Starting Armies: Part 1 – Circle Orboros

Startin Armies

Welcome to the wonderful pair of tactical miniatures war games that are Warmachine and Hordes. Allow me to adjust my nerd glasses for a second and snort in a snide manner. Pretentions aside, this is a game of man/woman-dolls, and that’s okay because toys are fun. It’s my opinion that WarmaHordes is the best of these games. That’s not what I intend to discuss here though.

This is an article aimed at two kinds of people. The first group are those who are new to the game, having played a few battle box games and dabbled in the factions. You have decided your path to glory, but the big bad world of 35 points and above is daunting. You want to get to know your faction while building your way up to the more commonly used levels of play. Excellent, you’ve made a good start. The second type of person this is aimed at are those people who are looking to move into a new faction. Phenomenal! Branching out into other factions has certainly improved my play enormously. In fact it’s not a bad idea to play the faction that you have the most trouble against and learning the game from that side.

The purpose of this series of articles is to construct a 35 point army for each playable faction. These armies are not necessarily the most cut-throat lists their associated caster can run. Rather they are both an excellent introduction to common elements and themes of the faction and an efficient buyer’s guide, because no force will be as expensive as your first foray into a faction. I say efficient not because it’s the cheapest way to build a 35 points army, but because these purchases are good with almost everything in the faction and will be used again and again in many lists.

I will also discuss each model/unit selection and why I think it’s both good and, importantly, broadly useable. There will be examples of deployment and first turn unfolding of the armies, because it’s not something you see often discussed, but something that is for many armies, a formulaic pattern. These will not be ironclad guides, but instead simply examples of my preferred first turn, discussing why I make the moves, and when they would be wrong. Deployment is important and this is aimed at helping you think about it more. Get the juices flowing and all that. Speaking of juices, I have hopefully retained an audience, and you are now eager to see me actually do all that I’ve promised. So here goes…

Circle Orboros

The Warlock: Baldur the Stonecleaver (aliases include Baldur1, pBaldur, the weirdo with the beardo).

Beard groomer sold separately.

Baldur is in so, so many ways solid. He has defensive and offensive buffs, a good personal assassination run, he works well with nearly everything in Circle, and he has a very solid control feat. Not to mention terrain manipulation for improved hit and run. Yes, Baldur is definitely our man.

This isn’t a Baldur tactica, though I recommend you read one or at least look at the card/Battle college for reference. The cliff notes are as follows:

–          You’ll want +2 Str and Arm on your heavy beasts, especially Ghetorix. However any Spd penalty means you cannot charge. You can still run though, that’s a common misconception. So don’t cast hunters mark without dropping or swapping stone skin. You have warpwolves and primal, who won’t always need the +2 Str from stone skin.

–          Solid ground is amazing with tharn bloodtrackers. Not really a tip, it’s just cool! It turns out that so is stone skin. They become effective pow 13 with three dice against their prey. That’s incredible shooting power, especially against light beasts or jacks, or lower Arm heavies.

–          Ghostly, incorporeal, and flight. These are all qualities that ignore the rough terrain aspect of your feat. Hunter and phantom seeker ignore cover. Watch out for them!

–          Sprint lets you run away even if you were ‘ported by shifting stones, so having Baldur set up a forest and cast lightning strike on a beast, then shifting the beast up to kill something, only to run back through the forest and out of range and LOS is the dream.

Foray at Fifteen

The idea, however, is for you to play and experiment. So I’ll begin with my suggested 15 points list.

Baldur the Stonecleaver +6 warbeast points

-Ghetorix, character warpwolf, 11 points

-Warpwolf stalker, 10 points

This can be an expensive start at 95 dollars (75 euro, 91 Aussie bucks). The reason for this is the inclusion of Ghetorix, who requires two purchases to assemble. If you have the battle box already, use a feral and a unit of shifting stones for a cheaper start. However, you will never regret the purchase of Ghetorix as a fledgling Circle player. He is a phenomenal warbeast.



Ghetorix is a monster with stone skin. I shan’t talk numbers, but they are good. His animus can see some use if you warp for strength and have stone skin on him. You have a very good chance of knocking something important off of a model that is trying to kill you. Taking the arm off of a stormclad will completely turn the game in your favour. It is situational however.

The warpwolf stalker’s animus, lightning strike, is a defining one in Circle, topped only by the mighty gorax. Killing something then running away to avoid retaliation is very much so the druidic modus operandi. Baldur facilitates this well with his feat and rapid growth. The stalker is also easily prowled and hits very hard. Reach is a great quality for both of your beasts to have.

Play some games, have a bit of fun. Make sure you nail your fundamentals.

Taking it to Twenty-Five

Baldur the Stonecleaver +6 warbeast points

-Ghetorix, character warpwolf, 11 points

-Warpwolf stalker, 10 points

Tharn bloodtrackers minimum unit, 5 points

-Nuala the Huntress unit attachment, 2 points

Shifting stones, 2 points

-Stone keeper unit attachment, 1 point

Now we’re getting into the game proper. It can be argued that you should have a gorax in the list by now, however, I think it’s better to experiment with units. And with Baldur’s +2 Str buff you can manage without. It’s another relatively expensive jump because you want to buy the box with the full unit of bloodtrackers. This step is about 89 dollars (70 euro and 85 Australian for us non-Americans).

