Sunday, November 29, 2009

Flow of Battle, Article 1: Basic Infantry/Monstrous Creatures

This article on the Flow of Battle will focus on basic infantry. By 'basic infantry' I mean infantry units, and infantry units with fleet of foot. In the name of brevity (and common sense) I'll touch on the faster infantry types (IE: Beasts/Cavalry, Jump Infantry, and Bikes) in a seperate article.

I also feel that infantry are a fine place to start because there's really no getting around them. Every army needs at least a little infantry in order to claim objectives. Note this movement also applies to monstrous creatures that do not have wings. I do not believe there are many Fleet monstrous creatures (The Daemons have the Keeper of Secrets and Skarbrand, and that's all I've got for fleet MCs), but there ARE some that are oversized jump infantry.

Movement Basics
Warhammer 40k is a tabletop war game. Given terrain features, there are three dimensions to the game: up/down the table, left/right on the table, and up, on terrain (or skimmer stands, or the Valkyrie/Vendetta stand, or on top of burnt-out vehicles). I'm going to touch on the more 2-dimensional movement, which is on the tabletop. Note that moving through terrain to get atop things takes 3" of movement, so you'll lose some horizontal range in order to get atop a building.

Basic Movement in the Open
Infantry can move 6" by definition. Infantry may also run 1d6 inches, which translates to about 3.5 inches per run. This picture demonstrates the 'average' infantry movement in the open, though note that the actual movement radius is 7-12 inches, depending on your run roll.

Basic Infantry and the Assault
Infantry may also assault 6", so an infantry's assault range is a total of 12". Assuming a victory in assault, there may be additional movement in the form of consolidation. Note that an infantry assault can move the unit up to 12" in a turn, and an additional 1d6 if you beat the other guy's face in.

Fleet Infantry and Assault
Infantry with Fleet of Foot differ from regular infantry only in the assault phase, with regards to movement. Fleet infantry may run, then assault. This means a Fleet unit's assault range is 13-18 inches. Now we're talking some movement, right? Note, though, that the average is about 3.5 inches in the assault, so a fleet unit's average assault range in the open is 15.5 inches. Not bad? Wait 'til we discuss cavalry.

Infantry and Terrain
Terrain is infantry's friend: lurking in terrain grants you that 4+ cover save you always wanted. Guardsmen, for example, prefer terrain to their armor. However, terrain slows you down, as you must roll 2d6 and take the higher instead of assume you'll get 6 inches.
Odds of a given outcome:
1 inch: 2.7%
2 inches: 8.3%
3 inches: 13.8%
4 inches: 19.4%
5 inches: 25%
6 inches: 30.5%
4-5 inches is the norm for a terrain move. Note that the actual range is 1-6 inches, and there's nothing like rolling snake-eyes when you actually needed to be somewhere.
This also applies to Slow and Purposeful infantry; Obliterators are a prime example.
Terrain and Movement As a Whole
You can run in order to maximize your movement through terrain, which gives you a range of 2-12 inches. This will usually be around 6 to 8 inches total, and if you are fleet and assaulting through terrain, then you'll have a range of 3-18", or around 9 inches as a rough average.
The morale of the story? Well, first, bring grenades if you want to assault through terrain (terminators with powerfists/thunder hammers are exempt...). Second, Terrain slows you the hell down.

Note that Monstrous Creatures benefit from Move Through Cover, so they are more likely to see a 5 or 6 on the 3d6.
Movement and Shooting
The basic infantry weapon is the 24" rapid-fire gun. If you want to move and shoot, you get your regular move (6 inches in the open, or about 3-4 with cover) and then a 12" double-tap. In the open, this means your effective range is 18", and with cover your effective double-tap range is 13-18, or an average of 15-16 inches.

A Warning on Rapid-Fire
12" is also the magic number for an assault in the open. If you are in cover and rapid-firing out of it, then the enemy will probably get a 6" move, and then another 3-4" into terrain, which may or may not be enough to get them there.

In other words, if you can rapid-fire into the enemy, he can probably punch you next turn (unless you kill him). Moral of the story? If there's going to be a fistfight after you rapid-fire the other guy, make sure you can WIN the fistfight. Note also that you cannot assault after a double-tap, so you WILL be on the recieving end of any charge more often than not.

A Note on Assault Weapons and Pistols
These weapons may fire even if you have moved, so use the maximum range of the assault weapon in lieu of 12" in your calculation. Pistols usually have a 12" range, though some melta pistols have a 6" range.

Shooting without Moving
Stationary rapid-fire weapons may fire once at their max range (24" unless you're a Fire Warrior or Krootox), or twice at 12". The benefit to a stationary close-range rapid-fire is that any troops who are 13-24" away still get a single shot. Or, you just might not have anything better to do with the guys. Rapid-fire guns at max range usually don't put out a lot of shots, so their ability to do damage is somewhat diminished. As with close-range rapid-fire, Imperial Guard squads with 'First Rank Fire, Second Rank Fire!' are a notable exception since they get +1 shot for each lasgun.

On Infantry-Born Heavy Weapons
Stationary firing ALSO permits you to fire heavy weapons to their full range. Some infantry, such as Terminators or Obliterators, may fire heavy weapons even if they have moved.
Flow and the Game
These pictures cover a single turn of action for infantry. What can we learn from these diagrams? Infantry are not exactly mobile. The best you'll get out of Fleet infantry is an 18" move, IF there is something to assault at the end of the road. More often than not, infantry are slogging 3-6 inches a turn, and up to around 9 on average if we want to run them and not use their guns. Sometimes, you don't need them to shoot; last-minute objective grabs come to mind.

