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"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

Friday, May 6, 2011

Repetition and Redundancy

You're probably all a bit fed-up of this topic now - sorry. I know there are a couple of posts on 3++ about it (here and here) and there have been some recent posts around the blogosphere about similar subjects such as here on Bringer of Victory and here on The Back 40k. This article is a bit of a response to the one by Spaguatyrine on The Back 40k.

I want to say first of all, I love The Back 40k. I go through phases on the interwebz. When I don't have a great deal of free time I tend to stick to 3++ as it fulfills my hobby 'needs' (note: this doesn't mean I think it's the best blog (although it clearly is *fears the whip*)). When I have more time I get around a bit more and The Back 40k is usually very close to the top of my list of 'to visits'. There are very few posts I don't enjoy, and as many of the authors are in the same gaming group, it gives a 'local' feel that I don't think 3++ has. Anyways... great blog guys, much props to you all.

This article by Spaguatyrine confused me at first, as I just didn't agree with what was being said. After reading it twice I realised I actually agree with what is being said, but we are using different definitions. The main one I think I disagree with is this...

redundancy - repetition of an act needlessly

This may well be a definition of redundancy, but it's not the one that I would apply to the mechanics of 40k list building. That's not to say that I'm right. I'm not a profound 'snowmobiler', so I think I'll just write down my own thoughts and let you all decide if I'm off the track.

List-building is the most common subject of blog posts on the blogosphere (okay, okay, I've started with a statement I can't back-up, but I'm sure it is). It is however - in my opinion - not the most important part of playing 40k. The General is far, far more important. I lose to a good friend of mine almost all the time. We swap lists and he still wins. He's a better general, I accept that. However, a good list is one way in which you can improve your chances of winning. The auto-win list is a fallacy - it doesn't exist.

So how can we improve the chance of winning other than practice, practice, practice? We can optimise our lists. I won't be using any dictionary definitions, but optimisation to me, is making something more fit for purpose. There may or may not be external restrictions on this. I'm a doctor and we use the word optimisation frequently, mainly in association with improving the medical therapy of a patient. This could involve increasing or decreasing doses of tablets, starting new ones or stopping current ones. Sometimes there are limitations of what we can use - patient allergies, hospital policy and national guidance. Taking this to 40k, we can optimise lists by changing squad sizes/choices, add new units or drop current ones. We have limitations such as FoC slots, points costings and dare I say it... personal choice. So, optimisation is making your unit, and on a grander scale, your list more fit for purpose.

New players are aware of this need to optimise but struggle to do it - creating rock type units is one of the more common mistakes (although it's not always a mistake - confusing I know). So we as the blogosphere try to make some simple rules to help people optimise their lists. One of these is redundancy. The easiest way I can explain redundancy is that it's a back-up plan. I have unit a that can deal with my opponent's unit x. But what if unit a dies before it performs it's job? That's where redundancy comes into play... I have unit b which can also perform said function. This is where the dreaded word 'Spam' comes into play. The easiest - not best - way to create redundancy in a list is to repeat units. Meltavets/MM bunkers/Riflemen(or Psyflemen) dreads are all good examples of this. However, repetition is not the only way of achieving redundancy and this is where I had trouble with Spag's article. He takes redundancy and repetition to mean the same thing (I think). Redundancy is having more than one plan to perform a required function. Repetition is to take multiples of the same unit. It just so happens that the commonest form of redundancy is repetition. That's because it's easy.

Spag's other discussion/comparison point is 'utility'. This is a slightly more difficult word to define. In it's basic term it's the use or functioning of a unit. For example, the utility of meltavets is primarily to pop heavy armour. They can however be used for any armour type (AP1 FTW), MCs, Heavy infantry, influence your opponent's movement around the board and many more I'm sure. This leads me on to the term 'utility unit' - another term used by Spaguatyrine. I would say that a 'utility unit' is a unit that has many utilities i.e. many functions. Despite the list of functions that can be carried out by Meltavets, they wouldn't be considered a 'utility unit'. An example of such a unit is Thundewolf Cavalry - Can drop heavy and light armour with Str 10 weapons and rending, can hurt hordes, MCs, heavy infantry. Not disimilar to Meltavets you say. TWC however have so much more - speed, high toughness, better saves, cover providers etc. Utility units tend to be very expensive and tend to create 'rock' type lists, but are great units for providing redundancy in many areas as their functions are so broad-ranging.

Let's look at a few units...

Wolf Scouts (5) - meltagun

Wolfguard (2) - 2 x Combi-melta, 2 x powerfist

Grey hunters (7) - Meltagun, rhino

TWC (3) - PF/SS, SS

Long fangs (5) - 4 missile launchers

That comes in at 666 (eeep). It needs lots of extra bits and bobs, but is a good basis for a list - in my opinion - for low point games. Not amazing, but I'm not a Space Wolf player so :P. It has a lot of the necessary functions and more importantly, it has redundancy of all of these functions.

Light armour - Missiles, TWC, melta teams

Heavy armour - Melta teams, TWC

Horde - TWC, missiles, GHs

MCs - Missiles, TWC (meltas teams at a push - they do have a PF)

Heavy infantry (TEq) - TWC, GHs

Influence enemy movement and deployment - Scouts, TWC

Longevity - TWC, GHs

So... we have not repeated any unit, have covered all bases and worked-in redundancy. This is actually relatively easy at lower point levels. When you get to larger games, you need more units. We've taken the ones we have so far as they're some of the most efficient units in their respective slots (elites, troops, fast attack etc). In some books we only have one choice (BT only have one troop choice), some books only have one SENSIBLE choice, but many books have many different, efficient choices in each slot, so 'spamming' is rarely a necessity, it's just easy.

So Mr Spaguatyrine, I put it to you... you do use redundancy, you just do it with utility units rather than repeating units. Either way, you seem to be pretty good at it, so I look forward to more of your articles.

Farmpunk sums a lot of this up in a much simpler and shorter comment (it's the first one too)...

"With IG and WH, I tend to build mirror lists. There's a lot of bodies to play with, and I typically will take my halves to use for pincer tactics. I suppose I do similar with BA razorspam. It's a lot of small units swarming the board.

I'm finding with GK's, since they're an elite army, it's much tougher for me to make my usual mirror lists. It's a tough habit to break!

It's also tough for me to live with spending 240+ pts on a unit and transport. Like my beloved GKT's with Psycannon and Thawn clocks in at 300pts! And that's just the unit. Then you need a Raven or Raider to get them where they need to go.

Redundancy can also be found not by taking more of the same thing, but by overlapping purposes.
for instance...
an Inquisitorial Warband with 3 meltas is good at close range tank-killing.
A Librarian with Might of Titan is Also pretty good at close range tank killing. Add in a squad, and you're Libby's going to make quick parking lots.

redundancy of purpose, not redundancy of units." Farmpunk

This last sentance is the best and the one I think can most easily be taken away... I would however change it slightly...

Redundancy of purpose, not repetition of units.

If you haven't already, I would go and read Sandwyrm's article on Something His Teacher Once Told Him... it's all about how experience allows you to explore the 'rules' which we follow. It's a good read!

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