Over the past few months my playgroup has been getting into Warmachine/Hordes (the two systems are fully compatible and can be played against each other) pretty heavily and I must say I'm completely hooked.
When trying to explain the way Warmachine plays to someone who has never touched it before, I think it's more accurate to compare it to a CCG like Magic the Gathering rather then Warhammer. For the most part, you'll care less about the base stat line of your units in a game of Warmachine, it's far more important to pay attention to the special abilities and how they will mesh with the rest of your force. Just like when building a deck in Magic, most of you choices will in some way, shape or form interact with another card in your deck, or in this case, another unit in your force. An army that can't harmonize with itself will be easily dispatched by any mildly competent opponent. As a result, just like in most CCGs, you'll notice that coming up with combos in your force plays a drastically larger roll then it does in a game Warhammer. And yes, some combos are more "broken" then others, but every force in the game has access to a handful of particularly powerful combination's.
The system itself is far more complex then anything you've experienced in a game of Warhammer as well, which will have a major impact on how much you enjoy the game. If you think Warhammer is overly complex then you may want to avoid playing Warmachine as it will only exacerbate things for you due to how much freedom each individual model has.
Examples of some of the complexities:
- Instead of simply making a normal attack Warjacks and Warbeasts may opt to make special attacks, like throwing enemy (or even friendly) models which will cause collateral damage to anything they run into, running up to and slamming models, head butting models in an attempt to knock them down, trampling over infantry units or even grabbing an opponents arm/weapon in order to prevent them from using it and also to prevent them from running away.
- Each model in a unit acts independently of everyone else in the unit, so you can have some guys charge into melee while the rest stand back and fire, everyone in the unit can fire at separate targets if they wish, you can have a unit split up and charge in two different directions. If someone in a unit becomes locked in combat the rest of the unit doesn't have to join him, not only can they walk away they can also shoot into the combat if they wish, with the possibility of hitting a friendly if they miss the enemy.
- When making an attack with a model you choose the exact model you're making the attack against, which means you can pick out important pieces in your enemies force to kill. This forces you as a player to be far more careful with your movement and placing of models, as hiding a character in a unit is irrelevant, if the enemy can draw a line to them they can shoot at them. You can also deny your enemy charges with this, by targeting the guys in the front row you can prevent them from getting the charge. Movement and placement of models requires way more thought.
As you can see, comparing Warmachine to Warhammer isn't exactly a fair comparison, and for me at least they fill two very different rolls. Warhammer is a great system for putting tons of Minis on the board and having a massive blood bath as a result often time reaching casualties in the hundreds by the end of a game. Warmachine on the other hand is a far more complex system which will more often then not have a much smaller number of models on the field. Both games are extremely satisfying in their own right, but they don't play anything like each other.
As for the accusation of Warmachine being imbalanced I simply have to laugh. Wargames in general will never be perfectly balanced less it's dumbed down to a simplistic "Rock, Paper, Scissors" simulator. I can't speak for the MK.I rules of Warmachine, as I've said I've been playing for about 3 months or so and my experience has only been with the MK.II rules, but as a fan of both Warmachine and Warhammer I must say that the guys at Privateer have a FAR more balanced game then anything GW has put out. I love me some Warhammer, but making any attempt at calling the game balanced is laughable, especially when they have 4 armies with rules that are 2 editions out of date. Privateer has done the work to make sure ALL of the models in the entire game are brought up to date with the new edition on day 1, so no one is left behind using old rules. Not only that they allowed the public to playtest the new MK.II rules before they were released resulting in a much more balanced game in the end. I love both games, and no Warmachine is certainly not perfectly balanced, but it's much better off then Warhammer is right now.