Rythbryt

The Galaxy's Fate in my Hand: An IA Probability Compendium

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UPDATE (9/15/2017): Part the Seventeenth: "To Pierce or not to Pierce..." in which try to untangle the beauty from the seduction of the Tier III Ancient Lightsaber, is now available here!

If you wandered into this thread out of curiosity (or by mistake), this thread is about numbers. More accurately, probabilities. And specifically combat probabilities: damage probabilities, surge probabilities, accuracy probabilities, defensive probabilities, condition probabilities, win probabilities, wound probabilities... basically ad nauseam probabilities. If that's not of interest to you, you prefer casual/fast/unpredictable gaming, math is overrated, etc., then you may not enjoy this. Or maybe you will...

This is primarily a campaign-focused series, so if you want to go into the campaign entirely spoiler free, then tread carefully. In my experience, the FFG/IA Community is pretty good about not posting huge spoilers in public threads, but if you're especially pure of heart/paranoid, I'm warning you just in case. That said, while we'll be focusing primarily on weapons and class skills in a campaign setting, a lot of the general principles we'll be discussing are equally applicable to the skirmish game, which generally uses the same collection of dice pools and surge abilities, albiet in some... unique combinations.

RECOMMENDED RESOURCES

Here's a list of resources that I've found useful in compiling the information presented in this thread (plus a summary spiel--boy, that's a fabulous word--describing why it's so fabulous). If you've found (or created!) others, let me know and I'll update, complete with a shout-out! Unless you prefer to remain anonymous, of course...  ;)

IA Card information:

  • Boardwars.eu's Imperial Assault Image DataBase: An accessible (and well-maintained) repository of IA images, for every item, card, token, etc. that I've every wondered about. The only thing I haven't found yet are the campaign books (for obvious reasons) and the faces of the IA dice... but really, that's like literally the only things I haven't found on there (so I'm certainly not complaining). Even the Agenda Decks are in there. An absolute must if you're new to the game, are looking at running your first campaign as the IP, or are looking to broaden your knowledge for advanced campaign or skirmish play. Don't miss the handy search box and "advanced search" options in the right-hand corner, either (like I did).

Probability Calculators:

  • Jeff Liu's Imperial Assault Calculator: A very simple calculator that looks at raw dice stats (hit chance, average damage if hit, average surges if hit). It doesn't factor in surge abilities or other things like Pierce, Cleave, static blocks or evades, etc., but you can add range to target and defense dice. So if you just want to know what you'll be rolling on average, it'll get that information to you pretty quickly. The only limitation is that you can't add more than 2 of the same dice color to your calculation.
  • AdrianTP's IA Calculator: A mid-ranged calculator. Allows input of attack dice and defense dice, but doesn't have an input for range. After you input the dice, you have two function buttons: "Roll" will actually roll the dice you selected for you, so you could use it in a pinch as a dice app if you don't have enough physical dice for your games (a nice feature). "Stats" will generate distributions for the dice you selected (attack and defense dice), showing what likelihood each outcome has of being rolled. It tracks damage, surges, and accuracy. It also tracks minimum, maximum, median, mode, and average as well, in case you wanted that info. It doesn't allow input for customized surge abilities.
  • mattyellen's Imperial Assault Calculator: An advanced combat calculator, with an attribute test component. If you're like me, and are interested in mathy stuff like this, but aren't... mathematically gifted... then tools like this are great ways for even the peons like us to explore this wonderful world. Two basic functions here: an "Attack" probability calculator (broken up into melee and ranged attacks) and an "Attribute Test" calculator (plotting likely surge results). The data is wonderfully charted on graphs displaying "at least" outcome probabilities, which you can set to overlap (a nice way to see multiple probabilities for the same weapon in different configurations, different weapons with the same configuration, etc.). It doesn't calculate everything (as far as I can tell, the "Attack" calculator is limited to damage dealt, and accounts for damage, pierce, and accuracy, but not other attack stats like Cleave or Blast--stats that are notoriously difficult to calculate, since they're largely circumstantial), but the ability to add both defense dice and defense modifiers (set Blocks or Evades) and to see how those defensive modifiers affect likely outcomes more than makes up for that, in my opinion.

Further reading on probabilities:

  • Two- and Three-dice comps by Emeralddays: These go back to the nascent days of IA, when everything was fresh and new. Originally featured on TeamCovenant, these have detailed breakdown of the raw roll distributions for two-dice and three-dice attack pools. I know the three-dice pool article is probably more sexy, but I'd recommend starting with the two-dice article, since it lays out his methodology and how to read the tables.
Edited by Rythbryt

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The Galaxy's Fate in my Hand: An IA Probability Compendium

SUMMARY: An in-depth discussion of dice probabilities in Imperial Assault, with an inordinate focus on campaign play (and an occasional smattering of skirmish).

 

Recent Updates:

  • Campaign Series: Melee Weapons Part the Seventeenth (9/22/2017): "To Pierce or not to Pierce...," in which we try to untangle the beauty from the seduction of the Tier III Ancient Lightsaber...
    • Topics Discussed: Tier III Ancient Lightsaber, Pierce 3, surge procs
  • Campaign Series: Melee Weapons Part the Sixteenth(B) (9/15/2017): "So Convert is actually a thing...," or why it's dangerous to upset a Wookiee period, whether or not he's already wounded.
    • Topics Discussed: Tier III Ryyk Blades, Convert, High-Impact Guard, Vibrogenerator
  • Campaign Series: Melee Weapons Part the Sixteenth (9/8/2017): "Ryyk Blades, Blyyk Rades..." or why it's dangerous to upset a wookie... if he's already wounded...
    • Topics Discussed: Tier III Ryyk Blades, Electrostaff, Vibrogenerator, Weighted Head, High-Impact Guard, Balanced Hilt, Gaarkhan, Biv, Onar, Shyla
  • Campaign Series: Melee Weapons Part the Fifteenth (8/30/2017): "Shock and Awwwwww," or why you'd totally want the Electrostaff while trekking with Artoo through the Bukuvu (complete with videos... tons of videos!!!)
    • Topics Discussed: Tier III Electrostaff, Vibrogenerator, Weighted Head, High-Impact Guard, Balanced Hilt, Energized Hilt, Blue dice, prequels, Yoda, High Ground, The West Wing, George of the Jungle, Jumping the Shark...
  • Campaign Series: Melee Weapons Part the Fourteenth (8/23/2017): "Static Shock," in which we twirl a Force Pike and try not to stick anyone in the eye (at least not accidentally)...
    • Topics Discussed: Tier III Force Pike, Vibrogenerator, Weighted Head, High-Impact Guard, Balanced Hilt, Top-10s, surge efficiency

 

Campaign Series: Melee Weapons (last updated 9/22/2017)

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In this series, we run the IA campaign melee weapons through a gambit of calculators, simulators, and elevators (well... maybe not) in an attempt to find the biggest, baddest, brutal-est weapon in the game.

If you're squeamish, beware: there be blood ahead! :ph34r:

 

  • Part the First (11/3/16): "Our First Steps," in which our heroes' much-maligned melee starter weapons teach us some useful things about basic combat probabilities...
    • Topics discussed: Melee Starter Weapons, Damage Ceilings, Damage Floors, Average Outcomes, Outcome Distributions, Expected Outcomes
  • Part the Second (11/3/16): "Battle Tactics 0.1," in which we examine how our heroes' much-maligned melee weapons perform in actual combat... and are mostly less than impressed.
    • Topics discussed: Melee Starter Weapons, Expected Damage, Black Defense Die, White Defense Die
  • Part the Third (11/4/16): "Confirmed Disgust," in which we confirm that our heroes' much-maligned melee starter weapons are, in fact, as awful as we've always thought they were, and an unexpected Tier 1 item puts out boss damage...
    • Topics discussed: Melee Starter Weapons, Melee Tier I Item Weapons, Damage Floors/Ceilings, Expected Outcomes, Black & White Defense Dice, Boss Dice, Credits
  • Part the Fourth (11/8/2016): "Slow and Steady," in which we return to the concept of damage floors as a predictor of dependability, add surge probabilities to our weapon analysis, and explore the exhaust-to-trigger effect of the Tier 1 Balanced Hilt modification on our melee weapon arsenal.
    • Topics discussed: Melee Starter Weapons, Melee Tier I Item Weapons, Damage Floors/Ceilings, Weapon Dependability, Weapon Sustainability, Balanced Hilt
  • Part the Fifth (11/12/2016): "Hedging Potential," in which we expand our options for improving the dependability of our melee weapons, and discover why it's always better to roll damage than to surge for it.
    • Topics discussed: Dice Hedging, Damage Floors, "Natural damage" vs. "surge damage," High-Impact Guard, Extended Haft, Shock Emitter, Vibrogenerator
  • Part the Sixth (11/20/2016): "Blast It! Part I," in which we dive into the combat keywords found on our Starter and Tier I weapons, and ask some basic questions that will help us separate real gems from fools gold.

    • Topics Discussed: Starter and Tier I melee weapons, Stun, Weaken, Bleed, Cleave, surge probabilities, at-least damage probabilities, surge hierarchies, proc rates, recover.
  • Part the Seventh (12/30/2016): "Blast It! Part II," in which we take a closer look at dice pools, compare keyword proc rates, and talk about surges we want, and surges we don't, plus the best keyword-procing melee weapon is... wait, what...?
    • Topics Discussed: Starter and Tier I melee weapons, Stun, Bleed, dice pools, surge efficiencies, Hidden, Davith Elso.

Excursus: Jabba's Realm and the Dawn of Malleable Weapons  (in which our previous campaign-meta is blown wide open) [Topics Discussed: Tier II Energized Hilt, Tier II Bolt Upgrade, Jabba's Realm, dice manipulation]

  • Part the Eighth (1/25/2017): "It's so hard to say goodbye..." in which we bid a fond bon voyage to our Starter and Tier I melee weapons (with three data deep-dives). 
    • Topics Discussed: Duelist's Blade, Starter and Tier I melee weapons, Damage, Keywords, Surge abilities, MVPs.
  • Part the Ninth (2/10/2017): "The Best Damage 350 Credits Can Buy" (or "Why I learned to stop worrying and love the Vibrogenerator...") 
    • Topics Discussed: Vibrogenerator, Duelist's Blade, Starter and Tier I melee weapons, -2 surges, opportunity cost, attack dice, damage floor, surge probabilities.
  • Part the Tenth (3/6/2017): "A Cut Above... Maybe?" in which we kick off Tier II melee weapons in rapid(er) fashion...
    • Topics Discussed: Tier II Vibro Knucklers, surge hierarchies, Cleave, Bleed, Pierce.

Excursus"Deep breath and Focus," in which we predictably do a deep-dive into the Focus condition... [Topics Discussed: Focus, average and distributed damage and surges, damage floors, damage ceilings, attack dice]

  • Part the Fourteenth (8/23/2017): "Static Shock," in which we twirl a Force Pike and try not to stick anyone in the eye (at least not accidentally)...
    • Topics Discussed: Tier III Force Pike, Vibrogenerator, Weighted Head, High-Impact Guard, Balanced Hilt, Top-10s, surge efficiency
  • Part the Fifteenth (8/30/2017): "Shock and Awwwwww," or why you'd totally want the Electrostaff while trekking with Artoo through the Bukuvu (complete with videos... tons of videos!!!)
    • Topics Discussed: Tier III Electrostaff, Vibrogenerator, Weighted Head, High-Impact Guard, Balanced Hilt, Energized Hilt, Blue dice, prequels, Yoda, High Ground, The West Wing, George of the Jungle, Jumping the Shark...
  • Part the Sixteenth (9/8/2017): "Ryyk Blades, Blyyk Rades..." or why it's dangerous to upset a wookie... if he's already wounded...
    • Topics Discussed: Tier III Ryyk Blades, Electrostaff, Vibrogenerator, Weighted Head, High-Impact Guard, Balanced Hilt, Gaarkhan, Biv, Onar, Shyla
  • Part the Sixteenth(B) (9/15/2017): "So Convert is actually a thing...," or why it's dangerous to upset a Wookiee period, whether or not he's already wounded.
    • Topics Discussed: Tier III Ryyk Blades, Convert, High-Impact Guard, Vibrogenerator
  • Part the Seventeenth (9/22/2017): "To Pierce or not to Pierce...," in which we try to untangle the beauty from the seduction of the Tier III Ancient Lightsaber...
    • Topics Discussed: Tier III Ancient Lightsaber, Pierce 3, surge procs

 

 

 

Edited by Rythbryt

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The Galaxy's Fate in my Hand: An IA Probability Compendium
 
Part the First: "Our First Steps" (in which our heroes' much-maligned melee starter weapons teach us some useful things about basic combat probabilities...)
 
Topics discussed: Melee Starter Weapons, Damage Ceilings, Damage Floors, Average Outcomes, Outcome Distributions, Expected Outcomes
 
In this, our inagural discussion, we'll start by considering the most basic building-block of an attack: our hero's weapon. More specifically, our hero's starter weapon. For ease of access, we'll avoid ranged weapons for now, and focus solely on our heroes' starting melee weapons in order to introduce some very basic principles of probability. As promised in this series' opening post, here's the non-TL;DNR bullet-summary of the highlights:
 
  1. We always like red and green dice; we sometimes like yellow dice; and (for melee weapons) we don't like blue dice. Generally.
  2. Each weapon has both a damage ceiling (best possible outcome given the best-possible roll) and a damage floor (best possible outcome given the worst-possible roll), which are helpful baselines for determining both how "good" or "bad" a particular roll is, and how predictable a weapon's raw damage output is likely to be.
  3. Built-in weapon upgrades (+1D, for example) are great at normalizing damage distributions, and raising our weapon's damage floor and/or ceiling.
  4. Damage probabilities can be charted in a variety of ways, including "average damage," "damage distributions," and "expected (at least) damage probabilities," all of which tell us different things.
Alright, enough preliminaries. Let's hit the meat before the post editor messes up my formatting again.  ^_^ 
 
ANATOMY OF AN ATTACK
 
I warned you at the outset that this was going to be thorough, right? Good. Just checking. Because this series is primarily focused on combat probabilities, we're going to start this introductory series by jumping waaaaaaaaaaay back, to the very basic, rudimentary definition of an "Attack." According to the IA Rules Reference Guide (RRG), an attack consists of three basic components: 
  1. Attack type (to this point, either Melee or Range); 
  2. Attack dice (collected into a dice "pool"); and 
  3. Surge abilities.
For heroes in a campaign, their "attack" is derived from their equipped weapon, without which they cannot attack. Each weapon contains a (mostly) pre-determined dice pool, and at least one surge ability. It may also contain other goodies, such as static bonuses and mod slots, which alter an attack (and are, for that reason, highly-sought after). Class abilities (purchased by a hero for experience points ["xp"]) and rewards from the completion of side missions can also alter or modify a weapon's attack. Finally, for non-hero figures, the attack is printed on that figure's deployment card, which specifies attack type, (mostly) dice pool, and a collection of available surge abilities.
 
Of these three components, the one that most directly affects combat probabilities--and which introduces the greatest degree of uncertainty-- is the composition of the attack's dice pool. So before we jump into evaluating weapons, it's worth pausing two seconds to review the core mechanic that makes those weapons really hum: those wonderful, infuriating, enigmatic dice. 
 
 
DICE, DICE, DICE, AND... MORE DICE
 
If you (like me) haven't spent much time recently twiddling these things from side to side, taking in all their subtle glory, here's a handy-reference spread of their available faces: 
 
1_0_Dice_Chart.jpg
Ahhhhh... Dice....
[Photo credit: thesmallman and AdrianT on boardgamegeek]
 
If you're new to the game and are interested in an in-depth analysis of the dice, there are some excellent discussions available online; just two of them are available here and here. For our purposes, here are just a few big-picture things to note that will be important for our purposes, in descending order of dice:
 
Reds: The single surge result is the one probability eyesore (1/6, ~17% chance), but other than that, there's lots to love here. The single-damage face is the obvious "bummer" roll, but every other roll is great. Sure, the two-damage roll often seems underwhelming when it happens, but when compared to the other three dice, a 5/6 (~83%) chance of rolling at least 2 damage is phenomenal. It also must be noted that there's no accuracy on these dice. That doesn't matter for our current purposes (mostly), but of course it may become a factor when evaluating ranged weapons.
 
