Mathammer: Tactical Squads Suck, Part Deux

Good day, fellow wolves in sheep’s clothing! Today I’m going to address a few of the points that were brought up by commentators on my piece about the suckitude of Tactical Squads. I don’t address every single thing that was discussed up but I tried to cover what I felt needed more indepth analysis. I may revisit this topic again sometime in the future, though. Without further adieus:

Buff Auras

Many peeps have brought up the fact that Marines have awesome buff auras available to them and that leaving them out of the equation in my article was distorting reality. Normally that would be a valid point, but it leaves out the fact that I did not take into account any sort of buff for the Guardsmen (such as FRFSF, Yarrick’s aura, Cadian doctrine, etc) either. In any case, I went back and did the math, and I have some bad news for you if you thought Captains/Lieutenants were going to save the day…

  • At 24 inches, a Tactical Marine supported by a Captain upgraded to a Chapter Master as well as a Lieutenant will cause 0.0354 WPP to a Guardsman, 0.0132 WPP to a Chaos Marine and 0.0088 WPP to a Predator.
  • At the same range and without any support, the Guardsmen will do 0.0416 WPP to a fellow Guardsman, 0.0138 WPP to a Chaos Marine and 0.0069 WPP to a Predator.

So the Guardsman STILL performs over 17% better against GEQ and 4% against MEQ even with the deck stacked against it. The Tactical Marine does perform considerably better against the Pred (27+%), but that is hardly much comfort given how bad it is in absolute terms at killing tanks. Let’s also not forget the fact that I did not account for the cost of the Captain and Lieutenant in any manner in my calculations.

So… that’s not great, but just for giggles, let’s see how Lord Guilliman affects the equation:

  • At 24 inches, a Tactical Marine supported by the freaking Lord Commander of the Imperium does 0.0405 WPP to a Guardsman, 0.0170 WPP to a Chaos Marine and 0.0126 WPP to a Predator.
  • At the same range, and without even the loving care and support of his elderly, osteoporosis-afflicted mother, the Guardsman does 0.0416 WPP to another Guardsman, 0.0138 WPP to the Chaos Marine and 0.0069 WPP to the Predator.

So the “good news” (which is very relative a term, here) is that the Tactical Marine does a healthy 23+% more WPP to the Chaos Marine than the Guardsman does, and a whopping 82+% more WPP to the Pred. The bad news is that even with a “free” Guilliman, the Guardsman STILL does 2+% more WPP to another Guardsman than the Tactical Marine does.


Guardsmen Are Too Cheap

Another common refrain is that perhaps it’s not that Tacticals are too expensive so much as the fact that Guardsmen are too cheap; after all, it doesn’t make sense that a Conscript is the same price as a Guardsman while being objectively worse in all respects aside from the fact that he can come in squads of up to 30 (which does have downsides as well as upsides). A lot of posters have floated 5 pts a pop as a more appropriate cost for a Guardsman.

Well, let’s roll with that, shall we?

  • A Tactical Marine will suffer 0.72 WPP from a BS 4+ Lasgun, 1.44 WPP from a BS 3+ Boltgun and 4.81 WPP from a BS 3+ Plasmagun (not overcharged).
  • A 5-pts Guardsman will suffer 0.83 WPP from the Lasgun, 1.48 WPP from the Boltgun and 2.77 WPP from the Plasmagun.

So the Tactical Marine is still massively (73+%) more vulnerable to the Plasmagun, point for point, but at least is now roughly equivalent against Boltguns and is even a fair bit better against Lasguns. Therefore, bumping the Guardsman to 5 pts still leaves us with some disparity in terms of survivability, but at least it would be a step in the right direction.

That said, survivability is only half the equation:

  • At 24 inches, the Tactical does 0.022 WPP to a Guardsman, 0.008 WPP to a Chaos Marine and 0.0056 WPP to a Predator.
  • At the same range, the 5 pts Guardsman does 0.033 WPP to the Guardsman, 0.011 WPP to the Chaos Marine and 0.0055 WPP to the Predator.

So for those at home without a calculator handy, that’s a marginally better performance (less than 3%) against the Predator for the Tac Marine but a much more significant residual advantage against MEQ (30%) and GEQ (46+%) for the Guardsman.

All in all, the performance of the 5 pts Guardsman is a lot closer to the Tactical’s (point for point) but there is still a pretty significant gap, overall.

What About Intercessors?

I have to admit, I REALLY hate the Primaris Marines from a fluff standpoint. I also hate their unit design which runs contrary to how 40k (vice 30k) Marines have always been portrayed: jack of all trades, masters of none. Plus, Gravis armour looks goofy AF. I mean, look at how dumb Aggressors are, what with the super awkward placement of their guns on their power fists.  And the less said about the Inceptors, the better…

So I was initially kinda glad that they mostly sucked balls on the tabletop. I had run the math on the Intercessors when they first came out and they were just flat out worse than Tacticals in every aspect except survivability to small arms. I didn’t think much of the 2-pts price cut they got in Chapter Approved because I didn’t think that would be enough to make a difference.

Turns out, it makes more a difference than I initially thought. Unfortunately, the end result is pretty much a sidegrade rather than a straight-up improvement:

  • The Intercessor will cause 0.020 WPP to a Guardsman, 0.009 WPP to a Chaos Marine and 0.006 WPP to a Predator.
  • The Intercessor will suffer 0.5 WPP from a BS 4+ Lasgun, 1 WPP from a BS 3+ Boltgun and 3.33 from a BS 3+ Plasmagun (not overcharged).

Compared to the Guardsman, the Intercessor does better than the Tactical did against the Chaos Marine and the Predator, but worse against the Guardsman (which is probably more important at the moment for your overall chances at victory). That said, the Intercessor still does worse overall than the Guardsman on all counts: 11+% worse against the Pred, 33% worse against the Chaos Marine and 50+% against the Guardsman.

