Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Enduring Parking Lot Math-Hammer Mentality

by SandWyrm

I was digging through some 40K related files on my computer recently when I ran across this little number that I saved from back in '09 when the IG Codex was first released. It appeared as a post on Dakka Dakka that purported to be the perfect "core" for an IG army:

"I've done a ridiculous amount of number crunching for the IG and come up with a "core list" so to speak that is just grand for taking on any number of opponents, but primarily focused on crushing the current metagame kings: Daemons, Lash/Oblit spam, Eldar Bikes, Nob Bikes. Because if you can beat these guys, you can beat anyone, right? Yeah, pretty much.

Company Command Squad + Astropath + Officer of the Fleet
110 pts

Psychic Battle Squad (7 psykers) + Chimera
145 pts

DH Inquisitor + 2 Mystics
32 pts

Hydra Flak Tankx3
225 pts

390 pts

Total: 902 pts

902 points that counter the main strengths of each "top list" while allowing enough points and slots to let you customize however you want. Fill with Russ tanks, fill with Hound tanks, fill with guys or vets or conscripts or whatever, it'll be effective. Some lists will be more effective than others, and some will be more or less easy or interesting to play than others. This is an optimized template to build around; personalize it however you want.

Does this match anyone's actual experience with the IG Codex? Not mine. Anyone who actually plays with Vendettas is going to find that 2 is more than enough. Ditto with the Hydras. And when was the last time you saw a Psyker Battle Squad in action with all the Hoods that are running around these days?

I would have thought that, twenty-seven months on, we could finally put this kind of thinking to rest. After all, we don't play 40K on a bare, featureless table. Right? You can math-hammer things all you want, but that has to go hand in hand with an understanding of how you expect to move around the table and counter the moves of your opponent. There are, simply put, tactical considerations to think about as well. For all the ruckass caused by the infamous "Leafblower" build, I haven't exactly seen it lighting up the tables at the events I attend. Far from it. Like Nob Bikers, it's best days are behind it.

But no, just this week I ran across this type of thinking again over on Librarium Online, as Kroxigor barged in on a discussion on the Leman Russ Battle Tank to let us know how deluded we were for liking the Russ:

"I disagree with the sentiments in this thread. There seems to be a nostalgic love for the russ. I prefer to flood the table in AV12 and firepower.

Lists I favour:

1. Meltavets + Vendettas + Hydras + (Psyker squads) (maybe).

2. Autocannon chimeras + Vendettas + Medusa
3. Autocannon chimeras with hunter killers + more + sentinels + storm troopers (no Heavy Support, I currently have this list in the 40k votewar)

3 Russes surviving even till turn 6 isn't going to table the opponent. A canny opponent will shoot for your units that are easier to kill and frequently have more firepower. I agree with this:
Vendettas/Hellhounds/Meltavets are cheap, do their damage quickly and are fragile. Russes are expensive, do less damage and are sturdy. In my opinion Russes stick out from the rest of an IG list and make the opponents target priority choices easier.

From another angle:
If instead you wanted to move away form the AV12 platform list then I could support the efficient use of Russes. Maybe in a list of autocannon blobs and deepstriking storm troopers (I cannot complement this units ability to fill the gap of Meltavets in instant transport removal) 3 Russes in the backline would work well."

The usual arguments ensued, with me pointing out the benefits of having an AV14/13 tank moving around the field, doubling it's effectiveness. But Krox literally didn't understand my points. He could only visualize trying to hide a half dozen Chimeras behind 3+ Russes for cover while they all stood still and shot. And shot. And shot.

So Why Does This Thinking Persist?

Since my (and others') experience is so contrary to this mode of thinking, why does it persist so? In a word: Terrain.

This is the biggie. If you're not playing with enough terrain, then Mech armies of all kinds are going to have a field day. Particularly if that terrain doesn't block line of sight like it should.

I mean, what do these guys play with? 2 small forests in the middle of the table? Their calculations are predicated on always being able to see their targets. As well as their targets not being in cover to any great degree. Disrupt that, and the math-hammer falls apart in favor of movement.

