Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Thoughts on Math-hammer - tweaked for 8th Edition Relevance

Since 40k is a dice game, it probably pays to know a bit about how the dice will behave in a given situation.  8th edition shakes up a few things (like the to-wound chart and leadership) and changes some odds (like casting psyching powers, which is easier).  It also adds the whole 're-roll ones' mechanic, which tweaks re-rolls.

A Few Disclaimers - 
1) remember that we're talking about odds.  Averages are guides for decision-making.  You'll be able to take a guess at outcomes if you're weighing options.

2) Averages emerge when you throw dice enough times - twenty throws of a dice is about average, when it comes to statistics - IE - thirty guardsmen walk into rapid-fire range and drop 100d6 looking for 4+, you'll probably see 50 hits most of the time.

3) Remember that we have a cognitive bias towards remembering outliers - we're bad at math unless we're trying.

Basic Math - looking for X+ on 1d6
Base WS/BS Unmodified chance Re-roll misses Re-Roll 1's Base with +1 Bonus
2+ 83% 97% 97% 83%
3+ 67% 89% 78% 83%
4+ 50% 75% 58% 67%
5+ 33% 56% 39% 50%
6+ 17% 31% 19% 33%

I'm going with WS/BS on these because it's the most common, but this math applies to any rolls when you need X or better, such as morale and wounds.  I've added in re-rolls, re-roll 1's, and +1 bonuses.

Note that blanket re-rolls are a bit better than a +1 bonus - but they're pretty close.  The only place that really loses out on it is the 2+, as we're assuming a 1 always fails here.

Note also that re-roll ones are neat, but have diminishing returns as you need better numbers when it comes to odds.  However, some stuff (like plasma) REALLY doesn't want to deal with 1's, because explosions.

Roll at Least X on 2d6
At least X on 2d6 Odds
2 100%
3 97%
4 92%
5 83%
6 72%
7 58%
8 42%
9 28%
10 17%
11 8%
12 3%

This one's important for two big phases - the psychic phase and the assault phase.  Two obvious break points are 9+ and 10+.  

We care about 9+ for deep-striking assault troops (which means that they've got just under a 1/3 chance of assaulting off deep-strike).  Note that any deep-striking troops that can get an extra inch of charge range (IE - Trygons with adrenal glands) get a significant boost to their ability to charge out of reserves.

We care about 10+ for Smite's bonus damage.

Roll 2d6, pick the highest
Roll 2d6, pick highest 1 2 3 4 5 6
Chance of getting at least  - 3% 8% 14% 19% 25% 31%
As long as I'm doing math, went ahead and did this one.  

So, What Do I do with this?
These are all guides - if you're looking at figuring out how nasty something's going to be, crunch numbers.  

Example 1 - 5 Chaos Terminators deep-strike and fire combi-bolters into guardsmen in cover. Let's assume they're all within 12" of the targets, so their rapid-fire 2 guns are kicking out four shots each.
5 combi bolters * 4 shots each = 20 shots
20 shots at BS 3+ = 13.33 hits on average
13.33 hits that need 3+ to wound (S4 vs T3) = 8.89 wounds
Guardsmen out of cover have a 5+ save
8.89 hits vs 5+ save = 2.96 saves, so 5.9 guardsmen die.

So you could expect 5-6 guardsmen to eat it.

Example 2 - say the Chaos Lord deep-strikes in behind his Terminators, and gives them the ability to re-roll 1's
5 combi bolters * 4 shots each = 20 shots
20 shots at BS3+ with a re-roll one 1's = 15.55 hits
15.55 hits needing 3+ to wound = 10.37 wounds
10.37 wounds vs a 5+ save = 3.4 saves, so 6.9 guardsmen die

So, if you dropped the terminator lord in behind his terminators, you could guess that it'd kill 6-7 guardsmen in that context.

To bring it further - so the guard survives, and however many survivors get to rapid-fire the terminators and then probably assault (move 6 + 2d6 charge = 80-90% chance of a charge going off).

What Math can do is tell you the odds of stuff happening with dice involved - but what math CAN'T do is tell you what your opponent is going to do - does the opponent turn around and try to kill the Terminators to a man now, denying you the ability to disrupt his backfield?  Does the opponent say 'eh, screw it' and let your terminators wander around his backfield and focus firepower elsewhere?

