Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Space Marine List Evolution

As you last read I have embraced the concept of running Ultramarines simply because its the only way to run the sort of list I want to run in a way that doesn’t feel like I’m hemorrhaging value or making gross concessions.  Without reiterating it, Guilleman is a role compressor: for 360 points you get the best force multiplier a shooty army could want along with being one of the nastiest close combat units in the game and he is virtually immune to shooting.  You all know all that already.

I want lot’s of Razorbacks simply because they are efficient, and the best unit to unlock them, 5 man heavy/combi Tactical squads are also rather efficient.  Many people view Troops as the “tax” for unlocking the Battalion Detachment, and in some armies that is possibly true.  But for Marines, the troops are decent, if not good.  Oddly enough, if you are bringing Guilleman, the HQ becomes the tax.  Without Guilleman, one of the Chapter Masters or even min/maxed Captain with Combi Plasma give you very efficient force multiplier choices.  But with Guilleman you dont get a great deal from those.  Marneus Calgar is not great in a list with Guilleman, for example.  The aforementioned hyper efficient combiplas captain isn’t much better.  Assuming you don’t need re-rolls from your HQ, where do you find value?  You have to bring two of these to get a battalion and they need to have value.



Why bring a battalion?  Well we are already paying the “troop tax” voluntarily.  And no matter what formation we bring we need an HQ.  So really the “HQ tax” is only like 100 points for 2 extra command points, plus whatever value we get from that HQ.  With that right HQ, that is worthwhile.

Alright, so what HQ do we want to maximize our value?  In a list with Razorbacks and Dreadnaughts, especially one looking to economize on points the best option in the book is Techmarine.  For a dirt cheap 75 points you are likely to repair a half dozen wounds to your vehicles over the course of the game.  That is ridiculously powerful in a mechanized list.  The enemy cannot leave a wounded vehicle alive, he HAS to kill them if he is going to bother shooting at them at all.  This means spending his firepower inefficiently, which is a huge defensive bonus for you.  Basic Techmarine with Power Axe is where its at.  So much so, that I am tempted to bring 2 of them.

Except Librarians are also great.  A basic Librarian with Force Sword is price efficient, provides some psychic defense and thanks to power of his own is, if nothing else, a heavy firepower shooting unit from our HQ.  Not to mention that against some armies, Null Zone saves the day.  I’m not 100% convinced that the Libby is better than a second Techmarine would be, but the point of making initial lists is being a tad generalist and refine it after playtesting.  If the Libby is mediocre and the TM over preforms, make the swap.

Without further delay, here is the core of the list I’m working on now.

Lord of War Detachment
Roboute Guilleman 360 (warlord)

Battalion Detachment
Librarian w/ Force Sword 105
Techmarine w/ Power Axe 75

5 Tac Squad with Lascannon and combi Plasma 105
5 Tac Squad with Lascannon and combi Plasma 105
5 Tac Squad with Lascannon and combi Plasma 105

Ven Dread w/ 2x Twin Autocannon 156
Ven Dread w/ 2x Twin Autocannon 156

Predator w/ Pred AC, 2x Lascannons 201
Predator w/ Pred AC, 2x Lascannons 201

Razorback w/ Twin Assault Cannon 100
Razorback w/ Twin Assault Cannon 100
Razorback w/ Twin Lascannon 115
Razorback w/ Twin Lascannon 115

Total: 1,999 points
Command Points: 9

The predators are a bit of an experiment.  You could easily cut them, buy a third Ven Dread, and have points left over to spam more razorbacks.  It’s hard to say which option is more efficient.  It seems possible to me that two Assbacks is more powerful than a single Predator, but I’m not sure how it will play out.  Either way, I think this is a pretty mean list and I wouldn’t be excited to play against it.  Any thoughts?  Am I missing something?

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Thinking Out Loud: Space Marine Codex

Space Marine Codex is interesting.  I was hoping for something in the Strategem/Relic/Warlord trait section would make my Templars more competitive, but alas, while the toys Templars got are very fluffy you don't win competitive games by having the best fluff.  Simply put, the Templars in 8th are an assault army and assault armies don't generally win tournaments.  

