Monday, June 20, 2011

What stat is the most important? Drawing it all together

It would be great after all this work to simply type out a formula such as "S=T>A>LD=M>WS>W>I>BS" but that would be inaccurate. Stat importance is a matter of much more than just raw numbers.

Honestly, I had some ideas over what would be the result. But I ws not certain. Hopefully the things written over the last couple weeks will help it all make sense.

You have done all the prep work. You built your list. You found an opponent. You scheduled a game, rolled up terrain and scenario, figured out your battle plan and it is time to run the game. How do you know when and where you should alter your battle plan?

The answer to that question lies within the topic we have been discussing for the last month or so. Knowing how the stats of your troops interact with the stats of your opponents troops lets you know which units you should use to target which units of your opponents.

It is unwise to compare them on a model per model basis. Otherwise, nobody would ever take a skeleton knowing the opponent had access to Witch Elfs.  By the same token, nobody would ever take a Witch Elf knowing the opponent had access to Swordmasters. They might or might not take Swordmasters knowing Chaos Warriors existed.

It is the points values of each model and the synergy created within the army that help figure out which model should be taken when writing the list, and comparing the number of models you have and their stats that should guide your movements on the playing field.

Models have different costs, different strengths and different weaknesses. Those strengths and weaknesses can even change based on what else is accessible to the army as a whole. It depends on the use you have for a unit.

A unit intended to force the enemy to move in certain directions has as its most important component M. That exceeds all other considerations. It needs to get where it needs to be as quickly as possible. Ideally you are looking for fliers, closely backed up by fast cavalry and behind them by skirmishers with high M characteristics.

All of these can get where you need them quickly, have ease of maneuverability, and thus are going to impede the opponent when that is what you need to do. Much like the Russians traditionally use Old Man Winter, you trade space for time. Or, in this case, a relatively inexpensive model/unit to protect your own plans.

In 7th it was an easily abusable tactic called diversion where units were helpless to stop idiotic moves that removed them from the battle. In the vastly improved rules for 8th edition, units behave more intelligently. It is still an effective tactic, except now it saves a bit of time instead of breaking the game.

A unit intending to hold up the enemy for any length of time by contrast has two vital stats; T and LD (if you consider saves to be a stat, add that in.) A and S are nice bonuses. This unit will often be slow and ponderous, filled with models to absorb the inevitable casualties.

Hordes are ideal for this. many players dismiss hordes as "hard to maneuver" or "easy to flank attack", which the skillful player laughs and says, "And your point is?"

A tar pit or anvil type unit is not designed to be maneuverable, it does not care if it gets flanked and turns these theoretical weaknesses into strengths.

First off, when too many people overuse strategies such as the  "refused flank", a properly used horde needs not worry about getting flanked and can occupy a surprisingly large number of enemy units for a great deal of time, allowing you to outpoint them at the point of impact.

Second, against a more standard battle line, a horde formation should have its own flanks protected by fast-moving, maneuverable, hard hitting units. Glass cannons can work well for this, best used in conjunction with the aforementioned speed bumps.

The point is, a unit, whether you are using 100 Skaven Slaves or 18 Chaos Warriors with Hand Weapon, Shield and mark of tzeentch, if it is a unit that wants to hold up the enemy for a long time it has as its most important stats T and LD. This is one reason Skaven Slaves are good at it...but Chaos Warriors are better. They die slower. (And kill more stuff on the way out the door).

It is also the reason something like a hundred Chaos Warhounds would be laughably bad. Between their low T and non-existent LD, they would flee instantaneously.

Units designed to win through wars of attrition...grind it out combats lasting numerous rounds...value A first, S second, T third and LD fourth. They want the capability of putting out high volumes of attacks in a small amount of time for the pure potential.

Glass cannons care about three stats only; I, A, S. Give them I5, 4 attacks each and S5 somehow and they are ecstatic. Add Always Strikes first and they are almost broken good. Add a good WS and they are the superman of the Warhammer field. Of course, if they attack the wrong unit...say the tar pit we discussed above, prior to softening it up they will lose, and rightfully so. You need to wear down that opponent first.

Naturally, you are not always able to get the ideal troop for any given job. No matter how much they whine, no matter how much they beg, no matter how much they plead, no matter how many times you feed them after midnight*, an elf is still not going to mystically develop a reliable T4, 5 or better. Sure, you will sometimes be able to buff them up with Wyssans Wildform, Flesh to Stone, or something similar...but counting on that turn after turn is a recipe for disaster.