On the flipside, the Intercessor actually does SOME things better than both the Tacticals and the Guardsmen. Compared to the Guardsman, the Intercessor will take 25% less casualties per point against BS 4+ Lasguns and 15% less against BS 3+ Boltguns but 50% more against the non-overcharged BS 3+ Plasmagun (which is still better than what can be said for the Tactical) but here’s the kicker: if someone is going to shoot at your Intercessor with a Plasmagun, fair chance he’ll overcharge it and cause 8.33 WPP, which is 3.75 times more the Guardsman (and also worse than what is true for the Tactical)!

So yeah, sidegrade. Bit better than Tacticals against MEQ and tanks, bit worse against GEQ, more survivable against small arms but a lot more vulnerable to 2D and up weapons. And I’d say still considerably below Guardsman performance, overall.

That’s it for now. As I mentioned in the intro, I may do yet another article on the subject in the future, but I’ve spoken my piece for the time being. Ciao!

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105 responses to Mathammer: Tactical Squads Suck, Part Deux

Not to be a jackass, but it's almost like there's more to 40k than cold, hard maths that can be perfectly simulated in an Excel spreadsheet…

Of course there is. WPP is not the end all be all, but it DOES help clarify in part why unit X is good and unit Y is bad, especially when comparing two units that share a great deal of similarities between the two. The exercise would be a lot less useful if one tried to compared Infantry Squads with Scouts, for example; while I'm sure the WPP would still be in the Guardsman's favour to a large extent, it would fail to account for the intangible usefulness that the Scout's ability to deploy forward brings.

You figure out the distribution of wounds a squad does to another (I personally use a simulation), that's the first step.

Then you figure out how many dead models each datapoints adds in average, then you do a weighted average.

I think the whole WPP outcome you present us does not yield any usefulness. According to your WPP scenario, Grots are the most WPP when wounding MEQ and the Predator as they've got the same chance of hitting/wounding/armour as Guardsmen but are more cost effecient. They can even be fielded in huge blobs and are kind of imune to moral due to the squighound eating d3.

The whole morale phase seems to be neglected and should be taken into account, because in 8th edition you lose models when you fail instead of falling back. E.g. a MEQ unit causes 8 bolter wounds on 5 tacticals and 3 (rounded up) tacticals die and can't fail morale because of the sergeant's leadership, on the other hand that MEQ unit scores 10 wounds on Guardsmen and they lose 7 models, with a 66% chance of losing the rest due to morale.
There are ways to mitigate the morale issue, but they come at a cost of at least 1 CP, support units, unit placement, most of them cost extra points which could be added on your WPP (how many points is a command point worth to you?)

I also think that the chapter tactic is a huge bonus over guardsmen, because it is always present, either making them more resilient (6+fnp), reroll hit/wound per unit (for that one lascannon or melta in the squad?), harder to hit and so on. The regiments boni are situational, advancing and shooting is nice, +1 strength in melee can win you a fight and so on. Concerning orders, they've always been part of the guard and are nothing new, but in order to issue them you need that HQ, it has to be in range, vox casters might need to be bought for at least 2 units.

Why did guardsmen drop a point in comparison to 5th, 6th/7th ?
I think it is because of the new morale phase and that you are bound to lose guardsmen every round due to it. Other armies have build-in ways to mitigate, e.g. Orks with the mob rule, tyranids and so on. But Eldar Guardians are very expensive, yes, but they have a potentially deadly weapon and received a powerful chapter tactic, -1 to it, only losing 1 model due to morale etc).

Are Marines too expensive ?
I really can't say, they come with 2 types of grenades, are one of the most resilient troop units (on a model to model base) especially in cover, can be geared for everything, have multiple transport options, sergeant melee and ranged gear.
I think part of the problem is the removal of templates, it really sucks when you only hit 1 out of 30 cultists in front of you with the flamethrower, or even when you score 6 hits it's not enough, and that D6 grenade hits are not helping either. The former tools to deal with cheap masses has been rendered ineffective and tacticals struggle to find a solution, but they can still be useful for their points. I think that their value lies in getting dug in on an objective and moving to an objective and hold it, not being the damage dealers people want them to be. This is why I think that scouts are inferior to tacticals, they die faster or cost more and can't move.

"I think the whole WPP outcome you present us does not yield any usefulness. According to your WPP scenario, Grots are the most WPP when wounding MEQ and the Predator as they've got the same chance of hitting/wounding/armour as Guardsmen but are more cost effecient."
…Except grots are 12" pistol 1 vs 24" rapid fire, and drop to BS4+ once they lose less than half the squad. So less output (as well as less range as an intangible).
They're also T2 6+ vs T3 5+, both of which make a large difference.
For 1 pt less. They don't win on WPP, so they're not really relevant to the discussion. If they _did_: do you think they wouldn't be taken? If so, why not?

There are intangibles that should be considered in comparisons: but when you've got things with the same Move, range, no special rules of relevance, fulfilling essentially the same role…you can break it down pretty well into matthammer.

What about a Skitarii Vanguard – only 8ppm (after CA 2017), with BS3+, 4+/6++ and an assault 3 gun?

Bring in Eldar Guardians 5+ save and 3+ BS, 12" range and substancially higher cost or Dire avengers and see disparity in WPP's compared to guard and cultists.

I don't think anyone would argue that Guardians/Avengers aren't likely doing as bad if not worse than Tacticals.

That is a very interesting article, thank you!
For me the Intercessors seem to be slightly more what you want from Marines, but I see that they are still not performing amazing. However, I find it fair that they suffer much more from plasma, since it is meant to be against MEQs.
I would like to point out one thing in addition: In my opinion both Warhammer Fantasy and 40k were always giving massive advantages for units with high durability and high damage output at the same time. And this was almost independent of points cost. This means that 10 super killy 3+ Save guys were most of the time better than 30 soldiers, which are less killy and survivable. The reason seems to be that the cocentrated power of this "shock troops" is worth much more, cause they can deal much more damage at a single place on the board and also concentrate a lot of survivability on this spot.
I am pretty sure that 30 soldiers have a lot of advantages in holding objectives, but in pure battlefield precence the 10 super killy guys are better.
Since I am more of a WHFB guy, I like to compare 5 Chaos Knights with 30 Goblins, where the Knights are most of the time better.

