Thursday, July 2, 2009

Further thoughts on Marauders and Repeater Crossbows

This is not a fully formed thought but is something that needs exploring and I am putting up here to perhaps stimulate conversation. It has to do with expectations. What expectations can we have for a Core Unit?

In some armies such as the Dwarf and Wood Elf army, that expectation is they can do damage to any enemy they encounter. For other armies such as the Vampire Counts, Goblins (and probably Tomb Kings?), the expectation is the core units will not do any damage but the Special and Rare units will get the job done.

So lets get started.

Vampire Counts have line troops which are their basic infantry. As a non-VC player, it seems to me those are two-fold: Zombies and Skeletons.

No unit facing Zombies is going to be overly fearful. With an all-but-pointless WS of 1 and S of 2, they will hit just 33% of the time and wound even less than that; only against T3 troops will they even wound that often. Against troops with an "average" stat line of WS3, T3, they will need 9 attacks just to get one wound on average. 

Of course, with their irrelevant initiative of 1, they will seldom have all their line troops attacking back since they are likely to be hit 66% of the time and, with a T of just 2, probably be wounded close to that often. 

So they have an excellent chance of receiving damage every turn of close combat while only doing damage back in return once every four or five turns. 

The Skeletons are slightly better with S and T of 3. So against other troops with an "average" stat line* (where "average" is defined as M4, WS 4, everything else but wounds, attacks and LD as a 3) they will still hit 33% of the time and be hit 66% of the time.

These are their core units, their basic block infantry. These units cannot be counted upon to actually inflict casualties do to their poor stat line. Their saving graces are their cheap costs, ability to re-spawn, and unbreakable nature. 

Compare that to the famed Marauders. They have an  average WS of 4, Average S/T of 3, and decent I of 4. 

Against Zombies and Skeletons they are going to do some damage. Against others, such as Dwarf Warriors and/or Ogre Bulls, they are going to struggle. And against some it will depend on who has the hot dice...say, Repeater Crossbowmen.

Example: say I take 25 Marauders with Full command and give them Lt Armor, shield, and the Mark of Tzeentch to make them as rugged as possible. They start with a Static Combat Resolution score of +4 or +5 due to ranks, banner, and possibly outnumbering.

If I run into Zombies or Skeletons, I expect to win the combat more often than not even though they are likely to cancel most of my SCR. I figure to run my unit 5 wide so will more than likely hit 3 - 4 times per average turn and wound 1-2 zombies or Skeletons who are seldom going to save. Meanwhile, they will then have just 2 - 3 attacking back and hit perhaps once per turn which means I should only lose a Marauder once every 3 turns...less if my saves are working.

Conversely, if I run into Ogre Bulls, the numbers change. With my superior initiative I still look to strike first with 6 attacks (assuming a champion) and hit with 4. Now, however, I wound just  1.33 of them and I believe he saves one in 3. Furthermore, it takes 3 wounds to kill one and reduce his power to strike back. So it takes me 3 - 4 turns to reduce his combat power while he, conversely, is striking back 4 times, hitting 1.33 times, wounding 66% of those and reducing my save to 6+/6+.  I figure to lose that combat if my SCR score does not force him to break.

Clearly, the Marauders then are a unit whose effectiveness is defined by what unit they encounter.

 Contrast that with a unit such as the Chaos Warriors. They are still a Core unit but have WS5, S4, T4. That means against most CORE units, they will hit 66% of the time and wound 66% of the time. Meanwhile, they will only be hit 33% of the time and most core units will wound them either 50% of the time (for the very best enemies) and perhaps even just 33% of the time for the more common ones. 

The Chaos Warriors, then, expect to win the majority of their close combats. It is an upset when they lose one (though I have lost every one I have been in but two....). 

So what does all this have to do with anything?

Altered expectations. 

My Marauders have faced:

Dwarf Warriors.
Ogre Bulls.
Dark Elf Cold One Knights.
Grail Knights. 
A Hydra.
Dark Elf Repeater Bolt Thrower Crews.
Brettonian Pegasus Knights.

