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Monday, September 13, 2010

It's a Small World After All: Playing at 1000pts

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It's a small world after all: playing 1000 pts

Big games get talked about a lot in 40K- playing Apocalypse, playing 'Ard Boyz, playing doubles tournaments, and it's not hard to see why. Playing big games is fun; you get to put more models on the table, you get to use all that stuff that's just sitting in your collection (I'm looking at you, Biovores and Techmarines), and there's just more of everything about your usual 40K game.

But what doesn't get talked about much is playing small games. 1500 is often considered the smallest reasonable size, and a lot of people will say that even 1750 is pretty confining. This is not entirely unreasonable; 40K is largely balanced for the 1500-2000 range, but just as playing larger point values can be interesting, smaller ones can be as well. For one, playing a small battle is simply a lot faster than a large one- if you don't have two hours (or more!) to spare, you might still be able to squeeze in a small skirmish. It's also much easier on those just entering the hobby, cutting the initial investment by a proportional fraction and letting them try out units before sinking huge amounts of money into a gimmick that will lose interest after a short time.

Looked at from a competitive standpoint, smaller games are their own kind of animal and require some unique adjustments compared to a larger battle. I will in particular be looking at 1000pt games here, as any smaller than that and the FOC starts to break down for many armies and it becomes necesary to change many things about the game in order for it to continue functioning. Dice rolls (good or bad) can be much more of a factor, troops and HQs will be a major part of every force, and there is simply more space, fewer guns, and fewer distinct "zones" on the field to deal with.

Let's talk about the big one first: randomness. Yes, in a small game you are more likely to have hot-and-cold luck streaks, as your sample size of dice is much smaller. (Think about it this way: your chances of rolling one of each number on six dice are pretty low, but if you roll six thousand dice, you can expect to get much closer to the "average" result.) So yes, luck is going to be a factor in small games, with games sometimes hinging heavily on a small number of rolls. Really, though, this shouldn't be anything new to you if you're familiar with the vehicle damage chart or roll for 6th/7th turn; there are plenty of instances of luck in "normal" 40K such that things can easily go south off of a few unkind dice. In a 1000pt game you simply must keep in mind that it is very possible that two of your Terminators will fail a save and majorly screw up your plan- every loss is a significant part of your battleforce.


The second elephant is that the mandatory Troops and HQ selections are a much larger part of your army at this point total. Now, this does honestly hurt some armies more than others- Tau, for example, find themselves wincing at the 1+ commander and Fire Warriors. By the same token, however, many of the "good" armies will find that they are spending an aweful lot of their allocation just satisfying the minimums- Space Marines, for example, may have to sink 500 or so just to be a legal army, although realistically they can get away with less than this (minimum Scout squads, etc.) It thus becomes much less an issue of "buy mandatory selections, then build my real army" and more a consideration of what you can do with your basic troops as a major component. No army is forced to spend more than ~250 on their basic dudes, so it's not completely crippling, and really only already-marginal armies (DH, Necrons, etc) are really hurt by this limitation.

A less-looked at consequence is that there is going to be a lot of space on the board. Depending on what point value you normally play at, this may be anything from a significant shift (from 1500) to basically feeling completely empty (if you regularly battle at 2K). Fewer points means less units means more space to run to, less utility for blast/template weapons, and fewer crowding/mobility issues. It also means that cover tends to be extremely plentiful (even more so than normal 5E), as there's always something for everyone to duck behind if they care to. Distances to cross tend to be a bit larger overall as well, although that is somewhat mitigated for melee units by other factors.

Primary amongst them, in fact, is that concentrated fire will have a much larger turn dropping important units in a single turn. At 1750+, it is not realistic to expect any single unit to survive a full turn of shooting from the enemy if they want to drop it (unless it's some kind of rock unit, but that's a different discussion); at 1K, however, the total amount of firepower on the table is such that even dedicated shooting may have trouble dropping a reasonably-tough target in a single round. This means that the one-turn delay some units experience (when Deep Striking, for example) can be less crippling and that linchpin units are less likely to be swept summarily off the table once their position is understood. Value-over-time effects, such as Regeneration, also gain in utility, as it's more likely their source will remain around to get the benefits for the full five or six turns.

Partly as a combination of the above factors and partly as a more direct result it becomes difficult to split an army into multiple "task forces" than at higher points totals, especially for armies that rely on synergy between their units (like Eldar, Tau, and Tyranids) to shore up weaknesses or apply specific strengths. Battles thus tend to be fought between the entirety of armies against each other, although this is certainly not always the case.

