Steamroller Tournaments for Beginners

OverloadOnline banner
This is a guest post from Owen at

One of the guys on the Warmachine/Hordes Ireland Facebook group asked for a post introducing newer players to the Steamroller format and playing competitively. I’m not the most qualified to write this, but I have played in one or two tournaments… Here I concentrate on what you can control and do before a tournament. You can’t understand how every model in the game works and has synergies with others, but you can know your own army, the rules of the game, the format of the tournament, etc. These steps try to mention the key things you can do before a tournament.

Step 1: Understand the Tournament Format
Steamroller allows for a lot of permutations in how a specific event is run (and there are a number of quirky alternative formats that are sometimes played). There are some named variants, such as Masters and Hardcore; these formats apply a specific set of restrictions. The basic information you need to know before going to an event is –

  • How many points are allowed in the basic list(s)? Are Reinforcements being used? Are Specialists being used? You may not recognise those terms (see Step 2), but they can impact how many models you would like to or need to bring.
  • How many lists are allowed? Typically the tournament format will allow each player to bring more than one list for their chosen faction. This allows players to create lists that can deal with different types of enemy. As a (very, very) basic example you may have a list that can deal with high Def and a different one that deals with high Arm. If Reinforcements/Specialists are being used as well, each list will need to include them.
  • How many rounds will be played? Are there restrictions on using your separate lists? Typically Steamroller is designed to be played until there is a clear winner and the number of rounds may be based on the number of attendees. For example, eight players will need three rounds to determine a clear winner. However, some tournaments will have a fixed number of rounds. Regarding restrictions, you may be required to play each of your lists at least once.

Step 2: Read the Steamroller Documentation
Download the rules (Steamroller 2013 is the one you want) and then read, read, read! This is important – you need to know how the tournament and more specifically the scenarios work.

  • Understand the lingo. You need to understand these terms – Deployment, Scenario Element, Starting number, Own, Contest, Control, Dominate, Zone, Flag (40 mm base), Objective (50 mm base), Assassination Victory, Scenario Victory, the different Tiebreakers and Kill Box. A lot, right? These are all defined in the document and are central to understanding how a scenario works and how you can win it.
  • Read and understand the scenarios. How do you score control points? How many do you need to win? Even if assassination is your main game you need to ensure your opponent doesn’t sneak a scenario win. Most of the above terms are central in defining the scenarios.

Step 3: Know your Army
There are a lot of ‘casters and warlocks in the game now and it’s hard to know what all of them do, but you can take control of your own army and understand it.

  • Know your warcasters/warlocks. This involves both knowing their rules and having practiced a bit with them to know what they are capable of. You can’t replace real tabletop experience. It’s also worth reflecting on what kind of matchups work for them.
  • Know your models. It’s worth studying and rereading their cards. Warmachine/Hordes is a very precise game and the specific phrasing of things (including the order in which things happen) is very important.
  • Know you synergies and order of activation. While this can be situational there are certain effects, animi or spells that you’d like to affect a unit before they engage the enemy. Try to think about the order in which these things need to happen for maximum effect. That’s the ideal situation and of course things will get mixed up in the battle, but having a plan that falls apart is better than having no plan!
  • Practice. This is particularly important if the tournament using timing (and most do now). Know how the clocks work and where the slow elements of your play are. There is nothing to fear from playing timed turns, but it can put pressure on you if you’re not familiar with it.

Step 4: Know the Game Rules!
If you have only read the rules once, then that’s not enough… If you’ve never read the rules and learnt them ‘from a friend’ then that’s definitely not enough. As mentioned above, this is a detailed oriented game. You need to play games and reread rules to get a good handle on how things work. For example, do you know the timing for activations? What’s the difference between disabled, boxed and destroyed? Check out P.244 of the main Warmachine rulebook (P.236 of Hordes).

Step 5: Gather your Forces
I’ve written about this before, but there are certain things you need to bring with you on the morning of the tournament. Here’s my checklist for Warmachine/Hordes –

  • Army (Miniatures, including anything that may be spawned, e.g. Lessers from the Spawning Vessel; Incubi)
  • Dice
  • Templates
  • Unit cards and card sleeves
  • Drywipe pen (and tissue to wipe off damage)
  • Measuring Tape (or two)
  • Focus and Fury counters
  • Special Army Counters
  • Army list (At least two copies, but I prefer four; one per game and one for organisers)
  • Rulebooks and Paperwork (Army Book, Rulebook, Rulepack and Ticket)
  • Army Case (Case, foam trays and covers)
  • Tray (for moving the army between games)
  • Pen/Pencil and Spare Paper
  • Super Glue

Step 5: Have Fun!
Tournaments are just another format in which to play toy soldiers. You’re there to have fun and so is everyone else. Warmachine/Hordes is a pretty balanced game and the rules are tight. It’s also an open game; if your opponent asks for a piece of information about how a model works or a specific rule interaction then explain it to them. It’s how we all learn.

Until next time,



5 thoughts on “Steamroller Tournaments for Beginners

  1. I never remember superglue.

    And inevitably end up doing a comdey routine involving trying to catch a spinning, flying deathripper by bouncing it into my hand off my elbow.

    It rarely works out.

  2. I usually put it in an empty slot in the foam tray. There are few things worse than that slow-mo ‘Nooooooo’ as one of your beautifully painted models tumbles from the table!

  3. Thanks for the info guys, appreciated! The steamroller doc is pretty intimidating – a good follow up to this article would be some kind of a write-up on the various scenarios – hints/tips, etc…

  4. Pingback: SR2013 Scenarios: Incursion and Close Quarters | Overload Online

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s