Kirb your enthusiasm!


"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, November 23, 2011

Guest Article: Evolving Mathshammer

Warhammer 39,999

Is GW trying to kill Maths?

Some people kill time, some flog a dead horse, I think, I'm not sure, but I think GW are trying to kill maths. We have an increasingly complex matrix of doing damage and the consequences of this damage. The trend is crystallised in the Necron codex for me and this trend is increasingly devaluing my spreadsheet layouts and forcing me to make more judgement calls on my choices. And finally................................... I think I like it!

Thanks for joining me after the jump. First a little apology, I promised you articles that never came. I'm not the first but it still rankles me. Real life got in the way and in the wise words of a tournament organiser I know – real life always comes first. Still my sincere apologies and I grovel for forgiveness! What do you mean it doesn't matter and you don't remember me or anything I wrote?

Moving along then. The first thing I did when I picked up the shiny Necron codex was look at the guns and run some numbers. Just like in the old cartoons when the wolf sees a pretty girl, my jaw dropped, my eyes popped out and I made a strange train whistle noise on review the TESLA destructor, the twin linked variety. It has 4 shots, twin linked (4 * 8/9) meaning you get 3.5555555555556 hits (also known as a 3, 4, 5 or a 6). Now 1 in 4 of these will be a 6 that is an average of (your hits divided by 4).888888888888 sixes. These sixes will prompt a further two hits. So .888888888 by 2 is an average of 1.777777777 bonus hits. Add this to the original hits and we have a weapon which shoots four shots but averages 5.3 hits. Multiply this by 1/6 for glances and 1/3 for pens against a rhino and we get a an average of 2.5 rolls on a damage table. Divide this by points and we have a number of bangs for buck number (we do still have to allow for -ap but anyway). The same thing happened with Long Fangs. 5 missile launcher long fangs, two thirds hit, half pen and one third wreck or explode divided by points. This is a simple figure which tells me my bang for my buck. The cost was clearly worth the bang.

So then I looked at entropic strike. How do I math hammer a harbinger of despair with harp of dissonance. Does it matter?

First question first then, I'm not sure how to maths hammer it. It seems easy for the first shot - you work out the value of your other guns 1/3 of the timing hitting against normal armour and 2/3 of the time hitting -1 armour. That would be fine for a single unit combo – let's say they sat in a royal court with eldritch lances. However, the problem is across units and turns as they have a compound effect. Each unit has a better chance after the armour value has been lowered and as you roll through the turns a Landraider may be left with AV 9. Krak grenades will pop it easy.

Does it matter? Yes it does! If I hit a rhino with the harp and entropic strike works, all of a sudden my rapid firing relentless (thank you phaeron) immortal troops can penetrate it. How do I know if I know if I have enough anti rhino? If the HoD was the only such weapon that would be fine but there are several examples of entropic strike to make it relevant. Potentially, I could do sheets of data and try to collate them in way that has some meaning for each unit and identify strong combinations. The thing is though, I think the usefulness of this info is vastly reduced due to its multi-factorial nature. With long fangs we only need a single factor – number of missiles and the target AV. Now I need to think of working the harp in concert with all of the army or at least a chunk of it to utilise it correctly. Throw in all the other entropic strikes available in the army and how do you math hammer it? If you optimise your army ignoring it you could leave yourself with serious overkill and weakness elsewhere?

Lets look at something else, the Triarch Stalker has the option of a twin-linked heavy guass cannon. I like heavy gauss cannons (lascannons). You can't get HGCs many places but the easiest is on the heavy destroyers and for 60pts a pow, they aren't cheap. Now let's say my triarch stalker hits but only shakes a grey knight landraider. Well all of a sudden, if I want to shoot that landraider with my 3 heavy destroyers they are now twin-linked. What's the outcome expectation on that and how does that reflect in relation to points optimisation? Again we have a multi-factorial situation. A unit which has a function but augments the army in a compound way. I can calculate certain unit combination benefits but doing it army wide leaves me with fields of data which are likely to not be very useful. Of course HoD will also be twin-linked so that adds a third level.

Going even deeper, if you are playing against necrons and you shot a vehicle with quantum shielding from your stalker and you hit and penetrated then you need to calculate the numbers from the destroyers using av11 (quantum shielding dies after first penetrating hit) and if your Stalker didn't penetrate you need to calculate the destroyers versus av 13. You need to combine these calculations as well as the fact you may destroy it on the first turn and target something else with your destroyers to get an accurate return on your number. I like messing with maths, but compare that to the equation for the long fangs above oh and don't forget to factor in entropic strikes from elsewhere. I'm just not bothering to be honest not until I'm a lot more familiar with the army in general .

This is because as the permutations and calculations get longer and more complicated some things begin to happen.
  1. mathshammer gets harder and consequently greater room for error.
  2. it is more conditional and consequently less reliable as a direct reflection of how unit will perform.
What we then have is a move back to subjective impression as well as trial and error. That means we have to practice and use our best judgements.

Now mathshammer was never the end all and be all. There are plenty of factors to take into account which can ruin your maths hammering in the game play. Also, some of these issues have been present for a while e.g. Tau markerlights. What we are seeing though is a huge increase in the layering of new levels of gameplay that push maths to the side more. We pay points for or innately have tactical options rather than just maximising outputs. Haemunculi as pain token carriers, night shields and aether sails, entropic strike, tremor stave staff (those upity guys in the grey power armour probably have stuff but I ain't gonna talk about them *cough grenades cough*). Power from pain itself gives a duel level value to non ap2/1 weapons. Everyone was raving about Nikephoros's 40k Metric system and rightly so when it's applied properly. Matt Ward is beginning to make such systems less relevant though as a penetration is no longer just a penetration but a destruction of quantum shielding. Strength six is more useful as it ignores FNP on Dark Eldar, etc.

I gotta say I love maths, but I what I love even more is greater reliance on feel, practice and imagination / vision. These extra layerings are forcing us to move to less quantitative methods of playing. We have to use our brains in a more qualitative way trying to encapsulate the value of something through impression of how it will work in unison with our style and methods against our most common enemies. So there will be more room for conjecture and discussion and fewer right ways to write a list or more varied lists depending which way up you turn it. In turn this means there are more intricacies to an army and maybe finesse to playing them which you build up by playing them regularly. It could spell a death to flavour of the month auto win net power lists if they aren't dead already. Sure it might take a month or two to figure out how to beat stuff but it will also take longer to figure out how to get most value out of an army.

I will still use mathshammer of course, because it tells me that if I hit a rhino with HoD then my rapid firing immortals are likely to get 2 pens per ten immortals or that a twin linked tesla destructor averages 5.3 hits. However I now need to play a lot more variations against a lot more variation to actually get a feel of what works and how well it works i.e. the tweaking process just got a lot longer. Maths hammer is not dead despite the efforts of GW but it's a getting more superficial and marginalised. I wonder what Tau and Eldar will hold for us? I'm have no idea but I hope this trend continues.

Follow us on Facebook!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...