Jam the Radar!
Posted by Corelin
This is my first post on some more game theory-ish topics. I play games for fun, but sometimes I’ll dig into the numbers behind the game and try to figure out better ways to play. This is an example of a games-theory concept that I encountered a lot in Warmahordes that I think has become extremely relevant in 8th edition 40k, with the rise of melee, hordes, and the ability of units in melee to affect vehicles during their own turn.
Jamming is a big part of some games, in others it barely makes the lexicon. Traditionally Warhammer 40k has been one of those games where it is a rarely used tactic as it is incredibly hard to do with any sort of efficiency. Well 8th edition has changed that in a big way.
So first let’s talk about what jamming is in a wargame. Jamming is when you use a relatively unimportant unit to deny an enemy the ability to move, shoot, or pick his own charge target by charging into him. The benefit of jamming is it can give you a lot of board control, while saving you from a substantial amount of fire. The downside is, unless the unit doing the jamming is a really good tarpit, they are probably dead as doornails.
The biggest target for jamming in 40k right now is vehicles. Vehicles often have a very high damage output, and are extremely hard to destroy quickly. They have too many factors making them very hard targets to be destroyed without a massive concentration of firepower. However all it takes is 1 model starting its turn within 1″ to block the vehicle from shooting. A predator has the weapons loadout of a devastator squad, with more mobility and far more toughness. It can’t take cover as well, vehicle cover rules basically meaning vehicles don’t get to take cover, but it can inflict a lot of damage in a very short period of time, and removing those guns takes a lot of effort.
However one stormboy with a choppa disables all those guns for at least one turn. And he does it for pretty cheap. Jamming into a tank does three things. It reduces my firepower, it forces me to fall back and disrupts my gunline, and it forces me to find another unit to engage the jammer, either with enough firepower to destroy them or to charge into melee itself, and if my opponent picked the right unit to do so, it’s a unit he can afford to lose while I have multiple units dealing with them. If he has multiple, small units available to jam, or if I mess up and he can charge multiple units with the same unit, he can turn my shooting phase from the height of my turn into a really frustrating exercise in trying to do more with less.
Now let’s say he gets a small unit of stormboyz into melee with my predator. Maybe he knocks off a wound, maybe he doesn’t. Now I have a predator pulling back, I have a squad of tacticals coming over to shoot, and probably charge them to finish them off, and I have nothing shooting at the deff dread rolling down on my battleline trying to keep it from getting its claws on my precious marines.
On the flip side of the tactical coin is horde armies. Boyz mobs, genestealers, hormagaunts, all are incredibly powerful if they crash into your army and get off the first attack, but they have to be unengaged to charge, so you have to lock them up. This can be tricker, and you have to break out the Mathhammer to figure out how best to do it. Let’s take a unit of genestealers that I have to delay for a turn. 20 stealers of course, attacking MEQs, first we’ll see what happens if the ‘stealers can charge.
80 attacks, 54 hits (I’m going to round up because I’m a pessimist. Similarly armor saves will be rounded down) 9 wounds at AP-4 from rending claws, 18 wounds at AP-1. On generic marines that’s 9 wounds just going straight through, and 9 more after armor saves. That’s almost 2 squads of tactical marines, or nearly 1 full squad of intercessors.
That example is worst case. Let’s look at if I charge them (without shooting) with my trusty 10 man tactical squad. My typical squad is 10 marines, combi-plasma, plasma, and Heavy Bolter. So they charge in, 11 attacks, 2 from the sergeant, 9 from normal marines. 7 hits, 3 wounds, 2 dead genestealers. Not exactly great, but it does clip a couple of wounds off the return attack. Not enough to save a normal tactical squad from being summarily destroyed, but it does help a bit.
Let’s say they pour some fire into the stealers. I’m going to assume they moved during their turn, because in order to get a charge in on genestealers you practically have to, so here we go. 7 rapid fire bolters: just over 3 wounds on average. 1 combi weapon bolter adds about 1/3 of a wound, combi plasma adds enough that with the bolter fire we’re calling it 4 wounds already. Heavy bolter – just under another wound. We’re being pessimistic so, 4 dead stealers, charge in, kill 2 more. Now we’ve removed 24 attacks from that incoming salvo. Still not enough that the basic tactical squad will survive.
That’s how nasty hordes are this edition. 14 Genestealers coming back with 4 attacks is 56. 37 hits, 6 automatic wounds, another 6 or 7 normal wounds. Still a dead tactical squad and the surviving stealers can move up and charge in their own turn. Remember, moving 9-11 inches for normal troops is trivial this edition, and genestealers can start 18″ away from you and reliably get a charge in so you HAVE to burn them down, or keep them at arms range.
Now let’s look at something I’m looking at very hard, the intercessor squad. One thing I didn’t mention is that my tactical squad only costs about 2/3 of a genestealer mob, Intercessors cost just around 5/6 of a genestealer mob.
So, the bolt rifles, 10 of them with no special or heavy weapon, 4 wounds. Charging in these tough bastards have 2 attacks, the sergeant has 3 (and a power sword). That’s another 5 wounds (combining average extra wounds from shooting and melee) leaving the Genestealers with 11. 44 attacks. 29 hits, 6 wounds that go right through armor, 11 other wounds. That leaves the sergeant and 1 other marine holding on. That’s not enough to be comfortable that the genestealers would be stopped during their turn, but I could divert some fire from another unit to increase that margin a fair bit. While it’s not the topic of this post, I have to say Intercessors are looking better and better in comparison to basic marines when it comes to objective play. The only thing they lose out on is heavy firepower.