Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Overhead Costs: Hidden Costs for Each Unit

For any task that you wish to accomplish, whether it is to take out tanks from range or infantry up close, some units are more efficient to use than others. How efficient a unit is at accomplishing any given task has to do with said unit's stats, available equipment, direct equipment costs and other 'indirect' costs.
Every unit has a base cost, that you must first pay in
order to take the unit.
1. The first general base cost is the FOC slot that the unit occupies. This is fairly straightforward, as you
will only have a limited number of each FOC slot available to you for designing your lists for competitions.
2. The second general base cost is the minimum #of points required in order to take the squad and all
necessary equipment for whichever task(s) they're intended to perform. This is a little more involved,
as it isn't always simply the same as the minimum cost required to purchase the unit on a whole. For
example: If you wanted to purchase a space marine tactical squad and use them primarily as a short
ranged anti tank option (with 2 melta-guns), you are first required to purchase the minimum squad
(5 space marines). Furthermore, you must invest in an additional 5 marines in order to unlock the ability
to purchase a (second) melta-gun.

Lets do a brief comparison of 3 units that can potentially accomplish the same task in similar fashions:
Task: Anti-light/medium/heavy vehicle.
Implementation: Medium to Fast (mobility), short to mid-ranged (shots).
Assumption: We'll use a minimum of 2 task-related weapons for consistency for each unit.

Unit 1: Tactical Marines
Minimum squad purchase: 90 points (4 marines, 1 sergeant).
Minimum equipment requirements: +80 points (5 additional marines).
Task-related equipment: +5 points (Melta-gun).
Task-related equipment: +10 points (Combi-Melta).
Rhino: +35 points
Total Cost: 220 points
Cost/Task-related equipment: 110 points/Melta-gun (one of which is a single shot Combi-Melta).
Maximum saturation: 2 Melta type weapons.

Some additional considerations:
+Combat Squads
+10-man resilience
+Only take up a troops FOC slot

Unit 2: Sternguard
Minimum squad purchase: 125 points (4 veterans, 1 sergeant).
Task-related equipment: +10 points (2xMelta-gun).
Rhino: +35 points
Total Cost: 170 points
Cost/Task-related equipment: 85 points/Melta-gun.
Maximum saturation: 10 Melta type weapons or combination of other combi-weapons.

Some additional considerations:
+Potentially scoring
+Combat Squads
+Potential 10-man resilience
+Versatility (Sternguard have additional CC attacks and special bolter ammunition)
-Elite FOC slot required
-Decreased resilience (Less units/points than a tactical squad)

Unit 3: Attack Bikes
Minimum squad purchase: 40 points (1 Attack Bikes).
Minimum equipment requirements: +40 points (an additional Attack Bike).
Task-related equipment: +20 points (2xMulti-Melta).
Total Cost: 100 points
Cost/Task-related equipment: 50 points/Multi-Melta.
Maximum saturation: 3 Melta type weapons or combination of other combi-weapons.

Some additional considerations:
+Significantly improved mobility
+Significantly improved range
-Decreased resilience (Less units/points than a tactical squad)
-Fast Attack FOC slot required

Examining each of these options, it is painfully evident that the attack bikes are the most
efficient unit offensively speaking vs the intended target. 3 bikes would allow for statistical reliability
in suppressing any given vehicle each turn (saturation) and they allow for tactical flexibility due to
their increased range and mobility. However, there is more to examine than simply offensive task
efficiency. The main concerns here being they're not scoring (which is an 'indirect' opportunity cost)
and they take up a limited FOC slot (Fast Attack). Looking at Sternguard, we run into similar issues,
though with a bit less direct kickback. Sternguard are more expensive, but do not offer the range or
speed of the Attack bikes and they have many of the same drawbacks. However, they're able to
address this through other means such as their versatility or target saturation (5 meltas have a very
high statistical probability of taking out even the heaviest armor). And lastly, the Tactical marines,
while they may appear inefficient, are a requisite in almost any space marine army anyhow and having
10 marines/unit isn't necessarily a drawback (especially with combat squads) as you'll want them to
survive and be able to take objectives. So if you would have to take Attack Bikes in lieu of land speeders
or sternguard in place of dreadnought(s)/Terminators either of which may be more fitting to that
particular list, then it may be the most viable to look towards the tactical unit(s) to accomplish said task.

It is important to note each of a unit's costs (hidden or otherwise) on a whole when judging their
potential inclusion in your list. Then balance their respective costs versus their anticipated task(s) and
finally, evaluate their respective merit relative to that particular army list's overall design. This can
readily be applied to any army codex and will be as effective as you are thorough. Some codicies will
only have 1 or two units that can accomplish any given task, and so you'll have to work around this.


  1. Good general tactica- knowing what you are giving up to make way for something is always important.

  2. The first cost you list would in general be called the "opportunity" cost. Second cost might be called the "true implementation" cost.

  3. Eriochrome: I agree, FOC chart selection is probably better classified as an opportunity cost as well (it not being based upon 'direct' points values). However, what i was referring to as being an opportunity cost here (one of a few, that I simply did not specify) were the 'additional considerations.' More specifically, the trade-off of scoring vs non-scoring units. I blame the shoddy clarifications on fatigue induced delirium ;).

    Thanks for the feedback guys :), keep it coming when i'm able to post new articles. Also, let me know if you want me to post my opinion or suggestions on anything in particular.