Sunday, December 11, 2011

Man(iple) Up! Part 4


Last time I talked about the role of tactical squads in my maniple mindset marine army. You may have noticed that I sidestepped explaining how my tactical squads that were armed to the teeth would fit into a mindset where troops choices survive until the end of the game by being non-threatening to your opponent. I could drop the weapons from my tactical squads to make them less threatening, though at that point they begin to lose their utility beyond light anti-infantry support and scoring. Today's article is about why the combat squads aren't threatening in comparison to the distraction units in the army.

When we talk about a unit or armies in warhammer we generally talk relative terms like better and best, or least and most. For instance we might argue that thunderhammer terminators are a better assault unit than howling banshees are rather than saying that each attack they swing has a 41.66% chance of causing a wound to a model with no invulnerable save and a toughness of no more than six. The absolute abilities of a unit are not always taken into account and do not always matter because how we choose to address threats to our objective of winning the game is based on how dangerous those threats are relative to each other threat that is present. How each player assesses the level of each threat is a subjective process and can change from player to player, but there are some factors in how players will evaluate those threats.

The first factor in determining how threatening a unit can be is the opportunity cost of ignoring the unit. In economics we use the term opportunity cost to describe the benefits lost by choosing the next best choice. For instance, if you spend five dollars on a combo meal from McDonalds that choice doesn't only cost you five dollars, but all of the benefits you could have gained from whatever you could have spent those five dollars on. If you choose to fire a unit at any one target you are costing yourself whatever benefits you could have gained from firing at another unit. Your best choice is the choice where the benefits of that choice are greater than the benefits of not only the next best alternative, but of any alternative.

Now, the opportunity cost of ignoring troops choices for the entire game is very large as they have a large impact on how the game will be resolved, assuming it is an objectives based game, but the opportunity cost of ignoring them for one turn may be smaller than the opportunity cost of trying to kill them in that turn. This is where the distraction units of the maniple come into play. While the troops have the largest impact on how the game will be determined at the end, the distraction units exist to punish your opponent for choosing to focus on your troops while the distraction units are still alive and viable. If these units are able to even threaten to harm parts of your opponent's army that are critical to their success, the opportunity of ignoring them to focus on killing the troops units rises. These units protect the troops choices by making the cost of focusing on the troops higher than it would be otherwise.

Economics is fundamentally based on the concept of scarcity, that there are not enough resources to satisfy all desires. Scarcity reaches all corners of our lives including 40k because everything is scarce, especially time. In 40k there are a limited number of points you can have in a game and a limited number of slots in the force organization chart. Each point or slot you spend on any unit is a point or sot you cannot spend on another unit. Every point put toward bringing anti-infantry weapons is a point that could have been spent bringing anti-tank weapons. Balanced armies need both types of weapons and have a limited number of points available, so players cannot afford to have as many weapons of either type as they might desire. The limited number (scarcity) of weapons forces players to choose from turn to turn what use of those weapons will glean them the greatest benefits.

The goal of distraction units is to manipulate how your opponent assess the threats of different units in your army. One way to manipulate your opponent's perceptions is to remember the proverb "out of sight, out of mind." How you use your army will influence what your opponent's attention is drawn to. My primary distraction units are my dreadnoughts and my devastator teams. Each of these has the ability to begin causing serious harm to pivotal units in my opponents army on turn one, but my primary goal isn't just to make them threatening, but to draw attention to them in any way I can. My dreadnoughts are placed in drop pods not only because they can reach their optimum range quicker that way, but also because deep striking, especially when done dramatically, takes time. My choice of where and what I should deep strike first should be made in my opponent's first turn if not during deployment, but the actual deep striking should be played up as much as I can. I should bring the pod model in, talking up how much damage it will do, and try to draw attention to the dreadnought that is now in my opponent's face rather than the combat squads sulking around the board to get in position to seize objectives. If I am smart with how I place the drop pods (and lucky with the deviations), I can cause the pods themselves to be obstructions to my opponent and possibly force them to address the pods, after they address the dreadnoughts and before they address my troops.

The devastators will hopefully be less distracting than the dreadnoughts, but more threatening than my combat squads for precisely one of the reasons that tactical squads have been bemoaned in my experience. That complaint against the tactical squad is based on how the unit changed from fourth edition codices to fifth edition codices in regards to its ability to purchase special and heavy weapons. In the fourth edition codices any size squad was able to purchase a heavy and special weapon and there were no discounts for taking them in a larger squad. In fifth edition codices tactical squads cannot access special or heavy weapons until they reach ten models. Players that I have spoke which that wish the rules had not changed often say that they have to buy seven worthless models to get the special, heavy and sergeant models. The reason I believe this is in fact a useful change is how it works in conjunction with the combat squads special rule to lower the benefits of shooting at a combat squad in comparison to shooting at a devastator squad.