Some Numbers for your edification
Infantry in the Open Through Five Turns of Movement: 30" + 5d6, or about 47.5 inches average maximum. Not bad, until you consider that you have to do nothing but move and run all game, avoiding terrain (which may mean taking a winding path, mind you).

Infantry in Cover Through Five Turns of Movement: 5 turns of ~4 through cover, and 5d6 gets you 37.5 inches. Again, all you're doing is running, but at least you're in cover.

What's this tell us? Infantry are slow. If you're playing table quarters, for example, I can slap my objective in the back corner. If you start infantry as close as you can, you're still looking at a good 51-55 inches to get to the objective. In other words, you just may not have enough time in the game to get there, even IF all you do is move. Now, if you luck out against an enemy that's playing Pitched Battle, you might have as little as 24"-36" between you and the objective, but it depends.

Other Problems with Infantry in the Open
There's this little thing called 'shooting'. It may or may not be a problem for you. If you are Terminators and the other guy didn't bring a lot of AP2 guns, you might be fine. Or, you might have just brought a LOT of Orks/Guardsmen/'nids. Otherwise, you're probably looking at an uphill game. The big problem with moving a lot of infantry is, of course, time.

Dealing with the Speed of Infantry
As I have shown, basic infantry are just not that fast. So, what do we do about getting them where we need to go?

1) Mount Up
Vehicles are faster than basic infantry, generally speaking. Infantry in a transport are more survivable (since you have to get them OUT of it first) and of course the thing can move, barring an immobilized result.

2) Don't Move Much
Infantry camping on objectives (ideally with long-ranged weapons) don't need to move to contribute to the battle, for example. The counterassault element behind a static gunline only needs to be able to move out and punch someone in the face. Sometimes, the relative immobility is moot; you either don't need to go far or you have the range to reach out and touch someone.
As an added bonus, some stuff just gets nastier as you close with it. That lone heavy weapon is suddenly a heavy weapon with a bunch of rapid-firing friends, now.

3) Careful Planning
Foot armies that advance on you require careful advance planning. I have to point to my experience with the Black Templar list I'm running. Deployment makes or breaks you, as you WILL have to walk to the objectives. Your foot troops will be vulnerable to gunfire, and in some cases morale checks. Foot troops may also be corraled by things like assaults, tank shocks, and so on.

Foot Troop Flow Conclusion
My aim with the diagrams here is to give people an aid and example of what your footsloggers can pull off in the space of a turn. The real goal to learn via experience is chaining several turns of action together, and figuring out where that might leave you. Is it easy? No. My hope is that I've offered people some tools and/or food for thought for noticing the flow of battle.

Knowing how units may act during a single turn should give you some insight into how units can act over the course of a game.

Comments and Feedback welcome.
*As usual, thanks to readers; math credit goes to hastur first. TOO SLOW, DVERNING! Though, I completely agree with you on the infantry horde problem. It's realyl the only downside I can come up for something like pure foot guard; they'll shoot the crap out of you, and in a tourney setting you'll get ~3 turns, maybe four, just because of the setup.
**Regarding pictures, I think a radius probably IS the way to go. The problem is that without scaling it somehow, it's easy to lose definition because I'm looking at a 48" diameter for infantry stationary rapid-fire and fast vehicle movement. I think what I'll do next is try to show a sample of several turns and what they can look like for an individual unit.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Shout Out, On Updates

First off, the Flow series is going to continue. I was experimenting with just doing some jpegs for illustrations, but I think it will work better with just some top-down pictures and photoshopping some lines in.

My aim is to have one of 'em up tomorrow, as a 'reward' for finishing some studying on exams. Mmm, exams.

Tau Shout Out
Well, there aren't a lot of Tau blogs out there, to be honest. We're a little bit of an off codex, and I'd like to highlight a few of them I'm a fan of.

Incunablog touches on a lot of Forge World stuff. However, he's also got an interesting writeup on Pathfinders, among other things. I'd be following him, but I can't find the button. It could just be my blog-failing skills in action.

Old Shatter Hands runs the Tau of War. There's usually some interesting tactical discussion going on. It's worth a look. I also might have borrowed the creative use of powerfists as crisis suits hands.

Adam's Warhammer Tau is also fairly solid. You'll find good batreps, and some interesting battlesuit conversions as well. Bloody sharp modeling and painting, that.

Just Plain Cool
This guy just started up, but he's putting Space Marines on Dinosaurs. Yes, space marines on dinosaurs. He's doing them as a vanilla 'dex counts-as White Scars army. The blog's not very far along, but so far it looks pretty good.

Modeling Question
For all you folks out there...a question.

I'm looking into finding about 20 guys with pistols and close combat weapons. So, my question to you, my intrepid readers...what are good kits to get them from?

Khorne Berserkers will need some filing and maybe new shoulder pads, but they're certainly an option. Do they have enough heads for me to avoid using a possessified one, though?

I'm told Chaos Space Marines have almost enough pistols and close combat weapons to get the trick done. A little bit of filing, maybe some creative use of GS to get around some icons...anyone think it could work? I am fond of the older-model backpacks with the wide-spread exhaust vents.

The Space Wolf kit...can I avoid using a bare head, and how bad are all the runes and such? And, do I have enough arms to do pistols/CCWs?

Go check these guys out. Good stuff if you're Tau, and I'm hoping Hell On Dinosaurs works out.

