I was asked to write an article on Warmachine, so here it goes:
For those of you who have never played Warmachine before, let me explain it to you as simply as possible. Imagine for a second Warhammer Fantasy, except that all of the rules for all of the armies were made at the same time and balanced against each other. Now play that game with a dash of 3rd ed. Dungeons and Dragons.
Warmachine is a game about stacking combos and building synergy. Every unit in the game is inherently balanced against every other unit in the game (as opposed to this 'internal balance' bollocks that Games Workshop does with each different army). Take 2 players of equal skill (in this case, we'll go with new players). Take two armies of the same size (again, in this example we'll take the battlegroup boxes, more commonly called 'starter sets'). Place models, play game. A fun time WILL be had by all.
I don't want to get off on a rant about Warhammer here, but I can't stress enough how if you are like me, and the thing that bugs you most about the game is how it is poorly balanced, you need to have large units where most of the models don't actively participate in the game, and that you just plain need a ton of models, then Warmachine is a VERY refreshing change of pace.
First of, you average game size (model-wise) is significantly smaller. An average game army is 35 points. Most Warjacks, the half-magical, half-mechanical golem/robots that the game is based around clock in anywhere from 4 to 12 points. A Battlegroup boxed set is around the 15 point mark by itself. So we're talking around a dozen or so models to have a working army.
There are essentially 4 types of models. First, there is your Warcaster. This guy is essential. His magical power is what makes your Warjacks move. Each tun he gives them some magical power (called focus points) and they spend those points to do things like run and attack.
Next up of course, we have the Warjacks themselves. As I said before, they are a magical golem/robot-thing that the Warcasters power with their magic. They are the heavy-lifters of the army for the most part, taking tons of damage and dishing out just as much. There are different types of Warjacks, lighter-smaller one, heavy-larger ones, and character 'Jacks, Warjacks that have been in service so long they've developed a sort of personality.
After Warjacks we have units. Units are just what they sound like, a unit of infantry. Though there is a cavalry unit in each army. Units do not benefit from Warcasters like jacks do. Instead they operate on their own and receive orders to do special abilities. These work similar to Imperial Guard orders. You take a command check (leadership test) and then can do whatever it is the unit says it can do. You can also take Unit Attachments which will give you a champion, and a standard bearer, in addition to conferring special abilities to the unit.
Lastly there are solo units. These are single models that operate independently, usually to boost your army with their abilities. Of course due to their nature, they are quite varied, and not easy to sum up in one paragraph. Nevertheless, these units are great additions to an army to make your existing force more versatile.
Your average size Warmachine force will consist of a single Warcaster, 2-4 Warjacks, a unit (or two) and a couple of solos. So again, we're not talking a lot of models here. That said, integrated right into the rules are size categories, allowing you go up in army size all the way to an equivalent Apocalypse game.
Now that the basics of army construction are out of the way, we can move on to the game play itself. It's very simple really. At the start of the turn you deal with any leftover effects from the previous turn, allocate focus to your Warjacks and start moving. One very important difference between Warmachine and Warhammer is that every unit does everything it can do in it's activation. there are no movement phases or shooting phases. You activate your unit, move, shoot with or assault with it BEFORE you move on to the next unit. In this way it's like Dungeons and Dragons. You have a move action and a standard action. You can Charge by doing both at the same time (your movement, plus 3", and it adds an extra dice of damage). There are also rules for grappling and throwing! This makes the game a little more tactical in that you have to coordinate your units more than you would in Warhammer, since you can't pick up slack in the next phase.
All dice rolling in the game is on a base 2D6. These rolls can usually be boosted through some means or another (special rules, focus points, etc...) Which means you don't need to carry around a big bag of dice to play. I've never rolled more than 4 dice while playing. Don't get me wrong, there is still some kit involved. There are three templates (like Warhammer), obviously the rulebooks, and it's important to have some counters. These can range from coins to stones to fancy custom-cut ones. There are also cards for each unit. In the standard baseball card size, these show all the abilities and rules of your unit. Most players will keep them in a plastic slip cover and bring a dry or wet erase marker with them, as the cards also have spots on them for tracking damage.
Lastly we come to the different factions of Warmachine. There are 4 main factions: Cygnar, the default 'heroes' of the setting (think stereo-typical steampunk), Khador, their militant rivals to the North (very Soviet-Russian), the Protectorate of Menoth (a Fanatically religious group) and Cryx (largely undead and bio-constructs). Beyond these 4, they have just introduced a new faction, Retribution of Scyrah (very anime-mech). And then, on top of all of that, there are the mercenaries! Any army can take mercenaries to fill out their army, and within the Mercenary choices there are 2 full-fledged armies: Rhulic Dwarves, in staunch solid armor and the Pirates of the Broken Coast. That's right, there are Pirates! Arrrrgh!!
So, if you've ever thought about trying Warmachine, or have passed by the models and though they looked neat, give them a try. Most Warmachine players are competitive, but friendly. It's a great alternative to GW games, full of character, flavor and fantastic models! So try it out. And remember, as their motto goes, Play Like You Got a Pair!.