I think this is more applicable to Fantasy than 40k, because the ability to strike in one concentrated space against a limited portion of the enemy runs into the reality that there's actually very little on the board ranged weapons can't reach you at. If we played on a much bigger board or weapon ranges were much shorter, I believe that Marines would indeed likely perform much better on the tabletop.

But there is certainly a reason why stuff like Wolfstar was very popular for a long time. They are very hard to kill and can break everything in their path.
Of course 8th Edition has changed a lot about this. But just think about how 10 Tacticals vs 30 Guardsmen would shoot each other. The 30 Guardsmen will probably not be able to all shoot in the first turn, since they have to clutch together really hard to be able to shoot. The Marines do not have this problem.
This is considering a 24 inch (minimum) deployment, where you are not instantly super close for firefight.

Wolfstar functioned more on broken mechanics than anything else, tbh.

As for your example, that depends on how spread out the Guardsmen are. If you know you're fighting a numerically inferior but individually superior opponent, you might want to bunch up a bit more to avoid exactly that issue.

Okay, I agree.
But your "bunch up" solution will probably only work in a vacuum, where the Marine does not have other units.

Also true, but if your Marines are deployed in a diffuse manner, then that also lessens the problem you outlined.

So is there something in the game, which can compete against Guard Infantery? I think Sisters might be okay, but not better. Termagants are more squishy and have very short ranged guns.
I think the major problem might be guard infantry being to good. Maybe nerfing them and making Tacticals just slightly better could be a thing?

I think it's really hard to get this stuff right but ideally you'd end up in a situation where no unit more than 10% better or worse than another, similar one.

I would disagree with this, whilst WPP cannot be the only measure by which a comparison is made it is fact an excellent starting point which is easily understood by the layman as to why it measures up.

Certainly the only real method of comparison is playing the game, but remember Desc has just come back from a tournament where his Tactical Marines massively under performed in his estimation and is trying to work out why.

The use of WPP as a measure of comparison that is simple to understand metric that does show the space marines have anaemic damage output, it also shows their survivability is suspect outside cover. It in fact shows there is good reason they will to continue to under perform fielded in large numbers. So there is definitely value in using it.

Conversely it shouldn't be taken as an absolute measure of a unit, where range i feel becomes the defining thing, if range is low a unit better have good movement options and survivability to make up for it.

"Conversely it shouldn't be taken as an absolute measure of a unit, where range i feel becomes the defining thing, if range is low a unit better have good movement options and survivability to make up for it."
And when the units you're comparing have the same movement and (at least with stock weapons) range? That's when mathammer becomes very useful indeed.

"I also hate their unit design which runs contrary to how 40k (vice 30k) Marines have always been portrayed: jack of all trades, masters of none."

Erm, Assault and Devastator Marines don't really fit that rubric. Assault Terminators definitely don't. They have one trade, and they better be a master at it!

Also, given how IG perform against Intercessors as well it's starting to look less like Tacticals being that bad under your system but more that IG are too efficient. They're better than Marines; what other basic troop units are they better than? Are there any that your system doesn't place them as superior to?

Both Devastators and (to a lesser extent) Assault Marines can vary their loadout to do different things, though, which was the point I was trying to make.

I would be wary of just looking at basic Troops, though, because if you nerf chaff infantry (of which Infantry Squads may or may not be the best), that doesn't mean people will start flocking to elite infantry – they may just go all-tank.

The only way Assault Marines can vary their loadout is whether or not they carry Flamers on the two dudes in the squad with that option. And Assault Terminators can only swap between "extra tough bigkilly" and "normal tough lotskilly" as their two options.

I don't really like Primaris overall either, but especially if you look to the Heresy era Marines are _not_ jacks-of-all-trades in a lot of cases. You get units like the Support Squad or Devastators of the era, which were large squads all equipped exclusively with a single, specialized weapon for dealing with a particular kind of threat.

In game terms, yes, MEQs are usually taken as generalists because the context of other armies and their role as the centerpiece of the world GW has constructed pushes them into that function. But that wasn't really an intentional choice so much as an accidental one, plus the sort of fallout from the superlatives that tend to get lathered on them about how they are the best at close combat and also the best at shooting and also the sneakiest and also the best psykers and also and also and also.

Assault marines still have access to plasma pistols, do the not? I mean, it's no meltagun but it does afford them a modicum of versatility. And assault termies may not fall into that category but pretty much all other infantry does. And I did say I wasn't including 30k marines in this.

Wether it was intentional or not is besides the point. In practice, it is how they are (jack of all trades).

You can vary their loadouts to engage a potential range of targets, which fits the fluff of jacks of all trades okay, but absolutely does not reflect the way they've been used on the tabletop; nobody loads Devs up with HFlamers and drops them in the face of the enemy, and nobody has ASM hang back and try to plink away with a couple of special weapons while avoiding combat at all costs. Intercessors are slightly less versatile, because they lack a special/heavy option, but their basic gun makes them capable of successfully engaging a slightly wider field of infantry and light vehicle targets than their base Marine brethren.

And I'm not sure what you mean, exactly, by your last comment. So far you haven't really proven that Tacs are bad so much as you've proven that IG are good, which I don't think was much of a secret. But are Tacs bad compared to a wide range of other basic infantry? Or are IG just good compared to that same range?

What I was trying to say is that I feel like besides chaff infantry, tanks are one of the other things that seem pretty well balanced overall. Ergo, if you run the numbers and determine that guardsmen are simply better than other infantry and thus GW should nerf them, you run the risk of simply just removing infantry altogether as a viable competitive option. Instead, if we accept that guardsmen are close to what they should cost and try to balance other infantry around them, you increase the number of units that become viable in total. Because let me tell you that if you balance guardsmen to be closer to tactical marines in performance, I'm not going to start using tacticals again – I'm just going to use more tanks.

No no. A lot of Marine vehicles are fine. Its their infantry that suffers. I'm saying if both Marine infantry and guard infantry start to suck in relation to tanks (Marine or otherwise), I'll just stop using infantry altogether.

