When starting out a new faction, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with options. When playing a faction you’ve known and loved for ages, it’s less common but still easy to get overwhelmed with options. One of the best things Privateer Press ever did with Warmachine & Hordes was to introduce the concept of theme forces. In MkII, these allowed you to build thematic armies based around a particular Warcaster or Warlock, limited to model choices that fit with the leading character or a point in their fictional history, but with additional perks and benefits to balance out the loss of competitive versatility.
In MkIII the concept changed to align with the subtypes of each faction, opening up a lot more versatility through Warcaster/Warlock choice. For example, Cygnar’s four in-faction themes are Heavy Metal (Warjacks), Storm Division (Lightning-centric), Sons of the Tempest (Gun Mages) and Gravediggers (Trenchers). Circle Orboros’ themes are Devourer’s Host (Tharn), Bones of Orboros (Wolds), Wild Hunt (Wolf Sworn) and Secret Masters (Druids). These allow players both new and old to make purchases, build their collections, and create lists using models that will thematically work together, helping combat some of the potential analysis paralysis, and you can easily just choose a concept that you really like and build an entire army around it, with the theme benefits actively rewarding you for your choices.
Basically, it’s a winning concept, so it’s no surprise that other companies have their own incarnations.
Roll it back to when I worked in a hobby store in the old country. I would have parents bring their sprogletts in, kids wanting to play this Warhammers thing, but they’re wary. More often than not the selling point for many of these parents was when I could point them at armies that had lower model counts, hence less purchases required. Granted, it meant there weren’t a lot of orcs & goblins players in the local meta, but it did mean that there were more players in general, and more kids had their eyes opened to tabletop wargaming which would, no doubt, serve them well later in life.
When I started putting together my first Age of Sigmar army, the primary consideration was cost. I look at armies like the Idoneth, which are visually and thematically stunning, and I drool a little but the required investment for such an army is well outside of my budget. After rolling around with the Beastclaw Raiders as an idea (read: One of the lowest model counts possible), I settled on the Flesh Eater Courts. They’re a swarm army with a high model count, true, but given that most of the models are basically naked, they’ll be quick to paint (by my glacial standards) and, more importantly, almost every SKU for the army can be built out of the Start Collecting! box.
You get a great general model (Abhorrant Ghoul King) that can fielded on foot or mounted on either a Zombie Dragon or a Terrorgheist. You get a bunch of Crypt Ghouls that can be built as the core model or their courtier. You get a group of the large base infantry that can be assembled as Crypt Horrors or Crypt Flayers, or either of their courtiers. Literally the only SKU’s for the army that -can’t- built from the Start Collecting box are the Varghulf, the Abhorrant Archregent, their endless spells and their terrain piece. It’s a no-brainer.
Bringing this back to the theme forces, you get to choose one of four Grand Courts when you put your list together. Games Workshop hasn’t built any list restrictions into the Grand Courts, but each of the four courts focuses on one model type – The Crypt Ghouls, Crypt Horrors, Crypt Flayers, or the monsters. This can help when it comes to choosing which models to build for those large based infantry options – I almost eschewed the Flayers entirely, in favor of a massive horde of Crypt Horrors for the Hollowmourne Grand Court.
These are the two of the three core principles I consider when looking at factions. The first, of course, is do I like the models and would I enjoy painting them. After that, is there any functionality built into the game to support players with limited collections, and then is there a noteworthy cost saving point.
Privateer’s battleboxes give anyone a solid starting point for a cost little more than a heavy warjack, and GW’s Start Collecting! boxes often work out to a saving of $30 or so. While the Start Collecting! boxes aren’t as affordable as PP’s battleboxes, if you choose wisely you can multiply the saving across your entire army, depending on the versatility of the kits in the starter.
Another good example of this is the Fyreslayers. Like the Flesh Eater Courts, there’s one core infantry unit, a couple of elite units, a small selection of heroes and a behemoth kit. While the elite units don’t come in the Start Collecting! box, you do get a couple of the heroes, so it’s not a complete wash. The fact that the big beastie in the box – the Magmadroth – can be built into three different hero models, makes it worth considering pickup up two or three of the Start Collecting! box if you’re looking to build a full army of nekkid axe-crazy dwarfs.
Start Collecting Box:
- Auric Runefather on Magmadroth (can alternately be assembled as Runeson or Runemaster)
- Auric Runesmiter
- Auric Runeson on foot
- 10 Vulkite Berzerkers
There are only eight additional model SKU’s in the army. One’s the Auric Heathguard/Heathguard Berserkers box (which builds either of your elite infantry units), one is the Magmic Invocations (endless spells), one is the Magmic Battleforge (terrain piece), and one is the Chosen Axes (Underworlds character unit). The remaining four are all solo hero blisters.
Given that the Magmadroths, if bought separately, are the same cost as the Start Collecting! box, if you’re looking to have 2+ giant lava lizard things in your army there’s no reason not to grab additional of the starter box. Two SC’s, a couple of Hearthguard boxes, and pepper in the heroes to taste.
In terms of themes, there are four Lodges to which your Fyreslayers can be dedicated.
- Vorstarg adds some speed to your infantry, and extra attacks to your Berzerkers, be they Vulkite or Heathguard
- Greyfyrd hands out additional magic items to your heroes, and gets more attacks out of your unmounted heroes
- Hermdar makes your fyreslayers more resilient, letting your Berzerkers strike first and granting conditional immunity to battleshock
- Lofnir ramps up your Magmadroths and the magmapikes wielded by the Auric Hearthguard
The listbuilding ramifications of the first three are largely similar, though they’ll definitely guide your playstyle, while the fourth directly feeds into players who want to flood the board with monsters and flamethrowers. While the themes aren’t as big a factor for a new player as they might be for an army with more SKU’s, they’re still worth considering when planning your purchases, especially if you’re looking at Lofnir.
If you take this over to an army with more SKU’s, like the Skaven, you get to select which of the Clans you wish to align with – Masterclan, Moulder, Eshin, Verminus, Skryre and Pestilens. Each clan has a focus, from mutated warbeasts to bizarrely engineered mechanical nightmares to plague priests, but choosing one clan to focus on from the outset will help steer you right. Unfortunately, the only Start Collecting! box for Skaven is Clan Pestilens, so unless you’re keen to roll plague monks, the savings aren’t just aren’t there for someone looking to reduce the investment cost of starting in on the army.
Choosing your first steps into a new game can be daunting, so take a little time to look at the options. The army that appeals to you visually should always be in consideration, but look also into which can save you some coin, and which provide a gameplay boost for players with limited collections. Ask other players, but keep in mind that this is *your* army. Don’t get sucked into whatever the flavor-of-the-month is, unless it appeals for other reasons.
Above all, enjoy the journey.