Kirb your enthusiasm!


"Pink isn't a color. It's a lifestyle." - Chumbalaya
"...generalship should be informing list building." - Sir Biscuit
"I buy models with my excess money" - Valkyrie whilst a waitress leans over him

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Back-to-Basics: List Building 101

No I'm not going to cover list building in a single post. I think I'm going to let other authors have a crack as it as well as I've already given it my own spin in the Armies in 5th posts on the Basics. What this post is going to look at is how you start your list building and is going to be so basic, so simple and yet so brilliant, the world will stop.

Okay well that's a lie but it sounded good right? So before you even start to embark upon the gruelling journey that you take to make your army balanced and capable of dealing with tanks, infantry and everything in between, you have to have an idea. What do you want your army to do? This is a huge issue with a lot of armies which garner the nicknames 'battleforce armies' or 'rainbow armies.' In lay terms, they are simply an army list with no direction that has lots of units which do different jobs, in different slots and do not act as a cohesive force. Basically what you would get if you bought only battleforces (odd combination of units) or were aiming to own at least one of every option in your codex (rainbow).

So...this idea seems pretty obvious correct? I mean, it's not rocket science to generate a concept and then attempt to see if that concept is viable by running the math (i.e. building an army list) and then play-testing it (running a simulation; for some odd reason I think I have to make this an engineering metaphor or something...). However, having that concept in your mind well before you start building your list can really help determine the success or failure during the building process and potentially provide a better product in the end.

So some of the things you need to think about before you even start putting pen to paper: 

    1. What are you building around?

 Do you have some master-plan that no one else has thought of or a unit you simply must have (or think is awesome or read is awesome or looks awesome or is just plain friggin awesome)? How will you implement this unit or plan and what does it do to the rest of your army? For example, taking Thunderwolf Cavalry units (so not counter-charge guys) gives your army a very impressive and speedy assault unit which is both powerful and durable. You must keep this in mind as you build the rest of the army. It's important to note this 'core' of your army isn't a lynch pin but rather a significant defining factor of the list. A lot of MSU-based armies won't have a single unit they've built around but rather the core concept of MSU and the theme of mech.

     2. Does your army have a theme?

This is generally related to what you are building around but not always though it is a silly idea to build around a unit or concept and then make your army theme the complete opposite. Some general theme guidelines could be things like reserve based (Jumpers, Drop Pods), mech, Hybrid, foot, gun line, choppy, aggressive, defensive/reactive, etc. and really dictate how your army will play on the table. Make sure what you're building around fits into this at least loosely and that you are comfortable running this type of lists. Continuing with the Thunderwolf example; adding the rest of your army in as Drop Pods leaves the Thunderwolves out to dry or takes away their big assault range advantage as they need to reserve to protect themselves when going second.

    3. Flesh out ideas for how you are going to implement your core concept or unit.

Now that you've got your theme down and the core concept/unit which you are building around, think of ways to implement this as there are generally more than one. Taking the Thunderwolf Calvary again, you've decided on a foot concept. With this in mind you can run a pure foot list with all TWC, Fenrsisian Wolves, Iron Priests and Grey Hunters on foot. You can make a less aggressive army and run some Long Fangs. If you had chosen a Hybrid theme you could make a more shooty force with the aggressive TWC element or make TWC act as a counter-attack unit within the gun line. What you need to figure out though is the basic structure of the unit or concept you are attempting to build around. If you have an idea how many points you'll be spending (i.e. 185 points per TWC squad and we want three of them leaving 1445 points to play with at 2000) on that concept or unit(s), you'll have a better idea of what you can do to flesh out the army list.

    4. Remember your training!

Once you start fleshing out the army with the concept/unit and theme in mind, remember everything you've taught about balanced lists. Ensure your saturation, duality, redundancy and general anti-tank and -infantry are high whilst having as much disruption, defenses and options available to you that you are not only shooting at your enemy but using tactical acumen to defeat them and disrupt their plans to defeat you.

    5. Don't despair.

Sometimes ideas just don't work. You may have to go back a few steps or simply tweak the concept or unit you wish to build around or do something more major and change the theme and/or concept/unit and how you wish to implement it. Sometimes the idea simply isn't going to work at its most basic form either and the whole army project may have to be scrapped. This happens. There are many more failed lists on scrap pieces of paper hanging around my workstation than successful ones. It's part of the learning process and you need to be willing to accept this or you'll never be able to move on to a concept which may be a more worthy endeavour.

    6. No rules are absolute.

Remember these are just guidelines and something I find useful when setting out to write a new list (maybe because I generally see something I'd like to make a list out of...). This is particularly true off newer books as there is a lot less information out there to gather and as an individual you'll have less expertise and familiarity with the book. By attempting lists design (even if you know they'll fail), you'll arm yourself with more knowledge for when you try again, when you try to help someone or when you end up facing the army across the tabletop.

I hope this gives some more insight into list-building in its infancy. I'd like to stress the importance that this is how I do it and by no means is the right or only way. As you develop as a 40k/Fantasy/whatever player, you'll find your own style which works for you which may or may not be dissimilar to what I've written here. In the end though I think having a clear focus and idea of what you want your list to do is going to be the hallmark of a more successful list as you are more likely to produce a list with said focus.

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