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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Strawman complex

From Wikipedia:

A straw man is a component of an argument and is an informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent's position. To "attack a straw man" is to create the illusion of having refuted a proposition by substituting it with a superficially similar yet unequivalent proposition (the "straw man"), and refuting it, without ever having actually refuted the original position.

Gaming theorists often like to sprout lots of mathammer - they love to come up with some peculiar situation that distorts in game situations or downplays the strengths of some particular unit. For example I recently saw someone point out that nine naked DC Marines with a Chaplain inflict as much damage as five assault terminators (all armed with lightning claws) with a Chaplain and a Sanguinary Priest versus an enemy unit consisting of ten tactical Marines on the charge (not taking into account damage inflicted by the characters). While it's true for this particular case it is an example given in a vacuum. The person who said this was trying to use his example to claim that the Death Company are just as good, if not better than the assault terminators.

By the way both units on average inflict ten unsaved wounds for this particular case.

The problem with the example is it's extremely peculiar and does not take any other situations into account. For instance it's quite possible that following the initial charge either unit could be targeted by enemy shooting - Death Company are very much a glass hammer now while at least the terminators have a 5++ save. When other examples were pointed out (such as either unit being on the receiving end of a charge from a large squad Incubi with a Klaivex) the theorist then pointed out that he actually equips his Death Company with some power weapons and a power fist - that right there pretty much invalidated his example as it proved he doesn't even play his Death Company as per his own example. I think that in and of itself says a lot.

You see these kinds of arguments on the interwebs every day. Sure they might sound quite impressive. These arguments are typically used to point out that some unit is not as good as most people tend to think. To me the important thing is to take a broader view. You can always come up with some situation that can make any unit look like garbage. In reality it's most often not the case though so keep an open mind.

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