Actually, its not that Templars are bad at shooting, its just that there are better options for a gunline/firebase army in the book that picking Templars to play a shooty army is just squandering an advantage.  Ravenguard got an incredibly powerful ability that will allow them to outshoot opposing shooty armies.  Salamanders got an incredibly powerful ability that will allow them to dismantle enemy mechanized armies with high strength low weight of fire weapons.  

As my longtime readers may remember my preferance is MSU gunlines with strong counter charge assault units to defend them or to silence enemy shooting as the situation merits.  Salamanders lends more to that playstyle than RG.  The RG ability is so strong that it definitely lends itself to a more mobile shooty playstyle where you can ensure you'll always be more than 12 away.  

Salamanders were my initial choice, simply because with melta and las weapons (my preference) you are so disruptive.  The benefits to flame weapons allows you to deal with hordes that would otherwise trouble a las-heavy force.  What I didn't like about Salamanders was that Vulkan doesn't actually do much.  Yes, with warlord traits and relics etc you can turn him into an assault monster but he serves no actual purpose in the army as he isn't terribly good as force multiplier.  What this means is, Salamanders are generally best off with vanilla HQ choices instead of Vulkan.  Some might argue that their chapter tactic is enough of a force multiplier, they can take fighty HQ choices my response is: you can't multiply your forces enough.  

So I was kinda at a loss.  The initial Salamanders lists I put together all felt decent but they were missing a bit of punch.  There just wasn't much finishing power.  The more assaulty units I added to get some of that counter-charge punch I wanted just came at the expense of watering down my firepower.  I had a bit of an epiphany at this point.

A good marine list needs:

1.  Firepower.
2.  Counter charge capabilities
3.  Significant force multipliers

"Tell us something we don't know."

OK.

You'll never have enough points to do all three unless their roles overlap.  Unless your force-multiplier also is a countercharge unit, or is a pillar of your shooting capabilities you'll never be able to have enough points to beat a more focuses enemy shooting army or defeat a well played assault army.  So you need role compression.  Look at it like a basketball team.  You need good 3 point shooters and you need guys who can really play defense well against opposing 3 point shooters.  You can only have 5 guys on the court at once.  You cannot have 3 really good 3 point shooters and 3 really good defenders.  On the best teams, most of your best defenders are also your best shooters etc.  You get it.

So how to do all that?  Easy: play Ultramarines.  Guilleman is the best force multiplier in the Imperium AND the best assault character.  When I came back to 40k with 8E I really did not want to use Guilleman because I felt using a character like that was no different than being the guy who shows up to a 1,000 point game with broken forgeworld units.  

The more I tinkered with lists and the more I experienced 8th, the more I realized that its silly and noncompetitive to put those kinds of restrictions on my lists.  I want to have fun and I want to win and I'll do it by bringing the best lists I can.  

"So why don't you bring fliers?"

Good question.  The most honest answer is that I don't own any since I quit the game before they came out.  The secondary answer is that fliers being in the game, as opposed to reserved for Apocalypse games, are one of the reasons I quit the game in the first place.  Simply put, call me a hypocrite for going against what I just wrote about not limiting my list building, but the bottom line is I don't need the game.  It's not my only creative or competitive outlet.  I'd just assume walk away from the game again than to play a Stormtalon spam list.

In the days to come I'll post my thoughts on 8th Edition Marine list building and how my evolution is going.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

8th Edition Stray Observations

#1:  Plasma pistols are good.  Like really good.  We are in a new world now in 8th edition and the ability of plasma pistols to put a huge dent into an MEQ unit before a charge is really helpful.  I’ve been experimenting with Vanguard Vets instead of Terminators per the suggestion of Laeroth, and getting great results.  For HALF the points a Veteran with Plasma Pistol and Chainsword hits far above his weight.  Thats 23 points for those scoring at home, compared to 44 points for a twin LC terminator.  

