The Focus Camper’s Bible: Part 1: My Misconceptions
by Walter Langendorf
When I play Warmachine, I camp focus. That’s just how I do. I fell in love with the play style when I started up, and I’ve never really wavered from that. When I want to play active casters I get out my Hordes faction.
This initially arose from an observation I had, which was that I won 100% of games where my opponent failed to assassinate me, but only 50% of those where neither of us allowed our casters to be in jeopardy.
I had a lot of ideas about camping initially, didn’t really understand it properly. In this post I’m going to lay out those mistakes so other folks can see whether they agree with my conclusions.
First off, a broad overview:
Fundamentally, keeping focus on your caster is a tradeoff. You forsake the benefits you would have gained from spending that focus, and receive in return armor on your warcaster. This has many implications, but most broadly it allows your opponent to attempt an assassination, but makes that assassination much less likely to succeed.
Misconception#1: Camping keeps a caster safe.
This seems self evident, but it’s just not so. Distance keeps a caster safe. You camp in order to place yourself in jeopardy. Your general goal when holding focus is to place your caster in a position where that focus matters. Camping while sitting behind your army is turtling, and is only appropriate when you’ve won the game, and your caster’s responsibilities have been reduced to not dying. The general camp is performed in order to move the warcaster up the field to a position where they can use their short range capabilities. This necessarily entails risk, while distance is an absolute defense.
Misconception #2: The most important thing in a camping caster is how well they camp.
It turns out that the most important thing is what they can do WHILE camping. The actual def/arm is rarely terribly important.
Let’s take a hypothetical caster with def 15, arm 16, six focus, 16hp. About as middle of the road as you can be. At full camp he’ll survive an enemy heavy with pow 18 hitting him 4 times (that is, initial + 3 focus). Casters are surprisingly durable. Being a camping superstar is pleasant, but not nearly so important as having a reason to camp in the first place. Vindictus can sustain a decent camp, but why would he bother? The opponent is no more intimidated by him near them than they are by him far away.
Misconception#3: If you survive their assassination attempt you get to assassinate them.
Typically, the point of a camp is to survive their assassination run and take the attrition advantage by taking advantage of their wasted resources. If they charge a heavy at your caster, spend 3 focus and fail to kill you, then you have a strong edge in the game. Your heavy/troops can kill theirs while your caster runs away/heals and you are up in the attrition game.
Misconception#4: Eiryss is the bane of campers.
She’s bad, don’t get me wrong, but worse are another pair of merc solos, Anastasia and Gorman. More on these 3 if the series takes off. In general though, Eiryss can fail to accomplish her task, and still needs someone to actually kill your caster once his focus is stripped. Gorman from within 4″ never misses, while Anastasia’s espionage doesn’t require dice rolls.
Misconception#5: The opponent’s decision about whether or not to assassinate will be based on the odds.
Warmachine players have a strong fascination with the assassination. This is a stereotype of course, but I’ve seen decisions that border on lunacy from otherwise highly skilled players when faced with an impregnable camp. My experiences suggest that people will attempt an assassination if their odds of success approach 30%, even if failure will cause them to lose the attrition battle so hard their loss of the game is a virtual certainty.
If people seem interested in this post I’m going to follow it up with one that covers what you gain/lose by camping, then a series on the factional camping advantages and the star campers in each faction. Maybe more if interest continues.