Sunday, 27 November 2011

Formations, Formations, Formations...!

Formations can play a big role in a game of Warmachine. Depending on how you place your unit, it can protect your unit’s back line or screen your caster from LOS and slams. The 2 abilities that benefit the most from various formations are Shield Wall and Vengeance. Let’s first explore Shield Wall formations.

Straight Line

This is the standard straight line formation. It is fairly straight forward, with each MoW standing side by side. One of the biggest benefits of this formation is that it blocks LoS to your caster in the largest arc possible.


Next we have the W-Line formation, where the MoW stands besides each other but at in the same rank at intervals. The gist of this formation is that if your opponent does not have reach, he is forced to charge at an angle in order to hit 2 MoWs. The MoWs, having reach, will still be engaged with the enemy.


This formation totally blocks LoS to (and of) your warcaster but the biggest draw of this formation is that it is flexible enough to be converted into an angled Flying-V formation (more on this later). This allows you to expect a charge on the right or left directions by a slight re-organisation as shown below. The drawback is that your warcaster is dictated by the shield walled unit’s movement speed and he/she does not have LOS to anything besides the sides.


Here’s the much touted Flying-V formation. Due to the nature of this formation, breaking the shield-wall advantage is pretty tedious, if not nigh impossible. It also acts as a 'solid-wall' from jacks slamming into your MoWs, hoping to clip your caster along the way since the back rank of the MoWs will soak up the hit instead. The caster depicted in the pic being B2B with the MoWs are just an exaggeration since your caster can be further back from the wall, as long the wall acts as the barrier.

Mini-V (for single-wound shield walled units)

Shield Wall buffs up a unit’s ARM but let’s face it, they still have one life. A model with a POW 12 gun only needs a -6 on damage rolls against an ARM 18 unit (under the effects of Shield Wall). Worse still, should they suffer the corrosion continuous effect, chances of them living is 1 out of 3. Hence, it is not wise to “brick” them up. Most of these units brick up in a mini-V formation instead. Blast templates would get 3 at most (rather than 5+ if you brick them up all together) and they hit hard as a mini-unit of 3 men. If one dies, the other 2 would still be under the effects of Shield Wall due to being B2B.

The other question that people tend to ask is what kind of formations would you deploy to fully maximise the Vengeance ability?

Mastershake from the PP forums ( wrote up an interesting article which I believe is worth sharing.

Vengeance Formation
Vengence formations in general are usually spread out and you'll also often models turned at wierd angles to make it exceptionally difficult to charge models in ranks further back without getting free-struck. This forces you to fight a handful of models which means almost the entire unit can get Vengence. It's not a bad idea by any stretch of the imagination to play all Reach infantry formations like this to minimize the damage you'll take from charges, but with Vengence it's how you get the most out of the unit.

For units with an inherent Vengeance ability, you’d want to spread them out as much as possible like the picture below but at the same time, get your back rank within charge range should the first rank fall apart.

For units with a Granted: Vengeance ability (i.e. Dawnguard Sentinels), you want to spread out the unit too but you need to protect your officer at the same time. The picture below is a good example of how you’d deploy a unit with a granted Vengeance ability. The LOS is well blocked to the officer and the enemy would have a tough time reaching him.

So there you have it. Formations that one can use when playing units with Shield Guard or Vengeance. It is interesting to see how unit formations can actually play a role in a game of Warmachine. It is simple details and tactics like these make me love this game.

What kind of formations do you tend to use? Any other formations you would like to share?


  1. Very nice information and great article! There is one formation I tend to use with my Iron Fang Pikemen, it's basically the mini-v you show here except with 1 guy leading the other two. So it's more like a pyramid. I sometimes do this so that I can charge other small based models and have all 3 models have line of sight rather than just the 2 in front. Otherwise I run the mini-v you show here.

  2. Great article! I've actually been considering various formations for my Stormguard in my eNemo list and this was quite helpful.

  3. With the mini-V, LOS to your back dude is blocked and vice-versa. However, do take note that once the front 2 charges, the back guy now has LOS to the enemy. If you are charging a larger based model, then this does not matter at all.

    I personally favour the mini-V over the mini-pyramid because in the mini-pyramid, the enemy has LOS to all three whereas in the mini-V, the enemy only has LOS to 2 guys. Against feats that require LOS (i.e. pSorscha's Icy Gaze), this can play a role. :)

  4. Aye I hear about the LOS to the back guy for feats and such. Good call. I did mis state though as I meant the pyramid was good once engaged. All 3 can attack, they have reach and can maintain the formation during and post attack.

    Still that LOS feat thing is indeed one to watch out for.

  5. Yo2 good article! a lot of new players can learn a lot from this. Some spells / abilities / feat that revives models (e.g. testament / high reclaimer feat) requires you to have at least one model still standing. So consider protecting the leader in the same way you would protect the WC above. I usually leave a bastion hang back behind a wall so that i can make full use of revive. Some units like Exemplar errants can benefit from a frontal charge (all exemplars errants charged at once) to minimize casualty (3 die instead of 6) and still have your enemies engaged and prevents things like your cryx opponent getting the soul / beserk etc.