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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

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

WBB, FnP, and Evaluating Units

 <-- yar!

This article really turned into something more than I meant it to be, I hope you enjoy. =)

Now, there is something that I keep hearing, that I want to clear up once and for all:
We'll Be Back! is NOT the same as Feel No Pain.

I keep seeing it thrown around like they are identical, and indeed, in a lot of respects they are: both are effectively an additional 4+ save, they are both ignored by any weapon that causes instant death, is AP1 or 2, or ignores armour saves.

What separates them? It's a timing issue. One happens immediately, the other is a delayed effect. In this instance, the delayed effect is HUGELY superior.

Let's say I shoot at a unit of 10 marine equivalents with FnP: I kill a few, the others survive, and FnP helps keep them up. If I want to kill the unit off entirely, I simply keep shooting them until every model in the unit is dead. There is no way for them to come back, they are gone.

Now, let's say that I shoot at a unit of 10 Necron warriors. It takes less firepower to down the unit, but at the beginning of the next turn, half of them get up. Even though I wanted to wipe the unit out entirely last turn, it is impossible to do so, because of the "delayed save" of WBB. This means that I have to shoot them to death, but that I still have to engage multiple units every turn. You cannot focus fire a unit to death over a short period of time like you can with FnP.

Now, you're probably saying, "Biscuit, why do I even care? It's not like the necron 'dex is any good..." and I would have to agree: it's a pretty bad codex. The point is that it's important to think through things on a tabletop level: the timing, positioning, and even the model itself can all have dramatic impacts on its table top performance.

This is also the problem of running the hard stats of a unit: there are some things where it is just very difficult to determine their actual value. I remember, once, when a friend and I were talking about Assault Marines, and he said, "I can't quantify a jump pack."

I asked him, "What do you mean?"

"There's not really anything you can compare a 12" move to, or against. Also, ignoring terrain. I mean, I know a 12" move is more valuable than a 6" move, but it's not something I could put a value on reliably. I know that 12" is better than 6", but not how much more valuable. It's certainly more than twice as good, but what the price on it should be, I just don't know."

This is a fundamental problem with unit balancing in 40k, and indeed, any game system. The relative value of something can be shifted dramatically by unintended features that we can't very accurately account for when designing the unit. I know that S5 is better than S4, and I have a very good idea of how much better it is, and how I would price a unit that can take the kind of upgrade. I don't know how I would price, say, increasing Fire Warriors rapid fire range from 12" to 24". I wouldn't even be comfortable guessing a number, until I saw it played out on the table many, many times.

Don't underestimate a unit until you've seen it in a good player's hands, because these kind of indecipherable differences in the stat black make huge differences on the tabletop. No, I'm not trying to say that every unit is good as long as you know how to use it- far from it. But those options that may seem mediocre to you can pack quite a punch when used in ways you didn't expect.

There are much more subtle differences in relative worth than the comparison between WWB and FnP, and it all depends on the list, it's interactions with the table, the opponent, and the objectives of the game. That's why you occasionally see what the 'net deems as a "bad" unit appear in a list a pro makes- because the way it's used, in this particular situation, makes it shine in a way it normally never can. Again, no, not every unit, but they are out there.

So what is the ultimate point? Never stop experimenting. Proxy whenever you can, and field whatever you normally don't take until it works for you. When I taught a friend of mine the game, I put Vanguard Veterans in every one of my C:SM lists to try and even the game, and I learned invaluable lessons from it. About the survivability of assault units, about the value of jump pack movement, and about how VV have no place in a competitive list. (But in some armies, assault marines do!) Let me tell you, there is no better training in how to play and counter jump pack units than to try and make a 400 point unit of them work game after game. =P

Play hard, play well, experiment. It's the only way to make it to the top.

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