Thursday, August 11, 2011

I don't like math, or how I came to want a Marauder

I have a BA and not a BS for a reason.
Being knee-deep in Harkevich Theorymachining, I came to a point yesterday where I wanted to have some numbers to inform my list building.  Is a Decimator viable with rerolls?  How often can I expect a Field Gun to crit?  What if Kovnik Joe is calling the shots?  Just how accurate would a full unit of aiming Bombardiers with rerolls be?  The rudimentary cocktail napkin math I can do in my head proved insufficient from the first of the questions, so I decided to seize this learning opportunity and make a probability chart on a spreadsheet.  Fast-forward a few hours and handfuls of hair later and I hadn't made much progress.  The spreadsheet was the first to go, perhaps 20 minutes in.  I don't have the first idea how to use Excel and I'm iffy at best on the math I was trying to use.  Combining the two was a recipe for disaster, so I went back to the pad and pen.  I got the 2d6 chart nice and quick, but the 3d6 chart started giving me fits.  Factor in rerolls, let alone crits, and the red haze was descending.  Picking your fights is a key skill and I recognized the chick I thought I had tapped on the shoulder was actually a dude, and a pocket-sized bodybuilder at that, so I beat a hasty retreat to the interwebs in search of a probability chart.  I thought it would be easy to find.  Turns out I was wrong.

I'm a better chart-finder than chart-maker.
Fast-forward to now and I'm contemplating putting together the one probability chart to rule them all.  Two to six dice (I have yet to find a way to get past six, and I'm not even sure I can get to six), rerolls, crits, Signs and Portents-like effects, and all combinations.  I've had some quick(ish) success in finding the various components, but I haven't found them in one spot yet.  While my Photoshop skills aren't a lot better than my Excel skills in terms of competence compared to an average person, I can at least find what I'm looking for most of the time, so assembling a chart of charts should be easy enough once I get all the pieces.  I'm a little hesitant to do this though as I generally avoid mathhammer and would much prefer to just try things out, or go with my gut instinct.  There is the whole 'service to the community' thing though, as if I'm having a time finding the chart I want than chances are other people are also struggling.

Turns out I don't need math after all.
In the end, I'm not sure it matters what the odds are or where I can find a chart.  The whole reason for my calculations was a to find a solution for the poor shooting of Khadoran jacks.  Black Ivan will be a rockstar, but all the other jacks (meaning Destroyers and Decimators for the most part) are RAT 4.  Destroyers can hope for lucky scatters and squishy targets, but Decimators probably won't get the job done without boosting.  Considering Harkevich is probably going to have a single focus to hand out on a given turn, after Broadsides and two upkeeps, it just doesn't make sense to have a ROF 2 jack that probably needs to boost to hit anything.  While setting up the criteria I wanted to check during the math phase I included things like Ice Cage and Gorman di Wulfe, not that I know what he does, but those calculations never got done.  If the Field Gun hits and if it crits it will knock down what it hits, but that's just one target and two ifs.  The Decimator has Beat Back, but no Knockdown.  What to do?  While pondering, I had a Prodigal Son moment: the Marauder would fit perfectly.

Can this really be the answer?
I had long ago dismissed the Marauder as a nice idea, but overshadowed by things like the Kodiak.  The super slam attack it has is nice, but that's really the only trick it has.  Compared to the Kodiak it's less powerful and less versatile.  In this scenario though, the Marauder has two advantages over the Kodiak: it's a point cheaper and it doesn't hit as hard.  The first is obvious, but why would you ever want a jack that does less damage?  I love the Kodiak, but sometimes it's too powerful to get the job done.  I've destroyed many jacks with the initial fistings that lead to the combo throw, and unfortunately you can't throw the smouldering wreckage of a jack.  In this context the fact that the Marauder does less damage is a boon as it can get in and slam the target without having to worry (much) about destroying it in the process.  Since the idea behind the slam is to make the target easier to hit at range, destroying it before it hits the ground is counter productive.  The Marauder also has another benefit: focus efficiency.  The Kodiak really wants to boost both fists so that it can get the throw off, and probably will need to boost the throw as well to be sure.  With Harkevich's noted focus issues, a melee jack that wants 3 focus just to knock a target down just won't work.  The Marauder will just need the one attack though, so boosting isn't such a burden.  With the target on the ground, and possibly another jack or caster on the ground after getting hit by the flying initial target, the ranged jacks don't need to worry about boosting.  This means the Decimator is suddenly viable at 3 shots per turn, as RAT 4 trying to hit DEF 5 (aka a knocked down target) is going to work.  But I'd need another focus for that, right?  Hark only has one left after Broadsides and the two upkeeps, so if I'm boosting the Marauder how will I buy the second shot for the Decimator?  A poncy elf.

