Thursday, June 2, 2011

Warhammer: What is the most important stat? First up, Movement

When you sit down to look at a roster in Warhammer, one of the things that jumps out at you is the sheer amount of information. How many times have you seen a roster sheet with "M WS  BS  S  T  W  I  A LD" plastered across the top?

For the experienced Warhammer player, it is very easy to get a general feel for it. We know the baseline that has been established is the Human stat. If the line you are looking at is equal to it, you have a rough idea of that model's capabilities. If slightly higher you will have a rough idea of how often you will win against that model and how often you expect the minor upset of losing to it.

Even a lowly Gnoblar can expect to deal the occasional wound to a might Dragon, for example, but it is an unusual event that always comes as a surprise. But even a Gnoblar will roll a 5 to hit one in 3 attempts, and of those hits 1 in 6 will score a wound. As a general rule, 4 of those wounds will be saved (assuming 3+ scaly skin) which means actually scoring a wound is not something you expect to do, but you will always accept that unexpected bonus.

But what is the most important stat? Lets go through them one by one and do a bit of examination.

First up is movement. Ranging from 3 to 9, there is a wide range of movement. What dwarf has not bemoaned being doubled up by the sneaky skinks who run circles around them, never provide a valid target, and cannot be drawn into combat?

Of course, most models and units can double their base rate through marching, though this comes at the price of limited maneuverability. Still, it does allow them to traverse the field much more quickly.

In the end, most models that will do the bulk of the fighting are infantry and range between 3 and 6. Most models that value the charge are much quicker in their movement, with cavalry and units wanting to deal impact hits at the forefront.

The new, improved charging rules rightfully make it less certain those units will get the charge, though properly played they are still far more likely to achieve their goal.

There are ways of getting around it, however. You can defend an obstacle, lock down the chargers with a unit that can sustain the casualties, then grind down the units that count on the damage done by the charge, and so forth.

Even if you do not control who gets the charge, you can control where the combat occurs and who is involved if you have superior movement.
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Take this scene for example. On the left are Chaos Knights, movement of 7, who have charged into some skinks, movement 6. Behind the trees and in the flank of the Chaos Warriors are some more skinks with a Kroxigor in the second rank (this game was played during 7th edition, but the principles still hold true) and ahead, but to the left of them are some ranked up Skinks.

If the Lizardman player so chooses, the skinks will not engage in close combat ever again in this game. Their superior movement means they can stay out of range of the Chaos Warriors. There is only one other Chaos unit on the table and they are too far away to protect the forwardmost unit.

If they ever close in combat the Chaos Warriors will not just win the combat but will absolutely CRUSH the skinks well over 90% of the time. They are stronger, tougher, better armored, better weapon skill, and have more attacks. So the Chaos Warriors will hit more often, wound more often, and save more often. Thus it behooves the Skinks to use their superior movement to avoid combat.

Meanwhile, the knights will almost assuredly overrun the skinks on the left and take 2 - 3 turns to get back in to the battle. They will therefore be unable to protect the Warriors and use their superior movement to force combat.

Generally speaking, the faster force will therefore be allowed to choose which units fight. Movement can and should be used to ensure you are getting your units into the combats you want them in. If your tooled up Chaos Warrior unit slams into a Night Goblin horde and somehow loses the combat, you live with that result.

By contrast, if you let your Chaos Warriors get charged by Grail Knights you should not be surprised to see your troops disappear under an avalanche of S6 attacks and are probably going to lose that combat most of the time.

Clearly it is important to pick your fights.  Movement is the way to do that.

Thus, IN A VACUUM, the movement characteristic is the most vital. In truth, there are ways to control space that allow slower moving forces to bring faster forces to battle.

I have mentioned hordes before. On the internet, many people have dismissed hordes, pointing out that most units that can horde are units that do no damage. The general argument goes, "With a horde you get x number of extra low ws, low s attacks that do less than one wound per round according to mathhammer".

All true. All irrelevant. The horde unit can be used more effectively to control space than it can to actually deal damage.

Lets say you want your Black Orcs to be able to beat face on a unit they desperately do not want to get charged by....say, an Always Strikes First impact causing Tomb King Chariot unit. (I assume their magic would let this happen...if nothing else, they could get the I10 spell off. Might be something that cannot be done, but the principle of a unit you do not want to get charged by holds...say ranked Ogre Bulls)

That Tomb King unit is going to absolutely buzzsaw through the Night Goblin unit, winning most combats by double digits. Of course, the properly built and played Night Goblin unit designed for this task will have decent leadership, steadfast, and a re-roll from the nearby battle standard bearer which means even after taking 30 casualties, they are still there.

Now the Black Orcs can sweep around the flank and get into combat with the chariots/Ogre Bulls/impact unit of doom despite having slower movement.

It does require some skill and the knowledge of how to protect your flank chargers from getting flanked themselves. And obviously the example of Night Goblins versus chariots assumes a field where you can somewhat direct where the chariots are going to go through use of terrain and deployment.

But it is a powerful tool in the hands of slow moving armies. It is one method to minimize slow movement.

And it is a demonstration that movement is important but not the only important factor. After all, if you somehow double the speed of Gnoblars but that is all you have...they are still going to lose to any half-decent troop anyway. Great movement with poor troops helps, but it does not make them good troops.


kennyB said...

I believe with the 2d6+M charge rule, especially added to the line of sight + distance (but ignore wheeling distance) charge rule, base movement has become far less important than it was in 7th edition. Having Dwarves (M3) being able to outcharge Skinks (M6) has significantly reduced the movement characteristics....significance. In my experience so far, base movement has done very little in fact. With scouts and vanguard in addition, base movement has been severely reduced in effectiveness.

Darth Weasel said...

the charge rule is great when you get within 12" or so...but moving to get there matters hugely for some troops as we saw with Chariots v. Minotaurs.

I suspect had I got the impact hits instead of you that combat would have had a much different outcome...which is why you having such an awesome move phase mattered.

Dwarves outcharging skinks is possible but unlikely...-3 on 2 dice pretty much means they start out with only 5 pips on the dice instead of 6.

But more to the point, Skinks move as fast as Dwarf armies march, and with proper maneuvering can often keep out of charge arcs or force unlikely charges...say 12" where they need a 9 on the dice to hit...

Scouts and Vanguard are nice and helpful, I certainly agree. But they really only help missile troops. Few and far between are the scouts and vanguards who are a credible threat to say...a unit of Witch Elves. In fact, if I am Witch Elves and someone vanguards to within 12" of me, I love it as I will probably one-turn wipe them out and get extra movement via overrun.

Same is true if I am a block of fighty Dwarves or High Elf Swordmasters.

So base M is still important if people work to maneuver.

Though unquestionably it is less important in 7th where 8" move for Grail Knights v. 7" for Chaos Knights more or less meant near auto-win for Grail Knights before chaos Knights got to attack...and 4" m Chaos Warriors and marauders were always the MVP of every battle...for the opponent who could wipe out the front rank and win the combat before they ever got to swing.

So it is less important...and that is a great thing.

kennyB said...

Movement and Magic phase. I didn't have a great Movement phase. I had a regular one. Then I charged in the magic phase (last edition TK book).

Darth Weasel said...

TK NEVER have a great movement phase. They move 4" or less. That charge was awesome and devastating.

I hate to admit it...but I am kind of sorry they took the magic charge away. Added a lot of strategy to the magic phase for the Tk