Thursday, August 15, 2013

40K Basics: Scale

Just a quick bit to add to the 40K Basics archives - scale in 40K.  Not the scale of the models or the battlefield, or how silly it is that a bolter can only shoot as far as a man can run in 2-4 turns (or how long a turn is...).  Rather, how the scale of a game can affect how powerful something can be.

There's two aspects involved.  
First is relative power.  The smaller the game, the bigger threat individual things can be.  In a 500 point game, that 10-man marine squad can be brutal, while at 2000 points it might be an afterthought.  
Things that are hard to hurt become that much more survivable the fewer potential threats they face at lower levels.  Things that can dish out serious damage become that much more dangerous at lower levels as the damage they can do before being taken out can represent a higher percentage of the enemy army.

Second is the force multiplier effect.  Some things have fixed costs, but benefit your army more as points increase, sort of the opposite effect to the first point, where things become less individually potent as points go up.  Force multipliers are things like good ol' Vulkan in a Space Marine army (at least under the 5th edition codex...we will see for sure in a few weeks how he works in 6th) that affect something that you can get more of.  
At a low point level, the "tax" of buying Vulkan to get twin-linked meltas and flamers may not be worth it; you only have a few weapons that would benefit.  As points increase and you are able to pack in more meltas and flamers, the benefit you get from the same investment in Vulkan pays off more and more.  Similarly Duke Sliscus for the Dark Eldar improves your combat drugs results and gives you options with raiders and such, the value of which increase the more wych cult and skimmer units you take.  Chaos Marines can get bonuses from fixed cost icons, which are cheaper on a per-marine basis the larger the squad is.  Radius powers, like Blood Angels Sanguinary Priests, are more valuable the more units and more high-value units you can afford to pack into the area of effect (Some radius type powers could also fit in the "relative power" category - the Sanguinary Priests' Feel No Pain bubble could be considered more effective at lower points where there are fewer attacks that would bypass it).

Do you have any favorites?  Things that work well in relatively small games, or things that really come into their own as points climb?


  1. Great perspective to think about. I don't really have any examples, but i enjoyed the article.
    Actually, I have been playing mostly low-point games lately but used to play 2000 pt games a lot. The scale definitely changes, as you said. In small point games there are no "fodder" units, everything is valuable, and huge horde-like squads become almost unstoppable because they are taking and giving so much damage compared to the small units they face. And the toys get bigger and more dangerous in big games. You probably won't see many Land Raiders in a small game because they suck up so many points, leaving very little else. But if you DO face one in a small game your chances of taking it out are much less because you're less likely to have the firepower. (Had that happen to me recently -- I had maybe one model that could scratch it, just had to avoid it as much as possible.)
    Hmmm... Good article. Nice 40k meta-philo to think about. :)

    1. Thanks, glad you liked it! It is fun in small point games seeing what is dangerous..."My god, that rhino is AV11 and has TWO stormbolters!"

  2. Good stuff! Perhaps there is a third category, one of offensive scaling effect? Take blasts for example. Possibly less useful at smaller points levels where there May be smaller units and more space to spread out. However in larger games the model density can be much higher (e.g. two larger units cramming into one piece of terrain to get cover). Yes I'll take those thudd guns with perfect timing (ignores cover) thanks very much!

    1. Perhaps - and things can certainly get more dangerous as combos open up at higher levels. Something like a manticore can be devastating at low point levels if it gets in a solid hit. At higher levels, more high-value targets to shoot at, but each might represent a smaller fraction of the enemy's total force. Things like nova powers might fit with the offensive scaling - the higher the point level, the more units you can get in range for your nova, like the old monolith guns that shot at every unit in range, or the stormlord's lightning and Njal's powers.


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