Blue: Unlike the Red, there's actually... not a lot to like here (outside of the accuracy, which again, we're almost never going to care about on a melee weapon). Just two faces with surges, combined with three faces that have just a single damage or surge, means this die is going to give our weapon an element of unpredictability that's absent from the Red die. We have basically the same chance at getting that double-damage or damage-and-surge roll as we do of getting that "bummer" 1-result roll (although it feels like we get the lower roll more often...).
 
Green: This is more like it. A 1/2 (50%) chance of double-damage, and a 1/2 (50%) chance of landing at least 1 surge. The "worst" possible roll is the single surge, but if our weapon has any "surge for +2 damage" abilities, we're looking at a claim to 2-3 damage off this die every time. Assuming we can get those surges off, that's dependability right there.
 
Yellow: With a 4/6 (~67%) chance of rolling at least 1 surge, this is where the action is at. The double-damage face is a fine consolation prize (although it inevitably seems disappointing when this die doesn't land at least 1 surge). The single surge faces can be played around, as long as our weapon has that +2D surge ability. The single damage face is, once again, the odd-man-out.
 
Black: First, half the possible rolls on this die (single block, single block, evade) are... eeeehhh. Better than nothing, but not tide-turning. We'll focus more on defense dice specifically in our next discussion. For now, just note that because this die relies so much on generating blocks, a weapons with pierce (especially a built-in pierce) can rob this die of a good bit of its "umph" (Pierce 1 means the black die is going to do nothing on 1/3 rolls, or ~33% of the time), and that weapons with good surge abilities have a good shot at converting surges to weapon abilities, potentially overwhelming the blocks rolled.
 
White: Setting aside the great X-man debate, this die has a decent chance at blocking at least 1 damage (3/5, 50%), and a very good chance at eliminating at least 1 surge (4/6, ~67%). Weapons with Pierce are once again very good choices. Weapons that are heavily surge-dependent (and especially those dependent on a certain number of surges) are going to be more unpredictable against the white die... and, of course, we don't want to see that Dodge.
 
So with that in mind, let's start our in-depth look at melee weapons with the very simplest weapons available to us: the hero starter weapons.
 
 
Establishing some Baselines
 
There are four current heroes who start with melee class weapons: Diala (Plasteel Staff), Gaarkhan (Vibro-Ax), Verena (Fighting Knife), and Davith (Heirloom Dagger).^  While any hero can equip any weapon, generally at least these four characters want to retain a melee weapon, since they need that weapon type to unlock some of their more powerful class skills: 

 

Diala: Way of the SarlaccDancing Weapon, and Snap Kick

Gaarkhan: ChargeRampageBrutal Cleave, and Vicious Strike

Verena: Combat Mastery

Davith: Cloak and DaggerFalling Leaf, and Fell Swoop

 

_________________________________________________________________
^  The upcoming Jabba's Palace expansion will presumably add a fifth melee hero, the Mandalorian Shyla Varad (whose has at least two revealed abilities, Mandalorian Whip and Swords Dance, that require a melee weapon), but to my knowledge, her starting weapon has not yet been previewed. The fact that her skirmish card also sports the melee weapon type is another good indicator.
Since these heroes are the most likely to gain melee weapons through the campaign, we'll focus primarily on evaluating melee items with them in mind. Before we can do that effectively, however, I think we meed to start with their "pre-item" melee weapons.
 
Ah, I can hear it now: the (hopefully) collective groan, "Starter weapons?!? Really?!?" So here's my 20-second defense on "why start here":
 
We need a weapon to attack. Starter weapons give us that ability for free. Maybe it's not ideal, but it's free. Replacing that weapon therefore entails a cost (credits, xp, side mission completion, etc.), in order to do something we could otherwise do for free. To judge whether that cost is "worth it," we need to know not just what a new weapon can do, but also how much more it can do than what it replaced. Knowing a starting weapon's capabilities is thus foundational to assessing the added value of any new weapon (and, by extension, assessing whether the upgrade is worth the cost).

 

There. I tried. :P  If that doesn't float your boat, we'll have a forth-coming discussion of Tier I items, which I'll eventually link to here. For those of you who are left, I think there's a lot we can learn from the relatively simple exercise of scrutinizing these weapons, and those observations will pay dividends as we get into the more complex and mutable weapons available later in the campaign. So let's get started:
 
1_1_Plasteel_Staff.jpg     1_2_Vibro_Ax.jpg     1_3_Fighting_Knife.jpg     1_4_Heirloom_Dagger.jpg
Rey got Anakin's lightsaber as her "first step." Oh, to be so lucky...
[Photo Credit: FFG and cards.boardwards.eu]
 
First off... yikes. :huh:  No wonder we were groaning. I mean, there are pieces here that are worth having for sure (Stun, a couple Pierces, an early Cleave). But there's basically no upward mobility on damage, and the dice combinations are... eh... let's just say that, given the total package, there's a reason most players want to drop their starter weapon the first chance the new shinies come out of the Item Deck. :D  But before we dismiss these as lost causes, let's dig a little deeper to see if there's any merit beneath the tempered steel.
 
Lucky Lackeys, Fickle Fiends: "Damage Ceilings" and "Damage Floors"
 
Let's start our analysis with a simple query: just how good (and bad) can these starting weapons be? We'll refer to these as a weapon's "damage ceiling" (the best possible result given the best possible roll) and a "damage floor" (the best possible result given the worst possible roll). 
 
1_5_Melee_Starters_Ceiling_and_Floor.jpg
The boundaries of our (starting) domain...
 
A few starting observations: 
 
  1. Despite the different look of the four different starters, we have basically the same components among them. Three weapons have a yellow die (giving them decent surge reliability), and two each have a Red or a Green die (decent damage reliability). Two roll yellow-green for very good surge chance.
  2. On that note, three of these weapons have the same damage ceiling (4D), with a unique cocktail of surge abilities. The outlier is the Fighting Knife, which can log 4 damage thanks to its built-in +1 Damage, although depending on the defender's die roll, it may have the best chance of hammering damage through with that elusive surge result.
  3. Similarly, the damage floors are all low, and boy are they looooooooooooooooow. The Fighting Knife ironically has the highest raw damage floor of 2D, thanks again to that static +1 Damage bonus. The Vibro-Ax has a guaranteed damage from the Red die, but no available surges for extra damage. The other two weapons can spend a single surge for a single damage, but unfortunately they roll dice that can bottom-out with just surges, and no innate damage.
  4. Obviously, none of these rolls account for any number of variables: the identity of the target, how much health it has, whether we're trying to pump damage through or have some other non-weapon-use in mind for our surges, and--most importantly--whether the defender is rolling any dice (and, if so, what number, kind, and result?). After all, the damage "floor" of any weapon will be "ZERO" if the attack is dodged. We'll tackle the idea of defense dice in a few moments; for now, let's just bookmark that, shall we?
  5. Lastly, it's worth tempering our expectations on these damage ceilings (or boosting our spirits, in the case of these damage floors), given that these results are a relatively small sampling of available die rolls. For the most part, we won't hit these highs (or lows), and can assume that our average and expected damage and surge results will come out somewhere in the middle.
This last point begs the question: 
 
If these are rare results, and if they don't count for defense dice or other variables, what is the good of knowing a weapon's damage ceiling and floor?
 
It's a good question. And ultimately, this probably isn't the most useful metric for evaluating a weapon's value. But remember that our initial step in evaluating weapons is determining: "what can they do?" If we know (as we do now) that Diala's Plasteel Staff does, at best, 4 damage, it doesn't make any sense to spend any of our valuable resources on a weapon that won't net us at least 4 damage if everything breaks our way (and, ideally, more than that).
 
Additionally, we also know that if we add a highly sought-after mod onto this weapon (High-Impact Guard, for example), we're again looking at a best-case scenario of scoring 6 damage, if everything breaks our way. (Ironically, adding that same mod actually increases the damage floor of every weapon that can take it, reducing some of the unreliability inherent in these weapons). The same principle applies when we focus Diala with this weapon. Or throw an extra surge her way with an ally like Gideon or Saska. All information that we want to know throughout the campaign.
 
 
Normalizing Randomness: "Average" vs. "Expected" Outcomes
 
Now that we have damage ceilings and damage floors out of the way, let's look at some more stable information about these weapons: "average" and "expected" outcomes.
 
We'll start with average outcomes, which are the most straight-forward and familiar. The basic premise is to take the total number of the same outcomes on a die (damage, surge, or accuracy), and divide them by 6 (the number of die faces) to see the likelihood that we'll gain that outcome on a given roll. For previous discussions of average damage, both as it relates to early campaign weapon options and skirmish/campaign figure pools, click the links. 
 
Since we're not concerned about accuracy for these melee weapons, our heroes can expect to net the following damage results and the following surge results on average rolls, using their starting weapons:

 

Diala: 2.17 Damage, 1.33 Surges

Gaarkhan: 2.99 Damage, 0.99 Surges

Verena: 2.16 Damage, 0.17 Surges

Davith: 2.17 Damage, 1.33 Surges 

 

While these are helpful as another baseline for judging weapon performance (i.e., what can we expect, on average, from a weapon's dice pool?), it's not the whole picture. For starters, the "Damage" average above is just the damage from attack dice. The average damage total for most weapons will be higher. Given that Diala and Davith have +1 Damage options available on their weapons, they can expect, on average, to net about 3 damage. In the same vein, while Verena's knife looks like it lags behind (given that it can basically abandon anything close to reliable surges), her average damage total is actually a full damage point higher (3.16 Damage), thanks to the static +1 Damage on her knife, which gives this otherwise-unimpressive weapon a 1/6 (~17%) chance at 2 damage, a 1/2 (50%) chance at 3 damage, and a 1/3 (~33%) chance at scoring 4 damage. Not so shabby in that light, no? Only Gaarkhan's damage total is accurate, owing to the fact that he has no surge abilities that add additional damage to his raw damage total. 
 
Accounting for these weapon idiosyncrasies, and adjusting our average damage totals to include these surge and static effects, we end up with the following averages:

 

Diala: 3.17 Damage, 0.33 Surges

Gaarkhan: 2.99 Damage, 0.99 Surges

Verena: 3.16 Damage, 0.17 Surges

Davith: 3.17 Damage, 0.33 Surges 

 

Once again, as a whole, we're still not seeing much separation between these four weapons. Diala and Davith's weapons tie for best-in-class damage (by a very small margin), but to get that result, they will on average need to spend their primary resource, naturally-rolled surges. By contrast, Garrkhan's weapon (the only weapon with a two dice pool that includes a red die) ends up with the lowest average damage (by a little bit), but also has the highest average surge left over for other things (by a significant margin). And the fact that Verena's knife even remains in the running with these other three weapons with its single attack die is impressive.
 
Of course, the very idea of an "average" is that it is the mean between two extremes. Drawing from our earlier discussion of damage "ceilings" and damage "floors," we have a pretty good idea of what those extremes are. Now let's take a deeper look at how these outcomes might be distributed, visually:
 
 
1_6_Melee_Starters_Damage_Distribution.j
Ooooooh... Shiney...
 
We're going to see bar charts like this a fair bit moving forward, so before we dig-in too deep, some general comments on them in case these are unfamiliar:
 
First off, some bearings. This is a distribution chart, which shows the distribution of each weapon's damage results, sorted by the amount of total damage scored (both from damage faces on an attack die, as well as spending any surge results that grant damage). The chart... charts... results from four different weapons: Diala's Plasteel Staff (Yellow), Gaarkhan's Vibro-Ax (Red), Verena's Fighting Knife (Magenta), and Davith's Heirloom Dagger (Orange). The X-axis (left to right) shows the percentage of times that each weapon scored a particular damage result (ranging from a minimum of 0 damage, on the left, to a maximum of 6 damage, on the right. The Y-axis (top to bottom) graphs the percentage of each weapon's damage results in a particular category, to give us a visual image of where these weapons are scoring the majority of their damage (0% at the bottom, to a maximum of 60% in this chart, at the top). Finally, there's a table underneath each category that shows the percentage of results for each weapon in each category, so we don't have to squint at the horizontal hash-marks on the chart itself.
 
Second, a caveat. The figures in this chart are not statements of the probability, giving the definitive number of times that a weapon will score each damage total. Instead, these figures were derived using a Monte Carlo simulation, which takes our specified dice pool and surge abilities for each weapon, rolls it a set amount of times (in this case, 2000 times), and collects the results so we can examine them.
 
Third, a disclaimer: I have a basic understanding of arithmetic, and enjoy examining data and statistics, but I am by no means a mathematician, so I'm running on borrowed parts here, using simulators and calculators built by other people who are much smarter than I am.  If you, like me, are interested in the math but are unable to build the hardware to do it on your own, there's an excellent web-based IA Calculator built by boardgamegeek user mattyellen available on GitHub, and if you're more programming-oriented, a dice roller available in Python posted by FFG Community-user Jnad83. I'd heartily commend both to you. Additionally, my programming-savvy brother has built a very nice Monte Carlo simulator in his spare time that I'll use from time to time for some advanced stat breakdowns (the probability of triggering a specific condition, or for triggering certain surge outcomes in a specified hierarchical order, for example), but unfortunately he hasn't made it available for the general public... at least not yet.
Even before we dig into the precise numbers in the data table, there are a few things that pop out of the chart visually. For starters, no matter what weapon we choose, we can expect at least the plurality of our results ("plurality" means it is the largest grouping, but not a majority of the results) to score exactly 3 damage. This is consistent with the average damage figures we looked at earlier, which put our average damage for each weapon (adjusted for static and surge bonuses) somewhere between 2.99 and 3.17 damage for each weapon. Note also that for three of the weapons (Plasteel Staff, Fighting Knife, and Heirloom Dagger), the next largest groupings scored 4 damage, which is again consistent with their average damage skewing higher than 3.00 damage (3.16-3.17 damage).
 
The Vibro-Ax, by contrast, as an almost identical distribution between the 2 damage (24.2%) and 4 damage (25.8%) groups, again consistent with an average of right about 3.00. In these particular 2000 trials, the Vibro-Ax dice actually rolled hotter than average, distributing with slightly more high-damage outcomes (4D and 5D) than lower outcomes (1D and 2D). Note also that even though the Vibro-Ax has no innate surge abilities, it is the only starting weapon with a chance of scoring 5 damage (Red: 3D + Yellow: 2D). It's not a great chance (5.8% of the time, in these trials), but it's the only weapon that has the capability of putting out that level of damage among the four we've considered.
 
Finally, Verena's Fighting Knife has, by far, the most compact distribution, as all of its results deal something between 2-4 damage (which, as we've already noted, gives it the highest damage floor).  Gaarkhan's Vibro-Ax, by contrast, has both the widest damage distribution (1-5 damage), thanks in part to the fact that it has the highest damage ceiling (5 damage), while the other two weapons fall comfortably in the middle. Unfortunately, no weapon is scoring 6 damage. Thankfully, no weapon is scoring 0 damage (although believe it or not, there actually are two starter weapons that can score no damage... :o )
 
Before we move on to interesting stuff like defense dice, there's one more thing we can do with this data to give us a fuller picture of the damage capabilities of these weapons. A quick data-shuffle allows us to plot the odds that we'll get at least a particular damage result on a given dice roll, allowing us to forecast each weapon's "expected outcome." If you're interested in a more detailed discussion of expected outcomes, I'll refer you to an excellent article posted by R1-H4 of WWPD, discussing expected damage in the context of another one of FFG's Star Wars games. This has the benefit of not only saving me typing, but also potentially introducing you to Star Wars Armada, which is fabulous.
 
