My mathy post on WE
arrows seems to have gone over well enough, so I figured I'd tackle a bigger (and potentially thorny) topic: WoC
warriors and what equipment/marks to give them. No, I don't have a life. Yes, I found this fun. Shut up.
First up, I'd love for this to spark meaningful discussion and not be treated as the end-all, be-all guide. I've got a lot of stuff put into this, but I certainly haven't considered every possibility, I'm sure, so please leave feedback whether you agree or disagree! And if you're just reading this, scroll down to see what others think as well. In the process of writing this up I've actually discovered a few interesting things (notably how tempting MoN
are!), so hopefully this will do the same for you too.
Secondly, this is a lot of math. Math doesn't always translate exactly to tabletop, but it will usually give you a good general starting point for your decisions. Take other circumstances into account and don't make the mistake of "Math says I win!" and then faceplanting because there's other factors at work. How long the unit is in combat, how many models in each unit, flank charges, positioning, combat resolution, steadfast, challenges, target priority, magic buffs/debuffs... there's a lot going on in an actual Warhammer battle! This is just taking the simplified surface and offering some interesting data that might help shape your decisions in game and in building your army. Do not take this as a flow chart of 'If this, then take that'. Consider the big picture. Introduction
There are three main loadouts that are suggested when this topic comes up: MoK
with halberds, MoN
with halberds or great weapons, and MoT
with shields. There's a lot of valid debate on the merits of each, and I'd like to try and explore the real pros and cons in terms of raw
numbers for each setup as well as explore some other options that are available.
I am assuming that each battle is straight on, head to head fighting. Flanks and rear charges will negatively impact sword and shield users in terms of wounds taken, and will affect everyone in terms of offensive output. MoK
is a slight exception in that you're getting 3 attacks instead of 4 (3 + 1 supporting), rather than dealing 2 instead of 3 (2 + 1 supporting). Something to keep in mind, but probably not something that will drastically affect your decisions.
I'm also assuming that the warriors are running 6 wide, while the opposing units will run 5 wide. Each side will always get their full attacks in unless stated otherwise (notably in the Halberd vs GW
option for MoN
). You should ALWAYS run your warriors 6 wide. Hordes are generally too expensive, and 5 is a waste. 6 will maximize your offensive capabilities against 5 wide 20mm opposing units while still providing some semblance of a rank bonus. The extra attacks are worth any extra rank bonus you might get from CR
regardless of the setup you run.
So without further ado... General Considerations of Each Mark
Mark of Khorne - This is the worst mark of the 4 for defensive purposes. The only perk that it offers is immunity to psychology while frenzy lasts (and it should last, to be fair). Frenzy comes with the downside of the possibility of your warriors suddenly trying to charge forward at inopportune times. With Leadership 8 base, a general with Leadership 9, and hopefully a nearby BSB
this will rarely be an issue, but it will certainly happen from time to time. Frenzy loses the parry save of sword and shield, so... don't run sword and shield MoK
. You'll make puppies cry. When it comes to offense, MoK
is the undisputed king. An extra attack increases the damage output of a block of warriors by 33%. Want to rip off heads? Take MoK
Mark of Slaanesh - Actually better defensively than Mark of Khorne, if only because it offers essentially immunity to psychology without the downsides of frenzy. They will never run even if a unit of 5 warhounds pops next to them. Not really a good mark to take for warriors regardless, as you want the benefits of the other marks, but not a terrible choice for certain MSU
selections. Does nothing for you offensively. Something to consider for Marauder Horsemen to make sure they get to where they need to go without failing frenzy tests, but Marauder Horsemen are not all that popular for a reason.
Mark of Tzeentch - Mark of Tzeentch is an overall boost to defense. MoT
will help against magic missiles and nearly all direct damage spells, against ranged attacks, against a cannonball, against incoming hits in close combat, and against stomps and thunderstomps from big bad monsters. However, it is strictly worse than Mark of Nurgle whenever a to-hit roll in close combat is required, assuming equivalent gear. MoT
with sword and shield is prized for its 5++ parry save, but it's VERY important to note that MoN
with sword and shield takes less damage! One of the biggest selling points for this mark is the Blasted Standard. This will severely hamper ranged attacks of just about any variety, and is a great addition to a unit of knights or even Chosen if you're feeling sassy. Tired of your friend's dwarf gunline for the 10th time in a row? Get 24 Chosen with halberds and the Blasted Standard, headed with a hero with the Ironcurse icon and gleefully waltz across the board while asking your opponent where he left his real guns. Great fun, from personal experience.