In Closing
Having an idea of how math works gives you a decision-making tool.  The dice can always give and take away, but if you know math then you can guess how rolls will go, and ask yourself how much risk you want to accept for a given course of action.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

8th Impressions - On Chaos, Defilers, and Land Raider Crusaders

This is a bit late - I apologize for lack of pictures, but I have a couple good reasons for not logging via pics - first, there were a heap of proxies, and second, the mission summary is basically 'he drove across the field and shot/assault me.'

The Armies
Death Guard Battalion Detachment
Malignant Plaguecaster
Noxious Blightbringer
Hellbrute (Reaper A/C, flail)
16x Pox walkers
16x pox walkers
12 Cultists w/ heavy stubber
7x Death Guard (sarge w/ fist, and a plasma rifle)
2x Foetid Bloat Drone
Defiler (Reaper cannon, defiler scourge)

Black Templar Battalion Detachment
Emperor's Champion
Cenobite Servitors
Crusader Squad (handful of bobs w/ plasma gun, plasma cannon)
Crusader Squad x11 (axe, fist, meltagun)
Crusader Squad x13ish (axe, fist meltagun)
Land Speeder (Typhoon Launcher, heavy bolter)

Scenario - Big Guns Never Tire
4 objectives
First Blood
Slay the Warlord
Bonus points for killing heavy support

The Battle, in Summary
We set up across from each other - his small Crusader squad sat on an objective to one side, while his Crusaders deployed centrally.

I deployed the Defiler and Death Guard on one objective, with the Hellbrute and Cultists held another.  Pox Walkers deployed as a screen, and the support characters stayed in the middle.  My Bloat Drones deployed out of LOS, opposite his objective camping squad out on my far left flank.

The battle played out over a couple of areas -

Bloat Drones vs. small crusader squad intially - my guys advanced across the field and got into firing range on turn one, and wrought havoc on his squad.  This drew off a Land Raider Crusader - and its Crusader Squad, while the Emperor's Champion road the Crusader into my lines.

The Drones basically cleaned up the shooty crusader squad.  Being able to break off combat and fire meant they ended up killing off the other crusader squad.  One drone ended up dead, and the other ended up on the objective.

Land Raider Crusader Rush
So, I learned that Land Raiders can put out an obscene amount of firepower.  Before that, we learned that Land Speeders are really squishy - the Defiler stood still and ripped it out of the sky in round one.

The Land Raiders moved up and softened up the Pox Walker screen - and between the loss of the screen and advancing to shoot, I ended up losing my Death Guard to the crusader squad and Grimaldus.  The Defiler waded in and proceeded to rip them up over a few turns - so they fell back and boarded the Crusader, only for the Defiler to run that down and blow it up.  It died in the resulting explosion, but I'm ok with that.

Typhus and the Emperor's Champion ended up in a fight - which is to say the Champion knocked a wound off, and then Typhus annihilated the champion.

The Hellbrute died to a withering hail of Land Raider firepower.

The psykers actually get some mad points for smiting a number of wounds off the LRCs - without screening units, and with some good rolls (including Typhus knocking off 5 wounds with a single lucky smite roll) one Land Raider was wounded, and the other was softened up enough that the Defiler managed to assault it down.

End Result
Chaos Victory (called turn 4 between time and battlefield situation)
Marines had a single Crusader left

Chaos had cultists, all three characters, pox walkers, and a bloat drone.

1) Land Raider Crusaders - lotta guns
Seriously, between the twin assault cannon and hurricane bolters, they can throw a bucket of dice.  Recommend that you take the multi-melta, because otherwise you're plinking off 1 damage at a time.  That being said, they can fire heavy weapons without penalty, which is crucial becase, y'know, it's an assault transport.

I think two of them in 1500 is a bit all-or-nothing, but they have a lot of firepower-  and also blow up in grand fashion.

2) Land Speeders are squishy
I think 150 for a speeder with a heavy bolter and typhoon launcher is a bit pricey - you need a bunch of targets to make that sorta/kinda worthwhile, and in general they just aren't that hard to kill.  I'd lean towards heavy bolters (standoff range and low cost) or heavy flamers (fire after advancing, auto-hit, and painful while being cheap)

3) Real cost of Cenobites
My opponent put it well - "It's not that they're six points, it's that they're three bodies in the crusader."  They're cheap because they're easy to kill, but it's a pretty solid buff.

