(Started this about a year back, but never finished. Feel free to add stuff yourself or voice dissenting opinions.]
HOW TO WRITE A WARBAND
By Dave “StyrofoamKing” Joria
Now, people often ask me: “Styro, why don’t you shut the heck up?” However, if they were to ask me a question I felt confident in answering, it’d be “Styro, how do you write a warband?”
So, here’s Styro’s guide to writing a warband:
STEP 1 – BACKGROUND
This is something Edwin “Mordheimer” drilled into me again and again… you can’t have a warband until you have a theme… otherwise, the end product will be weak, mismatched, and forgettable. You need a theme (commonly called “fluff”)!
Where to find it: Black Library has a wealth of books out there, allowing you to find material all sorts of subjects. For the poor and busy, there are plenty of sites only a google search away. (http://whfb.lexicanum.com/wiki/Main_Page).
Also remember, unlike some other fantasies, nearly everyone in the Warhammer world is an analog for an existing country or culture. If you’re doing Dogs of War, pull up wiki articles on Italian City States and Landsknecht mercenaries.
Once you have a wealth of ideas, then and only THEN can you start making rules out of them.
STEP 2 – COMPARE
Only playtesting can prove if a warband is “balanced”, but the easiest way to expedite it is to look at existing warbands. When it comes to heroes, most warbands have one of four styles: “4 Strong”, “5 Mixed”, “5 Specialty”, or “6 Weak”.
For example, when Master & I did the Lothern Sea Patrol together, we looked at the Dwarf Treasure Hunter Warband- Elves are stronger than humans, so the dwarven model (4 heroes, normal stat henchmen, and reduced stat henchmen) fits very well.
4 Strong – Often one strong model, with one specialty (a spellcaster or stat booster), and heroes with stats stronger than a humans (sometimes higher than the base warrior for that race, sometimes not). These warbands are normally for races that inherently stronger than humans, like elves, dwarves, orcs, etc. Other examples of the “4 Strong” warbands include the Orc Mob, Lizardmen, and the Tomb Guardians.
“5 Medium” – Generally include a strong captain, two “champions” (with stats and skills slightly better than base humans), and two “weak” heroes with less than base stats. LOTS of examples of it, like Mercenaries, Possessed, Bowmen, Kislev, Amazons, etc. Sometimes these warbands have a spellcaster- if they do, they generally replace one of the champions (ex. Wolf Priest of Ulric, Bowmen’s Priest), or the leader doubles as the caster.
“5 Specialty” – Strong leader, one specialty (like a spellcaster), and 3 base-race style models. Includes Witch Hunters, Dark Elves, Undead.
6 Weak – These are rare, but you’ll often have a strong leader, two or three “champions” or “specialities”, and two or three base or weaker-than-base heroes. These are often reserved for weaker warbands like Halflings and goblins.
The Exceptions: There are, of course, exceptions to every rule. For example, the Possessed have two MASSIVELY strong champions, and two normal stat humans (with options to buy powerful mutations). The Norse have six heroes, three of which are killers. Beastmen have five heroes, each of which is way stronger than a normal human. Skaven have six heroes, only 4 of which are nasty. Does this make them automatically make them broken?
Not necessarily- each of those warbands have drawbacks. Possessed, Norse, & Beastman have few long range weapons, or none at all. The Norse and Skaven have no “elite” henchmen, with any states higher than a human warrior. Sometimes this is needed when you make your warband- trust your instincts, but be open to changing things if necessary.
Also keep the limitations in mind before you copy things blindly- if you make a chaos warband with two Possessed-strong champions and give them access to crossbows and shooting skills, you’re likely to break the whole thing apart.
Some things to keep in mind when developing your henchmen-
~ALWAYS have at least one henchmen group capable of becoming heroes… otherwise, you’ll be unable to replace the heroes as you die and/or make the six hero max. Some players, when making Undead warbands, tend to forget that. Without experience, a warband will LOSE in any kind of campaign.
~Have one “base” henchmen- this henchmen is not too powerful or expensive. It should either have no limit, or a very high limit… therefore, if a player wanted to fill his whole warband full of them, there’s little to stop a player from filling his warband full of them.
~Price differentiation – If you have a really expensive henchmen (40+) make sure you have at least one “cheap” henchmen, worth 25gc or less. These can be animals, slaves, novices, whatever you want… but without a “cheap” unit, replacing your warband members when they start dying will be very difficult. Also, if every henchmen type in your warband is only 1-5 gc apart from each other, consider making one stronger or weaker (making the gap in price wider). This will help diversify the warband, rather than making it full of identical models with only one or two equipment switches.
Luckily, most of the races in the Warhammer have been established in Mordheim… so that way, it’s easy to compare any new warrior to an existing one. However, to any of the old fans of 5th Edition Warhammer, most of the Gold prices are generally 5 times the old point system. Observe:
5th edition price Mord Price
Human 5 25
Dwarf 8 40
Elf 8 35 (Should be 40, in my opinion)
Ogre 40 180 (not far off from 200)
Orc 5.5 25 (instead of 27.5)
Goblin 2.5 15 (instead of 12.5)
(Not that it’s perfect… a troll at 5 times the old price would cost 325 gc.)
With this in mind, let’s say you wanted to make a Mordheim version of the old fashioned Chaos Warrior. In 5th edition, it cost 25 points… which would result in a warrior costing 125 gc. Is that balanced? Probably not as is (and would make a much better hero than a henchman!), but if you include the fact that the WFB Chaos Warrior came with Chaos Armor (the fan-made Mordheim version of which costs 185gc!), then maybe 125 isn’t too unheard of. Drop the armor, and lower the price accordingly. Looking at existing warriors, he’s weaker than a Vampire or a Possessed, so he’s probably worth less than 90gc, but not by much.
Once you have a fair base, you can start using a Stat Calculator, in order to figure out what each unit is worth. Here’s MY personal rating system, based on countless others:
M – 5gc
WS – 5gc
BS- 5-10gc (Most warband creators make it 5gc, but I think that it’s a strong enough stat that it’s sometimes worth 10gc)
S – 10gc
W – 10
I – 5gc
Existing Skills – 10gc
Special Rules – Sometimes you desire to give a warrior a special rule that is NOT in the normal rules. Here’s the best way of calculating them:
“Weak” Bonus – 5gc – Something that is a weaker than most skills. Perhaps it only applies rarely (ex. +1 to hit once per game, or hates spellcasters), or is something that provides only a small bonus (ex. Ignore a specific type of terrain). Generally, access to a specific type of equipment DOESN’T cost any extra money, as equipment has a cost value of its own.
Medium Bonus – 5-10gc – Equal to a skill. These can be as strong as a stat raise, but generally aren’t (ex. Provide +1 attack when charging.)
Strong Bonus – 10-15gc – More than worth a stat or skill. For example, Frenzy- this grants a model +1 attack when he’s fresh, but a potential of +4 attacks later in the campaign.