Thursday, July 28, 2011

40k-metrics: The Rhino Conundrum

A commenter in the BoLS thread had a criticism I felt was worth (crazy, huh?) addressing.  He said something like “the system doesn’t take into account the defensive and mobility bonuses that something like Rhinos give you.  We know Rhinos are good, but when you add them, they lower your scores.”

Rhinos ARE good, and we know it, you’re very right.  But there are diminishing returns with them.  You need enough Rhinos to move/protect your units and to provide armor saturation for the firepower vehicles in your list.  Once you have sufficient amounts of Rhinos to achieve that, adding more will indeed make your list worse. 

Regardless of whether you agree with my method of measuring it, firepower is what wins games of 5th Edition 40k.  The ability to kill your opponent’s units is all important.  In terms of Rhinos specifically, I can think of dozens of hypothetical lists that don’t use transports and can still win games.  A 2k list with 50 Rhinos- and nothing else- wouldn’t win games. 

This brings me to the metric system and how people are using it incorrectly.  What you should NOT do is compare a mech-marine list to a Tyranid list and say “well my Marines score better than the Nids, therefore the list is better.”  Not necessarily.  While there are some objective truths that hold true across all codices and lists, for the most part you should be comparing like lists to like lists.

When preparing for a tournament with a mech-marine list, you shouldn’t concern yourself with how your mech-marine metric scores compare to a Tyranid list’s scores, or even a foot marine list.  You should be comparing your mech-marine list to the scores of other proven mech marine lists.  That’s the pudding where you’ll find the proof.  If you see that all the successful mech-marine lists score higher on shooting than you significantly, you are almost certainly not shooty enough and you need to figure out what the issue is.  As Lyracian showed in the Nid breakdowns, it IS most profitable to compare lists from the same codex to each other, especially when comparing something like Nids or Orks that are radically different in style from the other books.  A Black Templar list is close enough to any other marine list that comparisons are valid, but a Necrons to Sister’s Immolator Spam comparison isn’t going to tell you much about your list.

Bottom line: the metric system is best used for comparing a newly created list you just wrote to a similar style list of proven competitiveness.  It’s definitely possible to infer more information than that from it, but the further from that you get the more debatable your results will be.


  1. I'm glad that this was brought up. I think that the Rhino situation is a big deal and should involve some type of metrics multiplier.

  2. Why should they multiply anything when they don't add any firepower?

  3. "2k list with 50 Rhinos"

    Are you joking? The max number of rhinos is 14. We are moving in codified space and arguments taken from the moon don't stick.

    I would agree that around 10 the returns start to diminish, and it should be visible in point cost effectiveness.

    Anyways your system is for quick and dirty approximate attack ability comparisons and simply doesn't take into consideration defensive attributes of given armies. Perhaps that's something to take into consideration as for egzample statistics of losses under fire from a specified number of bolters/missile launchers/meltas

  4. The metric is a good basis for tweaking lists within a framework, but that's about it. Sure, the mobility factor of transports, etc may have an effect on the probability of getting weapon X into its sweet spot, etc. But how does one quantify it?

  5. @lehcyfer I don't care about "defensive attributes" because those generally don't correlate to wins on the table top unless the scenarios are unbalanced.

    When you look at winning lists and losing lists what you see is that the winning lists and losing lists have very similar defensive attributes. What sets them apart is offensive capability. Offense matters.

  6. As long as we are being "reasonable" about the number of Rhinos, then comparing like to like would work. IMO, it can also work for comparing any list for raw power, because the most common armies today are mech marines of some sort. It may fail in a X vs X scenario (where X = some non-SM codex) to some extent, but I don't think that much.

    I'm not too troubled by comparing mech marine gunline vs foot marines, because I'll spend less time needing my DRPG ability and be able to focus on DMS/DMCC abilities during the game.

  7. The only thing I'll say is that for MANY unit types and sizes, firepower is only the reliable way to kill tanks. Shooting lots of guns at large squads in cover doesn't always work out the way you want it to, and killing INFANTRY is a measure of combat more than it's a measure of guns.

    This is why lists that simply cannot position and plan for charging survivors with meltaguns find themselves in such hairy situations in many games ... because shoot all you want, if you aren't there and ready to charge down survivors, you aren't in a good position as a player.

  8. I think that's a problem with the metric in general, because it abstract away important things like an army's ability to leverage its optimal shooting and charging by using movement to gain optimal position.

    There's no point in calculating the optimal shooting and assault if you don't know how to optimize your ability to deliver those dice downfield.

    I mean, anyone can calculate how many Space Marines/Rhinos/Land Raiders unit x can kill. The question is how that unit integrates with its army to win the game when that game ends.