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Monday, 11 April 2011

Missile Spam, Codex Creep, and False Comparisons; Part One - Who gets most toys?

First, let's define Codex Creep.

Codex Creep (noun)
A process by which successive releases of Codexes (40k) or Army Books (WFB) released by Games Workshop invalidate, through enhanced power level, not only their direct predecessor (ie, namesake) but by extension other similar Codexes - as defined by fluff, affiliation, playstyle, art design, or even sometimes just by the loose connection of being in the same game system (ie, the 'Most P0werful Book Eva'.) A good example would be a new version of Codex: Space Marines, which is inherently superior to Codex: Space Wolves, Codex: Black Templars, Codex: Dark Angels, Codex: Blood Angels, Codex: Chaos Space Marines and Codex: Grey Knights (admittedly a recent addition to the list proper...)

This new book would need to present most if not all of the unit and build options in the others, whilst being cheaper/better/more synergistic - and overall objectively more powerful.  Typically found in 2nd and 3rd Edition 40k to a limited extent, or 5e, 6e and 7e Warhammer Fantasy Battle to a great extent (and 4e 40k to a medium extent) it involves simply being better than previous books.  A prerequisite of this is, however, that every book (or nearly every) is superior.

For this to be demonstrably the case in 5th Edition then, we would need to demonstrate that Codex: Space Marines is the weakest of the 5th Edition books (NOTE - Daemons and especially Orks are NOT 5e books.  We therefore only are discussing Codex: SM, :SW, :IG, :BA, :Tyranids, :Dark Eldar, and :Grey Knights!) - though it would not automatically follow that Grey Knights is the strongest book, if not, we would be looking at it's immediate predecessor (Dark Eldar) as it cannot logically follow that Creep continues if two successive Codexes fail to be superior to the previous.  In that instance, it would be more accurate to describe 'more-powerful' books in the sequence as aberrations, and not examples of Codex Creep at all.

Since this is obviously going to be quite a lengthy topic, I am going to divide amongst however many posts are required in order to adequately convey my opinions on the topic - apologies when inevitably the series becomes less readable as stand-alone posts and references to previous ones become incessant and laborious...I will endeavour to minimise it, but there you go.

This first part will now consist of a number of Army lists I sat and wrote this morning...they are not truly optimised, and in some cases not really Balanced, but they serve to prove my purposes cf Imperial Codex differences.  You will note that I have included the two 4th edition Space Marine books in my comparisons...this is admittedly advantageous to my cause, and so I will briefly explain.

Despite being built for a previous Edition of the game, Imperial Codexes are largely comprised of Generalistic Units, with Xenos Codexes taking an alternative, almost opposite, Design Philosophy by being primarily comprised of Specialistic Units (See: Broadsides; Fire Dragons; Incubi; Bloodcrushers; Tankbustas; Hormagaunts...etc)

This gives them an inherent advantage across different rulesets - it means their forces are more likely to be flexible in Unit Composition, and thereby can choose new weapon layouts (modelling pains aside) to adapt to the new times.  This was further compounded by the sheer scale of changes wrought by the Dark Angel and Black Templar FAQs, granting both a new lease of life with Wargear edits, and changes to points costs.  As a result, these books can unequivocally be referred to as Pseudo-Fifth - books designed for a different Edition that have been extensively supported in such a way as to carry them through this Edition with little urgency for update.  Granted, neither is as flexible or has the build variety of the 'best' 5e books (Imperial Guard, Space Wolves) [As an aside, when asked what the best book in 40k is, I always answer Imperial Guard.  Hopefully I will get a good chance to explain later in the series.] but both have the capacity to challenge for honours at the highest level of the game - and by that I mean a better chance than their geriatric contemporaries (of which only one is Imperial!) for ease of reference: Eldar, CSM, Orks, Daemons, Tau, Necrons, and Witch Hunters.

Overall, I would place Black Templars and Dark Angels then below the 'true' 5e Codexes - but in ways that cannot be mathematically quantified (at least not by me...)

With that in mind, let us try and spam Missiles - leading from the main criticism of Codex: SM referred to by Marshall Wilhelm on 3++ recently.

First, let's take the Dark Angels - they're bound to be the weakest Missile Spam list, right?

Belial w/ Lightning Claws - 130
Dreadnought (Venerable, Missile Launcher, Twin-Linked Autocannon) - 155
Deathwing Squad (Apothecary, Cyclone, 5 TH/SS) - 265
Deathwing Squad (Cyclone, 5 TH/SS) - 235
Deathwing Squad (Cyclone, 5 TH/SS) - 235
Deathwing Squad (Cyclone, 5 TH/SS) - 235
Land Speeder (Typhoon) - 75
Land Speeder (Typhoon) - 75
Land Speeder (Typhoon) - 75

That list has 27 ML shots, and 2 TLAC shots a turn, with 9 Heavy Bolter shots for back-up.  For 2k, it's not really the best, but it's not THAT bad.  In addition, the survivability of the list is pretty decent, what with 20 Scoring 2+/3++ bodies in it.  Not a great list by any means, but a tough nut to crack.