1_7_Melee_Starters_At_least_Dmg.jpg
We're going to see these kinds of charts... a lot...
 
This chart uses the same data points as the previous, but gives us the percentage of trials where each weapon scored at least X-damage. As before, percentages go from bottom to top, and the categories (X-damage) are displayed in ascending order from left to right. So, for example, this chart tells us that Verena's knife scored at least 2 damage in 100% of our 2000 trials (and, thanks to our earlier look at its weapon floor, we know why), and at least 3 damage in 83% of our trials. The other weapons reliably generated at least 2 damage, and generated at least 3 damage roughly three quarters of the time. The Vibro-Ax and Fighting Knife scored at least 4 damage roughly a third of the time, with the other two weapons lagging slightly behind. And again, we have the Vibro-Ax scoring at least 5 damage (in this case, exactly 5 damage) in just under 6% of our rolls.  ;) 
 
There's more we can (and will) say about this topic, but that's enough to digest for now. Next time, we'll pick up our discussion of "expected damage" and see what happens when we introduce those pesky defense dice. Plus our first Skirmish case study! 
 
If you have any questions, comments, discussion, suggestions, etc., I'd welcome them. And if you made it this far, thanks for reading (or scrolling).
 
 
 
Inevitable post-posting edits:
  1. Fixed (hopefully) a wigged-out centering issue for all bullet-points, which was a real formatting eyesore. (Actually, no, it didn't fix... sadness...)  :mellow:
 
Edited by Rythbryt

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The Galaxy's Fate in my Hand: An IA Probability Compendium
 
Part the Second"Battle Tactics 0.1" (in which we examine how our heroes' much-maligned melee weapons perform in actual combat... and are mostly less than impressed)
  • Topics discussed: Melee Starter Weapons, Expected Damage, Expected Damage vs. 1 Black die, Expected Damage vs. 1 Black die,  Luke Skywalker: Hero of the Rebellion, Saber Strike
 
In this discussion, we'll be focusing primarily on how defense dice interact with our heroes' melee starter weapons, and in particular, how they affect the probability that an attack will deal damage to the target (we'll leave discussion of how these dice affect the application of conditions, like stun, and advanced combat effects, like Cleave, for a later discussion). The answer, as you might expect, is that defense dice affect these probabilities a fair bit. Bullet-point highlights below:
  • Different weapons, dice pools, and surge abilities have preferred defense die targets.
  • Surge-dependent weapons like black defense dice, not white defense dice; weapons with Pierce really like black defense dice; and the Dodge forces itself into every white die's probability.
  • The introduction of just a single defense die can dramatically reduce the probability that an attack will be effective and damaging the target.
  • Once defense dice are introduced into the equation, our starting melee weapons--which were fairly clustered in terms of average and expected raw damage--actually have a clear pecking order.
  • A surprising weapon forces its way into the "best-in-class" conversation, while an early favorite lags behind.
  • Plus, our first IA Skirmish case study!
If any of  that piqued your interest, you'll find the details below. Otherwise, thanks for dropping in!
 
For those of you who are still left (...anybody?), on with the show! 
 
A [skirmish] Case Study
 
In our last discussion, we ended by talking about an at-least damage chart, which shows us the likelihood that a particular dice pool will produce at least a particular event. While it can be fun to see how often we'll attain a particular result, more often we're more concerned with how likely we are to cross a particular goal or threshold. That sort of knowledge helps us to apply the general things we've been learning about a weapon to a myriad of practical situations and scenarios. After all, IA is a tactical game, and nowhere is that more evident than during a campaign mission, where there are specific objectives that have to be met, obstacles that have to be overcome, and (usually) the drumbeat of inevitability pounding ever closer. 
 
Anyone who's played an IA campaign before knows there are... circumstances... where meeting--or falling short of--that benchmark can make all the difference. You know, that one time... where you had to do that one thing... at that one particular moment in time... and you didn't quite make it? I sure do.
 
Since we're trying to avoid spoilers, we'll illustrate this point with our very first skirmish example! Suppose you're playing that wonderful 4-player free-for-all on the Hoth Battlefield map, and it's your last activation before the end of round. At the start of the round, your Rebel opponent smugly plugged the Terminal Network with R2-D2, and will gain enough victory points at the end of your activation to secure the victory. But you can snag victory from the jaws of defeat if your Rebel force can defeat a Royal Guard who's been limping around for two rounds. Looking to your own Rebel force, Luke (Hero of the Rebellion) is your only figure who is left to activate. The Royal Guard has sustained 5 damage, meaning you need 3 damage to defeat him.  The Royal Guard is also 2 spaces away from Luke, meaning Luke is close enough to perform either his default ranged attack (YGB), or his special Saber Strike melee attack (RY, automatic Pierce 3), but he can only perform one. Which gives him the best odds at succeeding?
 
Well, plugging in Luke's attack data into one of our trusty combat calculators, we can not only find out the answer, but also display our options using a highly-informative "at least" damage graph:
 
2_1_Luke_v_RG.png
If this type of chart is new to you, you'll find a basic walk-through at the end of our last discussion, here. Suffice it to say, we'll be using these types of charts a lot.
 
While Luke's ranged attack has more dice, Saber Strike has a significantly better chance of dealing the 3+ damage we need past the Royal Guard's black defense die (94% vs. 78%) thanks, in large part, to its automatic Pierce 3. And when we apply this data to Luke's damage floor, we see why: Luke's worst possible damage result, given his Red-Yellow damage pool, his surge abilities, and the special bonus from Saber Strike, is 2 damage with a Pierce 3 (both the red and yellow dice roll only a single damage result). The Pierce 3 means that any result other than snake eyes on our two dice will negate 5/6 of the black dice results. Conversely, so long as we score at least 2 damage on the red die (5/6, ~83%) and at least 1 damage or two surges on the yellow die (4/6, ~67%), we'll safely escape the lone Evade result on the black die (the only result that renders Pierce 3 ineffectual). The ranged attack still has a good chance at dealing the damage we need (78%), but there are more scenarios where Luke doesn't deal the damage necessary to overwhelm the Royal Guard's blocks (up to 6 damage may be required). So Saber Strike is the simplest play.
 
Now, just for kicks, what if that final unit we had to defeat was not a Royal Guard, but rather a unit that rolls a white die? For simplicity's sake, we'll say it's an ISB Infiltrator (mostly because it can't Cower). The total damage we need to push through is the same (3D), but the defender is now rolling 1 white die. Is Saber Strike still the obvious answer? Well, as it turns out...
 
2_2_Luke_v_ISB.png
 
Talk about flipping the script. First, notice that the odds of dealing at least 1 damage with either attack caps out at only 83%. In fact, no matter what weapon we buy, mod we add, or how many dice we roll, our heroes will never improve on 83% as their odds of dealing damage to a defender with a white die, because that's the defender's odds of rolling that Dodge (1/6, ~17%). Second, while the Dodge caps our maximum probability against a white die, Saber Strike shows us that our damage probabilities can fall quite a bit lower than 83%. In this particular example, it's because of the multiplicity of Evades on the white die. On a white die, 3/6 faces have at least 1 Evade, and if we include the Dodge, that's a 4/6, or ~67% chance of losing an evade. Because Saber Strike has only a two-die pool, it is much more dependent on surge results to generate high damage totals than Luke's default ranged attack, which has a three-die pool. Those Evades consistently keep the damage total low, Additionally, the scant Block results on the white die means Saber Strike's Pierce 3 isn't doing nearly as much work as it did against the Royal Guard's black.
 
In other words, those pesky defense dice actually matter. Against a black die, the vast majority of scenarios (94%) give Luke the victory he needs with Saber Strike. He still has a pretty good chance with the ranged attack (78%), but Saber Strike is the more consistent option. The absence of the Pierce 3 on the ranged attack means Luke's damage total needs to climb with each improved defense roll, and that leaves open more scenarios for the Royal Guard to squeak past with at least 1 health remaining. Against the white die, Luke has a lower overall chance of victory no matter what attack we choose (94% vs. 83%), but given the alternatives that are available to him, this time the ranged attack is the better choice for pushing three damage through (76% vs. 48%).
 
Counter-Point: Expected Damage vs. Defense Dice
 
With that in mind, let's reconsider those melee starter weapons we discussed in so much detail last time, and compare their expected "at least" damage with no defense dice vs. their expected damage against the two most common dice pools: 1 black die and 1 white die. Here's how they fare:
 
 
1_7_Melee_Starters_At_least_Dmg.jpg
Here's what we started with...
 
2_3_Melee_Starter_adj_black.png
 
2_4_Melee_Starter_adj_white.png
... and here's how we fare against actual targets.
 
Ok... let's get in some quick big-picture takeaways before we all panic (or rub your hands in glee, if you're a sadistic IP eavesdropping on this discussion):
  • For starters, our odds of pushing just 1 damage past either defense die with any of these weapons hovers just around 80% for most weapons (Vibro-Ax is the high, with a 91% chance of 1D+ vs. 1 Black, Plasteel Staff checks in with the law, at 78% chance of 1D+ vs. 1 Black). So that's... a silver lining, I guess? At least we can reliably push one damage past any defense die! Woot!!! Small victories, right? Also remember that we can set our expectation benchmark at whatever we want ("50%+ odds? All in!!!"). I generally set my benchmark at ~80% probability before I consider a particular outcome "reliable." That may be because I'm generally risk-adverse, although people smarter than me have suggested it's a good indicator. Either way, I think it's safe to say that this is less than we'd hoped.
  • As a result, what we have here is a major expectations-check. That 4 damage result the Fighting Knife scores a whopping 32% of the time? Well, probabilities say we're not landing that much damage on an actual target nearly as often as that (and if we expect to, we're going to have a frustrating gameplay experience). In fact, the odds of landing damage decrease successively the more damage we attempt to add, no matter the die we're facing (at least with these weapons). The sooner we come to grips with that fact, the sooner we can see past a weapon's luster to its substance. This will become increasingly important for us to keep in mind as we branch out into more enticing (and expensive) weapons and mods.
  • Third, although the raw damage probabilities of these four weapons were basically the same, there's a clear hierarchy that emerges once we add defense dice. The Vibro-Ax and the Fighting Knife are the clear winners (Vibro-Ax vs. Black dice, and against the white die on 4+ damage; Fighting Knife on 1-2D vs. white die). The Plasteel Staff (which was best-in-class in terms of top-end average damage) lags behind, especially against the black die where its lack of pierce and inability to climb above 4 damage are real hindrances.
  • Fourth, while all these weapons start with lower probabilities versus the white die (remember, success against a white die is capped at 83%, because of the Dodge), the script flips for each weapon somewhere on the chart, where odds of scoring damage against the white die actually become better than the odds of scoring the same amount of damage against the black. For the Fighting Knife and Vibro-Ax, this occurs at the 2+ damage marker, and holds steady from there. The Plasteel Staff and Heirloom Dagger catch up at 3D+, suggesting that these weapons are probably more surge-dependent for damage. If they roll low (any mix of pure surges or single-damage + single-surge faces--which makes up a fair bit of their available roll pool), the white die will do a very good job of keeping the total damage dealt low. The more natural damage that is rolled, the quicker the white die falls off the pace.
  • Fifth, bear in mind that these are the odds against a single defense die, with no modifiers. Special abilities, like a Royal Guard's Sentinel or an Officer's Cower will affect our odds of scoring damage negatively, so this is by no means the end of the analysis. But it's a good start.
Finally, while these charts are helpful for knowing the individual odds of scoring damage against a given target's defense die, the heroes seldom know precisely what enemy they will face at the start of a mission (and almost never know who's coming in mid-mission, from mission prompts and open groups). Since we can't know all that hidden information when we're making weapon purchase decisions, we have some options to make an informed decision:

 

First, we can combine the average expected damage of a weapon against both black and white defense dice, and opt for the weapon that fares the best (or at least fares very well) between them. For these four weapons, that sort of combined odds chart would look something like this:

 

2_5_Melee_Starter_adj_both.png
 
While this data isn't as precise as the information in the previous two charts, it does give us an accurate impression of the levels of damage we can generally expect, no matter the type of defense die we face. Viewed in this way, Gaarkhan's Vibro-Ax does have a clear (albiet, relatively small) advantage over all the other weapons we've considered so far, with a better than 70% chance of landing 2+ damage over either defense die.
 
Second, we could consider making some educated assumptions about the types of defense dice we are likely to face. As a general matter, most of the units we will be facing in a campaign use a single black defense die, while whites are relatively rare:
  • Black: *IG-88, *Kayn Somos, *General Sorin, *Dengar, *Agent Blaise, Rancor, Royal Guard, HK Assassin Droid, Wampa, E-Web Engineer, Trandoshan Hunter, Wing Guard, Snowtrooper, Stormtrooper, Jet Trooper, Tusken Raider, Gamorrean Guard, Weequay Pirate, Ugnaut Tinkerer, Probe Droid
  • Modified Black: *Boba Fett, SC2-M Repulsor Tank, Heavy Stormtrooper
  • Double Black*General Weise,  AT-ST
  • Modified Double Black*Darth Vader
  • White: *Greedo, ISB Infiltrators, Hired Guns, Imperial Officer
  • Modified White: *Bossk, *The Grand Inquisitor, Nexu
  • Mix: Royal Guard Champion
  • None: Bantha Rider
 

With this in mind, it would not be unreasonable for us to opt for a weapon that performs exceptionally well against black dice, and just accept that when we inevitably face the rare white die, we'll have to make do.

 

Third, we can choose a weapon based on a specialized group role. Some heroes have class skills (Diala's Precise Strike, Mak's Execute) perform better against certain dice types anyway, so selecting a weapon that caters to that dice type can be a legitimate tactical decision. If so, those earlier charts showing weapon performance vs. 1 black or 1 white defense die will probably be more informative.

 

Fourth, we may just decide that the difference in effectiveness for these weapons against both types of defense dice is so minimal, that we're not going to sweat it. And that's not unreasonable here, since we're looking at relatively small percentage differences. Depending on how we like to play the game, a -6% chance to do damage against one defense die over another may not matter to us... or it might matter severely.  ;)

 

Looking Ahead
 
The above information, while certainly not all that could be said about these starter weapons (focused vs. not-focused, mod selection, class skill bonuses, etc.), provides us with some useful benchmarks for measuring and comparing these different weapons. With that knowledge in-hand, we can now turn to comparing these weapons (over which we have no selection control) with the selections available in the Item Deck, which we'll turn to next time. 
 
Until then, here's a sneak peak of where we're headed...
 
2_6_Tier_1_Melee_at_least.png
 
 
Inevitable Post-Posting Edits: So far, so good...  :P
 
Edited by Rythbryt

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The only thing I haven't found yet are the campaign books (for obvious reasons)

Yes. I deliberately do not upload the campaign guides and do not embedd any ads. This is part of how I view handling content of the game on the internet and is not going to change in the forseeably future.

subtrendy, Stompburger and Rythbryt like this

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The only thing I haven't found yet are the campaign books (for obvious reasons)

Yes. I deliberately do not upload the campaign guides and do not embedd any ads. This is part of how I view handling content of the game on the internet and is not going to change in the forseeably future.

Makes perfect sense! Definitely appreciate all the content you do host, as it's much more convenient than rummaging thru my game box :-P

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This is a fantastic analysis! As we can see on the dodge thread, there are lots of people with opinions on effectiveness of various dice and abilities. However, I've felt for a long time that hard facts are often lacking in these discussions.

Good job!

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The Galaxy's Fate in my Hand: An IA Probability Compendium
 
Part the Third: "Confirmed Disgust" (in which we confirm that our heroes' much-maligned melee starter weapons are, in fact, as awful as we've always thought they were, and an unexpected Tier 1 item puts out boss damage...)
  • Topics discussed: Melee Starter Weapons, Melee Tier I Item Weapons, Damage Floors/Ceilings, Expected Outcomes, Black & White Defense Dice, Boss Dice, Credits
 

Last time, we looked at how our melee heroes' starter weapons fared against actual targets (not named the Bantha Rider). This time, we're finally branching out from those boring, hamstrung, simplistic starters and moving into the vivid world of choice, choice, choice!