So how do you determine the best unit when you cannot get a decent number on one or more of the key stats? Take the High Elf army as an example.

Designed to be an elite army, they have T3 across the board, seldom have better than a 5+ armor save if that and that only with upgrades, are expensive compared to units like Skaven Slaves, goblins, Chaos Marauders, Gor, Peasants, State Troops, Skinks and so forth.

Nor are they loaded with high S troops. They have a couple in units like the Swordmasters and Phoenix Guard, but these units are prohibitively expensive, costing the same as a Chaos Warrior before his mandatory upgrade yet with lower T and armor saves, though with higher LD.

It is easy for a High Elf army to maximize their glass cannon units. With Dragon Princes, they can even fit in some relatively durable units that can hit like a ton of bricks if they get the charge.

So what stat is most important for the High Elf armies that need an anvil?

They really cannot create a viable anvil from any unit outside their core. Points restrictions alone ensure that it must be from their core unit.

So the next thing we look at is what stats are most important for the job at hand. We know they will be at best lightly armored with a T3. This means they cannot accomplish a traditional anvil. The best unit they have to serve as an anvil would be either Dragon Princes or Phoenix Guard, but neither of those is practical for multiple reasons; it is using those units in a sub-optimal role for their stats, they are limited in size due to being Special choices, and they cost far too much to serve as anvils.

Spearmen would be a clear best choice if they did not have spears. Their light armor/shield and relatively low cost would allow them to fulfill the role using the parry rule to enhance their durability. But of course their having spears eliminates this possibility.

Thus the High Elfs find the most important stats for an anvil are by and large unavailable to them. Only LD is at a high level. Their best hopes therefore are adding a Noble with Crown of Command and excellent protection to keep him alive, and combining this with reducing the enemy threat as it comes in to keep the anvil alive longer.

Thus they need a powerful missile and magic phase. If they let sledgehammer units like ranked up Minotaurs, Cold One Knights, Tomb King Chariots ranked up, etc. then they are going to melt far too fast to effectively perform their assigned role.

So it becomes a matter of either going without the anvil or working around being without the key stats. There is a way of doing that;  as mentioned before, put in a well-protected character with the Crown of Command and keep the BSB nearby to make them a re-rolling LD9 or LD10 unit. Give them enough bodies and they can hold up even the most determined buzz-saw unit for a few turns.

Obviously then different stats are more important for different roles. Yet there are some stats which clearly rise above others in importance.

Hitting on 3+ is nice but over the course of may games, both WS and BS will prove to be less useful than a high score in S, T, or A.

You have to fit these things in with your own play style. Take the Repeater Bolt Thrower, for example.

Numerous charts are available showing their value or lack thereof in comparison to say...10 Repeater Crossbows for the Dark Elf army (an easy comparison as they are exactly equivalent in points). Yet despite the math showing a clear winner, you will see several distinct camps;

-Those who swear by shooting the RBT as a single bolt.
- Those who swear by shooting the RBT as a volley.
- Those who swear by not even taking an RBT.
- Those who swear by the RxBs.
- Some who vary it by target; single bolt versus monsters, heavily armored troops, etc. and volley versus everything else, for example.

It will depend on the nature of the player which is the right way to go. Some people really like to gamble and take long shots...rolling 2 dispel dice hoping for double 6s, running 10 skeletons against a horde of Empire Greatswords and hoping to win, etc.

For this player, they are going to like the single bolt. For them the most important stats are BS and S.
For the player who hates to put their hopes in one die roll, the volley is better. they value the A stat. Or maybe even prefer the RxB line with its lower S.

So once more I have gone off on a tangent. Back to the primary topic.

If I were given the ability to max out one stat it would be S. If I were given a second it would be A, third would be T, 4th LD, then M, WS, I, and last of all BS.

The difference in importance is often negligible and can often be compensated for. But in my eyes, those are the important stats and a bit of why.

I am not dogmatic about it, I can certainly see where others might disagree. In fact, that is what I hope to see; people disagreeing with my assertions and explaining why. It will illuminate different strategies than the ones I use.

And be much less controversial than the post I am working on; how to beat the Warriors of Chaos the way I play them.

Hint; as was said at the close of the Charlie McCarthy/Edgar Bergen show; it ain't easy. And that ain't cause I suck.

* For those too young to have seen Gremlins, this sentence was intended as a homage to that flick. For those who have seen it, I hope you laughed.


Fnurgn said...

Really enjoyed this series of posts. Thanks.

Darth Weasel said...

glad you enjoyed them. Hope you found some value in them.