Mark of Nurgle - Mark of Nurgle is generally king in close combat for defensive purposes, and given equal gear will outperform Mark of Tzeentch whenever a to-hit roll is required. This lends itself to Great Weapons being considered a viable choice, as their natural defense of not getting hit in the first place lessens the need for armor or the kill-first property of halberds. We'll get into that later on. For defensive purposes, Mark of Nurgle is king in close combat. However, it does nothing against ranged attacks, the vast majority of magic, or stomps/thunderstomps. While MoN
does nothing for you on offense directly, it does better open up the opportunity to safely use Great Weapons for some higher strength oomph. TLDR
is the place to go for offensive boosts, which is pretty obvious. MoS
only offers immunity to panic, and occasionally can be considered for MSU
offer solid increases in protection, but in different areas. For defensive purposes, take MoT if you're worried about ranged fire. Take MoN if you think you can reliably get into close combat without taking too many arrows and want that extra defense in combat instead.
Just remember that MoN
can panic still, so watch out for popping hounds. Defensive Considerations
Ok, let's do some math! I'm going to use the following setups for testing core Warriors of Chaos: MoK
- Halberds MoN
- Halberds MoN
- Great Weapons MoN
- Sword and Shield MoT
- Halberds MoT
- Sword and Shield
First let's take a look at how each holds up defensively. Let's put them up against WS3 S3 basic infantry as a baseline. For clarity's sake, we'll go with 100 attacks to allow you to mentally convert the average wounds to a percentage. How many casualties does each setup take on average? MoK
Halberds - 8.33 (or 8.33% chance per attack) MoN
- 5.56 MoN
Sword and Shield - 3.09 MoT
Halberds - 6.94 MoT
Sword and Shield - 3.70
So, unsurprisingly, the most damaged group is the MoK
halberds take 1/3 less wounds. This is an important note to make for later! MoT
halberds aren't terribly ahead of MoK
halberds, taking 1/6 less. Things only take a jump when you go for sword and board, where MoT
comes in #2 at 3.7 and MoN
wins at 3.09. In this case, MoT
has taken ~55.6% less wounds. MoN
has taken ~62.9% less.
At S4 through S6, these percentages start to go down. At S4, MoT
Sword and Shield takes exactly 50% fewer wounds while MoN
sword and shield takes 58.3% fewer. At S5, MoT
takes 46.7% fewer while MoN
takes 55.56%. At S6, MoT
takes 44.4% less while MoN
takes 53.7% less. It's worth noting that MoN
stay at 1/3 less wounds thank MoK
constantly no matter what incoming strength is coming, as you might expect. MoT is falling in effectiveness more rapidly because MoN stops those hits from ever getting a chance to wound in the first place.
At S7+, MoT
sword and board is equal in defensive effectiveness to MoN
halberds or great weapons. An interesting note, but honestly not a very practical one. Unless you're fighting buffed-up dragons, MoT
sword and board will almost always provide superior defense to MoN
with halberds. However, MoN
with sword and board will always be superior to MoT
in close combat.
Here's some handy graphs to help visualize things.
We'll get into why that second graph is so important shortly. Offensive Considerations
So now the fun bit, who does more damage? If you already guessed MoK
with halberds, you're correct! Congratulations. Sadly there is no prize as it should be painfully obvious. The relative order of who's going to be doing more damage is actually pretty friggin' straightforward, right? MoK
with halberds does the most, MoN
does the next best, MoN
with halberds next, then MoN
with sword and board bringing up the rear. Technically MoK
with great weapons would do the most, but we're not going to consider them for now. Just pretend the MoK
halberds are facing something with 1 less toughness to approximate if you're curious. I'd still recommend against running them. ANYWAY...
What does this all mean? We know who does the most damage, so story over, right? Well, let's consider how we can tie this information in with our defensive data. Each mark is a trade off, so let's look at what we gain offensively in terms of what we give up defensively and see if we can find anything interesting.
