Firstly, welcome to LO!
Have you looked at the rules?
You can see them over *here*, it's a good idea to check them out early so you don't get told off for something you didn't realise you weren't supposed to do!
Well, to answer your questions fully, I would suggest buying Warmachine: Prime Remix, and Hordes: Primal, so that way you can see the rules, and thus how they would work across systems.
Generally speaking (and this is *very* general), 'jacks can take much more punishment, but as they take it they start to suffer side-effects.
'Beasts have fewer hit points (on average), but can be easily healed by their warlocks, and will generally run 'as-new' almost until they die.
In combat (again, *very* generally), 'beasts are much harder to hit (average defence ~14), but rarely have armour over 18, whereas 'jacks are pretty easy to physically hit (defences often around 10) but have much higher armour (21 is not uncommon), and are thus harder to damage.
In terms of physical hitting power (yay! for *generally*), 'jacks tend to have more powerful weapons, but 'beasts normally have more attacks, and often have greater access to power attacks such as throws, arm-locks etc etc.
Of course, there are many other factors that kind-of balance the games against each other (focus and fury differ in ways that tend to help 'beasts and hinder 'jacks), but it is a hotly contested topic.
Have a look over in the Hordes sub-forum to see a recent discussion...
How can the average DEF be 14? Isn't it a lot closer to 13 or 12, really (no beast in the Skorne, for example, have more than 13 and I'm pretty sure that applies to Trolls as well...)?
Both games are balanced against each other. Warbeasts tends to be more point-efficient, but Warmachine wins in the late parts of the game when 'beasts are starting to fall.
Warcasters have a more reliable focus income, but a warlocks fury is a lot more flexible.
The factions in Warmachine have a lot more to choose from (6 unique warcaster, soon to be 7, and 4 Epic Casters, lots of warjacks and infantry and solos, not even mentioning mercenaries), but the units, solos, 'beasts and warlocks from Hordes tend to be more balanced rules-wise.
It all comes down to your preference; big, steam-robots powered by battle wizards or huge warbeasts controlled by war-shamans?
Neither system is more powerful than the other. I have a hard time looking at the two as seperate games because they operate so closely. Just pick the faction (from either system) that interests you the most back ground, visualy, and play style wise(even though play styles within a faction can vary so vastly thats not as big a deal as it is in warhammer). At the moment warmachine players have more options to pick from than hordes but that will slowly start to change and hordes will get new stuff.
Yeah, as pointed out, in general, to hit a beast, you are boosting to hits, to hurt a jack you are boosting damage.
I disagree with the idea that jacks can take more damage, they may have more boxes before becoming wrecks, but you can kill a jack with just over 3 columns of damage, barely over 50% damage, where as beasts are still up and running almost 100% until that very last point is gone. That said, the transfer system tends to mean that beasts are going to be taking some hard hits that they normally wouldn't be so hurt from (average of 3 more points of arm than casters), but that means your caster can take a hit and keep on going.
Tactics tend to be differenet between the systems because of the fury/focus issue. Leaving a caster out can mean the game, with a lock, you can still transfer if it goes horribly wrong.
Average of 14 def on troops (13 on most trolls and skorne, 14s on legion and circle) is 1 point higher than WM, but arm is roughly 1 point less. See above about boosting.
As it sits now, hordes has some decent shooting units, but not MANY of them. The catapults are nice, but expect cannons to come in for WM soon, as well as dragoons and light cav. Hordes has light cav now, and they are awesome! Plus, hordes has a fair share of weapon masters to unit ratio.
The one thing that is amusing is that hordes does have more power attack options and simply more models that can use them (ratio wise). Rends are amusing if you can set it up right. And bouncing beachball beasts is a fun game to play (throwing your own beasts when they are buffed to be "can't be knocked down", and having them kill stuff that was otherwise unreachable.
All generalities though.
Warmachine has robots, gotta say that's pretty cool, but hordes has monsters (franken thagrosh, landshark carniveans, werewolves, critters shredders, prince babar of the skorne). Pick your vice carefully.
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