Friday, May 20, 2011

Guest Post: Mitigating chance versus failure

by: CaulynDarr

Original posting:

CaulynDarr's Post on Mitigating Chance vs Failure

(farmpunk)-Go check out the other stuff CaulynDarr's doing over at: Blame it on the Dice. He's got some good stuff. Now to the post!

I was involved in a debate over redundancy last week, and after taking a few days to think about it relized something.  The current debate is about if redundancy is needed to make a good list.  Redundancy seems like a good idea so where is the debate coming from?  In my opinion it is coming from different competing list optimizations strategies.  People are using the strategy that works for them, and not seeing the benefits of the others.  I think that the two main strategies are Mitigation of Failure(redundancy) and Mitigation of Chance(reliability)

First I'll talk about redundancy. It's a specific measure of how well the list mitigates the results of failure.  I consider a unit to fail when it doesn't live up to it's expected potential.  So if a unit is either destroyed before performing its intended role, or isn't effective when it does perform its role, it fails.  Redundancy is a good way around this.  You take multiple reliable and expendable options to fulfill a role.  This way you have backup in the case of a failure.  

When optimizing to redundancy you build units on a budget.  You don't waste points on upgrades you don't need.  You build highly specialized units, though units that can fulfill a secondary role on the cheap are highly prized. 

The opposing measure of list optimization that is fueling the current debate is reliability.  When you optimize to reliability you try to make units more potent, so that when they fulfill their roll, they do it much better than required on average.  You're try to reinforce a unit so that it is less likely to survive to fulfill its role and to effectively perform that role when needed.

If you are optimizing for reliability, you end up paying a few extra points to up squad sizes or purchase upgrades that are effective but useful only 10% of the time.  Generalist utility units are very important.

Both methods of optimization have pit-falls associated with them. Go for too much redundancy and you've pulled the teeth out of your army.  Everything is so expendable that it has no tactical value or offensive punch. MSU vanilla  marines can really fall into this trap.  5 man squads in Razorbacks are potent in mass, but can't do much on their own.  Same goes for many other MSU favorites.  

Optimize for reliability too much and you put all your eggs in one basket.  You can mitigate chance, but you can't control it completely.  As many points as you put into making a unit reliable, you can still suffer the effects of a few bad rolls and loose a much larger investment in points.  Fateweaver is my favorite example of this.  He makes the demon army very reliable, but a few bad rolls and the demon player's army is crippled.  

It's a give and take situation with reliability and redundancy.  Make a unit too reliable and there aren't enough points left over to take a redundant back up.  Build in too much redundancy and you don't have any clutch unit to fight the army out of a tough spot.  I think wolves are such a good army because they can balance redundancy and reliability at the same time.   They can add a wolf guard and special weapon to small units to make them reliable.  And they have reliable units like thunder wolves that are not too expensive to preclude redundancy.  Compare that with vanilla marines.  TH/SS terminators are very reliable, but are so expensive when you factor in their transport requirement that you have to build a list around them.  5 man tactical squads in razors make a good redundant core, but you can't improve their reliability until you go to 10 man squads.   

The best armies and units are the ones that can best balance reliability and redundancy.  I think that a lot of armies are not getting the fair evaluation they should because players are applying the wrong optimization approach when building their lists.  People are going too far down the MSU route for Dark Eldar and can't build the reliable Tyranid Nidzilla they used too.   I think the xenos books need the right balance to work properly more than the imperial armies. Any of the marines can work if you get the balance wrong because they can fall back on their good stat line.  Guard can work out of balance because you can gain reliability though sheer weight of firepower. 

(Spaguatyrine)-I read this post from CaulynDarr that was absolutely amazing in my opinion; Especially in relation to the hot topic of discussion last week in :

It describes what I admittedly take for granted when building my awkward, and often mind bending army lists.  What do CaulynDarr's comments about redundancy in list building with Mitigating Chance (or opportunity for success in my words) vs Failure make you feel?  What are your thoughts?


  1. Nice one. I'm thinking about how it works in Warmachine, and coming up with a few notions about crowding out essential elements with support pieces in the cause of 'helping things hit' or 'keeping things alive' but leaving yourself with nothing worth hitting with or preserving. Similar sort of principle, I suppose, just with an eye to the different roles played by that game's different unit types.

  2. I agree with the too many people going down the MSU x5 bandwagon.

    I also agree the Wolves are a terrific reliable army. My troops can often stand toe to toe with other armies assault troops. My thunderwolves can draw fire like a landraider, but laugh at melta guns.

    Great post!


Recent Favorites

All-Time Favorites