warcasters.
The first book, Warmachine: Prime was released originally in 2003, with a revised edition, Warmachine: Prime Remix released in early 2007. All of the subsequent books have been expansions of Prime. Each expansion usually introduces new warcasters, warjacks, units, and solos, as well as new model subtypes – such as cavalry units – that add new strategies and complexities to each faction. With the release of Mk2, all previous books models have been folded into the new Forces of Warmachine series.
- Mark I Warmachine
- Warmachine: Prime – 2003
- Warmachine: Escalation – 2004
- Warmachine: Apotheosis – 2005
- Warmachine: Superiority – 2006
- Warmachine: Prime Remix – 2007
- Forces of Warmachine: Pirates of the Broken Coast – 2007
- Warmachine: Legends – 2008
- Mark II Warmachine
- Warmachine Prime Mk2 – January 2010
- Warmachine: Wrath – June 2011
- Warmachine: Colossals – July 2012
- Warmachine: Vengeance – March 2014
- Warmachine: Reckoning – TBA
- Forces of Warmachine is the name of a series of expansions that will focus on a themed army as opposed to having additions to all of the factions.
- Forces of Warmachine: Retribution of Scyrah – 2009
- Forces of Warmachine: Cygnar – February 2010
- Forces of Warmachine: Khador – March 2010
- Forces of Warmachine: Protectorate of Menoth – April 2010
- Forces of Warmachine: Cryx – June 2010
- Forces of Warmachine: Mercenaries – July 2010
- Forces of Warmachine: Convergence of Cyriss – July 2013
Mk2 is a complete reworking of the game, with every model available changed and/or recosted, alongside the changes to the rules set. The cards for all models from the Mk1 line are also available for purchase as Faction Decks as of January 2010, as is a new template set.
April 2009 saw an open "Field Test" of the Warmachine Mk2 rules, hosted on Privateer Press' website. Players could download a full set of rules, plus rules for every model in the game, and post feedback to Privateer Press through an online field test website.