Thursday, July 17, 2014

Out of Our Element: Hordes, First Impressions

Hey everyone!

It's been and frankly still is a crazy summer, but in some of the down time I've found I've been considering trying to both sell off some of my 40k armies and using the resulting funds to support finishing a Skorne army that the owner of the Wizard's Keep hooked me up with a few years back.  I'm not as fond of steampunk aesthetics that permeate Warmachine, but the Skorne aesthetic is deadly and gaudy, so it seems like some mixture of Dark Eldar and Imperials.  The unit choices and board size (4' x 4') push the game toward melee combat.  While I know Godfrey has made close combat work in 40k, I've generally been leery of its viability in that system.  So not only am I getting into a new system, I've got an army that doesn't believe firearms are honorable in warfare, so I'll let Bill handle my first impression.

I think I'll be sticking with this game for the foreseeable future, so this post will just be about the differences between Warmachine/Hordes (WM/H) and our beloved 40k.  I'll be posting soon about how to get into the game and then get you some battle reports.  This will be a shorter article, so please be kind to it, it doesn't have the same amount of time behind it that Corvus' article did.

The biggest change from 40k is that the turn structure is activation rather than phase based.  In 40k you move each of your units, then you shoot each of them, then you assault with each of them. This means you need to keep track of what each unit has done two to four times a turn, where as the activation system has one unit move and then shoot/assault then the next does the same until you go through all your units.  In fairness, there is also a maintenance phase where you need to do tests and manage resources on your most important models.

Since the faction I'm playing is from Hordes (H) rather than Warmachine (WM) that means my resource (fury) is less reliable than theirs (focus), but arguably more powerful.  Focus generates on your caster each maintenance phase and you dole it out to your jacks to use during your turn and keep some to either use to cast a la warp charges or sit on to boost your armor statistic.  Fury begins on your caster during the first turn, persists between turns on your caster, but generally you must generate it through forcing your beasts to fight harder.  Jacks are allocated focus (up to a limit) to expend, beast generate fury (up to a limit) which must be taken by their caster.  If beasts generate more fury than their caster can soak up, they have to take a modified leadership test.  If they fail, they charge and you can't control them, even to generate fury for that turn. You extend farther in Hordes, but it comes with the risk of losing control of your models.

In 40k, each game has a mission and playing to those rules is generally how you win the game.  In WM/H, tournaments have missions, but pick up games and tournament games can be won by assassinating the opposing caster.  Losing your HQ in 40k can be a big loss, even crippling, but in WM/H it's game over.  Imagine your caster as your carotid artery, even if you're being strangled and are about to die, cutting your opponent's carotid is still a viable option.  Godfrey and Ishmael could attest that if I wasn't forced to take an HQ, I wouldn't have.  Even with the warlord abilities, I'm not too fond of HQ units in 40k.  In WM/H, the only HQ equivalents are characters, some with multiple versions like Tycho.  Each has their own spell list (yes, all damned psykers), and a once per game ability that generally has a massive effect on the game called their feat.  Because there is no customization in your HQ, your most important choice in building a list is your caster.

The last major thing that I want to go into is the time consideration.  Maybe it's me, but I've not had a game of 40k that was over in under an hour and a half in a long time.  40k can be really demanding on your time, but I've found the assassination win condition in WM/H means if you screw up, your game can be over in under half an hour easily.  Terrain and LoS are abstracted to 4th edition levels if not more so, which means there are no TLoS questions that arise about just how much of a model is visible to any other model or what type of defensive buff a unit gets from terrain.  It's much more streamlined in that way and I feel this may be a godsend for players who are wanting a quicker game.

There's more to come next week with two battle reports and a synopsis of how you can get into the game.  I hope some of this has been enlightening or at least entertaining.  That's my first impressions and I'll be back for more after painting my elephants.

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