Not this poncy elf.
Sylas Wyshlanayyrryryryyryryryryryrrrryryr is the jam for the Marauder's peanut butter.  While Harkevich won't get the full benefit from him, since he shouldn't really be casting offensive spells, the elf's ability to pay an upkeep is what makes this work.  Now Hark will have two focus to give out, one for the knockdown and one for the second shelling.  Suddenly everything works and a list fell right into place:

Kommander Harkevich, The Iron Wolf  +5 points
* Black Ivan  10 points
* Decimator  9 points
* Marauder  7 points
* Sylys Wyshnalyrr, The Seeker  2 points

Kovnik Jozef Grigorovich  2 points
Winter Guard Field Gun Crew  2 points
Winter Guard Mortar Crew  3 points
6 Winter Guard Rifle Corps  5 points

35+5 points, 17 models

The Motherland protects.
It's not quite perfect.  I'd like a third ranged jack and a maxed WGRC.  I also have exactly three of the pieces in the list (Hark, Joe, Mortar).  Those small problems aside, I really like the idea here.  The Field Gun get the Joe boost and hopes for crits at range.  The Decimator gets the reroll spell, the name of which I forget at the moment, which should help a bit when the knockdowns don't happen.  Black Ivan just hammers folks for free, because he's awesome.  The mortar takes shots where it can, either clearing infantry or pounding knocked down targets.  The WGRC are there mostly to get some bodies on the table, but also for infantry clearing.  Joe can always give them the talking to, which I hear does wonders.  Plus they don't block LoS for shooting purposes, so I can use them as a screen to maximize the number of rounds of shooting.  When an enemy staggers to my line, the Marauder goes to work.  If melee gets thick, Black Ivan is no slouch, plus I've coveted the Decimator's Sustained Attack chainsaw since I first get stuck by pGaspy.  The big pitfalls I can see coming are stealth/incorporeal targets.  A Spriggan would solve some of those, and will no doubt be part of future list building, but for now I think it's a start.  I'll have plenty of time to tinker while assembling parts.  In the meantime I'm having fun making Warmachine lists, something I always liked in 40k but never really took hold in Warmachine.  The dawn of a new era?  Time will tell.


  1. See, I don't over-think my lists the way you do, thus why you keep beating me. I'm a very "set in my ways" gamer who does what works and sticks to it. My army worked great in Mk. I, and doesn't have any glaring flaws in Mk. II, so I don't really need to fix what ain't broke.

    No matter what you do, your shooting is what's going to lose me games no matter what. The threat range is too great, and my ability to respond too limited, for me to have any realistic response to the ol' "Winterguard Deathstar" other than pie-plate spells and shooting.

    I'm getting off on a tangent now (best left for my own blog) so I'll just wrap up by saying that if you're making probability charts for every situation under the sun, you're kind of turning what should be a fun time waster into Very Serious Business. But hey, if that's what float your boat...

  2. I came to the same conclusion about making work out of fun, hence why I called a halt to it. What started as a simple choice between putting Fortune (the reroll spell) on either a Decimator or a Field Gun spiraled out of control. Lucky for me I found a different solution in the Marauder, though as I said I think there's merit in compiling a comprehensive chart for the community as a whole regardless of whether I ever use the thing or not.

    After typing for a while I realize that the rest of this comment is more appropriate as a comment on your most recent blog post, so I'll ship it over there.