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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Building an Argument for Balance Part 2: Starting with an Arbitrary System

Creating a system to quantify fairness or balance:

In order to make an argument that balance is not as all encompassing as we want to believe, we must first come up with an objective and quantifiable means of defining fairness or balance between codices. How can this be done?

Many systems of Comp have already tried to do this. The biggest problem with most of these systems is that they are entirely subjective and generally utilizing rules which do not apply equally to all codices involved. So, to get started, we must agree that if we are going to come up with a system where we can quantifiably judge balance, it must be able to do so without anyone interjecting any “opinion” into the system. It needs to be based solely off of a set of factual, measurable rule statements.

Measurable statements are statements which can be equally applied as a measure to all codices. This means that we should really stay away from statements which can only apply in given circumstances and only for a given Codex. The overall goal of the creation of these statements is to create a metric by which codices can be compared. These create an empirical study rather than just a subjective view point. The only problem will be that creating those rules WILL involve some subjective statements. The difference will be that the subjective nature will produce measureable values rather than “but Space Wolves ARE OP” raving.

However, we can quibble ourselves into a philosophical quagmire trying to debate how to create a perfect quantifying system for balance. To avoid that, one tactic I like to use is to simply “take a shot” at coming up with a system and seeing what happens. The reason why this is effective is because a measurable system has reproducible results. It is also effective because reproducible results can be reviewed by others and argued to a finer standard.

Your lawyer brain is probably flashing red lights at this point. That’s okay. It’s another human flaw and response to a given set of assertions to argue rather than to simply play along. What you should be recognizing though is that almost any game you have played, be it table top, computer game, or what have you, uses ideas just like this to try and maintain a balance. Any game which doesn’t flounders with imbalance. We do attempt to seek balance in a gaming system for creating measurable values and then using subjective measures to fine tune the numbers into a system which can eventually be used to create empirical evidence.

For example. You may be familiar with terms such as “Damage Per Second” or “Mitigation”. These are empirical values generally assigned to games which are used to make comparisons. These comparisons can then be used as evidence for balance. In Warhammer 40K, we already do this with statistical analysis of dice rolling, stat lines, point values, etc.

***On that note, before I continue, and I will come back to this…. How much effort do you think has thus far been put into trying to empirically balance 40K? A lot or a little? Why do you think that? If you think that not a lot of effort has been put in, can you still justify to yourself that the game is balanced? ***

So, I have just arbitrarily come up with a system for trying to assign quantifiable values to different codices. This system is entirely arbitrary! It has no meaning other than something I just quickly put down on paper as a starting point for achieving a measure of balance. After I get done explaining it and showing some results, I will come back and analyze it in another post to show you exactly how the “back and forth” works with coming up with a subjective, empirical system. (This as opposed to NO SYSTEM AT ALL.) This is simply an example of the exercise of coming up with a system which we will refine as we move forward.

A randomly created value system put together with little to no thought

  • We will attempt to assign point values to different units in each codex. These points will be based on the rating system below. When finished, we will add up all the points, and the final value will be the “score” for that unit.

  • From there, we will compare those scores for each unit within a single force organization of a codex. We will find the “average score” for that Codex for that Force Organization.

  • We will compare the values between Codices in a search for balance.

  • We will see which codices fall within 1 standard deviation of the average and outside of that standard deviation as an initial measure of balance.

Movement Phase:

  • If a unit CAN ALWAYS MOVE 6 inches: 1 point

  • If a unit CAN ALWAYS MOVE 6-12 inches: 3 points

  • If a unit CAN ALWAYS MOVE 12+ inches: 5 points

Shooting Phase

  • If a unit CAN statistically, on average, kill a 5 man marine squad not in cover in a single turn of shooting: 5 points

  • … 10 man marine squad in a single turn of shooting: 10 points

  • …. 3 man marine squad: 3 points

  • ….1 marine : 1 point

  • If a unit CAN statistically, on average, kill an AV 10 vehicle not in cover in a single turn of shooting: 1 point

  • …. AV 11: 3 Points

  • …. AV 12: 5points

  • …. AV 13: 10 Points

  • …. AV 14: 15 points

  • If a unit CAN statistically glance or penetrate an AV 11 vehicle no in cover in a single turn of shooting: 1 point

  • … AV 12: 3 points

  • …. AV 13: 5 points

  • …. AV14: 10 points

  • Lastly, subtract one point from each category for every 50 points spent to use the unit in the least expensive configuration possible to achieve the goal.