Next, Imperial Guard: (No, they aren't Marines - but as an Imperial Book, any truisms that apply generally to Imperial apply to them too, right?)

Lord Commissar (Camo Cloak) - 80
Lord Commissar (Camo Cloak) - 80
Platoon Command: (Missile Launcher) - 45
Infantry Squads 1-5: (Missile Launcher) - [65*5] - 325
HWS 1-5 (3x Missile Launcher) - [90*5] - 450

Platoon Command: (Missile Launcher) - 45
Infantry Squads 1-5: (Missile Launcher) - [65*5] - 325
HWS 1-5 (3x Missile Launcher) - [90*5] - 450
Scout Sentinel (Missile Launcher) - 45
Scout Sentinel (Missile Launcher) - 45
Scout Sentinel (Missile Launcher) - 45
Le Soldat Marbo - 65

That list has 3++ on the massive (46-man) units, and throws out 45 Missiles a turn, though it it only has BS3, meaning you hit with an average of 23 instead of the 18 the DAs 'hit' with...not as big a difference as it first appeared.  Significant though.

Having over 100 bodies helps the list a fair bit in terms of survivability, but it'd be a stretch to call it better than a Mech list.  Certainly not the forte of the Guard.  Let's move on to the Space Wolves, since they are the internet-styled 'Kings' of Missile Spam...

Logan Grimnar (an enforced choice, as Wolves get no Heavy Weapon options naturally in Troops...) - 275
5 Wolf Guard (Cyclone, 4 [other] Stormbolters) - 147
5 WG - 147
5 WG - 147
5 WG - 147
5 WG (Cyclone) - 135
5 WG (Cyclone) - 135
5 Wolf Scouts (Missile Launcher) - 85



5 Wolf Scouts (Missile Launcher) - 85
Typhoon - 90
Typhoon - 90
Typhoon - 90
6 Long Fangs (5 Missile Launchers) - 140
6 Long Fangs (5 Missile Launchers) - 140
6 Long Fangs (5 Missile Launchers) - 140

Well.  Certainly formidable, and significantly better? Let's analyse the stats...it has 3 WG going to join Fangs, and 2 to join Scouts (to form more powerful multi-missile units, rather than a couple units ineffectually shooting 2 missiles and 2 other ineffectually shooting one...) leaving one 'floating' WG who stays at home.  This gives us then 25 Scoring bodies, all but one of which are 3+ saves.  Not really as good as either for survivability then.  Maybe the Missiles compensate? [Except against Battlecannons...] Well, we have 7 S9 ML shots a turn, and 28 S8, with 17 StormBolters for anti Infantry and a few Bolters - plus ofc the HBs on the Typhoons, and Frags if desperate/playing someone who Deep Strikes. Pretty darn good, even if that only averages out at the same number of S8 hits as the DA, because we have Logan's unit as well.  Since we're talking about Tank Hunting Missiles though, let's look at Black Templars...[the OLDEST Marine book...]

Emperor's Champion (Witch Vow*) - 110
Castellan (TDA, StormBolter) - 95
Terminator Command Squad (4 men, 2 Cyclones, Tank Hunters) - 222
Terminators (2 Cyclones, Tank Hunters) - 265
Terminators (2 Cyclones, Tank Hunters) - 265
Terminators (2 Cyclones, Tank Hunters) - 265
5 Crusaders (Missile Launcher, Rhino) - 140
5 Crusaders (Missile Launcher, Rhino) - 140
5 Crusaders (Missile Launcher, Rhino) - 140
5 Crusaders (Missile Launcher, Rhino) - 140
Typhoon - 70
Typhoon - 70
Typhoon - 70

So, this list? Well, survivability seems lower (20 PA bodies) but is actually higher with the addition of Rhinos. This greatly increases their mobility too, and note that all the Missiles are fully mobile - unlike the Fangs in the previous list, the IG (at all, nearly) and in keeping with the DA. In terms of numbers, we have 16 S9 MLs, and 10 S8, equating to roughly 12 and 7 hits from each - very clearly, this is inferior for suppression purposes, but the Wolves cannot live by Suppression alone, they have no other real damage outlet.  This list, at least, has a bunch of Fists, as well as those much better Tank Hunting shots.  This list CAN only target 11 enemy units though, while the other can target 8, 15 and 12 respectively...not a huge difference?

Next list we shall look at is Blood Angels - and please remember, my ONLY concern in these lists was quality of Damage Output.  Survivability was secondary at best, and thus the superior choice of Sanguinary Priests was ignored...