Remember those 'relative defensive values' we came up with earlier? We basically were asking "How much damage do we mitigate on average compared to the least defensive option?" Well, now let's ask "How much damage do we gain on average compared to the least offensive option?" For fun, let's add in some more options as well. How does Additional Hand Weapon stand up to the others? We'll look at both MoK
AHW and MoN
AHW. For defensive purposes their values are the same as for halberds for each mark.
Let's start with no armor. Against WS3 targets from T3-T8, what sorts of stats do we get? I'll get right to the graphs this time. Each of these is based off attacks from a unit of warriors 6 wide and with at least one extra rank for full supporting attacks.
So what do we have here? This is a pretty busy graph, but this is including both AHW options. I've made the AHW options thinner lines on the graph, for reference. There are a few important things to note here.
halberds wins against T3 and T4. At T5 it begins to tie MoN GW
. Beyond that, MoN GW
begin to edge it out. Most targets are going to be T3/T4, but it's definitely worth keeping in mind that MoN GW
do outperform MoK
halberds at T6+, and tie it at T5.
Two, AHW is actually a better option than halberds for MoN
against T3 targets and T7+ targets when you don't factor in armor. I actually did not expect this. Halberds tie at T4 and then get better at T5 and T6, but that's it. Modelling your MoN
warriors with AHW and using Festus is a lot less 'risky' as you can viably use them without Festus as well and not feel bad about it. Yay!
Three, AHW for MoK
is equal against T3, but falls more and more behind until T7 when it edges ahead. Halberds are always the way to go for MoK
for this reason, unless somehow your facing only T7+ things.
How about with armor? Let's put a 2+ armor save on our targets and see what happens.
Ok, maybe you can't put AHW on your MoN
warriors without Festus after all. At least, if you're expecting to face anything with armor. AHW really shows its lack of punch here, where those higher strength modifiers are punching through the armor. MoN
is actually looking pretty damn nice when any significant amount of armor enters the picture, handily beating MoK
halberds despite fewer attacks.
All right, so that was interesting. What else can we glean from this? How about relative strength rather than absolute? How does each compare to the baseline of sword and board? Let's start with zero armor again.
And with armor...
As you might've surmised from the other graph, halberds become a much juicier investment at around T5/T6 targets. Great weapons really shine at T6. AHW are unsurprisingly a constant increase in damage output compared to sword and shield.
So here's where we can do something neat: we can objectively look at the increase in defensive effectiveness versus the increase in offensive effectiveness at various data points. Let's start with our basic S3/T3/WS3 baseline with no armor.
, we gain ~66.7% increase in damage compared to MoT
Sword and Shield against T3 targets. Defensively, MoT
Sword and Shield gains ~55.6% decrease in damage taken. This is actually a little misleading as it depends on how you calculate the percentages, so we can't compare them directly! In fact, MoT
is taking less than half the damage of MoK
, while MoK
isn't dealing more than double the damage back to make up for that loss. At the end of the day, MoT
warriors will win the battle with fewer losses, but may take a little longer. MoN
will win the battle in the same amount of time and take even less damage, making them the most efficient choice for this situation. I honestly did not expect that, but there it is.
How about MoN
halberds versus MoT
sword and shield? We gain 25% killing power but give up ~33% in defense. Again, this loss of defense is a lot larger than it sounds due to how I calculated the percentages. MoT
sword and shield wins out on efficiency, and the killing power isn't all that great, so I'd give the edge to MoT
sword and shield here overall. I'd even more certainly give the edge to MoN
sword and shield, which is pulling even further ahead in defense.
And the GW
? You're again giving up ~33% in defense compared to MoT
with sword and shield, and you're still only gaining 25% killing power on top of hitting last. Ouch. Not so good.
So overall, against unarmored (or very lightly armored) S3 T3 basic grunts, either MoK
with halberds or MoT
with sword and shield are the way to go. The halberds do things a little less efficiently, but do offer a significant increase in killing speed. Depends on what your army needs, and I'd personally lean towards the halberds because I want to chew through things ASAP. MoN
halberds are actually pretty underwhelming here, and GW
are totally wasted.