Assault Phase

  • IF the unit CAN statistically kill 1 marine in Close Combat without charging : 1 point

  • ….. 3 marines: 5 points

  • ….. 5 marines: 10 points

  • ….. 10 marines: 20 points

  • If the unit CAN statistically kill 3 marines in Close Combat by charging: 1points

  • …. 5 marines: 5 points

  • …. 10 marines: 10 points

  • If a unit can charge 6 inches and subtracting 1 point for every 10 points the average model in the unit costs: 1 point

  • …. 12 inches: 5 points

  • > 12 inches: 10 points

  • Subtract 1 point from category for every 50 points spent on the unit except for the last 3 categories about charge range for the least point expensive configuration needed to achieve the category.


  • For vehicles, subtract 1 point for every 50 points of cost on the vehicle. For non-vehicles, subtract 1 point for every 10 points spent on the average model in the unit.

  • If the highest armor value is AV 10: 1 point

  • …. Av 11: 2 points

  • …. AV 12 – 5 points

  • …. AV 13 – 10 points

  • … AV 14 – 15 points

  • Standard Armor Save of 5+: 1 point

  • …. 4+ : 3 points

  • …. 3+: 5 points

  • …. 2+: 10 points

  • Invulnerable Save of 5+: 2 points

  • ….4+: 5 points

  • …. 3+ : 10 points

  • …. 2+: 20 points

  • For armor, you will take the highest possible point value given wargear additions and subtracting costs. You will get points for each category of save but only the highest point value allocated for each level.


  • Not applicable to vehicles

  • +1 Point for Strength, Toughness, BS, and WS being a 4.

  • +3 point for each point higher than 4 in Strength, Toughness, BS, WS, or I.

Special Rules

  • For each USR in use: 3 points

  • For each positive special rule: 3 points

  • For each negative special rule: -1 point

  • For a rule that be both positive and negative: 2 points

Overarching rules
- No value may ever go below zero in any category.

So that’s it! For better or for worse! So before I crank out an example, let’s do just a little reflection on the system. First, we can see the subject end is the measure itself as well as the point value assigned. The non-subjective bit is that these rules can be applied to every unit and the same result reproduced.

Example: Space Marine Tactical Squad

Movement Phase

  • Can move 6 inches: 1 point

Shooting Phase:

  • @180 points can kill 3 Marines = 3 + (-3 …. Cost of the unit) = 0 points awarded.

  • @90 points can kill 1 Marine = 1 + (-1 … cost the unit) = 0 points awarded.

  • @175 points can kill AV 12 with Melta + Multi Melta = 5 + (-3 cost of unit) = 2

  • @100 points can DAMAGE AV 12 with Combi-Melta = 3 + (-2) = 1

  • Etc.

  • Total: 12 points awarded

Assault Phase

  • Space Marine Tactical units cannot meet any categories and earn points versus their cost

  • Total: 0 points awarded


  • 3+ Save = 5 + (-1 point for 15 point marine) = 4 points


  • +1 point for Strength, Toughness, BS, and WS of 4: 4 + (-1 for 15 point marine) = 3 points

  • Total: = 3

Special Rules

  • ATSKNF – 3 points

  • Combat Squads – 3 points

  • Combat Tactics – 3 points

  • Cost: -1 point

  • Total: 8 points

Space Marine Tactical Squad: Grand Total of 28 points

So that’s it for our very first, arbitrary, with no real thought put into it, system. My next post will attempt to examine this little system and point out some glaring flaws. It will also show you an analysis of several troop choices and show you what has happened.


  1. What is in the tactical squad though? A tactical squad with a sarge with a power fist should kill at least one marine in a combat it didn't charge in as well...

  2. He can. The wonky system above though is attempting to factor in cost of the unit. So although they can kill one, they lose the points gain due to the cost of the unit.

  3. The software engineer in me wants to put everything into a computer so rules can be crunched quickly when changing the rules:)

    Some quick reflections:

    My personal view is that I feel weak units need a boost (less cost or something else added). For instance why does it cost so insanely much to put jump packs on troops? 10p per model on Vanguard, 15p on death companies and a whopping 25p on wolf guards.

    Comparing whole FOC slots can skew things. Skyclaws vs Thunderwolves. The TWs will make that slot look great compared to some other FA in other sexes but will keep the "this is what you take" problem. Btw, just an example, there are holes in the example for sure:)

    Which brings me to your question. Yes I think GW put effort into the codexes but I would really like to know how because there are units out there who I really wonder why they are so weak compared to their points. Did someone at GW excell at using them or something?

  4. I was thinking about writing a program as well when i was churning out numbers with this but eventually decided that the first thing to do would be to hammer out a reasonable points system first. Then, I think it would be worth our time to actually create a calculation system for determining points.


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