Most of the time when an experienced player is trying to explain Warmachine and Hordes to a potential new player, they’ll use a common phrase to compare and contrast the focus and fury mechanics that drive the two games:
“Hordes is Risk Management, where Warmachine is Resource Management.”
I cringe every time I hear that.
The analogy comes from the fixed amount of focus generated by a warcaster as opposed to the way that forcing and leeching works for warlocks and their beasts. Unfortunately, it breaks down completely when you actually consider the implications of the labels.
Hordes is Risk Management
The risk involved in Hordes centers around the manipulation of fury between the warcaster and the warbeast. If he does not manage this resource effectively, his army won’t perform optimally. In fact, in some cases it can lead to the army self-destructing if it frenzies at inopportune times.
Warmachine is Resource Management
Focus is a resource that a warcaster uses to power his jacks, but it is a resource he can only distribute in the beginning of his turn. The warmachine player has to allocate that focus by playing the odds of him being able to achieve his goal for each model/unit for the round as his plan plays out. This is risky, because if he mis-allocates focus, misjudges probability, or doesn’t get the rolls he needs to execute all of his plan, then he will not get the most out of his resource for the turn.
What it boils down to is that both focus and fury are resources that must be managed efficiently or you run the risk of putting yourself at a tactical disadvantage. This is true of both games. So while the statement “Hordes is Risk Management, where Warmachine is Resource Management.” is catchy, I don’t think it’s accurate enough to use when describing the two games.