Dropzone Commander – Sabre vs Katana Analysis

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In a previous life I did a lot of mathematics, and sometimes I turn this to productive use. Other times I turn it towards miniature gaming. Now, when a lot of people try to analyse games they typically calculate the expectation for an outcome and compare that. Expectation is one way of looking at probability, particularly if you run a casino or lottery. However, if your experience of the probability is going to be a couple of hundred events (like in a game of something) then it’s awful. As guess what – the expectation is unlikely to come true. Some examples of the failure of expectation: a dice roll gives you 3.5, your pay-off from the lottery is about 50c for every $ you put in and everyone has 1 testicle. What we’re going to look at is the probability of what you want happening, which is harder to calculate, but much more useful.

With that in mind, I’ve done some playing around to model Dropzone Commander’s combat system. Note, all the numbers you’re about to be bombarded by have been calculated and not simulated. The calculations are all quite straightforward and are just some fairly straight forward applications of Combinatorics and multi-nomial probability. The particular question I want to sort out is which to take: the UCM Sabre or Katana. The Katana was recently brought out by Hawk Wargames as an alternative to the Sabre. They perform essentially the same role, except the Katana is (allegedly) slightly less effective and slightly cheaper. I’m not convinced about the slightly less effective, in case you can’t tell. I’m going to break down each stat and compare them.

Movement: Both are transported in multiples of 3 by the same transports. They both have the same coherency, but the Katana has 6″ move vs the Sabres 4″. While only 2″, because of the low movement value this is a fairly healthy win to the Katana.

Defense: Defense is where the Sabre outmatches the Katana: Armour 10 vs 9. What this means is that the Katana can be killed by E-8 attacks and is 11% more vulnerable to E-9 through E-12. You’ve got a definite win to the Sabre here, but it’s not massive. I’ll refer back to expectation, but if you had a squad of 9 of each and they each got shot at – then you’d expect one more Katana to die.

Probability of being killed by a single shot (hits on 3+).
Probability of being killed by a single shot (hits on 3+).

Offense: Offense is where the Katana shines. While it has a slightly shorter range (18″ vs 24″) and also loses a anti-personnel machine gun. Neither of these is a huge penalty. I’ve only very rarely seen MGs used – because they’re so deadly infantry just spends the whole game hiding in buildings and APCs. The range is a bit more of an issue, but most games seem to turn into knife fights where everything is within 6″ of each other. However, the change in the main gun is huge: the Sabre has a single shot E-10 attack, while the Katana has a double shot E-9 attack, and what this means for the effectiveness is quite interesting. First lets consider a shot against a single 1 DP opponent.

Probability of causing a single DP (unmodified to-hit)
Probability of causing a single DP (unmodified to-hit)

As you can see here – it’s game set and match. The Katana is significantly more likely to kill almost everything. Except it is slightly less likely to kill a A-10 opponent, but that’s only slightly less likely. Now what about 2 DP?

Probability of causing 2DP (unmodified to-hit)
Probability of causing 2DP (unmodified to-hit)

Again it’s advantage Katana. Except for an interesting quirk where against A-9 you’ve got an advantage to the Sabre. However, against everything else the Katana wins, you’ve even got a small chance of causing 2DP on A-10. For the Sabre that’s where things stop. However, the Katana keeps going and it can cause up to 4DP. Now, most land units in the game only have 2DP so you’re not killing units with this. However, buildings are typically A-6, so when you look at demolishing the Katana is pretty effective. Also the new transport Resistance units look like they’ll have more than 2DP and low armour so you might find the following a bit more useful. The numbers here are still pretty good.

Probability of causing 3DP or 4DP (unmodified to-hit)
Probability of causing 3DP or 4DP (unmodified to-hit)

Other: Both units have a fairly uninteresting special ability. One turn a game the Katana can drop smoke instead of firing and give opponents a +2 to-hit bonus. They can’t fire so that’s pretty minimal. The Sabre’s special ability is articulated which is cute, but decent placement of units can overcome the need to fire from 1″ higher. The mechanic doesn’t do much to stop your opponent getting units in the way, but it can help if you place your units poorly and need to fire over them.

Summary: If they both costed the same then I’d say it’s a wash. The Katana is better offensively and the Sabre defensively. I might even pay a point or two more for the Katana (Dropzone helps the alpha strike so killing is more effective than defense). However the Katanas are priced at 30 and the Sabres at 37. My advice is for everyone to burn their Sabres and just start pumping out Katanas. If Hawk love you they’ll either sell Katana turrets on their own, or maybe if they love the Sabre up the points of the Katana.

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