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9 pt Firewarriors: The opportunity cost of Troops
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Old 25 Sep 2013, 00:44   #1 (permalink)
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Default 9 pt Firewarriors: The opportunity cost of Troops

Hello everyone. Since this has received a good deal of attention in a thread it probably rightly shouldn't have, I decided to take it upon myself to start it again in a different place. This is not necessarily just to complain about the cost of our troop choices, or the comparatively limited slot options for tau in anything but fast attack. This isn't even just about how the role of firewarriors as troops is distinctly different from the role of marines or conscripts.

This is intended to start a serious debate about the quality of our troops choices, and any infantry unit more broadly within our codex. Is 9 pts for a firewarrior the right price? Is it fair to compare a firewarrior team and a marine squad in isolation from other units in both codecies? And many more questions that may come up.

First, a little background. It should be made clear that one of the biggest changes from 5th edition to 6th pertaining to detachment structure in the Tau codex was the "slow down". This refers to the loss of jump infantry status for drones and the reset to standard vehicle speed for all skimmers besides the piranha. Those are generally accepted portions of how this codex was targeted at increasing the damage output of Tau units whilst simultaneously making them less slippery and easier to engage at ranges that would be disadvantageous for them. Bombardment from beyond range of return fire, negating range advantage of Tau units, and forcing units into assault range being the main results.

However, I would argue that there is a third factor to this slowdown and that is our transport cost. A stock devilfish comes in at 80 points compared to a rhino's 35. Considering that a full firewarrior squad costs 108 points, it is very easy with just a few upgrades to push the cost of our transport near or above the unit it is transporting. Now for a few qualifying statements. The devilfish is a skimmer tank transport and thus enjoys a jink save for moving with 6th edition rules built in. It also is AV12 front which is as strong as most walkers and some tanks. It also gets 8, 18" S5 AP5 shots, half of which are twin-linked but with a BS of 3. In comparison a Rhino is a tank transport only, with AV11 front. Additionally its bolter gets 2 - 3 24" S4 AP5 shots though with a BS of 4.

Taking all of those things into consideration I would still say that the cost of a devilfish is far too high. Rhinos can be upgrades with weapons that enhance its firepower, as well as a few survivability upgrades and still be less expensive. A devilfish with one survivability upgrade (a disruption pod) and a firepower upgrade (SMS) would cost three times what a stock rhino costs (105 vs 110) This indicates that the cost is unbalanced, and has been specifically targeted to result in two possible outcomes.

1) That Tau players spend substantially more points on transports than a marine army, balancing out the cost of their mobile troop choices and resulting in roughly equal points spent in other slot categories.

2) Tau players must leave some or all of their troop choices on foot to make up for this cost, allowing players to put more points in other slot categories at the cost of their troop choices being significantly more vulnerable and less mobile.



Now, that bit about points in other slot categories is important because our troop choices do not have any meaningful anti-tank ability beyond EMP grenades. Seeing as Tau are built to fight at range, that firewarriors are possibly the worst assault troop choice in the whole game, and that infantry on foot are significantly disadvantaged to try and force an assault on a vehicle, we can all agree that these grenades are less useful to firewarriors than just about any other grenade selection for other troop choices. While a S5 weapon does allow troops to glance AV11, this will only be effective to protect firewarriors from non-tank vehicles (with some exceptions firing on side armor only) Furthermore, because of the complete lack of a capable anti-tank weapon, firewarriors must be protected either by transports to block shots or move them out of line of sight, or by a dedicated anti-tank unit. (all of which should be noted in our codex, cost significantly more than a single marine with a plasma gun for example)

Yes, I will admit to the suggestion that this forces Tau armies to be 'synergistic', but the point is the opportunity cost of the firewarriors as a troop choice. What intensive have we to include firewarriors besides as a necessity?



I would argue that any benefit from the longer range and S5 of pulse rifles are canceled out by the higher BS of marines or the lower point cost of guardsman. Besides ideal circumstances where a firewarrior team can keep at maximum range against an infantry target, marines tend to do as good of a job against infantry even in ranged fighting while still retaining the flexibility of heavy weapons selections, more survivable leadership and armor saves, as well as close combat ability. While other armies don't have an equivalent of a markerlight to boost BS or strip cover where it is most critical, I would argue that the cost of these additions and the comparative vulnerability of firewarriors in all but the ideal circumstance makes their cost unbalanced in comparison.



