Know Yourself

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.
- Sun Tzu, the Art of War

Ok, so we know we need a plan, that will place the stuff we have in a good position to take out the stuff the enemy has. But how can we possibly do that without knowing what we have, and how well it works in general. This short essay is meant to help you figure that out.

So, to start, lets see what we know about our own troops. We know their stats. Stats go a long way towards knowing how well something will perform, if you understand them, so lets go over them, one at a time. I'm going to organize them differently than you will find them in a codex, grouping them by how they're used.

Close Combat Stats

This group of stats will roughly show how effective your models are at fighting up-close, hand-to-hand.

  • WS: This is your model's weapon skill, or, how skilled they are at fighting in hand-to-hand combat. A 2 is below average, a 3 is average, and a 4 is slightly above average, while anything over 4 is definately a close-combat expert. WS is only used in comparison with your opponent's WS. If you're both average, you'll both hit about half the time. Likewise, if you're both above average, you'll both hit about half the time.
  • S: Strength is another stat that is only used in comparison with one of your opponent's stats (their Toughness). If your strength equals their toughness, you will wound them with about half of the hits you land. If you're stronger than they are tough, you'll wound them more often, and if you're not as strong, slightly less. Pay close attention to enemy Toughness or Armour Values. A model with Strength 3 cannot harm a model with Toughness 7, or Armour 10 or better at all, and will find it hard to land wounds on anything with a Toughness 5 or better. A model with Strength 4 cannot possibly harm Toughness 8 - and so on. (This is found on the Strength versus Toughness table).
  • A: Attacks - The number of attacks you make is a huge factor in close combat. Making more attacks can make up for having a lower weapon skill or a lower strength (up to a point - no number of strength 3 attacks will hurt something with toughness 7) as you will have more chances to roll well. Models with pistols and weapons get an extra attack above those listed as well.
  • I: Initiative is important because it is what decides who strikes first. If you strike before your enemy, you may kill them before they get a chance to hit back. If you strike after them, you may never strike, as they may kill you first.
  • What you're armed with: This doesn't appear on the stat summary, but it is important to close combat. Models with swords (even chainswords) or clubs are simply not as effective in close-combat as models armed with power weapons. There are three main special close-combat armament options:
    • Power Weapons strike like normal, but the opponent does not get armour saves. This can triple the number of dead models when fighting heavily armoured troops like Space Marines.
    • Power Fists strike last, but they not only ignore armour saves, they also double your model's strength. A model with a powerfist will usually wound their opponent with 5/6ths of their hits, as they're only going to need to roll a 2 or better to cause a wound.
    • Rending weapons automatically cause wounds and ignore armour on a to-hit roll of 6. Individually, they're ok. In numbers, they're devastating. Daemonettes and Genestealers are known for their high-initiative rending attacks. Rending attacks are also nice for their ability to wound anything, even models with a Toughness greater than what the attacker's strength may normally be able to affect.

Ranged Combat Stats

  • BS: This is your balistic skill, which determine how likely they are to hit when firing. Again, a 2 is below average (hitting only a third of their shots), a 3 is average (hitting half the time), and a 4 is highly-trained (hitting roughly 2/3rds of their shots).
  • What you're armed with: Well, you're shooting, either you hit or you don't. Much of what happens after you hit depends on what you fired. Weapons have five stats, found in their summary, so those will be discussed here under Ranged Combat Stats too.
    • S: Strength is much like strength in close-combat, but you're using the strength of the gun instead of your own strength. It's used for determining what you can hurt. High strength weapons (7 or better) will kill anything, but are at their best when used against targets that low strength (6 or less) weapons cannot hurt, such as monstrous creatures and vehicles.
    • Range: How far can your gun shoot? Guns with longer range need to be deployed in places where they can take advantage of their range. Guns with shorter range need to be given time to maneuver into position to be useful.
    • AP: The armour-piercing value of a weapon is one of the most important stats involved in shooting. Either a gun is AP3 or lower, in which case it can be depended on to kill power armoured foes like Marines, or it isn't, and you're going to need to hit armoured targets with a lot more fire to drop them. A Strength 3 gun at AP3 is going to be more effective versus space marines than a strength 6 gun with AP4 (all else being equal).
    • Type-of-Weapon: Guns have one of four types. Heavy weapons must stay still to fire unless mounted on something. This makes them rather static, so care must be taken when deploying Heavy Weapons to put them in a place where your enemy cannot easily find cover. Assault Weapons can be fired on the move, and allow you to declare an assault even if you shot them. This makes them much more mobile than heavy or rapid-fire weapons. Rapid-Fire weapons can shoot if you don't move, but can always be shot (even if you did move) up to 12 inches, twice. This makes them especially dangerous for close-range shooting, because of the volume of fire they can generate. But, if anyone in a unit fires a rapid-fire weapon, the unit may not assault that turn. Pistols are short-range (12 inches) only, but can be fired on the move, and do not prohibit assaults. They also tend to help in close-combat, so you often see assault troops with them.
    • Rate of Fire: This is the number right after the weapon type. More shots are always better, but ususally this is a tradeoff with Strength or AP. (Afterall, if the strong, AP2 weapons also had the best rate-of-fire, wouldn't everyone only use those?)