That aside, I am making some progress on the terminator painting; squad five of terminators is almost complete. I'm probably going to go with the Grey Knights so I can get the hood and Lascannon Number Five in there. Why? Because it's cool, that's freakin' why.

That would then put me to...Eldar, Tau, and Black Templar. I'm asking myself if I really want/need a fourth army, as I'm feeling the temptation every now and then. The Eldar, at the least, want a real Harlequin squad. The BT want their pistol/chainsword grunts.

I'm also pondering completing the Daemon Cav list, since...well, it looks neat? And it'd be cheap. I am, though, sort of tempted to do a hobby CSM list. I've seen some cool-looking Abbadon mods like this one.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Flow of Battle: Introduction

The flow of battle is something I've been speaking on recently. I feel it deserves an expanded mention, as I believe an appreciation of it is an important skill in Warhammer 40k (...and, frankly, a lot of other things, but 40k has its own understanding).

Defining Terms: What do I mean by 'Flow'?
Each unit has its own rules for movement: Cavalry, Terminators, Rhinos, Land Speeders, and Drop Pods all move differently, but they all still move. They move a set distance a turn [even if that's zero inches for a drop pod on the field], and may do other things like move and shoot.

Each unit, then, behaves in distinct ways. They can do a few actions a turn, but that turns into potentially 7 turns across the game. A unit can start on one end of the board and move all the way across ( some cases, several times, potentially). Other units start in one spot and stay there all game. Most of the rest fall somewhere in between.

What Does Flow Do For You?
The Flow of Battle speaks to the movement of your units, and your enemy's, across space and time. Basically, an understanding of flow of battle allows you to plan out your next few turns, up to the end of the game. Thus, you can set up a solid battle plan, and can often read your enemy's plan by knowing their units and/or their deployment.

Flow In Armies
Slower armies need more understanding of the flow of battle for deployment. Speed leads to flow; immobility is the utter lack of flow. In other words, the Eldar have a much faster flow of battle because of their grav tanks, while space marines and the Imperial Guard have a slower flow because of their vehicles.

Foot armies are usually slower, unless they are heavy on bikers and/or cavalry.

Speed Kills
Note that most armies get (or give up) speed in exchange for other things. I will tell you, though, that it is harder to predict where an Eldar Wave Serpent will be in two turns than it is to figure out where a unit of 5 terminators on foot will be in two turns. Speed gives you options, but does require you to think a little more.

On the other hand, there is nothing quite as fun as maneuvering and denying your opponent his strategy.

More To Come on Flow
I will attempt to break down flow on a more individual basis for various types of units. Frankly, a good, honest look at the flow of battle has to be fairly in-depth, so this series of articles will take time. There will be pictures, and those will speak volumes.

A Final Introductory Note on Flow
I suspect a lot of us out there have at least dabbled in writings on tactics. I have, I'll admit it. One of the things that always kind of miffed me was the occasional line in something like my (probably very abridged, bought on a whim a while ago) copy of Book of the Five Rings. It was something to the effect of "Do this a lot and get good at it."

Man, that line annoyed me. I spent one of my customary christmas/birthday bookstore gift cards on it to LEARN something, not to be told to DO something.

There is a note of truth in that line. Now, I realize it means "learn from experience, boyo." What I write in this and the following articles should be food for thought, but to truly internalize it will take time, effort, and games. You will have to look back over a game, and look ahead in a game to really, truly get it. Once you get it, though, you should be a more effective player.

Personally, I think there's no sin in improving your game.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Black Templar List Thoughts, 2

Here's a thought for another take on the BT list I have, and have just started using. We lose a squad for Grey Knights, basically.

Castellan w/ Terminator Armor, Storm Bolter, Power Weapon [110]
4 Sword Brethren Command Squad [215]
-Tank Hunters
-2x Assault Cannons

Grey Knight Brother-Captain [81]
-Psychic Hood
4 Grey Knight Terminators w/ Psycanon [209]

Emperor's Champion [140]
-Accept Any Challenge, No Matter The Odds

5 Sword Brethren Terminators [255]
-2 Assault Cannons
-Tank Hunters

5 Sword Brethren Terminators [255]
-2 Assault Cannons
-Tank Hunters

5 Sword Brethren Terminators [255]
-2 Assault Cannons
-Tank Hunters

5 Initiates w/ Lascannon [95]

5 Initiates w/ Lascannon [95]

5 Initiates w/ Lascannon [95]

5 Initiates w/ Lascannon [95]

5 Initiates w/ Lascannon [95]

Total 1995/2000

It's not too different from the previous list. I free up points to go for a fifth trooper-mounted lascannon, and get a Psychic Hood into the deal. I also get some guys that actually swing at initiative, which is a novelty for a non-SW terminator army.

Furthermore, I get a psychic hood. Yay, psychic defense.

On the downside, I give up a pair of tank-hunting assault cannons for a lone psycannon. At least the psycannon has a 36" range. I probably have the points to slap a Targeter in there, for an added bonus. I don't have the DH codex near me, but I have them in spreadsheets, so yeah.

Thoughts on this? Is it worth it to drop an HQ squad for a psychic hood and lose the firepower?

Black Templar Reflections

Anyone that's been following the blog might notice I've been doing some thinking about a Terminator-heavy army, and I finally decided to go with neither Dark Angels nor Space Wolves. Instead, I went Black Templar on a variant of a Stelek list.

