EDIT: I got 90% of this article completed just before the leaks for the Chapter Approved appeared. I'll be going back and having a look at my predictions once I get my hands on the actual book.
With chapter approved looming on the horizon, I thought I would take a couple minutes and talk about power armour. More specifically why it's so terrible and why just dropping points for models in power armour is not actually the answer we are looking for.
First things first though, we need to talk about why power armour actually sucks. The main reason is the change to how AP works in 8th ed. In previous editions armour saves were an all or nothing dynamic, you get one or you don't. In this age, a gun that used to have no effect on a model with power armour can now potentially have a great effect on it. The heavy bolter for example has a greatly increased damage output verses power armour. In previous editions the power armoured model would get it's normal save, now there is a modifier to it's save decreasing it's survivability by 25%.
This change in AP wouldn't be an issue if they hadn't directly "ported" over the stats and points for most of your basic power armour units which are identical from the 7th ed codex. The increase in damage output by mediocre weapons decreases the durability of power armour, thus decreasing it's worth.
In the upcoming Chapter Approved it looks like most power armour units are going to get a points decrease which will possibly make them a viable option in games. However, as I said before, this is a mistake. Unfortunately this is the only real option they have for this as they totally fucked up right from the get go.
Not that it makes any difference now, but the stat line for a Primaris Marine is what a normal space marine should be, with a normal marines points. When you read the books a space marine is a giant being capable of killing an entire squad of guardsmen single handed in mere moments. Actually, after reading a couple sections from the eyes of a human it would almost seem that the stat line of a Custode would be more accurate but things would get quickly out of hand, but I digress.
Since it seems we have resigned ourselves to reducing points as a bandage fix, lets compare some power armoured units to non-power armour units that have an equivalent role. Perhaps we will be able to figure out how many points the power armour unit will need to be adjusted to compare to it's non-power armour counterpart. I'll be comparing these units on 3 main areas, lethality, durability, and table presence or control. In comparing those factors I hope to come to some conclusion that will be rendered pointless in a couple weeks when the Chapter Approved actually comes out, but I need something to do during my lunch break.
Our first contestant, and possibly my favourite unit, is Possessed. Possessed are supposed to be these bad ass guys that have been partially taken over by a daemon who rush across the table and absolutely pound whoever they charge into. Ork Nobs and Tyranid Genestealers are not at all odd choices to compare them too, so lets take a unit of each of these and let the games begin. For Possessed, we can get 7 for 154 points, 13 Genestealers at 156 points, and 8 Nobs all equipped with big choppas for 152 points. Our first event is the lethality, and we will determine how many Guardsmen, Marines, and wounds from a vehicle can be removed in one round of combat.
Genestealers - 20 Guardsmen, 11 Marines, 8 wounds off a Rhino
Nobs - 11 Guardsmen, 5 Marines(including Primaris), 8 wounds off a Rhino
Possessed - 6 Guardsmen, 4 Marines, 2 wounds off a Rhino
With fewer attacks and fewer numbers, the Possessed just can't keep up. The Genestealers get an extra attack due to them having more than 10 models, which boosts their lethality considerably and makes them more than 3 times deadlier than the Possessed while the 2 wounds from the big choppa keeps the Nobs in the running against bigger targets.
For the next event, we will look at how many shots from various weapon profiles, at BS 3, it takes to wipe out each unit. Starting with Bolters (S4 AP- D1), the weaker profile from a Reaper Launcher (S5 AP-2 D2), and a supercharged plasmagun (S8 AP-3 D2).
Genestealers - 59 Bolter, 44 RL, 35 Plasmagun
Possessed - 126 Bolter, 24 RL, 19 Plasmagun
Nobs - 96 Bolter, 22 RL, 15 Plasmagun
So we have some skewed numbers here, as expected. While the Genestealers are by far weaker when it comes to small arms fire, they greatly outclass the other 2 challengers when it comes to quality firepower. The Possessed come next thanks to their power armour and daemon save with Nobs bringing up the rear.
Our final event in this heat is board control, which the Genestealers easily win. They are more mobile and far more deadly than both of the other unit combined, plus they have a larger foot print. While this means it's harder to hide that unit, it also means that it will be more likely to reach multiple units. I'm going to give second place to the Nobs for a bit of a contentious reason, they have weapon upgrades. I know I didn't include all of them in the initial mix but you can't deny that they exist, even in our bubble and they greatly increase the units threat range and versatility.
While our Possessed are far below the other units in damage output, they are far more durable when it comes to small arms fire. This is where we see that simply lowering their points isn't going to really bring them into balance properly. If you drop the points, you will increase the number you can take which will increase their damage output, but it will also increase their durability. But if you were to just change their A characteristic from d3 to 3 and their damage to 2 or d3, you would increase their damage output while keeping their durability the same. As we can see, it's their damage output that's their weakest point. If we were to add models to bring their damage output to somewhere in between the Nobs and Genestealers you would need 14 Possessed (12 Guardsmen, 8 Marines, and still only 4 wounds off a Rhino). Now in order to keep the unit within the same 150ish point level you would have to change the points of each model from 22 points each to 11 points each, and that just aint gonna happen. I could see them coming down 3 points bringing them just under 20.
