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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

Monday, June 27, 2011

Spamming - Bad or not?

This isn't a discussion about the aesthetics, joy or lack thereof in regards to spamming but rather its application on the tabletop and whether or not it produces a bad list. So take those comments and post about them elsewhere - we know people's opinions on this are extreme and mixed but they are opinions.So, spamming. Is it bad? Does it limit you? These are some of the major criticisms of 'spam' lists so let's take a look.

Spamming is the easiest and simplest way of getting redundancy into your army. If you have a unit which is good at anti-tank the best way to ensure you will have access to that anti-tank option is to take more of the same unit. This is in essence redundancy which ensures your army will have the tools necessary to deal with any opposing force. Pretty simple right? This coincides with duality which references units' ability to not only threaten tanks but infantry as well. The correct combination of the two of these concepts will create a balanced army list capable of matching up with anything your opponent throws on the board.


With this in mind, and assuming we pick a unit with good duality, spamming is by in large, a straight forward concept which ensures we have multiple units capable of affecting tanks and infantry which creates target priority problems for our opponent. This is one of the major keystones of spamming - target priority. Let's take a look at a real spam army such as Immolator spam or Purifier RazorKnight spam. What do both of these armies have in common? Pretty much every unit is the same. In the Immolator spam army we have multiple units of Sisters squads with two meltaguns in Immolators. In the RazorKnight spam army we have five Grey Knights with two psycannons in Rhinos/Razorbacks. As an opponent there is no obvious shooting priority based on unit outlay - everything is pretty much the same and if those units are done correctly, the army as a whole will threaten you significantly.

These are obviously extreme cases. It's hard to create such repetition across all of your FoC slots and crank out 2000 points of it. More commonly however we see spam within a single FoC slot. There are many reasons for this, some of which we have outlined above. Mainly - by repeating the same unit and assuming that unit is good at what it does, the army now has multiple tools which fulfil a role well. This means the opponent is going to have a hard time to completely eliminate that tool from the army quickly as it needs to kill more than one unit. This is further highlighted by the number of slots each army has available. Troops and HQ are the only evened number options at six and two respectively but Fast Attack, Elites and Heavy Support all have three free slots. What this means is it is hard to run different units in each of these slots as you're going to have at least one unit which doesn't have a copy. This hurts your redundancy but can be overcome depending upon the unit (sometimes you only need one - i.e. Beastmasters in Dark Eldar, Sternguard/Terminators in Marines, etc.) and what other options there are in the codex.

For example if you can have a similar unit type in a different FoC slot, you can create some level of redundancy by having one of each unit (i.e. Land Speeder Typhoon compared to Rifledread). There are obviously going to be some differences but if their basic premise (in this case high strength firepower at range) is similar, you can mix your units up more effectively. At the same time, these minor differences will often greatly change your opponent's target priority. For example, a Tyranid army is much more afraid of Typhoons than Rifledreads thanks to S8 (instant death on T4, easier to wound T6) and AP3 (cover saves only for MCs) and thus increase their relative importance on the target priority scale. When using spam to create redundancy within a FoC and across the army, this is often not the case.

This is often an argument against spamming and I know some people like BroLo prefer to see armies with redundancy spread across FoC slots as much as possible. Unfortunately, particularly at higher point levels, it's a lot harder to do this effectively as there are a finite number of unit choices. In the end there is most likely going to be some repetition of units, especially in Troops, due to this 'limitation' of army books but it's the extreme cases (same three Elites, Heavy, Fast, etc.) that gets people's panties in a knot and is labelled spamming.


Let's then take a look at some of the gameplay criticisms of spamming and see how they hold up. The most common centres around army limitation - particularly full spam lists such as those mentioned above. We'll highlight these cases again for the most extreme examples. In these armies they have the ultimate level of saturation but only one way to affect the opponent. This is the double-edged sword of repeating the same unit concept throughout the army. If you come across an army which completely laughs at this concept, the spam army is going to fall flat on its face and lose horribly. This is where army design comes in. If you're spamming such a unit which cannot effectively deal with whatever your opponent throws at you, don't make a whole army out of it. In the cases of the Immo and Razorknight lists they are capable of dealing with a range of opponents from masses of infantry to mass of tanks (both heavy and light) so in these cases, whilst their attack is pretty one-dimensional and predictable, they have the tools for the job.

