Friday, April 22, 2011

Facts on the Ground: Pt II

DFK! checking in.

So in Part I, we talked about what Mathhammer is, and why it isn't the end of the planet as we know it (I mean I guess it could be and I'm just small-minded, but I doubt it). Mathhammer can be a solid tool to help you inform your list build and strategy, which brings us to what I like to call Theoryhammer.

That's just my little pet name for the idea of taking your stats and maths and applying them , combined with utilizing the current theories of what is "good" (besides Greed, we all know that's good).

This means you take your stats and take the Intertubez feeding you stories about Multiple Small Units and try to make an army list centered around this concept. Or you may do your all-jumper list because the math indicates you can do X number of assaults/shots/whatevers on turn 1 or 2, killing Y units of the enemy's.

The bottom line, importantly, is that this is still a stat game. The difference now, instead of just looking at the math of "this unit equipped this way will kill this much of the enemy," you're looking broader picture and applying that math. With that little primer out of the way, lets look at one of the biggest decisions you have to make in list construction (in my opinion), in 5th Edition list-building: small units or big units.

Ignoring some of the variables such as whether a big unit will fit into the transport options available to them (because some won't, they're just too large), let me talk about the math behind big units and small ones.

In statistics, the larger your "sample," the more likely the outcome is to align properly to the average. In 40k, this means that the more dice you put into a bucket and throw on the table, the more likely you are to get an average outcome.

This is basically where I think that Orks get their rep as a n00b army, because they can take very large squads with a blinding number of attacks, rolling as many as 120 dice on the charge. A "sample" this large is very likely to be statistically correct, hitting either 60 or 80 times, depending on the WS of the opponent.

Additionally, a large group has what I call a larger "degree of damage", ensuring that you kill enough stuff to have a real effect. A small squad might have a chance of killing, say 1.7 enemies when shooting, whereas a big squad may have twice that and be more statistically likely to achieve it. This can matter when 1.7 isn't enough to force a morale check but 3.4 is. (It can matter a bunch of other times too, but the list is too big for this already long article).

On the other end of the spectrum, we have things like combat squads of marines or even lone Crisis suits. 5 marines dealing 10 attacks on the charge or a Crisis suit dealing a whopping 3. The dice in a "sample" this small are very easy to go cold (see Rd. 2 of DrkMoral's Adepticon tourney for example) on you, yielding numbers that just don't align with the averages.

What multiple groups of 5 marines does get for you, though, is the pure mathematical fact of having target saturation: more units than the enemy does. This means you can overwhelm him more easily simply by virtue of the shooting and assaulting rules. It gives you more flexibility and potential damage output/precision while sacrificing reliability and "degree" of damage.

In short, larger units are going to give you Statistical reliability and a certainty of inflicting damage, whereas smaller units are going to help you generate target saturation and give you precision of firepower.

How do you decide which you want? Well that depends on your mindset, your playstyle, what army you use, and even what list and units within that army you prefer.

If you want to read more, I see that Kirby just talked about the MSU concept in more depth recently on his blog. Check it out there.

Next time, I'll talk about when to take all this math stuff and shove it out the window.

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