Castellan w/ Storm bolter, power weapon, terminator armor
4 Command Squad; 2 assault cannons, tank hunters

Castellan, lightning claws, terminator armor
Terminator Command Squad, 2 assault cannons, tank hunters

Emperor's Champion w/ Accept Any Challenge, No Matter The Odds

3x 5-man Terminator Squads w/ 2 assault cannons, Tank Hunters

3x5 Initiates w/ Lascannon

8 Initiates w/ Lascannon, plasma gun

Thoughts and Game Notes
This is based on the first game vs a buddy's mech IG.

I'll start off by noting the dice swung hot and cold both ways; throughout the game I was doing much worse than average on 2+ saves.

Alternatively, I seized the initiative, then at the end of turn one, the damage was:
1 Vendetta Immobilized (behind an immobilized Chimera and terrain, so he had ONE lane of fire for a single twin-linked lascannon)
1 Demolisher EXPLODED from a single lascannon
2 Chimeras immobilized
1 Hellhound stunned

All because I seized the initiative and advanced into gun range.

Then he killed a few terminators, and I failed my Holy Rage morale checks. Some days leadership 9 just doesn't cut it.*

As it turns out, that cost me the game. It kept me from assaulting into his home objective on turn 5, and 5-8 terminators vs 20 guardsmen with 0 power weapons = a lot less guardsmen than originally planned. Sadly, it ended on turn 5. End result was a win in VPs.

Lost 13 terminators. One command squad, 2 below-half squads, and a few squads with 1-2 casualties. Ended up giving up about 460 VP

Damaged Vendetta (70pts)
Demolisher (160)
2 Dead Chimera (110)
2 Damaged Chimera (55)
1 Dead Platoon Command [flamers] (55ish)
1 Dead Company Command [Meltaguns] (90)
1 Damaged Russ [HB/Lascannon] (90ish)
1 Damaged Hellhound, 1 Dead Hellhound (225)
1 Dead Melta-Vet Squad (100)
Total: ~900 VP

Seizing the initiative was huge; dropping most of his long-range AP2 weapons off the bat made it an uphill battle. It also hurt that his meltas got immobilized quickly. Additionally, that damaged Hellhound was down both weapons AND immobilized; I just didn't have the time and guns to spare to kill it.

Thoughts on the Army and the Black Templar
Holy Rage
On the one hand, I don't mind that casualties involve advancing on the enemy (usually, anyway). On the other hand, my opponent started trying to use that against me by canny placement of vehicles near my guys so I'd go away from where I'd hoped to be. At the least, they can nullify the advantage, and at the worst I can be running away from where I need to be.

On the other hand, if I'm on the recieving end of massed AP2 in cover, I can go to ground, grab a 3+ cover save against it, then pop back up with Holy Rage if one guy dies. It's an option worth considering if I take massed AP2 fire.

Tank Hunting Assault Cannons
Actually, they're not so bad when you can get two in a squad. It's a sufficient volume of fire to actually KILL vehicles. Given that it's my main source of light/medium armor busting...yeah. S6 to effective S7 against vehicles is hefty, and they're passable enough against AV13-14.**

Frankly, with all the Eldar I play, I forgot what it was like to have real 48" guns. I'm a little more used to it with Tau, but I'm just now starting to get more playtime in with the Tau.

S9 does a decent enough number on light armor, and it at least gives me the ability to reach out and touch someone.

As this is a foot army, deployment is huge. I have static heavy weapons, and my troops are slower. I believe playing a foot army that wants to advance will be a good exercise in learning the flow of battle, and in the need for planning.

The Flow Of Battle
This feels like a more abstract concept that comes from experience, but I'm trying to get at the concept of seeing where the battle might go. Where will troops be in a few turns? What will they try to do? What will damage do to them, and what will damage do to your mobility and ability to kill the enemy?

I think as your speed goes down, your need to anticipate the shape of battle goes up, because you have a more limited ability to react. As foot armies with Terminators are slow? Yeah. You need a much more defined plan as opposed to, say, Eldar.

The Pros of Foot
So you brought some anti-tank weapons? That's nice. Enemy anti-tank weapons that rely on rate of fire and medium-to-high strength (IE: autocannons) don't do so much to durable infantry units. Ok, they readily wound termiantors, but I have my 2+ save still.

It also wrong-foots people, I think. Most folks expect 4-10+ tanks in 5th edition, so instead...there are 25 terminators and 23 marines on the table. The ability to wrong-foot someone is fun, but there's still the mobility and it's kind of a one-trick pony. Well, one trick for each opponent. In truth, that's half why I brought it, and it was in the name of exposing someone I'm sort of training. (Truthfully, there ain't a lot left to teach; it's more in the point of him just needing to notch games and learn via experience. His lists are pretty nasty).

Concluding Thoughts
Luck played a factor in this game, since I rolled 5's and 6's for most of the first turn after seizing the initiative.

Past that, there IS something to be said for the durability of massed 2+ saves. It's a slow, brutal advance. There's more fun to be had when you punch the crap out of things with powerfists.

I feel there's some educational/shock value in playing a foot army in fifth, though I will fully admit that not all armies can really do a hot foot list. I'd say Space Wolves with T-Wolf cav, Tau, and IG would be the nastiest. I think this one lacks range and speed, and 2+ armor saves won't always make up for it.

*Not nearly as bad as one of my opponents taking 5 Ld10 checks in a turn and failing four of them. Note some of these checks are re-rolls via Icon of Chaos Glory. Note that one of these double-failures was a squad below half strength, fleeing, with his HQ attached. Mmm, Chaos Marines.