How about some knights? Let's say we get charged by some S3/T3/WS4 knights with lances and 2+ armor. How do we fare now?
Supposing there were ten attacks from the knights with lances, that's approximately 1.5 MoT
warriors dead and 2.8 MoK
warriors dead. Horses add a negligible amount. So if we have a unit of 18, and get all our attacks back, MoK
are dealing 5 wounds back while MoT
deals 2. You're dealing double and a half more damage while taking about double damage back. For 1-2 warriors more dead on average, I'll certainly take 3 more knights dead. MoN
with sword and shield fares a little better with ~1.2 wounds taken, for the record, so you're looking at a more even trade. Worth noting! MoN
is the winner here, though, taking an average of only 1.8 wounds and dealing 5; the same amount as the MoK
halberds! By far the best trade. MoN
with halberds takes the same 1.8 while dealing 3.75, with the advantage of striking first. A bit underwhelming again, but certainly not bad.
It's here that we have to start considering initiative, though. If we strike first and kill some knights, how badly does that affect their strikes back? Do we even get to strike first? What if we get charged by elves? When does the GW
become not worth it when we take this into account? I'll leave that as an exercise to the reader, as there are a billion variables to consider, but they do need consideration! Again, this is just a baseline.
Now let's take on some tougher baddies. How about some Treekin? S4, T5, WS4, with 4+ armor? MoT
sword and board can dish out 2 wounds a round. MoK
halberds deal 5 again, but this time MoN
deal 6! MoT
halberds do 3.75 again.
On the defense, MoT
sword and board will take ~1.3 wounds. MoN
sword and board is down to ~1.1. MoN
sits just a little higher at ~1.67, and MoK
halberds are at 2.5. MoT
Halberds are at ~2.1, for reference.
So what can we surmise from this? MoK
Halberds take about double the wounds, but dish out more than double. In a similar situation to the knights, the halberds are going to wreck enough face to make it worth it. The kicker here is that MoK
Halberds are very likely to kill at least one, if not two of the treekin off the bat, drastically slashing their attacks, which makes their lower defense less impactful overall. MoN
take the full brunt but deal more damage back... though to be fair, the 'full brunt' is just a little over half of what MoK
is taking, while providing an extra wound on average. Is it worth it from an efficiency and combat resolution standpoint to strike first with ~5 average or take a few hits and deal back ~6 average? That'll be another exercise to the reader.
All right, this is getting long enough. Let's wrap it up. Conclusion
Important highlights to take away from this: MoT
should be considered for different defensive purposes. MoT
provides protection against ranged attacks. MoN
is superior defense in close combat. MoN
gets even better against particularly nasty close combat attacks, but can't avoid stomps. MoK
with halberds will generally do more damage but will take significantly more. Their relative efficiency is greatest at small numbers of medium-armored T4-T5. Good all-around choice, will always kill things relatively quick but will burn out the fastest. Do not run less than 18, preferably 24 to have enough of a buffer to keep on killing before taking too many losses. MoN
are very hit or miss. They're pretty nasty against high armored targets, and MoN
provides substantial protection. They shine against large numbers of tough and/or highly armored targets where ASL
matters less. They're generally inefficient against large numbers of low toughness and low armor opponents. Take if you face tons of armor, but pass if you don't, in general. MoN
with Halberds are reasonable compromises, but really don't shine much of anywhere. Not really thrilled with them overall after seeing the math. MoT
with sword/shield are actually pretty efficient against hordes of average or weak infantry. They become much less attractive against big scary things. This is counter-intuitive to what you might think and important to know.
So what would I take? I'll stick with my MoK
warriors with halberds, but I might take a unit of 12 or 18 MoN
with great weapons as a specialty sort of unit after seeing how brutal they can be on top of their defensive capabilities. I've gained a bit more appreciation for sword and shield, and while I still think they're a suboptimal choice (I'd rather fling a DP
, chimera, or gorebeast chariot into a big horde of weaker guys) they did better than I thought they would.
Hope you found this helpful! Please leave feedback! Automatically Appended Next Post: Here's the spreadsheet I created for this, if anyone wants to take a look at the formulas behind it and double check I didn't screw anything up too badly. Unfortunately you can't edit it, sorry.