For our next heat we look to a faster moving unit that isn't necessarily focused on combat. For this I chose Raptors, a unit of 7 models with 2 plasma guns and the Champ has a plasma pistol and power sword for 156 points. To find a close comparison I had to keep in mind the ability to deep strike and FLY. This led me to a unit of Scourges, of which I can take 10, with 4 of them wielding Haywire Blasters, the Solarite also has an Agoniser because I needed 4 more points to bring me to 156 points for that unit as well. I had a little trouble finding something similar but also not in power armour (and that you see on the table all the time) but I decided on Tzaangor Enlightened, of which I can get 9 of them with the greatbows for 153 points. It was difficult for me to figure out how the Guided by Fate works in the set up I use, but my numbers won't be off by much.
In this lethality challenge I am going to incorporate one round of combat from a successful charge after shooting the target unit as the Raptors are supposed to be useful in combat as well.
Enlightened - 17 Guardsmen, 8 Marines, 4 wounds off a Rhino
Scourges - 10 Guardsmen, 4 Marines, 6 wounds off a Rhino
Raptors - 9 Guardsmen, 4 Marines, 5 wounds off a Rhino
I was rather surprised with how poorly the Scourges did in this instance. I really thought that their Haywire Blasters would have put out a lot more damage, but with 8 shots on average turning into 6ish hits resulting in only 4 mortal wounds with one more coming from the regular saves they sound more dangerous than they really are. Enlightened are great at taking out infantry which is what brings them to the top even though they struggle a little with killing the vehicle
Now for the durability test results...
Enlightened - 81 Bolter, 31 RL, 25 Plasma
Scourges - 45 Bolter, 27 RL, 22 Plasma
Raptors - 63 Bolter, 24 RL, 15 Plasma
Once again we see power armour keep them in the game when it comes to small arms fire, but as soon as anything with teeth target them they drop like flies. The 2 wounds on the Enlightened is huge for them while the 6++ offered to Scourges allows them to come off better against those bigger guns, and they still have a 4+ versus small guns.
As for board control, that has to go to the Enlightened. They have the highest range and are the biggest threat. I'm going to say that the Raptors are next in this lineup mainly because the Scourges die so easily to small arms fire, once they drop in they are easy to pick off with your secondary weapons.
Again we see a case where the Raptors just don't have a strong enough offence, however in this case, their power armour does not do much to keep them alive. If you can't kill your opponent and your opponent can kill you, you are not going to win the game. In this case it looks like simply dropping the points could go a long way to actually balancing the unit and bringing it in line with the other 2. In order to put it somewhere in-between the Enlightened and the Scourges you would need 10 Raptors (11 Guardsmen, 5 Marines, 5 wounds off a Rhino). To keep the unit at 150ish points that means you would have to drop each model down to 12 points per model (keep in mind 37 points of wargear). Again, a drop of 5 points is too high, so I could see them coming down a point or two, maybe more if the weapons don't drop in points.
For our last unit in this little comparison game I chose the basic Chaos Space Marine. Now I expanded the size of the unit a little to allow for the unit to take 2 special weapons. So there are 9 marines, 2 plasma guns, and the champ with a plasma pistol and a power axe for 176 points. They will be going up against a unit of 9 Ork Boyz with shootas, 10 with sluggas and choppas, 2 with big shootas, and a nob with a slugga and power klaw for 177 points. And finally 4 Guardsmen squads each with a mortar and a sergeant with pistol and chainsword. Also, I chose things that you would actually see on the table which is why the Guardsmen only have mortars.
For the lethality test I have included attacks from a successful charge, because some units are good at shooting and some are good at punching, much like the challenge for the Raptors.
Ork Boyz - 29 Guardsmen, 11 Marines, and 9 wounds from a rhino.
Guardsmen - 20 Guardsmen, 7 Marines, 4 wounds form a rhino.
CSM - 11 Guardsmen, 6 Marines, and 6 wounds from a rhino.
Now doesn't that look a little pathetic? An equal number of points and the Orks and Guardsmen come out ahead in 2 1/2 of the challenges. Even if you pit the units against each other, the marines would lose. You could charge the Marines into the Guardsmen, kill 11, and there would still be enough guardsmen left to wipe half of the marine unit. Speaking of wiping out units...
Guardsmen - 135 Bolters, 90 RL, 72 Plasma
Orks - 83 Bolters, 49 RL, 40 Plasma
CSM - 90 Bolters, 34 RL, 22 Plasma
Well that say a lot right there, the power armour can't even keep them safe. With numbers like those it's no wonder that Cultists are more popular than Marines. And Guardsmen are even better than Cultists with a 5+ save and options for more and better weapons.
As far a table presence, it's no surprise that the Guardsmen take it, 36 models on the table in 4 different units can take up a ton of space. Orks take second with more than double the wounds than the Marine unit and double the damage output.
In order to bring the lowly marine to a comparable damage output you would have to double the number of marines, which would put them past the Guardsmen, but still below the Orks in lethality and above the Orks but still below the Guardsmen in durability. This also means you would have to drop the cost of the marines to around 7 points which is ridiculous but I can see them dropping by one point, or possibly none if they lower the cost of weapons.
So there we have it. The flaws of power armour. You are paying too much for durability and sacrificing for damage output and quantity of models when other armies get more damage output and more models for sacrifice in durability. The thing it, those increased numbers of models make up for the lack of durability in most cases, so power armour actually does not give you any advantage.
EDIT: There we go, we now know some of the outcomes of points reductions, and I will start an article soon now that we have some of the leaked photos available. Keep posted for that.
Thanks for reading.
Until next time, keep them dice rollin.