The Fallacy of Risk vs. Resource Resource Management

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.


  1. Didn’t you rant on this in the podcast a while back?

    I think people forget Warmachine has far more risks than Hordes. You can always risk a frenzy, but you can’t always get an extra focus when you just beat that heavy to 1 point from 1 death. Same goes for transfering, it’s much risker to spend focus than it is fury, where a weapon master hitting you with four 6s isn’t half as bad as doing the same to a ‘caster because you can always throw it off to a beast, where as a Warcaster must pre-judge the situation and camp focus to survive it, risking insane rolls 1 hitting them (and no, a beast exploding is a joke compared to you losing the game by the same dice roll).

  2. I have heard too many people use these phrases to explain the games to a NEW player without any further explanation as to what they mean, and when this happens the new player’s eyes glaze over. It doesn’t mean anything to them. As a player of the past year and half, I can discuss these two ideas with someone else who’s also been playing the game a while. Bottom line is that both games have risk and resource management. I think it’s time for Privateer to come up with a new mantra, because I cringe when I hear it too.

  3. Yeah, I’ve mentioned it on the ‘cast before but decided to put something down “in writing” as it were.

    My biggest problem with the comparison is that there is no good accurate catchy comparison. The closest I can come up with is Hordes being organic and Warmachine being more mechanical or regimented, but truth be told those aren’t much better.

  4. @ Red: has that ever been a Privateer tagline? I feel like it has, but only in the earliest days of Hordes, and not for some time. I agree that it’s not helpful to new players unless they’re already inclined to think about games in a quite informed meta-systemy kind of way.

    @ Dankelzahn: I think ‘accurate’ and ‘catchy’ are probably mutually exclusive. To describe the difference in mechanics with the depth and clarity that it deserves, you’ve left short, punchy taglines far behind. My own instinct is to say that Warmachine is about managing a finite, top-down, safe resource and Hordes is about managing a flexible, mobile, dangerous resource, but that’s not the sort of thing you’d put in the marketing copy unless you were actually selling through Developers’ Weekly or something.

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