Damage Absorbtion Stats

These are relevant both in shoot-outs and in close combat. They're the stats that determine how likely you are to survive.

  • T: Toughness is the counter to strength. If your toughness is higher than the strength of the hits you are taking, you have a much better chance of surviving.
  • W: The more wounds you have, the more times you can be wounded before losing the model. Be careful though, because a hit from a weapon twice as strong as you are tough will kill with just one hit (instant-kill rules).
  • Sv: Saves are your last chance to keep your model alive after it has been wounded. Lower is better, but any armour can be negated by the right weapons.
  • Ld: Leadership is used to hold your units together when they come under fire or lose combat. It's also used to allow you more control over target selection. Leadership gets modifiers throughout the game, as your units take damage, they get more likely to break and run.
  • Armour Value: These are on vehicles only, and are used to determine if a hit affects a vehicle or bounces off harmlessly. In most cases, the minimum strength a weapon needs to have a chance to affect a vehicle's armour is this number, minus six (six being the highest roll you could make on your armour-pentration roll).

Yeah yeah, we know all that, it's in the rulebook.

Well, you have to think about applying it. Let's say you're going to play against some orks. What do we know about orks? 1) There are lots of them. 2) They're good at fighting hand-to-hand 3) They don't have good armour.

Those are some pretty generic statements, but even knowing that helps us decide how to fight them.

  1. There are lots of them; we want something that get lots of kills
  2. They're good at hand-to-hand fighting; we want to kill them by shooting them, to minimize our risk.
  3. They don't have good armour; We don't need low AP weapons, as long as we get a lot of shots.

So, if you're looking at making your list, you want your basic troops set up to handle the basic characteristics of orks! You want any special weapon choices to be those with a high rate of fire, even at the expense of AP (because orks aren't likely to save anyway), and the more range you have, the more time you have to shoot them before they get to you.

You're fighting marines. What do you know about marines? 1) They're strong, tough, and have good armour. 2) They're not all that numerous 3) They can fight and shoot with about equal effectiveness.

So what do you want to combat marines?

  1. They're strong, tough, and have good armour; you want to be able to bypass their armour as much as possible, which means either power weapons, or low AP shooting.
  2. They're not too numerous; so quality of shots (high strength, low AP) is more important than volume of shots.
  3. They're equally good at shooting and fighting; so you have greater leeway in selecting whether you want to fight them with your assault troops or your hand-to-hand troops.

But, this is about knowing yourself, not knowing your opponent. Odds are, if you go to a tournament, or the local game store, or even your friend's basement, you're going to have an army already made, before you know what your opponent is going to play. This is where knowing the capabilities of your own troops comes into play. You don't want to take troops without any sort of armour-bypassing ability into a close-combat with terminators. To do so would be handing your opponent victory points. You don't want to spend time having your massed small-arms fire empy their clips uselessly into a tank that they have no hope of hurting.

All units have some use. The key to knowing yourself is knowing which of your troops should be directed where. You don't need to know your opponent's list before playing to know this. Asking simple questions during deployment, such as, "what armour save does this model have?" will let you know what sort of unit from your own list should be tasked with fighting it.

You also want to know approximately what sort of fire your units can sustain wile relying on them to still be a vital part of the battle. That generally means, how many hits can they take before they're reduced to half-strength, but can also include such factors as Leadership, and how many wounds it will take before they have to worry about running away.

Investing the time in learning these things will help ensure that you make solid decisions during the game, and that none of your troops die in vain. I will go over the math involved in approximating these calculations in another article.