But again, you haven't actually 'proven' that Marine infantry sucks; you haven't compared it to their vehicles at all, and you haven't compared it to anyone else's infantry. All you've demonstrated so far is that, based on the selected metrics, IG infantry is either undercosted or over-effective relative to two different Marine infantry options.

I don't need to run the numbers for my own purposes because I know they (SM vehicles) are more cost-effective from experience. Maybe others wouldn't come to the same conclusion but I have a strong feeling they would. Hopefully we never find out.

Its not like SM Infantry is universally bad…

Company Veterans with Chainsword and Stormbolter for example is a decent unit because in comparison to Tacticals you get +200% melee output und +100% shooting output for less than a +50% point increase.
Similar statement can be made when comparing Assault Squads to Vanguards with double Chainswords.
Devastators also dont suffer too bad in comparison to their Guard equivalent because
a) Guard need two men to carry a heavy weapon (=doubles the base cost)
b) Most heavy weapons are already quite high points, making the higher model base cost less relevant
c) Grav Cannons are (still) the single best heavy weapon imperials can take and it is exclusive to SM

For the non-Primaris it really comes down to Tactical Squads and Assault Squads, which are underperforming (in comparison to their points)

Company Vets and Vangaurds may be better than Tacs and Assault Marines, but does that make them good in the grand scheme of things? I'm not so sure, tbh.

I think Devs are indeed fine, as you say, though remember that Guard heavy weapon teams part of heavy weapon squads are 6 pts per model, not 8.

I'm liking the gravcannon less and less, tbh. While on paper they are pretty good against most things, in practice they are only really good against a small subset of targets (multiwound heavy infantry). Against vehicles they are unreliable, against light infantry they are overkill.

Yeah, I'll join the "not fond of WPP" crowd. It's a measurement entirely devoid of context.

The main thing it doesn't take into account is the combination of survivability and damage output. The longer a model survives, the more damage it will put out in a game. A unit of Guard is certainly cheap damage, and you won't have lost many points' worth if they die… but if they're dead, they definitely won't be contributing any further.

Basically, what WPP obfuscates is that the 1.44/1.48 WPP versus bolters, for example, means the Marines will only suffer about 1/3 the casualties that Guard do from the same quantity of bolter fire. Even without considering Morale, the flipside to that should therefore be that the Marines are assumed to put out three times as much firepower, since they will have three times as long (on average) to continue shooting – triple their offensive WPP and see how they compare then!

The numbers can only tell you what that metric has been designed to tell you. But if you put equal points of Guard and Marines up against each other, I'd suggest the average outcome will not go the way you'd expect based solely on WPP.

"means the Marines will only suffer about 1/3 the casualties that Guard do from the same quantity of bolter fire."

…right but then there are more than 3 Guardsmen for every Marine, so…

The relative numbers don't matter, because that's the (only) thing that WPP is taking into account. What it's not accounting for is the fact that you're not paying the model's points every time they shoot, you're paying the points once for their entire lifespan.

If a Marine lives three times as long as a Guard on average (against incoming bolter fire, for example), then over the course of their lifespan they will get to shoot three times while the Guard only shoots once. You can say "Yeah but there are three times as many Guards"… sure, but three times as many Guards costs three times the points of a single Guard, so if you're putting 1 Marine against 3 Guards then the Guard WPP will be different.

Either way you cut it, your offensive WPP figures are based on a single round of shooting, which is why cheap, flimsy models will always come out on top – if they didn't, that would be a huge red flag. The strength of elite infantry isn't in delivering the kind of overwhelming firepower that would put them on par with vastly cheaper infantry, it's in surviving long enough to deliver their firepower over and over.

Instead of directly comparing the defensive WPP (which is essentially meaningless), incorporating those defensive WPP figures as a factor in the offensive WPP will give you a better impression of a model's WPP output over the course of a game – which, after all, is what you're paying the points for.

This is a really good point – I can't really do much with the numbers, and it's all a bit stream of consciousness, but I'm sure someone can draw conclusions from them being posted. To kill a Guardsman, you need to do 1 wound. To get 1 wound through a 5+ armour save, you need 1.5 wounds. To get 1.5 wounds on T3 with a Bolter, you need 2.25 hits. To get 2.25 hits, you need almost exactly 3 shots. As such, a Tactical Marine will kill a Guardsman every 3 turns he shoots at 24" away, and would take 9 turns to kill his points' worth of Guardsmen.

To kill a Tactical Marine, you need to do 1 wound, which of course means you need to inflict 3 wounds to get that 1 through his 3+ armour. That's 9 Lasgun hits, which is 18 Lasgun shots. As such, it takes those 3 Guardsmen 6 turns to kill the Marine.

However, after the first three turns, there are only 2 Guardsmen left. 3 turns of 3 Guardsmen firing have got 9 shots/4.5 hits on the Marine, so they need to make another 9 shots/4.5 hits to get the necessary number to push through those wounds and kill him. That'd take two Guardsmen 5 turns with a bit to spare. But they don't have 5 turns; the Tactical Marine will kill another one in 3 turns. 3 turns of 2 Guardsmen firing is only 6 shots, 3 hits – so, on turn 6 of our hypothetical 1 Tactical Marine vs 3 Guardsmen game, the Tactical Marine has scored 4 hits with his bolter, which turns into 2.6 wounds, which turns into 1.7 dead Guardsmen. The Guardsmen *haven't* killed the Tactical Marine – they've done 7.5 hits, which is 1.5 wounds, which is 0.5 dead Marines.

Going by my maths (so not to be relied on at all), if you have equal points of Guardsmen and Tactical Marines in a firefight, the Marines actually kill the Guardsmen before they themselves die.

They're both really inefficient choices for killing each other, but Tacticals do win it.

There's a factor in there for the chances that 1 Guardsman can kill a Tactical Marine with one shot on the first turn, but a Tactical Marine can't possibly achieve the reverse, but I don't think anyone needs to be told that sometimes the dice fuck you up!

Yes but in practice, you don't actually have 3 guardsmen on 1 Tactical marine fights… you have multiple Guardsmen on multiple Tactical fight. So you don't have to wait multiple turns before you get enough shots before one goes through and kills the Tactical.

