Friday, September 23, 2011

VacuumHammer and Stingwings

So I want to talk about VacuumHammer. 

VacuumHammer is when you try to compare one unit to another as if they are acting in a vacuum and conclude that it is better because it can, for example, do more in combat.  A prime example that has earned WIDE acceptance is the Tau Empire StingWings.  Most do not select StingWings.  A StingWing, on the surface is a 16 point model that at 186 points for a full unit, kills 3.67 space Marines and promptly gets blasted out of existence by anything remotely combat capable, or just shot to death with no saves allowed. 

All of that would be true statements in a vacuum.  They would further point out to you that a 186 point Crisis unit (Plasma + Meltas) can kill, at that range, 3.75 Marines in a vacuum and then would have 3+ saves to protect them afterwards.  In a vacuum the choice is clear right?

What’s not clear is that the Crisis suits only have 3-6 wounds (depending on Powerfist or melta shots on them in retaliation) to give in melee or shooting, their leadership is worse, and the Crisis Suit speed is much worse.  Also overlooked is that StingWings always drop into woods since they will almost certainly survive it thanks to their abilities.  So to shoot the StingWings dead would require about 66 Bolter shots from a marine Squad!!!  To kill the 3 Crisis suits. Assuming no meltas which I feel is generous, would require 54.

A Vacuum ignores also that the Pathfinders will be making those Stingwings kill 6.11 and the Crisis units would kill 6.25; and the Vacuum ignores the idea that in both the case of the StingWing and the Crisis suit, the unit they are shooting may become PINNED and unable to charge ANYWAYS!  If that happens, who would you rather still have alive to do that twice?  A really fast unit that can get there and takes more wounds to kill?  Or the one with better killing range and tank busting power, albeit easier to kill?  What if you face both a horde and a mech army at tournies?  Then what?

Vacuums ignore terrain too.  DO you want a unit that can jump over offending terrain as needed or do you want the slower guys?  If the terrain is wide open, you probably want a crisis suit…unless the enemy has a lot of AP 3in which case…

So who wins?  Stingwings?  Crisis Suits? 

Can you see my point?  The VacuumHammer player probably stops thinking right after you say “StingWings”.

That’s why this ideal of “optimizing lists”, while it has validity on some level, really falls apart when someone whose a good General puts disparate pieces together to form a stronger whole.  MSU armies rely on this to some extent but they suffer in KP missions.  So the balancing act is tenuous.

I exhort those reading not to fall into the trap of being a VacuumHammer planner.  Armies like the Tau have proven to me time and again that inferior stat blocks simply require you to think differently, not to despair.  We do not play in a vacuum.

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