First Impressions: Warmachine MK IV Beta Rules

Privateer Press recently released the new Beta Rules for Warmachine MK IV ahead of the starter set unveilings at GenCon this year. To accompany these beta rules, PP also released two demo armies, each including two Warcaster options, from the Cryx and Protectorate of Menoth factions. There’s much to be said about the changes happening in these new MK IV rules, such as the removal of free strikes and the new way unit movement works. To best put these changes and the demo armies themselves through the paces, I reached out to my friend and fellow Goonhammer contributor MildNorman (Norman) to join me in a test game of Warmachine MK IV.

Norman happily agreed, as he’s Warmachine curious with the upcoming edition release. I’ve been playing Warmachine for years, and even with a break for a few years the foundational rules of the game came back to me like riding a bike. For Norman, this would be his first ever dive into Warmachine at all. I think this works out perfectly, as returning vets and curious new players are exactly what MK IV sounds like it’s being marketed towards. Can these new rules keep the old guard happy? And can these new rules make a game that can hook a new player? With Norman taking command of Cryx and me playing Protectorate, we hope we can find out.

(Credit: Privateer Press)

Pre-Game Thoughts and Lists

Swiftblade’s List (Click to expand):

Grand Exemplar Kreoss
Crusader 9
Devout 9
Choir of Menoth 3
Exemplars Errant 8
**Officer+Standard 4
Knights Exemplar 7
Knights Exemplar 7
Reclaimer Gatekeeper 2
Careful Reconissance 0
Power Swell 0
Old Faithful 0
Arcane Focus 1
Infiltration 0
TOTAL: 50 Pts


(Grand Exemplar Kreoss. Credit: Privateer Press)

Swiftblade (Dan R.):
I’m a little nervous, to be honest. Firstly, it’s been about four years since I’ve even thought about playing Warmachine. So this game represents me getting back into the saddle with the game.

To compound that, I’m nervous about some of the changes, particularly in the way units move. Formerly, you moved each model individually and made sure all models remained in range of the unit leaders Command (CMD) stat. This made individual models in a unit pretty dynamic in how they interacted on the battlefield. Now, one model moves and all other models in the unit are placed within 2” of the moved model. I’ve been told that’s how Star Wars: Legion handles movement, but that’s a very different game from Warmachine. Being able to place models in a unit like that makes me worried about the sort of movement and charging shenanigans you could pull with it that could lead to an unfun game experience.

Finally, I’m nervous about Norman. It’s his first time touching the game and we are playing with 50 Pt armies, which is a lot compared to the battlebox starter sets of a handful of jacks and a caster. Warmachine can be a very complicated game for new players even with those small battleboxes, and Privateer Press has stated that enticing new players is one of the goals of this new edition. Norman has a far greater grasp on game literacy than many other people I know, so hopefully that means this will be a good game experience. To make it a little easier on him though, I made his Cryx list from what I remember being good in Cryx.

MildNorman’s List (Click to Expand):

Bane Witch Agatha
Inflictor 9
Deathripper 4
Deathripper 4
Deathripper 4
Slayer 9
Bane Warriors 7
**Officer+Standard 4
Pistol Wraith 4
Pistol Wraith 4
Careful Reconissance 0
Hit and Run 0
Old Faithful 0
Sentry Duty 1
Power Swell 0
TOTAL: 50pts


(Bane Witch Agathia. Credit: Privateer Press)

MildNorman (Norman): I told Dan I would read the rules before our game so we could just get rolling and the game could be focused on the new gameplay. This was a lie. I had movement and basic mechanics worked but I bounced off stuff like the focus rules and the special rules page real hard. So I was kind of going in ready for anything in the sense that I didn’t know shit.

After Dan described exactly what the army’s bit was I kinda knew they weren’t gonna be my dudes. They’re sneaky and weird and I’m much more of a “big and durable” kind of guy. The list, as far as I would describe as a new player, had some armored weirdos, a bunch of little doggy type guys who looked fast but lightly armored, two ghosts that had guns, a wizard type lady, a robot to protect the wizard, and a robot for killing. It seemed the core conceit of the list was to use the wizards defensive buffs to get my dudes into combat on my terms.   

