Returning Players Guide

So, you wanna get back into Warmachine.

But Warmachine has changed! Maybe the changes are why you’re coming back, or maybe you didn’t know about Mk4 until you got here. Either way there’s a bunch of new terminology and rules getting thrown around and you’re not sure where to start. The good news is that you’re in the right place, so lets get in to it.

What the heck is Mark 4?

First I want to talk about some of the big changes that you’re going to want to wrap your head around. This is meant to be more of a summary than a detailed explainer, so I’ll link to some sources for more detail if you want them. A lot of this info comes from the Mk4 announcement blog on PP’s home page but I’ve tried to summarize the best I can. That blog post can be found here .

Models

I wanna rip this bandaid off first because it informs a lot of what follows: All models released for Mk1 - Mk3 are going out of print. There’s a few reasons for this and you can find more detail in the blog post linked above, but the short version is that it’s no longer economically possible for PP to continue producing the entire existing model range. As such everything released before August 2022 is no longer going to be produced once the current material stocks run out, so if there’s a model you’ve always wanted but never pulled the trigger on now might be your last chance.

That doesn’t mean you can’t keep using your models though. Legacy models, as they’re called, will still have rules for the duration of Mk4. About half will be part of the Prime gameplay format which is where PP will be focusing most of their energy on balance patches, while the rest will be playable in Unlimited which is effectively Prime + everything else and balance isn’t guaranteed. The model line is simply too large for PP to devote time to continuous balance testing for the whole thing while still producing new models. More detail about the terminology can be found here.

The Rules (aka “where are my cards?”)

Mark 4 is an all-digital ruleset. That means the core rules, the model rules, the scenarios, even the lore are all consolidated into the new Warmachine App (iOS or Android, Steam coming soon).

If you played in the later half of Mk2 or during Mk3 you’ll probably be familiar with the War Room or War Room 2 apps; the Warmachine App is the next evolution of a lot of the ideas that WR and WR2 were first starting. Models no longer get physical cards either in the box or as an online database; the App is the sole source of truth for model rules. All rules are free, including model rules, however there is an optional $5/month subscription that gets you more list storage as well as weekly lore and scenario updates.

*Note that as of May 19, 2023 there is still a plan in the roadmap for the ability to print unit stats from the App. This feature should become available sometime after the Steam version of the app launches. It is not clear how exactly this will look, but in my opinion it’s likely to look more like the old CID documents than the old production cards just because it’s easier to format automatically.

What didn’t change

Here’s a quick list of concepts that didn’t change from Mk3. Its not exhaustive but I will add to it as needed.

  • The dice system (how hits and damage are calculated, boosting, etc)
  • Focus and Fury (Essence has some minor changes)
  • Damage grids and spirals
  • Most movement (see below)
  • Premeasuring is still allowed
  • Attacking with either all your melee weapons or all your ranged weapons
  • Aiming
  • Engagement

What happened to Hordes?

To reduce confusion in new players and streamline the marketing, Hordes as a brand has been rolled into Warmachine. All Legacy Hordes models still exist, they are simply no longer called Hordes.

Big Rule Changes

There’s a few really big rules changes that I think are worth touching on, but please keep in mind that there are a lot of more nuanced changes that I’m not going in to here in order to keep this topic a reasonable length.

List Building (Factions and Armies oh my)

Factions are more or less dead as a rules concept. Models will still be part of a Faction like Cygnar or Khador or Orgoth, but outside of Unlimited Arena the concept of a Faction is more of a lore concern than a rules concern. Lists in Prime Arena (or lists with Mk4 models in general) are made using a single Army within that Faction. Models in an Army are not compatible with models in another Army under the same Faction; you cannot use a Storm Legion warjack with Haley2 for example, or take Storm Legion infantry with Stryker 3. This is covered in the terminology topic as well.

Basically think of it this way. If you played Mk2 or Mk3 you’re familiar with the concept of Theme Forces in some form or another. An Army is basically a Theme Force with 3-6 warcasters/warlocks and a fixed selection of other models (and for those of you who skipped Mk3, Armies don’t have tiers like Mk2 Themes). When you go to a Steamroller event your list pairing needs to be from the same Army, not the same Faction.

Magic Stats

FOCUS, FURY, and ESSENCE are gone as model stats, as is Magic Ability. Their functions have been split between three different stats on the relevant models:

  • ARC is how much resource (Focus, Fury, or Essence) the model can have on it.
  • AAT is Arcane ATtack and is used in place of MAT or RAT when making attacks with spells
  • CTRL is the model’s control range as measured from the edge of their base
  • The terminology for Magic Attacks has been replaced with Arcane Attacks. Magical is now only a damage type (which all Arcane Attacks have).

Facing

Facing is gone. All models can see and make attacks in a 360 degree circle from their base.

