Sunday, January 24, 2010
Write a List or Build an Army?
So I spend a fair amount of time (probably too much!) on some of the internet forums out there checking out other people’s army lists, and occasionally submitting my own. I make suggestions, I tweak a few things here and there, but overall do I really help anyone win games? Do I help them have more fun? Do I make them better players? I don’t really know, but in truth I doubt it. I say this because I don’t really feel that any of the advice I have received in the past has really helped me all that much. I am not saying that none of it has, but if I had to put a percentage to it I would guess it would be less than 10% of the advice I have ever received on the ‘army list’ posts have ever truly helped me. Even in those instances it didn’t really make me a better player though. Usually it just drew my attention to a unit or a piece of wargear that I had previously overlooked. I still needed to figure out if that fit into my army and if so, how?
So what’s my point? Where am I going with this? What does it all mean? Well to answer that let me tell you a bit about how I started out in 40k…
Long, long ago, in the olden days of 3rd edition a few of my friends were into this cool looking game called Warhammer 40k. They would glue these cool looking models together with all these weird looking weapons and then paint them up to look even cooler. Then instead of putting them up on a shelf or in some form of display case they would get together and play a game with them. How cool is that?! So I asked them to teach me how to play. As an example game they handed me a Space Marine tactical squad and they pulled out a few Dark Eldar Warriors for me to battle against. We put them on the table and as you can imagine, without me doing much of anything the Tactical Squad annihilated the DE warriors. At the time I didn’t realize that this was a completely unfair fight. I mean I had bolters, power armor and even a missile launcher if I remember rightly. The DE had splinter rifles and all the weedy-ness a T3 5+ save troop can have. Regardless, I was hooked.
Now I needed to find ‘my army’. We all go through this in our own way. But generally, I would say we look at the model range to see which ones we like. We probably try to have different armies than what our friends are playing (and may also pick up some of their prejudices! I still don’t really have a good reason for why I don’t like Ultra Marines.) We look at the fluff to see what ones sound cool. We try to figure out which ones are more ‘powerful’ than the others. Anyway, however we come to it we choose an army that we want to play. For me it actually came down to the fact that I liked the Swooping Hawk models and the whole ‘Space Elf’ feel to the Eldar.
So I then had to get some models. I went out and bought a Farseer and some Swooping Hawks and the Battleforce box looked like a good starting spot so I got one of those. Back then the battleforce box came with a bunch of Guardians (No heavy weapons platform!), a Vyper, 3 jetbikes and a Falcon. So I got home and glued them together, and started painting them. Then I got to play my first game. I proudly deployed my new army and then proceeded to have my ass handed to me. So I went back to the codex to try and figure out what to get to ‘fix’ my list. I went out and got some Howling Banshees next, I mean a whole unit of power weapons! How could they fail!? So I added them to the list put it all on the table and… got my ass handed to me. I did this with a couple more units before I said, “Hey maybe I should look into that whole Craftworld Eldar codex.” So I got that and picked a Craftworld. I first chose Ulthwe. Now I had ‘Black guardians’ and a seer council (so I got a bunch of warlocks too) and I put that down and… got my ass handed to me.
This process repeated itself several times until I had a huge collection of models, but only a very modest win/loss record. I had tried vanilla Eldar, and both the Ulthwe and Beil-Tann craftwords. It wasn’t until I stopped looking at what individual units could do to the enemy and started looking at how they could compliment the other units in my army that I really started to get some wins under my belt (getting a few forgeworld wave serpent conversion kits helped too!) All of this was good, but I was still just busting out a piece of paper and a calculator before every game to write up a list. I had a bunch of units, some idea of how they worked together and a bunch of lists, but not an army.
So then towards the end of 3rd (and unfortunately not long before getting out of the game for a few years) I decided that I wanted to try Saim-Hann. I had always liked the look of the sleek red grav tanks and Jetbikes massed on the battlefield, but up until then didn’t think I could do a good enough job of painting and converting to give it a try. So I told my friends and by then I was on the old GW forums (why did they ever get rid of those anyways?) and mentioned it there. Everyone thought I was crazy. I mean Jetbikes sucked back then. They were 35pts a model! The shuriken cannon upgrades cost 20pts! Outrageous! But I was gonna do it anyway.
And this brings me to my original idea of ‘building an army’.
I knew that this army was going to be even trickier than my regular Eldar. So I figured I needed a plan. I really needed to think about how each unit I added to the army would work with the other units. What would I do about movement? Shooting? Assault? I really thought about each and every piece of the army and what role it would fill within the army. Back then it was all about pop-out attacks with the Jetbikes 6” assault move and Chrystal Targeting Matrix’s on all the vehicles. When I got back into the game a couple months ago I reviewed the new codex and rulebook and realized that that was no longer going to work, but that with all the speed I had I would be able to adjust easily to the objective based missions of 5th ed. I have tweaked the list a bit, but the core hasn’t changed much. Each thing I have added or dropped has been with a purpose and carefully considered based on how it fit into my army and not on how powerful some forum says it is. For example: The Shining Spears in 3rd edition were drastically overpriced and horribly underwhelming, but in the current codex they pack quite a punch. I added them to help bail my seer council out of trouble and add some counter assault ability. Being on bikes they have the speed to keep up with the rest of my army and don’t need to wait a turn to disembark from a wave serpent like the banshees many people recommended would. In other armies I can see how the Banshees would be better, but for all the crying foul about them that the forums have done, the Spears fit my army better!
Anyway, I am running WAY longer than I had intended. I hope I have brought some insight to my way of thinking. I guess to make sure I will throw a simple summary here at the end…
When making an army, whether you’re just starting out with it or making a list for an upcoming battle, don’t just pull out a pen, paper and calculator and whip one out in 5 minutes. Instead, take some time to carefully consider how each model is going to fit into its unit and how each unit is going to fit into the army as a whole. I really believe this kind of thinking will really lead to a more enjoyable and competitive army. Not just the cookie cutter armies the forums will help you to make.