I'll leave the debate with an example. A friend of mine is a CSM player. His full size troop choices with upgrades work out to be 210 pts for 10 marines. His transports cost 47 pts. Almost every list he has puts marines in transports, with cultists on foot in a similar way to kroot. His marines have 2 plasmaguns (24" S7 AP2 Rapid Fire) as well as a transport with a havoc launcher (48" S5 AP5 Blast) Total of 257 pts.

In comparison I have a full squad of firewarriors that still fit in a transport weighing in at 118 pts (12 with a shas'ui) along with a transport that costs 95 pts. (disruption pod only) Total of 213 pts. His marine unit is 44 pts more expensive overall, but without the transports it would be 90 pts more expensive. If he were to have 3 troop choices, 18% of the troop points would be going to transports (141 of 771). My 3 troop choices would indeed cost 132 pts less, but an astonishing 45% of those points go to transports (285 of 639) Both troop choices are equally mobile and the CSM transport has the advantage of range, the Tau troop has slightly more anti-infantry firepower. In exchange, the CSM unit does much better in close combat, and has 2 S7 AP2 weapons to take on vehicles (glances up to AV13) while not losing any infantry firepower (ranges and ability of plasmagun against infantry are even better than a bolter) 132 spare points does comfortably buy me a two man fusion crisis suit team to make up for this weakness, it does nothing to change the fact that firewarriors have a much worse statline, and require a greater investment of points (ethereal for leadership and firepower, markerlights for better hits) to make up for those weaknesses.

Last edited by ColdCast; 25 Sep 2013 at 00:47.
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Old 25 Sep 2013, 23:06   #2 (permalink)
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One thing that I will say about FW is that they are a major one trick pony unit. For 9 points, you get a unit that is designed for one purpose: shoot things from a long way away. They, aside from the 'nids, are the most un-customisable basic troops choice there is in the whole game.
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Old 26 Sep 2013, 03:57   #3 (permalink)
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Although to be fair, Crisis Suits are one of the most customizable elite options in the game. A full range of upgrades, access to signature systems through a sergeant equivalent, and essentially an all heavy weapons loadout. While they don't have the best armor save, they are able to JSJ to increase their survivability through cover and range dictation.

I think that if firewarriors are at 9pts, marines should be more expensive than they are. That said much of the cost of using firewarriors is protecting them, so a reduction in cost of our transports would probably go a long way to fixing that. Even just a 30 pt reduction would nearly double the cost difference between a mobile marine squad and a mobile firewarrior team. It would give us a better transport for the price, but still leave us with an inferior troop choice. I highly doubt that a solo firewarrior team and transport could come anywhere close to standing up against a solo marine squad and transport anyway. A minimal point difference should suggest that to be the case, and it most certainly isn't.
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Old 26 Sep 2013, 22:14   #4 (permalink)
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marines are about 16 points per model, and in all honesty arent really worth that, their not that effective in CC, shooting is mediocre, they are a jack of all trades unit in a game of specialists....
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Old 26 Sep 2013, 22:34   #5 (permalink)
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I've taken a look at 6th edition codicies for both vanilla marines and CSM. Additional models are 14 and 13 pts respectively. The base squad for CSM includes a 10 pt tax for the inclusion of a sergeant (+1A +1Ld) instead of being able to choose to add one.

Sure their heavy weapons options drive up their cost, but they're all within the same price range as say a crisis suit weapon. But they are optional after all. I'd love to take a plasma rifle in a firewarrior squad for 15 pts.
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Old 27 Sep 2013, 09:26   #6 (permalink)
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Even though Space Marines are jacks of all trades, they are superior in every way to a Fire Warrior, in some ways substantially better. The only disadvantage is 1S and 6" range on their guns.
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Old 30 Sep 2013, 21:04   #7 (permalink)
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I have been holding off on saying too much on this topic since it is a very large and difficult concept to cover (not to mention a serious grey area for a lot of people where the argument will very easily become circular) and I’m not sure any base argument that I just sit down and type out is going to do my own opinion on the matter justice. But as it stands, there just doesn’t seem to be a lot of solid opposition towards the initial post, and I don’t believe it’s correct enough to warrant such a unanimous response. So here’s what I’ve got to say.

To begin, before we even get to the bread and butter of this argument; judging any one unit against any other unit is to look at the problem entirely the wrong way, and I will try to avoid doing so within the context of my own argument (though I may reference it once in a while throughout this argument). Fire Warriors are the way they are within the Tau codex not to balance them against a Tactical Marine in the Space Marine codex, but to balance the Tau codex against the Space Marine codex, and every other codex out there. This was even touched upon in the original post (that Fire Warriors and their transports either work to balance out the rest of the army’s strength by sinking cost into a very expensive flying bunker, or to force Tau players to invest more points in slow and fragile units of the Fire Warriors on foot), but somehow the real point behind this was somewhat skipped over to instead be used as an argument for why Fire Warriors are bad in the context of going toe to toe with a Tactical Marine. A Fire Warrior is not a Tactical Marine; a lone Fire Warrior does not need to compete with a lone Tactical Marine because the Fire Warrior unlike the Marine is not designed to fight alone and unsupported but in conjunction with other units.