 

If you're just here for the skinny, your baby started crying, or you remembered that the water's running in the bathroom, here are the bullet-highlights:

  • Entry cost on these weapons ranges from 150 credits (Vibro Knife) to 350 credits (Vibro Sword);
  • (Speaking of which, there's a lot of vibrating items here...);
  • We get a nice collection of surge abilities (+2D!), even if in some weird combinations;
  • With one notable exception, these weapons reliably out-perform the starters we looked at (though maybe not as much as we'd like to think);
  • The Vibro Sword is great (but not sustainably so...); and
  • There's an unexpected party-crasher at the top of the pack...

So who's left and ready to PAR-TAY!?!

 

OUR FIRST (OF MANY) DECISION POINT(S)

 

For melee heroes, the first stage in upgrading for the campaign is selecting a new primary weapon (well, ok, technically second, since the RRG says that the rebels are supposed to first spend their xp to purchase new Class cards (RRG 21)-- but you get the point). Goodie. *rubs hands together*  Choices, choices, choices. 

 

As of this writing, here are the current options available in the Tier I Item Deck:

 

3_0_Tier_1_Items_e.png

Move over boring starter weapons! There's some new kids on the block...

[Photo Credit: cards.boardwars.eu]

 

So first off... I hate to do this again, but eeeeyah. Once again, there are some promising surges and dice pools here, but they seem all... jumbled. Plus some wacky dice pools. Ok, bearings. let me get my bearings:

  • First, it's worth noting the cost of each of these items before proceeding further. The cheapest weapon (Vibro Knife) costs 150 credits. The most expensive weapon (Vibro Sword) costs more than double that amount (350). So right away, a heirarchy suggests itself. Since we're at least theoretically interested in maximizing the use of our limited credits, we'll be referring back to the cost of these items periodically to see if high-cost items are performing well, and whether there are any bargain-priced items that over-perform.
  • Second, we have some new dice pools here, notably the Green-Green on the Vibro Knife and Vibro Blade, and the Green-Blue on the Vibro Sword (which marks our first sighting of a blue die in a melee attack pool).
  • We also have our first static bonus: an automatic Pierce 1 on the Gaffi Stick. We already discussed previously how both Pierce 1 and the Red attack die perform well against both black and white dice (Pierce 1 means only 3/6, 50% of black die faces will contribute anything to defense; red die damage generally outpaces the blocks on both dice), so having both of them available on this weapon (without having to spend a surge) already seems like an upgrade over Gaarkhan's weapon, which has the same attack pool.
  • That said, the Gaffi Stick's lack of surge abilities sticks out like a sore thumb. Every other item has at least 2 surge abilities, and at least one ability that adds damage. Weaken can be useful as a lingering condition, but the lack of damaging surge abilities suggests that this weapon--like Gaarkhan's starter--will end up with damage spiky-ness.
  • Speaking of damaging surge abilities, we have our first options to surge for +2D (Armored Gauntlets and Vibro Sword). The Green-Blue dice pool on the Vibro Sword may cause us some concern over how often we can trigger this ability. The Armored Gauntlets' pool (Yellow-Green) looks much more reliable.
  • And by the way: four surge abilities on the Armored Gauntlets? Talk about combat flexibility. Or always being disappointed...
  • Don't forget that Cleave 2 on the Vibro Blade. That's new, too. We'll discuss combat conditions like Cleave and Blast in a later discussion (the math gets tricky, I haven't found any calculators yet that account for it, plus there's some disagreement on how best to account for it in damage calculations anyway). For now, just insert a mental flag.
  • The Vibro Sword also has a special ability that costs 1 strain to add Pierce 1. Like the Gaffi Stick, this is a way to add Pierce 1 without needing a surge. It may not be a sustainable option, but it's situationally available on this weapon. More on that later.
  • Finally, we have mod slots on most of these weapons, which may be of interest to us when we consider melee mod items in a future discussion. For now, we should note that the Vibro Knife or Armored Gauntlets have no mod slots, and the Vibro Sword has two.

So much for opening observations. Get to the data already!

 

NEW HIGHS... NEW LOWS...

 

We'll start with each weapon's damage ceiling and damage floor to establish some benchmarks (if this concept is unfamiliar to you, you can find a description of it--along with other basic concepts we'll be discussing, like damage tables, average vs. expected damage, etc.--here). For our starter weapons, we generally saw a damage ceiling of 4D with a couple surge abilities (Gaarkhan's starter could reach 5D, but with no abilities), and a damage floor of 1D plus a special ability or two (Verena's Fighting Knife was the only weapon with a damage floor of 2D, thanks to its static +1D bonus). Here, the ceilings and floors are a little more varied:

 3_6_Tier_1_Floor_Ceiling.png

These are definite upgrades... I think...

 

Just one reading explanation: since we're dealing with items that have multiple surge abilities (and will continue to do so as we advance to more powerful items), we now have more options for resolving our "best" and "worst" rolls; as a result, choosing our "best best" or "best worst" option will become more situationally dependent. I've tried to mark this where applicable. So, for example, the Vibro Sword really has only one "best best" outcome (rolling 3 damage and 1 surge, which is cashed in for +2D). On the other hand, the Armored Gauntlets has one best "roll" (double-damage on the Green, single damage and double-surge on the yellow), and it will almost always want to cash in one of those surges for +2D, but depending on the situation, it may want to resolve the remaining surge in any number of ways. When this is the case, I've placed the obvious roll first (5D) and the options that are available to resolve are listed after a (+). Finally, for weapons like the Vibro Knife, where there's not a clear top-damage option (4D is more damage, but depending on defense dice and other combat effects, 3D + Pierce 2 may actually deal more damage), 

 

With that explanation in place, I think the chart mostly speaks for itself, so I won't linger on it except to point out three brief observations that surprised me:

  1. We have some weapons that can reach the 5D ceiling (Armored Gauntlets and Vibro Sword... plus the Gaffi stick, if it rolls 3D on the Red and 2D on the Yellow, but gives up all surges);
  2. That Green-Green dice pool can really hit a low; and
  3. The Gaffi Stick's worst roll triggers 3 effects (Damage, Pierce, Weaken), which looks good until we remember it's just 1 damage.

Now that we have these benchmarks in mind, we have a pretty good idea of how these weapons will perform at their absolute best and absolute worst. Plugging these weapons into our handy calculator, we can then generate probabilities on how often they'll roll at these levels:

 3_7_Tier_1_Raw_Dmg.png

 

Once again, we seem to have some clear front-runners here. Unsurprisingly, the three most expensive weapons (Vibro Sword, Armored Gauntlets, and Vibro Blade) come out on top, with a better than 80% chance of rolling at least 3 damage (counting surge abilities). For comparison's sake, only Verena's Fighting Knife crossed the 80% threshold on rolling 3D+ (83.0%), so these weapons are ahead of the starter weapons right out of the gate. There's also a small hierarchy at the top, as the 300 credit Armored Gauntlets score consistently higher than the 300 credit Vibro Blade; the Vibro Sword and Armored Gauntlets are basically dead-even at the top of the class.

 

In a surprising fourth is the cheapest Tier 1 melee weapon, the Vibro Knife (150 credits), with a hearty 86% chance of rolling at least 3 damage. In fact, the Vibro Knife has the exact same production levels across the board as the Vibro Blade (which costs twice the credits). Once we finish our double-take, there's an explanation why: apart from their third surge ability (Pierce 2 vs. Cleave 2, neither of which have factored into our calculus yet), these weapons have the exact same dice pool (Green-Green) and surge abilities (+1D, Bleed). Ergo, they roll the same damage at the same rates.

 

The Gaffi Stick brings up the rear. We mentioned earlier that without a surge for damage, the output was likely to be spiky, and the early returns bear this out. The Gaffi Stick keeps pace with the other weapons through 2D, but there's a noticeable drop-off at 3D+ and 4D+ before it reasserts itself (faintly) with a 6% chance at rolling 5D. In fact, it's odds of scoring 3D+ (69%) are worse than all of the starter weapons we looked at previously (although, to be fair to the Gaffi Stick, Gaarkhan's Vibro-Ax, which brought up the rear of our starter weapons, rolled 3D+ at a 71% clip but in a series of 2000 trials where we admitted the dice rolled a little hotter than average; his actual probability of rolling 3D+ is identical to the Gaffi Stick's, at 69%).

 

TARGET LOCKED

 

Of course, before we get overly optimistic (or pessimistic), it's worth remembering that rolling damage is an entirely different beast from forcing damage past a defense die. So let's temper our expectations, add those pesky blacks and whites, and see how things shake out (black borders represent results against 1 black defense die; white borders against 1 white die):

 

3_8_Tier_1_Def_Dice.png

So many colors, so many shades...
 

So, soooooooooooooo much to see here. Let's start with the major surprises:

  • First off, that 150 credit Vibro Knife is doing work. Especially against a black die, where it becomes our very first melee weapon with a guarantee of at least 1 damage against a black die (100%), a virtual-guarantee of at least 1 damage against a white die (82%, vs. our absolute-best-chance of 83%, accounting for the white die's Dodge), a whopping 88% chance of forcing at least 2 damage past a black die (thanks to that surge for Pierce 2), and a 1/2 (50%) chance of forcing in 3 damage over a black (and only marginally-worse odds--72% and 46%, respectfully--of putting 2D+ or 3D+ past a white die). The damage trails off from there, and of course a Green-Green dice pool without a surge for +2D can't clear the 5D plateau, but still: compared to the other weapons available to us, these are great odds of not only scoring damage, but getting it through. And at the lowest price, too! This was hands-down the most surprising outcome to me.
  • A close second is just how poorly the Vibro Blade fares in comparison. Even though it has the same dice pool and most of the same surge abilities, the lack of Pierce 2 really shows--especially against black dice, where this weapon places consistently at the back of the pack. Remember that we're not counting Cleave at this point, so it's possible this weapon will redeem itself (the fact that it can score at least 1D past either defense die at a 80%+ rate is a good start, as scoring at least 1 damage is required to trigger Cleave). But at this stage, the low damage output of the Vibro Blade, coupled with its high cost, isn't promising.
  • Speaking of promise, check out that Gaffi Stick. Talk about slow out of the gate. Despite its relatively uninspiring packaging, that Red die/automatic Pierce 1/no-need-for-surges combination we talked about earlier really makes a difference once we start whacking real targets. It leads damage vs. white dice by a lot for most of the chart (the Armored Gauntlets eventually catch up around 4D+), and the damage is consistently competitive against black dice, too (third-best score on 1-2D+, behind the Vibro Knife and Armored Gauntlets, second-best at 3-5+ damage as the Vibro Knife begins to run out of steam).
  • The Vibro Sword, which checks in at the greatest expense (350 credits) is surprisingly lackluster. In the early going, it offers acceptable damage, though it's also consistently outpaced by the Vibro Knife that costs significantly less. At high damage levels, it can get there, but not any more reliably than the Gaffi Stick (which, once again, costs significantly less). And that's with a surge ability for +2D. Our unique dice pool (Green-Blue) may be at least part of the problem here.
  • Of all the items, the Armored Gauntlets seem to perform the most like we expected them to. Consistently good damage odds throughout, best odds of top-end damage. But when that's the case, there's nothing wrong with meeting expectations.

Armed with this knowledge, we can now get to the meat of this exercise: comparing these Tier 1 melee options to our heroes' melee starter weapons to compare our potential return on investment. 

 

AND THE WINNERS ARE...

 

In order to simplify the data stream, we'll be going with a different look for our "at least" bar chart:

  • We'll be dropping raw damage totals entirely (focusing instead on how much damage we can push through with a given weapon);
  • We'll combine our 1 black vs. white probabilities for all weapons into an average defense score (since we almost never know what deployment groups the IP will have in a given engagement);
  • Finally, rather than laying out damage from left to right, we'll be laying it on a three-dimensional chart, from back (1D+) to front (5D+). To compare probabilities of the same level of damage across weapons, we just pick a row (second-from-the-back for odds of 2D+) and sweep across the table.

3_9_Tier_1_Adj_Def_dice.png

Some clear winners here... even before we adjust for cost.

 

For what they're worth, here are my takeaways:

  • First, our general suspicions are confirmed: our starter weapons actually weren't great, just as we thought! Only Gaarkhan's Vibro-Ax has decent (above 70%) odds of forcing through at least 2D. By contrast, every Tier 1 weapon clears this threshold... except that poor Vibro Blade. Which is basically the equivalent of Verena's Fighting Knife in terms of damage dealt. Depending on whether we're a glass-full or glass-empty kind of person, that could make us feel very disappointed with the Vibro Blade... or very good about Verena's knife. 
  • Upgrading to a Tier 1 weapon (other than the Vibro Blade) will improve the damage output of all our heroes, although the jump to the Vibro Sword is less noticeable for Verena, and basically non-existent for Gaarkhan. Again, the Vibro Sword's dice pool may be to blame here, as we're essentially swapping the consistency of the Red die for a +2D surge tempered by a fickle Blue die.
  • There are three obvious winners here, who clear the 75% threshold on 2D+. One of them clearly belongs (Armored Gauntlets), the other two are our big surprises (Vibro Knife and Gaffi Stick). Any of these weapons will be upgrades for Verena and Gaarkhan, although the Gaffi Stick and Armored Gauntlets pull ahead once we get to the 3D+ threshold. When we combine their odds against black and white dice, there's no significant difference between the expected damage output of these two weapons. Despite their initially unimpressive packaging, the Vibro Knife and Gaffi Stick look like the best bargains for their cost (3 and 4 crates, respectively).

Before we wrap, there's one elephant in the room that's worth mentioning: the Vibro Sword's special ability that allows it to add Pierce 1 at the cost of 1 strain. We've ignored that ability so far because we were primarily interested in what sort of damage these weapons could roll against defense dice, given their dice pool, surge abilities, and any built-in bonuses. But it's worth noting that once this special ability (which is built into the Vibro Sword, after all) is added to the equation, the Vibro Sword's damage potential improves significantly (basic Vibro Sword in dark blue, Pierce 1 Vibro Sword in light blue):

 3_10_Vibro_Sword_Comp.png

Noticeable uptick, no?

 

First off, with the Pierce 1 added, this weapon joins the Vibro Knife as the only weapon to guarantee at least 1D+ against a black die (100%), and it also becomes the first weapon to get a virtual guarantee of at least 1 damage past a white die (83%... in other words, unless the target rolls a Dodge, he's taking something). The odds of 2D+ (87%) are well over 80% (a very good confidence threshold for reliability), and there's also excellent odds at landing 3D+ (69%, 66%) and 4D+ (32%, 33%). If we plot this new data into our comparative damage chart, we can see that at full strength, the Vibro Sword is best-in-class by a wide margin:

 3_11_Tier_I_Adj_Def_dice_2.png

Like, seriously, seriously noticeable...

 

Again, bear in mind that the only difference between the regular Vibro Sword (middling damage) and the enhanced Vibro Sword is the addition of Pierce 1. We've already covered this when discussing the Vibro Knife and Gaffi Stick, but it bears repeating: even a single Pierce tends to make a difference when dealing with defense dice. In this particular case, a world of difference.

 

That said, there are some important caveats. First is the buy-in cost. Sure the Vibro Sword outperforms these other weapons with that bonus Pierce 1, but at an increased cost of as much as 200 credits, it certainly should! Then there's the question of "bang for the buck": is getting an extra 10% chance of landing 2D+, and 15% of landing 3D+ worth spending 150 credits more than the Gaffi Stick? 200 credits more than the Vibro Knife? Maybe. Maybe not. Especially since the vanilla Vibro Sword is so... ordinary?

