Choosing a Faction – Part 1

I often find that writing or talking about these things helps clarify them in my mind, so if you don’t mind I’ll think aloud for a couple of posts. This first part is my brain dump on the theory of picking a force, and part 2 will be how I fit this into my own choices for Warmahordes (or whatever you prefer to call it).

So, what drivers move me to choose one faction over another? How much is a push and how much a pull? Is logic more important than going with my intuition? 

This process applies to any game whether it’s skirmish or mass battle. It even applies to some board games. Basically, anywhere you have a choice between noticeably different factions you have to decide which to play. With a board game this will not usually mean collecting an army yourself, but it might. With figure games this is the crux of the challenge: what will you buy, paint and play?


Things To Consider

There are many different topics that impact these decisions. I’ll start with the ones that immediately spring to mind, but do feel free to chip in with your own thoughts below.



Some armies simply cost more to collect than others and this often impacts decisions. Small, elite forces are less costly in real money than large armies of peasants. Even if you like the wall of infantry, can you afford it? 

[Note here that I’m assuming that you’ve already decided to play the game (whichever that might be) and so the debate about whether the game as a whole is too expensive or not has been resolved and is in the “not” department.] 

There are also concerns about whether you can get the models cheap from the second hand market, or whether it’s in high demand, out of print or too new to have been dumped yet. All these can modify the basic cost equation and make an army either far cheaper or far more costly than would otherwise be expected. This can apply to whole games or to only some of their factions. You just have to do some research.



Do you like the overall look? I’m not thinking just about the models here, more the art, logos, colours and so on. What’s the whole look of the army? Does that speak to you in a good way or make you feel slightly queasy? Don’t pick the latter.

With factions you like this is probably a big part of what first drew you in anyway. 



You’ve got to look at them every time you play so it’s much better if you like them. You’ve also got to have parted with your cash before that point and (ideally) painted them, both of which are a lot easier if you really like the figures. 

In many cases this is muddied by a large variation across the faction you’re looking at. It’s far more common for a faction to have some nice models, some OK ones and a few disasters than it is for them to be all great. It’s a consequence of the way most ranges are done and that even the best sculptors have off days or can be uninspired by a given concept.

Choosing on the basis of models thus becomes a bit of a balancing act between being drawn to ones you really like and put off by ones you can’t bear to waste your money on.


Play Style

At the end of the day you’ll be playing with the army, so it’s always good if they suit your style. Of course you won’t often be able to tell whether this is true just by looking and you’ll need to do some research. Ask those you know who already field this force, look around the internet and see what advice you can find. Even better, proxy the army in a game and try them out before you commit. 

On the whole, most factions can actually play in more than one style, but even the more flexible factions will tend to have some tactical blind spots. The most important thing is to make sure that you don’t feel uncomfortable or restricted when playing them. You will presumably want to win at least some of your battles 😉


What You Already Have

Related to cost and also simple utility, there is the question of what you already have lurking in that stack of unpainted figures you pretend isn’t there. If you’re a veteran gamer like me you will have acquired a multitude of bits over the years which could perhaps be used for one faction or another. You may even have a whole army (or three). Having the models doesn’t mean you really want to play them. Perhaps you bought them in a fit of enthusiasm and didn’t get on with the paint job, their play style or whatever. However, it’s still a consideration. Perhaps you should give them another try? Maybe you know someone in a similar situation with a force you’d prefer and you could swap? Having models already gives you some different options.


What Your Opponents Play

There are a couple of threads to this concept. On the one hand you will want opponents to play against so you need to know people that play the same game. It’s also useful to be able to ask a few questions on style and tactics when you’re starting out (though just to be contrary I’d also like to learn on my own as that’s part of the fun). 

The second thought is that most gamers don’t want to simply duplicate their mate’s armies. I’ve often heard the idea of sharing out factions. Fred already has faction A, Bill has B, Frank has C, which leaves me D. It doesn’t really stop you having any of them, but gamers the world over often act as if it does. Your choice is not dictated by the choices that others have made. Whichever faction you pick it will probably be played by thousands of other gamers across the world so you are not a unique snowflake. Sorry. Someone had to tell you. Having said that, picking something different does make your gaming group more interesting as the mix of factions changes the way people play and challenges them to learn more and play better, so there are good sides to this thinking too. 


