Thursday, September 19, 2013

Path of the Autarch: Critical Mass 2.0 - Part 1

So, first of, thanks to all of you that have been participating in the discussion on the previous Critical Mass post. I have been analyzing and trying to get a more solid framework in which to house this, for me, elusive concept of Critical Mass in army lists.
We seemed to be a little fuzzy on a word definition for the phenomenon, prob
ably because it can take many forms. Basically, it is just that momentum that your list gains on the battlefield that propels you toward victory.
What ended up being a little easier to chew on, however, were key elements of a list that can result in gaining Critical Mass.
There were anecdotes and comments made that involve player skill, game philosophy, and other things but I am totally focused on the list, just letters and numbers on the paper kind of list. Player ability/temperment are a whole separate topic. Perhaps in a future post.
At this point of concept development, I have decided to evaluate Critical Mass potential based on three metrics, with the intention that a list which has high marks in all three will be able to get serious Critical Mass. The three metrics I have chosen are:

1) Offensive Capability
2) Resiliency
3) Viability

Now that opening statements are over, let's dive into part one, the first metric.

Offensive Capability

Abstract: The Offensive Capability metric involves not just units, weapons, and general firepower, but also the presence of delivery mechanisms (or lack thereof) to get list elements into proper position. Powerful weapons/units mean little if they are unable to be used effectively. And while each aspect needs to be looked at separately, they all feed into each other to produce a "score" for this metric.

 Aspect 1:

The first aspect of the Offensive Capability metric is the ability to do meaningful damage to the enemy.

By meaningful, I mean being able to remove the enemy's valuable units.

Whether a unit would be deemed "valuable" is completely subjective, but I define a unit as valuable if it can greatly benefit the controlling player over the course of a game because of either the mission, the terrain, or the matchup (i.e. what two armies are squaring off).

A part of doing meaningful damage also incorporates the need to produce wounds en masse should the situation require it. Either by sheer number of shots, special tricks, or truck loads of blast templates. Sometimes you just need to kill models, lots of them. Your list should be able to do and more. But perhaps I am getting ahead of myself.

For example, if I am running an infantry based list, am I able to remove the opponent's threatening anti-infantry units? Because those just became very valuable to the opponent. If the opponent is running many monstrous creatures, that makes them valuable to the opponent for a different reason, am I able to effectively remove these?

What is "valuable" can vary wildly. You are still going to want to kill things with "value" though.

Aspect 2:

The second aspect of the Offensive Capability metric is Versatile Firepower**.

I put asterisks next to Firepower because I wanted to refer to not only guns/ranged weapons but also special abilities, close combat prowess, basically whatever the list uses to make the opponent's models go away.

Having Versatile Firepower generally represents a lists ability to do damage at useful ranges, having the necessary weapon strengths, AP values and special abilities to engage the opponent throughout the battle regardless of the build that the opponent has. Versatile Firepower gives a list the ability to leverage its strengths on the opponent's weaknesses. Having a "firing solution" for most or any problem you encounter is a huge boon.

It is also worth noting at this point that having units or weapons that are dual purpose help increase this aspect as being able to satisfactorily engage a variety of targets builds in additional flexibility and versatility.

For example, if a list relies almost completely on a high volume of low strength, short ranged weapons, then it will struggle to engage targets that are far away or are hard to wound. Whereas a list that has all the major categories of attacks in its toolbox will be able to lay down fire where and at what it needs to in order to be the most efficient.

Aspect 3:

The third aspect of the Offensive Capability is Force Delivery.

Force Delivery is a critical part of a list. Having amazing weapons, special abilities and units are all well and good but they won't help you in the least if they cannot get where they need to be in order to engage the targets they are best at.

If your unit has a weapon that has a silly-long range, then delivering the firing model probably isn't too important, but ensuring it has proper lanes of fire is crucial to the model delivering its contribution to the war effort.

Transports, jump packs, movement special perks (looking at you, Fast Skimmers), lanes of fire, Deep Strike, Infiltrate, or anything else that can get your army into the fight are going to increase the list's value for this aspect.

An army that can't bring its forces to bear upon the enemy is at a RIDICULOUS disadvantage compared to one that can. Ever played a game where you just get mercilessly taken apart no matter what you do? You opponent's list probably scored high in this aspect whereas your score was likely abysmal.

**As a personal aside, I will tend to weight this aspect a little heavier than the others for my own lists because I like mobile armies. 


Well, that does it for the basic framework of the first metric I propose for metering critical mass potential in lists 40K is a wargame, so offensive ability is generally going to be the foremost concern when really developing a list. It is the rock you anchor your victory to.

Do you have any changes you would make to this metric? I think I hit the main cornerstones for quality, quantity, flexibility, and usability.

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