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.
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
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
- 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
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).
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
- 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
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
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
Those are some pretty generic statements, but even knowing that
helps us decide how to fight them.
There are lots of them; we want something that get lots of kills
They're good at hand-to-hand fighting; we want to kill them by shooting them, to minimize our risk.
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?
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.
They're not too numerous; so quality of shots (high strength, low AP) is more important than volume of shots.
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