Melee Ranges

The shortest melee range is now 1"

Free Strikes

Free Strikes are gone. A model that begins its Normal Movement engaged with an enemy model loses its attack if it moves out of melee range, but otherwise there are no restrictions on moving past enemy models.

Combat Actions and Engagement

A few core rules and Advantages around combat actions, specifically Ranged and Magic attacks, have changed in ways that can be a bit confusing for returning players at first glance.

When a model begins their Combat Action they still choose to either make Melee or Ranged attacks. However unlike previous editions all models can make ranged attacks targeting models they are engaged in melee with, but suffer a -4 penalty to hit. Models making Arcane attacks against models they are engaged in melee with also suffer this penalty. Engaged models cannot make Ranged Attacks targeting models they are not Engaged with.

  • Dual Attack now allows a model to make attacks with both Ranged and Melee weapons during their Combat Action. This does not allow them to ignore the -4 attack roll penalty noted above.
  • Gunfighter now allows an Engaged model to make Ranged Attacks against targets they are not in melee with. This does not allow you to ignore the -4 attack roll penalty noted above, nor does it allow you to make initial attacks with both Ranged and Melee weapons unless you also have Dual Attack.
  • Pistol is a new weapon quality that allows an Engaged model to ignore the -4 attack roll penalty when making Ranged Attacks targeting models they are Engaged with. This does not allow you to make Ranged and Melee attacks in the same activation unless you also have Dual Attack. This does not allow you to make Ranged Attacks targeting models you are not Engaged with if you are Engaged unless you also have Gunfighter.

Most Warjacks and Warbeasts have Dual Attack and may have some weapons with the Pistol advantage.

AOEs & Sprays

AOE and Spray templates are gone. AOE weapons now have an AOE value and 2 damage values separated by a forward slash. On a direct hit with an AOE weapon the model hit takes a damage roll equal to the first damage value, than the closest X models within X inches of that model (where X is the weapon’s AOE value) take a damage roll equal to the second damage value. If the attack misses the target model takes a damage roll equal to the second value, but no other models take damage.

Sprays are now simply a straight line drawn from the center of the attackers base to the center of the targets base and attacks are made against any models the line touches. Sprays can now have their RNG modified by abilities and spells.

Command Cards

As part of list building you now select 5 Command Cards*. These are single-use abilities that can be played during your turn*. Some cost points, others are free.
*Grymkin picks 7 and their generic Arcana Cards are available to them as a replacement to the Arcana system from Mk3. Trump Arcana no longer exist; certain generic Arcana have special effects depending on the Warlock in play. Old Witch 3 no longer has a feat and now uses this system as well.

Mercenaries

Mercenaries as models that work for other factions are largely gone from Legacy. Any “Mercenary” models that are allowed in a Legacy Army are simply tagged as members of that Army and are part of normal listbuilding. Mk4 Mercenaries are so far limited to solos and the Mercenary rule denotes what Armies they can be included in rather than which Factions. Mercenaries as a playable faction on it’s own likely won’t exist in Mk4 Armies, as they will simply be covered by a different name. For example a successor to the Llaelese Resistance Contract or Theme Force from Mk2 or Mk3 would simply be an Army the same as any other and any Mercenary models that work for it would have it added to their list of Armies.

Minions

Legacy Minions have been rolled into the Mercenary Faction.

Units

Units received the most changes of any model type.

Model Count

The model count of all units was effectively cut in half. Min and max units are gone; units have a fixed number of models before accounting for attachments. Units that would previously have been 10 models are now generally 5, units of 5 or 6 are now 3.

Attachments

Command attachments are largely unchanged from Mk3. Weapon attachments now replace a Grunt model rather than add a model to the unit. Some Legacy Weapon Attachments have been converted into their own units in Mk4, such as the Crucible Guard Rocketmen Gunners.

Movement and Leadership

Units no longer have Leaders, only Grunts and Attachments. As such, unit coherence no longer exists.

Instead, when a Unit moves as part of a Normal Movement rather than move each model individually you select any member of the unit, move them as normal, then place every other member within 2” of the moving model. This is the only restriction on how close unit members need to be to each other; non-normal moves like Reposition or Overtake and place effects are taken as individual models and have no restrictions on how close the members need to be at the end.

This makes units extremely mobile compared to independent models, which is their intended role in Mk4.

Rough Terrain

Rough terrain is significantly simpler; if a model would touch Rough Terrain during their movement, reduce their total distance moved by 2”.

Running

Running is no longer double a models SPD, it is always SPD+5”. This eliminates the need to differentiate between effects that increase SPD and effects that add inches of movement.

Mk4 Models

Any model released for Mk4 is referred to as a Mk4 model instead of a Legacy model. There are a few big changes to how some key Mk4 models work that are not retroactive to Legacy models.

