Hordes is another 30mm tabletop miniatures battle game by Privateer Press set in the world of the Iron Kingdoms. The starters are one of 4 factions: the Trollbloods, Circle of Orboros, Skorne, and the Legion of Everblight. Each starter comes with a warlock, about 2 light warbeasts and a heavy warbeast. Each starter also contains a quick play guide that gives you enough rules to get you started playing right away (well, as soon as you can put the figures together fast enough). There is also a much more comprehensive rulebook for those who liked what they saw and want more.
The rulebook is in full, glorious color. Each faction is introduced with a very engaging short story along with an overall short story tying Hordes with WarMachine. There are artwork peppered througout the book and all of them are of high quality. There are also photos of beautifully painted figures showcasing the figures of each each faction.
The miniatures are of high quality, 100% metal, and very detail oriented. Painting them is such a joy. Putting them together, on the other hand, can sometimes get very frustrating. Because of the heaviness of many of the pieces, pinning is pretty much a requirement and I've also had to learn how to use molding clay to get the pieces to fit right.
The game mechanics follows the same format as WarMachines. Now, instead of Warcasters and Warjacks, we have Warlocks and Warbeasts. The game still rewards the aggressor and penalizes those who hold back. Movement, formation, line of sight, melee, and ranged attacks follow the same rules as found in WarMachines. For those not familiar with WarMachines, the basic flow of the game is this:
A player turn has 3 phases: Maintenance, Control, and Activation.
During the Maintenance Phase, he removes any effects that expire at the beginning of his turn, removes excess Fury Points (needed to fuel a Warlock's spells),resolve any compulsory effects on his models, check for any continuing effect(s), and activate fleeing models, in that order.
During the Control Phase, each of his Warlocks may leach any number of Fury Points up to that Warlock's Fury stat from friendly warbeasts in his control area. Each Warlock may then spend the necessary Fury Points to pay for his upkeep spells. He then makes a threshhold check for each warbeast that still retains a Fury Point and if it fails, the warbeast immediately frenzy. Finally, he resolves any other effects that occur during this phase.
During Activation Phase, each model or group of models (units) first moves (or forfeit movement) and then perform one action.
Each model's stats consist of command, speed, strength, melee attack (MAT), ranged attack(RAT), defense, armor, and some further consist of fury and/or threshhold. Models with multiple damage capacity have rows of damage circles for tracking damage received.
The game is resolved by using 6 sided dice. In combat, whether melee or ranged, you roll 2d6 and add your MAT/RAT. If the attack roll equals or exceeds target's defense, it hits. A roll of all 1s on the dice is an automatic miss and a roll of all 6s is an automatic hit regardless of the attacker's MAT/RAT or his opponent's defense rating. Combat is made more complicated with the combination of the type of movement chosen and the type of attack or special ability chosen after said movement. One example that exemplifies Hordes is a Power Attack called Rend. It must be performed by a heavy warbeast, cannot charge during movement ,and must be forced (it gains a Fury Point). The heavy warbeast rips apart a smaller based model. The heavy warbeast makes one melee attack against a living model with a small or medium base. If the target is destroyed by this attack, enemy models within 5" of the attacking warbeast must pass a command check or flee.
For those familiar with WarMachines, there are enough differences to make this a totally different game and not a rehash of WarMachine with just new factions. One, is the difference between Focus Points and Fury Points. One big difference is that a Warcaster receives Focus Points every round whereas a Warlock must leach Fury Points from his warbeasts. Focus Points left on the Warcaster adds to his armor but Fury Points do not add to the armor of a Warlock. Instead he may transfer damage to his warbeasts. While both can spend their respective points to heal themselves, a Warlock can also spend Fury Points to heal his warbeasts.
Another is that though a Warcaster has fewer tactical options as he loses his warjacks, he retains his overall power. The power level of a Warlock, on the other hand, wanes as his warbeasts are slain. A Warcaster retains the same number of spells throughout the game. A Warlock gains additional spells for each warbeast in his horde.
Finally WarMachine is a game of resource management whereas Hordes is a game of risk management. A Warcaster can allocate Focus Points without his warjacks going out of control or turning on him. A Warlock must be constantly aware of the Fury Points generated by his warbeasts. Too much and they will frenzy, not enough, and the Warlock will lack the Fury Points necessary to do what he wants.
Hordes has many of the qualities that made its predecessor popular. It also has enough differences to warrant a separate game and not just as an expansion of WarMachine. While You can field a large army, the game runs best in skirmish type games (fielding only one Warlock). While WarMachine is a joy to play, the chaotic nature of Hordes makes the game more exciting in my opinion. The fear that your warbeast can potentially bite you in the ass makes the outcome more unpredictable.