**Until you have two guys with assault cannons put two penetrating hits into a Russ flank, and then get shaken results. Or you see a 1-2 on the Rend against AV14. At least it's less guns going into me, right? Right.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Tau Fire Warriors and the Pathfinder's Devilfish

In my previous reflection on Tau experiences, Stelek commented that the default use of the Pathfinder's Devilfish is as a ride for the Fire Warriors. In general, I agree, though I have found a few potential exceptions for this rule.

1) Dawn of War
This one is terrain-dependent, but it may be advantageous to start your Pathfinders in the Fish just to get them into a good position. That 36" range on markerlights means you will want to get upfield, and the Fish can do so, and still potentially fill its job as mobile terrain.

2) Kill Point Missions
If killing is the goal, then I'm less inclined to put Fire Warriors in the Devilfish. While the Fish is not exactly lethal, Fire Warriors are potentially courting trouble if they're in an exploding/dying fish. The enemy gets a chance to kill them before you can hide them.

Additionally, if KP/VP are the only objective, then I might as well just toss the Fire Warriors into reserves. The only mission a 6-tau Fire Warrior squad fulfills is objective-claiming, preferably close to home. Barring that, you load them into the Devilfish just to make it claiming.

3) If You can hide the Fire Warriors out of LOS
Sometimes, you may be lucky enough to have terrain on your side. If you can put the Fire Warriors out of LOS (or leave them in reserves AND have them enter into an out-of-LOS position) and the enemy isn't looking to cross the board against you, then you might be able to shield them from the risk of the Devilfish's death.

Note that you do have to play an enemy that just isn't interested in getting that close to you, or that you're hoping the other guy won't try to cross the board JUST to crater the Fire Warriors.

On the other hand, you can try to use them as bait, since it is a chance for the other guy to kill one of your few, precious scoring units.

This also assumes there are not multiple objectives, or that you might be able to put Kroot on/near objectives. Multiple objective missions are kind of 'eh' for Tau, just because our troops are not exactly durable.

Concluding Notes
I think there are some situations where the Pathfinder Devilfish isn't the go-to destination for Fire Warriors. Worst comes to worst, a Devilfish can be a decent contesting unit, provided you think ahead (while you can move 6" and fire everything with the right wargear, you STILL can only get 12" of movement in a turn) a turn or two.

The other point I have to stress is that with the Tau, our troops are kind of crap, so we do have to keep an eye towards preserving them. We dilute our firepower if we bring lots of troops, as they're not durable and not going to do anything past shoot up or punch infantry, and they don't last long punching it. (And, kroot do not last in the open). Always preserve the Fire Warriors. Sometimes, I think putting them in the Pathfinder Devilfish puts them at unnecessary risk. Sometimes, though, I think it's worth it.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Reflections on Tau experience in Dawn of War vs Guard

Having secured employment, I finally got the models (and foam trays) necessary to field the army. I got a game in against a buddy's IG; Dawn of War with 5 Objectives. The end result was a draw on objectives and a moral victory for Tau.

Here's some unit-by-unit reflection, per Dawn of War and hybrid Tau.

Oh, there's some difficulty to be had in getting mileage out of these guys in DoW. You have range, but since you're moving in from the board edge, field position is more of an issue. I had some trouble getting use out of them because of their deployment; I went for a central position on the board but compromised fire lanes becuase it was an either/or proposition, and I got stuck going first.

On the other hand, they nailed a Vendetta on turn two, then spent the next three turns of the game shaking up a Russ. Talk about comically inept shooting; a Russ absorbed 6 railgun slugs and never got worse than Stunned. (Note this is with Markerlight support, for a good chunk of the time).

All-star performance. They did a number on enemy army; the pair of them stopped Hellhounds early on, and with their mobility, well, it's hard NOT to get use out of them. I do need to watch their positioning when it comes to enemy meltaguns, as I got lucky when he immobilized a melta-laden chimera.

And, there's nothing like markerlighting a squad of Guard heading for an objective, then obliterating them with a precise submunition shot.

Crisis Suits
They did only ok this game, in large part due to the sheer amount of AV12 I was facing. They did get a chance to shoot up some sisters of battle, as he'd allied some in and slapped them into the Vendetta. They did halt the other menacing-looking Hellhound.

Still, I am impressed with them; the plasma is totally worth it for the utility and for the ability to nuke infantry. Power armor to cover saves IS a big deal, considering the usual premium you pay for power armor. (...then again, A Sister of Battle is 11 points, and a Fire Warrior is 10 points. Yeah. Tell me the Fire Warrior's worth it.)

The main trick in using them is to use your tanks as walls, terrain as walls, walls as walls, and try to set up multiple fire angles. Shoot the guys that can only shoot one thing first.

He...sat with the Broadsides for a bit 'til I realized they weren't going to get shot at. Not the best use of the commander in this case, but so it goes.

I deployed them in their Devilfish this time around. I had intended for it to get them into a decent position on turn one. On the other hand, deploying out of a transport and risking a run move may or may not leave you in the position you want.

Anyone have any ideas for Pathfinders and Dawn of War? I think the Devilfish is worth it some times, and I'm going to lose turn one of shooting with them, but past that?

Pathfinder Devilfish
...ate a LR Demolisher cannon round on turn 2, exploded violently, and ceased to even be cover.

Mmm, kroot screens. With 17 Kroot, coherency, and first turn in DOW you can press a couple of them up to the middle-of-the-field line, and force enemy deployment back. Note that this is only really annoying when the other guy wants to deploy troops or an HQ on the field.

As my opponent had a large combined squad of guard with autocannons, well, I considered it worthwhile. Of course ,that also put the Kroot that much closer to guns, so they had to beat a hasty retreat.

