Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Warmachine On A Budget!

Part I: Building An Army

By Randy

If you've ever played any tabletop wargame at all, you know that they're expensive. Very expensive. You need rulebooks, paints, brushes... and models. Lots of models. It seems like you can never have enough models to do everything you want. I'm personally more of a roleplayer, and am more interested in having a wide variety of models to represent the players in the Iron Kingdoms RPG, and the variety of creatures and characters they will encounter. Yes... expensive. What I'm hoping to do here is to give a brief guide to playing Warmachine, Hordes or the Iron Kingdoms Roleplaying Game on a budget.

This is what will interest most Warmachine/Hordes players will be most interested in. How do you build a faction army cheap? The simple answer is that you can't. Sorry. This isn't a magic bullet. The more complex answer is that with certain factions, you may be able to stretch your money a little further. Here's how!

Starter Boxes

Every faction has a starter box. This is a fully playable battlegroup, complete with a Warcaster or Warlock and some Warjacks or Warbeasts. These MSRP for $50, and are a great deal if you price the pieces out individually. In most cases, you'll want to start here. The downside is that you might not want that particular caster, but having a variety to choose from will be worthwhile in the future.

Two Player Battle Boxes

Both Warmachine and Hordes have a Two Player Battle Box. For an MSRP of $99, you get two starter kits, plus an additional sizable unit for each faction. This is an insanely good deal... especially if you can pick it up at a discount (a search while I was writing this turned up deals from $61-$75). This will limit you to one or the other faction (Khador & Protectorate of Menoth for Warmachine, Circle Orboros o& Legion of Everblight for Hordes). The upside for this is that if you and a friend want to jump in and try it out and are willing to use those factions, this is perhaps on of the best deals around. I personally picked up the Warmachine box, and I was glad to fill out my Protectorate & Khador factions. So many models! As a bonus, they also come with quickstart rules.


Privateer Press released a nifty boardgame a few years back called Grind. It was based on a Warmachine game that was printed in No Quarter magazine. I would love to say that I played this game; I really would. But I didn't. What I really liked about this game was the value. What I found is that the contents of this box, plus one Cygnar Heavy Warjack kit (the Ironclad/Cyclone/Defender one) and one Khador Heavy Warjack kit (the Destroyer/Juggernaut/Marauder/Decimator one) and you can put together six heavy warjacks: 3 Cygnar, 3 Khador. That's value. And that's not even taking the light models into account (just for Cygnar; Khador doesn't do light warjacks). The Cygnaran 'jacks are spot-on with only the tiniest bit of conversion necessary. The Khadoran ones have ever-so-slightly smaller smokestacks, but that's barely noticeable. Totally worth the price. I'll bet the game is probably good, too.

Side by side, warjacks from the kit (left, Defender) and from The Grind (right, Cyclone).


Inevitably, you're going to want to try out a model that you don't have. You're considering adding one to an army list, and you think it's synergize with others, but you want to make sure. Use another model as a stand-in! This is called proxying, and it is perfectly fine for friendly (read: non-tournament) games, as long as you're up front with your opponent. If you're a roleplayer, you probably already do this. It makes far more sense to say the Defender (a Cygnaran heavy 'jack) is a stand-in for an Avenger (a spiffy new Cygnar heavy) that you want to check out. Just make sure that when you proxy a model, you use another with the same size base, and preferably one similar so you and your opponent can easily track the board state. It's worth noting that you won't be able to do this in tournaments or at events, where you'll need the actual model and the stat card to field a particular model.

The foamboard sticks in the foreground are proxied Wracks.

Other Deals

As was commented below, Privateer Press through their online store offer Christmas specials. These consist of prebuilt faction packs with 25-30 point armies. Not to mention other deals you may find at other retailers! online retailers will likely offer discounts, but local game stores may also have customer loyalty programs, as well. (Thanks to greibach for pointing this out!)


One way to get more mileage out of one of the plastic heavy warjack kits is with magnets. The kits have all the parts you need to build three or four different jacks out of the same kit, and you can use rare earth magnets glued in to swap out heads, arms and weapons. So that kit will still only be one warjack, but you can swap out which type it is. Nifty, huh? (Thanks again to greibach for this!) Update! I just showed how I magnetized a Cygnar Avenger-Centurion-Hammersmith kit!

Best Warmachine/Hordes Factions by Budget:

1. Khador: With the Two Player Battle Box and Grind, Khador is probably the cheapest to build up an army. Going by MSRP, the Battle Box is roughly equivalent to the MSRP of the Khador models and gives you an extra faction, either for you or a friend. You can angle in a bit cheaper with the Start Box plus the Man-O-War unit, but extra models are always nice and may be worth having to trade.

2.  Cygnar: No Battle Box support for Cygnar, but you can fill out your heavy 'jacks with extras from Grind. As I said above, one Heavy Warjack kit plus the two extras from that game will give you three Cygnaran heavies (one each Defender, Ironclad and Cyclone). I recall a slight modification to an upper arm joint, and clipping the hand off one forearm and replacing with one oriented for the correct arm, but that is very minimal. I have not yet tried to do anything with the light 'jacks other than proxies. When I have any amount of disposable income, I may do an order from the Privateer Press Parts Store and get some pieces to convert them into other Cygnaran light 'jacks.

3.Protectorate of Menoth: Again, the Two Player Battle Box is a great starting point for Protectorate players. Two heavy warjacks, one light one, Kreoss and a unit of Exemplar Cinerators. The Starter Box for the Protectorate has Kreoss, two light 'jacks and a heavy.

4. Circle Orboros & Legion of Everblight: These factions are in the Hordes Battle Box, and their lists look like a comparable deal to the Protectorate, above.

5. Other factions (Cryx, Retribution of Scyrah, Skorne, Trollbloods, Mercenaries, Minions, Convergence of Cyriss): Other than the starter boxes, no great deals like above. It's a shame, since these factions all have some impressive models. I think I could field a pretty high point cost Cryx force; they make excellent RPG baddies!

Note: This list above is not necessarily factoring in competitive play, but mostly looking at getting the most models on the table. There is a discussion on Reddit about this that goes more into what factions are the cheapest in terms of fielding a competitive army. My list above should be considered in terms of getting faction models on the table for Iron Kingdoms roleplaying.


I hope that helps you if you're looking into building an army on the cheap. It's true that wargames are a big drain on the wallet, but some planning can certainly help things along. The next installment will focus on painting. Do you have any moneysaving tips for Warmachine, Horders or the IKRPG? Post them below!


  1. Magnetizing heavy kits!

    Each faction to my knowledge has one or two heavy kits in plastic. These kits can make 3 different beasts/jacks using the same "chassis" (body and basic stats). With these kits, you can magnetize the heads, hands/weapons and a few other parts to basically make one heavy kit work as three different models. The main downside is needing a dremmel or drill of some kind, and you still can only use one at a time, but it's MUCH more preferable to buying 3 separate models.

    Christmas Specials-
    At least last year, and I think previously, PP offered "holiday boxes" that had 25 or 35 point pre-made armies. They were pretty cost effective IIRC, and they were also not bad as far as list building goes for the most part. As the holiday approaches, this may be something worth looking at again!

  2. Thanks for the tips! I've updated the article. BTW, I just heard in the Privateer Press Primecast that their holiday sales begin Black Friday this year. Here's a link: http://privateerpress.com/community/privateer-insider/insider-11-06-2013