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What is Hordes?
Hordes is a tabletop wargame dedicated to magic-wielding characters called Warlocks and their forces of savage units and lumbering, deadly Warbeasts. For more information, see the Hordes section of the Privateer Press website.
Or, you can click here.
What do I need to buy?
To start with, a good buy would be the Hordes: Primal rulebook. This book contains everything you need to start playing, and will give you everything you'll want for a while.
Next you need to choose a faction; this is usually decided by which models you like the best. Once you've done that, look into getting a Warpack, which usually runs around 25-50 USD (depending on store or eBay), which is a great buy. Warpacks contain a Warlock and a few Warbeasts; a great beginning force, perfect for learning the game mechanics with.
As you play more, you will of course want to buy additional models to boost your ranks with. Eventually, you may also want to enhance your gaming by buying the Hordes expansion book, but starting off, it won't be needed.
How do I play?
Privateer Press has free-for-download Quickstart Rules available on their website in PDF format. Click here to go to them. For more in-depth rules, refer to your Hordes: Primal rulebook.
Also, though two separate games, Hordes forces can be played against Warmachine forces, for an experience that can liven up your gaming.
Nem', if I may add (and answer) another couple of questions that I think new players have.
What does Hordes play like?
People who are used to a legitimate defensive style in 40k or WHFB will be surprised. Hordes' style of play is very aggressive. Think Orks vs. Tyranids aggressive. Sitting on your heels and waiting for the enemy to come to you will get you bowled over. Privateer Press encourages aggressive play, but even slower moving, reactionary forces need to move with offense in mind. Resolving attacks is pretty easy. 2d6 + Attack Stat + Buffs > Defense Stat + Buffs means the attack was successful.
Does your list and faction choice matter?
Not as much as in 40k. While it's certainly possible to build Powergaming lists and it's certainly possible to build completely futile lists, by and large, how you play is more important than what you field. 'Run what ya brung' doesn't mean you're dead before you know it. It's similar to Battlefleet Gothic, in that your choices reflect your playstyle, not which unit is comparatively more powerful than others.
Is it hard to learn?
Well, this one varies from person to person. The system itself is very streamlined and well-written, but there are also an awful lot of rules. It was easier for me to learn Hordes than it was to learn 40k, and I'm a moron, so how hard could it possibly be? The unit combinations and synergies, on the other hand, can take quite a while to fully explore. It's very much a 'minute to learn, lifetime to master' type of game.
How big are the games?
The average game size, 500 points, typically sees around ten to fifteen models per side: a Warlock, two or three Warbeasts, and two or three units of around six models apiece. This is sort of like a 1500 point 40k game. Pretty much everything on the table has special abilities to be resolved, so you've got plenty of stuff to keep track of, though. The reduction in numbers is more than made up for by the addition of all the abilities.
By extension, this means fewer models to buy, and fewer models to paint. (Also, more care can be spent on larger models.)
How different is it from Warmachine? Why shouldn't I just play Warmachine?
Warmachine is an older game, and it's Privateer Press' first game. This means that the tactics in Warmachine are more established and there are little quirks to Warmachine that were solved in Hordes.
Foremost among these is Warjacks vs. Warbeasts. Warmachine has evolved to a game that minimizes the role of Warjacks in favor of more effective infantry units and devastating spells from Warcasters. In Hordes, Warbeasts are basically required because they effectively fuel your Warlock and are responsible for a great deal of his available spells. There's also fewer overwhelmingly over-powered things in Hordes, though that's not to say that they've been entirely eliminated either. High-balancing can be fun.
If you want to play Warmachine, go ahead, it's a great game as well, and the systems are compatible and balanced, so if you're the only Warmachine player in your Hordes circle, you're not going to be left out in the cold.
What are the factions like?
The ten-thousand foot view of the factions:
- Trollbloods are slow, tough and heavily armored, relying the most on inter-unit synergies to ensure their offensive and defensive capabilities. (In GW terms, they roughly equate to the Dwarfs, where units rely on one another for support and the fall of one unit heralds the fall of the next.)
- Circle Orboros is reasonably fast, but enhances its own speed by slowing the enemy down. Its units are hard-hitting and are able to function independently reasonably well. They do well when performing hit-and-fade attacks. (In GW terms, they are similar to the Wood Elves, where independently operating units attack on their own terms.)
- Skorne is the most infantry-oriented Faction. The hard-hitting Skorne Warbeasts function in support of their excellent, well-disciplined, and hard-hitting Troops. Of all the factions, Skorne represents the only true military force. (In GW, they remind me of the Necrons, where great specialized units serve to support the true teeth of the army: the basic trooper.)
- Legion of Everblight is very fast, and very hard-hitting, but somewhat frail and doesn't expect opponents to weather their storm. (In GW terms, they are similar to the Dark Eldar, where victory comes in one sudden and overwhelming projection of force.)
WHFB: Dwarfs || WH40k: Imperial Fists, Necrons || WM/H: Trollbloods || BFG: Necrons