The bloodtrackers are amazing targets for stone skin, and choosing your prey wisely is a vital skill. It is a very good plan to cast stone skin on the bloodtrackers first turn. Upkeep it in the second turn and let the bloodtrackers make some attacks with it. Then swap it on to Ghetorix when Baldur activates later on. This gives you all the offensive and defensive positives with few of the downsides. Seems legit! Bloodtrackers are also effectively rat 8 against their prey, which is great for clearing infantry. If possible prey stuff your opponent is absolutely going to throw in your face, or something they cannot afford to hang back all game. Don’t ever prey a journeyman warcaster or the choir of Menoth! (Until very late game!) Nuala makes the unit one of the best Circle have to offer, reforming after they strike is a big, big deal.


Lady in red(-ish).

The shifting stones are your desired delivery unit, they actually get you further than a charge, while going over everything, and let you have stone skin on while moving very far. The skilled use of shifting stones is the defining trait of a good Circle player. Learn to use them well, and think ahead. People will try and kill them a lot. Don’t have your game plan completely ended by the loss of a single shifting stone.


This is a pretty standard deployment, and almost everything runs first turn (I recommend you rile your beasts). I ‘port the stones forward, making sure that Baldur and the warpwolves are going to be in some way encompassed, preferably without blocking possible charge lanes. Remember to hang a bloodtracker back to cast stone skin on with Baldur, then cast rapid growth and solid ground. The bloodtrackers do not run their full distance ahead, choosing instead to stay within solid ground.

You don’t need rapid growth or solid ground this turn very much if you’re facing an army without a lot of guns or AoE attacks. If you won’t need the extra damage against the bloodtrackers’ prey, don’t bother with stone skin, the Spd and Def are sometimes better use. The goal as always is to get as far up the field while maintaining our defences and positioning for next turn. I could get the bloodtrackers further and ‘port Baldur up, but then my stones are behind my army where they aren’t doing much and won’t keep up with my warpwolves, and so on. Do not leave Baldur on no transfers if your opponent can get to him or shoot him this turn. It’s worth not casting on of your spells to not lose the game. This will rarely come up if you go first, but know your opponents threat ranges.


And so we arrive at our goal.

Trashing the World at Thirty-five

Baldur the Stonecleaver +6 warbeast points

-Ghetorix, character warpwolf, 11 points

-Warpwolf stalker, 10 points

-Gorax, 4 points

Tharn bloodtrackers maximum unit, 8 points

-Nuala the Huntress unit attachment, 2 points

Shifting stones, 2 points

-Stone keeper unit attachment, 1 point

Swamp gobber bellows crew, 1 point

Blackclad wayfarer, 2 points

This step will set you back an additional 43 dollars (34 euro or 41 Australian). We add a gorax here. This is a big deal, primal is Circle’s other major animus. The increase in damage output it causes is astounding! However, you lose control of the target beast next turn, so know when not to use it. The swamp gobbers are useful for free concealment on Baldur and the wolves so that he can put rapid growth wherever else he wants it to go, or cast other spells. Its 2 fury saved much of the time. They also do great at contesting zones in scenario play.

The blackclad wayfarer is probably a point of contention. He helps you charge while you’d prefer to teleport your beasts closer while they have stone skin on them. However, sometimes you just can’t do that. And +2” and a free charge can be a big deal. Meanwhile the blackclad has a very good spray which is great for clearing infantry and making holes for shifting beasts. A strong contender for the blackclad’s place is the druid wilder. She can help you get out animi while sparing order of activation for Baldur and she becomes a vital solo at 50 points for many Circle armies. Both are very good options. Feel free to buy both models and experiment.


You’re probably better off casting rapid growth and running the swamp gobbers first turn. This lets them cloud much further forward where you want them in future turns. Otherwise you move forward in much the same way as at 25 points, though you need to rile less with the beasts. If you are using a blackclad, it can be useful to activate him after the shifting stones and redeploy him to the other side of your army depending on where you want him to be.

Against a foe with lots of blast damage, but no big guns or spells he wants to target your beasts with, it is worth making sure there is a straight line of open space in front of Baldur, then cast stone skin and solid ground and charge him forward. Your bloodtrackers will still run twelve and will all be in the safe zone without losing too much ground.


You now have a lot of the core models of a Circle Orboros force. Cassius, Kromac, both Kayas, both Morvahnas, Mohsar and both Kruegers could run this army very effectively. Going forward you’ll want to pick up a unit of druids and some gallows groves, then maybe Megalith and a few more solos. You’re well on your way however. Moreover you’ll hopefully learn skills and tricks that work at all levels of play when using the Circle Orboros.

I hope this article has been helpful. I’m always eager to hear feedback, it will help me get through the rest of the factions. I’m also open to suggestions for models and casters that are a great way to get into a faction.

The next article will be aimed at either budding Cygnar players, as it is my personal main faction, or at Cryx initiates as I like to maintain alphabetical order.

Thanks for reading! Stay classy!

A note on grammar: I’ve decided for clarity to italicise all spell and animus names. And yes, I prefer the Oxford comma!

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