 

And that, of course, is a lead-in to the biggest question-mark: the fact that the bonus pierce that makes such a significant difference isn't automatic. It has to be purchased, and at the cost of strain, arguably the most important resource available to the heroes in a campaign. This begs the question: just how sustainable is this optimum level of damage? The answer, of course, is "as sustainable as the bearer can spend strain." Which, in a campaign, tends to be... not very long. At all. After all, if Gaarkhan charges with this thing and attacks twice with Pierce 1... that's 4 strain in a single turn (or all of his starting Endurance). I mean, he can do that, but not indefinitely. And if he doesn't, the Vibro Sword is reduced to a very mid-tier weapon, despite its much higher entry cost.

 

Things to ponder.

 

On that note, we'll call it quits for now. Next time, we'll pick up the concept of sustainable weapon damage and the Vibro Sword, as well as the related topic of surge generation and our very first weapon mod. As always, thanks for reading (or scrolling)!

 

3_12a_Balanced_Hilt.png

*Spoilers*...

[Photo Credit: cards.boardwars.eu]

 

Inevitable Post-Posting Edits: It's coming, it's coming...

 

 
 
 

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One thing to consider about the Vibrosword is that the Blue/Green dice will be very helpful against the Black Ops class deck, so it might be a more specialized weapon for certain circumstances, but maybe not worth it in average cases because of the increased cost.  What I'm especially interested in seeing is how much better, compared to other weapons, it will be when you start adding upgrades, which is where I think you're going next, considering the "spoiler"  :D

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One thing to consider about the Vibrosword is that the Blue/Green dice will be very helpful against the Black Ops class deck, so it might be a more specialized weapon for certain circumstances, but maybe not worth it in average cases because of the increased cost.  What I'm especially interested in seeing is how much better, compared to other weapons, it will be when you start adding upgrades, which is where I think you're going next, considering the "spoiler"  :D

Great observation. The Black Ops deck does pose some special... challenges... to melee weapons, and unfortunately it's not the only one.

As anyone who's played the opening mission of the Bespin Gambit campaign can attest.

Another potential beneficiary is a class skill like Diala's Dancing Weapon, which uses a melee weapon to perform a ranged attack. Although that skill adds a blue die to the attack pool (and a surge for +2 Accuracy), pairing that bonus with the Vibro Sword gives a minimum range of 5 spaces (3 if the target is Hidden), with a potential to attack (or Cleave, if you have the Weighted Head!) up to 14 spaces away. Most ranged weapons would be thrilled to have that sort of accuracy floor/ceiling.

And as for Vibro Sword mods, let's just say I don't think fans of the weapon will be disappointed. :)

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One thing to consider about the Vibrosword is that the Blue/Green dice will be very helpful against the Black Ops class deck, so it might be a more specialized weapon for certain circumstances, but maybe not worth it in average cases because of the increased cost.  What I'm especially interested in seeing is how much better, compared to other weapons, it will be when you start adding upgrades, which is where I think you're going next, considering the "spoiler"  :D

Great observation. The Black Ops deck does pose some special... challenges... to melee weapons, and unfortunately it's not the only one.

As anyone who's played the opening mission of the Bespin Gambit campaign can attest.

Another potential beneficiary is a class skill like Diala's Dancing Weapon, which uses a melee weapon to perform a ranged attack. Although that skill adds a blue die to the attack pool (and a surge for +2 Accuracy), pairing that bonus with the Vibro Sword gives a minimum range of 5 spaces (3 if the target is Hidden), with a potential to attack (or Cleave, if you have the Weighted Head!) up to 14 spaces away. Most ranged weapons would be thrilled to have that sort of accuracy floor/ceiling.

And as for Vibro Sword mods, let's just say I don't think fans of the weapon will be disappointed. :)

 

 

 

I was actually wondering if you would analyze not only the weapons on their own, but how well they would complement specific heroes.   Because its all well and good to say X is the best bang for bucks on its own, when Y might complement a hero's abilities so much better that it actually does better or more consistent damage.

 

But I love the analysis you're putting into it all, really really useful to see it graphed out.  :)

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I was actually wondering if you would analyze not only the weapons on their own, but how well they would complement specific heroes. Because its all well and good to say X is the best bang for bucks on its own, when Y might complement a hero's abilities so much better that it actually does better or more consistent damage.

Agreed. That's definitely the hope long term, as I originally started looking into all this as an attempt to figure out the best weapon for Mak in a long campaign. I eventually settled on the A280 with Tactical Display and Plasma Cell. It's not as sexy as the DXR, but it has an absurdly consistent damage floor of 3D + Pierce 3 (Pierce 2 from Ambush + free Pierce 1 + Blue-1D + Green-surge for +2D), which basically one-shots any grunt unit that doesn't roll a Dodge. Paired with Ambush and Execute (free strain/health recovery for popping units), that thing is a beast. And that's before Mak's focused. Add the focus die, and I think the damage floor rises to something absurd like 3D + Pierce 3 without having to strain for Ambush, and caps out (with Ambush) at 7D + Pierce 5, which will make even Vader quake in terror. :-P

Anyway, all that to say, I'm hoping to get there, too :-D

Edited by Rythbryt
neosmagus and The Lext Level like this

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As an aspiring mathematician and zealous imperial assault campaign player, I have thoroughly enjoyed every word and number in this post. I have done some quick calculations at the game table myself to get an estimated reading on the effectiveness of dice combinations of a few weapons. (which has been a great boon to my rebel allies). Admittedly, in imperial assault it is much more difficult to see whether or not a certain weapon upgrade or attack will be worth doing. At least in comparison to generic rpg stats such as +1 STR for -1 INT. Or a higher damage number in general.

 

I wouldn't fret about being "mathematically gifted" nor using programs or computations from other sources as it is all a foundation to which your probabilities build off of (plus it would suck to have to reinvent the wheel every time someone wanted to build a car). In my honest opinion, math was created for lazy people anyway (why add when you can multiply?)

 

Mathematical philosophy aside, this has been quite the eye opener for me as I have never once looked at the armored gauntlets in any light. I wrote it off once I saw a severe lack of a red die. A great folly, to be sure.

 

I have already printed out what you have posted so far so I may read and take notes at my leisure. To both be a better player, and when on the imperial side, be a better guide as to what everything has to offer. It is much easier to enjoy the game when you understand the risk and reward of attack/defense die and probability to succeed, rather than going in blind and raging at your "bad luck".

 

Thank you so much for posting this and keep up the good work!

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Admittedly, in imperial assault it is much more difficult to see whether or not a certain weapon upgrade or attack will be worth doing. At least in comparison to generic rpg stats such as +1 STR for -1 INT. Or a higher damage number in general.

* * *

 

this has been quite the eye opener for me as I have never once looked at the armored gauntlets in any light. I wrote it off once I saw a severe lack of a red die.

 

The tactical aspects of this game definitely add some interesting layers. Defense rolls, distance to target, mission objectives, victory conditions, damage to target vs. stun vs. cleave vs. blast vs. strain recovery... It's hard to explore all of those alternatives ahead of time (much less reach definitive conclusions about what's the "best" choice), which is what makes heavy-surge options like the Gauntlets appealing. Pierce and +2D are there if I need to cut down a target, Stun and Cleave are there if I roll overkill, or if the situation calls for something else. On the other hand, too many options means I never get everything I wanted.  :P

 

Thanks for the encouragement. I enjoy games more too the more I understand what's going on, so I'm glad it's been informative.  :)

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The Galaxy's Fate in My Hand: An IA Probability Compendium

 

Part the Fourth: "Slow and Steady" (in which we return to the concept of damage floors as a predictor of dependability, add surge probabilities to our weapon analysis, and explore the exhaust-to-trigger effect of the Tier 1 Balanced Hilt modification on our melee weapon arsenal)

  • Topics discussed: Melee Starter Weapons, Melee Tier I Item Weapons, Damage Floors/Ceilings, Weapon Dependability, Weapon Sustainability, Balanced Hilt.
 
We left off last time pondering the Tier 1 Vibro Sword, which has the best potential of all the Starter and Tier 1 weapons to score excellent damage results against both black and white defense dice. To do so, however, it needs to spend 1 strain while attacking to gain a very powerful Pierce 1. Given that so many of our melee heroes want to spend strain to do other things, is it possible to sustain this level of damage? And is the Vibro Sword the only weapon that suffers from sustainability issues?
 
Well, the short answer is "no" and "no." Here's the skinny as to why:
  • "Dependable" outcomes are a fancy way of referring to "damage floors"';
  • The simplest and most sure-fire way to increase our weapon's dependable damage (and hedge against "disastrous" dice rolls) is to scour the earth for any "free" weapon bonuses we can get our hands on;
  • "Free" weapon bonuses are available in a variety of trappings, like weapon mods, class skills, and even the composition of a weapon's dice pool;
  • Anytime we can spend strain to trigger a weapon ability, we're confronting a special opportunity cost;
  • Triggering these abilities isn't sustainable unless our weapon's dice pool lands a certain probability of rolling natural surge(s);
  • In order for our damage floor to remain high, we have to factor the need for surges to clear strain into our weapon's "floor" roll; and
  • Our first Melee mod (Tier 1 Balanced Hilt, 300 credits) makes these special abilities sustainable and improves our melee weapon damage... except when it doesn't.
Cryptic enough yet? (I'm going to get some of you skimmers eventually!) We're off.
 
 
"PROBABLE" vs. "DEPENDABLE" OUTCOMES
 
Thus far, we've talked primarily about basic damage probabilities: how often a particular weapon is likely to do such-and-such against a specified target. And overall, through the balance of a campaign, that's a very helpful metric for making educated guesses about a weapon's performance. And yet, we all know in the back of our minds that no matter how high a weapon's probable damage is, it's only a matter of time before the dice gods desert us. Since they tend to do this at the worst possible time (painful memories, anyone), it's helpful to consider what--if anything--we can do to hedge our bets beforehand. In other words, how can we improve the dependability of our weapon, so the inevitable swingy-ness of the dice is as painless as possible?
 
If we want to improve our weapon's dependability, the simplest and easiest solution is to return to a concept we've talked about in passing several times before: our weapon's very un-sexy "damage floor." Remember that a "damage floor" answers the question: what's the best possible outcome I can achieve on the worst possible dice roll? In other words, damage floors tell us that no matter how much the dice gods desert us, our weapon will at least roll "X" (unless we roll a Dodge, of course... which is actually an "X"... I swear that was unintentional...). Often the "X" isn't that good (ok, that one was intentional), but at least we know where we'll end up if all the tires fall off. In other words, we have a benchmark for measuring our weapon's dependability.
 
Once we've identified our weapon's damage floor, we can begin exploring ways to boost it, thereby giving us more dependable damage outcomes. The best way to do that is to look for Automatic combat upgrades. We've seen an example of this already on Verena's Fighting Knife:
 
1_3_Fighting_Knife.jpg
Worst case scenario, this weapon is scoring 2 damage... 
[Photo credit: cards.boardwars.eu]
 
Because it rolls a red damage die, the Fighting Knife's damage floor is already set at 1D. Add an extra damage on top of that, automatically, for free, and we've increased our damage floor by 100%. Sure, 2D doesn't sound like much, but if you've been following along so far, you know that's actually surprisingly good for a starter weapon (and even a Tier 1 weapon). Every time we use this weapon, the defender has to account for it in some way. Unless the defender rolls at least 2 blocks, the target is taking at least 1 damage every time we swing this thing (and the odds of that not happening are actually pretty good--a 50% chance against a black die, and an 83% chance against a white).
 
It's important that the benefit be "free" and "automatic," because if it costs a surge or a strain or some other resource to use, there's no guarantee we'll have it when we need it. In this particular example, the option to surge for Pierce 2 is nice to have, but it's certainly not dependable in the sense we're talking about (as the Fighting Knife has only a 1/6 (~17%) chance of rolling a single surge). On the flip side, the Gaffi Stick's Pierce 1 is not surge dependent, so it's the kind of automatic damage upgrade we're looking for. It doesn't manifest itself as obviously in a chart of damage floors, but once we add defense dice, it makes a difference (as we've seen).
 
This cuts both ways, by the way. Just as our heroes should be constantly looking for ways to improve their damage floors, it's worth taking note of imperial units who have artificially inflated damage floors, and treat them with special care. Like these guys:
 
4_1_Wampa.png     4_2_Bossk.png     4_3_e_Trandos.png
Talk about damage floors...
[Photo credit: cards.boardwars.eu]
 
Has a Wampa ever shook your hand and left you with 5 damage? If it hasn't happened to you yet, odds are that it will (4D floor... and a ceiling of 8D... or 6D, Bleed, Stun, and Cleave 3 into your med-droid... yipes). Bossk actually has a damage floor and a defense floor (1+ Block), to go with all the other goodies he has. And those trandos... I know they're overpriced for skirmish, but if the IP gets these as a Reserved Group, if you love yourself by all means stay out of melee range.
 
Free combat upgrades are hard to come by for our heroes, but they're out there. There's a lot more for ranged weapons (mostly in the form of free accuracy buffs), such as the Tier 2 434 Deathhammer (600 credits), which combines a static +1D boost with a red die and a surge for +1D to give a damage floor of 3D (1D static, 1D+ from the reliable red die, and 1D+ from the blue die, either as a single damage face or as a surge that can be spent for +1D).
 
4_4_Death_Hammer.png     4_5_Electrostaff.png
[Photo credit: cards.boardwars.eu]
 
For melee weapons, the gold standard is the Tier 3 Electrostaff. It doesn't have any automatic damage, but with a Red-Blue-Green dice pool and a surge for +2D, it's looking at a damage floor of 3D (Red- 1D, Blue- 1 surge for +2D, Green- surge for... uh, something else, I guess), plus a Cleave 2 (unless we added Reach instead). The damage ceiling is obviously much higher. Tier 3 weapons are a fair way off still, but with any luck, we'll get to that beautiful Electrostaff eventually. For now, we'll just look at it longingly, and file it away...
 
Since weapons with automatic combat upgrades are hard to come by, we may need to think outside the box a bit when it comes to making our damage dependable. If we have credits to spend, there are some mods that can help. For melee weapons with Reach, adding the Tier 1 Extended Haft (300 credits) gives that weapon an automatic Pierce 1. If that weapon also has a red die (like the Tier 2 BD-1 Vibro-Ax or the Tier 3 Force Pike), that's a nice bump in our weapon's dependability (as Pierce 1 means we can effectively convert two of the black die's six faces, and one of the white die's faces, into blanks). The Tier 3 Sniper Scope (250 credits) does a similar thing for ranged weapons with excellent surge abilities, giving a free, dependable surge (within a certain combat range) to raise a damage floor, combat an ill-timed Evade, recover strain, etc:
 
4_6_Haft.png     4_7_Sniper_Scope.png
[Photo credit: cards.boardwars.eu]
 
In the same vein, some heroes have class skills that add automatic bonuses to weapons. There's a reason why Biv's Vibrobayonet (3xp) is a no-brainer when it comes to getting the most out of Close and Personal: it stacks with the Red-Yellow attack pool to create a damage floor of 2D + Pierce 1 (1D+ from the Red die, and +1D with Pierce 1 from Vibrobayonet), or enough to get at least 1 damage past all but the Dodge and the black die's 3 Block face. Pair the Vibrobayonet with Crushing Blow (2xp), and that Yellow die will now contribute at least 1D+ as well (the Yellow's two single surge faces now contribute +2D), and now we're looking at a floor of 3D + Pierce 1, which will deal damage past anything but a Dodge:
 
4_8_Bayonet.png     4_9_Crushing_Blow.jpg
[Photo credit: cards.boardwars.eu]
 
Verena's Point Blank Shot adds a similar effect to a ranged attack. I usually need my teammates to remind me that I have this upgrade (at least in the early going), but this is a nice passive boost to any Pistol Verena is carrying. We basically get to add the dependability we saw in the Gaffi Stick or Vibrobayonet (red die to boost our damage floor, plus a free Pierce 1) to the added flexibility that comes with a ranged pistol attack. If Verena also happens to have the Tier 2 Plasma Cell (450 credits) on a pistol with even semi-decent surge abilities, this can get absurd really quick:
4_10_Verena_DH_17.png
Talk about one-shotting a stormie...
[Photo credit: cards.boardwars.eu]
 
Not bad for a weapon and class-skill combo you can have as early as mission 4 in the long campaign, right? And again, it bears repeating that this is only a barely-decent pistol. The DL-44 with this set-up (RY attack pool) has essentially the same damage floor (Red-1D, Yellow-1D, Tactical Display, becomes 2 Acc. + 3D + Pierce 2), but a damage ceiling of 2 Acc. + 8D + Pierce 2 (Red-3D, Yellow-1D, 2 surge, Tactical Display). To put that in perspective, that's a ceiling that will drop a fully-healthy Royal Guard 5 out of 6 times. Go ahead. Please check the math. It's so fun. I had to check it a few times. It's absolutely absurd.
 
