Warcry is a skirmish game for 2 or more players set in the Mortal Realm, Warhammer Age of Sigmar iconic setting. This a Warcry Beginners Guide if you are completely new to the game. Feel free to refer you friends to this guide, if you are trying to get them into the game (and they have no clue what you are talking about).
Warcry is easy to start playing, fast and brutal. Traditionally it is played between 2 players but browsing online the rules are easily adapted for solo games.
The trademark three play styles of Age of Sigmar are available also in Warcry: the Matched Play is the more competitive focussed (and balanced), the Narrative puts your warband at the centre of the action by creating a story around their exploits, and Open Play is the more flexible allowing also multi-player games.
This guide will briefly describe all 3 modalities, but the main focus is on starting to play for which rules are essential and Narrative play represents the natural way. For more material related to the game consult the rest of the material in this site.
We have also made a guide for each Warband in the game. You can also you can find an Interactive Warband Roster in the “Fantastic Friday” blog.
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What do you need to play?
The first and most important thing that you need is a warband. As of writing, there are 36 warbands available for the game, 7 made specifically for this game with brand new and unique models, the rest derived from existing Age of Sigmar armies. Every warband plays uniquely so you will need to find which suits best your playstyle.
To play a warband you will need the fighter cards
The cards for each warband will give the overall abilities for the warband and the “fighter cards” for each fighter you can get in the warband. They are essential to build are play the warband.
The cards that came out originally, in 2019 are not available any more from Games Workshop website, but you can find them published in Tome of Champions 2019, an expansion book for the game that specifies few rules and adds new layers of complexity to the Narrative Play.
For a more comprehensive way on the Tome of Champions you can refer to our review, bottom line is: if playing campaigns is your bread and butter it’s a great book. If you are in just for an occasional play, then you can pass.
You can find cards for the following warbands in the tome:
- Stormcast Vanguard
- Idoneth Deepkin
- Daughters of Khaine
- Flesh-eater Courts
- Gloomspite Gitz
- Legions of Nagash.
Of these, Stormcast Vanguard, Nighthaunt and Glomspite have also a specific Warcry box with some starting miniatures and relevant cards. The last 2 have also a dedicated card that cannot be found anywhere else.
The 7 original Chaos warbands also have their own cards in their box (do not confuse the Age of Sigmar box that contains double the sprues but no cards). Fyreslayers cards are currently available only in White Dwarf issue 451 while Lumineth Realm-lords are available in White Dwarf issue 454. All others are available in the card packs (if you can get your hards on them).
We suspect that all of the cards not printed in the Tome of Champions 2019 will be printed in the Tome of Champions 2020 (it would be rational to do, but you never know with GW and doing rational things…).
To play Warcry you will need the core rules
The next thing you need is the rules. You can watch some videos online to get a better grasp of the game. They are extremely easy to understand and we will discuss the main ones in a quick summary below.
However, to get in depth on the mechanisms of the game, is highly recommended to buy or borrow from a friend the Core Book. As part of the rules you will also need the Battleplan cards. While you can improvise in friendly games the setting and objectives, an important part of the game is the randomization available through those cards.
Mat, Terrain, Dice and Ruler
To play you will need also a suitable area covered by a mat or board and some scenery. Anything can do, but Games Workshop sells different sets with suitable gameboards, tokens, scenery and rules to play in that environment. You can check my guide to getting some terrain and a board for warcry here
And of course, you need dice (at least 7 but better 10 D6) and a ruler (just something that can measure inches).
We discussed the Core Book and the Tome of Champions 2019. Another expansion book completely optional is Monsters and Mercenaries that introduces the concept of allies and monsters to add to your roster in a narrative campaign. White Dwarf magazine also often discusses Warcry and can contain useful material.
Quick summary of core rules of Warcry
Now that you got all that you need, you are ready to start playing. In this section we are going to see at a quick glance the main core rules. Warhammer Community also posted a quick video guide.
Each fighter is associated to a card that determines his characteristics. A rune system (symbols on the card) determines to which warband he belongs or if he can ally / be used in another warband and any extra ability that he has access.
The abilities he can use will depend on the warband he belongs to. Each rune will be associated with a set. In the card, there is also the cost in points of that fighter. In a matched play the sum of all your fighters cannot exceed 1000 points (in campaign games you can get more points than that).