That is a much tougher than expected line-up. I have not yet gotten to go up against the softer enemies like the Goblins or Vampire Counts.

As a result, they have done two things consistently; died in droves and failed to do any damage.

I have yet to face the Goblin horde. I have yet to face the Vampire Counts.

Overall, they SHOULD encounter units they have at least a chance against. However, to this point they have only faced such a unit once (the Dark Elf Repeater Bolt Thrower Crew) and failed to wound in that instance...not a terrifyingly huge statistically upset since I had only about 4 guys attacking.

The Dark Elf Repeater Crossbowmen, meanwhile, have encountered the Skinks a couple times, the Vampire Counts at least once, Gnoblars, Marauders, and so forth; they have had targets that fall within the realm of what they can expect to damage.

Since I have not encountered units I can expect to damage but he has played a unit with a similar stat line that he has seen do damage, it is natural he would see the Marauders as a viable combat force whereas I, who due to a variety of factors, have only seen them battle units they have no reasonable expectation of damaging, see them as a worse than useless force...particularly in light of the following.

If I take a unit of Marauders that are intended to win a combat, they start adding up in points. 
First off, I know I have to at least partially rely on static combat resolution. That means 5 wide by 4 deep, a minimum of 20 models. However, since they are so fragile and slow, I know they will take casualties so I want at least 5 additional models. So now I am up to 100 points, not a bad number. Next, I am going to take a Mark. One can make an argument for the Mark of Tzeentch to give them some defense against Magic, but I am more inclined to take the Mark of Nurgle which is better than an armor save.**

I am also going to take Light Armor and Shield if I don't know who I am facing since against Skinks, the Vampire Count army, and even Ogres I will have at least some save. I am now up about 160 points or so for a unit that desperately needs the charge to have a solid chance of doing damage against average opponents.

Compare that to a similar points value of Chaos Warriors. 10 Warriors with Full command, Nurgle, and Shield are about 200 points, or about 40 points more, give or take a nickel. However, they figure to do damage to any enemy they encounter and with T4 and a save of 3+/2+ will stand a lot of punishment. 

So for a similar point total, the expectation is completely different. With the Marauders, their damage dealing potential depends on encountering a favorable match-up in opponents whereas with the Warriors they should always do some casualties.

So when I see two units with similar points values but one having the probability of hurting my opponent while the other is likely to just give my opponents some easy points, it is clear why I have such distaste for the Marauders.

The roll of screen is done better by the Warhounds. They both block line of sight, both are cheap, but the Warhounds have a M7 and are Fast Cavalry. The Warriors, meanwhile, can provide the same role as Marauders as a slow, immobile screening unit while still being worth getting into combat at a similar price. Their only disadvantage is starting 2 behind the Marauders in SCR. 

So from the standpoint of looking at my own army list, other than a cheese use for Marauders (10 man units to grab table quarters), I just see other units that do the same job better for similar points. Kind of like taking Forsaken instead of Chaos Warriors :-)

On the bright side, that is further reason to take them. Units like them, the Chaos Spawn, maybe even the Forsaken will be appearing with more regularity. On the other hand, so will the Warshrine and/or Chariot :-)

So what are your expectations for Core Units? Are they capable of dealing damage or are they only good as screens, march blockers, Frenzy charge drawers, and so forth?

* A quick scan shows that in Core Units, about 3.7 is the average. Some armies such as Goblin Armies have 2s, most versions of Elf armies have 4s, Ogres have 3s, Bretonnian Man at Arms have 2s, and so forth. More armies have 4s than otherwise.

