I was told there'd be no math...
Posted on December 22 2019
I am almost positive everyone has heard the old adage: “Never bet against a sure thing”. What if I were to tell you, that sure things don’t really exist in tabletop wargaming where dice and the element of chance is involved? Now I hear you asking “.....but there has to be a way to figure out what my best options are, right?!”.
There is a term in the tabletop community that you may have heard tossed around in conversation, simply “Mathhammer”. Let’s take a deeper look at this concept in more detail.
MathHammer at its most basic refers to the application of statistics to judge army composition decisions or determining how many attacks of a given type you would need to apply to a unit to kill it on average or determining the likelihood of killing a unit given that you put a certain number of attacks into that unit.
As the name implies it's frequently used in Warhammer 40k, but can apply to any chance-based game. The main idea is to determine what situation will make your opponent have to roll more dice when defending your attacks. So at it’s basic core, determine what options do you have that will give you the maximum total of attacking dice.
Here is an example:
You have a plastic spaceman that has 2 weapons, but can only choose to attack with one. Do you use:
A) A weapon that can shoot 2 times at your opponent that is very strong.
B) A weapon that can shoot 6 times, but isn’t as strong.
While option A) is a powerful attack, you have less chances to actually hit the target. Less potential hits on the target, means less dice your opponent needs to roll to save his soldier. Where as option B) has more chances to hit, and gives your opponent more chances to fail the dice rolls needed to keep his soldier alive.
Keeping with the true spirit of Mathammer, you would choose option B). Shoot more times, which should being the operative word, force your opponent to roll more dice in defense.
By no means is this a perfect science. We play games that have many variables that can get in the way of the best planning and strategy. No strategy is 100% fool proof especially when rolling dice are involved. This train of thought does sometimes help weigh out those tricky situations in a game. This style of list building or game play is not for everyone, but can be a very enjoyable way to play. Less worrying about the fine details, and enjoying a game with a fellow hobbyist across the table. There is something to be said though for rolling a metric ton of dice all at once, and the look on the face of your friend across the table when they realize how many they need to roll successfully to save their favourite hero!
As with all things hobby, there is no absolute right way you have to do anything from painting to choosing to shoot infantry with an anti-tank weapon just because you can. No matter how you do it, keep it fun for everyone!