Last but not least I would be utterly remiss if I did not discuss the presence of "gimmick" armies at 1000pts, by which I mean armies that rely heavily on one unit/strategy/combination to do all of their heavy lifting. This can include so-called Rock armies that focus around a single unkillable, dangerous unit, but also covers such tricks as Lash/Oblits, PBS/Callidius, or a Tyranid force that entirely hangs next to an Old Adversary Tyrant and Venomthrope. All of these armies are characterized by having a single strategy that they are utterly reliant on and, if it should fail, will collapse without hope of recovery. Small points totals are both a boon and a hindrance to such armies; on the one hand, it can be extremely difficult to fit a functional gimmick into such a small point total, as one simply doesn't have the same level of resources to draw on. (Very rarely do such gimmicks use the army's Troops selections, which are a mainstay of 1000pts.) At the same time, such strategies have a natural advantage on small battlefields, as their inherent weakness to opposing counter-strategies is less crippling; whereas at 2K it can be practically guaranteed that if the enemy could have a counter to what you will do, they will include it, at 1K it is not feasible to try and include every useful thing. "Balanced" armies will have a harder time fitting all of their tools in in sufficient quantity to deal with their enemies. (Keep in mind if you plan such an army, however, point number one about the fickleness of the dice in these fights; if those Terminators or Nobz roll a couple 1s in succession, you may be kissing half your army goodbye.)


So what does all of this tell us, in summation? First of all, armies with strong troops will do well in 1K games; this largely means 5E codices, although some others (like Dark Eldar) will also benefit. Secondly, minimizing the chances of luck wherever possible is a good idea- this means not relying on reserves, for example, nor on small-but-powerful effects that involve a single die roll such as non-twin linked big guns. Thirdly, units either need to be completely self-reliant (like a Tactical Squad) or be working in concert with the whole of the rest of your army; you cannot expect to detach two or three units and have them do something on their own without crippling your forces. Finally, gimmicks should be all-or-nothing in such small games; either dedicate yourself wholly to embracing it or avoid them and stick strictly to keeping a balanced force. There is no room for running small Rock units or backup plans.

I won't say 1000 points is an awesome and superior level to play at- it comes with a lot of caveats and quirks of its own. For those interested in playing a more balanced and skill-dependent game, larger points totals will certainly be a better option; however, with the realities of gaming (time, money, etc) playing small battles can bring a lot of advantages to the table (so to speak) and has a certain old-fashioned charm of its own, harking back to the skirmishes of older editions where models on the table were scarcer than today. It's something of a comprimise, combining the more balanced play of normal 40K with the comparative ease and speed of Kill Team or 40K in Forty Minutes, but obviously taking some of the good and the bad from each. Hopefully this article has convinced you to give it a try, or at least see such battles in a little better light than you might otherwise.

12 pinkments:

jabberjabber said...

I've really enjoyed the 1000 points games (and lower) that I've played -- they have a charm about them that higher points games don't tend to offer. They feel more like a large kill team game or a narrative skirmish game ... and they're quicker to play too.

Killswitch said...

Im interested in your thoughts on some competative 1kpt lists. Lets see the top 3 from your perspective Kirby :)

AbusePuppy said...

Dunno about top 3, since I only have my own experience to draw on and most of the players in my area aren't that good. However, here's some lists I've run with a bit of success:

TYRANIDS
1 Tyranid Prime
LW/BS, Toxin, Regen
1 Tyranid Prime
LW/BS, Toxin, Regen

10 Termagants
11 Termagants
1 Tervigon
Talons, Toxin, Adrenal, Regen, Catalyst, Cluster

1 Carnifex
2 Devourer, Regen
1 Carnifex
2 Devourer, Regen

(This is a gimmick list- you have two Fexstars and you expect them to win the game themselves. Your Tervi should in cover/out of LOS as much as possible, your Termagants should Go to Ground whenever necessary. Onslaught on the Tervigon is something I tried on and off, hard to say.)



1 Librarian (125)
Jump Pack, Shield of Sanguinous, Blood Lance

2 Sanguinary Priest (150)
Jump Pack, 1 Infernus/Meltabombs, 1 Hand Flamer/PWeapon,

10 Assault Marines (240)
2 Meltagun, Sgt w/Inferno, PFist

10 Assault Marines (225)
2 Flamer, Sgt w/Hand Flamer, PWeapon

5 Vanguard Vetrans (210)
Jump Packs
Lightning Claw/Storm Shield
Power Weapon

(This one is still theoretical but seems like a relatively standard BA build. You can easily keep everyone in Priest bubbles and cause a lot of damage when you come down. I'm aware the PWs are suboptimal but I like them anyways; switching in Fists or whatever isn't hard to do.)