4) Defilers are fun counterassault / shooty
Defilers are still a multi-role unit - and that means you're getting versatility in exchange for not using all your capabilities all the time.  You have a heap of firepower and durability, but accuracy isn't your strong suit (WS/BS 4+ is...um...not above-average?)

I'm pretty pleased with the loadout I picked - if I'd had the points, I would have tossed a combi-weapon on (combi-bolter if I'd had one more spare point, otherwise combi-flamer).

The scourge is crucial if you think you're going to get into a fight - you've got three base attacks (albeit, they're S16, 1d6 damage punches) and your WS starts at 4+.  The scourge gets you three more S12 swings at 2 damage each, and you need the volume (or supporting units nearby.

The reaper autocannon and twin heavy bolter cost about the same - if you think you're going to move more I think I'd go twin heavy bolter because it's more dice.  That being said, S7 is on the stronger side of anti-vehicle firepower.

Don't forget they regenerate a wound a turn, too.  It helps if the enemy is chipping away at them.

5) Plague Marines - shoot, don't punch
I went with that loadout because it's what I had out of the Dark Imperium box.  In retrospect, I could've gotten another plasma gun instead of the powerfist.

The melee capability is so-so at best on these guys - just one attack each is kinda 'meh', even if you hit on 3+ and re-roll wound rolls of '1'.

That being said, T5, 3+ saves, and Disgustingly Resilient mean they're a pain to sift out of cover - these guys laughed off a couple rounds of Land Raider shooting from cover.

6) Typhus + Pox Walkers + Support
Pushing Pox Walkers up to T4 is pretty significant - the hop from T3 to T4 makes a hefty difference against small arms.

Typhus himself is slow - if he's buffing Pox Walkers, he's walking behind them.  You want the Noxious Blightbringer to help with pushing them up the field, and you'll benefit from the Malignant Plaguecaster's power of "You take -1 to hit rolls against target unit" power.

Typhus is also kinda nasty in melee.  He technically has a pistol in his Destroyer Hive, but the manreaper has solid strength and 3 damage per hit on top of his stupid WS 2+.

Between the two psykers I had, I could fire off four 'SMITE!' in a turn.  That being said, the limiting factor is targeting - they absolutely HAVE to hit the closest target, so your enemy gets a vote in what you can smite.

That being said, Mortal Wounds vs. harder targets (like Land Raiders, for example) are much more significant than mortal wounds vs. infantrymen.

I don't think Smite Spam is going to be crazy nasty, but you can potentially do some damage.

8) Foetid Bloat Drones
These guys were MVPs.  I'd recommend deploying them in pairs.  They excel at murdering infantry - high toughness, numerous wounds and a good save mean they can weather small arms fire, and their sprays (combined with the ability to break off of a counterassault and spray again) are disgusting.

The speed is great period, but especially in a Death Guard list - it's pretty much your only speedy unit.

In Summary
Land Raiders hurt.  Foetid Bloat Drones are awesome, especially in a Death Guard list.  And seriously, everyone, bring some cheap screens for your army.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

8th Edition - First Impressions of Chaos (or a small subset thereof)

Got round two of 8th edition in, and at my comrade's request I brought the chaos!  We tried out 1500 again.

World Eaters (Battalion Detachment)
Chaos Lord in Terminator Armor (Power Axe, combi-bolter)
5 Chaos Terminators (axes, combi-bolters)
Hellbrute (Reaper autocannon, power flail)
10 Berserkers (power maul on leader)
10 Berserkers (power maul on leader)
10 Cultists (heavy stubber)
2 Heldrakes (flamers)

Imperial Scum (Battalion Detachment)
Command Squad
2 Commissars
Vindicare Assassin
5 Terminators (Assault Cannon)
20 Conscripts
20 Conscripts
20 Conscripts
10 Militarum Tempestus Scions (4 meltaguns)
2 Hellhounds (hull multi-meltas)
Leman Russ (Nova cannon, 3x heavy bolters)
Leman Russ (Battle cannon, lascannon, 2x heavy bolters)

Scenario - 
Try to take the other guy's objective in his DZ - 3 points per objective; 1 point for first blood, 1 point for slaying the warlord, and Linebreaker (wind up in the other guy's DZ)

Short Version
I managed to cross the field, but just didn't have the attacks and bodies to counter it.  Heldrakes ended up with first-turn charges, burning the command squad to death (largely for first blood) and charging hellhounds (because everything else was screened).  One of the helldrakes ended up getting a good angle on a commissar and smoked it as well.