Looking at the background information of the Tau 6th edition book, the slow down comes as no surprise. Tau were being reworked to fit the niche of the gunline with superior firepower. It’s something I didn’t like, and still protest against it as it weakens our book and tactics for the future, but from a balance and a meta-shift perspective it makes sense. It was necessary to slow the Tau down in regards to an increase in overall firepower. An army that played like the old Tau codex, with the firepower of the new Tau codex would simply be too much.

With this in mind I actually feel you’re looking at the slow down at least in some ways entirely backwards; seeing it as a reason why Fire Warriors are worse, when in fact the slowdown was partly caused by the Fire Warriors becoming better! With markerlights working properly, and the change to rapid fire, 30” S5 weapons, along with an HQ choice to double your firepower at maximum range, and a special rule to let tightly clumped squads benefits in overwatch, we are much more strongly encouraged to stop moving and keep our fire warriors outside of their transports (and instead stuck to cover) than we ever were before. Combining this with a loss of upgrades to maintain speeds while firing in our vehicles and heavy support, along with the more expensive disruption pods encouraging less mechanized armies, and you do have a general slowing of the army, there is no arguing that, but it’s not impacting the Fire Warriors, it was impacted by them. With this in mind, leaving the devilfish at home is not as simple as just the price increase, but also takes into account that the Fire Warrior outside a transport being better as well. It’s a question of opportunity cost as it always has been; does unit X add enough to the army that it is worth taking less of unit Y? In the case of the devilfish the answer is now ‘sometimes’. Which is indicative of a very well balanced book; you don’t want to spam them for being amazing compared to other options, but they have their place when you need them to. This brings us back to the purpose of the slowdown in the first place, a meta-shift not just within Tau units but within the army itself. Overall Tau are much better than they were, and it’s not a matter of that meta bringing down our units, but how our units work within the context of that new meta to reach their full potential. The book has changed, and we need to change our mindset to how we will use our units within the new book. They are stronger than ever before, we just have to use them that way.

An important point to note here (before carrying on in the discussion) is that Mechanized Tau is not the only way to play Tau, and is in fact amongst the most (offensively) fractured method of playing them within the new codex. While a hybrid list, or a static gunline takes full advantage of every part of those Fire Warriors point cost to give you a fusillade of 30” S5 firepower each turn, the mechanized list trades this for defensive security, allowing you to keep minimal numbers of troops alive long enough to score on objectives at the end game. In a discussion of the value of a fire warrior it’s likely the worst set-up to analyse, but it does make for an interesting point about battlefield roles impacted unit value, so I will elaborate on this end of the argument none the less. A Fire Warrior in a Devilfish transport has one job, and only one job. To survive long enough to score at the end of the game. This is its purpose and this is where all of those 200 or so points are going to. The fact that you have a squad of Fire Warriors alive on the objective at the end of the game means they are worth that cost, and would in fact be worth that cost at whatever price it was so long as they do survive until the end of the game; this is the true opportunity cost of our scoring units. So how does this work? And more specifically why does it make a devilfish worth taking? Well, to begin, point cost doesn’t really matter, it’s the opportunity cost of the units that do. At the end of the day the objective of any army list you write is to win the game (or have fun... but you know... competitiveness and such). In 5/6 of the game types you are going to have to take and hold objectives at the end of the game. With this in mind, having those scoring units alive and on an objective in the end should be worth an infinite amount of opportunity cost to you 5/6 of the time. You can do this a number of ways, but if you decide you want to go the mobile route (which I support greatly for higher level competitive play) then it means you’re looking at devilfish. The devilfish trades the cost of a second squad of Fire Warriors to increase the speed and survivability of the Fire Warriors you do have (along with providing mobile cover synthesis for your offensive units... the value of which should not be ignored), and the Fire Warriors in turn trade their offensive capability for increased defense and mobility. The nature of our skimmer transports makes this very different from imperial ground transports, which typically are not targeting the lengthening of survival but temporarily increasing the speed of the unit within (getting them into position faster). Positioning, while still very important, is obviously worth less than survival on the grand scale of opportunity costs.

