Friday, February 15, 2013

Stuck in the Middle?

Greetings Gentlereaders,

Sadly, I cannot bring you a report about the planned Valentine's Day face-off between myself and Warmaster Havok.  It was going to be a game to test our Tau armies against each other, but the Warmaster was busy paying homage to Slaanesh so we'll have to reschedule.  In lieu of that, I thought I'd ask a question of whose answer I am unsure, namely does midrange shooting (strength 5-8 w/o special rules) have a place in your anti-tank game plan?

These weapons tend to have multiple shots to compensate for their lower strength.  They have more chances to damage a tank than higher strength weapons, albeit each shot's chance is worse.  In fifth edition, midrange weapons were useful because a glancing hit could prevent most vehicles from firing.  Now, glancing hits contribute to destroying vehicles, but cannot reduce their effectiveness in the mean time.  Whether this change is a benefit comes down to subjective value: does a player prefers to have their opponent's models reduced in effectiveness but still alive or is any remaining effectiveness too much for an attack to considered a success?

Might need a few
Most midrange weapons were effected by the change to the vehicle damage table by virtue of their higher AP value, though there are some exceptions, especially plasma weapons.  They are now more likely to shake a vehicle than to destroy it if they can penetrate it.  Plasma weapons were not effected by the change to the damage table, but have liabilities that compensate either in risk of self-harm or lowered strength, depending on your army.  On the whole, many anti-tank weapons became less threatening once they get to the damage table.

Glancing hits were my first consideration because, unlike higher strength weapons, these weapons have targets they cannot harm and targets they can only glance.  This distinction should be a prime consideration in choosing when and at which targets to fire these weapons.  While a lascanon fired at grots is (probably) not the highest valued use of that shot, it is infinitely more valuable than a scatter laser fired at a land raider.  Without the bonuses from AP 2 or 1, midrange weapons are less likely to destroy their targets in a single shot, but are now capable of destroying any target they can damage.

Assumption: Higher strength+roll is better than lower strength+roll.
Assumption: More shots are better than fewer shots.
Assumption: lower AP is better than higher AP.

We can all agree on each of these assumptions, but GW has done a good job forcing players to choose between two of these for anti-tank weapons (e.g. lascanon, auto cannon, scatter laser).  Shot for shot, midrange weapons will always be out done by the higher strength weapons that have higher probabilities on fewer rolls and can get lucky.  Which anti-tank weapons you choose to use is more of a reactive choice than a proactive choice, one that greatly effects midrange weapons.

Every army except Tyranids, Sisters and Dark Eldar have access to vehicles with armor no less than 12 on multiple facings, so unless your playgroup is exclusively these armies you should bring high strength anti-tank weapons.  Most armies rely vehicles with side armor 10 or 11, which is where midrange weapons are most effective.  However, there is one place where midrange weapons can utilize their advantage over higher strength weapons: aerial defense.

Four armies lack specialized ways to defend against enemy fliers and thus must either buy fortifications or rely on snap shots: Eldar, Sisters of Battle, Space Wolves, and Tau.  For these armies, midrange weapons can attempt to shore up this deficiency because they can generally be purchased twin-linked and have high enough rates of fire to expect to a unit to hit a flier at least once.  While most mid-range weapons are not able to damage high armor values, only Imperial fliers and the helldrake have armor twelve, which most mid-range weapons can penetrate.  While relying on high volumes of shots to defend against fliers is not ideal, it is a better defense than relying on a few high strength to overcome the Hard to Hit rule.

I hope you've enjoyed this little ramble as much as I've enjoyed thinking it through.  I don't pretend to know everything and would love to hear your opinions on this.  Do you still use mid-range shots or do you focus on high strength shots to bring down tanks?

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