In part 2 of what looks to be a series on Warmachine/Hordes, I will be going over the more feral cousin of Warmachine... Hordes!
Hordes, in many ways, is identical to Warmachine. So much so in fact that the two games can be played together. So you can face-off your Trollbloods against Cryx, or your Skorne against Khador. The basic ruleset is the same. You roll 2D6 for pretty much every action, which can be boosted either through abilities or by forcing your warbeasts (more on this in a minute). The rules for casting spells, running, fighting, grappling... all of them are identical to the Warmachine system. Which makes it very easy to jump into the game.
Now for the differences: Instead of a Warcaster, you have a Warlock. As Shakespeare put it 'What's in a name?' The difference is in the resource system. As I discussed in my last article, Focus is generated at the beginning of your turn and then allocated to your Warjacks to power them before activating any units. Simple resource management really.
Warlocks, on the other hand, are more about risk management. Instead of allocating focus, you force Fury. Every time you want a warbeast to do something, you force him, adding a fury. Each Warbeast has a maximum amount of Fury, so you can't just load him up and hope for the best. Now so far, this seems like a much better system, right? But here's the downside: At the beginning of your turn, your Warlock needs to leech the Fury out of your Warbeast to power his own magic AND to stop the beast from raging. If any of your Warbeasts have Fury on them at the beginning of your turn, they will have to take a command check, adding the number of fury they have on them to the roll. If you roll over the units command (average of 8 for most Warbeasts) they rage and attack the nearest model. This could possibly one of your own models! Also, when raging, you have no control over the beast, so you can't force his attack or damage rolls, you can use special abilities, nor can you force for additional attacks. One attack, that's it.
Which is why it is called risk management. For example, the Trollbloods Battlegroup is a Warlock (with a Fury value of 5) and 3 Warbeasts. In theory, I could force each Warbeast 3 times (for a charge, forced attack roll and an extra attack, for example), putting 9 Fury on the the table. In the beginning of my next turn though, I can only leech back 5 Fury (my Warlock's Fury value), meaning there is still 4 fury to deal with. At least 2 of my beasts are going to rage. Meaning I've lost control of them for the round, which could put them in a bad position, have them attack each other, or run them out of my control range.
The easiest way to say it is to say that Warmachine armies are about controlling your 'Jack's abilities, and Hordes armies are about trying to keep your army under control.
There are again 4 main faction in Hordes. There are the Trollbloods (the real 'good guys' of the setting; think American Indians crossed with William Wallace-era Scotland), Circle of Orboros (Druids of the forest; a lot of wolves and wood/stone constructs), Skorne (Quasi-Far East look; into pain like the Dark Eldar) and the Legion of Everblight (Dark Elves corrupted by an undead Dragon Lord). There are also Minions, which are much like Warmachine's Mercenaries, only not as varied, and they currently do not have a stand-alone Minions army.
List composition is the same. You take your Warlock, give him a battlegroup of Warbeasts, add a couple of units of troops and a solo or to and you've got a ready-to-go army! Points costs are the same as in Warmachine. Your beasts cost anywhere from 4-12 points (the expensive ones are the Character Warbeasts), units are around 4-10 points (and have Unit attachments), solos anywhere from 1 to 5 points.
I should also mention, that both for Warmachine AND for Hordes, this is a very good time to get started. Privateer Press, makers of the game, just released mk. II of the ruleset for Warmachine, and just finished testing on mk. II for Hordes. This was a great process, where they published the rules (for free!) online, and had the community of players test it, find all the imbalances, report them AND, I know this will be strange for most of you, since you are long-time Warhammer players and are used to GW stepping on your rules and your army, LISTENED TO THEIR PLAYERS AND MADE CHANGES!!
I can't stress that enough. They took the game to the community and had them test the crap out of it. there are no Leafblower lists in Warmachine/Hordes. The developers will never be recorded as saying 'Well I didn't think anyone would use 2 Lash of Submission Daemon Princes". They had the foresight to know that players are competitive. they will look for any advantage that they can. So instead of finding out after the fact, and then pretending the problem isn't there and waiting for a new book to fix it in 7-10 years.
And, for the few rules that slip through the cracks of massive public testing, they are willing to admit mistakes and quickly fix them. There was an ability of one of the Cryx Warcasters, for example, that had unforeseen complications against Hordes armies (since Warmachine was tested separately from Hordes; probably their only mistake). Once Hordes started it's field-testing for the new rules, they found the problem, and quickly published an errata on their website. Turn around time on this: 48 hours. We're not talking 7-10 years. 48 hours to fix a problem.
that probably came off a little rant-y, but it needed to be said. I stated it in the last article, and I'll say it again: Warmachine/Hordes is a great alternative to Warhammer, especially if you want to get away from all those nagging issues that plague the game right now (you know; like 7th ed Fantasy being almost unplayable unless you are playing Vampires or Daemons). It's a tight ruleset, a fast-paced, exciting game, and sports some of the best models out there.
Now get out there and PLAY LIKE YOU GOT A PAIR!