Return to Warmaster

An idle scan of the rules shelf revealed the Warmaster and Battle of the Five Armies rulebooks. A printed and dated army list next to the books dates their last outing to 2016. Empire, Undead, Orc and High Elf armies sit stacked amongst the ‘ready to go’ army boxes so Warmaster gets a new outing.

The original Warmaster rules were pretty simple. A unit is 3 stands but up to 4 units can be brigaded together to allow them all move with a single order. Roll 4+ to hit in the open, armour gives a save of 3+ at best, 2-4 hits eliminates a stand. Ability to move is based on proximity to the enemy or a friendly commander passing a 2D6 command rating score. Close combat is a case of lining up opposing units and it is the lining up concept that is hardest to interpret. There are subtleties in which stands can line up, in what order, which units fight or give rear support and at what angle onto an opponent can give flank or rear advantages.

Games Workshop wrapped up their involvement in the game sometime around 2004 after 21 issues of their Warmaster Magazine and annuals in 2002 and 2003. By that time the content and figures were mail order specials with only a limited selection of the product available in store. The magazines and annuals clarified rules and introduced new armies all of which would have been a mystery to the casual player. With some poking around the internet most of the printed material can be tracked down but thankfully that is no longer necessary.

The free fan implementation at Warmaster Revolution includes the expanded army list from GW together with further additions and adds some scenarios. Most importantly it modifies and clarifies how units can move into combat and advance or retreat after combat. These are a necessary improvement; in the original rules a unit victorious in melee could keep ploughing forward and exploit a flank attack to roll up a chunk of the opposition’s forces. In Revolution a single combat is capped at 2 rounds. If the enemy is destroyed a subsequent combat by the same attacker is also capped at 2 rounds. Unfortunately for owners of the original book; the printout of the core of the expanded rules comes to 80+ pages and there is no easy way to print the full details of just the changes.

The basic army battle strength seems to be 2,000 points although a 1,000 point battle works well on a 4′ by 4′ table. The official list army maximums and minimums go up in steps of 1,000 points. Up to 1,999 points the 1,000 point limits apply meaning that fewer filler units need to be bought. The limits also apply to command figures so the 1,999 point army will be limited to the maximum commanders of a 1,000 point army and will probably have difficulty moving units around.

The Brumbaer list generator has been out since the rules were in print and is still up to date for the official Warmaster list additions. WM-Selector works with Warmaster and Warmaster Revolutions armies giving a wider range of armies and some point modifications. Unlike Brumbaer it does not show all the stats and special rules on screen. Most armies have a minimum requirement of cheap but ‘not so good’ models; so armies are relatively large. To be fair if an army only had a small number of high value units it might quickly be overwhelmed. The original GW models were a true 10mm. Just about any scale can be used instead and as long as the models fit on a 4cm by 2cm base and would even be compatible with other scale choices from another player.

Paper counters and list ideas are on the ‘League of Ordinary Gentlemen.‘ The original GW models still turn up from time to time. In metal Pendraken (fantasy) and Irregular are a little larger than GW humans, for fantasy races anything goes. The Pendraken historical minis are pretty close to GW size. Kallistra also do metal figures as do Magister Militum (an eclectic selection) and Black Gate (daemon and ogre specialist). Copplestone have a small range of orcs and humans. Eureka have very close non-GW Lizardmen but are expensive in the UK. A new trend is to print in resin, for example; Excellent Miniatures (In Germany), Geekvillain (UK), Printing In Detail (UK), Cromarty Forge (UK). The images of these are very attractive but some are more expensive than older metal lines. There are also resin prints available on eBay and Etsy. Many of these are implementations of the same licensed sculptures. The sculpts will be the same for each but the quality of the resin and degree of clean up can vary between printers. Supply of the licensed prints is less of an issue for those with their own 3D resin printers. Comparing the costs of printed armies to that of new resin printers and dedicated washing and curing units the whole set up would start to pay off around the 3rd printed army. Resin prints can hold onto their distinctive smell if kept in closed containers even when they have been painted and varnished. Another issue is that resin lacks the heft of metal so resin models are more likely to slide off hills.

The 3D print files would probably not work in FDM filament machines because of the print lines. An exception would be chaos figures where any ridges might be a feature as the daemon shifts between dimensions and for terrain elements. As with any set of sculpts a more expensive but more detailed model will look better and be easier to paint up than a cheap blob of resin or metal. When basing the main consideration is to choose and arrange models that fit within the 4cm by 2cm bases and allow stands to line up cleanly.