A warband needs a leader, and that should be the first one you choose. Some warbands are limited in this choice but many others have lots of options. Leaders usually have special abilities that represent the play style of that warband. For example, a Legion of Nagash leader can resurrect dead fighters, while a Khorne one can increase the number of attacks of friendly fighters, and so on.
There are different ways to set up a battlefield depending on the type of play, but generally, you will choose between 4 different sets of cards: the first one determines how to set the terrain, the second how the fighters will be deployed, the third what are the victory conditions and the last one can add a twist, either bonus or malus to either team.
During the deploy you will need to position your fighters depending on the group you have associated them with at the start of the game: Dagger, Shield and Hammer. Each group needs to have at least one fighter and no more than half of the fighters of the warband. In addition, at least a third needs to be associated to the Shield. These groups will become important during the deploy and for certain victory conditions.
The game is composed of different battle rounds (normally 4), each one starting with the hero phase. At this stage, each player rolls 6 dice and count how many matching dice you have. Any die that is not paired with any other is called Single. Whoever has the most Singles, wins the initiative and decides who will start in this battle round. If the two players have the same number of Singles they have to roll off (throw one dice each) and the highest value wins.
Every other matched dice is counted to form Double (two dice with the same value), Triple (three dice with the same value) or Quad (four dice with the same value). These dice can be used to activate abilities. Each ability has a minimum cost and the value of those dice represent the value of that ability. For example, there are 5 Universal Abilities that can be used by any fighter:
- Rush (Double): Add 1 to the Move characteristic of this fighter until the end of the battle round.
- Onslaught (Double): Add 1 to the Attack characteristic of this fighter until the end of the battle round.
- Respite (Triple): If there’s no enemy fighter within 1” of this model, you can remove as many wound counters as the value of this ability.
- Inspiring Presence (Triple, leaders only): Choose a fighter within 6” of the leader that has not activated yet, this model will activate immediately after the leader.
- Rampage (Quad): Perform a bonus move action and then a bonus attack action.
Each turn you accrue a wild dice that you can decide to store for a later turn or to add to an existing combination of dice (either as a Single to increase your number of Singles and secure initiative or to upgrade a combo: from a Single to a Double, and so on). It is not possible to use more than one wild dice on the same combo (for example transforming a Double into a Quad). The wild dice are used first by whoever won the initiative and then by the other player. It is possible to seize the initiative if the number of Singles changes after this assignation. In that case whoever has the most Singles wins the initiative, in case of parity (and there was no parity earlier) the players roll off.
The rest of the game develops as a “I go, you go” game, where players alternate choosing a fighter at a time. Each fighter has 2 actions available to him: Move, Attack, Disengage and Wait.
- Move is used to perform movements, there are special rules for climbing terrain or moving through features like doors or archways but simply put, a fighter can move X inches each action where X is the value of his Move characteristic (plus or minus any modifier applied).
- Disengage is an action that can be performed only when the fighter is within 1” from one or more enemy models (move actions in that case cannot be performed). That fighter then tries to move 3” away by remaining more than 1” away from any enemy fighter. If that is not possible, then this action cannot be used.
- Wait can be used as the first action to skip a turn and re-activate the same fighter at a later moment for this last action or can be used as the second action simply to terminate the activation.
4. Attack is the action used to perform damage against enemy models. Any model has one or more weapon profiles, those contain the Range (how far you can hit an enemy), the number of Attacks, Strength and Damage (on a normal hit and on a critical hit). When attacking an enemy verify it is visible and within range of that weapon, roll as many dice as the Attack value, then compare the Strength value of that weapon against the Toughness value of the enemy model.
If the two values are the same, every 4+ (meaning a dice with a value of 4 or more) will result in a hit, if Strength is higher then it will hit on a 3+, while if Strength is less it will hit on a 5+. A 6 is always a critical hit.
Sum all damage depending on if it was a normal or critical hit and that is how many wound tokens have to be applied to the enemy model. If the result brings the opponent to a Wound value of 0 or less, then it is removed from play.
Before, between or after the two actions it is possible to play one and only one ability by using the Double, Triple or Quad rolled during the hero phase. Once used a combo cannot be reused. If any combo is not used before the end of the battle round, then it’s lost. If the fighter is the last surviving one of his warband he can use as many abilities as he can.
Players keep alternating activating one new fighter each time until all have been activated. If a player finishes before the other, then it will pass and let the other continue with his remaining models. Once all fighters have been activated once you can start a new battle round and you roll initiative again.