Brief terminology:

Leader: Umbrella term for Warcasters, Warlocks, and Infernal Masters
Cohort: Umbrella term for Warjacks, Warbeasts, Monstrosities and Horrors

Leaders

Each Mk4 Army has 3 Leader models on launch. The first wave of Armies (Storm Legion, Sea Raiders, Winter Korp, House Kallyss, and Brineblood Marauders) also have a 4th “Apotheosis” Leader as a homage to the Mk1 Apotheosis expansion.

For the most part these are the same as Legacy leader models, with the exception of their spell list. Instead of having 4-8 specific spells, all Leaders now have 2-3 spells that are part of their card and a Rack value (at time of writing these are all 2 or 3). Each Mk4 Army has a Spell Rack, a selection of spells that any Leader in the army can choose to take during list building. This allows you to tailor some portion of your spell list to your particular playstyle and is provides flexibility to the 3- or 4-Leader system. Once the game starts the Rack spells are treated the same as the Leader’s built-in spells.

Warjacks and Warbeasts

While nothing has changed about Legacy warjacks and warbeasts, in new Armies released for Mk4 you now get at least 2 chassis options (usually a light and a heavy) and each has a selection of heads, arms, and other Hardpoints that you choose during listbuilding to change it’s capabilities. For Warbeasts this includes selecting it’s Animus. To facilitate this all modular Cohort models now come with pre-made magnet holes and are sold with the correct magnets to mount all of their Hardpoint options.

Not all Mk4 Cohort models are modular. At time of writing (Jan 23, 2024) these include the character Super Heavy cohort models that come with Magnus 4 and Carver 2 and the Wyvern Super Heavy Warbeast in Shadowflame Shard. Some Cadre boxes also include a Cohort model which are not modular.

SKUS and releases

Mk4 Armies are intended to be limited releases. This is intended to both make balance easier and make the product lines easier for stores to stock. At time of writing the plan for Mk4 Armies is to have 3 Leaders, 2 Cohorts, 1 Extra-Large solo (80mm base), 1 character Cohort model (sold as parts to attach to a generic Cohort chassi), 5-6 Units, and a selection of Solos and Attachments. Once these models are released there are currently no public plans to continue expanding these Armies; they are self-contained collections that will continue to be sold and receive balance updates but not new models.

Update 2/2/2024 - Yesterday on Primecast #24 we learned that the product catalog will be changing for upcoming Armies. As a response to feedback on the price point of the Core Army Starter boxes they and the Expansion Boxes will be replaced with:

  • 1 Army Starter Box - Retails for $79.99 USD and contains a Scout Leader, a non-modular character Cohort model, a character unit, and a character solo. These will come out to about 30 points
  • Expansion Box 1 - Retails around $130 USD and will contain another Leader, one each of the two modular Cohort models, and “core” infantry. This plus the Starter Box will give players roughly 75 points worth of models.
  • Expansion Box 2 - Retails around $130 USD and will contain a third Leader, the parts for the Army’s second character Cohort model (these attach to the base cohort torsos from Expansion 1), and “elite” infantry. This plus the Starter Box will give players roughly 75 points worth of models.
  • 80mm solos will remain an individual box
  • The Battlegroup Preview boxes will still be sold with a Leader and two modular Cohort models for around $80 USD.

Current Armies will eventually get one of the new-style Starter Boxes but it will take some time to work those into the development and production schedules.

Cadre

The one semi-exception to the above release plans are Cadre. We don’t have a ton of details yet and what has been said publicly has been somewhat vague, but generally the intent of a Cadre seems to be to release a block of models that are cross-compatible between multiple Mk4 Armies. These include 1 Leader and 1 non-modular Cohort model plus a selection of solos or units. Two exceptions to this are the Cygnar Storm Forge and Khador Annihilation Korp Cadres which were produced before the decision was made to start including Cohort models in the Cadre box so that it could act as an entry point for new players.

This ended up being slightly longer than I had hoped, but I hope this is a relatively quick and useful resource for catching up on some of the major changes in Mk4. If you have questions or you think something needs to be added or clarified please let me know!

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Can i persuade you to also post this on the subreddit? I’ve been meaning to write this exact document, but you beat me to it!

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I posted a link to it in reply to a recent post, but I haven’t posted the whole thing. If you’ve got a draft that has anything I missed I’d love to get it added! Maybe I should make this post a wiki as well.

edit: I decided to set it as a wiki, so anyone can edit it if there’s stuff I missed!

This is great, thank you! Posted it at RPGnet in our Mark 4 thread :slight_smile:

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Awesome to have a resource to point to! Thank you for writing this up!

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That’s a great summary thanks a lot for your work!

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Great summary! But could you explain the minor changes to Essence a bit?

It’s too bad that there’s no way to pin articles on this site.

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Added Monstrosities to the cohort models.

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Updated some of the wording around Leaders and Cohort models to reflect the new 4th Leaders to core armies and the addition of Cohort models with fixed loadouts to Cadres. Also removed the Dual Attack section and added more detail on how the new combat action rules interact with Dual Attack, Gunfighter, and Pistol advantages.

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