Tag Archives: scatter dice

Ka-blammo!

I first touched on scatter dice in my earlier post on deep striking. Blast weapons don’t use Ballistic Skill in the same way as ‘regular’ weapons, but it is still an important factor in hitting your foes. Question time:

A renegade Ordo Hereticus Inquisitor carrying a psyocculum is hunting the battlefield for Mephiston. The inquisitor is joined by his trusty squad of psyker henchmen with the Psychic Barrage (large blast) power. Assuming they pass their psychic test, what are the odds that they will hit Mephiston?

Right, blast weapons use the scatter dice described here. At its most basic, a 33% chance of a hit, and 67% chance of a miss; if you miss then it scatters 2d6 inches but unlike deep striking you can subtract the firing models Ballistic Skill (BS) from the 2d6 result. So if you roll a ‘miss’ but get a distance less than or equal to your BS then that miss becomes a hit (i.e. you don’t scatter). Naturally this means that the higher your BS, the more ‘misses’ get converted into hits, and if it does scatter then it won’t scatter as far.

To show the effect of increasing BS values I’ve pulled together a 3d plot. So each colour represents a BS value, from BS0 at the front to BS10 at the back. The odds of a particular result go from left to right, so taking BS0 as an example, the odds of a HIT is the leftmost blue column (at 33.33%) and the odds of a particular scatter are to the right, e.g. a 2 inch scatter has a probability of 1.85% (for BS0) and a 7 inch scatter would be 11.11% likely (for BS0).

So quick summary on how to read this:

  • the height of a given column is the probability,
  • each colour is a BS value, and the BS values get higher as you go back,
  • the foreground numbers are a HIT (leftmost) or a particular scatter distance (from 1 to 12 inches).

Since the the BS value is subtracted from the scatter distance, you can clearly see the maximum scatter get smaller with each step increase in BS. So looking at the BS10 scatter (all the way at the back in pink) it’s a 94% chance of a hit, 4% chance of a 1 inch scatter, and a 2% chance of a 2 inch scatter.

Given that the the psyocculum gives our Psykers BS10, is that the answer to the question, a 94% chance of hitting Mephiston?

Not quite, theres one more factor to take into consideration. Blast size. The regular blast has a 1.5 inch radius, and the large blast has a 2.5 inch radius. Against a vehicle, only the centrepoint of the blast gets you a full strength hit, but against infantry just clipping the base with the blast template is enough for the full whack.

So in terms of hitting Mephiston, it’s 2d6 scatter minus 10 for BS, and (effectively) minus another 2.5 inches for the radius of the large blast. So we’re subtracting 12.5 from a number that is at most 12, simply put they can’t miss! There aren’t many mechanics in the game that can say that.

The only caveat is that the extra bit of reach from size of the radius doesn’t get you a ‘full’ hit as it doesn’t land exactly where you placed it. You’ll definitely hit the guy you were centred on, but you’ll cover different models around him if it does scatter those one or two inches.

So, back to more general principles. You may recall my uber list of BS rankings, well I’ve now we can add two new charts to that list.

First up, regular BS accuracies with blast accuracies added (in pink). The blast accuracies are the probability of hit but disregarding the radius of the blast (i.e. the odds of the centrepoint hitting your desired target point). Blue columns are ‘regular’ shots, green are twin linked, and pink are blast. Hmmm I guess I left out twin linked blast, guess that’ll have to wait.

Secondly looking specifically at the effect of the radius (no ‘normal’ i.e. non-blast shots on this one) . So these are the odds of hitting with just the centre (in pink), versus blast (in blue), versus large blast (in green).

The pattern is actually pretty simple: BS10 centre is as accurate as BS9 blast, is as accurate as BS8 large blast (and so on down). Essentially each step up in blast size is equivalent to a one point increase in BS.

So there you have it – I thought I had all the BS covered, but there was still more to do; …always more to do.

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Going Deep

Deep striking is a high risk/reward technique that can get your units anywhere on the table, in one fell swoop.  But when things go wrong, they can go very wrong, and on more than one occasion I’ve lost a 225 point unit of Obliterators to a bad scatter.  For that reason I often take some 3 man chaos terminator squads so I only risk 105 points for a chance at a cheeky melta shot.  But how should I be placing them when I deepstrike?  Consider the following:

Chaos Lord Harleck Wynne faces a wall of Imperial Guard tanks.  He has to deepstrike his terminators, as any walking squad or vehicle will be wiped out as it approaches.  Where should his combi-melta armed Chaos Terminators be placed to minimise the risk of mishap? Where should they be  placed to maximise the chances of getting into melta range? Where should they be placed to get a balanced risk of mishap versus melta range?


Ok, so deep striking is governed by scatter dice.  It’s a 6 sided die with two ‘HIT’ faces, and four faces with an arrow.  Place your model where you want him, and roll.  If you get a HIT then you land on target, if you get an arrow, then you scatter 2d6 inches away in the direction indicated by the arrow.  Because the distance is governed by 2d6, the distance follows a pattern already described here such that results of 7″ are the most likely and 2″ and 12″ are the least likely.

