Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Warhammer Tactica: Chaos Marauders

Chaos Marauders are an interesting troop. Their stat line is rather pedestrian. They are average or worse across the board. On the bright side, they also are very cheap, checking in at only 4 points, a number that in a vacuum sounds to cheap until you put it in the context of an army who has only one other selection under 13 points apiece.

This indicates the Marauders can be used in a similar way to Goblin line troops: pure bulk and numbers. Unlike Goblins, however, the Marauders have nothing like a Fanatic to provide a little bit of punch unless they are backing up a Chaos Hero, perhaps an Exalted Hero or something along that line.

To be most effective at doing that, they need to be tooled up to make them a little more rugged. After tooling up, they then become close in points to far superior troops such as the Chaos Warriors. So how best to use them?

First, lets look at their capabilities. We will start with their special rule, The Will of Chaos.

The Will of Chaos allows them to re-roll failed Panic tests. With a standard Leadership of 8 and 2 rolls, that means they have an 89% chance of staying in place against even the highest casualties.

With a movement of 4" per turn (8" if marching) and no rule such as Fast Cavalry, Always March or Skirmish at their disposal, that means they must account for crossing movement-blockers such as rough ground or obstacles that force them to move around.

As a result, their best formation is 5 or at most 6 models wide. This will provide the best coverage for troops behind them while providing them with the maximum maneuverability.

This limits their effectiveness as a shooting shield. They still are quite effective in front of Chaos Warriors, who have the same limitations, but are far less effective when trying to protect Chaos Knights, for example. Their slow movement will only inhibit the Knights from doing what they do best; rapidly getting into combat.

Their effectiveness as shooting shields is further limited by their squishy nature. With a toughness of 3 and at best Light Armor and Shield, they will be wounded by better than 50% of the shots that hit them and since most shots have a -1 due to armor piercing (with many missile weapons having a S4 in addition, the effectiveness of Light Armor and Shield is completely nullified), their save rate will be somewhat less than 18%.

As a result, an average weapon firing on even a low average Ballistic Skill of 3 with a S3, Armor Piercing will do 13.5% casualties, though the overall number suffered from shooting is likely to be closer to 20%.*

With limited maneuverability, limited frontage, and limited survivability, their effectiveness as shooting shields is probably best served in the minimum unit size of 10 models with no upgrades. Checking in at a minimal 40 points, they will prove their value often enough to justify the expense only if used virtually error-free.

However, a 10 man unit with no upgrades fulfills very few other useful battlefield functions. Their close combat capability is quite limited as their kill rate is only .95.

This is not to say 40 point 10 man units do not have their uses. They are excellent for at least two things.

First, they provide cheap cover to Wizards. If you have an unmounted Wizard, placing him in a small unit of Marauders keeps him from being targeted by enemy fire and also gives him the benefit of the "Look Out Sir" rule.

Second, they are excellent for contesting table quarters and seeking out objectives. The typical Chaos army will have vastly superior targets and Marauders can often sneak by unnoticed. Even if the opponent attacks them, they have to do 5 casualties to get just 20 points and have to completely wipe them out to get a pointless 40 points. I will happily risk 40 points to gain 100.

It is therefore clear that unaugmented, minimal units of Marauders have very limited uses and only fit in a few armies.

A little tooling up, however, can turn them into a lethal force. This can be particularly effective with one of their best uses: a Static Combat Resolution bonus for Wulfrik the Wanderer.

Wulfrik has 3 excellent uses; he can attack the back line of heavy missile fire builds. His ability to enter from any table edge gives him the ability to target those deadly War Machines and gun lines that can be so problematic for the Warriors of Chaos. Second, he can seek out and often kill specific troublesome enemy characters. Third, he can come on either side of the board to threaten an enemy flank.

Alone, however, he is susceptible to being killed simply by losing combats to Static Combat Resolution (SCR). If he runs into a unit 2 ranks deep with a standard, the best he can hope to do is tie the combat as his 4 attacks would all have to slay just to equal the enemy SCR.

Marauders roaming around with him can offset the outnumbering and rank bonus deficits he would face on his own. A basic 20 Marauders with Standard Bearer is just 88 points and gives you either a +4 or +5 SCR bonus depending on whether you outnumber the foe or not.

They still have the problem of not doing damage, however. So what happens if we tool them up a little bit?

