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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Bad to Good 2: What's in a Stat?

Before you can play this game, you have to know what your units are capable of. After reading through this, you will hopefully be able to look at a statline and understand what it actually means. It's easy to look at a statline and not really understand what it means, and to just use a unit like its fluff description tells you too. Take a look at the stats, and say to yourself, “okay, that one's good, that one's average, this is good on the charge but bad otherwise...” etc. After a while, you won't even really have to think about it, you'll just recognize what a statline means at a glance.

Weapon Skill (WS):
To be honest, there are only three weapon skills that really matter. 3, 4, and 5+. The majority of enemies you will face are WS4, which is why a good way to evaluate your weapon skill is to contrast it against 4. 4 is the standard for all space marine armies (and their equivalents) and any melee unit in the game will be at least WS4. 3 is also very common, guardsman, guardians, gaunts, really any cheap light infantry comes with 3.
The interesting thing about weapon skill is that an increase doesn't necessarily translate to more offensive power. The weapon skill chart is actually very simple. If you have a higher weapons skill than your opponent, you hit on a 3+. If you are equal, or your opponent has more, you hit on 4+. If your opponent has double your weapon skill +1, than you hit them on 5+.

For this reason, going from weapon skill 3 to 4 is really a defensive upgrade. You won't be hitting anything that matters more easily, but most things will have a harder time hitting you.

Going from 4 to 5 or more is a large offensive boost. Everything still hits you on 4+, but you hit most things on a 3+. Because very few things have a WS of 5 or more, and the vast majority of units have 4, additional increases after 5 are not very valuable. WS4 units will not get any kind of minus to hit until you get to 9 or 10, (VERY rare) and you can never get better than a 3+ to hit anyway. A lot of very elite units, including many commanders, will have a WS of 6. Don't be fooled, and remember that it doesn't really give much of a bonus. It's purely a defensive stat, so they can fight other commanders who have the same weapons skill at no disadvantage.

In short,
3 is bad.
4 is average.
5 and higher is superior.
WS is just that easy.

Ballistic Skill (BS):

BS works a little differently than WS. Since your chances to hit are not dependent on any of your opponent's stats, going up in BS is always a pretty significant upgrade.

Something else to keep in mind is that using a twin-linked weapon is better than increasing by a point of ballistic skill. Twin-linked BS2 is superior to natural BS3, and twin-linked BS3 is superior to natural 4, etc. Also, once you are twin-linked at BS4 or greater, you are hitting 8/9 of the time, so you can pretty much guarantee hits.

BS1 doesn't exist, to my knowledge. It's so bad that even the untrained shoot better than this.
BS2 is still very bad, and only tend to appear on cheap troopers, the kind that wouldn't have formal training in ranged combat. Universal in an Ork list, BS2 is only useful if you are putting out a large volume of fire, or you are using a twin linked weapon.
BS3 is pretty common, and represents those trained to use their weapons. If it's cheap infantry, it's a safe bet that it's BS3. Since you only hit half the time, BS3 is considered to be a pretty unreliable amount, so if you're relying on units with heavy or special weapons that have a BS of 3, make sure you take multiples, that it's a weapon that has multiple shots, or that their weapon is twin-linked.
BS4 is also very common, and most any elite or specialized shooting unit will have a BS of 4. Don't be fooled, while going from BS3 to 4 may seem like a small amount, it's actually a huge difference. BS4 is quite reliable. Though it is better than 3 by leagues, 4 is still pretty standard.
BS5 is very, very good. Generally the only units that have a BS of 5 are commanders, it doesn't really occur naturally in large units.
BS6+ is very, very rare, and while useful, is much less of an upgrade than 1-5, though still valuable.
Overall, having a BS of 4 or more means you're good at shooting, a 3 means you're good but not great, and a two is bad.

Strength (S) and Toughness (T):

Strength and toughness are another few stats that revolves around the number 4. (Notice a pattern?) Strength is inexorably linked to toughness, as whenever one is being used so is the other.

Having a toughness of 3 is bad. It's the low end and means most everything will wound on a 3+ or 2+, and there's practically nothing that will wound on worse than a 4+. Remember the standard for small arms is the boltgun, which is strength 4, and most melee troops worth their salt are S4 as well. Having T3 means that even with a save you will take much higher casualties than those with T4 from small arms and mass melee attacks.

T4 is the gold standard. Since small arms are almost always S3 or more commonly 4, that means that you will take significantly less casualties than T3 troops. Having an enemy go from 3+ to wound to 4+ is a significant change, and having an enemy go from wounding on a 4+ to a 5+ is drastic. In fact, if you run the math, being wounded on 5+ instead of 4+ reduces casualties by 1/3, it's like having an additional 5+ save! A space marines T4 is the reason why lasguns are so ineffective against them.

T5 really means that you are actually a tough troop. Small arms are generally not very effective at this point, though it won't provide any protection against heavy weapons. T5 is the point where you truly become resilient to small arms, though by no means invulnerable. Remember, going from 4+ to 5+ on the wound roll reduces casualties by 1/3, so T5 troops are MUCH more resilient against small arms when compared to their T4 brethren.

T6 is not something that appears on infantry, it is purely the realm of monstrous creatures. Do not rely on small arms to harm T6, it is NOT reliable. Most heavy weapons are S8, so they are still very effective, however, so dealing with T6 is really the realm of heavy weapon squads and vehicles. It is also important to note that T6 is also the point where you can no longer be Instant Deathed by double strength.

T7 and higher do not appear much, but the tactics for dealing with T6 are pretty much still applied here.
I think it's also useful to quickly go through strengths and give a general description of why they are useful.
S2-Not even sure this exists, if it does, it's pretty much useless.

