Hi, welcome to a feature on getting into Warcry. If you’re looking at this, chances are, you’re at least a bit Warcry curious. I’m going to discuss the game in terms of what it’s good for, how it may fit into your hobby space, and options on how to get started.
A note, prices are listed in UK pounds based on Games Workshop pricing and may vary in your region, or be available through another retailer cheaper!
What is it?
Warcry is an alternating activation skirmish game system based in Warhammer Age of Sigmar, in the Chaos ruled lands of the Eightpoints. What alternating activation means is that players take turns to utilise one of their models at a time, rather than one person using all of their models and then the other person using all of theirs. This makes the game feel fast paced as there’s very little wait time before you take a move. The game heavily features the use of terrain, and the movement across, up, and down it. As a skirmish game it takes place on a smaller area (22” by 30”) than an Age of Sigmar battle, easily played on a normal kitchen tabletop.
Each player has their warband. These may be only 3 or 4 models, or more than 10, depending on faction and strength of models. The small model count can be a great boon if introducing people into tabletop miniatures games as it’s not as daunting as needing a whole army to play. A points system lets them be balanced(ish), but the real fun of the game is around progressing your warband, developing it over battles and completing a campaign with choices of rewards. Your campaign is independent to any opponent, meaning you don’t need to have a consistent group to experience it. The progression mechanics are also light touch, and death or injury is not a big set back. You also progress regardless of whether you win or lose, gaining group glory points, artefacts for use, and individuals may gain the ability to reroll dice in battles.
Most Warbands play very differently, some are slow and heavily armoured, others are glass cannons and others have movement shenanigans (™). For a good while a grot on a squig was the most overpowered unit in the game. Over time the number of core AoS units that can be played in game has increased to create huge amounts of variety and choice. This is great for getting existing AoS players into the game as the cost of entry is low, but for new players you can pick up a complete Warband for around £33.
A typical game can last between 20 to 120 mins depending on scenario and opponent, including the setup time. Games feature a lot of randomisation, including what the mission is, the deployment zones (each warband deploys in 3 squads, and their arrival can be on different turns), terrain layout and the twist (random effects). These can be drawn from a deck of cards, rolled on more simplified tables or ignored if you and your opponent have a particular game in mind.
This randomisation does mean that imbalanced match ups can occur (I once won a game in one activation in turn one), but also keeps it all exciting. However, I would caution going into Warcy thinking it’s a fair, balanced war game, it’s more designed to be a fun, quick, light narrative game.
How does it work?
The game uses a simplistic-looking model stat system, originally on cards but increasingly now in books. It also heavily uses symbols to denote rules. A card will show in the top left circle the movement, wounds and defence of the model, the cost in the circle at the top and then the bottom row of information is the weapon characteristics (range in inches, number of dice to roll, strength of the attack and then both normal damage and critical damage). When you attack there are no save rolls, but higher defence makes it harder to hit. A roll of a 6 is a critical hit, which does more damage. So combat is also quite quick and generally leads to a character getting hurt. Other symbols on the card show what special abilities the fighter has access to.
At the start of each turn, each player rolls a number of dice as an initiative system, the player with the most dice that don’t match gets to go first. These dice also power your special abilities, based on dice with the same value. The more powerful an ability is, the more matching dice are required, from doubles to quads, and some abilities utilise the number on those dice itself, either for damage boosts, healing or movement. An extra wild die is given to each player each turn, which can be used to help gain initiative by having the most dice that don’t match, or to boost a single dice to a double, a double to a triple, or a triple to a quad. Or you can save your extra dice for a future turn. This creates a lot of tension and strategy in the initial roll off, where you may want initiative, but also believe you’ll need to use a particular ability for a play.
The game revolves around completing strategic objectives and may be to capture points on the board, kill the enemy leader, or steal something. There are also twists to the battle such as reducing models’ ability to perform ranged attacks if it’s night time.
Whilst the rules are quite easy to pick up, they give a large amount of room for tactical thinking.
Sounds Fun, How Do I Get Started?
How I recommend you get started will depend on a number of factors.
If you don’t know anyone that already plays, or if you want to play as one of the Warbands that comes with it, then absolutely grab the Red Harvest starter set. This is the most cost effective way to get everything that you need, but will be about £135. You may be able to get a copy of the original starter set on Ebay or second hand if you prefer, and Catacombs which has a slightly different setup is also still available from some 3rd party sellers. Either way, you’ll get two warbands, scenery, rules, tokens, cards and boards.
If you don’t want to go down that route, then there are other things you can do.
- The rule book will be a must buy, you can pick it up for around £27.50.
- The latest Tome of Champions has revised points for most units, making it more important if you’re not just playing with friends who are happy to go with previous points costs. It’s £22, but has lots of other great content, including Choose-Your-Own-Adventure style campaigns.
- There are options to buy the tokens on Ebay for about £5, or make your own.
- You can buy boards or board and scenery packs for the game, or you could make your own. Box scenery is expected for the mission cards, but you don’t have to use them.
- Any scenery will do, if you already have some for other wargaming, so don’t think you have to buy Warcry specific scenery. A scenery box with board and tokens will cost you about £50.
- Range rulers are optional, you can get by with combat gauges and tape measures as everything is in inches.
That then leaves your choice of Warband(s). From my experience, I would say all the Warbands play as they look, so if there’s a certain feel you’re after like glass cannons/movement/heavy armoured then buy the warband that looks how you want to play. Alternatively, go by the rule of cool and pick the ones you like the look of.
- If you want to use your existing AoS force, then pick up the relevant Grand Alliance Warcry book (about £17-£22 depending on faction) and you’ll have everything you need.
- If one of the Warband box sets takes your fancy they’re a great start. If you are just starting, you should probably only need 1 box of the warband, they’re all balanced to about a 1000 points starting force, and sell for about £32.50. They come with the cards you’ll need for their stats, but some of those may have been tweaked slightly in the Grand Alliance books.
- If you want to make a new Warband from an AoS faction then I would get the relevant Grand Alliance book first to help you plan it. There are also plenty of articles in places like Reddit on cheap ways of building warbands for different factions, so maybe check those out first to ensure the models you want to field are available to use, but most infantry units for all forces can be used now.
As of now (May 2022), it’s likely that a new version of Warcry with a new starter box will be released later this year, based on teases from Warhammer Community.
It’s unlikely to dramatically change the core mechanics, but could shift how attacking works for example. It may therefore be that you choose to dip your toe in the blood soaked waters of the Eight Points now, and buy the next big box on release with the new rules.
Warcry is an interesting game with simple mechanics, requiring tactical thought and allowing narrative progression. The quick time to play, alternating activations and low model counts mean it’s easy to fit games in, build a force for, and playing the game has quite a cinematic feel with the way models can move and interact with the terrain beyond just hiding on it. These factors make it a great choice for a wide variety of players, and for getting people into tabletop games. However, the random nature of setup and missions mean it’s less geared towards more competitive gamers looking for something balanced.