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Friday, October 28, 2011

Focus vs Fury And How They Relate To Warmachine and Hordes

Warmachine and Hordes are two games made by Privateer Press which use the same overall format but with a few key differences. Having talked to many new players over the past few years, many ask "What is the difference between Warmachine and Hordes?" I have two answers for this. The first is simple - Warmachine is giant robots smashing stuff and Hordes is giant monsters smashing stuff. While that gives a very general answer and it's good for helping someone decide which game they find more appealing, it doesn't explain the rule differences between the two which are more in-depth. This leads us to the second answer - Warmachine uses the focus mechanic and Hordes the fury mechanic. Both of these control how their respective Warcasters and Warlocks operate, particularly with their Warjacks and Warbeasts, and can lead to very different gamestyles.

Warmachine and Focus:

In Warmachine your Warcaster generates a set amount of focus based on their focus stat at the beginning of your turn. There are multiple uses of this focus including the casting of spells, upkeeping spells buying/boosting attacks for the Warcaster themselves and most importantly, distributing it to your Warjacks (max of three per Warjack) so they can run, charge, do special melee actions, buy and boost attacks, etc. As a result of this, the number of jacks a Warcaster can support is limited by the amount of focus the Warjack needs balanced with the focus the Warcaster needs for spells and themselves. Furthermore, unspent Focus on the Warcaster will raise their ARM statistic by 1 point for each Focus - this can make Warcasters quite durable with only a few Focus points.

There are other ways of generating focus for your Warcasters or Warjacks with certain solos and units. These options take the burden off the Focus stat of your Warcaster and allow more Warjacks to be run and spells to be cast. Furthermore models/units such as Jack Marshals can start the game controlling a Warjack and can provide certain buffs called drives. These actions improve the Warjack and make up for its inability to be assigned focus from the Warcaster whilst allowing your Warcaster to run more Warjacks than their focus stat or spell set might indicate.

Spells and Feats of Warcasters are also capable of generating focus or benefitting Warjacks in some way. The combination of all the above will determine how many Warjacks a Warcaster can manage successfully. Your normal Warcaster isn't going to be able to run many more than one or two heavies with assorted lights. However, a Warcaster with a higher Focus stat, lots of abilities which work well with Warjacks and supporting units/solos means a Warcaster can run more Warjacks than their focus stat might suggest. In fact, each Faction often has certain casters which are very good for running lots of Warjacks.

In relation to Hordes the most important aspect of Focus is this - no matter your focus stat, you will always get that focus at the beginning of each turn. This is really the key difference between Focus and Fury. With Focus you start off with your maximum and work your way down to a potential zero. This means Warcasters can often find themselves with lots of focus late-game as Warjacks start to die off - if you can't allocate Focus to Warjacks the Warcaster can keep it for themselves. This generally means Focus management becomes easier as the game drags on which can lead to Warmachine armies being stronger late game than Horde armies.

Hordes and Fury:

Each turn you are able to "force" your Warbeast to generate fury which your Warlock can take (called leaching) during the beginning of each turn. Each time you have your Warbeast charge, run, buy an attack, or boost the roll you force it and thus it gains a fury point. Each Warbeast can only be forced to its fury limit (normally three on lights and four on heavies) .

Based on this, the fury system looks like a better system. You don't have to take Fury away from your Warlock to give it to your Warbeasts, unlike Focus, which means each Warbeast could always buy/boost to their maximum potential. However, the fury system is a double edged sword. At the beginning of your turn, the Warlock leaches the fury from your Warbeasts but can only pull up to their fury stat. Any left over fury on a Warbeast means that Warbeast will have to pass a frenzy check. At this point you roll 2D6 added to the number of fury left on the Beast. If you exceed your Threshold then your Beast goes crazy and two things happen. First off, it attacks the closest enemy available and if there isn't one, it attacks the closest model which means you're hurting your own army! Secondly, that Beast cannot activate this turn so you lose a part of your force. This means if you have all your Warbeasts use their maximum amount of Fury in a given turn, you're more likely to lose control of a Warbeast next turn as your Warlock is unlikely to be able to Leach all that Fury. Furthermore, if you don't Force enough of your Warbeasts with enough actions, your Warlock might not be able to Leach enough Fury to be effective themselves.