Yes, the terminator has 2 wounds and 2x Lightning Claws are way killier than a chainsword but its important to remember the role of the close combat rock in a shooty army.  If the enemy is a close range, aggressive enemy, their job is to take out their scariest close combat unit that threatens your fire base.  If they are a shooty army, the job is to push forward, delete their best shooty unit and then sow chaos in their firebase until they are finally wiped out.  

The terminator squad is undeniably better at the second job.  Terminators are built to take more hits and keep killing, which means when they jump out of the LRC and attack the enemy fire base, it will take tons of attention off of your shooters.  In that role, the terminators crush the Vets.  However, in the counter-charge, or defensive role, the Vets are just as good.  If you count their pistols as an extra close combat attack at Strength 7 and -3 to save, that closes the gap to the terminators nicely, and since they should almost always get to strike first in combat, they will erase whatever target they wish.  But what makes this possible is the pistol.  If we dumped the pistols and just gave them all Power Axes we could save some points but the killing power of the unit would be much reduced.  Plasma pistols tie the room together.  Plasma pistols are a force multiplier.  




#2  Razorbacks are god tier.  I know this may seem obvious, but it was the first thing I noticed.  Razorbacks became way way harder to kill or shut down in 8th Edition, and with the change to twin linked weapons, became way killier.  The two best options are twin ass-cans or twin las-cannons.  Obviously, these two weapons have almost opposite roles and you’ll have to pick wisely.  I will give you this A+ grade advanced skills tactica: don’t pick twin-heavy bolters.

All jokes aside, with no formations, there are very few free points available.  Since the price of heavy weapons are standardized, the key is finding the cheapest platforms to carry the most heavy weapons.  A Razorback competes with Predators, Devastators, and Dreads.  From a firepower perspective, Razors have less firepower potential than all three but cost much less than Preds and Devs, and are about the same survivability as Dreads.  I couldn’t really justify the cost of a Predator in 8th while Razorbacks exist.  I really think Dreads are quite good with double shooty weapons, which is why most of my lists bring lots of razors and dreads.  I don’t bring preds and devs since they are so inefficient.  

Lastly, the Razorback doesn’t take up a FOC slot.  In Marine armies the best stuff is in Elites.  Depending on what Detachment you use, Elites get filled quickly.  If you want Dreadnaughts or Vanguard Vets or Terminators and still want a Battalion, you’re going to run out of FOC slots quickly.  Razorbacks bring heavy firepower on a sturdy platform without using up a FOC slot, so you can get the firepower you need without maxing out the detachment’s allowances.

#3.  Space Marines have no great second HQ choice.  With the exceptions of Black Templars, who can make a deadly close combat rock with Helbrect and Grimaldus combo’ing with each other, other chapters have no satisfying second choice.  If you want a Battalion, you need a second.  This is a hefty tax.  Let’s say you do something smart, and bring Pedro Kantor as your first HQ choice.  What is your second?  A vanilla chaplain adds basically nothing.  A librarian is probably the best choice, but expensive and underwhelming.  On the cheap end, the best option is a vanilla captain with combi plasma sitting in a squad with lots of plasma weapons using the re-roll 1 aura to go ham.  What you’ll notice is that even the cheap options are around 100 points.  This is 5% of your force going to a tax just to open up the battalion formation.  I’m rapidly becoming disenchanted with the idea of Battalions being worthwhile unless you desperately want the +2 command points.  




#4.  These early tournament lists are offputting.  Early reports have lists with 6 fliers and Guilleman winning tournaments.  This is pretty gross to me.  While I love a lot of the changes with 8th Edition, cutting down on this sort of cheese was something they needed to do, but didn’t.  5th Edition worked because of the troop requirement.  Yes, many armiers (Eldar) took the bare minimum troops and moved along, but the basic 1 HQ 2 Troops skeleton of 5th edition armies forced people to take “real” armies rather than balls of flier cheese.  