Each squad has the same models in it with the same defensive stats and should both be in cover, making the probability of destroying the same number of models in either squad equal, but remember that not all models are created equal. The choice as to which unit to shoot is a simple question on what does the shooter expect to get out of the investment of shots. The devastator team has four models that contribute actively to its damage output while the combat squad does not. Generally the sergeant and special weapon will be in the same combat squad, while the heavy weapon will be with four bolter marines. For either combat squad there are models that are not ideally suited for whatever purpose the squad is aimed at, either by having an anti-infantry weapon firing at a vehicle or having an anti-vehicle weapon firing at infantry. The dual purpose of the missile launcher makes armies that are concerned about anti-infantry and anti-tank weaponry both view killing a missile launcher as a desirable outcome, while an infantry based army might not care about killing a multimelta and a mechanized army might not care about killing a combi-flamer. So, because 80% of the devastator squad is actively contributing to harming an opponent, the likelihood of killing a model that would be beneficial to your opponent is greater in the choice of shooting at the devastator squad than the choice of shooting either combat squad.


  1. Again, your list hinges on going first yet fails to utilize Sicarius to attempt to better facilitate this goal. Without going first you're paying a very high opportunity cost on your Devs. Either you will deploy them where, amidst your null deployment, they will get shot to pieces over the course of an opposing alpha strike; or you will not deploy them and will waste upwards of 2 turns of their (in my opinion) overpriced shooting.

    In all I feel that this article does little to answer my complaints posted at the tail end of the discussion of Part 3.

  2. Lucion here,

    You are very welcome with the Dark wynn pdf.

    How did you find it?

    The maniple writings are interesting.
    I would quite like a brief summary of it all - or I can make one - if it would help?

  3. Corvus, you do have some good points, especially about the devastators and my list relying on having the first turn (as I learned Saturday). I will be running some more tests, but will probably be modifying the list to accommodate the maniple better. The devastators were much easier to destroy and harder to deploy than I expected, while causing much less damage.

    The drop pods I will keep because there may be some matchups where putting my tactical squads in my opponents teeth turn one might be beneficial, but in most non-necron matchups, putting my dreadnoughts in my opponent's face will be beneficial. I need to have the tactical squad drop pods to deploy the dreadnoughts first turn via pods. I do expect to lose the dreadnoughts, but hope to gain a unit, generally a vehicle in exchange. True, not all vehicles are created equal, but I hope and believe they will be able to benefit me more than they cost me.

    Lucion, I found the pdf about Dark wynn rather interesting and made me wonder how I would address that list myself. I will compile the articles when I am finished if you wish, but that will not be for a few weeks, as my university's semester break is coming soon and I will not be writing as much.

    If I (likely) do end up modifying the list I posted, I will write about how and why I modified it, but I really need to get some games in.

  4. Honestly, no more invulnerable saves than you'll force on average, swap the librarian for a MotF and take more dreadnoughts or bring speeders. Alternatively, put a locator beacon on some of the first turn drop pods and pull in hammer terminators. That will almost certainly force the opponent to say "that drop pod needs to go away before it brings in hammers and murders me."

    Again, I think this list is likely to have similar issues every time (especially when trying to hold it to maniple principle) until you grow past drop pods, or really start utilizing full null deployment and all of Vulkan's tasty cheese.

  5. I was able to watch some of Heretics games this past weekend. All in all, I think he played rather well. There were some obvious things in the army that made it seem bad to me. Especially looking over at another Vulkan list on the table opposite of Heretics.

    I agree with Corvus on this on Heretic, you most defiantly need to be pounding some hammers in that list. I would also suggest the dropping of the Dev's, and for me also the dreads, and going two ground pounders running with the raider and four pod's falling in with troops. Obviously there would be empty pods falling in to block their movements and to cause LOS issues getting your sloggers there, as well as keeping the Raider running, as if it falls you are going to have 5 pissed off termies, and Vulkan with the peckers hanging in the wind going shoot me...shoot me.

    All in all, the games were well played, and me and Heretic talked his games through on the ride home. So I think he will get this one figured out, and You'll see him out sporting the Green scaly skin of the salamanders again in no time.

    Heretic, I'll throw you the list I was talking about here soon. Be on the lookout for it. And feel free to tell me what you think.

  6. I think the Maniple method lends itself better to non-Vulkan lists myself, but if you can find a way to make it work more power to you.

    Personally I feel Vulkan beefs up any and all units that utilize his three weapons of choice, and so trying to hide parts of our army just feels rather useless here. I'd actually recommend Sicarius sine he makes all of the MSUs lead lead 10 (so the combat squads without the sergeants are still fine), and allows you to keep combat tactics.