None of this should be surprising, given what we've already seen from our starting and Tier 1 melee weapons: weapons that have good damage floors (Vibro Knife) and/or have Pierce abilities (either for free, like the Gaffi Stick, or available at cost, like Gaarkhan's Vibro-Ax or the Vibro Sword) have consistently high damage outputs, especially when paired with a red die. Here, we've managed to take the core of that weapon (red die + free Pierce 1), increased its potency even more (the Plasma Cell gives us a free Pierce 2), and pushed the damage floor up to 3D. With that level of dependable damage, even awful rolls will be more than enough to wreck grunt units that can't (or don't) Dodge.
 
Well, that was a fun digression. Let me see, where were we... oh right. Melee weapons.  <_<
 
Unfortunately, while we'd prefer to add free add-ons to our weapons (and should at least seriously consider doing so whenever the opportunity arises (even at the cost of our precious XP), there are only so many of these sorts of upgrades to go around. More often than not, we'll have to settle for something slightly less optimal, like an ability that we can trigger as often as we like, but at a resource cost.
 
Kind of like the Vibro Sword, actually...
 
WEAPON DEPENDABILITY AT A (STRAIN) PREMIUM
 
4_0_Vibro_Sword.png
Remember me? I remember you...
[Photo credit: cards.boardwars.eu]
 
We spent a fair bit of time delving into the Vibro Sword's "Strain to Pierce 1" ability last time (if you missed that discussion, the skinny was that the Pierce 1 makes a big difference in expected damage outcomes against both black and white defense dice). And it's worth noting that there are other weapons and class cards that contain similar abilities:
 
4_11_Strain_Cluster.jpg
[Photo credit: cards.boardwars.eu]
Pictured above:
Tier 2 Stun Baton (500 credits)
Fenn's Weapon Expert (2xp)
Biv's Hunt Them Down (Reward)
Murne's Lead from the Front (4xp)
Jyn's Roll With It (2xp)
(... which I know has no effect on damage floors, but does change Jyn's defense floor at the cost of strain)
 
 
The key take-away from these weapons and abilities is that because none of them have to be exhausted to be used, they give our heroes access to a constant benefit that our hero can access as long as the hero can pay the constant strain price (or, in the case of Biv's Hunt Them Down, the limiting condition that the target be an Imperial Trooper). Theoretically, there's no limit to how often per round Fenn can trigger Weapon Expert or Gaarkhan can trigger Vicious Strike, so long as we aren't strained out.
 
Before going further, it's worth pausing a few seconds for a brief refresher about strain, which means another brief foray into the RRG! (By the way, FFG has kindly made the RRG available on the internets here, for when we inevitably have a question and our game box isn't available... you know, because we're thinking about this game entirely too much). There's a ton that could be said (and is said) on this topic, but for your convenience, I've culled the following high points that I felt were most relevant to this discussion:
  • Heroes that have abilities that have a strain cost must suffer strain in order to use that ability (RRG 23);
  • In addition to hero and class abilities, strain can be used for all sorts of other useful things, not the least of which is gaining movement points without spending one of a hero's two valuable actions (RRG 20);
  • A hero cannot willingly suffer more strain than he (or she) has endurance (RRG 23); 
  • Nor can a hero choose to suffer strain if the full amount suffered would exceed his or her endurance (RRG 23); 
  • A hero can spend an action to rest, in order to recover strain equal to his or her endurance (RRG 22);
  • Once per attack, a Hero may spend 1 surge to recover 1 strain (RRG 24); and
  • If a hero recovers more strain than he has suffered, he recovers 1 damage for each strain he cannot recover (RRG 22).
So basically: Endurance is a hard strain cap; Heroes have to (and generally want to) keep their strain down if they want to trigger their strain-dependent abilities; and once per attack, a hero can reduce his or her current strain count (with the added incentive that if this is done often consistently or efficiently enough to reduce strain below 0, the hero can actually recover health instead... another nifty trick that I somehow missed during my first five campaigns). In other words, strain management is a huge deal--not just for sustainable weapon damage, but for optimal campaign play as a whole.
 
Abilities like the Vibro Sword's Pierce 1 are subject to these rules. Because the ability does not have to be exhausted to be used, we can hypothetically trigger Pierce 1 every time we attack (2+ times per round, depending on the hero and type of attack/combo of class skills), so long as our hero has strain that is less than his or her total Endurance. In that sense, these are "dependable" outcomes--they don't rely on the fickle dice, after all. Once our hero's endurance is shot, however, these options won't be available. In other words, these abilities are dependable, but their dependable use isn't sustainable. At least not without some planning. 
 
Because virtually every hero has one or more class abilities that require strain to use (and typically, they're very powerful class abilities that ought to be milked as often as possible), these weapon and class abilities that cost strain to use also present a fundamental "opportunity cost" dilemma: Gaarkhan could spend 1 strain to get a Pierce 1 from his Vibro sword, but it he does, he may not have enough endurance remaining to Charge at another unit (which may be an essential part of the Rebel strategy... and is generally just a good policy, since it is both fantastic action-economy and thematically satisfying if one is a Wookie). Additionally, even if Gaarkhan never charges, there's still a set number of times he can trigger the Vibro Sword's Pierce 1 before he caps out his strain. Once that happens, he can rest, but as any seasoned campaigner will tell you, the IP loves almost nothing more than when heroes stop for a little mid-mission siesta.
 
Of course, these opportunity costs can be significantly reduced (if not eliminated altogether) if the hero can recoup the strain spent in the same attack. This can be done a few different ways, including certain class skill combos for certain heroes (which we'll hopefully get to later). For now, we'll focus on the most straightforward solution: through the use of the weapon that's draining Endurance in the first place.
 
 
STRAIN, SURGE, AND SUSTAINABILITY
 
Because a hero can spend 1 surge per attack to recover 1 strain, these special damage modifiers can become both dependable and sustainable so long as our hero has a weapon that can reliably generate at least 1 surge per attack that we can dedicate to clearing strain. In other words, we want to build 1 surge to remove 1 strain into our weapon's damage floor.
 
Unfortunately we don't have any mods that can guarantee a surge on a melee weapon every attack (no Sniper Scope for us...), so for the moment, we're back to relying solely on those dice to determine sustainability. Oh boy...
 
So far, we've dealt with five dice pools for our melee weapons:
  • Yellow-Green (Plasteel Staff, Heirloom Dagger, Armored Gauntlets)
  • Green-Green (Vibro Blade, Vibro Knife)
  • Red-Yellow (Vibro-Ax, Gaffi Stick)
  • Green-Blue (Vibro Sword)
  • Red (Fighting Knife)
Plugging those weapons in, here's the probability that each dice pool produces at least 1, 2, and 3 surges:
 
 4_12_Surge_Probs.png
 
Unsurprisingly, the Yellow-Green die pool performs very well (as we assumed it would), although even that pool has a less than 50% chance at landing at least 2 surges (which means all those glorious dreams we had with the Armored Gauntlets? Unfortunately, most of them are going to be unfulfilled...). The Red-Yellow pool once again surprises: it's not much to look at out-of-the-gate, but it's there at the end, with a (small) chance of landing 3 surges. Not that either of our Red-Yellow weapons could use three surges, but still...
 
In this particular example, we're concerned about the Vibro Sword's Green-Blue dice pool. It's odds of generating 1+ surge... aren't terrible, but also aren't wonderful (in fact, it's clearly behind most of the other pools, thanks to that fickle Blue die again...). Still, a 67% chance of rolling at least 1 surge means we should be able to recoup the cost more often that not, right?
 
Well, yes... again, assuming we roll enough times (small sample sizes skew, remember). But there's a hidden opportunity cost here, as well. Probability says that more often than not, we should land the surge we need to pay for the Vibro Sword's Pierce 1, but only if we're willing to commit that single surge to recovering that 1 strain all the time... and never spend it on, say, that beautiful ability to surge for +2D. And we certainly can make that choice if we want to, so long as we realize that doing so will do this to the Vibro Sword's damage output:
 
4_13_Sword_Raw_Dmg.png
 
 
But wait, it gets worse. That's without adding any defense dice. Once defense dice are added to the equation, the Vibro Sword's damage output actually becomes... well, historically bad:
 
4_14_Sword_adj_dmg.jpg
 
Just how historically bad is this damage output? Let's just say that every melee starter weapon we've considered--including Diala's Plasteel Staff, which was the worst of the group--has better odds of getting damage in every single damage category past defense dice than this use of the Vibro Sword:
 
4_15_Starter_adj_dmg.png
 
This tells us a few things:
  • That +2D surge ability on the Vibro Sword? Brand new appreciation for it, here. It really does work. And it's a good thing the Vibro Sword has it, too, or its damage would be truly awful.
  • That said, if the Vibro Sword becomes that bad once the +2D option is off the table, that really heightens the importance of having at least 1 surge... and should make us cautious when approaching white defense dice in particular.
  • This also raises a large concern about strain-dependent weapons in general: namely, they're not actually dependable unless we can dependably cross a certain surge threshold. We already saw a glimpse of this when we looked at the Tier 1 melee weapons. Both the Vibro Sword and the Armored Gauntlets don't roll remarkably high-damage dice (Yellow-Green, Green-Blue), meaning they rely on their surge for +2D to keep damage values up. The Armored Gauntlets have a much higher chance of rolling at least 1 surge (83% vs. 67%), and as a result, they generate higher damage results at a consistently higher rate, while the Vibro Sword (without Pierce 1) offers middling damage. The more surge abilities we add (or, more accurately, the more surge abilities we rely upon to generate damage), the less dependable our weapon damage will be. This is especially true against white dice, where 3 of 6 (50%) die faces will rob us of a precious surge (and, of course, there's that Dodge, too...) 
  • If we want to reliably recover the strain we're spending on that automatic Pierce 1 with the Vibro Sword, without sacrificing our overall damage output, what we really need to look at are not our odds of rolling 1 surge, but our odds of rolling 2 surges. Those odds aren't good at all, by the way (17%). Which means that if we want to sustainably use this Pierce 1, we'll need a plan to recover strain from something other than our natural dice rolls.
So with that in mind, let's take a brief look at our very first weapons mod that can make this ability at least semi-sustainable: the Tier 1 Balanced Hilt
 
 
A PREVIEW OF CUSTOMIZATION
 
4_16_Balanced_Hilt.png
As promised, we're finally to mods! (I admit, there were times where I wasn't sure we'd make it...)
 
First things first: item modifications ("mods") are amazing, but only certain weapons can take them: not the Armored Gauntlets, not the Vibro Knife, and not Verena's Fighting Knife... almost certainly because adding the Tier 3 Vibrogenerator would give it a higher damage floor than the Tier 3 Electrostaff we were fawning over earlier.. No, really! Check it out:
 
 
1_3_Fighting_Knife.jpg     4_17_Vibro_Generator.png
It's unfortunately not possible, but this is a pretty solid 350 credits, right?
 
Fortunately for us, the Vibro Sword can take a mod (in fact it can take two), so for now we're good.
 
Second, it's important to emphasize that the Balanced Hilt is, by definition, not a dependable upgrade to our damage, because it has to be exhausted to use. To date, no hero has an ability that will tap an exhausted weapon or item card (although Davith's reward can ready one exhausted class card, which is a pretty big deal). It's important to remember this whenever we're evaluating a weapon's damage floor, just to make sure we're not inflating its dependable damage to an unsustainable level.
 
That said, it takes less than a round in a campaign to appreciate the ability to situationally add a surge to a roll that came up just a little short. Adding this mod to our Vibro Sword means we can get our damage back on track, survive a roll that doesn't land any surges (or runs into an Evade), and have a much better chance of recovering that strain we spent on Pierce 1 whenever we have any naturally rolled surges left. 
 
As a result, our Vibro Sword's damage is back on the rise. In fact, adding Balanced Hilt across the board has an impact on our melee weapon hierarchy:
 
 
4_18_Balanced_Hilt_Dmg.png
 
Some quick-hitting observations:
  • First off, note that three of the weapons we've looked at so far cannot take Balanced Hilt: Verena's Fighting Knife, the Tier 1 Vibro Knife, and the Tier 1 Armored Gauntlets. As such, their position relative to one another remains unchanged. Additionally, the Tier 1 Gaffi Stick can take it, but receives no noticeable change to its combat stats because it has no surge abilities that affect damage totals (only surge for Weaken), so its relative position also remains unchanged.
  • For the remaining weapons, Balanced Hilt does result in a damage upgrade for every weapon, although it's still not enough to push Diala's Plasteel Staff or the Tier 1 Vibro Blade past Verena's un-moddable Fighting Knife (which may tell us a thing or three about their ability to push damage through in general...).
  • The biggest push was for weapons that could surge for either a Pierce (Davith's Heirloom Dagger, Garkhan's Vibro-Ax) or +2D damage (Vibro Swords). Even the vanilla Vibro Sword surges far ahead of the pack with the Balanced Hilt (84% chance at 2D+, the highest we've seen so far), and adding the Pierce 1 on top of that makes the Vibro Sword our first weapon to cross the 80% probability threshold on 3D+ (83%), as well as our first weapon with an outside shot of getting 6 damage past a defense die.
  • We also have an increased number of weapons that can theoretically put 5 damage on a target--the Tier 1 Vibro Blade, Davith's Heirloom Dagger, and even Diala's much-maligned Plasteel Staff (though I wouldn't count on it...)--now that they can gain a surge result (+1D, Pierce 1, or in Davith's case, both) without giving up a double-damage result on one of their die.
Finally, it's worth noting that adding Balanced Hilt to these weapons had an impact that isn't necessarily reflected in the chart: for some weapons, like the Gaffi StickVibro-Ax, and even the Vibro Sword, there are circumstances that the dice roll results in excess surges that cannot be converted into damage, and even on excess surges (the Vibro Sword rolls surge-surge against a blank white die, for +2D and recover 1 strain, but tapping the Balanced Hilt in that circumstance nets us only... a Bleed?). In these circumstances, the dice are giving us a result that we'd otherwise love to have (surge for +2D? Yes, sir!), but replicating them in a way that reduces our total damage output (once we have the single-surge for +2D, we'd much rather have that +2D face or even a damage-surge face, rather than piling on surges--especially since we have Balanced Hilt in reserve to recover that strain).
 
Next time, we'll dig a little more deeply into weapon dependability by tackling the rest of the melee weapon mods, exploring any (and every) chance to pump our damage as high as possible. Including this odd little bird...
 
 4_17_Vibro_Generator.png
 
Until next time, thanks for reading!
 
 
Inevitable post-posting edits:
  • Edited to remove a random stream of consciousness from the end. But if you noticed anything that's off/not explained well/unexpected, do let me know!
  • And to correct that Fenn in fact has Weapon Expert, not Verena. Obviously.  :P  Thanks for the catch, Lext Level!
Edited by Rythbryt
Majushi, Vonn7777, jacenat and 2 others like this

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The key take-away from these weapons and abilities is that because none of them have to be exhausted to be used, they give our heroes access to a constant benefit that our hero can access as long as the hero can pay the constant strain price (or, in the case of Biv's Hunt Them Down, the limiting condition that the target be an Imperial Trooper). Theoretically, there's no limit to how often per round Verena  Fenn can trigger Weapon Expert or Gaarkhan can trigger Vicious Strike, so long as we aren't strained out.
 