The Game

The Mission: Split Decision

    The mission has one six inch zone on one side of the map, and on the other side there are two flags. Scoring starts on the end of the second players second turn, and points are scored for controlling the zone or controlling a flag. Flag points are scored by having a commander or solo base to base with the flag and no enemy models near it, and the zone is controlled by having only friendly models inside of it. First person to have a 5 point lead wins, or whoever has the highest score at the end of turn 7. Additionally, the game is won if the opponent’s commander is dead.


Swiftblade: I win the rolloff and elect to go first. I deploy with my Knights exemplar ready to push the zone hard, and my caster+jacks ready to contest the flags. The Exemplar Errants will get to advance deploy 3” forward, so I put them in the forest near the hill when it comes time to place them. Norman also places his hard hitting Bane Warriors unit to push the zone with the help of a Deathripper, and then places much of the rest of his forces behind the LoS blocking forest for added protection. His caster can hand out Ghost Walk with her feat, and this lets him move through the forest without any penalty. He deploys two deathrippers and a pistol wraith near the flag, to contest it.

Mildnorman: I didn’t know what the hell I was doing here outside of keeping dudes near my caster due to command range and trying to take advantage of the ghost walk to use the trees for cover. I also deployed my gun ghosts near the flags since they were the only things besides my wizard who could hold them.

Turn 1

Swiftblade: I cautiously advance my forces up and throw out two upkeep spells: Assail on my Crusader and Inviolable Resolve on my Errants. The Errants end up being a bit out of my spell range, but I use the Arcane Focus Command Card to push the range enough to get the spell on them. Norman pops feat with his caster to allow him to walk through the terrain with impunity and grant stealth to the models in his control range, and carefully moves forward. He notes the extra movement that can be gained from the new way placing unit models works, and makes sure to end outside of the threat of that accordingly. 

Mildnorman: Hey ya’ll movement is weird in this game. When you move a unit you move one dude in the unit and everyone teleports around them. I’ve heard legion has a similar  movement rules but they center everything on the commander of the squad whereas in this game you just pick a dude to be the movement guy for the turn. Anyway as a 40k dude not having shit to shoot and just moving towards each other turn one was an adjustment. It felt sorta like I needed to be ultra careful against these guys or else I was gonna get blended so I attempted to get everyone together for a big strike the next turn.

(Credit: Swiftblade)

Turn 2

Swiftblade: I move me Exemplars onto the hill for the defense bonus then pop another command card to give them stealth, and move my caster to touch the flag and cast Sacrosanct. This spell causes enemy warrior models to be knocked down if they box one of my models in Kreoss’ control range (we misplay it here and play it as all non commander models and not just warrior models, which I don’t feel great about!) I move one unit of Knights Exemplar onto the zone, and keep the other off of the zone. This will probably cost me one unit of Exemplars when the Bane Warriors get stuck in, but sacrosanct should make the counterattack next turn with the other Exemplar unit even easier. I keep the Crusader close to Kreoss for countercharge threats and make sure the choir keeps protecting my jacks from spells.

On his turn, Norman commits into my Knights Exemplar with his Bane Warriors. He has a bit of bad luck here and doesn’t do as much damage to the unit as he expected, but does manage to take the zone from me. Norman uses Sentry duty to give one of his Pistol Wraiths eyeless sight and sends in two deathrippers to focus on trying to pop Exemplars. He activates his caster and uses Ghost Walk on the Inflictor so that it can move through the wagon, and then throws a spell at my Errants. With all of it said and done, only two of the Errants are killed thanks to self sacrifice and good tough rolls. The Inflictor commits to the other Knights Exemplar, and gets knocked down after killing one because I misread sacrosanct. This is probably a back-breaking moment in retrospect, since if we had played it correctly the Warjack could have been much more dangerous here. 

Mildnorman: Ok so this didn’t work. I was mostly expecting my big, scary robots to kill more than 3 dudes but that seems to not be how Warmachine works. I should have been messing with the warjack’s special rules to cause more mass damage. Falling down after meeting any success also didn’t help.

