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Taking It To
A Mordheim Primer by Mark Havener
So you’re looking to get into a new game. Walk into the local store, and you’re assaulted
with the selection. All the pretty boxes, all the lovely titles, which one to buy? You ask
the guy behind the counter, and he suggests that Mordheim is a good choice if you want
to try something new. So you take his advice and buy yourself a new game, but now that
you’ve got it, how exactly do you start using it?
The rules, the rules, always read the rules!
This may seem obvious, but the book that comes with the
game really needs to be read. Many players try to get by with
having someone show them how to play, promising the’ll
read the rules later. There’s nothing wrong with doing this,
though you may miss the finer points, and some things
inevitably get lost in translation (even those sales guys don’t
remember all the rules all the time!). Fortunately, the rules
for Mordheim were written with the understanding that
most people want to be playing games not reading rules,
and so they’re as entertaining as possible. They’re also
broken down into 5 sections – the introductory (story) bit,
Rules, Warbands, Campaigns, and Optional Rules. The
sections you really need to read are Rules and Warbands,
though the introductory section is highly recommended
before you start as well, as it gives much of the backstory
Human Mercenaries
There are several minor (provincial) variations within this list, but they’re all basically the same thing – human fighters from
one of the provinces of the Empire. Human Mercenaries should be viewed as the ‘baseline’ warband: they aren’t the greatest
at any given thing, but they can do most things well. They have reasonably priced Heroes, decent warriors and very cool
specialists. Marksmen can take some really nice missile weapons, and Swordsmen have a great Weapon Skill for humans, and
get to re-roll missed attacks when they charge!
You should decide when you buy your warband whether you want to emphasise shooting, close combat, or a mix of both. If
you favour shooting, you will want to choose Reikland as your warband’s home province, as all your Marksmen will be more
accurate (+1 Ballistic Skill). If you want to emphasise close combat you’ll probably want to go with Middenheimers as their
Heroes are stronger than other humans (+1 Strength for their Champions and Captains). If you want a mix of both you’ll
want Marienburgers, as they are from a wealthier province and therefore get more starting cash to recruit with (600 Gold
Crowns rather than the normal 500… not too shabby!). Personally, I normally choose Marienburgers when I play Human
Mercenaries, as they fit best with the flexible strategy I like to use.
The Streets
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Averlanders and Ostlanders
In addition to the three types of Human Mercenary in the
rulebook (opposite), two more types appear in the pages
of the Mordheim Annual 2002. Each follows the same basic
format as the Human Mercenary warband, with a twist of
its own.
Averlanders are restricted to only one each of Youngbloods
and Champions (called a Sergeant in this list), but gain
Bergjaegers, expert huntsmen who have the ability to set
traps. Instead of Warriors and Swordsmen, they have
Mountainguard, who have the Weapon Skill of Swordsmen
but lack their re-rolls. The warband also has access to
Halflings, who are excellent shots (keep them away from
combat though, as they are kind of puny).
Ostlanders lose Youngbloods entirely, but gain the Priest of
Taal, God of Nature. This Hero is able to use the Prayers of
Taal (nature-oriented powers granted directly from his god).
The warband loses Swordsmen, but gains Ruffians (guys that
are so drunk that they ain’t afraid a nuthin’), and an Ogre!
behind the game – your ‘motivation’ if you like. There is also
an example at the back of the book (in the appendices,
between the Playsheet and the Designer’s Notes) that may
prove very helpful if you’ve never played this sort of game
Mordheim Annual 2002 (in other words, the main
references for the game, and easiest to find) in this article.
Hopefully this will make the job of picking the right one for
you even easier.
The Players
So who are these warbands that you’re supposed to be
looking at, and how do you decide which one to play? Let
me start by saying that I’m not going to tell you which
warband is ‘best’. I’ve been asked that countless times, but
the honest answer (and the one I always give people) is that
the game is well balanced enough so that no one warband is
‘the best’. Some warbands have certain advantages, but
these are balanced by inherent disadvantages, or the
advantages that the other warbands enjoy. See the comments
in the boxes thoughout this article.