You guys know I play to win.  But I’m not so WAAC that I’ll bring a stupid flier army.  I’d just rather not play.  For the people whose only hobby is 40k, if they have a competitive mindset, they are stuck.  For me, I can do other stuff with my time, so I can just walk away if the game becomes unfun.  My hope is that this list is just the result of specific tournament rules or ill prepared opponents.  If this is what every 40k tournament looks like, 6 fliers and a lord of war, I’m out.  I suspect it won’t but we’ll see.  Perhaps as pathetic and anti-WAAC as it sounds, I might actually prefer a tournament where you had to use only battalion or brigade detachments and others were banned.  I think in a tournament like that you’d see “real” 40k.

I will say, the Tzeentch cheese ball army with Magnus and Changeling is a broken, cheesey army but it doesn’t offend me for some reason.  It seems like a “real” army with several stacking synergies that combine to be insanely over-powered, but doesn’t cross over into me asking “am I even play warhammer?”  Hopefully this is toned down for competitive purposes, but at least playing against it feels like playing the game.  Playing against 6 fliers and a LoW is not 40k.  Then again, maybe it is 40k, and I just don’t like what 40k is?

Friday, June 30, 2017

Mathhammer: Percentages Lie

The most infuriating thing I hear when people talk about list building and wargear options is something like, “option a is 33% more effective than option b and costs only 5 more points!”  I call this the fallacy of using percentages in a nominal system.

This isn’t just a 40k problem, I see it in every sort of RPG, MMO, card game, etc where players have to pick from differing options using limited resources.  But since this is a 40k blog, my examples are going to be from 40k for the sake of being understood universally.



So what is the problem?  The problem is, you don’t build lists based on percentages, you build them based on points.  In the crudest terms, how many MEQ a gun kills per turn is worthless information.  If gun A kills 1 MEQ per turn and gun b kills 1.33, if you don’t then divide by the points cost, you aren’t actually making any sort of rational choice.  Since we are limited in points, any choice comes at the expense of another choice, and making efficient choices is how you win in the list building phase.  In a balanced game, there would never be a single weapon that was good against every type of army for an affordable amount of points ::cough::grav cannon::cough::.  However, even figuring out killing power divided by points isn’t the whole story.

You could build a list using killing power divided by points to only pick the most efficient choices, but you’d probably lose.  There are some armies that simply don’t have great options across the whole killing spectrum.  They might shred vehicles.  They might kill MEQ.  But they have to pay through the nose to kill hordes.  If you’re trying to field a balanced army you may have to bring inefficient choices in order to actually have a well rounded force.  For example, let’s say an army has a hyper efficient lascannon platform.  You could bring an army bristling with these lascannon platforms.  You might has 25% more lascannons than any other army could bring to the table for the same points.  

Is that even good?  I’d argue that those extra lascannons are not helping.  What you SHOULD do is economise by using your cheap lascannons to fill out your anti-vehicle slots, and then use the points savings to bring killy but points inefficient units that shred infantry.  This is an oversimplified example, ofcourse but it demonstrates that idea that simplying making a list of nothing but points efficient units won’t check all the boxes.  Unless, ofcourse, your codex is broke and simply better at every role than everyone else.

Another thing to consider is the value of nominalizing these numbers.  “33% better at killing MEQ!” sounds great.  How many extra MEQ dead per game is that?  Oh well Gun A kills .65 MEQ per turn and Gun B kills .87 MEQ per turn.  Cool, gun B MIGHT kill one extra marine per game, if you get perfect conditions every turn.  Is that really worth paying ANY extra points for? If we value a Marine at 13 points, you might argue that so long as the gun costs less than 13 points it is worth paying for.  We know, ofcourse, this is a nonsense way to look at list building.



Yes, I just “proved” that big percentages of small numbers is still small numbers.  Please deliver my nobel prize for mathematics any time now.  But that is important to consider!  When people use percentages, they are trying to confuse you!  One of the writers at 3plusplus made an awesome series of charts demonstrating the killing power of all the weapons for each faction.  This was great.  It showed how many wounds per turn a weapon would do against a variety of targets ranging from GEQ to Land Raiders.  Fantastically useful information… which people proceeded to draw insanely bad conclusions from because they put too much value in comparing percentages of small numbers and not enough on looking at the nominal amounts.  


