Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Warmachine the Way I See It: Focus and Boosting

[This article is part of the Warmachine the Way I See It series.]

This week, I thought I would talk about my thoughts on using focus to boost attacks.  Boosting rebalances combat situations in your favor, sometimes in a big way.  I find it interesting and when I read blogs that there is an implied understanding of how focus is used to its maximum benefit on warjacks.  For instance, I often hear things like, "with full focus, I'm looking at 3 attacks all boosting damage."  A statement like this implies that the author had worked out how to use focus with the 'jack beforehand and explained it as an understood thing.  So, what's all that really mean?  I hope to explain and find out.

Again, we are going to see some of the core themes of Warmachine coming out in that boosting your attacks generally requires timing and synergy.  These two things make what is normally a scary hit, devestating.  To make full use of boosted attacks, you also need to make sure that you are in position and that is where the timing comes in.  It won't do you any good to play defensively for the first two turns only to miss a charge on the third turn because you weren't quite close enough. 

So, boosting.  What is it?  How does it work?  Who can do it?  Let's get started.

Boosting is the ability to add an extra dice to a to-hit or damage roll.  To do so, you must allocate one focus per roll you want to boost.  To the best of my knowledge you can only boost a single roll once meaning you can add two dice to a single to-hit or damage roll.  To boost, you declare what roll you are boosting prior to doing so (a few models in the game can boost after the fact, but not many).  At that point, you take up the number of dice appropriate to make the roll, generally 2D6 + 1D6 for the boost. Sometimes you will get to roll more like when you charge a model and are boosting the damage rolls.  In that case you will get 2D6 + 1D6 for charging + 1D6 for boosting.  On a the right warjack, that can be a load of damage.

You can boost any to-hit or damage roll made by a model whether ranged, melee, or magical.  This means that a warjack or caster with a ranged attack like a gun can fire its weapon and boost either or both rolls.  They can also boost their melee rolls.  Warcasters can boost any rolls on their offensive spells. 

That leads to the next part.  Since only Warjacks and Warcasters can have focus, they are the ones who will be boosting their rolls.  Generally, units can't do this, but often have rules like weapon master that allow them to do similar things.

Now that we know what boosting is, why use it?  This one is easy.  There are a few reasons you boost.  To-hit something that is hard to hit, sometimes to possibly increase the chance of a critical hit to inflict a continuous effect (though with only three dice, this isn't something to bet on), or to damage something an excessive amount of times. 

For each type of boost, there is a situation that necessitates boosting.  For instance, generally if you have a low MAT and are going against a high DEF model or unit, you want to boost your to-hit roll to insure that you hit.  If you have attacking a high ARM model or simply wanting to severely damage an average to low ARM model, you want to boost your damage rolls.  Finally, in some extreme cases where it is your last hope, you may choose to boost your to-hit roll in hopes of getting a critical hit to give out a critical: continuous effect.  Again, don't hedge your bets on this.  I would only do it if you didn't have any other recourse.

It's important to note that an additional die will statistically give your +3 to a roll, so plan accordingly.  If that +3 won't give you the result you want, you might allocate focus elsewhere.  It's wise to consider your end goal.  If you are trying to slice up a unit of infantry that each have one damage box, it would be incredibly stupid to boost your damage rolls unless they have an extremely high ARM.  However, you might need to boost your to-hit rolls to kill those same models if they have a high DEF.  Likewise, if you know a certain jack is in position to attack your opponent's warcaster, but no amount of boosting will outright kill the caster, you need to consider whether or not its wise to allocate a full compliment of focus to that jack.  Perhaps only starting the damage process would be wiser and thus allocating a single focus would better serve the purpose there, so that your warcaster can in turn use more focus to cast some spells to damage the intended target.

Now, let's talk about maximizing your focus allocation for boosting.  First, consider how many initial attacks you get.  Remember, these don't cost focus.  Boosting these attacks is the most focus efficient means.  After the initial attacks you have to pay a focus every time you want to attack with a weapon (remember that ranged attacks can't exceed RoF).  So, when you want to boost these attacks, understand that you are only going to get an additional boosted attack if you expend a minimum of two focus (additional attack + a single boost).  Also remember that a warjack can only ever have 3 focus allocated to it unless otherwise stated.  That said, the most efficient use of focus revolves around charging.  For one focus, you can charge an enemy model and get an automatic boost to your first damage roll.  Awesome.  This in turn means that you have two more focus to allocate to getting an additional attack on your most powerful weapon and then getting to boost its to-hit or damage roll. 

The same applies to your warcaster, though I figure that it's probably not a good idea to invest in melee abilities unless you are cornered and need to fight your way out.  The primary benefit that a warcaster has is that they can possess more than three focus.  From a Menoth standpoint, having casters with 7, 8, and 10 focus means that there are a lot of possibilities for the use of that focus.  Furthermore, we have the option to take a warjack like the Avatar that generates its own focus as well as taking models that can harvest souls for focus or units that generate their own focus that can be harvested by the caster.  That means a Menoth army led by the Harbinger can effectively have something like 18 focus per turn should all the dice rolls work out well.  But I digress.

The major benefit that warcasters have is the ability to boost their offensive spell rolls.  Not only can this be done, but offensive spells can be cast multiple times per turn.  This can be expensive with many offensive spells costing 2-3 focus per try, but with enough focus and an arc node, most casters can devestate enemies from a fairly good distance.  The same rules apply to boosting offensive spells that do to melee and ranged attacks. 

Wow, this article is getting really long, really quick.  Let's wrap up.  In my introduction, I mentioned about how timing and synergy effect the decision to boost.  That's because focus is a limited resource.  The positioning of your models, the ability to perform a statistically viable assassination run, the ability to clear out enemy units and models, and the ability to buff or debuff units or models all effect when and what you should allocate focus to.  Consider the economy of focus and getting the most efficient outcome before you dedicate focus.  That is what yields the best outcome. 

Other Warmachine related articles:
Crusader Heavy 'Jack Completed
Warmachine the Way I See It: Part 2...err kind of
Warmachine the Way I See It: Warcasters
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