Sunday, May 1, 2011

Kill Points, Not as Bad as You Think

Good morning everyone, hope you've had a good week or so while we've been working on wrapping up our classwork for this year. I haven't gotten to play as many games as I would like, but I wanted to talk about something that I think a lot of people and I will disagree on and spark some discussion on. Let's talk about having a lot of kill points in your army.

As the win condition for one of the three big rule book missions, kill points are a point of contention between people who hate them and...well most people hate them. As far as I know, this hatred comes from the equality of units in the kill points system. To get a kill point all you have to do is completely destroy a unit. All units are worth one kill point, no matter how expensive or hard to kill they are. A squad of three termigants, a devilfish and a land raider are each worth one kill point which is the major point of contention with people who hate kill points.

In contrast the 4th edition big rule book used a system based on how much each unit cost in points, called victory points. Victory points still exist in the 5th edition big rule book, but in my experience are rarely played, so let's only touch on them briefly. Using victory points a player would receive the points cost of a unit if it was completely destroyed and half the points cost if it was reduced to half strength or suffered a weapon destroyed or immobilized result. This rewarded players more for killing expensive units than it did for killing small impotent units and it made it possible to get some value out of damaging a vehicle that refused to die. With kill points you are left empty-handed unless something is entirely dead.

Tournaments that I go to generally use kill points as a tie breaker in objective games and as a primary win condition. Knowing this and that our gaming club uses the big rule book missions, most people around here are very conscious of how many kill points are in their lists. Their line of thinking goes that if a high kill point army fights a low kill point army it is at a disadvantage because the low kill point army has a lower threshold of kill points to attain before it will win unless it is wholly annihilated.

This is absolutely true, but I think it is incomplete in its analysis of having many units in an army. In having a high number of kill points, a list must also have a high number of units. The vanilla, blood angel and grey knight codices have the ability to break their squads into combat squads under certain conditions, creating new units and kill points. The imperial guard has the ability to combine multiple infantry squads within a platoon to reduce the number of units and kill points in the army. Each combat squad can operate independently and do the same thing their parent unit could do, albeit at half the strength.

The benefits of having these Multiple Small Units is in the more efficient allocation of damage and protection from overwhelming damage it affords the army as a whole. If a platoon's infantry squads combine, they stop conceding multiple kill points if they all die, but they can no longer act independently. While a combined squad of four infantry squads with lascannons can generate four lascannon shots on one target which may be effected by a single order, the four infantry squads can generate four lascannon shots that target independently. While some vehicles are more difficult to destroy than others, any can be killed in one penetrating hit. If all four lascannons fire at a vehicle simultaneously the odds of killing that vehicle are the same, barring any unit effecting abilities like orders, as if they were to be fired at it sequentially. However, if the infantry squad were to fire sequentially from different units, it is entirely possible that the first shot could kill the vehicle. This would allow the remaining units to fire at the vehicle's contents, if any, or another target. If the first shot does not kill the vehicle, the other shots may still be fired at the target, but if all of the shots were in one large unit, they must all fire simultaneously at the same target, baring abilities like target locks. By having more units, rather than fewer larger units, the units are able to more efficiently allocate their damage output.

On the reverse, units must only shoot at one unit, again barring special abilities. Some units have the ability to put out enough damage to eradicate a full squad, be in marine combined guard or any other, in one shooting phase. Consider the possibility that one unit was to receive enough wounds that its full strength version would perish. If the unit is at full strength they will all die, but if the unit has been divided into smaller portions only that smaller portion will die. It is simply impossible to lose ten models out of a five model unit. I will fully admit that those five models are dead and your opponent has received a kill point, which would be true whether the unit was divided or not. However, if you have divided the unit's special weapons evenly, the enemy has only taken away a portion of the full strength unit's damage output. While you have conceded a point towards the win condition or tiebreaker, you have retained more ability to take points in return than you would have if you had not divided your unit.