 

Just a small error here. Fenn has weapon expert, not Verena.

 

Another great chapter toward the inevitable unraveling of the game of imperial assault as we know it. I fully appreciate "passive"/guaranteed damage/damage floors. I also completely agree with your blurb on Verena's point-blank shot and how incredibly bonkers it is for her to do that much damage. I am currently going through a hoth campaign with her and she has the aforementioned DL-44 with Tac-Display, Point-Blank shot, Create Opening, and now Master Operative. The imperial player is forced to watch as I take out a group of snow troopers and the officer hiding behind them in 1 activation. It is gloriously ridiculous.

Rythbryt likes this

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The key take-away from these weapons and abilities is that because none of them have to be exhausted to be used, they give our heroes access to a constant benefit that our hero can access as long as the hero can pay the constant strain price (or, in the case of Biv's Hunt Them Down, the limiting condition that the target be an Imperial Trooper). Theoretically, there's no limit to how often per round Verena  Fenn can trigger Weapon Expert or Gaarkhan can trigger Vicious Strike, so long as we aren't strained out.
 

 

Just a small error here. Fenn has weapon expert, not Verena.

 

 

Doh! Absolutely right. Fixed it. Thanks for the catch!

 

 

 

I am currently going through a hoth campaign with her and she has the aforementioned DL-44 with Tac-Display, Point-Blank shot, Create Opening, and now Master Operative. The imperial player is forced to watch as I take out a group of snow troopers and the officer hiding behind them in 1 activation. It is gloriously ridiculous.

 

 

Oh gosh. I'll bet it is.  :D

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The Galaxy's Fate in my Hand: An IA Probability Compendium

 

Part the Fifth: "Hedging Potential" (in which we expand our options for improving the dependability of our melee weapons, and discover why it's always better to roll damage than to surge for it).

  • Topics discussed: Dice Hedging, Damage Floors, "Natural damage" vs. "surge damage," High-Impact Guard, Extended Haft, Shock Emitter, Vibrogenerator




We left off our last discussion quite happy with the Tier 1 Vibro Sword's improved damage performance coupled with the [/center]Balanced Hilt (and especially when that [/center]Pierce 1 came into play). At the same time, however, we noted that our overall damage floor--even with that modification in tow--remained at 2D, with 1 strain recovered and maybe a bleed. In other words, it was still possible (even with Pierce 1) for our roll to totally bomb out and score no damage on the target (Dodge on a white die, or Block 3 on a black die).

This time, we'll return to the idea of dependable damage, and look at ways we might be able to pump our weapon's damage up to where it is guaranteed to deal at least 1D past any defense die (except that Dodge). Here's the skinny summary:

  • To reliably score at least 1 damage past a Black or white defense die, our weapon's damage floor needs to be at least 4D or 3D + Pierce 1;
  • We can make less-dependable dice more dependable by adding surge abilities that "flip" the value of a die's faces;
  • "Hedging" the dice with surge abilities generally leads to more dependable damage results, but also makes our final damage output more vulnerable to Evades;
  • Upgrades that "hedge" the dice are extremely rare, and thus in high demand;
  • Improving our weapon's damage floor with surge abilities does not necessarily guarantee that our weapon will deal guaranteed damage;
  • Dice hedging affects all weapons, but it does not affect all weapons equally;
  • "Surge damage" (damage added to our damage total by cashing in surge abilities) are less reliable than "natural damage" (damage results either added directly by our dice or from other items, modifications, etc.), against both black and white defense dice;
  • Weapon upgrades that supplement our attacks with additional "natural" damage can significantly improve our weapon's damage output, but the price of these options are steep, and not all of these options are equally sustainable.

THE "GOLDEN RULE" OF WEAPON DEPENDABILITY: "GUARANTEED" DAMAGE

The gold-standard in dependable damage is knowing that no matter what else happens (sans that Dodge, again), we will be able to deal at least 1 damage to any target of our choosing--no matter how hot he rolls, or how poorly we roll. Against both defense dice, the magic threshold seems to be a damage floor of either 4D or 3D + Pierce 1. Against a single black die, either result is enough to get damage over even the best possible defense roll (3 blocks). The math against a white die is a little more complex, but it boils down to this:

  • Because no melee weapon currently in the game can score 3D or 4D from just a single surge result, scoring 3D or 4D means one of the following must be true:
    • we must have scored either 3 or 4 damage results from our attack dice or other modifiers (what we'll be referring to later as "natural damage" results)
    • we must have scored at least 1 natural damage result and 1 surge that allows us to surge for at least +1D; or
    • we must have scored at least 2 surge results, both of which can be cashed out together to score at least 3D or 4D.
  • If we scored at least 4D using any of these methods, the white die cannot account for all of that damage unless it rolls a Dodge.
  • If we scored at least 3D using any of these methods, and have at least Pierce 1, the white die will also be unable to account for all of this damage unless it rolls a Dodge (it needs to score 4 Blocks against method 1, two Blocks and an Evade against method 2, and two Evades against method 3, none of which are possible outcomes on an unmodified white die, unless it rolls Dodge).

We've already seen how our strain-enhanced Vibro Sword is tantalizingly close to this predictability threshold, with a damage floor of 2D + Pierce 1 off of its worst possible roll, a Blue-surge, Green-surge. So if we can find a way to push this damage ceiling even a single-point higher, this weapon will enter very rare air indeed.

As it happens, there are several ways we can acquire that level of predictable damage, using the modifications available in the Item Deck. The first option (which tends to be the most accessible and sustainable method) is to add modifications that turn what would otherwise be a bad die roll into a good or great one. I refer to this as "hedging" the dice pool of our weapon.

 

LEVERAGING DEPENDABLE OUTCOMES BY "HEDGING" THE DICE


Recall from our earlier discussion of dice (waaaaaaaaay back at the beginning) that for melee weapons at least, the most dependable dice we have for dealing damage are the Red and Green dice. The Red die has only one bad face (that single damage), giving us a 100% chance of scoring at least 1 damage, and a 5/6 (~83%) chance of scoring at least 2 damage. The Green die, similarly, has only one bad face (a single surge), a 2/6 (~33% chance of landing 1D and a surge), and a 3/5 (50%) chance of landing 2 damage. The Blue and Yellow dice have a 3/6 (50%) chance of contributing only one thing to our damage total (either a single damage or a single surge).


5_1_Dice_Chart.jpg

THEY'RE BACK!

(They never really go away...)

 

For weapons that can't surge for any damage, single-surge die faces basically handicap our damage output (though they may still ultimately help force our damage helpful through with abilities like Pierce, or trigger collateral damage effects with abilities like Bleed, Blast, or Cleave). If a weapon can surge for +1D, these surge faces (or at least one of them, if the weapon only has one "surge for +1D" ability) basically become single-damage faces, which isn't great on its own, but does boost our weapon's dependability by ensuring every face contributes at least 1 damage to our attack total (basically a "Red-die light"--the same guarantee of minimum damage, though less favorable odds at 2D+--at least on Blue and Yellow dice). In other words, our weapon "hedges" against what would otherwise be a non-damage-dealing roll (a single surge) and allows it to contribute to our damage total.

 

In the same vein, adding an ability to surge for +2D, like the Vibro Sword does, alters the value of these faces yet again. For the Vibro Sword, the blue die actually becomes something semi-reliable: only two of its faces contribute 1D (the two single-damage faces), while three faces contribute 2D (the double-damage faces, plus the single surge face), and one face has the potential to contribute 3D to the combat total. This basically brings the Blue die's damage on-par with an unmodified Green die, which has a 1/6 (~17%) chance of scoring 0 damage (single-surge), a 2/6 (~33%) chance at scoring 1 damage (damage-surge), and a 3/6 (50%) chance of scoring 2D. The results are even more pronounced if we apply the surge for +2D to the Green die: four of that die's six faces (~67%) now contribute at least 2 damage to the damage total, while the remaining two can contribute 3D. In other words, the Green die's six faces are now slightly better than an unmodified red die when it comes to the ability to score damage (a 4/6 (~67%) chance of scoring 2D, and a 2/6 (~33%) chance of scoring 3D).

Of course, the catch with the Vibro Sword is that each surge ability can only be triggered once per attack (RRG 24), so in reality, we have to choose between boosting either our Blue or our Green die. For many dice rolls, the choice of which to boost will be easy (the die with the surge, since we're only "likely" (~67%) to roll a single surge). With this particular weapon, we'll also have rolls that don't land any surges, although with this particular weapon, anytime we do that we know we'll be hitting at least that 3D threshold anyway (ironically, it'd be a different story if we swapped out the Green die for any other die, including the Red one), and have the Pierce 1 available if we want it (so long as we're managing our strain). We are literally thisclose to crossing that all-but-guaranteed damage threshold: the only die result that still confounds us is rolling surge-surge. If only there was a way to add another ability to surge for 1D+...

 

5_2_High_Guard.jpg

You called? I came.

 

There are some cards in IA that need some explanation. This is not one of those cards. A Tier 2 mod that gives a melee weapon an ability to surge for +2D? And just for kicks, it can also be exhausted while defending to add +1 Block to defense rolls (giving our hero a modified, albeit non-sustainable, defense floor)? Yes, please. The only drawback is the high asking price (500 credits, or as much as some capable weapons, like the DL-44), but there's no doubt that there's tremendous damage potential here.

To use just one example, our previous "worst possible" roll on the Vibro Sword--double surges--now scores a very high 4D with the High-Impact Guard equipped (again, with that option to Pierce 1 for a Strain, if we like). What does that do to the Vibro Sword's damage dependability? Well, it now means that our worst possible roll on the Green die becomes not a double-surge, but rather a single-surge or double-damage face, both faces can now always be redeemed for 2D (the only two remaining faces on the Green die are damage-surge faces, which can now be cashed out for 3D). The Blue die's previous worst face--that dreaded single-surge--can similarly always be redeemed for +2D (unless we add other dice to our pool, through Focus or other card effects). Now, that previously bad single-surge result becomes one of the more valuable sides of the Blue die ( which now has a 3/6 (50%) chance at scoring 2D, and a 1/6 (~17%) chance at scoring 3D). Consequently, our newest worst-possible roll is 1D from the Blue die (2/6, ~33%) and either 1 surge or 2D on the Green die (4/6, ~67%), for a damage floor of 3D.

In other words, by modifying our weapon in this fashion, we've in effect modified our dice (or, more appropriately, stacked the deck against the dice) to improve the damage we can obtain from the weakest face of both dice. Add that Pierce 1 for a strain, and congratulations! We've now guaranteed that even our weapon's worst-possible roll will deal at least 1 damage against any single defense die roll, short of a Dodge! That's the essence of weapon dependability.

And by the way, the effect is not limited to the Vibro Sword. Every weapon that we've looked at so far experiences at least some increase to its damage output past black and white defense dice with the High-Impact Guard equipped:

 

5_3_High_Guard_Dmg_comp.jpg

Here's High-Impact Guard increasing the "at least" damage probabilities of all moddable weapons we've looked at so far... in most cases, substantially

 

The chart above looks at the average odds of forcing damage past a single Black and a single white defense die (what I refer to as "adjusted defense dice"). It's worth noting that when we're looking at these adjusted probabilities, the best possible odds a weapon can score is 91.5% (the average of 100%--the best possible odds of dealing at least 1D past a black die--and 83%--the best possible odds of dealing at least 1D past a white die, which can Dodge). Without High Impact Guard, none of the weapons we've looked at so far hit this guaranteed damage threshold (although the Vibro Sword with Pierce 1 comes awfully close, at 91.3%--the lone culprit is a surge-surge attack roll against a 3 Block black die, which results in no damage dealt... but the odds of that happening are extremely small (1/216 possible rolls, or ~0.46%). Once we add High-Impact Guard, however, three weapons hit that level (the Vibro Sword with Pierce 1, the Gaffi Stick, and surprisingly, the previously lackluster Vibro Blade), and all the weapons get within 3% of that mark.

 

THE PROS (AND CONS) OF DICE-HEDGING

Now before we get too carried away with this, it's worth pausing a second to note that while there's tremendous upside in building a weapon that hedges dice in this fashion, there are some important limitations we have to bear in mind.

The first issue is that dice-hedging items--just like options to add automatic damage--are extremely limited. The only mod that can add a surge for damage ability to a melee weapon is the High-Impact Guard. For ranged weapons, only the Tier 2 Plasma Cell (450 credits) adds an ability to surge for +1D. And, of course, there is an alarmingly-high number of melee weapons (like the Tier 1 Vibro Knife and Armored Gauntlets, and the Tier 2 Vibro Knucklers) that can't take any mods. As long as our team has more than a single melee or ranged hero, there won't be enough of these upgrades to go around the entire group.

Second, for most weapons, simply adding a dice hedging mod like the High-Impact Guard is still not a guarantee that a weapon will clear the 3D + Pierce 1 or 4D damage floor needed to guarantee that damage is dealt past defense dice. The Vibro Sword reaches this threshold, but the only reason it does so given its attack pool (Green-Blue), is because of the presence of two other important factors: (a) it has an innate ability to surge for +2D, and (b) it has the ability to apply Pierce 1 without spending one of its valuable surges.

Without any of these components, the Vibro Sword can't guarantee that it will cross the damage-dealt threshold:

  • Without the innate ability to surge for at least1 additional damage (in this case, +2D), the Vibro Sword's worst roll--even with the High-Impact Guard--would net it only 2D (surge-surge for +2D). Even with the Pierce 1 from straining, that's not enough to get damage past a black die that rolls 3 Blocks.
  • Without the Pierce 1, the Vibro Sword's worst possible roll (Green-double-damage or surge for +2D; Blue-single damage) would once again fall short of the Black die's 3 Block face.

In fact, the Vibro Sword is the only moddable Starter or Tier 1 melee weapon with the right combination of dice and innate abilities to clear the 3D + Pierce 1 or 4D threshold on its worst possible roll. For all other weapons, the HIgh-Impact Guard is simply not enough to push the weapon into "guaranteed damage" territory:

 

5_13_Just_short_at_least.jpg

Soooooooooo close...

These weapons, while still generating very good damage, fall juuuuuuuuuuust short of guaranteed damage for a variety of reasons. The Plasteel Staff and Vibro-Blade can score 3D off of surges, but have no ability to Pierce. The Vibro-Ax and Gaffi Stick can Pierce, but lack the Green die and its guarantee of at least 2D (thanks to the fact that its worst face is that single surge). Their yellow die can bottom-out at just a single damage. And while the heirloom dagger can innately surge for +1D or Pierce 1, it can't score both abilities and the +2D from High-Impact Guard on its worst possible roll (in fact, the only way it can trigger all three is with the "best" possible roll on the yellow die).

Nor is this scarcity of essential conditions (innate surge for 1D+, a mod slot for High-Impact Guard, and an ability to reliably Pierce) limited to our starter or Tier 1 melee weapons. In fact, if we scan the spectrum of available weapons (both ranged and melee), there's a very small category of (two-dice) weapons and modifications that offer other weapons these cash-out opportunities:

  • An innate ability to surge for +1D or more: This is the most populous category. For melee weapons, our choices are the Tier 1 Armored Gauntlets (300 credits), and Tier 2 Vibro Knucklers (400 credits), Stun Baton (500 credits), and BD-1 Vibro-Ax (600 credits). For ranged weapons, we have the Tier 1 DH-17 (200 credits), Tatooine Hunting Rifle (250 credits), E-11 (400 credits), DL-44 (500 credits), and DDC Defender (550 Credits), as well as the Tier 2 EE-3 Carbine (550 Credits), A280 (600 credits), 434 "Deathhammer" (600 credits).
  • A mod slot to add an ability to surge for 1D+: Once we eliminate un-moddable weapons (Armored Gauntlets, Vibro Knucklers), the melee weapons pool shrinks to just the Stun Baton and the BD-1, along with the Vibro Sword. All of the ranged weapons discussed above are moddable. The only mod that can add a surge for damage ability to a melee weapon is the High-Impact Guard. For ranged weapons, only the Tier 2 Plasma Cell (450 credits) adds an ability to surge for +1D.
  • An ability to apply Pierce 1: On the melee side, the Tier 1 Gaffi Stick (200 credits) is the only weapon with a built-in Pierce. There are no melee weapon modifications that explicitly grant a weapon Pierce, although the Tier 1 Extended Haft (300 credits) gives a free Pierce 1 to any weapon that also has Reach (the BD-1 Vibro-Ax). For ranged weapons, only the Plasma Cell can modify a weapon to apply a free Pierce 1.