Fire Warriors
Sat in reserve. Came in on turn two anyway, to claim an objective and allow the Kroot on that flank to advance. Did their job, at least. Not that I ever get Fire Warriors to DO much...

These guys get the Expendable All-Star cookie. Turn 1, I pushed them far up the field. Make the enemy sweat, because there are two squads of two with meltaguns running upfield. Ok, I lost three of them on the other guy's first turn, but it kept him from shooting other stuff.

The survivor managed to KO a Hellhound, though, and dictate his deployment.

I lucked out a bit with the dice in that terrain immobilized one of his meltavet teams. He also managed to let me log-jam him with popping/immobilizing vehicles here and there, but when your army has 8-10 vehicles, well, you're short on space for deployment.

Body Count
Several Kroot
1 Crisis Suit
1 Devilfish
2x2 Piranhas

1 Meltavet squad
1 Vendetta
10 SoB
1 Hellhound dead
1 Hellhound damaged
1 LR Demolisher damaged
2 Chimera immobilized
[Maybe more; it was last Saturday...]

Tau players? Seriously, consider Piranhas. Between Disruption pods and/or turbo-boosting, you should be able to make a nuisance out of yourself. Be where the enemy wants to be. Oh, and there's a BS4 meltagun you should worry about, guys.

Past that, your Crisis Suits should pretty much always have missile pods, just for the range value and utility.

Rail guns kill armor. Surprise, isn't it?

It's annoying as hell to kind of surrender deployment initiative by going first in DoW. A highly mech'ed-up enemy can react to your deployment well. I seriously think that the Piranhas helped me counteract this, as a highly mech-edup enemy has to worry about Piranhas in the middle of the table.

Objectives are still a challenge, though he denied me the tie by playing for the objectives at the end. I just was not able to kill enough of his stuff in time to make the difference. I blame it in part on my inability to actually KILL a Russ with a Broadside team in 3 turns. Then I could've deployed my firepower in a different way.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Your Own Worst Enemy: Cognitive Bias and 40k

Sorry about the pace of posts this month; I blame it on work + end-of-semester papers. Brainpower's at a premium, and I'm giving a nod to National Novel Writing Month* as well. Today, though, I'll be highlighting some of the ways the mind works, and how that impacts 40k.

Lazy Mind
Basically, the mind likes to take some shortcuts. A stereotype is a ready example, and we can all call to mind an easy one like 'jocks/blonds are dumb.' Is it true 100% of the time? No. Sometimes, though, a stereotype is true enough often enough for it to save us mental energy, and that's the core problem: the mind and thought tries to be as efficient as possible, and this is a fine way to cut corners.

First, it's important for me to tell everyone that this is a very, very basic overview. Reading this is not an equivalent of a cognitive psychology course. It's food for thought, not qualification for diagnosis. Much of this is skimming theory, and I offer it for purely as food for thought.

Memory Biases
Your memory isn't always perfect. How? Here's some examples.

Choice-Supportive Bias: If you chose it, it had to be better than other options

Consistency Bias: You think that you always acted the way you act now

Ego-Centric Bias: Your memory is a little self-serving, you think you looked/did better than you actually did

Suggestability: Suggestions become memory of something that you actually experienced

Decision-Making Biases
Bandwagon Effect: If Everyone's Doing It, then Everyone must be onto something...

Base Rate Fallacy: IGNORING STATISTICAL DATA in favor of anecdotes

Bias Blind Spot: Tendency NOT to compensate for your own biases

Confirmation Bias: Selectively attend to data that agrees with you; essentially it's that you've made up your mind and are getting information to back you up and ignoring info that doesn't.

Deformation Professionalle: Tendency to look at things through your own profession and forget about a broader POV (...irony? Maybe, maybe not. I choose to ignore it, though.)

Expectation Bias: similar to the confirmation bias; you look for data that backs your point and ignore/attack info that disagrees with you

Irrational Escalation: A rational decision in the past doesn't mean you'll follow it up with an irrational decision in the future

Neglect of Probability: ...yes, do ignore the odds. Makes great sense.

Outcome Bias: Well, if you got results, then that's what matters, right? Surely the methods don't count...(Oh, wait. I think I touched on that when talking about Tourney Win = Street Cred)

Probability Biases
Availability Heuristic: Your memory of the data/odds is more relevant than the actual odds

Belief Bias: Well, conclusion > logic of an argument, in your mind. Basically, doing your homework is not as important to you as liking the answer.

Gambler's Fallacy: You think that the previous dice rolls have a damned thing to do with future dice rolls. (Look, rolling a bunch of 6's in a row has NO IMPACT on your ability to roll another heap of 6's. You are never 'DUE' more results)

Hindsight Bias: Hindsight's 20/20, but you did not necessarily know it all along. Sometimes it just HAPPENS, ok? Ok.

Observer-Expectancy Effect: Not only do you have an expectation, but you actively manipulate an experiment to produce the results you want.

Ostrich Effect: You just might ignore an obvious negative

Positive Outcome Bias: wishful thinking about how things will turn out for you. You think your odds are better, just because it's YOU you're talking about, and not that guy...

Regression to the mean, and ignoring it: Thing is, on a long enough time line things will go average. But, some people keep expecting extreme performance

Selection Bias: The conclusion gets distorted because you chose data in an odd way. Kind of like the tourney thing. Just take ALL the data and analyze it; do your homework

Closing Rambling
This is meant to be food for thought, largely. It's important to realize that there are lots of ways that you can botch an analysis of a situation. A lot of these ways may very well be unconscious, and hard to catch. In a sense, that's why I do some blogging; it helps me write things down and then come back to them. Frankly, it helps when you go back and try to pour over things once you've got some distance from them; you gain emotional distance through time. It also helps to have a clear record of the events.

