Hammer of Math 6/20/2022: The Nephilim CP Crunch

Welcome back, Dear Reader, to the ongoing Hammer of Math fill-in series while “Primaris” Kevin is on paternity leave. Over the weekend we reviewed the new War Zone: Nephilim GT rules, which completely shake up how army construction and scoring work in 9th edition. In case you missed it, you can find our review here.

The New CP Math

One of the biggest changes to Army construction now is that players start on 3 CP in Incursion games and 6 CP in Strike Force games, effectively halving the amount of CP players have to work with when building an army. On top of that, a player’s first Warlord Trait and Relic are no longer free – new Stratagems allow players to buy their first trait and relic for 1 CP each. This means that players who want to keep their same armies in a Strike Force game are functionally starting with 4 CP before buying other upgrades. This is compensated for somewhat with the new missions, which give players 1 CP in each turn’s Command phase, giving them 2 per battle round instead of 1. In practice, this means a standard player will generate 16 CP over the course of a Nephilim game (6+10) instead of 17 in a Nachmund game (12+5).

Of course, when CP are generated matters too. That CP isn’t all available up front – here’s a chart to help you visualize how that CP looks:

If your first thought was “hey that makes turn 1 look a lot worse for CP spending,” well, you’re right – a player going first will typically only have a max of 7 CP available on their first turn in Nephilim, compared to 13 in Nachmund. The upside for the player going second here is that they’ll typically have one more, though with the downside that they may be more likely to spend their CP on defensive effects in the first turn. This reduction in CP may make alpha strikes that rely heavily on spending CP less likely, or push them back a turn… if the average amount spent is less than the amount players will have. Let’s take a look.

Average Starting CP In Nachmund

This is where we can once again learn a ton of useful information from the thousands of games’ worth of data in the ITC Battles App, the premier game tracking and management tool for Warhammer 40,00. Using data from more than 64,000 games played with Nachmund missions, we can see that, on average, players in Nachmund started with 8.5 CP, and 72% of recorded lists started with between 7 and 10 CP, while 58% started with 8-10.

So on the whole, most players are spending 3-4 CP in the list-building stages, either taking upgrades or spending CP to get a second detachment. We may expect second detachments to become a thing of the past in Nephilim; let’s circle back on this later. In the meantime, let’s talk about factions – starting CP will of course vary by faction, as some factions have better/worse relics, and more/fewer ways to spend CP pregame, as well as different detachment needs.

Generally, we can see where souping takes its toll – Imperium and Chaos armies spend a lot of CP on detachments and so tend to start off with fewer CP – and we can also see where armies like Chaos Space Marines and Necrons just don’t have much that’s worthwhile to spend CP on pregame. That will likely change for Chaos Space Marines, but less so for Necrons, who may end up eschewing a warlord trait or relic altogether. This of course, doesn’t include characters who let armies start at more than maximum CP – The Silent King, Azrael, and Guilliman are among the characters who give your army extra CP when nominated as Warlords, and as such allow armies to start with more than 12 CP – one player in our sample maxxed out at 18 starting CP using the Red Corsairs’ legion trait with Huron Blackheart as Warlord!

The big point of concern here is you’re a Chaos Daemon player – Chaos Daemons are the most CP-intensive army in the game; it costs 1 CP each to exalt a Greater Daemon and successful Slaanesh lists need two detachments to fit three exalted Keepers plus Be’lakor, while Khorne lists need to spend multiple CP for banners of blood and to put units into deep strike. The outlook for these strategies is bleak indeed in Nephilim.

Mathematically, there’s no relationship between starting CP and wins/losses – players didn’t win or lose more as a result of having more or less starting CP in Nachmund games.

Turn 1 CP Spending

So we know that armies in Nephilim will have fewer CP to work with and we know some armies start with more/fewer CP in Nachmund already. Something we’ve wondered is: Does this translate to fewer or delayed alpha strikes, as armies that rely on spending lots of CP to “go off” turn 1 now have to wait?

Well, let’s start by taking a deep look at CP spend in Nachmund.

On average, players spend 4.4 CP in the first battle round and 3.8 in the second battle round. As we’d expect, CP spend decreases by battle round, as players are more likely to have spent all their CP by then.

There’s no correlation or observable difference, either in aggregate or for factions, between round 1 CP spending and winning – you don’t win the game by blowing all your CP in the first round, nor are you rewarded for keeping it all for later.

With that in mind, let’s dig into the CP spending in the first Battle Round:

This sheds a bit more light on things – the average is 4.4 on round 1, but there’s a fairly large spread here between 1 and 7, though nearly half of players spend 3-5 CP in the first battle round.

As you might expect, starting CP has a major impact on this. Players starting at 6 CP spent an average of 3.6 CP on the first battle round, while players starting on 9 CP spent 4.6, an average of 1 more CP. As such going from Nachmund to Nephilim we might expect to see turn 1 CP spending drop from 4-5 CP to 2-3 as players play more conservatively with what they have (and again, we expect many players to start on 4 CP after buying a trait and a relic).

