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When you take a look through the army list section you fail to see a lot of power weapons. In squad units the power fist prevails - for obvious reasons.
Still sometimes you have a reason for taking a weapon that strikes at higher initiative and costs fewer points but still ignore armour saves. Classically this would call for power swords and axes and whatever else we have. But this choice is not exactly the best, and for those who do not already know I shall explain...
A (single) lightning claw is the same price as a power weapon. It re-rolls to wound, though you will not get a bonus attack for a second close combat weapon. So how is these weapons' effectiveness in comparison?
Skip the maths and jump right to the summary and conclusion if you're not a fan of juggling numbers...
The average number of wounding hits is determined by the following formula:
[number of attacks] x [chance to hit] x [chance to wound]
If we compare the two weapons' average numbers of wounding hits we have the following equation:
avg. # of wounding hits from lightning claw = avg. # of wounding hits from power weapon
[#attacks] x [to hit] x [to wound] = ([#attacks] + 1) x [to hit] x [to wound]
Since "[to hit]" is the same for both we can just divide the whole equation by that factor, effectively eliminating it from our considerations. "[to wound]" varies for the weapon types though, so it stays in the equation. The "[#attacks]" is the same for both, but this will be the dependent variable that we want to calculate.
To do that we will now assume a specific target toughness and for each of them we will calculate the number of attacks at which both weapons fare equally well. Against T3 the power weapon in the hands of a Space Marine wounds two thirds of the time (on a 3+), the lightning claw in eight ninths of the time (on a 3+, and if a 1 or 2 is rolled you get another 3+). At T4 it's 1/2 for the power weapon and 3/4 for the lightning claw. At T5 it's 1/3 for the power weapon and 5/9 for the lightning claw. At T6 and T7 it's 1/6 for the power weapon and 11/36 for the lightning claw. T8 and higher ignores both.
T3: #A * 8/9 = (#A + 1) * 2/3 -> #A = 3
T4: #A * 3/4 = (#A + 1) * 1/2 -> #A = 2
T5: #A * 5/9 = (#A + 1) * 1/3 -> #A = 1.5
T6/7: #A * 11/36 = (#A + 1) * 1/6 -> #A = 1.2
Below the listed #A the power weapon and secondary close combat weapon beat the single lightning claw, above it the latter is far more effective.
A single lightning claw performs just as well as a power weapon and second close combat weapon against T3 models if you have at least 3 attacks with it. That means it is always the better choice on a Captain and it is also the better choice on a Sergeant or veteran on the turn they charge into close combat.
Against T4 models the lightning claw is equally effective as power weapon and second close combat weapons as soon as you have 2 attacks with it. That means that virtually any model in the Space Marine codex eligible to be equipped with a lightning claw is at least as good with the single lightning claw than with power weapon and second close combat weapon, even when not charging and low attack profile.
Against T5 and higher all the models eligible to buy a lightning claw perform better in close combat with it than with power weapon and second close combat weapon.
Captains are always - no matter the target - better off with single lightning claws than with power weapon and second close combat weapon. Veteran Marines and Sergeants can be worse with lightning claw than with power weapon and second close combat weapon against T3 models in the turns after they have charged or when being charged. But in all other circumstances - i.e. the vast majority of all games - they are at least as good with the lightning claw and mostly better off.
This one little circumstance where choosing the single lightning claw over the power weapon and close combat weapon is a drawback comes down to this little difference: power sword and second close combat weapon kill 2.0 * [to hit], single lightning claw kills 1.78 * [to hit].
If you take into account that to hit rolls are usually 4+, maybe 3+, that makes of difference of 0.11-0.15 enemy casualties, practically amounting to nothing.
Since the advantage of the lightning claw is not only more casualties at many attacks and high-T, but also that you can take a bolter for your model (since you don't get the extra attack anyway) to add some important ranged firepower, I conclude that taking single lightning claw and bolter instead of power weapon and second close combat weapon is the way to go! [Of course this might not be true in 100% of all situations but in a good 80%, making the ruling a very viable one.]
Of course that is only if you have to decide between those two. For squad leaders power fists still are the more secure option, allowing you to deal with a broader range of situations.
I approve this post. But yeah, I'd probably go for fists if I have the points.
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Cool math hammer, may be helpful for the newer players. I personally just go with Fists on anything that isn't an IC, they get something to take advantage of I.
Agree to most parts, BUT.
A model equipped with a pistol is able to fire it before he charges the enemy. This fact throws the stated equation off.
Therefore, equipping a lightnig clawed model with an assault type wep is more favorable. But more costly ofc.
With the bolter you will most probably have had two of those bolter shots on the turn before you charged. That's not true if you are assaulting from a land raider, for example, but then: just don't take a bolter! Stick with bolt pistol and lightning claw. You can have your shot and assault.
You won't get the extra attack of course, but since you are charging you are still at least as good with the lightning claw as with power weapon and extra attack in the worst cases (against T3), or a lot better off (against T4 and T5 models - or even versus T3 if the carrying model is a captain).
The bolt pistol shot does NOT throw the off the above equation, because if you want you have it both with the power weapon OR the lightning claw. All set?
Well im happy as long as its "ok" to arm the char. with bolt pistol and lightning claw. (Mainly what i do since I prefer mathammer style lists)
Totally agree with Nemesis. LCs are more of a Termie weapon now from what most people play. PFs are just to necessary and Relic Blades are to shiny. Sometimes a TH/SS IC is cool too, just because he's a truck.
Exactly what I'm trying to say. There are better choices (that also cost more), but if you're in - for whatever reason - for buying a power weapon, then take a single lightning claw for the same price instead.
Relic blades share the disadvantage of the lightning claw (no extra attack) and offer the same kind of advantage, but on a bigger scale.
At T3 the lightning claw is better than the relic blade, but at any toughness above that the relic blade causes more wounds while also being able to wound a broader range of toughnesses (monstrous creatures and such) and having instant-kill capacity against T3 (very useful against swarms). All that without downgrading initiative, so for characters this is of course the best option.
And power fists are the best for sergeants for obvious reasons.
But then again: once you have to get by with having too few points you should take the lightning claw over the power weapon.