Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Mathhammer: Simple stats

... or is it?

Seriously, the game designers down at Games Workshop in deepest darkest Nottingham have created a ridiculously complicated game out of nothing more complex than a six sided die.  They've done so though layered saves and special rules which break the core rules, or more often than not, add something to Core rules.

For those who have not misspent their youth in the paint fumed shops full of multiple miniature armageddons, Games Workshop is a UK based company, famed (and infamous) for its most popular creations: Warhammer Fantasy Battles (WFB), and the perhaps the more well know, Warhammer 40,000 (40K).

These games are all based on pushing miniature soldiers around a board, whilst furiously rolling dice at each other to see who does in who. You might not have been fully aware of it, but you may have seen huge shoulder padded space knights running around shouting "For the Emprah!", or green skinned Orks running around with oversized machine guns shouting "Waaagh!!".

It's most famous for the high prices of the miniatures, rule books, and, well, the high price of everything. It's actually a bit misleading in how expensive it is, and we'll come to that later. Issues arise because people become infatuated with the art and concept of the universes GW build, spend a lot of money without thinking, and lose interest before really getting to play, or before even finishing up their army.

And the game is complex, taking the standard "Variation by rule breaking" philosophy most RPGs have, to the Nth degree. Even their special rules have special rules. Much of the early days of play is spent in the library studying, and of course, number crunching army lists.

That said, it's not so complicated as to be impossible to crack without the original spread sheets and calculations. At its core, it is still just variations on a 1/6 probability. This makes the statistics much easier to predict, at least for individual situations.

Where it becomes difficult is trying to compare different units. Mighty are the arguments and rages between which Marine is best! Commoragh echoes with the shouts and counterpoints between Kabalite warriors or Wyches for troops choice (which is actually a closer debate than you might think!).

Every scientist is at heart a puzzle solver. Hours are spent in the lab trying to glean the source code of reality. It's no wonder that a large proportion of burgeoning scientists are also avid gamers. Cutting their teeth on evaluating the rules behind these fantasy realities is often the first step to the really hard science.

In my Mathhammer series, I'll be doing just that. Taking a peak under the bonnet of the games mechanics, and working out how the game is put together. Along the way I'll also be collecting my own little army, with the aim of using it to lure students into statistical analysis... and also to stay sane in the mad chaotic whirl of the school.

I mentioned that this was all about statistics. The first thing you need to realise is what a d6 die represents.

d6 = 6 sided dice.

This means that to get a certain number is always going to be a chance of 1/6.

Common misunderstanding: 6 is better than 1. This is not true. The chance of getting a 6 is exactly the same as a 1. The value we assign it is dependent on the rules we apply to the game... which is frequently that 1 is an automatic fail, and that 6 is an automatic pass.

The next step, is seeing what this means in the first dice roll players will often make in a game turn: the To Hit roll.

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