In Krox's case, he indicated that the level of terrain in my last Tau Batrep was typical for him. While  this setup is pretty typical for most of my games at the FLGS.

Big difference.

There's also the old Battle-Point tourney system to consider. In the days before win/loss it made a certain amount of sense to gamble on being able to table 2/3rds of your opponents or always going first. After all, it was win big or go home. But these days, when you're playing 7-8 rounds, gambling doesn't make as much sense. It's much better to win by a little every time than to win big 3/4 of the time and get smashed every 4 games.

So... what can we do to make this mentality go away? I'm thinking terrain standards of some sort, to raise everyone's expectations. Along with a continued focus on transitioning to win/loss events.



  1. Bam, on the head. (Although personally I see nothing wrong with triple Vendettas or Psyker Battle Squads, they are certainly far from auto-includes and those army lists are pretty clearly "spam from the internets" lists.)

    Good terrain- i.e. 25% coverage like the rulebook says- goes a long ways towards this sort of thing. W/L/D scoring, rather than battle points, does the same.

  2. Don't get why people max out Valkyries + Hydras. Seems too little anti-infantry in too many points and too many FOC slots.

    Autocannon Chimeras are from FW, so let me take 2 Land Raider Achilles + Assault Pods and we call it even. lol.

  3. Krox here, just found this post. Yes I do not have what you would consider normal terrain in my region. Area terrain and 'ruinous ' ruins rather than huge block buildings normal. A unit in its deployment zone is almost always in cover, but almost never out of LoS completely.

    You make out that I forgo movement entirely. Of course I move, everyone knows how and why to sacrifice units to block and delay. I just don't understand why you would take a Russ. It is just as vunlerable to melta and combat as a chimera and lighter tanks can move and fire around chimeras from the backfield as well.

    By 'autocannon chimera' I meant an infantry squad (rather than veterans) armed with an Autocannon placed in a chimera. Sorry this was unclear. The armement of the chimera varies (ML+HB or ML+HF depending on the list. Also, sometimes hunter killer missile).

  4. Also, your picture is insulting. My glasses are much smaller and my calculator much bigger.

  5. tbh, i wouldnt know what i would do without a Leman Russ. It is the only stable element in my lists and it rarely dies. Plus, its a great confidence boost when you know that the enemy is going to have trouble getting through that AV14/13. And you'd never know how many times people have been telling me to drop the Russ from my lists, but it always seems to work and they cannot understand why it does.

    Also the extra added bonus of the Russ is that its a bullet magnet. You may not like that, but i do because it takes some Lascannon shots away from the more important elements of my lists, like the Vendettas, however lately the Vendettas have become the bullet magnets, while the Russ is ignored.....which is also good because it allows me to keep dropping large Blast templates all of the table.

    But, also the apparent fact you seem to be playing on board that has very little in the way of LOS blocking terrain (i.e. buildings) speaks volumes to your playing style.
    When i play, or watch people play, on average there are 3 large buildings on the board to block LOS completely, with some smaller pieces in the middle. On occasion its 5 buildings on the board.

    So, i would say that you should try playing with more large buildings on the board. What you say makes little sense to the rest of us if you only play on a board that lets you have LOS to everything all the time.
    Hell, even try out the Russ onn that type of board you would see that the Russ is better than you think.

  6. I saw the most extreme version of this at Adepticon as I watched a pick-up game between a Leafblower IG list and a Blood Angels jump list. There were, literally, 3-4 single trees on the board. No area terrain, nothing. I still can't fathom why the BA player even agreed to the game.

    Drop... BOOM!

    Drop... BOOM!

    Drop... BOOM!

    Game Over.

  7. @Krox

    Our level of terrain is probably why you don't see people whining about Mech Guard nearly as much in Indy as elsewhere. In fact, the Guard population is down quite a bit of late. Only two or three of us play it regularly anymore.