Librarian (Shield, Lance) - 100
5 Sternguard (Rhino, 2 MLs) - 185
5 Sternguard (Rhino, 2 MLs) - 185
5 Sternguard (Rhino, 2 MLs) - 185
5 Scouts (ML, Camo Cloaks) - 100
5 Scouts (ML, Camo Cloaks) - 100
5 Scouts (ML, Camo Cloaks) - 100
5 Scouts (ML, Camo Cloaks) - 100
5 Scouts (ML, Camo Cloaks) - 100
5 Scouts (ML, Camo Cloaks) - 100
Typhoon - 90
Typhoon - 90
Typhoon - 90
Devastators (4 MLs) - 130
Devastators (4 MLs) - 130
Devastators (4 MLs, Rhino) - 180

The Rhinos act as Bunkers, or allow Scouts a late-game Objective Grab/act as mobile cover/as LoS block...basically, they add a lot to the ability to fire Missiles all game.  So does Shield on the Libby.  Scouts are only BS3, which sucks - but they are the best ranged option for BA in Troops.  Giving the others Snipers too gives us: 3 BS5 MLs, 21 BS4 MLs and 6 BS3, which all = 19 Missile hits a turn.  Not spectacular, I think you'll agree.  Not even scary.  And yet...only one less than the DAs and SWs.  With the ability to target 15 enemy units, and with an extra 24 Sniper Rifles...oh, and 30 4+/3++ Scoring bodies.  The best so far then? Well, no - the Templars clearly do this better, and this list is horribly immobile, despite the opportunities to Infiltrate etc - purely on the basis that its firepower is almost zero on the move (just the Speeders, ofc.)
Importantly, the list has 25 points left.  I really had no idea where I wanted to spend it, but presumably HunterKiller Missiles would be a solid call - or Combi-Plasma for Sternguard.

Next up? Space Marines.  The Codex least likely to want to take Devastators.  Apart from DA.  Or Templars, who could see their forced to keep moving closer to the foe, and more easily Pinned, if they had them.  With this list having most of the same stuff as BA available, it can mimic it closely.  Should it? Well, I have.

Devastators (4 MLs) - 150
Devastators (4 MLs) - 150
Devastators (4 MLs) - 150
Typhoon - 90
Typhoon - 90
Typhoon - 90
5 Sternguard (2 MLs) - 135
5 Sternguard (2 MLs) - 135
5 Sternguard (2 MLs) - 135
5 Scouts (Camo, ML) - 100
5 Scouts (Camo, ML) - 100
5 Scouts (Camo, ML) - 100
5 Scouts (Camo, ML) - 100
5 Scouts (Camo, ML) - 100
5 Scouts (Telion, ML) - 135
Master of the Forge (Conversion Beamer) - 120
Master of the Forge (Conversion Beamer) - 120

Well.  The list is intentionally static, and has only the 30 4+ Armour bodies to Score with, though ten of them have a 2++ and the rest have 3++, virtually all the time.  We have 21 BS4, 5 BS3, 3BS5 and 1 BS6 Missiles, for an approximate average of 20 hits a turn (more than anyone but Wolves [22] and IG [23] ) though they also have more survivability than either [30 T4 4+/3++ > 25 T4 3+/4++ \ 104 T3 5+/mixed] with less mobility than the Wolves - and arguably greater anti-infantry, despite Stormbolters (Sternguard Ammo, Rending Bolter, 24 Snipers)..they also have the very tangible benefit of the Masters of the Forge, spitting S10 AP1 at 42", a weapon not available to the other forces.

Does this make any of these lists CLEARLY worse? I would say no.  Each goes about it a different way, and in the end, come out roughly evenly.  The main differences are in the way they must be played, mobility, survivability, in that some are weaker vs each other and vs certain matchups, and in how dependant upon luck they are to inflict meaningful damage as opposed to suppression.  Typically, only three of these would be considered any good - the most mobile of the three, but the BA one is on the cusp of being very good, with a few tweaks.  The SM one? The same.  So, while SMs don't do Missile Spam better than Space Wolves, they don't do it as much worse as the Internet would have you believe...and yet, this isn't how GW wants us to play Marines, as is clear from the values ascribed to units in the Codex, the wargear options, and the Special Rules - most notably Combat Tactics.

Now, this post is already plenty long, so I don't want to bore you any more than I already have.

I will finish up by noting that the MotF adds a different dimension to the SM list that the others cannot easily emulate - Wolf Scouts can do a job at it for SW, by forcing the opponent forward, but the Wolves, while better in midfield in this example, aren't actually really any better at it...this will be discussed in more detail later.  To end, a brief alternate list for Space Marines for you to think about...

Master of the Forge (Beamer) - 120
Rifleman - 125
Rifleman - 125
Rifleman - 125
Tacticals (Rhino, MM, Flamer) - 205
Tacticals (Rhino, MM, Flamer) - 205
Tacticals (Razorback [Las/plas] - 165
Tacticals (Razorback [Las/plas] - 165
Scouts (Missile Launcher, Snipers, Telion) - 135
Speeder (MM/HF) - 70
Speeder (MM/HF) - 70
Speeder (MM/HF) - 70
Rifleman - 125
Rifleman - 125
Rifleman - 125

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* - Preferred Enemy is great, don't get me wrong, but this is literally the BTs only access to Psychic Defence, and so I genuinely feel it's better.  It's only a footnote, so if you disagree, great, but let's not derail the thread? ;) Thanks.  If you want to type up an opposing article and link me, or even subject it for Guest publication (and therefore Snowmobiling!) here, let me know, thanks! :)
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