Tuesday, September 29, 2009

More Rangers Vs Pathfinders

In my last post I did a cost analysis of the output fire for Rangers against Pathfinders. Master DarkSol then asked for a graph of their ability to resist damage. It's a little "boring" as it is a linear equation in direct proportion.

First, a comparison of casualties caused per wound caused:

Pretty easy to see, a 2+ save is better than a 3+. :-p The math is a simple "((6-x)/6)*n" where x is the save and n is the number of wounding shots.

Then we factor in cost:

Being a base 6 system, we see whole number markers every 6 iterations.
If you chose NOT to Go to Ground, Pathfinders will "save" you 14 points for every 6 wounding hits. But if you do allow for GtG, Rangers will save you an extra 5 on top of that. I guess I could obfuscate values by using proportions, but this is easier to read...

Thanks to GtG, the only time the cost-analysis favors the Pathfinders is when there's a reduction to cover save, such as from Markerlights. All other tables (ignoring cover, CC, etc) favor the Rangers.

DarkSol, this answer your question or did I miss some way to make things more complex?

**Space Hulk update: 6 Genestealers and the Broodlord left to clean**

Monday, September 28, 2009

Rangers vs Pathfinders

"Rangers versus Pathfinders" or "Yet another reason why Rangers are a better choice."

Raptor1313 recently did another stellar review of Eldar Foot Troops choices over here. He covered a great majority of the salient points. But what about damage? How do they compare for math-hammer? So I promised to post my cost analysis. You guys can thank Eriochrome's recent posts for getting me to put these in graph form rather than spreadsheet. I confess, I'm a programmer and the numbers tend to mean more to me than the presentation.

So here's the first run:

The above graph shows you the percent chance of a single shot to cause a wound. It includes to-hit, Rending, Cover... everything.
The Pathfinders have a 1/6th higher chance of doing an AP2 shot. So they slightly outperform the Rangers for damage per shot.

But then we factor in costs...:

And here we see the chance to wound per point. (The actual numbers are chance divided by cost and then times 100 for sake of easy reading.)
Even though the Pathfinders do more damage per shot, Rangers outperform in every single category. Said another way: you'll do more damage with 10 Rangers rather than 8 Pathfinders.

Cheers! (Image blatantly grabbed from GW's site and will be removed if asked.) Now off to swap graphs into my Falcon analysis...

**Space Hulk update: Termies and 4 Genestealers cleaned and assembled.**

Monday, September 21, 2009

Space Hulk, but different!

Space Hulk is almost old news at this point and I hate going over the same stuff someone else already has. Eriochrome's stealing the math-hammer thunder with his excellent articles over here: http://twilight40k.blogspot.com/. There's also a plethora of people showing how they are painting the figs to greater success than I expect to have. I could also rant about the quality miniatures and product, but that's also been done and re-done too.

(Okay, I have to voice a bit of dissent here... The minis are overall quite great, but there were a couple shortcuts taken on details that I don't like. For example, the obvious CAD undercut of the skull on the right knee of the Thunder Hammer guy. Why not just have it oriented correctly? Or the lack of any decent detail or surface on the hips and legs of the Genestealers. Both are minor, but detract enough that I'd only give these models a 9/10.)

But back on topic! I've gotten the opportunity to paint the new Space Hulk figs for my friend Artimese. He's not a good enough painter to match the Genestealers to the rest of his Tyranid force, so he asked me to do them. I can't really call this a commission as that would be pretentious and imply I was getting paid. But he is a good friend and just had a kid, so call it an act of charity? My requirement was that I get to paint the rest of the figs too, as I wanted to try my hand on those Termies.

It wasn't until I got the box home that I realized I'd also be painting the objective markers and doors. It's the latter that I'm here to talk about today, since I haven't seen anyone else talk about them.
To prep the pieces for painting, I first cleaned the flash off with a hobby knife. They were then lightly scrubbed in a little bit of soapy water and rinsed off. Then I basecoated them with a mix of 50% Liquitex Black Gesso, 25% Future Floor Wax, and 25% water.