  8. This article on 40k is great. It is funny because my guard list has all these elements except in smaller doses.

    Officer of the fleet for enemy reserve manpulation.

    psyker battle squad for screwing with leadership

    Hydras x 2

    Vendettas x2

    DH inq with mystics (When we could)

    I took these elements in every guard list. I filled in with Straken, Vets, griffons, russes, grey knight terminators, etc.

  9. It's not really about terrain, or about a mentality of wanting to win big or go home. It's really just about the differences between theory, the internet, and reality, and also about opinions and dichotomous thinking (in other words, I'm right and you're wrong).

    40K is not a complex game. I consider it wholly inadequate for true competition for many reasons, but that's a whole other essay. Given its relative simplicity, it is tempting for many people to try to boil it down to simple mathematics and abstractions. However, one of the things that makes it unsuitable for competition is the lack of standardisation - as you say, terrain is a factor, but so are many other intangibles. Many 40K games are won or lost depending on who has the stronger opinion about what's in cover and what's not, or who wants to argue about a particular ambiguous rule for longer. When a game is so easily affected by who feels like insisting more on any given day, it not only makes it unsuitable for competition, but also nonstandard enough that trying to boil it down to pure mathematics is entirely silly.

    Yet we persist, because it is a failing of our species that our opinions are more important than anything else. Not only do our opinions have to be right, but other people have to be wrong too, or at least less right, otherwise we're not as cool. And on the internet we can argue forever without people walking away from us or slapping us like we desperately deserve.

    To the topic at hand, these sort of arguments will always persist because opinions of this sort are easy to form. We are geeks, and geeks like to sit around thinking about abstract things, and forming opinions on them. 40K is even better, because we can make some numbers happen, and everyone knows if you have numbers in your opinion that makes it even more right. Thus we end up with a unit being considered 15.7% more efficient, and so spamming that unit makes your army eleventy times more efficient, and thus better. And, naturally, it makes you more right.

    Of course, theory and reality rarely intersect perfectly. Yet the opinions persist that chaotic situations such as 40K can be boiled down to simple equations, and thus by adding Fire Dragons your army/equation is now capable of dealing with heavy armour, or by adding more identical Chimeras your army is thus now more efficient and more redundant. In the end, you can't make people stop forming opinions by changing what happens in the real world, because their opinions never took the real world into account in the first place.

  10. 25% of the table covered with terrain has been the ignored standard for quite some time. Stores in many areas don't have enough terrain and in most tournaments its stretched even more thinly. So you end up playing on tables with forests in two corners, ruins in two corners and something in the middle that can block los to one tank and a 5 man squad. These tables are boring to play on and breed gunline armies that expect to win handy if they go first and solidly if they're forced to go second that can be boring to play against even if you're whipping them.

    Proper terrain makes the battle more about tactics and mobility less about how many dice you can roll dropping bombs down range. In the indy area we've been doing better but I still occasionally see the dreaded 5-6 medium sized non-los blocking pieces on the board in the x pattern. It makes me miss the days when you took turns setting up pieces of terrain before picking you side.

  11. Last weekend I played in a tourney and I brought 7 russes to the table:

    CCS - 4 meltas, 1 power weapon

    2 x Vet Squad - 3 meltas, Chimera




    Leman Russ Squadron:
    3 battle tanks

    Leman Russ Squadron:
    2 Executioners with Heavy bolter sponsons and a lascannon

    Leman Russ Squadron:
    1 Demolisher
    1 Executioner with plasma sponsons and lascannon

    I've played this list 4 times with heavy terrain and I'm 3-1 with it and I have yet to lose a full Russ squadron.

    Also, my Vendettas live a lot longer as the Russes soak up a lot of fire.

    I find one tactic that works great for a Russ Squadron of 2 is to move them rear to rear so that no matter where a shot comes from, they can't get at the AV10 rear armor with shooting. They can get 14s and 13s all day long and both tanks can still fire their main turreted weapons.

    Also, with the Russ Squadrons, battle damage tends to be light enough that I can stack all the damage on 1 tank in the unit until it is destroyed before having to damage another Russ.

    When it comes down to it, all tanks are fragile and if played poorly, they tend to die quickly.


out dang bot!

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