"You can say "Yeah but there are three times as many Guards"… sure, but three times as many Guards costs three times the points of a single Guard, so if you're putting 1 Marine against 3 Guards then the Guard WPP will be different."

No it won't be! You fundamentally misunderstand what WPP depicts. At the end of the day, all it does is show how given an equal amount of points spent on the different models, what can be the expected outcome. WPP never changes depending on how many models you have.

Urgh… no, I get how WPP works. You've just missed that I'm offering a redefinition of the terms of the calculation to account for longevity, so either your Guard costs 12 effective points to the Marine's 13, or your Marine costs 4.33 to the Guard's 4, depending on how you choose to perform that accounting. But honestly, I think I'm done with WPP discussion for now – even if we agreed on a measure of efficiency, that would still fail to take into account so many other factors that it would be a fundamentally flawed method of assessing any unit's real worth in the game.

Your correct in your assumption about wpp being flawed, but incorrect on the conclusion, factoring in the resilience of units can be done in a simulation of them shooting each other, where their defensive stats compare to the others offensive. However doing this you need to square the cost of the unit, since it now acts as the target number to be destroyed. The affect is known as force amplification:

In a fight between identical tanks. 2 tanks are not 50% better than 1 tank they are 75% better, The 2 tank force will sustain 25% dmg at the point it destroys the 1 tank.

So when we consider infantry vs space marines we have to compare 4^4 vs 13^13 and because the resilience of the space marine actually scales worse than its shooting it looks even worse in a match up.

My major misgiving is orders are cheaper and a massively better force multiplier than space marine hqs, but space marine hqs can kill a stormraven (for example). Factoring this last bit is all but impossible.

It is easier to compare cultists to chaos space marines as a far larger number of variables remain consistent, and here, the conclusion is CSM are viable is if they are in cover and cultists are not. They lose every other scenario.

From that data we can then compare cultists to imperial guard, and we see the guard are around 50% better in most situations, long range engage alpha legion cultists in cover are superior except vs cadian.

So, we have guard > cultists > CSM these are not small margins either looking at over 50% before we take into account CP generation by the guard.

So that should be it done and dusted, we have proven imp guard > chaos. However, in the current meta, imp guard are pretty very weak vs chaos, so overall we have learnt that imp guard infantry is under costed, but the ultimate conclusion must be that all of the other bits of the chaos armies must be under costed if this is the case.

What the infantry actually have to deal with, from a resilience stand point is deep striking troops that carry ridiculously effective anti infantry weaponry (be it melee or shooting) this is why the scouts out perform everything else, because at the end of the day spending 55pts on some scouts or a scout sentinel, lets you deny the alpha strike. Rather than worry about the firepower of such a unit and what it can do, look more to its ability to deny 200+ points of usually fairly fragile troops dropping in and ripping through your lines.

Scouts have always been better at this, in their pomp, conscripts still couldn't do this as well as scouts+aggressors could, certainly conscripts allowed more aggression, and back then all missions were scored end of game, but now even un nerfed the scouts perform exceptionally well vs conscripts, who have an incredible problem taking midfield off them fast enough that imp guard don't lose the game.

It is my estimation, (provided the poxwalkers and 3 gargantuan squiggoth armies see some nerfs) that the ravenguard aggressors backed up by GK (to put the stupid primarchs in their place) will do really well, but i have thought this for sometime, its just that people have been so slow to adopt the primarchs in chaos armies (or the super heavy stuff at all) and likewise are really slow to pick up proxywalkers (cos seriosuly no one is buying 150 of them).

Relating this all back to the original point, i think i would like to see tacticals drop to 12pts. They still won't be better than primaris, it won't buff chaos much and despite the obvious superiority of guard infantry, they aren't able to leverage it into wins so who cares.

"The numbers can only tell you what that metric has been designed to tell you. But if you put equal points of Guard and Marines up against each other, I'd suggest the average outcome will not go the way you'd expect based solely on WPP. "
Nope, agrees completely. What a surprise (not) that the mathammer agrees with the mathammer…When unit A beats unit B in both damage _and_ survivability, I'm not sure why you think it'd win when you combine the 2 metrics…

Marines lose hard: Even with marines going first optimally (i.e. starting in rapid, marines get first volley), accounting for morale (for every 7, an extra 2 die: which is a pseudo average. Was meant to be based on how many to kill the squad reliably i.e. 8 and 2, but this is actually slightly more in the marines favour, as morale would be) and marines having a slight pts advantage. Even accounting for the poor sarge's laspistol instead of lasgun (to an extent).

25 marines (325 pts) vs 80 guardsmen (320 pts): at the end of 8 turns, there are no marines left and still 19 guardsmen.

Now that's a much more interesting discussion. Do you mind outlining your method? For instance, are you accounting for overkill on 5-man units of Marines, and are the Marines selecting targets to maximise Morale casualties? If you're in double-tap range then the Marines are going to be trying to get into melee, is that included?

There are a lot of complex factors that determine a unit's effectiveness beyond what you can tell from simplistic stats, is all I'm really saying. Those are the "intangibles" that keep getting mentioned in this discussion… but despite being statistically difficult to measure, they do have real value that has to be incorporated into the unit's cost.

I'd be quite interested to run some more complex simulations and see how those units go against each other when more of those "intangibles" are accounted for. I don't know whether Marines would ever come out on top – Infantry Squads are still really good for their cost, no question – but it would be cool to find out in a way that involved more than just comparing numbers without context.

"Do you mind outlining your method?"
Just a simple Excel spreadsheet: how many are you expected to kill, take that from the total left. It's an abstraction, but it should be pretty valid.

"are you accounting for overkill on 5-man units of Marines"
No, but considering only 6 die on average at the optimum level, it's probably hard to do: certainly harder for the guardsmen to overkill than the marines, especially if you're trying to go for morale kills (i.e. guardsmen can split fire pretty happily between marine squads: if marines want to cause high morale casualties, they've got to focus fire, which is more likely to roll high and overkill):

"and are the Marines selecting targets to maximise Morale casualties?"
No. It's assumed that they're trying to guarantee the kill (which is where you aim for 7/8 and hence the 2 extra dead: 8 is where you get a guaranteed morale wipe).

