PBL Warmachine Escalation League | An Introduction

We’ve stated before that we are geeks and fans of Tabletop Wargaming.  Many of us who help with the g33kWatch site have been known to have 2-3 Warhammer 40K armies alone.  This doesn’t take into account those of us who have Warhammer Fantasy, Malifaux, Flames of War, or any of the other games that we have looked into playing or bought a few figures for.  The hobby of tabletop wargaming is a very expensive one though, and many times people don’t want to get involved with it.  After all, there is nothing worse than buying a bunch of expensive pieces of metal and plastic, and then feeling like you wasted a ton of money because there is no one around to play with.

Enter, Paul’s Basement League or PBL for short, which has been our group’s answer to this problem.  It is exactly what it sounds like.  Once a month, we all trek on down to South Jersey to our good friend Paul’s house and we play war games like Warhammer 40K in his basement.  We do this so that we have a reason to buy these figures that look so cool, but are so expensive, and we will actually use them.  Sometimes we just make it a free play day where you can do what you want, but most of the time we are doing this as part of a season or a league championship.  This gives us the incentive to paint our figures, since you get bonus points for that, and to really think out your strategies since you get a higher standing if you are winning.  These league seasons usually last for about 4-6 months in length and aftewards the winner is given a trophy for their efforts.  It’s usually a plastic trophy that Paul got from Karate back in the day, but instead of a little Karate Guy on the top of it, he has knocked that off and replaced it with a little figure from the game, usually a model from last season’s winning army.

So that’s the generalize overview of what we do.  Some of you who are reading this have seen us play on a livestream or two within the last year or so.  Unfortunately for us, with all of the gaming marathons and other events that we were doing, we rarely had the free time necessary to play during PBL.  Now though, we are all starved for games and we are going at this season of PBL with a vengeance!  I personally thought that it might be a fun little article series to talk to you about what we are doing in the league.  This will include battle reports, videos of us painting, and lots of pictures from the weekend.  Hopefully it’s fun, and perhaps it will get you at home to think about joining in on the hobby and organizing something similar with your friends.

The first three seasons of PBL were played with Warhammer 40K as the emphasis.  This being the fourth season, we wanted to try something a little bit different, and so we decided to do an Escalation League with Warmachine / HORDES by Privateer Press.  So first thing we should do is define to you what those things I just said are.

  • Warmachine – A Steampunk / Magic themed wargame.  The game features five distinct factions, along with a group of mercenaries that can be deployed either by themselves or can ally with the other factions.  Each faction have a number of different Warcasters that have different abilities and roles.  Using a particular Warcaster, the player has free reign to add other figures to their army to get to a certain point level and play the game.  The distinct nature of Warmachine is that each Warcaster is very different, and will drastically alter how you play.  Even if you kept all of your units the same, but only changed the Warcaster, the army would function differently.  That makes for a very interesting dynamic that really allows you to utilize whatever strategy you want.  The other big thing that Warmachine gets known for are Warjacks.  These are huge Steampunk-esqe robot creations that Warcasters control using magical focus.  They look amazing and all have different abilities and it’s the major thing that people will recognize from the game.  Games are won by killing an opponents warcaster.  There are some game types with objectives and other factors, but the basic game is to kill the opposing warcaster.
  • HORDES – HORDES is a similar game to Warmachine.  In fact, the two games are both made by Privateer Press and they are designed so that the games can work together.  Therefore, doesn’t matter what kind of army or game you prefer, you can play against each other.  There are slight differences though in how everything works.  There is still a bit of a Steampunk feel to everything, but the factions in HORDES take on a more nature based theme.  Instead of a Warcaster, you have a Warlock.  You don’t have Warjacks, you have Warbeasts, which as you might assume are huge beasts that are super strong and each have their own unique abilities.  Finally, there are some changes in the magic system.  Warmachine has Focus which is meant to show that the caster can control their army by being patient.  HORDES has Fury which puts an emphasis on Warlocks enraging and pushing their forces to the limit and using that to fuel their abilities.  A standard game has the same objective as Warmachine; kill the opponent’s warlock.
  • Escalation League – The idea behind this league is simple.  Rather than hold a tournament where you have to go out and buy, build and paint everything that you will need, why not take it easy and slowly build that force up?  You start off the league at a small point value for your army.  Each month, you then increase the army limit slightly so that you can add 1 or 2 new units.  This slow build up allows you to spread out figure purchases so that you aren’t dropping a ton of money just to play, but also gives you the time necessary to put your army together and paint it effectively.  Part of these rules mean that you get points for each figure and unit that you fully paint.  By giving out points for painting, you hopefully encourage people to do all aspects of the hobby, and by the time everything is done, you’ll have some good looking armies to take pictures of.

