5/16/2006

What's Better? Starcannons or Scatter Lasers?

Average:
Each weapon has the same range, the same strength and is fired using the same Ballistic Skill. Both weapons are available on all the same weapons, and neither weapon is more susceptible to being destroyed than the other.

When you consider all the vehicles and units that can take a Starcannon, you'll find the average points cost for that weapon is 32.5.

When you consider all the vehicles and units that can take a Scatter Laser, you'll find the average points cost for that weapon is 21.6

Let's look at performance in some standard situations. The first thing I'm going to do is average out the number of shots the Scatter Laser fires in a turn. As the Scatter Laser fires D6 times per turn, you can't get a static number of shots... so I'll calculate the average, which is 3. Some people believe that the average number of shots a Scatter Laser fires is actually 3.5; if you believe that then it's easy to recalculate the results below (though the difference will be minimal).

Vehicles
Seeing as both weapons shoot an average of 3 times per turn, are the same strength, same range, etc., both the Starcannon and Scatter Laser fire with equal effectiveness at vehicles. For that reason, I'm not going to do the calculations.

Shooting on Marines not in cover:
Starcannon
3 shots per turn
Average 1.5 will hit
Average 1.25 will wound
No save
1.25 marines dead
6 turns = 7.5 marines dead
Per 32.5 points , 7.5 Marines in the open die.

Scatter Laser
3 shots per turn
Average 1.5 will hit
Average 1.25 will wound
0.41 will fail their armor saves
0.41 marines dead
6 turns = 2.46 marines dead
Per 32.5 points , 2.46 Marines in the open die.

Shooting on Marines in hard cover:
Starcannon
3 shots per turn
Average 1.5 will hit
Average 1.25 will wound
0.62 marines dead
6 turns = 3.75
Per 32.5 points , 3.75 Marines in hard cover die.

Scatter Laser
3 shots per turn
Average 1.5 will hit
Average 1.25 will wound
0.41 will fail their armor saves
0.41 marines dead
6 turns = 2.46 marines dead
Per 21.6 points, 2.46 Marines in hard cover die.

Shooting on Orks or models with 6+ (or worse) save:
Starcannon
3 shots per turn
Average 1.5 will hit
Average 1.25 will wound
No save
1.25 Orks dead
6 turns = 7.5 Orks dead
Per 32.5 points , 7.5 Orks die.

Scatter Laser
3 shots per turn
Average 1.5 will hit
Average 1.25 will wound
No save
1.25 Orks dead
6 turns = 7.5 Orks dead
Per 21.6 points , 7.5 Orks die.

Summary:
Note that the below-mentioned results are not adjusted for points cost. Be aware that the kills described below are relative to the average points cost of each weapon, not relative to an absolute points cost. What this means is that the Scatter Laser performs better than the below-mentioned stats describe.

When firing on Marines who are standing out in the open, turkey-shoot style, Starcannons (which get 7.5 kills per game) perform more than twice as well than Scatter Lasers (2.46 fatalities per game).

When firing on Marines who are hiding in hard cover, Starcannons only do modestly better (3.75 kills per game) than Starcannons (2.46 kills).

When firing on low-armor opponents like Orks, Starcannons and Scatter Lasers perform identically (7.5 kills per turn).

8 comments:

Xadhoom said...

I would like to ask you how you reach the conclusion that the statistical average result of the roll of one die is 3 and not 3.5.

If you divive the sum of possible results (21) by the number of possible results (6) you will get the following equation: (1+2+3+4+5+6) / 6 = 3.5

Natakue said...

Ouch my brain hurts after that last post...

Baast said...

VERY interesting point, xadhoom. I did mention that in my post, but thanks for explaining why people say the average is 3.5 and not 3. It doesn't change the results a lot, but it does add more credibility to the humble Scatter Laser.

Xadhoom said...

Thanks Deimhinn!

I too feel that the Scatter Laser gets too little attention among Eldar players. I have done a little calculation myself, and have reached the following results:

The only place where the Starcannon is not an upgrade is for Guardian Defenders. A Starcannon costs (50-(2*8)) 34 points (subtracting the two free Guardians), whereas a Scatter Laser costs (40-(2*8)) 24 points. This means that the Starcannon costs 42% more than a Scatter Laser and should be 42% more effective. If we normalize the kill rate of the two weapons (eliminating the factor of cost), we find the following interesting results:

Ork in open
SL: 1,46 (65% more effective)
SC: 0,88
The Scatter Laser will always be more effective vs. Orks due to its higher rate of fire. Better cover means less difference in effectiveness.

SL vs SM in open: 0,49
SC vs SM in open: 0,83

SL vs SM in 5+ cover: 0,49
SC vs SM in 5+ cover: 0,59

SL vs SM in 4+ cover: 0,49 (11% more effective)
SC vs SM in 4+ cover: 0,44

SL vs SM in 3+ cover: 0,49 (69% more effective!)
SC vs SM in 3+ cover: 0,29

As we can see, at 4+ cover, the Scatter Laser becomes the weapon of choice, albeit only slightly. Considering the upcoming Cities of Death, Scatter Lasers will probably be the better selection.

Natakue, I didn't mean to make your brain hurt, but that's one of the negative consequences of playing Mathhammer 40.000 ;)

Grendel said...

So how do Shuriken Cannons fare in your calculations?
-Simon-

Baast said...

Shuriken Cannons? Range is too short for me to seriously consider them at this point.

Grendel said...

True, I must admit that s_cannons are not my first choice of weapons.
However, sometimes I play them for flavor. Just like, when finished I intend to some play Dire Avengers, but after your post they are on hold until the new minis come out.

Corlock Striker said...

Oh, I'll agree that conceivably the Scatter Laser is better. My problem has always been the D6 shots. Sure, it'll average out to 3.5 shots a turn in the big picture so it gets more shots than a Star Cannon, but then again the length of a single game isn't, statistically speaking, the big picture. Rather that's the small picture. And it is therefore entirely possible that in a single game Scatter Lasers will significantly underpreform to their 3.5 shot average. Yes, it can also over preform.

However, in a unit with a Scatter Laser, I'm essentially relying on even more luck when shooting at enemy units than with a Star Cannon, because luck determines the number of shots I get, the number of hits I get, the number of wounds I get, and the number of enemy dead that is the result of said firing.

So I don't mind forking out the extra points for a weapon that garantees me 3 shots per turn, and takes some of the luck out of a units shooting every turn, thus allowing for possibly more consistent results. In addition, when I buy a Star Cannon, for those extra points, I also get the advantage of forcing enemy units to make use of inferior saves even when in cover, not necessarily the case with Scatter Lasers.

But then, I think we all already know that. I'm just playing Devil's Advocate here and explaining why the Star Cannon is still my weapon of choice. That D6 shots just unnerves me. Mostly because I know that when I most need the Scatter Laser to give me 3+ shots in a turn, it'll give me 1-2. I don't mind paying for the security of the Star Cannons Heavy 3 designation, so that I can go into a battle with a little more confidence in the performance I'll get out of my weapons.