By faction, we can see that the Death Guard, Adeptus Custodes, Chaos Space Marines, Grey Knights, Thousand Sons, Imperial Knights, and Death Guard are the biggest round 1 CP spenders, and on average they’ll spend 44-50% of their available CP round 1 on effects. For the first three factions, this is because as we’ll see, they’re among the game’s best at generating additional CP. For Chaos Space Marines, they typically have more to spend due to an ancient Codex, as well as being a CP-thirsty army. As a Thousand Sons player, I definitely feel that 4.7 number, and I frequently end up on the bad end of that +/- 2.3 standard deviation.

On the other side of the spectrum, Chaos Daemons only tend to spend 3.7 CP in the first battle round, but because of how much CP they spend on pregame effects, this ends up being a large percentage of what they have available.

So what does this mean for Nephilim? Well, if you’re playing Daemons, you’re pretty much screwed. Their existing strategies just aren’t going to work in the new environment, and they’ll need to rely on other strategies. Orks are another interesting one here, since they tend to start on fewer CP and also rely on spending lots of CP on their expensive stratagems (seriously, why are so many Ork Stratagems 2 CP?) to do early-game damage.

Of course, this isn’t nearly as big a challenge for armies that can generate additional Command Points during a game.

Generating Additional CP

Starting with fewer CP in Nephilim makes units, relics, and abilities that can generate additional CP much more useful, but these abilities are not evenly distributed in the game – some are clearly much more valuable than others. Let’s start by looking at which factions do the best at creating CP:

Players gained an average of 3.9 CP per game in Nachmund, including the battle-forged CP they gained for their turns; if this seems lower than expected consider both the number of games that end before turn 5 and that there are three missions in which conditions can prevent a player from gaining their Battle-forged CP bonus. The kings of extra CP here are the Death Guard, who can bring the Tallyman to the table, and Imperial Knights, who can generate extra CP just by existing via a Code Chivalric.

With regard to Average CP left up there, I suspect that it’s both common for players to get 1 CP and not use it on turn 5, and also just stop tracking CP usage at the end of the game.

There are also mission impacts here:

Specifically, Tide of Conviction, Recover the Relics, and Conversion all have rules that can prevent you from gaining your battle-forged CP for the round, significantly reducing the CP a player will generate over the course of a game. This is most pronounced for Recover the Relics, which requires holding an objective in No Man’s Land to get battle-forged CP; gaining that CP without an infiltrating unit is near-impossible.

Why is the average less than 5? Some of this is bookkeeping and some of this is the fact that many games are over before turn 5. Either way, what’s important here are the relative values.

This brings us to an additional question: We speculated in our review that abilities that only refund or generate CP for you when stratagems are used will become worse in this new ruleset. But what will that actually look like? Let’s look at CP spending by round in Nachmund:

This one’s pretty academic – the more CP players have to spend, the more they’ll spend. And on the whole, it’s a pretty linear relationship, though there’s both clearly an upper bound and a minimum – players tend to spend 2+ CP in the first battle round, but seldom spend more than 6.  If we generally assume that most in-game stratagems cost an average of 1.3 CP (this is just a back-of-the-napkin guess on my end; the number is somewhere between 1 and 2), then spending 4 CP in a round likely means a player used 3 stratagems.

By this estimate, an average 8-9 CP game likely sees a player use an average of 10 stratagems per game, while moving to 3-4 CP to start likely means an average of 8 stratagems – though this assumes a similar gain of CP in both systems, which we know is not the case. So instead we’ll focus on turn 1 and 2, where the discrepancy is most stark.

Alright, let’s look at some CP generation abilities and odds:

  • Master of Martial Strategy WL Trait (Adeptus Custodes) – This one has you roll a D6 every time you spend a CP on a Stratagem and if you score a 5+ on any of them, you get back a CP. These are relatively easy to translate, since spending more gives you more chances. At 8 starting CP you’re likely to have 4-5 chances to regen a CP, which gives you pretty good odds (99%+) of getting your CP back, as will be the case any turn in which you spend 4+ CP. At 4 starting CP, your odds only drop a little bit – to around 97%, provided you’re spending 3 CP per round. A negligible change overall.
  • Kurov’s Aquila Relic (Astra Militarum) – This one has you roll a D6 each time your opponent uses a Stratagem; on a 5+ you gain a CP. With an ability like this you’re likely getting 4 rolls on round 1 and 3 on round 2, giving you 80% and 70% odds, respectively, to generate a CP. In Nephilim, those odds drop to a much less favorable 56% on each of rounds 1-2. That’s not bad, but means that you may not recoup a CP investment until later in the game.
  • Abilities that generate CP on a 6 – These are really the big losers, as having these fire off is much less likely, and you need more chances to ensure they’ll happen. The odds of landing one of these on 4 rolls is about 52%.

So generally speaking, CP generation that keys off CP spent should generally be pretty safe even in Nephilim, but CP generation effects that key off one player’s stratagem use are much less likely to be worth it, though they will still likely pay for themselves over the course of a game – the challenge is that they may not do so until well after you need the surplus CP they generate.

Ultimately that’s the rub – while many CP-generating abilities and relics pay for themselves over time, the lack of upfront CP in Nephilim makes having CP late-game less of an issue; having the CP on turn 1 is the problem. As a result, players should prioritize CP generating effects that are likely to pay off right away over ones where odds are they won’t pay off until late in the game.

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