S3-Bad, but not useless like everyone thinks it is. Only good against other infantry, and bad once your opponent is T5 or more.

S4-Standard. This will allow you to put wounds on most any infantry in the game, even things like plague marines if you throw out enough. S4 torrent of fire is powerful against just about any enemy infantry in the game.

S5-Very good against infantry, still not good against tanks, unless you've got a large mass shooting at AV10. S5 is also a big boost to melee power, and is the reason why S4 troops with furious charge are quite good, even going to S5 for one round is devastating.

S6-This is an awesome place to be against infantry, you can hurt tough troops and most monstrous creatures, and S6 is nice in that you can get S6 melee attacks that aren't reduced to initiative 1. S6 can actually hurt tanks, though you will need a lot of attacks. Units with krak grenades are a serious threat to most tanks because of this.

S7-Strength 7 is the start of what is considered “high strength” attacks. The most common form of strength 7 is the ubiquitous autocannon, which has the distinction of being the most efficient anti-transport gun in the game. Long range S7 can annihilate transports and is pretty good at putting wounds on monstrous creatures. Though they can be fired effectively against infantry, they are best used against tough targets.

S8-Strength 8 is a very important milestone for a couple reasons. This is the point where you instant death most characters in the game, and most S8 and higher shooting tends to be AP3 or better, which means you ignore elite infantries armor saves. S8 can also hurt most tanks in the game, though it is NOT effective against AV14, and should be used against AV13 only if there are no better targets. S8 is also the point at which you hurt most monstrous creatures on a 2+. S8 is considered truly high strength, and anything higher is nice but not really necessary.

S9-Doesn't appear a lot, mostly because buying strength 9 instead of strength 10 tends to be much more expensive. Because S8 is effective against just about everything, S9 is nice but not really necessary. Unless it's cheap, it's not usually worth it.

S10-To my knowledge, there are no man-portable S10 weapons in this game Conversion Beamer and railgun are both on 'infantry' models, (TAUUUUUUU) and in fact most of them also have a blast effect! S10, especially S10 ordinance, excels at wiping out large, well armored vehicles, and squads of very elite infantry (if it has a low AP). While S10 is nice to have, it's not a requirement, and even very tough vehicles can be dealt with without having S10 in the army.

Wounds (W):

The vast majority of units in this game are simply a single wound. Lose a wound, you die, simple as that.
Characters will always have multiple wounds, typically 3. Characters with 4 are much better off, actually, the jump between 3 and 4 is pretty large, and is often the difference between a character that can potentially solo a unit and one that cannot.

After you see a units wounds, there is one thing you should immediately check for: does the unit have Eternal Warrior? Being immune to instant death is HUGE in this game. A unit with 3 wounds, 4 or even 10 is still extremely vulnerable as long as it can be Instant Deathed, as soon as a missile launcher or powerfist gets in a hit it's all over. However, a unit with Eternal Warrior is far, far more resilient. Coupled with the fact that most characters come with an invulnerable save, this means that even heavy weapons won't be taking the character down easily.

Many monstrous creatures have 6 wounds, though few have more and many have less. Though having six wounds may seem like an insurmountable amount, it's more or less just another means of resilience. You can't hide an MC in a squad to avoid shooting wounds, so even though they have a lot of wounds, they go quickly.

Initiative (I):

Initiative is by far the stat most overlooked by new players. For this very reason, I tend to think of it of the “masters stat”. It's certainly one of the ones I look at first.

Even more than other stats this one revolves around 4. Below 4 is bad. 4 is average. Above 4 is great. Striking before an enemy is an incredibly powerful bonus, each enemy killed before they can attack means less casualties on your side, and a more overwhelming victory (or narrower loss) at the end of the battle. It's a bit of a deceiving stat, because it doesn't modify offensive power, it's purely defensive in that you can kill the enemy before they can strike. This is the reason why the Relic Blade is so popular on a captain: S6 means you wound infantry on a 2+, and I5 means that you can kill the vast majority of infantry before they get to attack. Taking out a few soldiers before they join the fight is a tremendous advantage. It's also why you should avoid reducing the initiative on independent characters: they can be singled out in melee, and killed before they can even attack.

The one situation where having a low initiative is not a huge problem is when a squad leader is reduced. Since they can't be targeted out, they will still get their attacks as normal. This is why powerfists are good in squads but not on individual characters.

Attacks (A):

Looking at the attack stat is very deceiving. There are a lot of things that can adjust this number. The most common method of gaining attacks is, of course, charging, followed by having an additional close combat weapon. There are entire armies that carry a bolt pistol and additional close combat weapon, but have their number of attacks listed as one.

Obviously, more attacks is superior. There's not much to say about it, but it is good to know that 1-2 attacks is average, 3 is good, 4 or more is a lot.

Leadership (Ld):

Leadership is different, in that it's a stat that revolves around 7! You roll 2d6 for determining leadership, and you need equal to or less than your stat. This is much, much different that other rolls, because you are rolling two dice instead of one. The result on a 2d6 follows a bell-curve pattern, where seven is the most common roll (1/6 chance to occur, or 17%) while the numbers at either end get progressively less and less likely. (Rolling a 2 or 12 is a 1/36 chance, or 3%.) The lesson here is that if you are at less than Ld 7, you are in trouble. You will fail your test most of the time. Leadership 7 is pretty common and generally exists on “low” leadership models, and while you pass most of the time, don't be fooled, you still fail 42% of the time. On the other hand, leadership 8 mans you only fail 28% of the time. Even seemingly small leadership changes have a big impact on your success and failure rate.

That about wraps it up for stats. Next BtG was going to be on deployment, but I've got a request to make a guide for choosing an army. Hopefully, I can succeed there where others have failed. Until next time!

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