Or, the short version: people have blind spots in the way they think. Some folks I talk to will pick something because "It Always Happens To Me." No, it doesn't. It happens to everyone. You're just being selective about interpreting the information. Honestly, strings of bad luck DO happen; one of my buddies was against MM/HF speeders 'because his meltas always miss.' No, you just tend to remember the extremes more often than you remember the good stuff. The thing is? That's a perfectly human reaction, and perfectly legitimate if not exactly logical.

Bottom line? Logic and impartiality are difficult things to pull off. You're human, you make mistakes. Admit it, try to compensate, and move on. Hopefully this list provides some insight into mistakes.

*NaNoWriMo's goal is to rough-draft a 50,000 word story, just to get people writing. It's followed by the Editing Month, go figure. I have about 5,000 words down. Not quite banking on making the other 45,000 by the end of the month.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Life Update

As pertains to blogging, at least.

Work's going to get a little crazier this month, and school's papers are starting to weigh in, so I'm anticipating blog posts might slow to a crawl. It'll get better after that, though, as I'll be graduated and 'educated.*'

*I'll have a piece of paper that says I'm smart. Considering how dumb some of my classmates are** and how most jobs will train you anyway, I'm not sure what it really proves.

**as in, one of them stood up and told the teacher he thought the test was crap, mostly because he didn't want to write an essay in a class that's all essay, because it takes the place of a thesis. No, he actually said "It's crap that I have to define the points. That's grade-school crap." Yes. The professor really WILL assume you know everything when he's the last course you have to pass before you get your master's. Isn't that a little condescending? "Hey, we both know I know it, so how's about you just let me not write it instead? I'll do the 'essay' in bullet points, too!" MORON.

Basics on Strategy, Goals, and Build Types Part 2

In part one, we covered the various flavors of mechanized army. This time, we'll focus on the flavors of foot.

Flavors of Foot Infantry vs. Monstrous Creature
The most basic division is whether the non-vehicle unit is person-sized,or subject to the rules for a monstrous creature. Monsters are nevertroops, and cannot score. Infantry may occupy any section of the forceorg chart, and all scoring troops are infantry. Both break down in termsof speed, and infantry break down nicely in terms of durability.

Weight of Infantry
Swarms, Light, and Heavy.
Swarm infantry are multi-wound creatures that cannot score, even if taken as troops (IE: Nurglings and for the time being, rippers). Their main purpose is to take up space either by blocking movement, or by holding something down in assault. Swarms are 'Small Targets', which means theyget +1 to cover saves, but every unsaved wound from blast or template weapons inflicts two wounds.

Light infantry is a catch-all for troops with S3/T3, typically with a 5+ save. Most infantry in the game is 'light', in this sense. Of special note is that most light infantry is abjectly afread of heavy flamers; S5, AP4 means death to light infantry on a 2+. The regular flamer (at S4, AP5) is frightening as well, but not as nasty against 4+ saves.

Heavy infantry is infantry with S4/T4+, and usually a 3+ save. Orks havethe T4, but generally have a 6+ to go along with it (Or a 4+ cover save. Which is why we bring flamers.) The archetypical heavy infantry is the space marine, with T4, a 3+ save, and a statline full of 4's. The well-armored heavy infantry tends to be more expensive, more durable, and often benefits from special rules like Fearless or 'And They Shall Know No Fear.' In short, these are the elite fellows, or the few, the proud, andthe often-outnumbered. Not that they care.

Infantry Speed
Infantry's generally slower than vehicles, and is slowed by terrain. However, there's still a variety of rates of movement. They are:

Slow 'n' Purposeful (Roll 2d6 and take highest, as though in terrain. Relentless)
Foot Infantry (6" move, d6 run)
Foot Infantry w/ Fleet (6" move, d6 run, may assault)
Jet Pack Infantry (6" move, then 6" move in assault phase, may run)
Cavalry/Beasts (6" move, d6 run, THEN 12" assault)
Jump Infantry (12" move, may run or assault, occasionally fleet)
Bikes (12" move, no run, may turbo-boost 18-24" w/ 3+ save, Relentless)
Jetbikes (FLYING bikes. May go over terrain.)

Cavalry is about as fast as it gets for assaulters. Bikes are noteworthy for increasing toughness as well; a marine biker is T4(5); which means they have T5 but are treated as T4 for purposes of instant death.

Infantry and Weapons
Shooting attacks tend to break down into one of three categories: rapid-fire, assault, or heavy.

Rapid-fire weapons are the standard-issue infantry firearm. You stand still and fire a shot at maximum range (usually 24"), or fire two shots at 12". Note that you may move and shoot at 12", but this denies you the assault, and usually leaves you in assault range of your target. Rapid-fire offers options in shooting, but you must think about whether or not you want to be closer to the target. Sometimes, it's smarter to get in and shoot the enemy, as you can hit him before he assaults you.

Assault weapons may fire if you move, and do not impact your ability to launch an assault. They tend to be shorter-ranged, and have a decent volume of fire. Most 'special weapon' options tend to be assault, and sometimes they mesh well with rapid-fire guns.

Heavy weapons tend to have high-strength, long-ranged shots. Moving denies them the ability to fire, as they require bracing or some such. I mean, it's usually a big gun. Most squads can take a single heavy weapon, and it tends to give a bunch of guys with rapid-fire guns some extra utility.

