Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Whats the Difference: 40k/Warmachine/Hordes?

Tabletop Nation have been running a journeyman league for Warmahordes recently, which has given me the impetus to get painted and the opportunity to play with my Cryx army. I have still only had half a dozen games with them so bear that in mind. This isn't an exhaustive guide to playing either game, just a few observations on the differences between them - things you might like to know if you want to switch from 40k to Warmahordes.

Tabletop Nation's Journeyman League

Firstly, size. Warmahordes uses much smaller model counts to play with. The starter sets come to around 15 points and that may only mean four models. But this is still a very playable force, compared to say half a 40k starter box which can feel like only half a proper army. Even when you go up a level to 25 points, you many only add two or three more units to your list which could again be as few as one, two, or three models. My 25 point list, for example, added four new units to the starter set, for a total of 16 new models. But my 35 point list is only two additional units and two new models.

You can have many more models, of course. I chose two one-model units specifically to save on money and time  but I could have gone for lots of cheap light jacks. Painting earns you points in the league though, so I didn't want to get bogged down with two many jacks and solo's to paint.

Second, Warmahorde units feel less flexible than 40k units do. For starters your force will be led by a Warcaster, at least if you have a Warmachine army, I forget what the Hordes leaders are called. Your choice of caster will heavily influence how you fight and what you choose to play with, partly because each caster has a once-a-game feat to use - a special irresistible effect, unique to each caster - and partly because each caster has a list of themed armies they can take which, if you meet the force organisation requirements, give bonuses to your army.

Units appear very clearly defined in what they are meant to do too. If it is a close-combat jack you will know it. If a unit is meant to shoot at stuff, it will be clear. Actual gameplay might of course change what units have to do - but they start with very clear purposes.

Guess what that dude does...
A criticism of Warmachine is that each fight can feel very similar to the last one then, as your tactics aren't likely to change too much from engagement to engagement. I think this is possibly deliberate on the part of the designers though. This inflexibility pretty much forces you to buy new toys when you want to fight in a different way, but what might at first seem a weakness  becomes a strength when you see how cheap the models are.

Whereas with a 40k army you might have to plan a list for every eventuality, then buy and build every model in that list, with Warmachine it feels more like you focus on one small area of the army book, build and play with that, then expand your collection to allow more tactical flexibility and options. The end result is the same - a large collection of miniatures with all sorts of options. But its much easier to start a Warmachine force and cheaper to expand it.

Warcaster Denegrha's job is to hide behind the big guy.
The next big difference is the turn sequence and importance of individual models. In 40k, every model gets to move, then every model shoots, then every model fights. In Warmahordes, every unit does all those things, one at a time. So model or unit A moves, shoots, and fights. Then model B moves shoots, then fights. And so on. The challenges of each system are similar - you have to plan what is going to move where, and shoot what and fight what before committing. But, as a long time 40k player, one has to take care not to shoot and not to assault a target to death I had also planned to assault with another model, leaving that second model stranded far from the enemy.

Finally the big big difference between the two systems - Focus and Fury.

Warmachine uses Focus. This is mana for your casters and is used to empower your jacks to charge and do more damage as well as casting spells. It is a precious commodity and adds another layer of complexity to planning each turn.

Hordes uses Fury. This kind of works in reverse to Focus, in that monsters gain Fury when given commnds to do stuff and, if not dispersed properly, has the potential to overload your beasts, causing the, to go berserk. I actually quite like this system, it feels a lot less limited than Focus. It has the potential to cripple your force if you're unlucky, but as far as I can see the benefits outweigh the risk.

Overall then, Warmahordes, at least up to 35 points a side, feels like a lot more focussed and intense game than 40k does. It lacks a little of the 'narrative of battle' 40k has, owing largely to the smaller battlefields and forces. It is by no means weaker though, just very different.

It is quick, easy, simple and cheap to collect a strong army for with Warmachine or Hordes. The models are almost all attractive and well made and the game systems have complexities and mechanisms that make them, like all good games, easy to pick and difficult to master.

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