Sunday, December 12, 2010

MathHammer, Episode 1: Termagants are better than Tactical Marines!

This is the first installment of a series of articles that use the power of math to show that some units are better than you think.  We're delving into some dangerous uncharted territory here, and I'm likely to make errors, so feel free to contradict me!

I notice after posting that he has dirt stuck to his gun!  Silly Termagant!
Everyone knows that you only take Termagants in units of 10 so that you can take Tervigons, right?  That's what the internet says, so it must be true.

As those of you who have been reading along know, we try and do things a little bit different here at Men With Toy Soldiers.  While I agree with the consensus that Termagants + Tervigons are possibly the best unit in the game at scoring objectives, I want to see if we can find other uses for them, and possibly even... have them kill things?

This could be a bit of a challenge.  A base Termagant seems singularly ill-equipped to actually cause damage.

But let's do the math!

Case #1: Marines with Bolters vs Termagants with Fleshborers, shooting at MEQ

34 Termagants shooting at Marines (170 points):

17 hits (4+)
8.5 wounds (4+)
2.83 unsaved wounds (3+ save)

So each Termagant generates 8.33% of a wound on an MEQ.  At a 12" range.  That's not great!

In close combat, the results are worse:  Hit on 4+, wound on 5+, save on 3+.  5.6% of a wound on an MEQ, or about 18 'gants to cause a wound, assuming no assault bonus.

Marines, on the other hand, shooting at Marines:

10 Tac Marines, bolters (170 points):

6.67 hits (3+)
3.35 wounds (4+)
1.1 unsaved wounds (3+ save)

If they are in rapid fire range, it's 2.2 unsaved wounds.

Close combat results are worse because the hit is on a 4+.

So wait.... Marines generate (at best) 22% of a wound on an MEQ, at 12".  Considering you get 3.4 Termagants per Marine, that means that point for point, Termagant shooting is more effective than Marines with Boltguns, even if the Marines get their Rapid Fire. (Ratio is 1.29:1)

Terrifying Instrument of death? Dear God, my painting was never meant to be zoomed in this much.

Case # 2: Things shooting at Marines vs Termagants

I would argue that the Termagants are more resilient, as well.

Anything shooting the Marine is .833 (1/6 difference) as likely to wound it as the Termagant, until you get above S6 and then it doesn't matter, it's 1:1.

Then the Marine gets a 3+ Save against most things.  Not much out there denies that save that you would be firing at a Tac Marine. So now it's 8.33 x 0.333, or 0.275 marine wounds per Termagant wound.

This means that for every Marine you kill, you can kill 3.6 Termagants.  Given that we can buy 3.4 Termagants per Marine, this means that the Marines are more resilient, but only if the Termagants don't have a cover save.

If they have a 5+ save from, say, a Venomthrope, then you only get 2.4 Termagants per Marine.

If they have a 4+ save, like they'd receive from most cover, then you're only killing 1.8 Termagants per Marine.

If they have 5+ from a Venomthrope and Feel No Pain from a Tervigon, you're only killing 1.2 Termagants per Marine.

Marines rarely benefit from cover saves, since AP3 is rare for torrent of fire and 3+ or better cover saves are rare as well.

So I guess we have to conclude the Termagants are more survivable in more situations.

Additionally, the Termagants are almost always going to be Fearless under Synapse, so you actually have to kill them all off.

I can only conclude that point for point, a Termagant is more dangerous and more survivable than a Tactical Space Marine.

Now, that's interesting!


So of course, I haven't included the fact that Tac Marines can include heavy weapons.  Or Razorbacks.  Then again, I also haven't included the fact that Termagants can have Devourers.  Or Tervigons.

Now you might say, "you're only talking about Marines' boltguns and who cares about those? lul".  The point's still valid though.  I doubt a Marine player would agree that he should forget about rolling dice for all the boltguns in his army because they're useless, but The Internet tells Tyranid players that we should assume our Termagants are just useless little plastic toys that can't accomplish anything in the game other than sitting on an objective and not dying.

I don't want to go much further into how you can make your Termagants wreck face.  I'm going to save that for their official Unit Review.

Anyhow this is a bit of a divergence for me, but my desire to post stuff that people aren't expecting really makes me want to continue this series.

Would love some feedback!


Almost ready to start painting my first Trygon!


I've test-painted one of the spare arms from the Trygon kit so many times now that I can't see the details on the Scything Talon anymore.


  1. I agree with you that people should not ignore units just because the internet tells them too. However you've also pointed out quite a few of the flaws in your analysis.

    Heavy weapons and special weapons are good on marines. However so are poison attacks (you can get those on the termagant?).

    Putting the marines in a transport now means that a lot of things can't hurt them at all (infinity termagant wounds per marine wound? ;) ).

    For the majority of players, they are probably more wary of a MM bunker Marine unit than they are of a horde of termagants.

    However that is not always the case and the termagants can be extremely useful for a number of things; bubble wrap your big gribblies, go let that dread kill 2 termagants a turn for the rest of the game etc.

    So situationally, termagants are better than marines. Situationally they are also worse. That is why the game is fun!

  2. Yes, we're looking at things in a huge vacuum here. And of course you're correct that putting the marines in a transport makes them durable and potentially more dangerous.

    The point I'm trying to make is more along the lines of 'if you consider a Space Marine with a boltgun at all useful, you should really reconsider your Termagants'.

    And I will, when I do a unit of Termagants, talk about dirty tricks like surrounding transports before your Hive Guard pop them, using Devourers, bubble wrapping etc.

    I appreciate all your input so far, Winter! The point of a lot of these 'What If?' type articles is to help me get a better understanding of the game, and vocalize some potential tactics or rules situations, keeping in mind that as I stated back in the original post for the blog, I'm brand-spanking-new to the game.

  3. For sure, as I said this is what makes the game interesting. I think you have a good handle on things, and it is certainly better to think things through than it is to just accept the wisdom of the interwebs ;)