So yeah, that’s what we are up to for the next few months.  It will be my job in these articles to go through and give you the sights and sounds of how the league is playing out.  Throughout, we hope that you’ll ask lots of questions via the comments below, and please feel free to check out the PBL Blog, Josh Blog, and Dan Blog.  This way you can get different player perspectives and keep track of who has points and what not.  Now that I have given you the introduction, I should probably tell you what happened this past week and also leave you with a fuck ton (technical term) of pictures.

PBL for January was held on Saturday, January 28th.  It was our first meeting in awhile, and obviously the first of the Warmachine Escalation League.  5 League Points were given out, but the only criteria was to have a built army.  In game terms, we were looking for 15 point games which ends up being a handful of figures.  There were games played, but the purpose was to have people get a bit more comfortable with how the game plays, and to also get everyone used to their own specific army.  If people were trying things out and didn’t like the results, then you have a month to make changes to your army and be prepared for February.

My chosen army for this league has been Cygnar.  Typically speaking, Cygnar is highlighted by very good ranged weapon options.  Like any other force in the game, Cygnar can be very melee heavy if you wanted, but they have a ton of options for long ranged battle and that’s what I wanted to focus on.  In other games I usually play a very fast, very melee combat focused army (Tyranids & Orks in 40K), so I wanted to really play a different style this time around.  I tried out using the army list below and next to each unit I’ll give you an idea on why I wanted to go with that particular choice.

  • Captain Kara Sloan – Chose Kara as my Warcaster because I liked how her model looked, and I liked how much damage she could inflict.  She has a huge sniper rifle, and some decent buffs for her squads that improve distance and accuracy. In addition, she has a feat that she can use once a game that gives her and other Warjacks the ability to take free shots rapidly.
  • Defender Heavy Jack – This guy is a very good Swiss Army Knife kind of Warjack.  He has decent melee ability, and an axe that has the ability to mess up other Warjack’s ability to get Focus on them.  That’s good, but the gun that he has is the reason why you choose him.  It’s a super high strength gun that shoots 16 inches away … he packs a wallop.
  • Hunter Light Jack – The Hunter has a lot going for it.  It has armor piercing, so it can unleash some very good damage on high armor models from 14 inches away. That can sometimes be difficult for Cygnar to deal with and the Hunter helps.  In addition, Hunter has Pathfinder which means he can move at full speed through rough terrain.  Has a Parry Axe, so no one can take free strike pot shots at him, and he has a special rule that allows him to still get Focus when 24 inches away from Kara.  He’s a real threat to heavy hitters on the other team, and doesn’t need to be near the rest of the army.
  • 6 Long Gunner Unit – The strength with these guys is that their rifles shoot upwards of 12 inches away, and they can fire twice.  In addition, the gun they have can fire twice so you can lay down some surprising fire.

The idea that I had, and the way I deployed initially, was to bring a fully equipped gunline with the Long Gunners, with the Defender and Kara behind them to shoot down targets that were further away.  The Hunter would run around on a flank and prove to be a distraction.  He would be sniping high armor targets, and hopefully divert attention.  When the opponent had split up their forces, that’s when I could shoot them down.  How’d the plan work?  Well, it was a mixed bag.