1 CCS (115)
Vox, Standard, Missile

1 Le Soldat Marbo (65)

4 Ratlings

Infantry Platoon
PCS
Vox, Autocannon, Sniper
Infantry Squad (80)
Lascannon, Sniper, Vox
Infantry Squad (75)
Lascannon, Sniper
Infantry Squad (75)
Lascannon, Sniper
HWS (65)
3 Autocannon
HWS (65)
3 Autocannon

Infantry Platoon
PCS (50)
Vox, Autocannon, Sniper
Infantry Squad (80)
Lascannon, Sniper, Vox
Infantry Squad (75)
Lascannon, Sniper
Infantry Squad (75)
Lascannon, Sniper
HWS (65)
3 Autocannon
HWS (65)
3 Autocannon

(The list I've been pushing an IG friend towards. Fourteen ACs, six Lascannon, twelve Snipers, and a Missile Launcher, all of it backed up by rerolls on morale and Orders and a mystery Demo Charge where you need it. Depending on how quick your enemy is you either layer one line of Infantry Squads in front of the others or you combine into 30-man teams for maximum killing; either way, you're getting a ridiculous number of shots downrange, but have zero mobility. Make sure you set up where you need to be; one or both of the PCS can be converted to "mobile" units with 4x GL, Flamer, or Melta to grab a second objective, but you're mostly going to be wanting to shoot them off the table. Land Raiders are a pain, but you may be able to kill them and neuter the enemy at range.)

Not the best three lists in the world, but something of a selection. Generic Marine and Guard lists can be scaled down fairly well also (i.e. guys in Rhinos/Chims with firepower backing them.)

Killswitch said...

Interesting selection, heres a go from my perspective:

Space wolves:

Rune Priest: 100pts
Jaws, Lightning.

Rifleman Dread: 125pts

5 Scouts: 85pts
Meltagun

5 Grey Hunters: 115pts
Rhino, Meltagun.

5 Grey Hunters: 115pts
Rhino, Meltagun.

5 Grey Hunters: 115pts
Rhino, Meltagun.

5 Long Fangs: 115pts
4 Rockets

5 Long Fangs: 115pts
4 Rockets

5 Long Fangs: 115pts
4 Rockets

Imperial Guard

CCS: 80pts
3 Melta.

CCS: 85pts
3 Melta, flamer.

10 Vets: 175pts
Chimera, 3 melta, lascannon.

10 Vets: 175pts
Chimera, 3 melta, lascannon.

Vendetta: 130pts
Vendetta: 130pts

Hydra: 75pts
Hydra: 75pts
Hydra: 75pts

Kirby said...

Lower points = Tau, DE & IG.

Tau can pack a lot of firepower in through their Elites and DE & IG can simply scale down their lists. All of these lists don't have to invest as much in their defenses either as they can shoot you off the board at such point levels.

VT2 said...

Necrons are completely hosed at 1k.
20 warriors (2x10, the minimum) and a lord is 460 points.

Fireknife commander - 87
Fireknife commander - 87

2 Fireknives - 124
2 Fireknives - 124
2 Fireknives - 124

6 firewarriors - 60
10 kroot - 70
10 kroot - 70

Ionhead - 135
Ionhead - 135

Killswitch said...

Whats your idea of a guard list, or is mine adequate?

As for that tau list, fairly interesting :P!

NockerGeek said...

Glad to see smaller games getting some love; our group has pretty much adopted 1500 points as our "standard" game, but 750-1000 point games are pretty common as well. I'm used to having a wide-open table, and feel like 1750-2000 point games would start getting too crowded. :)

AbusePuppy said...

@Killswitch
Those both look pretty nasty, yeah. I think the Scouts might end up underperforming with so little on the table, though; less chance of catching something with its ass on the edge for you.

@VT2
Don't really like those Ionheads, although it's an interesting choice. Fireknives should give you all the MEQ-killing you need, so you're better off trying to fill something else out with those points. You also have no way to get FWs where they need to go, which seems like a problem.

Rupert said...

HAI ALEX!

Killswitch said...

lmao hello mate :)!

Swede said...

Would love to see an update to this post.

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