First off, you need to be able to survive long enough to strike back. That limits one to either the Mark of nurgle or the Mark of tzeentch. The latter mark gives a 6+ Ward Save meaning slightly less than a 17% save rate. The nurgle mark makes them more difficult to hit by 17%. It is therefore slightly more effective.***

Second, when you do strike back, the Marauders need help with their strength. They average slightly less than 50% wound rate since opponents average a Toughness 3.33. Therefore, an increase in strength is paramount. Giving them Heavy Weapons increases their Strength score to 5 at the cost of striking last. When they do hit, though, they become quite likely to wound, needing just a 3 or even sometimes a 2 to wound.

So a tooled up unit of Marauders with nurgle, Great Weapons, and possibly even Light Armor and Shield for options when you run into weaker horde armies means a unit of 20 Marauders with Standard Bearer is only 168 points, less than the cost of Wulfrik alone and well worth it for their ability to give him significant help in close combat. Here we find a great use for Marauders.

But there is a second use that will often be equally effective in another support role. Enter the Chaos Spawn. Spawn are often sent out to hold up tough units and maybe do a little damage on their way out the door. However, with a little support these rather sporadic troops might be able to not just hold up an individual unit, they might be able to define the events in a table quarter. Even the most expensive Spawn is just 85 points. Now, add the same Marauder unit we saw above for Wulfrik and you have a potentially devastating combination.

By moving the Marauders whatever distance the Spawn moves or as close to it as possible if he rolls 9 or above for movement, you have ready-made support troops. The Spawn is likely to hold the enemy in place long enough for the Marauders to maneuver to get in a flank or even rear charge. With their SCR and the Spawns unbreakable nature, you are likely to get a combat win with a significant modifier to their leadership (assuming they are neither Unbreakable orStubborn, of course).

This requires a bit of practice to learn how to maneuver them and you also have to be willing to watch your Marauders occasionally be the unit that is fleeing as, after all, they are still Marauders and really just cheap meat shields.

So now we have seen at least 4 regular good uses for Marauders.
1) Cheap cover for Wizards.
2) Cheap units to seize table quarters and objectives.
3) Inexpensive but potentially devastating support for Wulfrik.
4) Inexpensive but potentially devastating support for Chaos Spawn.

Ultimately, what use you generate for them will therefore depend on your over-all army composition. Use your points wisely and soon you will find Marauders in almost every list you put together.

* 100 shots needing 5s to hit (assuming over half range, move or fire, or some other -1 modifier) are going to hit approximately 33 times, wound 16.5 times, and kill about 13.5 times. Missile troops generally line up about 10 wide in our local play area, so it will take about 10 turns to cause those casualties, thus giving shots needing a 5 to strike with a Kill Rate of .74. (Kill Rate is expected casualties per full-strength turn. Simply divide the casualties caused by the number of turns it took to cause them.)

The numbers are even worse if they need 4s which will be quite common against Elf or Dwarf armies where in some cases, the number will be 3 to hit. With a 4 needed, they will be hit 50 times in 100 shots, wounded 25 times and slain 20.5 times, resulting in a Kill Rate of 2.05.
In cases where a 3 is successful, 67 hit, 33 wound, and 27 kill. This is an impressive 2.7 kill rate.
Thus we see sub-standard troops will kill Marauders on 13% of their shots whereas good shooting troops have a 20% kill rate and elite shooters have a 27% kill rate.

** They expect to hit on 50% of their attacks. Assuming an average opponent toughness of 3.333 (averaging the core unit toughness scores of all possible opponents) they will wound slightly less than a quarter of their attacks. Most troops are equipped with at least light armor with some having heavier armor, so an average armor save of 6 is not unreasonable meaning of those approximately 23 wounds, slightly less than 19 wounds per hundred will be done.

However, to strike 100 times is tricky as they will generally lose troops to opposing missile fire while crossing the field and with their Initiative of 4 they will often lose several front line troops before attacking back. With a base unit, they will generally be 5 wide which means it would take them 20 turns of attacking to do those 19 kills giving them a Killing Rate of .95 under the most optimal circumstances.

*** If an opponent hits you at a 50% clip and wounds the same, and you save 17% of the time, 100 strikes will do 20.75 kills. However, if you make it 1 harder to hit, they now are hitting about 33% of the time. Now 100 strikes result in 33 hits of which still 50% wound, or 16.5 kills per hundred. Thus it is obvious that being harder to hit is better than a Ward Save of the same percentage except the exceptions of Magic and Template weapons.