I held off on turn 1 teleportation assaults, mostly because he had more units and could react to whatever I did.  Maybe that wasn't the best call - but the Hellbrute managed to handle the terminators (turns out that seven attacks with solid AP and 2 damage per swing is kinda painful for terminators).  Seriously though, terminators with rapid fire 2 combi-bolters (or storm bolters) can put out an absurd number of shots.

Also - the definition of hilarity is charging with Rhinos (...be sure it's not something that'll murder it with overwatch, mind you).  The enemy has to waste time breaking off, and you get extra distance.

End Result
We called it around turn 4 - I was down to cultists, warpsmith, and the Hellbrute, while he still had a conscript blob and a half, and some beat-up tanks.  I wasn't going to make it across the field, and chances were good he'd be able to shoot me off my own objective.

Lessons -

1) Murdering Characters is Important - 
Some characters offer nastier buffs than others - plenty of guys offer re-rolls on 1's (or re-rolls in general), but others offer much more significant buffs - like commissars making sure that if you do fail morale, you lose only one guy.

So, there are two ways to kill characters at range without tons of guns, given the whole "may not shoot characters unless they're the closest target" restriction -

i) Snipers
If they can see it, they can shoot it.

ii) Fast units
Some units (IE - Helldrakes, or perhaps something like a Coldstar Commander) have the speed to get around screens.  It depends on the type of screen (are they hiding out of LoS, or behind a unit?), but if you've got the speed to get around it and make sure the character is the closest...suddenly it's a legal target.

2) Transport Charges!
Remember that your transports can charge.  It's a potential extra 2d6 of movement, and on the bright side your transport does get to get a few (hilariously ineffectual) attacks in.  But there are a few caveats -

i) Beware overwatch
You are going to give the opponent a chance to take overwatch shots.  Be especially mindful of folks with S5+ auto-hitting weapons - even moreso if you've taken hits on the way in.

ii) Beware of the other guy's ability to punch you
Charging other tanks is one thing.  Charging a bunch of shooty troops probably won't kill you either.  But, you may not want to charge things like Dreadnoughts or monstrous melee creatures.

iii) Beware of the target's friends
So, some folks have large armies - and while your charge target may break off, you may be very close to other folks with guns.  Who will then shoot you.

3) Quantity is its own quality (sometimes)
i) Screens
Having a heap of bodies is useful as a screen, if nothing else - plenty of folks have the ability to drop troops on your head, but they also have to be 9" away.  If you've got enough bodies, you've got board control from deep strikes, and an expendable charge screen.

ii) Filling in Force Org charts
Also if the bodies are cheap enough, you can get into a Battalion Detachment easily - chances are you'll have a few buff HQs you want to take.  +3 CP can be quite useful.

iii) Buffs
Most blobs of bodies can seriously benefit from buffs. (assuming the other guy doesn't snipe your HQs) Examples include -
-Conscript Blobs - Commissars get around morale issues, and guard orders like First Rank Fire! Second Rank Fire! get absolutely ridiculously with 20+ guns benefiting from said orders.
-Pox Walkers - add Typhus (+1S, +1T) for durability and a Noxious Blightbringer (roll 2d6 for the advance and take the higher) and suddenly they turn into a more dangerous screen.

Addendum - most of the armies now have access to large quantities of body - if they aren't explicitly part of your faction (IE - Space Marines) then you've probably got a faction keyword in common with them (IE-- IMPERIUM)

4) Army Size - pros/cons
The more units you have, the less likely you are to have first turn.  However, you've also got the ability to react to the other guy - drop some less-crucial units first, let them make decisions, and then once the other side deploys fully...you get to react to that.

5) Math-hammer got different
This will be a follow-on post, but there are some new dimensions to math in this game - giving everything T and W values (and sometimes a degrading statline) provides for a much finer gradient of durability.