To me these doorways appear to be made of corrugated steel plates or some futuristic equivalent. Notably, the cardstock doors and floor pieces are mostly Codex Grey with Fortress Grey hightlights. I tried out 4 different test pieces running from a pure metal look (Tin Bitz w Boltgun "wear") all the way to a pure ceramite (no metallic wear). The resounding favorite was the process shown below. You can click on any image to see a larger version.

Step 1: Codex Grey. The first bit of color was to lay down a heavy drybrush of Codex Grey. I wasn't particularly worried about perfect coverage or smooth lines. I knew I'd be putting a good bit of other color down after this step. Plus, these are just terrain pieces. :-p

Step 2: Fortress Grey. This was the most time consuming step. I went and put highlights on all of the pieces using Fortress Grey. Most of the pieces were done using 2-step layering and then edging with pure Fortress Grey. But I wanted some variation in pieces, so some were done with wet blending and others with direction oriented highlighting. (If these terms don't make sense, poke around the intarwebs. Many painters more skilled than I have excellent articles on these techniques.)

Step 3: Boltgun Metal. Many industrial applications use painted steel for decking and walkways. Wear and tear will eventually reveal the steel underneath along the patterns of greatest wear. So Boltgun was applied in a V pattern narrowing as you go into the doorway. Certain edges and wear points were also given some metallic edging or streaking.

Step 4: Dheneb Mud. This step could better be said as "It's too CLEAN for a Space Hulk. Make it dirty!". Every piece was given 2-3 coats of Dheneb Mud, with emphasis to accumulation on flat surfaces on into crevices.

Step 5: Badab Black. This was the final layer of finishing and shading. A single coat of Badab Black was used to darken the crevices, furthest corners and deepest areas of rust and grime. After this, some extra grime was added to the left side of the piece by painting on a mix of Baking Soda and Dheneb Mud. That was an off the cuff experiment that I'm quite happy with.
The final pieces are sealed with a hard gloss coat (Future) and then dulled back to true with a matte lacquer.

If the step by step wasn't enough, here's each step side by side:

And a big shot of the final "in action" with door and flooring:

Now if I don't get distracted by the in-laws coming to visit, I may even work on some of the other Space Hulk minis and/or my overdue sculpting tutorial. Cheers and hope you've enjoyed!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Riposte, the Art of the Counter-Attack (More Advanced Vehicle Tactics)

Riposte: -noun
1. General. a quick, sharp return in speech or action; counterstroke.
2. Fencing. a quick thrust given after parrying a lunge.
3. Warhammer 40k. a tactic whereby you crush an opposing force after allowing them to over commit.

The concept? Simple. The execution? Tricky.

There's three major components that go into making this work:
1. Get them to commit to an attack that they can't recover from.
2. Counter or blunt the attack such that it is not crippling to your force.
3. Hit them in return such that their force is crippled or destroyed.

Now while I use Eldar vehicles in the examples, this kind of ploy is viable for pretty much any army out there. To quote the current Space Wolf Codex, "The only way to slay a Fenrisian Wolf [bare-handed] is to wait until the Wolf pounces and leap forward while it is in the air so that the exposed neck and belly can be attacked." I've used this tactic to success with Wolves, Eldar, Marines, Chaos and Tau. Heck, I've even pulled off variants of this with non-mechanized armies, but that's for another day...

Another thing worth stating here is that this is not meant to be an end-all-be-all of tactics. This is just one of many options to put into your tool chest.