** An armor save forces the opponent to make no additional rolls. However, the Mark of Nurgle reduces their odds of striking by 17%, thus meaning they need to make more to-hit rolls to do the same number of wounds and thus have a smaller party of hits that still need to roll to wound. That is worded awkwardly so a quick number crunching.
10 rolls to hit needing 4s expect to hit 50% of the time, or 5 hits. If they wound 50% of the time, 10 shots will wound 2.5 times. Assuming the save is 6+ (Mark of Tzeentch), <1>
However, if it is 1 harder to hit, that same 17% alteration, the 10 shots now hit 3.33 times. Those 3.33 hits now need to hit 50% so approximately 1.8 wounds. 


Fullur said...

My core unit costs 11 points for the base. There is not point in not taking the spears for an additional 1 point per model since that gives you an extra rank to fight with, effectively doubling your fighting capability. (Maybe closer to 1.5 of your original ability, but regardless it is always worth the 1 point.) Taking 10 costs 120. I usually take a unit of 20 which is 240.

They're WS3 S4 T4 with A2, and have a 3+ save in CC. (5+ Scaly skin + Shields) I have not been in a single combat with them where I won. I rarely get to fight back, even with having 2 ranks of potential fighters, and when I do I hit air. The Saurus are arguably some of the best line troops in the game, but I have been able to do nothing with them.

My expectations for the Saurus at this point is nothing at all. In theory they are great troops, but we have seen them do nothing but lay down every time. Maybe it has been poor play, maybe it has been poor luck, but at this point the Marauders have done more damage than the Saurus that cost 3x as much.

Fullur said...

As for my more comparably priced (to the marauders) skinks, they are base 5 each. They are WS2, S3, T2. They have shields and javelins. The range on the Javelin means if I throw it, I could have charged and next turn you will. If I charge you, I hit 33% so either 1 or 2 times, wound 50% so do maybe 1 wound which you will save 1 in 6 times. You will hit me 50% so 2 to 3 times. You will wound me 66% of the time so 1 to 2 wounds which I will save 1 in 6 times. If I charge we tie, if you charge I lose, and my unit costs more. There is some element of versatility because of the greater M and (extremely short) ranged weapons, but those skinks will only ever use them to respond to a charge, or to annoy some enemy they are behind. The movement might allow me to get into a superior charge position, but that is unlikely if the opponent is awake.

I do not think the line skinks will ever make an appearance in my army again, unless I am trying to add Krox when I have lots of points and no special slots left.

Darth Weasel said...

I find there are 2 crippling numbers: WS3 S3. You can survive one or the other but not both. Because so many enemies will have 4 or better, if you have WS3 and S3, you are going to wound at most 1 in 9 tries and your enemy will have their base save. Hitting 1 in 3 and then wounding 1 in 3 just isn't good enough.

I thought the Saurus should have WS4 and then they would be costed about right. As is, they are over costed in comparison to many other armies. And as we all know, my love of the Lizardmen means that breaks my heart.

Darth Weasel said...

The skinks have skirmishing though, do they not? That makes them very valuable. In our last game, the skirmishing skinks were your strong point and it was the Cold One riders that were the weak link. They, like Glade Guard, are far more effective when shooting than in hand to hand They are also excellent for baiting my Frenzied units into getting out of position. But they have nobody except MAYBE the Ghouls they can reasonably deal with in hand to hand.

kennyB said...

I don't think regular skinks skirmish. I think it's "Skink Skirmishers" that have skirmishing, and they are a couple points more each.

crisjesse said...

I have found that the core units for the vampire counts have another factor to consider. They have the ability to actually change dice rolls...

I expect a 0% chance of hitting, and a 0% chance of wounding with those hits. They have a smooth 0% save rate. This is because they need a... well, it doesn't matter what they need. They're rolling all ones baby!

I think they actually have an army weakness against the lizardmen because of their infatuation with snake-eyes.

I've only played the VC's, so it is possible that it's me who's into snakes. But as far as I know I really dislike snakes. So the scales tip toward the VC's being the single pip fans, and I slither out of the picture.

So while I agree that the core units of VC's are weak, I don't think their stats matter. They're just suckers for snake-eyes.

Wow Gold said...

Interesting blog. I liked it.