Monday, June 6, 2011

Warhammer: What stat is most important? Ballistic Skill

On the surface Ballistic Skill (BS) is similar to weapon skill in that is determines how often you strike your opponent. Naturally, the higher number you have as a stat the more likely you are to hit and therefore how much damage you can potentially deal out in a single go.

Once you get past that, however, it is vastly different. Unlike WS, you control most of the factors which affect your chances of hitting your target. Range, movement, whether your opponent has cover all matter when it comes to figuring out how likely you are to hit.

Clever use of movement can deny cover and close (or add) range, but at the cost of the shot being more difficult*. Of course, it can also put your precious missile troops right where they want to risk of being in close combat.

As a result, determining the best course of action to maximize your shooting relies on a good battle plan, clever maneuvering, and then your bs.

The side note is that many missile weapons only have S3. So even if you hit your target, you often will either see your shot bounce off the target harmlessly or even see it deflected by the most humble armor. This can be extremely frustrating.

Of course, at the other end of the spectrum are stronger weapons; S4 handguns, Bolt Throwers which allow no armor skill, etc.

The net result is shooting has a wide range of effectiveness and different weapons have to be used in different ways. It is one of the ironies of Warhammer that sometimes it is counter intuitive which missiles are best used against which targets. One example would be skinks.

Their short range, low S javelins, for example, require them to be exactly where they do not want to be; close to monsters like a Sphinx, for example, which can thunderstomp them to death in a flurry of high S auto hits. Yet the lack of armor on the Sphinx means their poison is very deadly to the Sphinx...and the close range, low S nature means they are much less valuable against the inexpensive skeletons.

So how important is a high BS? As with so many things in Warhammer, the answer is, "it depends". What is the role of that troop? How reliably can they deliver the shots when and where they are needed?

In 8th edition the amount of time a unit can reasonably expect to have viable targets and opportunity to fire is seldom going to be more than 2 or at most 3 turns per game. As a result, they need to maximize the damage they do in that short period of time.

At some point in the future I might write a piece on target selection, which matters hugely. But for now, I am going to stick with determining how important BS is.

On the one hand, it is less reliant on M than WS is since by definition it has a range greater than base to base contact.

However, it is more reliant on other factors which are more controllable than WS and one that isn't. The fact that most shooting is low S means the probability of doing a great deal of damage is generally limited. There are of course numerous exceptions;

Units that use poison, weapons giving S4 and/or armor piercing, units that can put out ridiculous numbers of shots.

But by and large, even the best missile troops are going to, at best, thin the numbers they or their close combat compatriots will face when the lines smash into each other.

It is important to use it well, and for some armies it is more important than others, but in 8th edition, BS is important but not the most vital.

* Not including the variety of weapons that ignore movement or other factors. And Tomb Kings.


kennyB said...

Well put.

"But by and large, even the best missile troops are going to, at best, thin the numbers they or their close combat compatriots will face when the lines smash into each other."

In addition to these things, if the troop is only good at shooting, their value is significantly reduced, because in conjunction with the above statement you can usually find better things to do with the points than try to bank on a not very good chance that the target you need to soften will be within range, you can draw LoS to it, it is not in close combat already nor obscured, and is damageable by mundane means such as S3 7+ to hit missile weapons. Not always, but usually.
Add on to that the normal softness exhibited by shooty troops and they are free points to a weak unit of the opponents that closes the gap, which is not difficult to do with a 2d6+M charge range!

Darth Weasel said...

For some troops that is true. Not all.

For example, the Wood Elf Glade Guard are a greater threat from 1/4" to 15" when shooting...but a greater threat in close combat than from 16" to 30" due to their nice WS and I. The S is equal.

The only advantage to shooting i no threat to be hit back.

But that is somewhat counteracted by being almost incapable of completely destroying a unit and thus earning victory points.

Internet convention says turn 2 is where combat is joined. I have sometimes seen that, sometimes not...regardless, the role of shooters is generally not to wipe out units but make them more manageable...for example, as we have seen and will see, if Dark Elf Spearmen face equal numbers of Chaos Warriors, they are going to die a horrible death 1999 times out of 2000. But if those Warriors are whittled down, the DE might get lucky, have the CW whiff their rolls and lose to SCR.

Still unlikely...but a lot more likely than an untouched unit!

personally, I would just as soon never face rxb again...I love that you no longer like them and hope you stop taking them :-)

kennyB said...

If they actually softened units it would be fine. Unfortanately, even with 60-80 rxb shots and 2 rbt they tend to fail miserably at doing anything, and therefore:

Actually, I have been forced in this edition to probably abandon everything except them, and plan on fielding (literally) hundreds of them as no other troop in the DE is really worth anything better. Once they are in h2h nothing actually performs better so might as well field the only "utility" troop they possess. Wheee. Being forced into a boring battle because it is the best tactical choice in an army. Of course, that's only against armies that generally feel cheap or aren't fun to play against first, like.....dwarves. Tournabout is fair play, stumpys!
I shall use my only strength against you in great numbers. You may have gromril armour, toughness, strength, ld, and weaponskill but I have 200 rxb's and 4 rbt's. Of course, my str vs your t and armour will lose terribly to your str vs my t and armour but at least it will give me a chance (if luck be with me!)....

Darth Weasel said...

Ironically, most of the DE guys trash talking the WoC (check out the Druchi forum, there is lots of it) have certain units they think devastate high T, well armored troops which are NOT massive shots...which SHOULD make me want to see them more.

But when I saw your 50 man horde of RxB I thought, "Wow, if our games get to be that, I see a very short future for my Warhammer playing".

For the way you play, which is different than the way others play, it might be the best choice for sure.

But it would remind me of that over the top cheese-fest that was the maxed-out Dwarf War machine list that piled on top of each other.

I freely admit if we as a group ever get to the point I see those lists more than once a year...Ugh. Is there a point to playing?

I have striven to keep from doing those things with every army I have built.

I have never taken the double h-cannon or the 3+ ward Chosen deathstar unit, have never maxed out my Knights, mix it up with more Chaos marauders and Chaos Knights than I am required to make...

for a while I started to think about switch it because I kept running into lists that were just flat-out stronger than mine, but have not caved yet.

When I took the Dwarfs, I have never taken more than at worst 2 cannons, 1 organ gun and a couple units of Thunderers.

With the HE I have never done the Teclis and Book of Hoeth routine.

I would mention a bent Beastmen list if there was one...but I have not done that either.

I have tried in all my lists to keep them reasonable.

Sounds like I have failed and sadly, despite this being the best edition of Warhammer ever, I am losing interest in the game.

The army that plays a style I like is hated and the lists are getting more bent so what is the point?