One question that often comes up among my closest Warmachine/Hordes friends is one of morality: how would you rank the factions from noblest to evilest, and more specifically, which faction is the most evil? When I first started playing, I (probably as many other players do) immediately jumped to Cryx. They do fit the bill of a traditionally evil fantasy motif: undead hordes, necromancy, attacking innocents, ruthless leaders, etc; not to mention the dark aesthetic they generally employ. But as I have stayed with the game, I have seen that such a decision is not so easily made. No faction in the Iron Kingdoms is without a black mark on their record. Even noble Cygnar walked a dark road when they rounded up Menites living in country and put them in slave camps. But, I do think a few factions stand out as finalists for the title of ‘worst in Western Immoren’:
Yeah, I know; I all but called this choice trite above. Still, a lot has to be said for tradition, and Cryx brings it in spades on this topic. I think one of the stories that cemented Cryx as truly ruthless was the early fiction about Victoria Haley and her sister. The savagery with which Cryx attacks and their obvious lack of concern for anyone innocent is obvious and revolting. Mindless violence is always present in the wake of Cryxian movements. However, there is an edge to this behavior to be noted, and that is the fact that said violence always seems to come as part of a greater goal. Certainly, no kind of purpose could exonerate Turok and his generals from the horrors they have wrought, but I do find it interesting that Cryx is more than a bunch of homicidal maniacs. The entire faction exists only to really fulfill one sole purpose, and almost every major Cryx operation is put into motion to achieve a specific goal. In the story linked above, the slaughter of that fishing village was really just the collateral damage from securing one very important artifact (Deneghra). Venethrax is quite pragmatic in his approach to locating Athancs, even choosing to forgo combat if it wouldn’t aid his quest. Goreshade’s disturbing behavior was, at some level, motivated by a genuine belief he could save his people. Even Asphyxious’ endless schemes and sacrifices have all been part of a master plan to acheive a demigod status and be seen as Turok’s greatest asset.
At the end of the day, this slight counterbalance gives Cryx an edge that, thankfully, renders them more than just chaotic evil zombies. Although, certainly not much more. Deneghra can have a look of pity in her eyes all she wants, but as she and her master slaughter fields of Khadorans and Cygnarans, it is clear; Cryx has more than earned their place as one of the three ‘worst’ factions in the Iron Kingdoms.
Legion of Everblight
Whereas those in the service of Turok often look to overwhelming numbers and raw mayhem, Everblight managed to subjugate almost an entire race without a single sword drawn, thanks to Vayl and Thagrosh. And while the lack of overt violence may make Legion a strange choice here, I personally find Everblight’s actions but one step above genocide. True, few Nyss died, but they were so fully and completely changed that they might as well have. Really, I can see little difference between Everblight and a southern plantation owner in early America; sure the Nyss are housed, fed, and without basic wants, but their existence can hardly be called living anymore. When you see a bloodgorger hurtling towards your village, at least you have a change to go down swinging – no such luck for the Nyss.
But the other theme we see in Legion is one of regret from Everblight’s chosen warlocks. While he initially seems to enjoy his role as avatar, Thagrosh slowly begins to lament his inevitable loss of identity. Bethayne, upon receiving her shard, is said to experience a deep guilt. Lylyth really only accepts Everblight’s offer as a means to her own ends, and Abylonia… well, thankfully beauty is in the eye of the beholder, eh? Even those ‘closest’ to Everblight are often surrounded by remorse and sadness, and that contribution almost makes me view the existence of the army as more of a tragedy. Legion’s is a subtler evil than than of Cryx. Although at the core of it all, both exist solely to fulfill the inflated egos of their respective draconic figureheads; they do so in quite different fashion. Regardless, it is difficult for me to say which is worse overall: The visceral violence of Cryx, or the more insidious, deceitful flavor wielded by Legion?
Honestly, this third and final slot did not originally belong to Blindwater, but instead to Skorne. And although I certainly think Skorne’s institutionalization of slavery and torture earn them an honorable mention, it just doesn’t measure up to what I consider to be one of the most despicable pieces of fiction Privateer Press has ever published. You may recall, in Domination, of Maelok being the unwilling attacker of his own village. There were quite a few horrendous acts that Caliban forced Maelok to commit, but none so much as when he was directed to unleash corrosive bile against the ‘children’ of his village. Maelok is completely incapable of stopping the carnage, and he is forced to watch first person, as he violently destroys his own people, just for having been an opponent to Caliban. That image of a once-noble leader reduced to being an automaton literally dissolving his people’s offspring has always stuck with me.
Maybe Privateer Press had to use quality to make up for the quantity of Blindwater fluff, but Caliban and Barnabas do pack a nasty, and evil, punch. For as horrible as Caliban was to be willing to use Maelok as his pawn, Barnabas is completely willing to do the same with his entire race. His entire war is centered around his insecurity in his own mortality, and the sum total of gatorpeople are nothing next to his sense of self worth. And while I know of little fiction depicting Barnabas personally, it doesn’t take much more than that unmatched husbris and lack of empathy to earn Blindwater a spot on this list.
None of this is to say that everyone else is ‘good’. Khadorans freeze while their coal goes to power Conquests and their gold goes to line the pockets of Kayazy. Inoocent victims scream their last words on wracks as the Protectorate continue their crusades. The Retributon seeks to exterminate an entire class of humanity on a hunch. However, there are silver linings on those clouds. For every Butcher there is a Harkevich; for every Reznik a Dartan Vilmon. But silver linings are pretty rare, if extinct, in the nations of Cryx, Legion, and the Blindwater Congregation. And thats why they top my list.
Of course, I would love to see if and how you disagree. So let me hear it in the comments! Thanks!