This is where Fury management is much more important than Focus management and why Hordes forces will often have more Warbeasts than Warmachine forces have Warjacks. Furthermore, due to the delicate balancing act Hordes armies have to go through of forcing, leeching and reaving (when a Warbeast dies the Warlock can take take any Fury the Warbeast had up to their maximum Fury stat) Fury, their Fury management becomes harder as the game goes along contrary to Warmachine focus management. Why? Because there are less Warbeasts to be forced which means the Warlock has less leaching options.

Beyond this management, a Warlock is capable of using its fury in the same way as a Warcaster, buying spells and attacks, etc. However, instead of the fury left on your Warlock providing an armor bonus, for each Fury point on the Warlack, you are capable of transferring damage to a Warbeast under its control. When this happens the Warlock loses a Fury point and the Warbeast risks crippling or even killing itself. If a beast dies as a result of a transfer then you can not reave the Fury and any remaining damage must be taken by the Warlock. Finally a Warlock is capable of healing a Warbeast in its control area by spending one point of fury for one damage box healed. This makes Warlocks a lot more durable than Warcasters when they have Fury points but is also an easy way for an opponent to damage Warbeasts who often have higher ARM statistics.

Focus Balanced against Fury?

It is often asked if focus is worse off than fury and these arguments can go on for days. In short the answer is they are balanced. These arguments often come down to Warjacks and Warbeasts, differing strengths at differing moments within the game, etc. There are many points to be made which I'll cover below.
  1. The Stats: On average a Warjack is going to have better defensive stats than a Warbeast as well as more damage boxes. Also, the Warjacks generally have stronger weapons and are capable of doing more damage with one hit but this is balanced by Warbeast having more initial attacks and being able to use more fury than a Warjack can use focus.
  2. The Price: Warbeasts cost more than Warjacks, plain and simple. All Warmachine factions have access to Heavy Warjacks which cost six or seven points when only Circle has a seven point heavy Warbeast. In fact, most Warbeasts average a cost of nine or 10 points while Jacks average out around eight points.
  3. Control Area: Now you wouldn't think Control Area (double the Warcaster/Warlock's Focus/Fury stat) would affect this debate but this is a major part of it all. A Warjack only has to be in its Warcasters control area when it is allocated focus and then it can go anywhere it wants. Warbeasts must, let me repeat, must be in its Warlock control area in order to be forced as well as leeching and reaving. This gives Warjacks a much greater ability to be push away from their Warcaster and allows Warcasters to play more defensively.
  4. End Game: Hordes suffer when you get towards the end of the game. As their Beasts start to die their Warlock loses ways to receive fury and places to transfer. When a Warlock runs out of Beasts it has to cut itself for one point of damage to recieve one fury point. A Warcaster doesn't have this limitation and has other models which can help it Focus manage throughout the game. In fact, when all of a Warcaster's Jacks are dead, the Warcaster has more Focus to use on themselves.
With the nature of the fury system a Hordes player is forced to win by making a big push at the enemy early on to try and break them in a way so that they can't retaliate and eliminate Warbeasts. In Warmachine you want to apply pressure to the enemy and win by both enduring and forcing the enemy to expend themselves. Both of these statements are generalizations and there are exceptions in each game.

It has often been said that Warmachine is a game about infantry with Warjack support and Hordes is a game about Warbeasts with infantry support. I feel that statement sums it up quite nicely and it shows how many of the factions work. Also if one goes to the PP forums you will find many arguments over focus vs fury and many will agree that they are indeed balanced and work very well against each other.

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