by Anonymous Foodie
Foodie here, and despite working 50-60 hour work weeks *and* trying to coordinate a job/apartment search across state lines, I'm bringing you a little number-work and (hopefully) some food for thought.
Now, caveat emptor that this is by no means the be-all-end-all of arguments for or against any specific troop, army, or anything in between. This is meant to be simply my answer of "oreally?" to a lot of the "Army X = suckzor because troop choice Y = not as good as troop Z" that the interwebs seems to be fond of.
Granted, for every blog/opinion saying the new Tau/Eldar are weaksauce, there's another voice jumping up and down with glee... so remember to take everything you read (even this) with a grain of salt.
The premise here is to take a look at what is "the standard" - the bolter-toting marine - and compare the damage output to some "lesser" troops - in today's case my humble Kabalite Warriors.
10 Basic Marines (aka, the Tactical Squad) rings in at about 140 points. We're following the Dark Angel method because free weapon upgrades aren't "the norm" (maybe C:SM will keep that perk in later editions, maybe not), and because it makes the maths infinitely easier.
To keep things fair, they're being paired off against equal points of stock Kabalites (no blaster for me!). In very un-Dark Eldar-esque fashion, I've even rounded down to 135 points (that's 15 warriors instead of the 15.5 I'd have for the full 140).
The test? Line them up, and pull the trigger. No turn-based action or who gets the jump on who, just blank numbers and who kills what.
Step the First
If we take a look at the respective Codex stats (which is what many derive initial reactions from) the Marines, as you may have guessed, pull wildly ahead. The Marines wrack up 4.4 kills (about 40 points worth) while the Kabalites only register 1.6 (or 23 points). So Marines are looking almost twice as good for the same points.
That's awesome! Marines are rawkzors!! Awww yeah Imperials!!
Because we're all playing those intro games from the starter sets, right? Where you line up 10 orks vs 10 marines, walk across a board with 1 piece of cover, and see who wins, right? Right??!!?
Or, maybe things are a little more detailed than that. So let's take a look at the possibilities.
Step the Second
Let's throw those Kabalites into some cover (5+) and toss on that first Pain Token for Feel No Pain. Cover is easy, almost a given if you want it. The Token is *slightly* circumstantial. It can be bought (via attached Heamy) with more points, doled out via a Cronos (kind of more points) or earned by killing a target of opportunity (freebie).
With what boils down to a re-rollable 5+, the kill rate that the Marines have drops to less than half of what it was - 1.98 (let's round to 2) for 18 points-worth of gory death.
Meanwhile the Kabalites shooting Marines sitting in a forest maintain the same kill rate (unless you start to factor going to ground, but hey, Kabalites can do that too - I'm ignoring that for now).
What if I got smart and placed a Ruin in my deployment zone? Marine kills drop to 1.4 (1.5 for mathematical ease) and a point-death of 13.5 (less than one marine).
Step the... One and a Half
Yeah, that means I'm backtracking. Because I can already hear the interwebs raging at me "Oh lo and behold ye Foodie, who gives the best of everything to his preciouses Kabalites!! Pain tokens are cool, but they're not automatic!!!"
And I concede that you have a valid point - while getting FnP on my troops is within my rules, it is not a guarantee (without plugging more points elsewhere in the army). It's nice to look at the best case scenario, but hardly effective when trying to get a good feel for what an army can dish out and take, realistically.
But cover, still, is mostly a given. Unless you hate yourself and put nothing in your deployment zone worthwhile. But hey, whatever floats your boat (or crashes it, burning and screaming, as the case would be).
So give the basic Kabalite a 4+ cover save, and the Marines clock in 2.2 kills (about 20 points). Remember above when the Kabalites killed 1.6 marines, doing 23 points worth of damage?
Kabalites in Ruins > Marines in Ruins
Fun fact - Kabalites shooting at other Kabalites do more damage in every scenario compared to Marines.
So, Marines >>>> Kabalites in the open, but Kabalites > Marines when utilizing the board. What's this mean in real life?
If I play like an idiot, I get beat like a bass drum. If I start to think critically and use what amounts to baseline tactics, I start to get an edge.
This is what I have, in my current groggy state, have dubbed Variance. A marine is a marine, which definitely has it's upside - you know what to expect, it's standardized, you're as durable advancing over open ground as you are ducking behind a forest. Kabalites, on the other hand, have a *very* fluctuating capacity for damage based on how they're utilized. Leave them in a bad spot and they're going to get hosed. Take a bit of care with them and they start to stand up as well or better than Marines.
The Real Caveat
Obviously this is a closed test, and extremely limited. What happens when you drop a cover-ignoring template? What happens when you use S6 weaponry to ignore FNP? What happens when you shoot lances at Marines? What happens when Night Shields make it impossible for those marines to bring their guns to bear?
This is, at best, an eye opener to those who look at a stat-line and draw base conclusions from those numbers. They're a start, sure, but hardly the finish line. Kabalites (and other Dark Kin) are perhaps one of the more interested examples due to the ability to add special rules by killing things. Tau altering BS or other modifiers with Marker Lights would be another example.
I'm interested in looking at other troops to see how they really stack up. Is Tau BS3 really so bad that S5 and 30" doesn't make up for it (and that's before Markerlights)? Maybe so. Maybe not, when you consider the cost of the unit. For now, it's time to put my mind (and body to boot) to rest.
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