In the case of spamming in individual FoC slots, you'll find this is far less limiting as you have a variety of units upon the table. Again, as long as you are ensuring the individual units and the army as a cohesive whole is capable of handling whatever is thrown at it, there is going to be little tactical problem in repeating the same unit in a single FoC. If however this repetition lends your army to the point where you do have a weakness, then yes, spamming the same or similar units is going to limit your army. For example, Imperial Guard lists which we have discussed a bit lately, often spam lots of S7 firepower at range with Chimeras and meltaguns for midfield and close range work. Unfortunately this leaves heavy tanks at range with quite a bit of leeway as the S7 and token S9 isn't going to threaten them significantly and the meltaguns will take time to get across the board. By simply adding in firepower which is capable of dealing with these tanks early on, the Imperial list is more capable of spamming S7 firepower with Chimeras/meltaguns for midfield support. Changing armies, this is often why Land Speeders are so important as they offer the ability to shoot at anything with a great weapon (heavy flamer or mutli-melta) early and thus overcome the limitations of mass S7 firepower at range.

In the case of army design then, assuming you do it correctly and ensure there is a cohesiveness to your force without any major weaknesses (i.e. ability to handle AV14, range and strength disparity between your weapons, ability to handle mass infantry, etc.) spamming really has no theoretical issues. This then brings us to the next major criticism of spamming - predictability.

Again, this is primarily directed towards extreme examples where their list does play in a very uni-dimensional fashion. If you have a bunch of meltaguns inside a transport with a heavy flamer are you going to sit back and enjoy the sunshine? No. This gives your opponent a mild advantage in knowing how your army is going to play, what your major strengths and weaknesses are and how they can counter them. If the list is good however, well knowing what to do doesn't always mean you're going to win the game. The lists have spammed the same unit concept over and over again and that's to ensure some of them operate effectively and more often than not, they do. Whilst as an opponent you have to think on your feet less in regards to your overall strategy, you still have to focus on the micromanagement within the game to ensure that overall plan continues to operate.

In regards to more 'normal' lists with spamming in individual FoC, again, you are more able to quickly identify how the units and army work and not have to think too much about target priority. This doesn't mean your opponent is going to let you do as you wish though and if the army is built well, will have other options that are going to threaten you. For example against a T6'R'Us Tyranid list you have two major targets early - the Tervigons and Hive Guard. You know this. The Tyranid player knows this and is thus going to try to protect them as much as possible and use other units such as Genestealers, Raveners, Primes, Zoanthropes, Biovores, Shrikes, Warriors, Trygons, etc. to distract your attention from them or take advantage of your attention on them to punish you. Knowing how your opponent's army works may be easier with spamming in individual FoC but like complete spamming across the FoC, it doesn't automatically equate to a win but rather an easier time during deployment and early turns where you already have an overall battleplan. As the game unfolds however, your ability to counter your opponent's moves is going to be more important and really has no reflection on the level of spam in an army or not (assuming the army is built well).


Spamming isn't bad. It may have poor aesthetics or boring or whatever but in terms of actual gameplay, when done correctly, it's a fine army construct. You ensure you have the tools for every job without leaving gaping holes in the application of such tools or having easily identified targets which your opponent needs to deal with early and thus crippling your armies ability to deal with a specific army or unit type. If you have left such holes, those tools are so numerous some are going to get through to do their job (i.e. full spam lists). There are downsides which revolve around predictability which gives your opponent a minor advantage in terms of cognitive load early in the game. If the army is built well and as a general you can ensure you overcome this by still applying your army's strengths, this advantage will quickly evaporate as both players operate within the confines of the table. Remember, having an overarching battleplan or knowledge of your opponent is great but you need to be able to deal with what is on the table and play accordingly.

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