That may still seem like a lot to read before you even start to
play, but never fear! You don’t have to read all the Warband
rules. Instead, just read the first couple of pages (pp 64-65)
where it explains how to set your warband up, and then look
over each warband (especially the intro on each one),
decide which warband fits your personality best, and then
read through THOSE rules thoroughly. Most of the warbands
have rules that span just a few pages, so it’ll go really quickly,
I promise! In fact, in order to help you out, I’ll be including
a few words on each warband from the main rulebook and
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Kislev is the land to the north
(and east) of the Empire. The
combination of a harsh climate
and proximity to the Chaos
Wastes has hardened the people
of this land. Like Averlanders and
Ostlanders, Kislevites are similar
to Human Mercenary warbands,
but have some differences. For
instance, they lose one Champion
(called an Esaul in this warband),
but gain a Bear Tamer. And while
they don’t have access to
Swordsmen or Marksmen, they
gain Cossacks (who Hate Chaos),
Streltsi (who have received
special training with the halberd
and handgun), and (if the
warband includes a Trainer) a
Trained Bear (another ‘big guy’
like the Ogre above).
Hired Swords
Many of the best warriors in the game aren’t regular
members of any single warband’s roster. They are Hired
Swords – warriors who will work for nearly anyone (for a
fee). Between the Rulebook and the 2002 Mordheim Annual
there are 10 Hired Swords to choose from.
for (or that would refuse to hire them). Skaven and
Ostlanders in particular have a very short list of Hired
Swords to choose from, in fact Skaven can ONLY hire the
Warlock, and Ostlanders can ONLY hire the Ogre Bodyguard.
Speaking of the Warlock, this snake charmer is one of my
personal favourites, and a standard addition to my
Mordheim roster. Not only does he give warbands access to
spells (nice if you’re running a warband that doesn’t
normally get spellcasters), but he also starts with 2 of them,
not just 1 like most of the spellcasters. He has access to
Lesser Magic, which gives a nice range of powers. My
favourite spell from the list is Silver Arrows , which can take
out the toughest of enemies if you’re lucky. Since the spell
requires a shooting ‘to hit’ roll, take a BS upgrade if you can
Hired Swords are probably best introduced into a campaign
rather than one-off games. They have a lower starting hire
fee than their abilities indicate, but this is balanced by an
‘upkeep’ cost. However, if you are not playing in a campaign,
there is no upkeep cost, so they just end up being a better
option than most of the warriors in your warband. Another
thing to keep in mind is that while these folks are not overly
choosy, there ARE some warbands that even they won’t work
Orcs & Goblins
Players that love a bit of wackiness and risk should enjoy this warband. Orcs are certainly
no great thinkers, but they’re always entertaining. Orc warbands tend to favour a direct,
close-combat strategy, perhaps supported by a few Goblins armed with short bows. Their
Shaman’s magic shares the same brutal and direct qualities as the Orcs themselves.
To further support the idea of the warband as a blunt implement, we get access to a Troll.
While quite expensive, Trolls are very hard to put down, and as long as you keep him
near the warband’s leader, he’ll probably do what you want him to (he’s also subject to
Stupidity, unfortunately). A nice side effect of his Regeneration in campaign play is that
a Troll need never roll for Injury after a battle… even the worst wounds will regenerate
eventually. While most of the big guys you can take for the other warbands are also quite
pricey, there’s a certain advantage to having the one that can never be killed!
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get it. Also, Luck of Shemtek and Sword of Rezhebel are an
awesome combination if you can manage to get them both
working at the same time.
The Halfling Scout, while quite
cheap at 15 GC, probably isn’t a
best first choice for your
warband. He’s a decent shot
with his bow, but his most useful
trait is his Cook skill, which lets
you increase the maximum size
of your warband by 1 warrior.
This skill really comes into play
late in a campaign when you’ve filled up your roster and
cannot hire any more (aside from Hired Swords who don’t
count towards this limit).
The Dwarf Troll Slayer is a great addition to any warband
that is concerned about Psychology tests. He’s quite mad,
and so doesn’t need to take those tests. He can’t take
armour, so get him into combat as quickly as you can!
The Freelancer is a dispossessed noble or second son of a
noble. Quite good if your group uses the Mounted
Creatures rules (which are optional), but he may seem a bit
overpriced if you’re not. Armed with heavy armour and
shield, he’ll be better protected than most of the warriors
he’ll meet, and more mobile if he’s mounted.
The Pit Fighter is quite good at what he does, at least for a
human. He’s got a decent Strength (4), Toughness (4), and
Attacks (2), and some interesting and different equipment (a
morning star, helmet, and a spiked gauntlet which counts as
both an additional hand weapon AND a buckler). At 30 GC
he’s a good deal, but he doesn’t have any useful skills and
his lowly 1 Wound and mediocre Ld mean that he doesn’t
often make it into my warbands.
The Elf Ranger is a nice
addition to any warband.
Not only is he wickedly
accurate with his Elf bow,
but his Seeker skill allows you
to modify one of your
Exploration dice by +1/-1. In a
campaign, this can be critical for
rolling the multiples that you need
to find the really good stuff. He is a
standard feature in my warbands as well.
