Skaven Number Crunching

(This post was originally titled, “The case against ‘Horde.'”  That’s because, initially, I wasn’t convinced that deploying units in a Horde is the way to go.  I haven’t really run them, but my gut reaction has been that while, yes, they throw out a few more attacks, they do so at the cost of significantly increased points, as well as reduced ranks (and, therefore, Steadfast).

Also, since I started writing this, I’ve been talking with Torpored in the comments thread on one of Stahly’s posts.  (Are you following Stahly?  You should be.  He paints some beautiful stuff.)

I’m going to go ahead and begin by articulating the arguments against the Horde, then I’ll meander into the Mathhammer I’ve been working with.  Remember: Mathhammer the end-all, be-all, but it’s a good foundation on which to build reasonable expectations. (It’s also significant to note here, that this is incomplete/bad Mathhammer: it’s just straight odds, without accounting for the more nuanced statistical analysis I’m not really built for.))

Less Maneuverable

This is probably the most obvious problem.

Units, as a whole, are more maneuverable in 8th: what with marching made easier and charges greatly sped up and simplified.  Despite this, steering a unit 200mm (or a 250mm) wide unit is hard.  For example, unless you’re Mv 6, you cannot wheel 90° in a single turn.   The guy on the far end of the unit has to travel well over 12″ (nearly 15.5″) to get around.

I also find myself constantly getting in traffic jams, with units getting in other units’ ways.  Doubling the size of a block is only going to make that messier.

More Expensive

I’m a Skaven player.  I’m used to running things in big blocks of 25-30; that’s because I need the 5-6 ranks for Leadership, for Combat Resolution and for Steadfast.  Running in a horde doesn’t change that fact: I still need 5-6 ranks.  Except, in a horde, those ranks are twice as big, which means my unit costs nearly twice as much.

We’re talking turning a 151 point Clanrat unit into a 290 point unit.  That’s still cheap compared to a lot of armies, but we’re losing a banner (and Fortitude) and a unit to scoot around and flank with in exchange for a huge block of rats.

Not As Killy As You Might Think

So, I ran some numbers.  Assumptions made were:

  • I’m talking things vs. Skaven units.  That’s what I care about.
  • There would be enough models on both sides to claim full CR for ranks
  • There would be enough models on both sides for the unit to make its maximum number of attacks
  • The horded-up unit would get 7 files involved, rather than all 10, against a unit 5-wide
  • I ignore things like Hatred and the Always Strikes First reroll.  It’d complicate the formulae, making it harder to cut-and-paste.  Plus, these numbers are going to show things being fairly dire for the Skaven anyway.  They don’t need the help.
  • Both units have as full a command as possible (so, a champ with +1A and a standard where available)

That last one bears some explanation.  Against poorer troops, the Skaven should win.  Increasing frontage will only help with that.  Against the same troops, of course having more models will make a difference.  The real question is, “Will a Horde formation help my Skaven perform against better enemy troops.”  In that case, increasing the number of Skaven files striking will increase the number of non-Skaven files striking back and, because they’re better troops, having more of them striking back won’t make things any better.

So, 7 Skaven on 5 non-Skaven, stronger troops is about as optimal as we can hope for.  If things look bad here, they can only get worse.

I’m also looking at straight odds.  Statistics are far more nuanced than that, sure, but I’m lazy… and I think the straight odds are sufficient.

Initially, I plugged in Dark Elf Warriors (with Shields) and Chaos Warriors (with Halberds), both units I can expect to see, often.  The former should be marginally better (crap, I just realized I forgot to account for Hatred) with a higher WS.  The latter is inarguably better.  Higher WS, S, T, more attacks and a better save. Then, later, I added some other basic infantry, to see how they compare.

Anyway, the numbers:

This table shows the Combat Resolution (CR) difference, from the Skaven perspective, putting aside any other factors besides Static CR and wounds.  (No, no Charge / Flank / Rear / Height bonus.).  So, when the table says “Clanrats: Normal x Dark Elf Warrors w/ Spears = -0.67,” that means that the Clanrats should, by flat averages, lose that combat by about 2/3rds of a point. (Remember the assumptions, though.)

What does this tell us?

For starters: Stay away the hell from Chaos Warriors. For reals. They will wreck your ratty face off.

Spears do make a difference, sorta.  For clanrats, the increased attacks do offset the increased losses resulting from the lack of a Shield armor & ward save, which is surprising to me. You’re still losing more rats, but it works out for the better.

For slaves, it’s just more dead rats.

Horde also makes a difference.  But that doesn’t surprise me.  Of course more models attacking (11, really: 2 additional per rank, plus the extra rank) will make a difference.  But how much of a difference?  And is it worth it?

As far as how much of a difference: it depends.  In general, not very much.  About 1-4 points of CR… 4 CR is kind of a lot.  1… isn’t as much.  The tougher the opponent unit is, the smaller the difference is.  The better the Skaven unit is, the larger… but that shouldn’t surprise anyone.

How much are you paying for it, though?

The following table assumes that a non-Horde unit is 30 models strong and a Horde unit is 50 models strong, which seems reasonable.

Man, I don’t even think “Average” is relevant; not without including every unit in the game… and, possibly, without weighting those units by prevalence.  Clearly, this is evidence that I’m just screwing around with numbers and should walk. away.

I’m not even sure where I stand on my initial thesis.  Horde is expensive, not particularly super-killy, and less maneuverable, but it is somewhat more killy than nothing and ultimately (thanks to combat reforms and Steadfast) somewhat more resilient.  Since I’m not even sure where I’m going with this, I probably should just delete this post and pretend it never happened, but it’d be a shame to throw this work away.

So, anyone have any thoughts?