As a related: one big factor here is range. They're, of course, going to be in range. But all in rapid is a lot harder: all in rapid of the _same target_ (which is really what you need for morale: or more accurately, something like 50/50), and similarly on subsequent turns? Harder: this is an intangible swing in the guardsmen's favour 😛 .

"If you're in double-tap range then the Marines are going to be trying to get into melee, is that included? "
Eh…I'm not sure it _should_ be. I mean, yes, but if the marines are trying to get into melee, the guardsmen can just as well try to _not_ be in melee: or try to charge first (it's not like they're really worse proportionally in melee: the only real difference from rapid fire for both is melee 'halves shots'. And sarges, but they both get that advantage). And they have the same movement, so…that's not happening unless they're assumed to start in easy charge range (instead of just in rapid, which is in and of itself an abstraction assumption). Or we move this beyond marines vs guardsmen and give both of them an army. Which…well. That's a very different kettle of fish.

"Those are the "intangibles" that keep getting mentioned in this discussion"
Well, what in those things you mentioned are _different_ intangibles between the 2 that are actually going to have an impact? Maybe morale/melee, both of which aren't really intangible and have been mentioned.

"but it would be cool to find out in a way that involved more than just comparing numbers without context. "
I mean, then just play 5 or so trial games with a bunch of marines vs a bunch of guardsmen *shrug*. There's not really anything else you can do with 'intangibles' other than make as valid assumptions as you can: which is what I'm trying to do here 😛 . (Because I enjoy mucking about on Excel: if I'm testing 40k on the tabletop, I've got better things to do than do the same thing repeatedly with 2 armies I don't play 😛 ).

No, but considering only 6 die on average at the optimum level, it's probably hard to do

I think one of the things this suggests is that both these units are actually pretty terrible at killing anything. If 300 points of Guard can only kill 6 Marines a turn, that feels a lot to me like "What's the fucking point?" 😛

As a related: one big factor here is range. They're, of course, going to be in range. But all in rapid is a lot harder: all in rapid of the _same target_ (which is really what you need for morale: or more accurately, something like 50/50), and similarly on subsequent turns? Harder: this is an intangible swing in the guardsmen's favour

I would have thought the opposite – one of the intangibles that benefits elites over hordes is the ability to concentrate their forces. If 25 Marines are only in range of 30 out of 80 Guard, that's way better for the Marines.

Eh…I'm not sure it _should_ be. I mean, yes, but if the marines are trying to get into melee, the guardsmen can just as well try to _not_ be in melee: or try to charge first

If the Guard are in Rapid Fire range when they shoot, that's an easy charge for the Marines on their turn. If the Guard are trying to avoid melee, then either both sides will be at long range, or the Guard will be at long range (after they move back) while the Marines will be in double-tap range (after they move forward). The reason I would assume that the Marines would want to get to melee and the Guard would want to avoid it is the same concentration of forces as above – you'll struggle to get 80 Guard models into melee all at once, but you can easily get all 25 Marines in. You can also disable a significant portion of the Guard firepower that way – if half of them are engaged with all the Marines, then either the unengaged half can't shoot or the engaged half fall back (and can't shoot). The Marines are happy either way.

I mean, then just play 5 or so trial games with a bunch of marines vs a bunch of guardsmen

Pfff, ain't nobody got time for that. I'd much rather spend that time developing a fairly robust simulation, then running that a million times. 😉

There are certain html tags you can use in comments – to quote, use the blockquote tag. < blockquote > Good points. < /blockquote > becomes:

Good points.

Edit: but I haven't figured out how to get angle brackets to display nicely, since it tries to 'help'… just remove the spaces in the tags 😛

Edit: but I haven't figured out how to get angle brackets to display nicely, since it tries to 'help'… just remove the spaces in the tags 😛

Tah. (Angled brackets instead of square brackets is going to mess with me so much).

I don't agree that WPP is "pointless", exactly, but it's certainly not as useful as Desc is making it out to be.

To use GK, Strikes I'm sure are waaaaay higher in WPP than paladins. Thing is, they die, though, usually not long after deepstriking. If you could take paladins as troops I think you'd see nothing but.

And certainly not long after Deep Striking if the Space Marine player uses an Auspex Scan, which almost doubles the Tactical Squad's output over the course of a game turn as they fire in their opponent's movement and their own shooting phases. But then Tacticals plummet in performance against Chaos Space Marines because Guardsmen with Vengeance for Cadia go through the roof. But then Marines go back up to good again shooting at Terminators, because they get more Grav hits than Guardsmen get Plasma hits for the equivalent wounds. Tacticals don't do much damage in their shooting phase, but they also shoot in the opponent's shooting phase because they have a dude waving the Banner of the Emperor Ascendant nearby.

WPP is neither particularly useful, nor is it appropriate to compare the strengths of Marines against Guardsmen by seeing how many wounds they both do to a Predator. That's just kind of incredibly limiting. Tacticals are better in melee, have higher density of special weapons, are easier to get into cover (my Guard had a nightmare of a time dealing with 25 Intercessors and 5 Hellblasters sat in ruins with an Ancient and the Imperial Fist WT of ignoring -1AP), have entirely different stratagems, have transports that are worth a damn, and all sorts of stuff.

I'm not saying Tacticals are any good or that Desc is a bad player that just doesn't get the intricacies of playing Marines *man*, I'm just saying that this doesn't seem like an appropriate or nuanced way to draw that conclusion.

Tacticals are NOT, point for point, better in melee. They only have greater density of specials if you completely ignore the fact that they have access to heavies. They may fit more easily in cover, but they don't offer anywhere near the same amount of board control. Yes they have different stratagems, but are they better? While I would have given you "transports worth a damn" pre-Chapter Approved, AssBacks got a much-deserved points increase so its far less clear cut.

