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"Pink isn't a color. It's a lifestyle." - Chumbalaya
"...generalship should be informing list building." - Sir Biscuit
"I buy models with my excess money" - Valkyrie whilst a waitress leans over him

Monday, December 6, 2010

Re-visiting anti-mech: A balancing act

Another article stemming from that FNIF by Dethtron (no I’m not trying to get you to vote for me, as me...not at all). In the linked thread and source of the latest FNIF (can you believe we’re up to 40 already?), angelofwtf had trouble differentiating between suppression fire and actual anti-tank. The linked articles explain both adequately so we’re not here to look at them all over again, I wouldn’t bore you with that tirade (not now anyway). One of angelofwtf’s main issues I think was the belief that those advocating suppression fire weren’t aiming to kill tanks and that we thought shaken/stunned tanks were better than dead tanks. I have no idea how he came to this conclusion (or if) but that is utterly and completely wrong. Suppression fire is basically playing to the odds. The 5th edition damage table makes tanks very hard to kill and most AP1 guns are short-ranged (this means they aren’t always going to be able to shoot). So what this article is going to do is look at anti-mech as a whole. An army needs to incorporate suppression fire and pure anti-tank more often than not to succeed but how does one achieve an appropriate balance between the two?

First let’s take a look at some math. I’m an IG player and I’ve got 9 autocannons (3 HWT teams) which can fire at 3 Razorbacks. No orders, no cover. Based on statistics, those 9 autocannons are going to cause three pens (we’ll ignore glances) and those three pens on average will kill one tank. Basically each HWT has a very good chance to ‘suppress’ a Razorback each turn. This is suppression fire. We are still going to wreck one vehicle on average with these autocannons but we are also quite reliably ‘shutting down’ 3 tanks a turn. If we focused all that firepower into one Razorback, we’d have a pretty good chance of taking it out but those other two Razorbacks are free to shoot unless we got lucky and killed it with our first salvo. This is the concept of suppression fire; once a tank is stopped from shooting, you stop shooting it. This is the exact opposite logic to infantry units who you want to break or eliminate rather than taking a few guys off each squad.

There are obvious exceptions, if you have brought 5 meltagun units to bear on a Land Raider to stop it or have no better targets; eliminate it. However, applying the concept of suppression fire through proper target priority increases your damage potential by spreading the rolls on the damage chart across multiple vehicles. This is why split fire units such as target locked Tau Piranhas or Long Fangs are so valued, there are very few wasted shots.

With this in mind you still need to be able destroy tanks with some certainty. It’s no use rolling lots of glances with guass weaponry or assault cannons if you can’t end up destroying tanks in the end. Rate of fire guns are going to kill tanks at some stage and if you’re using target priority right, you’re also going to suppress your opponent’s tanks pretty well. However, these guns are generally S6-7 and suppress mech through their rate of fire and this isn’t enough to bring down a mech army. Here’s where ‘true’ anti-tank comes in, high strength weapons, weapons which bonus to pen rolls (melta, ord, etc.) and/or have AP1 bonuses are much more capable and reliable at destroying tanks. Inflicting damage? Not always but at actually destroying tanks, these weapons are far superior and allow armies not only to destroy mech but destroy even the toughest of mech (i.e. Land Raiders, monoliths).

So yay, Kirby just gaves us a re-cap of his suppression fire and anti-tank articles when he said he wasn’t. Well implicitly noted in those summary paragraphs is a key component to building an army list. I’ll make it explicit now. Suppression fire and ‘true’ anti-tank fire complement each other and whilst they are both quite capable and formidable in their own right, it is a very rare list that can focus on only one aspect and be successful. Whilst there are a few lists that do focus quite extensively on just suppression fire or ‘true’ anti-tank, they generally have a little bit of the other as well. Examples are Mechdar who focus on a lot of S6 but have suicide melta squads or Immolator/Flamestorm spam that have a lot of meltaguns to crack tanks and token suppression fire from autocannons/assault cannons. A key component of these type of lists is they have a ridiculous amount of that type of firepower across multiple units (i.e. 100+ S6 shots or 20+ melta weapons). This makes it hard to neutralise. Otherwise, most lists need to take advantage of both aspects of anti-tank firepower to be balanced.

This is where parts of the argument from the FNIF come into play. If your army caters too much to anti-tank or suppression fire over the other without compensation (see previously mentioned lists), it won’t be balanced and will have clearly exploitable weaknesses. This is where unit choice and good FoC organisation comes into play. If I’ve taken units A, B, C and D who are quite good at popping tanks in some capacity and I have the option of unit E which plays a similar role or unit F which is very good at suppression fire, I need to consider what not taking unit F does to my overall army. Can the army operate without suppression fire? Or do I need to incorporate it? Is unit F enough or do I need to diversify some of my other choices as well? Essentially, like balancing anti-tank and anti-infantry firepower, you have to balance your type of anti-tank firepower. It’s no use having an ‘awesome anti-mech’ army which hopes to glance to death AV14 (a main reason why Loganwing takes combi-meltas).

So, another concept and balancing act you need to take into account when list building. Consider how your army would fair against a mass of AV10 vehicles (i.e. DE), AV11-12 (i.e. most Imperial Armies and Eldar) or extensive AV13+ (i.e. Tau, some Imperial Armies). Are there significant weaknesses against particular types of list and does changing some of your firepower from ‘true’ anti-tank to suppression fire, or vice versa, alleviate this issue? It would be highly recommended if it does. Armies which don't do this are quite capable of being good (see referenced lists above) but are few and far between and have an obvious 'counter' army list which if things good poorly, can be hard to recover against. They are still balanced lists but swing mildly in terms of favored matchups a wee bit more than balanced lists containing a more evenly spread anti-mech.

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