5_4_Gaffi.jpg     5_5_BD1.jpg     5_6_Haft.jpg

If we want a free Pierce 1... these are our only (melee) options.

 

In other words, while dice-hedging can be incredibly powerful, there are only so many options available to accomplish these results, and not enough to spread them out among our entire team (no matter the distribution between melee and ranged fighters).

Third, there's an undeniable cost-premium associated with dice hedging. Hedging the Vibro Sword's dice to convert a worst possible roll of 2D + Bleed into 3D + Pierce 1 means spending 500 credits (at least) on the High-Impact Guard (at least). Over time, that sort of dependability will pay dividends, especially if the hero who has the Vibro Sword uses it a lot (consistent activation-attacks, out-of-activation attacks, etc.). But added to the high-buy-in cost of the Vibro Sword itself (350 credits), and this weapon is nearly a 1000 credit investment. With any other mod (like the Balanced Hilt), it will easily clear 1000 credits.

Fourth, even though all the moddable weapons we've looked at so far did receive a damage bump with High-Impact Guard, not all of them received the same degree of bump from taking this upgrade. If we take a closer look at that chart of how our moddable starter and Tier 1 melee weapons fared with High-Impact Guard, one of the things that jumps out almost immediately is that while most weapons received a significant damage boost from the addition of the Guard, the Vibro Sword actually experienced only minimal gains. Here's the chart again, this time highlighting the gains made by the Guard over the unmodified weapon's damage:

5_7_High_Guard_Dmg_comp_labels.jpg


Adding the High-Impact Guard to the Vibro Sword (with or without spending a strain to Pierce 1) only resulted in marginal, single-digit gains in the Vibro Sword's damage probabilities, across the board (the single-largest gain is +7%). These are definite gains, don't get me wrong, but they're decidedly unimpressive when compared by the other relative gains registered by every other weapon. Every other weapon registered double-digit improvements in at least three damage bands (Diala's Plasteel Staff and the Tier 1 Gaffi Stick registered double-digit gains in four damage bands), and four of the five registered at least one probability improvement greater than +20%. The lone exception, Gaarkhan's Vibro-Ax, fell just short, at +19.5%. The biggest beneficiary, by far, was the Gaffi Stick, which paired High-Impact Guard with the high surge chance of its Yellow die and its already-potent Red die/free Pierce 1 combo. The result was three gains greater than 20%, culminating in a +33% probability of dealing 4D past defense dice (boosting those odds from an already-impressive 21% to a best-in-class 54%, or better than 1-out-of-2 tries).

The Vibro Sword's relatively poor showing here helps to illustrate a useful caveat about dice hedging. The point of dice hedging is to try to substantially improve our weapon's worst-possible roll, but not every move that substantially improves our weapon's worst-possible roll will substantially improve our weapon's overall damage output.

Because a Green-Blue dice pool can roll double-surges, adding a second surge option that allows us to convert both surges into 3-4 damage (instead of 2). This is undoubtedly a substantial improvement to this weapon's worst-possible roll. But in order for High-Impact Guard to result in an overall damage boost, we have to be able to reliably trigger it, without sacrificing any other source of damage (in this case, the Vibro Sword's other ability to surge for +2D). As we already know, a Green-Blue dice pool will only rarely roll 2 surges (~17%), meaning that most of the time one of our +2D abilities will lay dormant (unless we can find a way to manufacture surges outside of our attack pool roll).

None of the other moddable weapons we've looked at so far suffer from this sort of limitation. The Plasteel Staff, Heirloom Dagger, and even the Vibro Blade have decent odds at landing the 2+ surges necessary to reliably trigger High-Impact Guard and their innate surge for +1D abilities. The Vibro-Ax and Gaffi Stick, on the other hand, don't have great odds at landing double-surges, but they also do not have an competing abilities that convert surges into damage, which is why adding High-Impact Guard as a surge option makes such a difference to their damage total across the board.

 

"NATURAL" vs. "SURGE" DAMAGE

The final caveat is probably the most important: weapons that hedge dice in this fashion tend to rely more heavily on surges to deal damage. Accordingly, these weapons tend to be disproportionately affected by Evades, and in particular by the White die (which, as we know, has three faces with an Evade, not counting the Dodge). Conceptually, this makes sense. To defend against naturally-rolled damage, the defender must counter each point of damage rolled with a Block, in a 1-for-1 trade. Once we roll more than 1 natural damage result, the white die falls off the pace. Once we roll 3 or more natural damage results, the black die can no longer keep up. This is why Red-Green attack pools are so effective at dealing damage: 6/6 (100%) and 5/6 (~83%) of the die's faces contribute at least 1 natural damage result, and for each damage added, the defense die has to work that much harder.

Surges play with this natural order in two ways. First, they allow us as the attacker to artificially inflate sub-par dice pools (like the Vibro sword's Green-Blue pool) to damage levels that are similar to what we'd expect from a Red or Green die. The trade-off is that those damage results can now be eliminated by the defender, in a much more favorable trade. Instead of needing 2 Blocks to counter 2D from our Vibro Sword, the defender can now match that damage with just a single Evade. And if our weapon's attack pool is only likely to roll one surge anyway (like the Vibro Blade), a much weaker defensive die roll can have a disproportionately significant effect on the total damage dealt to the target.

To get a visual sense of this principle in action, let's consider how three different Vibro Sword dice rolls interact with both the black and white defense dice. In the first group, the Vibro Sword rolls only natural damage results. In the second, the Vibro Sword rolls a mix of natural damage and surge damage. In the third, the Vibro Sword tries to force damage through using only surges. In each case, the Vibro Sword scores a raw total of exactly 4D (which, as we've already discussed, is one of our two magic numbers for guaranteeing at least 1 damage past any non-Dodge defense result). But how much of that 4D actually gets past the target's defense dice?
 

5_8_Natural_Damage_v_Surge_png.jpg

The White Die, which is generally susceptible to damage, becomes far more effective against surge-dependent weapons

 

Obviously this is a small sample size (just 3 of the Vibro Sword's 36 potential rolls), but the general principals are well-illustrated here. Generally, this distinction between natural damage and surge damage doesn't matter against a black die... until it does. There's only a 1/6 (~17%) chance that surge damage will push less damage through than natural damage, well within even a risk-adverse comfort level (~83% chance of no negative effect). But when that Evade does turn up, it functions as the equivalent of 2 Blocks against our Vibro Sword's surge damage, whereas against a natural damage roll, it functions as a blank. The difference is a +100% damage swing.

The discrepancy becomes far more pronounced against white die targets. As long as the Vibro Sword applies Pierce 1, it can still reliably get damage past the White die so long as it scores at least 3 damage in natural damage or surge results (Dodge excepted). But if the Vibro Sword relies primarily on surges to score that 3D+, the white die will have a far easier time mitigating the damage as it goes in. On the flip side, the same amount of natural damage is never outperformed by the same amount of surge damage, regardless of what die face we're speaking of (Black or White). Best case scenario, the surge damage scores the same amount of damage as the naturally-rolled damage results. Worst-case scenario, the naturally rolled damage is 200% more effective than the surge damage at punching through the target's white die defense.

This is not to say that surge damage is bad, by any means. In fact, for weaker damage dice like Yellows and Blues, it's often the most accessible and sustainable option for increasing our damage. But if we're concerned about our weapon's dependability (as we are at this juncture), it's worth remembering that as long as defense dice are on the table, the damage generated by surge will be inherently less dependable than damage that is naturally rolled. In other words, if we have the choice between adding surge damage or natural damage to our attack, adding the natural damage is never the less dependable option, and against a White die is by far the more dependable alternative.In other words, natural damage is inherently more difficult for defense dice to deal with than surge damage--even against the black defense die. In other words, it's always the more dependable damage source.

Finally, it's worth pointing out that while the impact of an Evade is more pronounced when we're dealing with surges for 2D+, the Evade still has the same effect on surge abilities that add as little as 1D. As long as the attacker is relying on that surge to contribute even a single damage, the Evade basically upgrades the white die to a black die (two double-blocks, two single-blocks) with a slightly weaker "worst" roll (Black Evade vs. White Blank), and an infinitely more powerful "best" roll (Black Block 3 vs. White Dodge). Against surge abilities that add +2D, the White die's two Block-Evade faces essentially function as Block 3 faces, and its single-Evade face as a Block 2, making it by far the best defensive die on the board (Blank, Block 1, Block 2, Block 3, Block 3, Dodge). Again, reliance on a surge to contribute damage makes it that much easier for the White die to keep up with damage totals. Natural damage, on the other hand, quickly overwhelms every result but the Dodge.

Speaking of natural damage, that seems like a good segue into our final topic for today: the three remaining mods that can either add or supplement the natural damage dealt by our melee weapons. Specifically, the Tier 1 Extended Haft, Tier 3 Shock Emitter, and Tier 3 Vibrogenerator.

 

"HEDGING" WEAK DICE WITH AUTOMATIC DAMAGE (OR ITS EQUIVALENT)


5_6_Haft.jpg5_9_Shock_Emitter.jpg5_10_Vibrogen.jpg


The end of the Tier 1 weapons is finally in sight...

 

We'll start with the Extended Haft (Tier 1, 300 credits) for two reasons. First, it's the earliest mod available to our heroes, as well as the cheapest. Second (and more importantly), there's only one weapon we've looked at so far that has Reach, and therefore gains any damage increase from adding the Extended Haft: Diala's Plasteel Staff. Adding the Haft gives the Staff an automatic Pierce 1, which is nothing to sneeze at. Sure, it's not natural damage, but it's the next best thing--it protects our natural (and surge) damage by removing one of those all-to-rare block results from our target's defense die:

 

5_14_Plasteel_Staff_Haft_dmg_comp.jpg

There's definite improvement, but the damage being dealt is still pretty low...

 

At the same time, this upgrade does very little to hedge against the Plasteel Staff's "worst possible" roll--that dreaded double-surge--which becomes an uninspiring 1D + Pierce 1. Once again, that's an improvement over its previous roll (1D + Stun, which will only trigger against a white die's blank face),but it's also far short of guaranteeing damage against a target (the High-Impact Guard, which scores 3D on double-surges, is closer). But on a different Reach weapon with better damage-dealing dice (Reds, Greens) and/or better surge abilities (+1D, +2D), this free Pierce 1 could become quite good. For now, though, we'll just file that away...

Before leaving the Haft, however, it would be a mistake to sell this modification short merely because it rarely contributes to our weapon's damage total. In a game where positioning is at premium, and mobility comes with a cost, the ability to use a melee weapon one space further than we otherwise could is a major convenience, and on a well-built weapon, can become incredibly powerful. Depending on the hero we've chosen, and the skill upgrades we plan to add, the Extended Haft may still end up being a very smart investment.

The Shock Emitter (Tier 3, 500 credits) is next. On its face, this is a relatively straight-forward ability: the card can be exhausted to add +1D (a natural damage result) to our attack total, and it also allows the wielder to spend a surge to inflict Stun on a target. Paired with our Vibro Sword, exhausting this upgrade is another way to clear that 4D/3D + Pierce 1 threshold, as it converts our worst-possible double-surge roll from 2D to 3D. There are some limitations, though. First, our Vibro Sword's dice pool hasn't changed, so we're still likely to suffer from the same surge shortage when it comes to the Shock Emitter's Stun that prevented us from consistently triggering High-Impact Guard's +2D. That's not a problem unique to the Vibro Sword, either:


 

5_11_Shock_Em_Dmg_comp.jpg

These damage levels aren't sustainable because Shock Emitter has to be exhausted, but it's still a nice hedge against the chance we land that "worst possible roll." Those surges for Stun aren't sustainable either, but that's a different story...

 

The chart above combines basic damage probabilities of scoring "at least" damage using Shock Emitter's +1D exhaust (columns 1-6), with a Monte Carlo simulation that measured just how often each weapon was also able to trigger the Shock Emitter's Stun ability (column 8). Some interesting observations:

  • Davith's Heirloom Dagger actually fared the poorest when it came to triggering stun, thanks to the fact that the Shock Emitter gives it three good surge options (Surge for +1D, Pierce 1 and a Bleed, and now Stun). In order to push the maximum amount of damage through, the Heirloom Dagger needs to spend at least 2 surges on +1D and Pierce 1, and it only landed the third surge necessary to trigger Stun in 6% of our 2000 trials.
  • The Vibro Sword variants, Gaarkhan's Vibro-Ax, and Vibro Blade triggered Stun in ~14% to 19% of our trials, since each had a preferred surge ability that contributed directly to damage output (+2D for the Vibro Swords, Pierce 1 for the Vibro-Ax, and +1D for the Vibro Blade).
  • Diala's Plasteel Staff also had a preferred surge ability (+1D), but rolled two or more surges enough times to trigger Stun in 32.5% of its 2000 trials.
  • The Gaffi Stick, with the choice to surge for Stun or Weaken, opted for Stun whenever it rolled a surge, which was in a combined 57.6% of our trials. In the 2000 trials against a black die, Stun was triggered a whopping 71% of the time. Against the 2000 against white dice, Dodges and Evades cut that to just 44.2%.

This tells us some useful information when it comes to assessing the value of the Shock Emitter. For these particular weapons, most of them are rarely going to tap into the primary (and persistent) benefit conferred by the Shock Emitter--the ability to Stun the target--without cutting into their overall damage output. So the question becomes whether having that +1D boost available when we need it (plus a surge ability that is nice to have, but we may seldom use) is (a) a skill we want to have (remembering that it's an exhaust skill), and (b) worth the 500 credit asking price.

The last melee mod is the Tier 3 Vibrogenerator. Like the Shock Emitter, the Vibrogenerator's effect is pretty straightforward: when we declare an attack, we may choose to add +2D (natural damage) to whatever we roll. In exchange, we agree to remove two surges from whatever we roll. The +2D is a no-brainer, as it results in a significant boost to weapon damage:

 

5_12_Vibrogen_Dmg_comp_labels.jpg

It turns out adding +2D to a weapon actually makes a difference...

 

Vibrogenerator also does not have to be exhausted to use, either, so if we want, we can use it to give our weapon a sustainable +2D boost, so long as we're willing to pay the cost of -2 surge. There's no doubt that's a very steep asking price. But is it worth it? And if so, when?

We'll pick up that question next time. Now that we've made it through all the mods we can add to our melee weapons in the early-, mid-, and late-game, we are tantalizingly close to having all the tools we need to start evaluating which of these weapons are "good deals" for our particular heroes. But before we can do that with confidence, we need to look at the last piece that some of these weapons bring: the value of both negative conditions (Stun, Bleed, Weaken) and combat effects (Cleave), both in their own right, and how applying those conditions (which almost always requires the use of one of our weapon's precious surges) is likely to affect our weapon's damage output.

Until then, let me know if I've missed anything, messed anything up, etc., and thanks as always for reading!


Inevitable Post-Posting Edits:

  • Added the correct article description after the title. Whoops. That was embarrassing... :P
  • Altered the discussion of our "Golden Rule" to reflect the fact that the heroes do have an option to surge for +3D, as pointed out by Stompburger. Thanks for the catch!
Edited by Rythbryt

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Because no weapon currently in the game can score 3D or 4D from just a single surge result, scoring 3D or 4D means one of the following must be true:

 

Not sure what expansion you're basing this off of, but...

 

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Rythbryt likes this

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