The Ogre Bodyguard on the other hand, woohoo! Here’s a
big guy that doesn’t have a typical big guy price tag (80 GC,
which is about half what you’d normally pay for a big guy
who is part of your warband). His upkeep cost is pretty high
though, and in a campaign that can be critical as lots of
Witch Hunters
Mercenaries aren’t the only humans scouring the ruins of Mordheim. The Order of the Templars of Sigmar has been drawn
to the city as these nutters view the cataclysm as evidence of corruption that must be purged. If you like the idea of a bunch
of torch-wielding fanatics, these babies are for you! This warband combines some tough characters who hate spellcasters, a
Warrior Priest who can fight and use the Prayers of Sigmar (powers similar to the Prayers of Taal, but more militant in nature)
to help out his warband, crazed Flagellants, cheap Zealots, and even cheaper (and faster!) Warhounds.
This warband is more specialised for close combat than Human Mercenaries. While you can take some missile weapons, they
aren’t as widely accessible, and the selection isn’t great (few of the cooler gunpowder weapons are available). On the plus
side you get cheap fast Warhounds for tying up the enemy and keeping THEM from shooting, Flagellants that will NEVER
run, cheap Zealots to provide numbers, and decent characters.
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upkeep tends to keep you from expanding your roster. I like
to add an Ogre if I roll a Special Encounter that lets me take
him for free. On those (relatively rare) occasions, I can even
use him as a ‘meat shield’, standing in front of my other
warriors, soaking up missile hits with his 3 Wounds and
Toughness 4, while I use the rest of my warband to pick the
enemy apart.
Troll in close combat! Assassins can also choose from a
couple of nice skills as they gain Experience, which allows
them to strike from the shadows and hit the enemy when
his back is turned.
The Tilean Marksman (also from the 2002 Annual) is the
final Hired Sword on our list. If you need to add some good
solid missile fire to your warband, this guy might just be the
thing for you. He’s armed with a crossbow, has a good
Ballistic Skill, and has two skills that allow him to ignore
negative penalties for range and cover. Not bad for a measly
The Imperial Assassin appears in the 2002 Mordheim
Annual. While he’s as human as the Pit Fighter and
Freelancer, he has some special skills that make him worth
considering. First of all, while he has his own, he can be
given any weapon that doesn’t use noisy gunpowder. This
is important, because normally you cannot alter a Hired
Sword’s equipment. It is also important because it plays
well into the Assassin’s other special ability: Poisoner.
While poison can be purchased as equipment for your
warband, it’s not cheap (and it cannot be given to a Hired
Sword). This guy gets it for free. An Assassin with a double-
handed sword and Dark Venom becomes stronger than a
Tips and Tricks
Okay, so now we know who’s involved, and we’ve read the
rules, how do we beat everyone else who’s been doing the
same thing? Well, there are a few things you can do to
improve your chances of making your fortune and striking
fear into the hearts of your enemies.
Sisters of Sigmar
The next group of humans we should look at is the Sisters of Sigmar. These ladies were in the city when the cataclysm struck,
and while most others have left, these ‘fighting nuns’ have decided to make their stand here. Obviously this warband is all
female, so if that concept appeals to you, you’ll probably enjoy playing them. As with the Witch Hunters, these ladies worship
Sigmar, though that doesn’t mean the two groups get along! Also as with the Witch Hunters, the Sisters are more combat-
oriented than Human Mercenaries. In fact, the members of this warband have only one missile weapon available to them –
the sling. While shorter-ranged than most missile weapons, slings DO have the advantage that they can be fired twice in a
turn. Double the firing rate does have its advantages!
Slings aren’t the Sisters’ only advantage. Steel whips are a specialty of this warband, and are one of the nicer close combat
weapons as they allow a warrior to attack an enemy model in close combat before she closes (risk-free attacks!). While they
do not enjoy the henchman selection that most warbands get, their choices are a decent basic trooper (Sigmarite Sister) and
a second, cheaper trooper to provide numbers. However, it’s in the Heroes category that this warband really shines,
particularly the Matriarch and the Augur. The Matriarch is the leader of the warband in both martial and spiritual matters,
this gives her access to the Prayers of Sigmar, just like the Warrior Priest above. The Augur, however, is quite unique. While
physically blind, an Augur has the ability to see the world around her through Second Sight, gaining re-rolls when rolling
Characteristic tests or attempting to hit. If your mission requires a Characteristic test be passed to succeed, the Augur is the
lady for the job.
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