In conclusion, beware percentages.  Big sounding percentages differences are often used to exaggerate what are actually small nominal differences on the table top especially in regards to higher variance, single shot weapons.  Efficiency in list building is extremely important but don’t let the desire to be hyper efficient cause you to make mistakes.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Pedro vs Helbrecht

If you’re like me (a genius who spends his time thinking about trivial things) you clearly understand that Pedro Kantor and Helbrecht are the most powerful Chapter Masters a marine army can pick in terms of buffing power.

Lysander need not apply =(


Since their buffs benefit close combat, it's a given to pair them with assault terminators, though a veteran squad with close combat weapons and plasma pistols is also quite strong consideration.  From a very basic standpoint, Pedro’s +1 attacks benefits models with fewer, but more powerful attacks whereas Helbrechts +1 Strength benefits models who are already going to hit a lot, but might need help wounding.  Also obvious, +1 attack is way more powerful in isolation, but Helbrecht slightly mitigates that by being equipped with better gear and having better CC capability.

The level basic thinking is Pedro = Thunderhammers, Helbrecht = Lightning Claws.  Does this hold up?  Let’s hammer some maths. In order to be points fair we will say that you get 6x LC termies and 5x TH termies.  For the moment we will ignore the capabilities of each character and only look at the killiness of the unit with their buff.

Pedro + 5 TH Termis (all numbers after saves, after damage)

Vs Ork Boyz = 7.5 wounds
Vs MEQ = 6.23 wounds
Vs Rhino = 21 wounds (splat!)
Vs Landraider = 12 Wounds

Pedro + 6 LC Termies

Vs Ork Boyz = 13.5 wounds
Vs MEQ = 8.9 wounds
Vs Rhino = 6.6 wounds
Vs Landraider = 2.75 wounds

Helbrecht + 5 TH Termie

Vs Ork Boyz = 5.4 wounds
Vs MEQ = 4.5 wounds
Vs Rhino = 13.5 wounds (splat)
Vs Landraider = 11 wounds

Helbrecht + 6 LC Termies

Vs Ork Boyz = 14.1 wounds
Vs MEQ = 9.33 wounds
Vs Rhino = 5.4 wounds
Vs Landraider = 4 wounds

So what patterns can we conclude here.  At the basic level, Thunderhammers are obviously lights out vs light vehicles either way.  Lightning Claws eat through infantry.  We all knew that already.  At the second level we can see just how bad ass Land Raiders are.  A unit of Thunderhammer terminators buffed by Pedro or Helbrecht aren’t capable of killing one in a single turn of combat.  That’s tough stuff.

But about the HQ boys themselves.  Pedro makes his unit killier across the board against vehicles, Helbrecht has a slight advantage against infantry.  What I was hoping to see, but didn’t, was that Helbrecht’s +1 strength would give his Lightning Claw termies a huge advantage against vehicles.  Against T7, the roll to wound is the same at Str 4 or Str 5, though.  There was a pretty noticeable advantage against T8, however, since going from 6 to 5 to wound doubles the amount of wounds you inflict.  But really, if you’re charging LC terminators into a Land Raider something bad is happening.  

Now lets look at the killing power of the Characters themselves, since it helps to consider that the character may be able to compensate for his unit’s shortcoming.

Pedro Kantor

Vs Ork Boyz = 3.7 wounds
Vs MEQ = 3.1 wounds
Vs Rhino = 7.4 wounds
Vs Land Raider = 4.4 wounds

High Marshal Helbrecht

Vs Ork Boyz = 3.8 wounds
Vs MEQ = 3.2 wounds
Vs Rhino = 3.2 wounds
Vs Land Raider = 2.6 wounds

This was… not what I was expecting.  My intuition was that 6 attacks at Str 6 that hit on 2s would have enabled Helbrecht to tear through infantry a lot better than Pedro.  But since both re-roll to hit the difference in hits was minor.  The game changer for Pedro was wounding infantry on 2+ vs Helbrecht’s 3+ helped a ton.  It should be said Helbrecht will wound T3 on 2+ as well so he should be a bit deadlier relative to Pedro there.  So while Helbrecht has a slight advantage against infantry the gap is imperceptibly small on the battlefield with a normal game’s same size.  And Pedro is much killier against vehicles.  One thing in Helbrecht’s favor is his combi-melta adds a good bit to his anti-vehicle punch, especially against T7.