I played 4 games total throughout the day, all against HORDES armies amazingly enough.  First was against Paul’s Legion of Everblight, second against Kung-Fu Joe and his Skorne, and then two games against Josh and his Circle of Orboros.  With the list as I outlined above, I went 1-2, winning against Everblight and losing against Skorne and Orboros.

What Did I Learn From The Win?  The Legion of Everblight game went exactly as I thought it would.  Paul rushed at me very fast in the first turn, but that left his Carnivean Warbeast, which is the star of his army, completely out of position.  I unleashed hell on him and by the end of turn two had I downed the beast with combined firepower from Kara, Defender and Hunter.  The Long Gunners took a lot of shots but didn’t do much in terms of damage.  They tried to get some wounds in on the Carnivean but his armor made that very difficult to get through.  Once that happened, they got hit in melee by Paul’s Shredders and didn’t put up a fight at all.  I used Kara’s feat to take a bunch of extra gun shots to take down Paul’s Warcaster and that, combined with Kara’s huge damage potential, made the difference.

What Did I Learn From The Losses? In the Skorne game, I didn’t realize just how fast the Titan Warbeasts could move.  KFJ is very good with combo moves and by turn two, they were all over me.  My Defender tried to hold one of the Titans in melee, but died in one turn.  Hunter on the other hand, focused on the wrong target and did little damage.  Kara did good damage, but the Long Gunner didn’t really add anything to the list.  They took many shots but just couldn’t dish out damage.  That was the second game in a row for them so after that I began to get weary of them.

In the loss to Josh and Orboros, I was pretty much dead from the start because I lacked a very fundamental ability; I couldn’t see through Stealth.  Josh’s entire army benefited from Stealth, which in game turns means that all ranged attacks automatically miss the target.  The only person I had that could do anything was Kara, who could see through Stealth if she stood still.  She took some potshots, but in the end I lost very quickly.  Obviously this was a huge, glaring omission for my squad and I need to rectify it.  How do I go about that?  Well I need to take out the Long Gunners, who are not doing much, and replace them with a unit that has a bit more versatility.

What Did I Change?  I took out the Long Gunners and replace them with Black 13th Gun Mages, and Reinholt to the army.  Black 13th is a group of 3 Mages with guns.  The thing that is cool is that each one of them have a distinct buff that helps out the entire squad.  One of them can un-stealth a group of enemies, while another makes Black 13th stealthed.  In addition, they have buffs that they can change on each and every turn.  Reinholt is a goblin that gets attached to Kara and allows her to reload her gun and fire again.  That’s two shots per turn from my highest output character that can shoot really far away.  Those two changes brought me to beat Josh in the second game.  I could see through stealth, and my damage output went up because everything in the army was actually hitting and wounding high armor units.  It was a very close game, Warcasters vs Warlock with everything else dead at the end, but I could already feel like I had a better chance overall.

Next month we play PBL on Saturday, February 25th.  We’re probably not going to stream it, but we will be taking lots of pictures, and we’ll be taking video battle reports so that you can get a better idea about what is happening.  We’ll also hopefully have a ton of painted figures so that you can say “oooooohhhhh” and “aaaaahhhhhh”.  If you have any questions or comments, please let us know below and again, be sure to check out the other websites to get different perspectives!

Joey V

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Joseph Valenti

Founder of g33kWatch, Joe is the guy who makes sure nobody hurts themselves. Connect with me on Google+


  1. Great write up Joe! Those pics really do look great. I was glad we played both games together. It really shows the difference of being prepared for the potential threats or advantages of your opponent.

    By the end of this Escalation we’ll all have well painted and well rounded lists of killing death!


    • I’m glad that we played both games as well. It was good to swap out those Long Gunners, especially since I was weary of them all day after they didn’t seem to be doing much for me. It was good to swap them out and move on to other options.

      This has been one of the few times that I’m really excited to paint! I got into it early on with my Tyranids, but can’t wait to lose a few Saturdays and Sundays to the cause. By the end, the army should be looking great. =)

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