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"Pink isn't a color. It's a lifestyle." - Chumbalaya
"...generalship should be informing list building." - Sir Biscuit
"I buy models with my excess money" - Valkyrie whilst a waitress leans over him

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Discussion: Transition from 40k to Warmachine/Hordes

A lot of Warmachine/Hordes talk lately - you'll forgive us for this I hope considering several of us are now well into the game and we are in the doldrums of 5th edition 40k waiting for 6th... I will be trying to get as many of those Army Comparisons and the Eldar/IG reviews finished for you guys by the end of the month though. Then you can expect 40k out the wazoo as we officially look at 6th edition. There are still at least two if not more 5th edition tournaments coming up on my part so there will be that tricky phase as we transfer all our games to 6th edition (and Biomorph playtesting if it continues). Until then, well let's look at some more Warmachine & Hordes stuff!

There are two things I have come to realise in learning Warmachine & Hordes whilst playing both 40k and Warmachine & Hordes interchangeably. It would seem obvious but there needs to be a subtle yet major shift in philosophy in how you approach the game. Let's see what I mean.

First, the mantra of 40k, particularly in 5th edition, is that every part of your army is expendable assuming the loss of such will advance your game plan and win the game objective (obviously losing units willy nilly isn't going to bode well for you). This is highlighted through MSU armies (your army can lose lots of individual units and still function well) and in objective missions where nothing really matters at the end of the game except Troops on objectives. This could be the worst bloody unit in the game - a 500 point T1/Sv-/60" tall/25mm  based model but if it's on the damn objective when the game rolls around and your opponent has none, well you win. Everything else is really a means to the end and whilst this example simplifies it to the extreme, hopefully you get the point that I aiming at here. This is, in essence, the anti-thesis of what herohammer used to be - your army isn't reliant on that clutch piece. Some pieces are more important than others, yes (see Troops in objective missions) but there are ways around this in good list building.

Essentially in 40k 5th edition, if you find yourself with a clutch piece or unit, it's generally a bad list. Deathstar & rock armies do certainly have potential but they are more prone to match-up issues and if they run up against a list which counters their particular list focus, they have a hard time of winning. Fantasy sort of works like this still but if you can snipe your opponnet's lv4 Wizard, well you have a serious advantage over your opponent. It's nothing like what it used to be say back in 5th for Fantasy where a Hero could literally take on a whole army but it's not nearly as flexible as we can see in 40k today.

However, Warmachine & Hordes is fundamentally different - if you lose your Warcaster/Warlock, you lose and they are important pieces in a game which influence how your army works significantly. One could draw the obvious parallel to chess (protect the king!) but overall this is a huge change for someone who has primarily played 40k over the past decade. And it can be annoying as hell to adapt to :P.

This was highlighted in a recent game of mine - I had my opponent's army all but destroyed with mine pretty much completely intact. With my final unit I  moved to protect the majority of my army and thus be capable of finishing off my opponent/winning by scenario  next turn rather than protecting my Warcaster. The result - dead Warcaster after a couple of spells and a teleporting Warjack to the face. This is not really an uncommon occurrence, particularly in the learning phase as that one spell or ability you didn't know about can bring an army from the depths of defeat to victory in one fell swoop. This is great in that a game is never lost or won but can be frustrating as well (when you're on the receiving end of such) while this philosophy change sinks into your gaming DNA.

Protect the caster!

The second thing is the turn phase or how your army interacts with itself in any given turn. 40k is a whole army approach. The whole army moves as one, then shoots as one and then assaults as one. Warmachine & Hordes is a unit approach - essentially each unit has a 40k turn all for itself and then the next unit goes, etc. This opens up a lot more options strategically both offensively and defensively and puts an even bigger emphasis on the importance of movement. Getting one model wrong can allow a single model/unit of the opponent's army to remove it and essentially open up the rest of your army (ahem, caster) to their entire army.

This is, I think, the single biggest change and part of the steep learning curve in relation to learning Warmachine & Hordes (the other part being knowing what EVERYTHING does; see first point above). In 40k the concept of redundancy on the field is pretty easy. One meltagun is bad. Two is good. Three is better. 1 billion is best. The more you can bring to the tabletop or a specific position on the board, the better. The more you can bring to a specific position on the tabletop where you have multiple options (i.e. if primary target is neutralised there is a secondary target and so on) the better, etc. It's a much easier concept to learn and implement but it's more restrictive as you need that redundancy to ensure things happen.

With Warmachine & Hordes there is a lot more flexibility in how battleplans unfold and although you need redundancy in the basic sense of the word (i.e. ability to deal with different model types), if unit A handles the primary target, unit B has many more options than would be available in 40k more often than not.

This also means activation order is a lot more important in Warmachine & Hordes as the cascade affect is more pronounced. It's certainly true that moving order is important in 40k, particularly with multiple vehicles, but again, since each unit/model in Warmachine & Hordes gets their whole activation, each unit after them has the potential to interact with a very different battlefield rather than smaller changes seen in 40k turns where the biggest change is generally a tank shock affecting multiple units or a transport exploding to reveal another unit or units behind it, etc. This affect means the difference in the battlefield from the first and last unit you can activate is huge and the order you activate your units in can impact what everything else does significantly (see support units).

The combination of these two factors leads to very different list design (general lack of spamming for example) and the approach to gaming in general. Synergy is a lot easier to work into army lists and actually be effective on the tabletop, there is that one model which you need to keep alive whilst keeping other objective in sight, etc. These things are just generally not seen in 40k where they are consistently effective and are big steps during the learning process for any new Warmachine & Hordes player.

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