Some infantry units are one-dimensional in this regard (IE: Dire Avengers all have the same assault weapon; Assault Marines have jump packs, pistols, and close combat weapons) and are simpler. Others, like an IG platoon or Marine Tactical Squad, have a mix of weapon types and thus more options.

Infantry and Assault
All infantry can engage and be locked in assault, by definition. Some are specialists, and capable of clearing out large chunks of enemy troopers (and/or vehicles) in short order, and some get cleared out. Assault is also a good way of keeping infantry from moving and/or shooting.

This is a rare, bizarre hybrid unit; it contains regular foot infantry and artillery pieces. The big difference is that hits get randomized between crew and gun. Guns are AV10 vehicles that die to any damage result, and of course loss of all guns or all crew renders the unit incapable of being artillery.
Monstrous Creatures
It's essentially a biological tank. T5-6 is normal, and some get as high as T8. They move like foot infantry, except they can always shoot two weapons. They assault like foot infantry, but their basic attacks ignore armor saves, and they roll 2d6 for armor penetration.

MCs come in two basic flavors: shooty, and assaulty.

Check to see if you have wings or otherwise count as jump infantry. If you answered yes, you are assaulty. If not, you should probably consider shooty, because you are SLOW. Any way you cut it, though, Monstrous Creatures are durable targets; a single meltagun can wreck a vehicle but can only take a single wound off a monstrous creature.

Note that T7 MCs are immune to S3 attacks and below, and T8 MCs are immune to S4 and below attacks. Carnifexes are about the only T7 MC, and only Wraithlords and C'tan have T8. Of course, this toughness means nothing if they run up against poison weapons. (Hey, it's something a Plaguebearer squad can seriously threaten!)

Types of Foot Builds
At the core, there are two types of foot builds: assault, and shooty. Since your mobility is limited, you basically choose either swift units or lots and lots of guns, with a nominal attempt to go claim objectives (or just shoot people off them).

Assaulty foot armies usually revolve around beasts/cavalry, or jump troops. Chaos Daemons can field six beast units, and Space Wolves can field a hefty amount of Thunderwolf Cavalry, for example. The Blood Angels do the massed jump packs, as they can take jump troops as basic troops.

The prime candidates for shooty foot armies would be Tau and IG. They bring lots of long-range guns, and pound you until you just can't resist any more, or hold objectives. Terminator-Heavy armies (IE: Space Wolves, Black Templar, Dark Angels) field a crap-ton of 2+/5+ save guys with guns and powerfists that walk at you menacingly.

Biker armies are a bit of a hybrid; and there are three codices that come to mind that can even do much of a biker army. Orks can take Nob Bikers and/or Warbikers as troops, but suffer from morale issues and problems killing tanks. Space Marines can take melta weapons on bikes and uber-cutty command squads. Eldar can take Guardian Jetbikes (kind of Blah) and jetbike Seer Councils (face TWO and you'll probably make a point of requesting to never play that army for fun again).

Monstrous creature armies Only Tyranids can field enough MCs to make them the core of an army (that number is 8, btw). Eldar can field 4, and Chaos Daemons can drop 5. To really make that army type work, though, you need good guns on them, or speed. Chaos Daemons can do the speed, but not the numbers. Nids can do the numbers, but not the guns or speed. Eldar...can't do numbers OR really guns.

Hybrid Armies
Here, I'm using 'hybrid' as a 'mix of foot and mechanized elements.' Why hybrid? If you're familiar with corporate strategy, you know it's either low-cost (IE: Wal-Mart) OR differentiation (IE: Apple). Well, in 40k, you can split the difference. Here are some benefits.

1) Mobility of Vehicles
You want to get places? Mount up.

2) Infantry as Objective-Sitters
If you can deploy on an objective, you might as well set up a heavy weapon, benefit from cover, and dare the enemy to dislodge you.

3) Cost of Heavy Weapons
Oftentimes, vehicles can get heavy weapons cheaper. Compare the Predator to the Devastator squad. 85 points gets you two heavy bolters and an autocannon, or 90 points gets you 5 marines with bolters. By the time you've bought four heavy weapons and pumped the squad size up, you're easily pushing 200 points, which is 2-3 predators right there. More targets, more guns, and less cost. And, they can at least move a little and shoot if necessary. Depends on your codex, honestly.

4) Availability of Options.
Playing IG and want that battle cannon? Gotta get a Russ. Playing Tau and want your plasma? Get an XV-8. Your codex mileage may vary on this one.

5) Protective Layer For Vehicles
So, you brought some largely-static vehicles, or some that'll just be shuffling around your backfield at best. Grab a cheap light infantry squad. Deploy them in front of your vehicles. Now, the enemy has to go through them to assault/get to melta range. Sure, most enemies can. I mean, kroot and guardsmen are only so durable. But, if there are guardsmen standing 6" away from that Russ, I can't very well immediately drop into meltagun sweet spot range, can I? Nor can I assault a stationary vehicle.

It's why Kroot are your buddy with hybrid Tau.

What is best in life* - I mean this article, Raptor? I have the answer for you:

It Depends.

It depends on your codex, and what it can do. Good luck even playing MC-heavy with guard, or tank-heavy with 'nids. Not everyone can bring enough guns to play a long-range gunline. You're going to have to look at your own codex, and experiment.

*to crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentations of their women. That is good. In a pinch, cheap whiskey is a substitute if you have enough.