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Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Analysis: Astra Militarum in 8th Ed, Leman Russ Weapons

The good old Leman Russ is as tough as an old boot in 8th Ed, but can it dish out what it can take? And with seven different flavours to choose from, which is the optimal heavy tank for the Astra Militarum?


There are still seven different Leman Russ variants—each with a unique turret weapon—but two of them have dual firing modes giving us a total of nine different weapon profiles to evaluate.


We evaluate these weapons against five sets of defensive profiles to represent common targets:

  • T3/W1/Sv5+ representing light infantry, such as Imperial Guardsmen
  • T4/W1/Sv3+ representing medium infantry, such as Space Marines
  • T4/W2/Sv3+ representing multi-wound medium infantry, such as Primaris Space Marines
  • T7/Sv3+ representing medium armour, such as most Imperial, Chaos, Eldar and Tau vehicles
  • T8/Sv3+ representing heavy armour, such as some Imperial, Chaos and Necron vehicles
We can interpolate weapon performance against most other targets based on this set.

We assume that the infantry have unlimited model count so that number of shots is not a constraint, and that the vehicles have unlimited wounds so that damage is not a constraint.

Note that the most interesting offensive stat is strength, and the most interesting defensive stat is toughness, since the S vs. T relationship is not linear in 8th Ed. The number of wounds a target has is another interesting defensive stat, since causing multiple damage from a single failed save does not cause extra wounds to 'carry over' to other members of a unit, so having a low number of wounds actually makes high-damage weapons less effective. In contrast, changing the number of shots or AP of a weapon, or the Sv of a target, results in very predictable and linear changes to weapon effectiveness.


Running the numbers provides the following results:

Note that the second firing mode for the Demolisher applies when the target unit has 10 or more models, so I have not calculated results against the vehicle-representative targets for that mode.

Also note that I have used the expected value for D3/D6 rolls:

  • D3 = 2
  • D6 = 3.5
  • 2D6 pick highest = 4.5
The colour-coding is a vertical heat-map, which indicates the effectiveness of weapons against targets; in other words, a green box indicates which weapon is best against that target, not which target that weapon is best used against.


So what does this mathhammer actually tell us?

  • The Punisher is hands-down the best Leman Russ variant, being far ahead against Infantry and still useful against Vehicles
  • The Demolisher is the perfect complement to the Punisher, being far ahead against Vehicles and still useful against Infantry, but only if they are in 10+ model units
  • The good old vanilla Battle Tank is mediocre across the board, but not a bad choice if you want a versatile tank
  • The Executioner is on par with the Demolisher when it Overcharges, and is bad if it plays safe. The risk-reward is not very favourable here
  • The Eradicator and Exterminator are both pretty bad. The only good thing about the Exterminator is that is has fixed stats so does not suffer from variance
  • The Vanquisher is an absolute turd. Seriously, the dedicated anti-infantry Punisher is better against heavy armour than the dedicated anti-armour Vanquisher
Those are actually some pretty surprising results! The fact that any weapon can wound any target in 8th Ed, and the huge number of dice thrown by the Punisher, is a deadly combination. And the Demolisher being good is a nice change.

Now both these variants share a common issue: their relatively short 24" range; however, I think that the new 10" move stat on the Leman Russ will adequately compensate, since a 34" threat range will rarely result in zero targets. Of course, as the game goes on and your tanks take damage and slow down, their short range could become a liability.


It is critical to note that most of these weapons use D3/D6 rolls for their number of shots and damage, so while this mathhammer provides a good comparison based on expected values, in-game performance is subject to quite high variance. While you'll trend towards the average over multiple games, if that run of bad dice hits you in a tight game it may cost you a tournament finish.

However, variance can be turned to your advantage through judicious use of strategem rerolls. Astra have plenty of cheap options, so fielding Battalion and Brigade Detachments is quite feasible, and so is starting the game with 10+ CP. Don't be afraid to burn CP early to turn single-shot Demolishers into six-shots!


Leman Russes have definitely lost some offensive output in 8th Ed, but their high resilience and surprising mobility (with Tank Orders) may still make them a popular metagame choice. Punishers and Demolishers are the clear best options if you're willing to play your armour aggressively; and the vanilla Battle Tank is a viable alternative option if you'd prefer to play defensively with a more versatile tank.


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