    Just my two cents.

  7. Thats all fine and dandy, but you lose the rerolls on all your big firepower...and that is just shoddy. I think Vulkan does his job, and that being said needs to be ran accordingly. He is a get there kinda guy, so running a ton of flamers/melta/hammers is the way to go with him. Sonce Deepstrike is kinda meh, obviously you don't wanna rely on that to get the Termies there. Instead using a Crusader or in Vulkan's Case a Melta Redeemer would be the better bet. I think I still gotta go with the crusader because of the massive amount of firepower it can lay down and 90% of that is already twin linked. So Vulkan makes the last 10% twin linked. Giveing you one hell of a punch for your point. I've seen rapid-firing hurricane bolters, an assault cannon, and a melta shot down a squad, and if for some reason it doesn't...well thats why the God Emperor gave you a squad of mastercrafted Thunder Hammers...just to clean the streets up with.

  8. Oh I can't argue that with the current load out, Vulkan is better. I was saying if taking Sicarius, the list would undoubtedly change around a little as well, to take less of a melta/flamer approach, and more versatility.

  9. I'm reading these posts and I keep thinking that this is almost exactly the basis for the Black Templars Defensive Drop Pod lists. You've got lots of small troops which, while they could do something, are of little consequence when compared with other, bigger things (like the Dreadnoughts). Unfortunately, I'm not sure that regular marines can pull it off nearly as well as Black Templars because of the troops.

  10. Corvus, I believe you may be right about the full null deployment, though I am faced with a problem in how to modify the list as I have lots of good options. I still disagree with you on drop pods more from the fun of playing the style of army rather than its viability, though it is still very viable.

    ZerkeX, I'll agree that the other salamanders army at the tournament was much better painted, but I don't know about making all those changes your suggest. The terminators could be an excellent distraction, but if I use a land raider it will suffer the concentrated fire of an entire army unless I reserve it or go first. I would like to see that list though.

    There are advantages to each approach and there are ways to avoid the inconstancy of deep strike that works with my drop pods. I could have five locator beacons and ten terminators if I wanted, but that's only one option.

    Godfrey, Sicarius was in one of my higher points level lists and would work well in the army, I agree. I would disagree with changing the tactical squad loadouts with a change to Sicarius. The loadouts are more short-ranged and reward aggressive play, as do drop pods. The maniple would work with either, but the aggression level changes with the commanders.

    Devjon, I'm not sure the marines can pull off the maniple as well as variant chapters, but I think they can do it. A few posts back Lucion posted the list Darkwynn won the Feast of Blades with and I think it might work with some of the same principles.

  11. That's why I suggested the change. Maniple from what it sounds like uses the principle of keeping your combat squads from being targeted due to the high priority of other units. I suggested changing up the wargear to allow some of the combat squads to sit back a little instead of being aggressive and moving forward. The short range on melta makes the unit have to move up and be aggressive, where something like plasma guns would allow them to sit further back, and the squad would also generally target units that the bolter wielding marines could potentially harm (infantry).

    Not to mention the veteran skill trick he does, you could still uses a Tact squad in pod and give it tank hunters, then utilize S9 melta. not as good as twin-linked I know, but you get the added perks of everyone being Ld10 and you can still choose to gtfo from bad combats.

  12. Heretic,

    I got that list over to you. Take a look at it. I think that it will help you to break through the ranks of the opponent, and will help with the whole of the army. Maximize what you are getting out of your troopers without having to spread really thin. That is a good premise, and is what I've got going on with the idea in the list. Let me know what you think

  13. This post has come on incredibly fast. Well done. I have to say I feel a little left behind.

    Am I correct that we are looking the the potential utility of ancient battle formations translated into 40k?

    By the way guys, I am considering doing some youtube casts once I have the right formula. It'd be nice to share the highlights of these conversions with the community.

    Would anyone mind doing a little comment + criticisms on a video I have up? Let me know and I'll post the link. Thanks


  14. I'd be more than happy to myself, and I'm sure the others would be on board.

    If you'd like we can host em here on Rites and embed the Youtube video here, but if you have your own blog space more power to ya!

  15. Here is the link, this is just early stages.
    I might host it on
    Its been changing alot atm, not focusing on commissions anymore so opened a new blog. Its virgin! I would really appreciate you check it out as theres alot of work put into the articles here.

    The video is unlisted so only those with the link can view - thus it cannot be embedded.

    As the video formula comes together through C+C i'd like to do Templar casts of the BT communities highlights, some online dow2 BT play, and games of 40k - starting with Laeroths Nova open found here

    Let me know what you think and thanks for being on board. My emails btw - whats yours?

  16. Id say This rates 3 on the blah meter