What do you get when you cross Warhammer with Mighty Max? (If you don’t know of or remember Mighty Max, then I’m sorry but you’ve missed out on one of the greatest toys of the early nineties.)
You get Warmaster. A short lived Warhammer spin off that reduced the size of the figures from 28mm scale down to 10mm resulting in an epic looking massed battle game that was also adorably cute.
Warmaster was a game that I’d always wanted to get into but couldn’t afford it at the time, being an impoverished student. It plays differently to Warhammer, focusing on a general’s ability to command their units rather than how powerful a particular character is or how lucky you are when casting spells – more akin to Epic than Warhammer. In fact the only real connection between Warhammer and Warmaster is the game world and unit types (in name only).
When I was old enough to start setting aside a hobby allowance, the game had died. Another Games Workshop specialist division game down the tube.
R.I.P Warmaster 2000 – 2013
Them’s a lot of figures
So, now us WNW’ers (Wednesday Night Wargamers – I know, I’m sorry it’s been ages) have tubs and toolboxes of tiny figures being left aside and collecting dust.
“No more!” we cry. “Warmaster must be revisited!”
“I’ve bought an army second hand three years ago and have only played one game since!” I add.
“I’ve always wanted to give it a go.” another chimes in.
“Well I’ve enough armies and terrain to cover a few tables. Why don’t we try a four player, large scale battle?” the host questions.
“Huzzah!” we think but not actually say.
“Sure.” we all concur, in a more socially acceptable form of agreement.
“… bugger. Now I’ve more stuff to paint.” I think to myself.
So, four players are locked in: one who’s played the game a handful of times, one who’s read the rulebook the week before, one who’s completely new to the game and me – played the game once and forgotten 95% of what I’m supposed to do.
We thought we’d try a 2v2 battle. 2000 points a piece. Tomb Kings and Warriors of Chaos vs the Empire and High Elf alliance. The table size? 4 foot deep by 12 foot long! Quite a sight and barely able to fit within the hosts lounge room.
Besieging the City of Whiterun
Although the game is considered dead, there are still some resources online to help you get into the game. The rulebooks can be easily found and downloaded and there’s even a nifty site that makes army composition a breeze. Both can be found here.
The armies themselves can be hard to come by though, seeing as they’re no longer being produced and some of the armies that were released close to the end of the game’s life are super rare and super expensive.
Never fear though, some Google-Fu could point you in the right direction for a couple of 3rd party manufacturers, like Victorian based company Eureka Miniatures.
Righto, let’s get into the game itself and find out how it all works.
My team mate Jeremy had already selected an army list for the Tomb Kings I’ll be controlling, making setup much simpler (not that there’s a huge selection to choose from, but still, less work for me). He’ll be playing as the Warriors of Chaos.
Our opponents? Huw (Empire) and Nick (High Elves).
With sides chosen and setup well underway, Huw lined up his Empire across from my army with a small contingent of cannons on Nick’s elven side of the board – sitting with a large amount of archers and bolt throwers. By the looks of it, Jeremy was going to have a tough time against all those ranged units. To help him out, I thought that I’d take my fastest unit and fling them around the archer’s flanks at the start of the game… but that is not how Warmaster works…
wizard in charge of cavalry and artillery
You see, unlike Warhammer where you can move any unit you choose during your turn, Warmaster makes you roll to see if a leader (hero, wizard, general) has the ability to command units. The further away a unit is from the commander giving instructions, the harder the roll will be.
For an average leader attempting to command a nearby unit without any disadvantages, a roll of eight or lower on two dice is needed. If the unit is further away than 20cm, it could be a roll of seven or six (orders must get harder for the unit to interpret the further away they are). Deduct another one if the unit is in terrain. If the unit was given a successful order this turn, deduct another one. So when you combine all the negatives, at worst you could be trying to roll below a three or four on two dice!
If a leader fails to give an order, then they’re spent for the turn and cannot give any other orders, nor can the unit that was being yelled at receive orders from someone else.
It is quite possible to spend your entire turn stationary if your command rolls are poor enough.
…and this is what my poor Carrion (fastest unit with the ability to fly 100cm, compared to infantry moving 15cm) dealt with for a good part of the game. Thus Jeremy’s side was left unsupported.
the colourful chaos vs the bland elves
We soon agreed that this two vs two thing just doesn’t work unless you have both armies intermingled with enough leaders about to give orders. Even if I was able to order my Carrion over to launch an assault on Nicks’ archers, there’d be no leader about to order them to do anything else. If I moved a hero to follow the Carrion, then there’d be a good chunk of the army out of command range – it’s a delicate balance between having your army move as you’d like and keeping them all in a command bubble. It takes quite a bit of getting used to.
With two turns down and a couple of hours already passed, Huw and I agreed to just split the game and revert back to the one vs one battles we’re familiar with. Otherwise the game would’ve taken all night as Huw and I had to wait for Nick and Jeremy to resolve all their combats.
Speaking of which, shooting and combat is quite a bit different to what we’re used to.
All units have a combat and ranged stat. Just one number for each represents the amount of dice you roll per unit. On average, infantry have a combat value of 3, ranged of 0 and armour value of 5+ or 6+ (what you need to roll to make an armour save), archers usually have a combat of 3, a ranged of 1 and armour of 0.
So say I had a couple of archer units clumped together in a brigade, (so I only need to make one command roll for the whole lot) I’d roll the amount of dice per stand in the unit. If four stands are in range and able to shoot, then four dice would be rolled. All dice are successful on a roll of 4+ unless there are some other factors that make the target harder to hit, like cover provided by terrain.
Spells are much the same. One spell per wizard per turn. That’s it. Simple.
Combat is weird and I’m still not sure how it’s resolved. The initial dice is easy enough to work out: see what stands are in base contact, declare what is fighting what, roll the dice as per the combat value of the unit. After that it’s a bit confusing.
Something like: if I win, the opponent moves back the amount of cm’s they lost by and I can choose to follow up and engage for another round. Combat is continually fought until one unit is wiped out or the battle ends in a draw… but I’m not sure. I’ll need to play another game to work it out.
I don’t know exactly what’s happening here… lots of dudes fighting other dudes I guess.
That’s Warmaster in a nutshell.
Huw and my game didn’t resolve by night’s end, but I felt I was on the back foot, having lost a fairly major combat and with my ranged units sitting nearby, waiting to be assaulted.
It’s definitely a game I’d like to play more of and explore – which will no doubt lead to more purchases of miniatures (I’m already tempted by a lizardmen army).
I’ll report back when I’ve had a proper game played right through, but so far so good. Looking forward to the next Warmaster night!