As for the Fire Warriors themselves (as seen in a static gunline), the topic behind the title of this thread; they are worth their points. Both statistically and strategically. The power of a 30” S5 rapid fire weapon in 6th edition is a large boon over regular infantry weapons. 30” grants a Fire Warrior an extra turn of shooting, and a 15” rapid fire is significant, particularly when looking at return fire and charges. At 15” you are putting units that do not perform as well at shooting (almost every other unit in the game) in a kited catch 22. You put huge pressure on them to simply not have a good option; they can either sit in cover and take it, come out of cover to rapid fire you... and still take it, or try to charge you (with only a 28% chance of success) and then take it from overwatch and then once they fail take it some more. Which brings me nicely to supporting fire; it’s not a game breaking rule, but it’s certainly a solid boon to an army that can’t afford to be bogged down in close combat. Allowing every Fire Warrior to fire against a charging enemy essentially increases their value by 1/6 every time you use it. It can make the difference between being charged and not, and acts as a constant deterrent against your fragile troops being charged in the first place. Finally, the S5 status of a gun on basic infantry puts the Fire Warrior up there as a force to be reckoned with. The ability to glance transports, and shoot down monstrous creatures that makes S5 even greater than the 10% better than S4 against regular infantry, or 20% better than S3.

As for where the Tactical Marine sits in all this; as Nightflier stated, he’s the jack of all trades. He can shoot down a vehicle, or a horde of infantry, he can ride in a transport, or survive a turn of fire power... but at the end of the day the only real comparable point between a Fire Warrior and a Tactical Marine is that the Tactical Marine is scoring objectives at the end of the game... and he’s not doing that job any better than a properly supported Fire Warrior in armies of equivalent point costs. There’s no comparison to be made beyond this... and they both do it regardless of their other battlefield roles and costs.
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Old 30 Sep 2013, 23:17   #8 (permalink)
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I do understand that the effective slowdown of the Tau army as a whole was done to balance out the increase in effectiveness both in individual units within our codex and the codex as a whole, adding new special rules and an overall increased effectiveness of shooting in the current edition. However my point is that despite these increases, current situation makes it very difficult to succeed with firewarriors beyond anything but a most minimal purpose.

Firewarriors outside of transports do provide fairly overwhelming anti-infantry firepower for their cost, but the support coming from other units within the army decreases this relative value. 108pts for 12 models might be fairly cheap, but leaving them on their own will not achieve the desired result of devastating fire that will destroy any infantry units of significant threat, or discourage them from attempting to charge. Every additional support adds a three-fold cost to fielding firewarriors for the purpose of killing infantry:

One) Every point spent on reinforcing or boosting firewarriors is a point not spend for more firepower, mobility, or boosting in other parts of the army.

Two) The use of supporting units (particularly markerlights) to make up for deficiencies in the firewarrior's base stats are units unable to support other parts of the army that may need it.

Three) The necessity of these support mechanisms not only makes them vulnerable to attack (range limitations for markerlights, proximity of an ethereal), but ALSO leaves the firewarrior unit itself weaker on top of being tactically disadvantaged.

This is the downside to the fluidity and synthesis of our army in this codex. A unit can be degraded simply by eliminating it's support units. For the large part this isn't even on the level of other armies, losing psyker bonuses from the loss of an HQ piece or fearless from the loss of a squad leader. These are basic statline characteristics (leadership, and BS) that are being negatively effected by destroying support units. While markerlights might have a flexibility in boosts that few armies can match, their relative vulnerability makes it hard for me to believe that the comparatively weak values of most units but particularly our troop choice is balanced. Firewarriors are either more vulnerable to return fire and leadership checks, or are roughly equivalent to other armies with support while coming much closer to equivalent point cost. They enjoy superiority in shooting in exchange for no boost being able to sufficiently augment their close combat ability to be anywhere near a threat. I believe that dichotomy alone is enough to suggest that they are overpriced for what they deliver.

A firewarrior team's reliance on transport for survivability is not unique to our codex. Most troop choices are far safer in transports than they are on foot. Ours perhaps moreso due to the various increases in toughness that our transports enjoy compared to the far less expensive options of marine armies. Their mobility is equivalent, and there is certainly merit to the suggestion that our troop choice with it's dedicated transport is uniquely well suited to the purpose of endgame objective snatching. But the exact fact that the immobile, protected gunline or the fast, limited objective taking is literally all our troop choices can be employed for. Gunlines rely on their support units and cover so heavily because our troops are simply pathetic without them. I can't even bring myself to say that a mobile firewarrior team is capable of contesting objectives, because any unit that is worth anywhere NEAR the point cost of a firewarrior team and it's transport can subsequently assault, make immobile, or force a leadership check on an unsupported team with alarming regularity. This means that the only objectives this tactic is capable of securing in isolation are either uncontested completely, or guarded by a sufficiently weak unit as to make the sheer outnumbering in point value the true cause of their ability to take it.

