So I was listening to the Muse on Minis podcast (#295) and in the preamble bit of the cast, they started discussing what makes a heavy jack worth a premium points price. To quote Keith:
“The ultimate reason [that I don’t want to play 18+ points jacks] is that so often, especially when paying a premium price for a jack that doesn’t bring any additional survivability, it just adds to the burden of playing mistake free. When you bring a 20pt jack that dies like a 10pt jack, it can be removed for a huge advantage for your opponent.”
This quote (and the surrounding discussion) provoked some thoughts that I’ve been chewing on and turning over and over in my head. The conclusion I’ve reached is that budget heavies are severely undercosted. This isn’t round 897 of Hordes vs Warmachine which is better, but within each faction, Warjacks are too cheap, too efficient for their points. Let’s take the Protectorate Crusader. 10 points, 32 boxes, armor 19. That’s 3.2 boxes per point on the table! Even chaff infantry (Temple Flameguard, ~1 box per point) can’t match that level of efficiency. Heavy infantry is a little better with Cinerators clocking in at 1.5 boxes per point (but they suffer from a different issue which makes those HP less effective than the TFG, but I digress). A Dervish edges out the Crusader with ~3.7 boxes per point, but again, that’s too cheap!
If the Crusader/Dervish is so efficient, why bring anything else? Utility. Sometimes I need my jacks to shoot, sometimes I need them to catch a charge, sometimes I need them to protect my caster from spells. This doesn’t help the infantry versus jack comparison any at all though. Largely, the only reason to take infantry is for the damage output, certain infantry can pack 10+ attacks and after buffs, abilities, and other support can rip the world to shreds.
Interestingly, if the Crusader was 18 points, the box efficency would drop to 1.7, which is rather interesting (note: I’m not advocating that the Crusader be 18 points, rather 18-point Protectorate heavies almost match the box:point ratio of heavy infantry).
So all of this post I’ve been ignoring the effect that DEF and ARM have on a model’s boxes. I’ve avoided discussing DEF and ARM because it muddles the point I’m attempting to make. DEF and ARM serve to define a model’s role almost more than the special rules on a card. A model with low defensive stats isn’t going to be a frontliner while it’s a waste to hide DEF/ARM skewed models away where your opponent can’t spend attacks on them. Part of the problem with discussing DEF and ARM simultaneously is the fact that they are inherently different. DEF is a binary check, did this attack hit? Yes/No. Done. ARM can be binary (single wound models) but it also serves as a non-linear mitigation factor for damage (yay 2d6 probability curves!) which makes it a much more complex topic for discussion. Quick example for this, ARM17 Temple Flameguard resist roughly 60% of all POW10 attacks (I have a picture somewhere that charts average expected damage between various POWs and ARMs. Short version is 2d6 average to 7, if a model’s ARM is POW+7 higher it’ll won’t take damage roughly 60% of the time). As soon as that damage roll creeps up to 8 or more, dead flameguard. Cinerators also have ARM17, however they die to a single POW10 around 3% of the time. Each time they take damage from, their ability to not die to further POW10s drops drastically (1 box of damage more than doubled the likelihood that a POW10 damage roll will kill a Cinerator). Why this is a problem is that POW10s are less common than POW12s (or POW15s, etc). If the attack instantly kills the model, ARM stops being important. The fact of the matter is that TFG are more resilient to high POW attacks because there 10 of them (compared to 3 Cinerators). Thats 10 attacks that have to hit the TFG. Now that we’re discussing instant death, having a higher DEF to lower the odds that the binary comes up “YES” is far more important.
The short version of all of this is, if you’re easy to hit and don’t have a ridiculous armor, you have to have a lot of boxes to be more efficient than having more bases. ~8ish boxes makes you largely immune to single instances of damage below POW16 at ARM17. The Crusader has 4 times that number at a higher ARM…
In summary, I’ve noticed that the budget heavy jacks don’t fall along the same box:point efficiency curve as infantry, heavy infantry and more expensive heavy jacks. This is probably not okay (and easiest fix would be a point cost increase of the budget heavies).