These are the core rules, for more details we recommend consulting the Core Book as it contains also rules for some warbands campaigns.
Open Play in Warcry
The first of the play types available is Open Play. This game, as the name suggests, introduces new rules and is wide open to different ways to play the game. Its main purpose is to try something different not to create the most balanced game possible. They introduce multi-player in the Core Book and they expand it in Tome of Champions 2019 (ToC 19) with a monster arena where up to 6 players fight each other using only one big monster.
Overall, this is the modality you want to use if you want to tweak rules (new terrain rules are introduced in ToC 19) or play with more friends at the same time.
Narrative Play in Warcry
Narrative Play is the pinnacle of playing Warcry. It is where every kill that you make, every model that you lose, every win and every loss creates a story: your story.
In this site we already have a comprehensive guide on creating a campaign. So, this section will only concentrate on a brief summary of what Narrative means. To get in more details please refer to the link above.
Narrative means building a story around your warband. Every battle you win (or lose) will give you glory points that you can use to upgrade your fighters with artifacts or expand your territory. Expanding allows you to increase the number of fighters in your roster but also the maximum number of points available to field your units (you start with 1000 and you usually increase by 50 for every territory conquered)
There is at least one campaign for each warband in the Core Book (2 for the Chaos) and in the Tome of Champions 2019 (ToC 19). You can find a campaign for the Spire Tyrants warband in the White Dwarf issue 452 and one for the Lumineth in the issue 454.
If the basic campaigns are not enough for you, Fated Quests provide stronger bonuses at their end and can be embarked by any warband multiple times. They can be found in both Monsters and Mercenaries (4) and ToC 19 (6).
Challenge Battles from Monsters and Mercenaries introduce the ability to tame powerful monsters to add to your roster. The same book introduces Allies that can be used in any type of play but in Narrative you can have as many allies as number of territories controlled. Allies allow you to compensate some weak spots of your warband but don’t usually share the same abilities having their own.
Matched Play in Warcry
The Matched Play is also the type of play mostly used in tournaments (outside of escalation tournaments that are a hybrid with some campaign features in it). For this reason, the scenarios are a little bit more balanced and there are only 18 battle plans available (12 from the Core Book and 6 from ToC 19). These replace the deployment and victory cards in the normal set up. You still need to draw terrain and twist (unless already set up by the tournament organizer).
These battle plans can be roughly split into 4 categories:
- Objective: 7 scenarios involve controlling objectives. These scenarios require board control with strong units able to remove the weaker opponents from objectives and horde units to swarm and take over them. Remember that whoever has more fighters in range controls the objective at the end of the battle round so numerous warbands have a slight advantage.
- Murder: 4 scenarios involve killing particular units, battle groups or simply more than your opponent. Here strong elite warbands have a slight advantage as they usually withstand more hits and punch back hard. However slow warbands may struggle to reach their targets in time and on the other side, they represent easier targets as the enemy can concentrate on fewer models.
- Mixed: 4 scenarios involve a mixture of victory conditions, usually having more fighters than the opponent in a particular side of the board. These scenarios usually favour horde units as long as they can stay alive or they are faster than their opponent.
- Treasure: 3 scenarios involve carrying treasures by the end of the match. Treasures involve spending a move action to end at least within 1” and trying to survive the longest possible while holding it. A fighter taken down drops the treasure and another fighter can pick it up the same way. These scenarios are similar to objective based scenarios, but they favour quick warbands able to grab the treasure and ran away as fast as possible. Horde units able to screen the carrier and delay the opponents are a viable strategy. Or you could just assign it to your strongest unit and dare your opponent to take it from you.
Matched Play is a lot of fun, but nothing prevents you from playing Matched games as part of a Campaign combining the two types of games and satisfying different players taste at the same time.
Based on the description of the scenarios above you will need to decide carefully how to create your warband playing to your strength. Certain warbands allow for multiple ways to play so you can even try different things until you find the one that fits you best. The core concept is that elite fighters are good for murdering and preventing access to certain areas by guarding them. Horde units are good for taking objectives, swarming your opponent board and screening other vital units but are weak and they can be easily killed two at a time by a single fighter.
I hope this gives you a fair understanding of the game and do not hesitate to hit my up for more questions or other topics that you want to explore at a later stage.