Nearly every battle report I have been able to find in 6th edition has shown even a fully supported gunline being assaulted or otherwise bombarded out of existence by any army that faces it. Firewarriors die in droves and are largely unable to take advantage of their range benefit due to the fact that marine transports are so comparatively cheap. The fact that so many game types are objective-based is perhaps better grounds for more heavy weapons being brought against troop choices because they are so valuable. The glaring weakness of our combined troop vulnerability and comparatively high cost to protect them (transport being the only viable option) makes it incredibly difficult, or incredibly expensive to field survivable troop options. Considering the relative ease of marine armies to due this, combined with their lack of need for support, flexibility of weaponry, and survivability buffs, it's fairly easy for me to defend that direct comparison. And the result of that comparison is that firewarriors are inferior. Considering the differences in the roles each troop choice plays in its codex that is justifiable. But considering the egregious point cost we have to pay to make up for their deficiencies, I believe a 3 - 4 point cost difference in base models between marines and firewarriors is too small a difference.

This is all a combination of very complex factors. Why I settled on the cost of firewarriors is because their inflexibility is the root of all the additional costs. It is possible that a decrease in transport cost might be a solution since it solves several problems at once, but at the risk of creating a new one by giving us a vehicle that is very survivable for it's cost. It also does not address the fact that while doing what they were intended to do (fighting infantry at range), firewarriors remain significantly more vulnerable than anything near it's point cost.
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Old 01 Oct 2013, 00:15   #9 (permalink)
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I can’t say I agree with your assessment of support and synthesis within the Tau codex. I will address item one and two first, and then discuss separately the issue presented in item three. By the very nature of a force multiplier such as markerlights you are multiply what force you have while only subtracting the efficiency of the points you spend to include that multiplier. While it makes sense that at low point games force multipliers do not have enough point to multiply to make their use worthwhile, the average competitive game size between 1500 and 2000 points allows more than enough space to make such multipliers worthwhile. Further, given the nature of the Tau force, supporting Fire Warriors encompasses supporting any units which may require it; markerlights being flexible and able to target wherever and whatever requires the support most, not just Fire Warriors. Adding support elements are not just beneficial because they support a single weakness but because they provide tactical flexibility to bolster all offensive capabilities within the army; you’ll be taking them anyways, no need to hold that against Fire Warriors if the time comes that you need to wipe out some infantry.

As for item three, the survival of support units is something that as a Tau player you have to decide for yourself. There are multiple ways to limit the effect of losing your support, including the selection of more survivable markerlight options, picking multiple small units to split incoming firepower and ensure the survival of some lights, or simply acknowledging you are going to lose your lights by turn three and making up for that by alpha-striking away the bulk of an opponent’s force with them before you lose your support. I personally strive for a handful of highly survivable and very accurate markerlights to provide my support needs and typically don’t lose a single markerlight unless I truly deserved it (messing up tactically).

However, all of this presupposes that the support required to a unit must be in the form of direct statline manipulation, which is not always the case. Tau lists should in part be designed with the knowledge that at some point you will end up playing without markerlights, and everything should not fall apart for you at that point; the army should be able to support itself. Fire Warriors in fact require amongst the least direct support from markerlights due to their nature of high volume long ranged firepower from dense cover. While battlesuits will be in the hot-zone, and playing a life or death game in which wiping out a unit may be the only option, a Fire Warrior squad has several turns to wear down an incoming enemy followed by a very discouraging supporting fire overwatch.

Now, back on the topic of whether or not a Fire Warrior is worth a Tactical Marine... as was said before and I’m sure will be said again, you really can’t compare them. The only comparison you can actually make on those two units (as mentioned before) is the opportunity cost of scoring units. They both score, and they are both alive to score at the end of the game. Therefore whatever the cost, they are both worth taking. We can argue this all day, but at the end of the day the 9 points of a Fire Warrior vs the 14 points of a Tactical Marine balance out through the rest of the army, and the only factor they share will still be that they both live long enough to score. Space Marines who have better base troops will pay for it in an overall weakening of the rest of their army. It might not be perfectly balanced, but its more than enough that tactics will balance out the imbalance in point costs.
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Old 01 Oct 2013, 00:30   #10 (permalink)
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The only thing i've got to say is that you guys have way too much time on your hands to write posts
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