Intangibles matter. But they can only compensate for the harsh coldness of math to a certain degree. And what your criticism seems to ignore is that Tacticals aren't the only Troop choice for Marines, so if we're supposed to want to use them, then they need to be able to function broadly as well as a Troop choice from another army that works pretty much along the same lines. You can certainly go and run the numbers for each of the scenarios you presented in your first paragraph, but what good is that going to do? If you want to build a TAC list, you need to look at things from a much broader perspective, and WPP is a much more valuable tool to do that.

Uh……they're not "Intangibles". They're just slightly more complicated to calculate than wounds given or taken per point. That Primaris look better to most people is an "intangible". The affects of morale is a complicated tangible.

Look, you've done two articles now that "tacticals suck" based upon a very narrow and limited part of the overall equation. I haven't really seen anyone disagree that tacticals have issues, or that IG might be too cheap. But people are disagreeing with you, strongly, about the significance of WPP. It matters, but you're presenting it as if it's all or even most of the picture, and I don't think most of us agree with that.

Morale is, as you correctly say, a complicated tangible. But how do you calculate board control? Or ability to fit more easily into cover? That is "intangible."

As for the rest, how do you want to go about trying to objectively measure the effectiveness of a unit if not math, at least to a large extent? The fact IS that were it not for the chasm-wide disparity in raw mathematical effectiveness, the "intangibles" might very well be able to make up for whatever residual imbalance there is. I think the notion that WPP is not a very large part of the problem is utterly laughable, to be quite frank. That, or Tac Marines just simply don't do enough "stuff" aside from shooting and dying that would warrant their point cost. And you only have to look at how much more attractive Scouts are to see what I'm talking about.

Well, one of the arguments made is that the Guard lose effectiveness faster. So play out the maths over multiple turns?

It's still oversimplified, because they are just standing their shooting each other. and the guard will degrade even faster than the raw killing maths shows because of morale, but if the Marines end up with people when the Guard run out….

*Points at post at the bottom*
Even with morale accounted for to an extent, marines lose pretty emphatically.

You create actual statistical models based on thousands of data points gathered by making small changes. Things like playing 200 games with identical forces but all of one players models have -1 leadership.

I'm not saying this is easy or even that I would do it, but that is HOW you do it.

If you forced tac squads to be 10 man I think 9 pts would be about righto

The one way I have found to make tacs work is to run salamanders and spam them with Dev squads with each bring one Las cannon only

God no; it's hard enough to deal with 180 Boyz, a 2000pt game fighting against 150 Tacticals with some support sounds nightmarish.

Hey Desc, i have a friend who wanted some help with his Ultramarines army (i'm sure you are aware of my utter disdain for pure codex armies) so i put my thinking cap on and came up with a possible solution for him.

RG + Tiggy + 6 man aggressor squad.

I know right original, but its better than it looks! The aggressors are -1 to hit permanently cos of Tiggy and they are blistering fast so make a perfect screen for RG as he moves into centre. Futhermore RG counters their two weaknesses, they can't hit in melee, and they can't wound tough stuff with bolter fire.

I still personally don't think this is as good as running a mixed codex, but you can get enough Value out of RG's buffs so he is worth it.

With scouts already holding the middle, its kind of on your opponent to get rid of them before the aggressors arrive and with RG this is a force that can really contest middle. Whats done with the rest of the army is pretty much open for anything, i quite like Hellblasters moving into the cover vacated by the aggressors T1 but after that it is kind of go anywhere, probably just a lot more aggressors and hellblasters is best.

That sounds promising, though I'm a bit wary of non-RG aggressors, given the short range of their guns.

One idea I've been toying with is Guilliman plus as many Venerable Dreadnoughts as possible, with Scouts to squirrel unto the objectives.

I think in the old itc format your correct, but aggressors with RG can make it to mid table in a turn (if lucky they even get into the cover). At that point they become extremely difficult to deal with, they will never be as good as raven guard simply because the whole raven guard package is great units doing very specific things and much more versatile, but they are still really good.

When you consider none RG aggressors, it might be worth looking at them as a comparison to a predator, which they compare reasonably well to in resilience, and have a staggering amount more firepower. Or to dreads, where they have better firepower, better melee, and better resilience. The stuff that tends to hurt them more than the dread (s3 guns) also tends to die in droves to their bolters. I was running 12 in the sokar at one point and they never dissapointed.

On that note, look for the same thing from the dark angels, escorting Azrael (a melee beast) into mid table, with a 4++ and -1 to hit from the dark shroud, a bunch of knights bringing the anti tank and helping further overload the stuff that can deal with T5 units i feel this has some possibilities.

One caveat, because everything that kills Gargantuan Squiggoths got nerfed, and they are a truly ludicrous unit so 100% going to be seeing them for a year, probably 3 at a time, there is almost nothing in the space marine arsenal that can deal with them, (RG for example hits one, goes, oh it didn't care, then dies as it stomps all over him with 8A). Now not many people are going to run Garg squiggoths, but i already have 1, and will pull the trigger on the other 2 in a heartbeat if the faq for CA doesn't have a 200+ pt price hike on them. They are like a slower, woolier sokar.

you can tell any story you want depending on how you play the numbers. Statistics in that regard is one big lie. It lets you tell the story you want to portray. Taking into account things like morale unit size ballistic skill and armour save among other things you will never get the whole story. So yes this article doesn’t really tell the whole story

Well, yeah. That wasn’t really the point of the article, though. And it would be damn nice not to have my 30 Tactical guys sit on the shelf for the next couple of years.

Hmm, I think there's some kind of internal disagreement going on between IntenseDebate and WordPress' comment systems. Internally there's only one of each of these comments, but two get displayed on the page (one in the appropriate place, one at the bottom in a new thread). I'll see if I can sort it out.

I apologise in advance if I delete any comments by accident!

Is there any obvious solution to the problem of Tacticals being bad?
I would not make them much cheaper, because this would undermine their Elite nature. Does it help to give them AP -1 and 2A each? I don't think it will be sufficient. However, if you put their cost to something like 10 points, what would Sister squads cost?