Roll It All Together

And what have you got?

Several things to consider which all overlap and bleed into one another. The reality is never as clear cut as these neat little boxes suggest. Whatever you choose is likely to be a compromise in some regard, and if not then you don’t need any advice from me. 

Tomorrow I’ll be back with part 2 which attempts to use some of this theory to untangle my spaghetti-like thinking on which Hordes/Warmachine factions I should keep/add to/play/eBay.

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15 Responses to Choosing a Faction – Part 1

  1. fiendil says:

    There’s two parts to picking an army that your mates aren’t playing:

    – When your group is first getting into a game, you all want to see as many of the armies play as possible, so as to get a handle on what they all do.

    – You want to avoid blue-on-blue, at least to start with, and these are the guys who you’ll be playing week in week out. In Hordemachine, for instance, while there are instances of blue-on-blue in the fluff, it’s very rare, and usually restricted to the likes of Cryx, Skorne and the mercs.

    Second or third or whatever faction, it’s fair game. Remember that Team Susan all started Trollbloods at the same time.

  2. mattadlard says:

    It’s strange but as you get older and more aware how your choices carry more depth of thought and purpose.

  3. tornquistd says:

    My approach to selection is a bit different. I have a complete setting with map, geology, politics and history in mind plus a commitment to 28mm. It the rules and figures fit the setting then I add them if not it is a pass. This does seem to limit the impulse to buy into new games. However my stack of unpainted figures is growing faster then I can paint so only plus I can see on figure side is that it leaves me free to focus on quality sculpts from any source. What is the most satisfying is everything that is painted can and will be used so there is no need to see painting effort lost to ebay or dusty boxes.

    Although I do look at new rules most of the time they end up on the shelf. If I do find new rules that fit the setting and are worth playing I already have painted figures to use which is really a plus. So far I am not finding this constraint hard to deal with so it seems it is not to restrictive for me.

  4. CrazyZip says:

    You forgot in your list my first reason for playing any wargame and choosing an army, the background and story behind it 🙂 Or maybe thats just a girl thing.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      An excellent point. I know some people who would agree with you though I can’t think of an instance where I hadn’t already been drawn in by something else beforehand. Possibly with historical armies I’ve done that.

      Having said that, the background is definitely part of the overall picture for me and is, in some ways, akin to what I’ve labelled aesthetics above. Worth adding to part 2.

      • James Maz Marsden says:

        to me background is important but you’re right that typically i’m drawn in by something else first.

        With Khador it was when i saw the original Warmachine rule book, these huge hulking red guys looked awesome!! so i read their section first.

        After that everyone seemed either too goody-two-shoes, too eveil, or too religious for me to bother with and i havent looked back since. Over time i’ve collected an army for every faction available, with the exception of everblight and retribution (both stinking elves) and ended up selling all of them excpept Khador (and my minion Gatormen).

        I think first impressions maybe play a part in which factions flag you decide to hoist

        • Quirkworthy says:

          My first faction was Khador too (very closely followed by Cryx), and the old metal jacks still have that spark of nostalgia for me. I was looking at their plastic replacements and I don’t think the redesign does them any favours aesthetically. One would assume they made them easier to assemble though – the old “Khador gap” was just one of the pains for putting those brutes together (I know, I built 5 of the @£%^%s).

          So yes, first impressions.

        • James Maz Marsden says:

          I actually prefer the redesigned plastic versions, i think they look more, menacing.

          they are a million times easier to put together as well

        • Quirkworthy says:

          Curious. The reason I prefer the old ones is that they look more menacing to me than the new ones. A bit of mileage varying there methinks 🙂

    • When I started playing 40k back in the day, I was torn between Space Marines and Eldar. I thought they both looked awesome. Ultimately, backstory was the deciding factor for me in choosing the Eldar. There was then the added benefit that no one else in my area, no one at all, played Eldar.

  5. Pingback: Choosing a Faction – Part 2 |

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