Part 1: Get them to over-commit.
Gamers often tend to be young, single men. They're naturally afraid of commitment. They'll want to hedge their bets, explore other options, and play their own games. However, they're also easily distractable, tend not to think beyond the immediate moment and have a weakness for honey-pots.
So how do you distract them? Well, my wife can simply lean over the table, pose, and heave a bit to cause the IQ across the table drop. I don't have the same *ahem* attributes. I also want to be a good sport, so I have to rely on distracting them via gameplay. One of the simplest and easiest ways I've found is a "bait" unit.
What makes a good bait unit? It's relative. There needs to be a reason for your opponent to attack the unit in the way you desire. You'll need to get into their head a bit and figure out what will bait them... Is it enough to just present any old target? Do they dislike a particular unit disproportionately? Are they after your Scoring units?
Additionally, you will want to have a backup plan. It can and will happen that people won't take your bait, no matter how tempting the bait. Accept this, plan for it, and adjust your strategy to suit.
But the best "bait"? One where the choice to take it or avoid it doesn't matter. A crude example of this would be a unit of Fire Dragons, in a Fortuned and Moving Fast Wave Serpent, 16" from a Land Raider full of Terminators. The Terminators have a choice of getting out and attacking, or risking being destroyed inside their tank when the Dragons attack. Typically, engineering this kind of fait accompli will require multiple units working in tandem, conducive terrain and maybe a little luck... but it's worth it if you can pull it off.

Part 2: Blunt the attack.
Truth be told, this is really the second half of choosing the right bait.
When choosing your bait, you must accept that the unit is going to die. There's no room for "maybe it might get lucky" or "maybe it might live". If you're going to risk it, you need to make sure that your strategical plan can afford to have it die. If it lives? Great! You have an extra unit to go out and do damage with. If it dies? Fine, it's what was expected. Always plan for the worst and then work with the actual.
Now any type of unit can work as your bait... but my favorite is a Transport vehicle. Here's why:
a. Tanks are more mobile than normal infantry. This allows them to get into position faster and
b. A unit being Transported is not damaged unless the vehicle explodes or is completely surrounded when wrecked. Many players seem to think a Vehicle Wrecked causes them to take damage and that blocking the hatch is enough... but this isn't true in 5th edition. Have them re-read the Damage to Transported Units section.
c. Enemies cannot consolidate after close combat with a vehicle. This leaves them nice and clumped up for applying Template weapons and being close enough to charge.
d. Live tanks = mobile cover. By nature, a bait unit is typically up close and personal to the enemy. This means they will often block LOS or confer a cover save to your units behind them.
e. Dead tanks = cover and difficult terrain. When a tank is taken out, you have the majority control of where they deploy. If all your opponent's shooting is done and there's no assaulters near, it might be worth getting a few extra inches by deploying in front of the tank. If they held back a bunch of anti-infantry in hopes of popping your tank, you can deploy behind the wreckage to block LOS or get cover saves. If they have an assault unit nearby, you can put the bulk of the tank between you to force Difficult Terrain tests that might blunt or prevent a charge.

Step 3: Cripple them in return.
You've done the hard part of surviving. Now you get to exact your revenge. The usual caveats apply here of using the best tool for the job, maximizing damage, and setting things up for winning the game. It's actually this phase that tends to provide the psychological turning point for a game. Your opponent is often feeling pretty good about having damaged or destroyed a unit or two of yours. Now is when you want to hit them as hard as you can and wipe out as many units as possible. The sudden switch from a feeling of victory to one of defeat can be crushing. I've watched people give up on or even concede games after this, even though they still had the ability to tie or win.

For some practical examples, I've enlisted Vassal again to provide some images with how I approach this with my Eldar. For those of you unfamiliar with Eldar... Wave Serpents are extremely fast, very durable against shooting, and rather durable against close combat. The downsides are that they're not cheap (100+ points), their basic weapons don't put out that much damage, and their upgraded weapons are usually too expensive for the results you get. It's the units inside of them that really pack the punch. This makes the great "bait".
The yellow Serpent is Howling Banshees. (Alnti-troop close combat specialists)
The red Serpent is Fire Dragon. (Anti-tank specialists)
The green tank is Storm Guardians. (Anti-troop shooting that's more effective against packed-in targets thanks to multiple Flamers.)
Images are clickable for larger and better detailed versions.

