My wife transitioned from Khador to Circle this week, and our first game was 50pts of Baldur1 vs. Madrak2. Looking back, 50pts is probably not where anyone wants to start with their first game of the most complicated faction. Baldur1, Bloodtrackers w/ Nuala, Druids w/ UA, Megalith, Warden, 2 units of Stones w/ UA and a Blackclad, and Nyss. Trying to figure out the synergies between a new caster, faction, 2 new infantry units, 2 beasts, and stones which are a mystery all their own, on top of trying out the fury mechanic... However, she didn't do bad, and had easily removed the Fenns, pretty nearly had the Champions gone, and SHOULD have killed my Impaler. I managed to get Madrak2 going on his Tide of Death, and tangled with Baldur, sitting on 3 fury. Luckily, my Bomber had been putting shots into Megalith, and cranking the damage rolls, so the second transfer killed Balder with the damage left over.
However, she liked the faction. She started painting the Bloodtrackers yesterday, rocking a red scheme. She won't paint Khador red, but Circle, sure. It looks pretty good though.
Essentially, she got tired of Khador and the focus stat. When I can run my beasts conservatively, hang back, then go all out on the turn I need to, whereas she's limited to a set number of focus, it gets frustrating. And against high P+S like Trolls can bring, she'd rather have Transfers than extra ARM. She rather enjoyed being able to wing it with the fury mechanic, and get more out of her beasts. As far as the fury mechanic goes, it clicked pretty well and she used it quite well.
Focus and Fury has always been something of a debate. It definitely leads to more infantry in Warmachine games. For a game that stars robots and beasts fighting eachother, there aren't many robots running around. It simply isn't efficient enough. Every turn of allocating focus is a bet against what you think you can accomplish. And after playing with Mulg, the Earthborn and a few others with 5 Fury, I don't know how I'll go back to a Stormclad with 3. When my Mauler at Fury 5 can charge for 1, use both initials and buy 4 more attacks vs. a Stormclad that charges for 1, uses 2 initials and buys 2 more attacks, it doesn't trade very well.
This limits Warjacks to being used only on casters that can help their focus efficiency or casters that don't require their jack to do more than one or two things. Casters that have a bond (4 focus), or casters that can give free charges, or boosted attacks (Kraye's pretty efficient with jacks) can get melee use out of their jacks. Otherwise, the jacks are for shooting, which they can do for one or two focus. Casters like Haley1, Haley2, Bart, so on, so forth. One of the few exceptions is a list in our meta under Khador's Harkevich. This guy runs 4 clamjacks and Black Ivan, and doesn't give them hardly any focus, all game. He casts Broadsides every turn, drops a ton of AOEs everywhere, and sits on scenario at ARM25. It's pretty hard to dislodge. These examples, of course, ignore Menoth, because Menoth can run four jacks with the Choir and be completely fine.
So in most cases, you have 1, maybe two jacks in a list, and all infantry otherwise in Warmachine, because it's really not efficient any other way. A spell like Blood Lust will do a lot more damage with a unit of Iron Fangs vs. 3 attacks from a Juggernaut.
Hordes doesn't have this issue as much. So how does this level out? At first glance, it doesn't, yet Warmachine factions continue to do well. For starters, they're a bit beefier and can take a bit more punishment. In some cases, they're cheaper. Trollblood's best beasts start at 9. Khador and Cygnar both have solid 7, 8pt options. Hordes casters also don't generally have as much fury. 5 is far more common in Hordes than it is in Warmachine. Secondly, a beast can frenzy. See, the betting is still there. Fury doesn't get out of the gambling game, it simply makes it more potent. Instead of having a focus or two left on a jack that didn't use it all, sure, your Mauler killed something, but it's probably out of the game next turn. It'll get one strong attack off at the closest enemy model, and it's done. The main advantage is being able to stop allocating Fury when you want to, and not overdoing it. You're able to push on the turn you need to as well, but you run the risk of not having any beasts next turn.
It does balance out, believe it or not, but if you're getting into the game to play large-based monsters of steel and flesh, you're not going to find it in most of Warmachine. You'll find that the infantry does much better, generally is cheaper and has more utility. However, it's easier with Hordes to make it up as you go. As you reach a point where you can plan a whole turn or two ahead, Warmachine starts to come back into it's own, but quite frankly, my wife and I are both enjoying the Hordes side of things. Jess loved the Fury, and played it like a boss.
Circle, on the other hand, was more difficult. First off, the Bloodtrackers preyed the Fenns. After the game, she realized she'd done that backwards. The Nyss were more than capable of handling the Fenns, whereas between Stone Skin (+2str, and the Tracker's ranged attack is a throw), and Prey, they could be POW13 boosted Damage (ranged attacks are weaponmaster) against Champions, and reform back. At RNG7 with the ranged attack, and reform from Nuala, they could be 10'' away from a unit with an 8.5'' threat range (except Skaldi). That's a good inch and a half of error for harassing my hard hitting unit every game. Next game, I expect to struggle keeping my melee alive long enough to get into contact.
She also feated turn 1, which worked out well for her as well, since between AD and the run, her Bloodtrackers were well within mini-feat range of the fenns. With Baldur's feat though, the Fenns were stuck.
Baldur1's Solid Ground spell is also hard to deal with. One of the best ways I have to deal with Hi-DEF infantry is blast damage, and Solid Ground cuts that out completely, for everyone.
She also wasn't sure what to do with the Druids. Next game, I imagine they'll be up front, putting out clouds all over the place, and I won't get any more Bomber shots into the Wolds. This game, they held back till late game. They managed to clear some champions, but really, didn't use much of their toolbox.
Then there was the stones. She used them to block charge lanes in the end game, which was difficult to deal with as well, and they healed the Wolds a bit, but the only teleportation they did was the Warden, who got diced. Out of 6 attacks, he missed 1 one against the Impaler, and at -3 dice, did 4 damage. She actually had charge range on him, and should have done that instead, but it still wouldn't have been enough. She got diced bad there.
Otherwise, she attritioned me much better than she has before, and only got caught by Tide of Death from Madrak2.
I'm considering a few units for her. I'd like to grab Morvahna1, and magnetize a Warpwolf for her (including Ghetorix). I'm also curious about Slaughterhousers to run on Baldur1, and I imagine she'll want a Gallows Grove as well.
Overall though, she's liking Circle, enjoying the Fury mechanic, and I expect, will be thrashing my trolls here shortly. I'm dreading the day when she picks up Morvahna2...