A painting tip is to use distinct costume colours on each unit set of 3 bases. This makes it easier to allocate attacks to specific units in combat and check unit losses for army break points. For some armies such as skeletons this plan will be hard to achieve. Below are GW, Irregular and Pendraken infantry. Their heights are close enough although the keen eyed will notice that the skeletons are bigger than humans. This is of course because the skeletons are not human but come from some extinct race of big apes.

Cavalry: Pendraken, GW and Irregular lined up. The size difference is less obvious due to the relative proportion of the mount model in relation to its rider.

Resin prints of Onmioji sculpts with Kallistra in the middle.

Here is a 1,500 point game between Chaos and The Empire on a 4′ square board. There are some enclosed fields and a built up area towards the centre of the board. The Chaos forces have not brought any missile units but The Empire has crossbow and artillery. Missile fire is more likely to break up battle lines and drive units back than to destroy anything. To compensate for this the Chaos deployment has expendable hounds and harpies out in front. The Warmaster Revolution rules are in use including the optional rules that make giving orders slightly easier.

Characters (19.7%)295Characters (17.3%)260
General125General – Sword of Destruction135
Infantry(28%)420Infantry (23.0%)345
2x Chaos Warriors3004x Halberdiers180
2x Chaos Marauders1203xCrossbowmen165
All the Rest (52.3%)785All the Rest (59.7%)895
3x Marauder Horsemen2704x Knights440
Chaos Knights2002x Pistoliers190
2x Chaos Hounds60Helblaster50
2x Chaos Chariots190Cannon85

Chaos moves first getting their infantry well into the enclosed areas where they will benefit from a better defense. The cavalry support on one flank moves up in support but fails to shift on the other.

The Empire also move up, trying to get their missile units into shooting positions. Their artillery are slow and don’t get above the crest of the hill. On the opposite flank Chaos hounds are driven back slightly. The Empire centre slowly shuffles forwards.

Chaos continue to move up. Empire missile fire drives back the Chaos hounds and confuses them and a unit that had to get out of the way (the red burst markers). Confused units cannot be ordered in their following turn. The Empire halberd block lines the fence at the edge of the built up area.

The Empire halberds behind the fence count as defended, taking hits on a 5+ not a 4+. The Chaos infantry move up although they also lose their charge in the open bonus. The Chaos warriors are as hard as the Empire halberd are weedy. The Empire are driven off taking heavy losses, the Chaos warriors retire behind the fence line. To the top of the image Chaos harpies charged the Empire hellblaster gun in the rear, destroyed it then mopped up the adjacent unit of Empire crossbow for good measure. This took some fortunate command rolls, first to get behind the Empire gun line then again to charge in as a second order and more than 20cm from their commander.

The Empire try to save the flank with their knights. A charge into the flank of the marauders supporting the Chaos warriors knocks out a stand. Everything else just messes up due to a lack of command successes. The remaining halberd troops pull back away from the Chaos centre, they can do that for free.

The Chaos chariots move up and destroy all but one of the Empire pistol stands. The remaining crossbow unit having made a poor job of driving off the Chaos flyers.

The Empire best chance is with their knights. They charge in and damage several Chaos units but eliminate none.

Chaos eliminate a crossbow unit and the last pistol stand with their horse and chariots. They also eliminate a lone knight stand. More than half the Empire army is destroyed resulting in a Chaos victory.

In conclusion the Chaos centre went through the Empire centre like butter. The Empire knights got into a mess and the Empire firepower was neutralised by the Chaos wolves and flyers. Artillery are based to the short edge so will stick out to the rear or front next to a single line of infantry. This allows a targeted charge to hit them but not an adjacent unit. The Empire has a solution in using their skirmisher units attached to an adjacent unit to offer protection to their artillery. The hellblaster can put out a serious 8 shots to an attacker from the front if it does not break down. The cannon are not so handy but have a decent range if no one gets in the way.

The Chaos army load out worked with a decent proportion of marauder and other chaff to fill out the excellent if expensive warriors and knights. The Empire are going to need some sorting either bulking out with skirmishers or adding more cheaper units. This will require having to lose something to pay for it, possibly the cannon.