What can we conclude?  Anything short of a Land Raider, give me Pedro and Lightning Claws.  Pedro and Lightning Claws will kill a Rhino in one turn, same as TH/SS.  Against infantry the Lightning Claws will murder.  The only offensive advantage of the TH terminator is against T8.  

Looking at the combos, it seems clear to me that Pedro and some Lightning Claw terminators is going to be your killiest combination against all comers.  Hopefully, your shooting can take down the T8 baddies and let the terminators kill the enemy elite infantry or shooting infantry.  Lastly, one thing in the favor of TH termies is the storm shield.  3++ save is better than ever and against enemy elite infantry who are armed with plasma pistols and power axes galore there is a bit to be said for it sacrificing some killing power to sustain some heavy hits.  In 8th you’ll typically eat a unit and then get shot at next turn either way due to fall back, so being able to survive the shooting is helpful.

But yeah, Crimson Fists looking good.



Thoughts?

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Getting My Feet Wet Part 2

So “shooty” Templars are a definite thing.  As you know, I prefer my shooty armies to have enough close combat abilities to defend or disable enemy threats, but as a thought exercise how about we see how extreme we can make the shootiness?



We are going to be Troop heavy anyway, so we are going to use a Battalion for some free command points, it does mean taking two HQs but as you’ll see, that only makes us more powerful bwahahahahaha!

Black Templars - Battalion Formation

Captain
-Combi Plasma
-Razorback with Twin Las Cannon
=204

Captain
-Combi Plasma
-Razorback with Twin Las Cannon
=204

These guys have no intention of riding in the Razorback, they are just here to unlock the extra vehicle, carry a plasmagun, and provide re-rolls to hit when we roll a 1 which is quite handy when wielding lots of plasma weapons!

Crusader Squad (5)
Sword Brother with Combi Plasma
Grav Cannon
Plasma gun
Razorback with Twin Las Cannon
=236

Crusader Squad (5)
Sword Brother with Combi Plasma
Grav Cannon
Plasma gun
Razorback with Twin Las Cannon
=236

Crusader Squad (5)
Sword Brother with Combi Plasma
Grav Cannon
Plasma gun
Razorback with Twin Las Cannon
=236

Crusader Squad (5)
Sword Brother with Combi Plasma
Plasma Cannon
Plasma gun
Razorback with Twin Las Cannon
=229

Crusader Squad (5)
Sword Brother with Combi Plasma
Plasma Cannon
Plasma gun
Razorback with Twin Las Cannon
=229

5 Crusader squads min/maxed with firepower.  Combi Plasmas everywhere and grav cannons.  The two Plasmacannon squads are where you put the Captains so they can fire overcharged shots each turn and re-roll any 1’s that come up.

Dreadnaught
2x Twin Autocannons
=136

Dreadnaught
2x Twin Autocannons
=136

Dreadnaught
2x Twin Autocannons
=136

Dreadnaughts with double twin auto cannons are really cheap gun platforms, a better value than even Razorbacks.  The auto cannons put out a ton of shots!  Each Dread pushes out 8 shots per turn at Strength 7!  

Total: 1982 points

Command Points: 6

This list is kinda nuts looking it over.  14 Lascanons, 3 grav cannons, 2 plasma cannons, 12 plasmaguns, 12 autocannons.  Thats a pretty nutty amount of firepower.  There is essentially no close combat capability whatsoever but thats the price you pay for being able to shoot your opponents’ MEQ army off the board in two turns.  Being able to charge after a deep strike or teleport or drop pod scares me a lot in 8th edition, it makes me feel like armies like this may not be viable without spending points on a bubble wrap, but this was more of me trying to see whats possible rather than what is actually best for winning a tournament.


Thoughts?