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Ossiarch Bonereapers - Spears or Swords?!


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The eternal question - now with an answer. Or at least a lot of maths results which can be used to help you formulate your own answers. 

Below is a link to my blog where I've written up a brief summary which compares greatblade performance as well as that of spears and swords for both Mortek Guard and Deathriders. I've also put my own conclusions based on the maths, though I make no claim that my conclusions are the "best" and you might well interpret the numbers very differently. I'd thus greatly welcome you to come and share your viewpoints here on what you think the best choices are as well as your practical game experiences. Maths is good, but game experience also counts for a lot in the practicalities of the game.


If you have or are aware of others who have done the maths and similar please do share - the more we share and contrast different opinions and viewpoints the better we can develop a sound understanding of the pros and cons. 



Personally I'm a little disappointed that GW didn't manage to give spears and swords (for both units) a bit more a niche each. From the maths in the link I've concluded that the biggest difference is basically if you want a 1 inch range weapon or a 2 inch range weapon. 

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Sad but not surprising to see spears outclassed by swords in all categories, even on charging cavalry.  If there's one thing that we learned from OBR it's that GW simply doesn't do these kinds of basic mathematical comparisons.  Otherwise you wouldn't get swords outperforming spears even in their area of expertise, or weapon 'upgrades' that are barely upgrades at all - or in the case of the falchions in stalker units are actually downgrades.  We wouldn't get stalkers with multiple combat styles but one dramatically better than the rest, or the petrifex issue where one subfaction outperforms the rest to the point that assigning a fair point value to units becomes night impossible, since any given unit will either be clearly undercosted as petrifex or, if the price is fair for petrifex armies, clearly overcosted for everything else.

On a more positive note, though, given that GW *doesn't* do that kind of basic analysis and is clearly instead just 'eyeballing it', it's surprising how decent the internal balance in this book actually is.  There are very few dud units, and even some of the more lackluster choices, like vokmortian or soulreapers aren't actively bad.  They're still perfectly playable in a casual context.  The worst we've got is probably morghasts, and while I wouldn't call them good, they're still nowhere near as bad as you might expect from a book's "worst unit".

That extends to these weapon options.  Like, the balance isn't good, swords are clearly better, but if you take a spear unit for aesthetics you aren't going to be setting youself back all that far.  Especially if you do play petrifex and can tack on at least a little rend when you need it.

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How does this mean the spears are worse?  I'm not sure if I understood the Mortek Guard math here.

Like, I get that the swords do more wounds on average, but the 2" range is nothing to sneeze at.  If I take a block of 40 swords and another block of 40 spears, and then assume 10 Motrek guard can make contact on a charge (from a 10x4 formation or something), then the spears clearly outperform the swords since 30 spears would attack while only 20 swords would attack.  Obviously the better your contact is, the better the swords do, so I think this comes down to the following:

1) How large a unit are you running?
2) What kind of space will you have to contact your opponent?

This seems pretty typical of sword vs. spear decisions in most armies, and I'm just not seeing how that's any different for the Mortek Guard.  Obviously, contact is usually a lot less difficult with more elite units since there are fewer of them, so this argument applies less to deathriders, etc.

EDIT: I realize you make this same point in your write-up (which I loved the math on by the way, I'm just being nit-picky here).  I guess what I don't understand is why you say you're disappointed in the lack of "niche".  It seems like their standard mode of operation for spears to me.

Edited by willange
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The key difference is that the only benefit spears offer for Mortek guard is the 2 inch reach. This means that they are only giving you a bonus if you've multiple units in range that would not be in range with a sword. So yes for a 30 or 40 warrior unit spears might well be the most practical choice. However that's based on the assumptions that:

1) You won't be able to get all models into 1 inch range of the enemy

2) That you make it to combat with all 30 warriors. 

Now granted Ossiarchs are pretty tough so you can expect to maintain a good number through the game; but at the same time it still assumes that you keep all those models by the time you reach combat and thus have the excess in the back ranks to need that extra inch of range.



For the Deathriders its actually somewhat worse as the models are much larger and have a very long 3 inch or so base. So you can't do two ranks; you've got to stagger them. In addition in pure damage output spears are worse than swords and the charge bonus spears give only just brings them up to equal swords.



Basically its saying that spears have value only in large units and only for their reach and that otherwise the -1 rend on swords trumps the spear in all performances. It's not saying that spears have no use, just that with the rules as they are their bonus is very niche. It should also be noted that many of these numbers are very close anyway, so these are not night and day differences in performance between the weapon types. 

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Oh I completely agree that the spears on the Deathriders are bad.  To be good they'd need to significantly outperform swords on the charge, I think.

I guess we do agree on the spears then because yes, you'd need at least 30 or so spears to make it to the combat without getting shot off the board.  

The other niche for potentially smaller groups of spears (and this is true for most spear vs sword evaluations) is in tight spaces.  My group occasionally plays with sort of "city-scape" maps where there are tight alleys and such.  In those scenarios even small groups of spears (10 or 20) can outperform similarly-sized sword groups.

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