Turn 3

Swiftblade: I pop feat, which causes models in my control range to automatically hit and melee and gives them an extra attack. With the feat up, I try and kill a pistol wraith with a spell but leave it with one box left. This causes me to push forward a little bit with Kreoss. The Knights Exemplar commit to the zone and, thanks to the feat, handily clean up the Bane Warriors there and do enough damage to the Inflictor to knock out it’s cortex. The Exemplar Errants also clean up the two deathrippers engaging them. The Crusader moves close to Kreoss to try and protect him. My Turn ends 3-2 Norman’s favor.

Norman sounds pretty defeated here and is ready to concede, but I don’t want to leave Norman with a bad taste in his mouth from his first ever game and suggest he try and make an assasination run on Kreoss, who’s only got two focus on camp. Norman agrees, and I help him come up with a play.

(Credit: Privateer Press)

Norman’s turn comes around, and we remember we can use the Command Card Old Faithful to heal his Inflictor so it can be given focus. He does so, but it wont add anything to the assasination attempt. The plan is to use the two Pistol Wraiths to cause the Devout to get hit with Stationary, after which the Devout can’t shield guard the next pistol wraith shots on Kreoss. If Kreoss gets hit with stationary here, it will mean Agathia’s attacks will all automatically hit and make this Assasination run surefire. The Pistol Wraith misses it’s first shot though, and then the second as well, so that angle is dead. He will need to kill Kreoss the old fashioned way.

Agaitha spends one Focus to gain vanish to move an extra 3 and then has an angle to make a successful charge on Kreoss. With 6 focus and 18 wounds to chew through, Norman has a fair chance here to snatch victory out from the jaws of defeat. I’m reminded here, in wild hail mary assasination attempts like these, why I liked Warmachine in the first place. Honestly, I’m rooting for Norman here.

Sadly for both of us, the assassination fails. Kreoss is able to use the last two focus he has to survive the attacks from Agaitha with 2 wounds remaining. Norman concedes here, and we call it a game. 

Mildnorman: Yeah I wasn’t stoked with the big bounce but the assassination angle is certainly an interesting one. I’m not honestly sure if I like it or not, being able to just lose because I wasn’t extra careful with bodyguarding my commander seems like a one way ticket to tilt town, but I think I need more experience with the game to make a full judgment call on that. I wish I got to see more robot action but that’s just gonna have to wait for the next game.

Post-Battle Thoughts

Swiftblade: Alright, so maybe I gave Norman too many Deathrippers. Whoops. I don’t remember Cryx nearly as well as I thought I did. 

(Deathrippers. Credit: Privateer Press)

Still, I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed the new editions ruleset. All of the old parts of Warmachine that I liked, like thinking about careful order of activation and crazy assasination plays, are still there. The new unit rules also were good, actually. They weren’t nearly as abusable as I thought, as I realized that much of the things I would do with the units were things I could do with them anyways in the old ruleset. The best way to describe it is that it did make units feel much more like a fluid and hard to pin down, especially with the removal of free strikes in favor of losing a combat action with disengagement.

I feel bad about stomping Norman in the game, but it sounds like he had a good time while we played and walked away not hating the game completely. It seemed pretty straightforward to grasp and easy to tutorialize, even with the added scenario elements. I look forward to our next game, as Norman will probably come up with a much meaner list than what I made for him and come back with a vengeance.

MildNorman: You fucking know I’m coming for blood next time. Now that I have a grasp on how the rules work, I have a much better idea of what I want out of the game. I’ve got some Orgoth on the way at the time of writing this article and I’m excited to figure all this stuff out. As for main takeaways for a new player, here’s what I’ve got

  • This is 100% a game where you build a list around a character in charge
  • It’s also a game where you need to figure out what you want to do and where you want to hurt before you start moving anything since ability ranges and focus are so important
  • It’s a resource management game, your turns are gonna be defined less by the units that are in the right spot and more where you choose to allocate your resources using the focus and fury mechanics. Going for an all out blitz is difficult
  • There’s a lot going on with special rules but the game is cool and fun! I’m looking forward to more

That’s all for this battle report for now! We are both excited to get our hands on more of MK IV, and look forward to telling you about it here. 

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