This first image shows three basic deployments. They were done with an eye to the terrain and with the thought that the Eldar are deploying and going first. Because people will steal the initiative 1 time in 6, most of the deployments aren't right on the line and have some cover. 5:1 odds aren't that bad... don't let an aggressive deployment cost you the game.

This image shows how I might approach certain targets.
In example 1, I'm looking at a Tactical squad supported by two Dreadnaughts. An Assault squad is behind them to provide assault and counter-charge. The first concern here is dropping the two Dreadnaughts as only the Fire Dragons have the ability to drop them reliably. The second is to keep the Assault squad from charging my infantry.
Now if I approached this with the idea of alpha-strike shooting, I'd probably futz around at range for a turn and try to pop the Dreadnaughts on a lucky shot. I'd probably get one Dread and a couple Marines. But the return fire is going to turn my Dragons into a fine red mist.
But by holding off a turn and trying to bait, I can hit with all three units in tandem. The Fire Dragon Serpent is put out front as bait. There's enough room left behind it that the Dragons can bail out if needed. This and the Storm Guardian Serpents form nice, juicy targets that the Dreads and Assault Marines will be hard-pressed to ignore. And if they do ignore them or even try to move away, I'm still close enough to attack. The Banshee Serpent hangs out on the far side of the wall. It could be the point-man or flanker just as easily as these positions would put them closer for enacting a charge. However, in this example I was trying to downplay the threat of the Banshees in hopes that he'd ignore their presence entirely.
And if they don't take the bait and pull back? Unless the tac squad Runs, the Banshees are still close enough to catch them with a reasonable Fleet roll. The Dragons are also close enough to drop one Dread cold while the Serpents could angle for rear-armour shots.

In example 2, there's a full Termie T-Hammer Assault squad in the Raider and a bunch of multi-melta/heavy flamer Speeders behind the building. My first concern here is getting the Termies out of the tank. My second is luring those Speeders out so that my Serpents and Dragons can drop them thanks to squadron rules. Again, the Dragons form the bait, with Storm Serpent as the backup. The hope here is that the Termies will jump out and charge the tanks while the Speeders slide to the left to shoot my tanks. I could then hit the Termies with Storms and Banshees while the Dragons hop over to the Raider and the Serpents drop some Speeders.

In example 3, we have a much more common kind of tournament army. Here we have a squad of Termies in a Land Raiders, but this time they're supported by a Rhino wall and a bunch of Razorbacks. Here my concern is getting the Termies out again, but also breaking or hopping the Rhino wall and hitting the juicy insides. My main hope with this type of deployment is to lure the Termies into a charge. If they do so, my Banshees would be detailed for them while the other elements go after his forces. And if he stays buttoned up? I push forward again, but this time I have a bunch of shooting and assault primed to hit his lines in another turn.

None of these are perfect examples... but I needed something to illustrate my point. I also wanted to use examples that looked feasible to see in a game, rather than obvious set pieces.

Whew, but that was a lot of typing. Maybe I should switch to less extensive topics, like my recent painting. :-p Though I guess if you made it this far, it was probably worth the read. Cheers!

First pic courtesy of a psuedo random GIS... and chosen because it amused me as I'm in it...

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Tactica: Vs Outflanking Genestealers

About a month ago, Alex asked me about mech-Eldar tactics for dealing with Outflanking Genestealers... especially versus multiple squads and on 4' wide boards. I promised a reply "next week or so", but it took me a while to come up with a response that I was happy with.