If you don't want to make them cheaper, you need to boost their resilience and/or lethality. AP -1 would be a good start. My preferred solution is to allow weapons to reroll to-wound rolls, which makes them not only better but also matches the fluff (if getting penetrated by a .75 calibre round doesn't kill you, the internal explosion caused by the bolt detonating most likely will…)

This is a very good idea. However, I am a bit worried that you might end up making Marines too strong. We know how good Bobby G's rerolls make the Ultras.

Possible, but it seems unlikely given the chasm-wide disparity that exists at the present between guard and marines. Even if that were to give a definitive edge in the firepower department to the Tactical Marine, the Guardsman would still have a clear edge in resiliency.

How about giving SM infantry an innate "reroll 1's" ? Just the infantry. This includes armor saves. Tac squads rerolls 1's with rapid fire weapons. Devastators for heavy weapons. Assault squads for pistols and/or CC. That might make them feel just a tad more elite, not OP, as well as show their specialization across the infantry range. They don't need captains to know how to use their weapons for full effect. 😛

so whats the solution without "fixing" tactical squads? piles of Scouts? or just ignoring troops and going for vanguard/spearhead detachments?

Focus on the tools you have that are good, aggressors are just massively upgraded tacticals. 5 times the firepower (10 times when standing still), twice the wounds, higher toughness and free power fists. This at less than three times the price.

Just grab a ton of them, a couple of squads of scouts to screen then see how many plasma mounted on tanks your opponent can field, cos if your army is 40 aggressors, there's seriously limited options to deal with it, and any infantry your enemy has are completely pointless.

I am quietly confident aggressors will go back up in price as soon as people start using them, they are just so under costed.

1.) 40 Aggressors cost 530 euro. (whatever dollars or pound…)
2.) They have to go quite close to be effective. Probably you can do this walking up the field with the free advancing and shooting without penalty, but some of them will die without any retaliation. I assume that Ravenguard would be massive with a lot of aggressors though.

Yeah they are expensive, and they will die, but points wise they are amazing. I think like most stuff, as soon as you find something good, spam it enough that it overloads a certain type of firepower, in this case the weakness is to Grav and Plasma, but you can price most of this out the game, so as long as you are still getting decent effect for your unit (hard not to when its worst stat is being as good in melee as a terminator) then i think just keep spamming.

If you go ultras with RG flyers aren't even remotely safe either.

One thing I think is often overlooked is how much easier it is to get small squads fully into cover. My 5 man intercessors or fire warriors sitting in cover with 15" rapid fire range can influence the game and are relative to their point costs difficult to remove. Blobs of guardsmen have a harder time fitting into terrain and taking advantage of LOS blocking terrain.

Also how cover actually affects those models! Going from a 3+ save to a 2+ is significantly better than going from a 5+ to a 4+, in terms of the resilience boost. It's a weird quirk of 8th that Marines in power armour are more strongly encouraged to cower in cover than flak-armoured Guardsmen.

I have a sneaking suspicion that for most of this edition's development, there were very few modifiers to hit rolls, and that it was intended that hit rolls should never be modified (other than moving with Heavy weapons and advancing with Assault weapons) and those modifiers should never be stacked. Cover being weird seems like the most obvious result of such a policy, but there are also the other mechanisms they use to represent units being difficult to hit or see, like invulnerable saves and reducing the range of incoming fire. There's no consistent way that "hard to hit" is represented.

… But then they ran out of ideas, and started handing out negatives to hit to everyone and their dog.

I like the idea of this having had a development phase. Its so cute I want to hug it and give it cookies and milk.

This may be a bit naive. But apart from a very short flare-up due to battle company formations Tactical Squads have always been shit. What made anyone think it would be different this time?

In previous editions, my usual SM force (Iron Hands) included 3 10-man tac squads. 2 in rhinos and 1 hoofing it. I used them for short-range firefight infantry clearing and objective grabbing. They were never stellar, but they did their job and usually required a bit of effort from my opponent to remove.

This edition, the rhino's are way more expensive (although overall more resilient), but it feels that anything with an AP value kills Tac marines very quickly. Their armor doesn't protect as well with all the modifiers. Throw in re-rolls and the humble tac squad disappears quickly.

Sadly, there is no longer any incentive to take full 10-man squads. I'm still surprised there is no sergeant tax to create some kind of incentive for larger squad sizes. #maketroopsgreatagain

The fundamental decision that I'm never sure why they took (though I assume it's mainly about sprue design) is giving Marines fixed and restricted equipment. It's pretty well established in the fluff that every Marine has a huge personal arsenal of weapons to choose from, and can outfit themselves more or less for any battlefield role. In which case, it makes no sense for most of them to just bring a bolter, unless bolters are actually the most appropriate weapon for their assignment.

If there was just one "Space Marine Tactical Squad" choice, and you could give any model in the unit any weapon you wanted (all heavy weapons if you wanted a "Devastator" unit, close combat weapons for "Assault" units, plasma weapons for "Hellblaster" units, a mix of stuff for versatile units, etc) then there would be a lot more pressure on GW to follow through on their claim that all the weapons have a viable role in this edition. Making boltguns something that people actually want to take, rather than being forced to, would be a good start.

Thanks. I intuited that Tactical squads are basically crap a long time ago, which is why I only field detachments that allow me to avoid them altogether, but it’s nice to have my prejudices confirmed.

Because points have kept going down since third edition basic infantry lacks granularity in points cost.

The only Primaris worth taking are Hellblasters.

The only Tactical equivalent worth taking are Sternguard.

Instead of bikers take bike Command Squads. More special weapons, and a free chainsword can be added for greater melee ability.

Assault squads can’t. Take Vanguard instead.

At least using the Spearhead detachment I can take Hellblasters instead of Intercessors. Army full of plasma guns? Me likey.


Uhm, no, he isnt worse… he is better, much better infact – he just isnt POINT EFFICENT in doing so!

This might sound like a mood point but it really isnt… effectiveness and efficiency is something totally different and when making statements about efficiency dont use terms that describe effectiveness (worse is such a term) because it is either misleading or people might think you aint got no clue of what your talking about (and dont get me wrong: I think you totally DO have a clue).