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Thursday, 8 June 2017

Analysis: Astra Militarum in 8th Ed, Special Weapons


The eternal trinity of Plasma, Melta and Flamer remains sacred to the Astra Militarum Faction in 8th Ed, even more so than faith in the Emperor or fear of Commissars! But which weapon is optimal?

Weapons

Plasma Guns, Meltaguns and Flamers are still the mainstay special weapons available to Astra Militarum Infantry units. Grenade Launchers and Sniper Rifles are also in the mix, but have historically fallen behind the other three options.

Targets


We evaluate these weapons against five sets of defensive profiles to represent common targets:

  • T3/W1/Sv5+ representing light infantry, such as Imperial Guardsmen
  • T4/W1/Sv3+ representing medium infantry, such as Space Marines
  • T4/W2/Sv3+ representing multi-wound medium infantry, such as Primaris Space Marines
  • T7/Sv3+ representing medium armour, such as most Imperial, Chaos, Eldar and Tau vehicles
  • T8/Sv3+ representing heavy armour, such as some Imperial, Chaos and Necron vehicles
We can interpolate weapon performance against most other targets based on this set.
We assume that the infantry have unlimited model count so that number of shots is not a constraint, and that the vehicles have unlimited wounds so that damage is not a constraint.

Note that the most interesting offensive stat is strength, and the most interesting defensive stat is toughness, since the S vs. T relationship is not linear in 8th Ed. The number of wounds a target has is another interesting defensive stat, since causing multiple damage from a single failed save does not cause extra wounds to 'carry over' to other members of a unit, so having a low number of wounds actually makes high-damage weapons less effective. In contrast, changing the number of shots or AP of a weapon, or the Sv of a target, results in very predictable and linear changes to weapon effectiveness.

Mathhammer

Running the numbers provides the following results for BS4+ gunners:


Note that I have used the expected value for D3/D6 rolls:

  • D3 = 2
  • D6 = 3.5
  • 2D6 pick highest = 4.5
The colour-coding is a vertical heat-map, which indicates the effectiveness of weapons against targets; in other words, a green box indicates which weapon is best against that target, not which target that weapon is best used against.

Re-running the numbers for BS3+ gunners (Veterans, Scions) provides these results:


All the numbers get bigger, except for the Flamer.

Results

So what does this mathhammer actually tell us?

  • The Plasma Gun on Overcharge is good against everything and is by far the best special weapon
  • The Meltagun is the best special weapon against Vehicles, but it is much worse than the Plasma Gun against Infantry
  • The Flamer is only good against light Infantry
  • Grenade Launchers and Sniper Rifles are crap
Well, that's easy, plasma for everyone! The range, versatility and raw power of the Plasma Gun makes it the clear best choice, especially since the Overcharge risk is so easily mitigated using the Fire On My Target Order.

A case can be made for Flamers on BS4+ models—especially if the metagame favours horde lists—but note that it suffers from variance like a lot of heavy weapons. If you are considering the Flamer for its Overwatch protection, just remember that it is now range-limited to 8" (unlike previous editions) so it won't help you against all those 9" charge attempts by tactical reserve units.

Conclusion

While Flamers and Plasma Guns cost the same points, choose plasma every time. Also take cheap Plasma Pistols at every opportunity. Simple!

Meltaguns aren't a terrible choice, but you can probably rely on your Artillery and heavy weapons to deal with the hard targets.


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