Why? Because there's not really a "good" answer. Here's some options to try:
1. Wait a year and hope the re-do of the Tyranid Codex changes things.
2. Swap armies and demonstrate what a wankery thing this is on 4' boards.
3. Point out that there's no model to represent the Scuttling Biomorph and refuse to play against anything that isn't 100% WYSIWYG.
4. Take a tip from The Godfather and slip a beheaded Genestealer into his bed while he's sleeping.
5. Accept your fate meekly and let them continue to rip open your tanks and add your your flesh to the biomass.
6. Accept that the rules aren't always fair, play the odds and beat him anyways.

I'm not really a fan on 1-5... well, maybe #4... but 6 is really the way to go. So let's establish a few basics:
1. They have a 6" move, d6" Fleet, and then a 6" Charge. This yields an average 15.5" move and threat range up to 18".
2. They have Rending, Initiative 6 and 2 base attacks. Getting assaulted by them hurts.
3. They don't have guns. Seemingly obvious, but crucial to beating this.
3. Genestealers aren't cheap. Typically they'll have Flesh Hooks (Frag Grenades) and Scuttlers (Scout); costing 20 points or more each.
4. Genestealers are Scoring.

Outflanking Genestealers are truly a menace. Lictors make them fairly reliable for coming in on Turn 2. There is a small risk that they'll Outflank to the "wrong" side of the field... but that's only a 33% chance. 2:1 odds favoring them is not a gamble worth taking. But the real kicker is one of timing. By coming in from Reserves, your opponent is able to see where your forces are deployed. He can then deploy them to maximum effect for target, terrain, position and even same-turn charges.

A mechanized Eldar player has a few tricks in their bag to counter this.
1. Reserves Denial. Even without an Autarch this is a good method to steal their thunder. You can deny them any easy deployment, moves or targets. However, the effect pales if you are stuck with the first turn. Your opponent can see your ploy before they deploy, you have to start rolling to enter from Reserves first, and generally they're going to have a better ability to adapt to your play. There's also the typical problem with Reserves Denial: your forces won't enter play until Turn 2+. You'll have less time to kill the enemy and secure objectives.

2. Rely on the table. With a 4' board, Outflanking Stealers can effectively threaten all but a 12" strip down the middle. Sit inside of that and you're immune to their alpha-charge. The width of this strip can also be pushed, since Fleet is a single d6 and the only part of the move that ignores terrain effects. The odds are pretty good for you if you don't stray too far and/or can force the Stealers to advance through terrain.

3. Rely on your tanks. When a Serpent has moved over 6", a typical Stealer is only going to destroy your tank 1/24th (4.2%) of the time. Units inside are only hurt when a Vehicle Explodes (1.4% chance). The Stealers don't get a Consolidate move either. So it's perfectly viable to us a tank to bait a large squad into bunching up. Just make sure your hatch isn't blocked, pass a simple Pinning test, and then watch Destructors evaporate Stealers. And even if the worst happens and a Dakkafex shoots down your tank? You deploy your guys on the opposite side of the tank from the Stealers. Good prior positioning and difficult terrain rolls should keep your guys from getting jumped in the Assault phase.

4. Rely on your mobility. This kinda ties into the three items above... but your tanks can move 24". A 4' board doesn't leave you much room to dash about, but you can certainly play bait & switch. Stuck with the first turn? Deploy your tanks near the edges so they stick the Stealers into Outflank. Then use your Turn 1 moves to jump into that safe strip in the middle. Got a bunch of objectives stacked to one side of the board? Deploy a tank in charge range on the other side to lure his attention. It never fails to amaze me how many players will lose a game because they forget strategy in favor of a tactical kill.

Recommended units: Serpent Council, Serpent Banshees, Fire Storm Guardians, and Serpent of Fury. Foot DA, Wraithlords and Spiders can also help in a pinch.

Hopefully this has given you a few ideas. I think the major points come across, but diagrams can be made if needed. Cheers and thanks for reading. (Sculpting Tutorials will resume once the flu has finished the rounds of the family...)

*Image is courtesy the fine guys at the now defunct MacHall. Check out their new work at Three Panel Soul.