This MSU strategy is especially effective in objective games where any unit may contest a point and troops may claim them. The same weaknesses and strengths that apply in kill point missions apply here, but the ability to have more units that can claim objectives raises the threshold of units that a low kill point army must destroy to prevent the high kill point army from being unable to claim or contest an equal number of objectives.

These are my heretical thoughts on kill points and I would welcome anyone who disagrees to persuade me that I am wrong. I will attempt to do likewise for you and perhaps we will both gain a broader understanding of the subject. I leave you with a joke.

Why can twelve vanilla marines fit in a drop pod while only ten wolves or angels can?
The pod doesn't have room for the wolves' egos or the angels angst.


  1. While you make a good point about how making units one or many is true, it's invalid in an argument of why kill points are better/worse than victory points.

    How do kill points truly advance the game? I have been wondering why this change occurred, and I personally dislike the idea that it's better because it simplifies the game.

    So curiously, why are kill points, a system you yourself say is not as good as the old victory point system, not bad. Your article talks about why the KP system isn't unbalanced... but is clearly a step down from the old system. I generally look at steps back as a bad thing in many cases.

    p.s. your joke is fail :P

  2. This is nothing new. A topic that has been beaten into the ground. Yes MSU units add versatility in exchange for high kill points. Lower Kill point armies take a hit and can't engage as many units, this is also true. Yes Marine armies can do it and few xenos armies can blah blah w/e.

    The point of kill points is:

    Simplicity, much easier to add up the army total by kill points. Allows for younger players to play without trying to do the math required to win by 10%. Lets remember GW is a business they need to bring in a new group of players. AKA younger and younger, deal with it.

    Equality, meh terrible word for it I know. But simply put if you take a 9 KP army you aren't working to full potential you will be engaging at most 9 targets a turn (ignoring mutlicharges). However if you take a 20 KP army of course you will be engaging more targets and you have the ability to pick and choose if you need to engage 20 at a time. This was GW's way of balancing the codexs. MSU is king, GW knew it was coming they already had plans for the books and needed a rule to help balance things out, Kill Points was that rule.

    Strategy- is taking 9 kill points a strategy? YES! list building is part of the skill that goes into the game. So use it. This strategy also makes you pick do I want efficiency of do I want low KP?

    Lets be straight forward, this post is crap. It's nothing new. There's nothing that will come of it. Bottom line Kill Points are in Victory Points are out. Deal with it. Suck it up get out of your room and play a few games. Play and see Kill Points make games easier to win by. See that there is a more definite outcome when you play KP games ass opposed to VP. If anyone has a right to bitch and moan about victory points it's xenos players who don't have control over how many they take. If you want your army to work and work well you have to take more and more.

    Loki- Heard you're playing marines. . .tau getting difficult? If this is true and you aren't playing xenos anymore you have no right to bitch.

  3. Keep the authors straight, sweetheart.

  4. Loki, you started out with a good opener to a discussion as to how kill points compare to victory points as a win condition. However, I was not intending to discuss the merits of the systems, but the perception that having a large number of kill points in an army is necessarily a bad thing.

    Rionnay, I know MSU has been beaten into the ground on the internet. I just hadn't ever seen anything explaining why it was a good concept and decided to reason it out.

    If you two would like to argue the merits of each system, feel free. I try not to because I realize that my perceptions of the systems will not effect the use of those systems.

  5. I wouldn't mind a conversation in which the argument "you're a marine player, quit bitching" wasn't used.

    I never mentioned any army in my reply here. I am talking about the system itself, and how it effects the entirety of the game.

  6. I think that what he was refering to was the fact that Marines can get by with super elite armies that Xenos can not get by with. I've yet to see a Xenos army with less than 10 kill points...because they need to provide 20-30 threats on the board to keep some of them alive long enough to deal with the armies that can get by on 20 models.

    As per kill points v Victory points. I've never been a huge fan of victory points. They tied way to often. And as such, I'm glad (and yes I know I'm the only one) that they are gone in place of Kill Points.