The arrows complicate matters as they don’t comply with the discrete probability that I normally use for these calculations, but we’ll touch on that later.

So, with two HIT faces out of 6, we have a 33% chance of landing on target, and a 67% chance of scattering.  If we ignore direction for a moment, then we can take a look at the odds of how far you’ll deviate from your intended location:

That was pretty much as far as my analysis went until quite recently.  This approach clouded my thinking, as I saw it as a straight up question of distance, so I may as well get super close to the enemy as the ‘most likely’ scatter distance was 7″.  Case closed, right?

Wrong!

If you don’t get a HIT, then it’s all about the arrows.  Let’s imagine a model with a 25mm base put on the table in his desired deepstrike position.  He can scatter up to 12″ in any direction, so lets consider a 25″ wide circle as the total space we could end up in (e.g. up to 12″ to left + 1″base + 12″ to the right gives us the 25″, see below).

Time for a fancy graph.  So I plot an area of 25″ by 25″, and represent the probability of landing at a particular point as a height, so we we get a sort of mountainous terrain where the highpoints are where you are likely to land, and the lowpoints are where you are unlikely to land.  In the first instance lets look at the widest case.  So you have a 33.3% chance of landing on target (i.e. a HIT), and a 66.6% chance of scattering.  See below:

As you can see in terms of a single point, the target at the centre is far and away the single most likely final destination.  In fact the difference is so extreme that all you can see of the scatter is some light ‘fuzz’ in a ring around the centre.  So the first point to note is that if you do scatter it would appear that you could end up pretty much anywhere in that 25″ circle we described earlier.  But that’s not particularly enlightening, so lets take a closer look at the ‘fuzz’.

I now remove the HIT from the chart, and the scale can then be changed to show the variation in odds for the scatter results.  It’s worth noting that I didn’t solve this analytically so we don’t get a smooth and pretty set of results, we get a somewhat noisy set of peaks and valleys.  But it’s still good enough to gain some insights and is still essentially representative of how it works in reality.

So as you can see from the dark blue peaks, the most likely area to scatter into is a ring around the target point, (specifically a ring with its edges about 5″ to 9″ away from the target point).  This is an expected result from our knowledge that the scatter follows the same triangular shape of the old 2d6 chart.  Do note how low the odds of landing at any particular point is: about 0.2% to 0.4%, tiny!  Working through the numbers, here’s a simplified version:

So this is a lot of exposition and I haven’t addressed the opening question at all!  What about those terminators?

Based on the calculations above, I carved out the probability of landing in a ‘safe’ area depending on how far away you place the terminators.  But that in isolation is not enough.  We want the terminators to land within 6″ of the tanks to get some hot melta goodness going.  So here I’ve plotted the odds of landing safely for a given distance, and also the odds of ending up safe AND within melta range for a given drop point (i.e. the point you selected to drop at, not where you end up after scattering).  So on this graph the x-axis is the distance from the tank wall you place the model initially, (i.e. before rolling for scatter).

The results weren’t quite what I was expecting going in, though do bear in mind that these findings are only true for the specific set up of the question – this graph isn’t a general rule for all deep strike situations!

So, what does this show?  Well, assuming the parking lot of tanks is the only other unit in the area then unsurprisingly the further away you place them the less likely they are to scatter on to the enemy and mishap.  But playing it safe won’t necessarily get you within the all important 6″ melta range.  Here’s the interesting bit, I had originally thought that putting the terminators 1″ away from the tanks would get you the highest probability of being in melta range with a trade off of slightly higher odds of mishap.  But I was quite wrong.  The odds of getting safely in melta range stay pretty flat if you originally place the model between 1″ and 6″ away, but the odds of a mishap are about 45% at 1″ but fall to about 25% at 6″.  So the tradeoff I mentioned in my opening question, doesn’t really exist – you can play it (relatively) safe and still go for the close range shot.

Lesson learned, drop those terminators about 5 or 6 inches away and you’re playing the right odds.

So how about a more general rule of thumb then?  This specific case aside, how do we make better deepstriking decisions on the fly?  In my opinion, the best general approach is to think in terms of area.  Visualise the 25″ circle around any particular drop point (some assistance here and here), and then look at the friendly and enemy units in that circle.  Now imagine a 1″ buffer around enemy units, and try to estimate what fraction of the circle’s area is covered by all the units and that buffer.  This is key to estimating the risk.

I’ve illustrated a few simple examples below; in each case the centre of the circle is where you initially place the model (i.e. before rolling for scatter), and the red areas have units or other features (such as impassable terrain) that would cause a mishap (don’t forget the 1″ buffer around enemy units!).  Do note I’m assuming that the centre point is a legal placement.  Also note the maths below isn’t quite exact, but is good enough for tabletop guesstimation.

So there you have it – even deep striking right up into someone’s face is not quite as risky as it looks.

Tune in next time when I apply all of this to blast weapons…


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