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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

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Evaluating Bad Units


One of the many things blogs like 3++ look at is how to make a good list. This often means trimming the fat of inefficient upgrades or units and simply removing bad units in place of better ones. That is assuming the list concept is workable. With the trend of 5th edition books, this is often pretty easy and the end result is a very slim margin between okay lists and great lists which is good as it puts more emphasis on generalship over a wider range of lists (rather than a narrow band of lists which were good where if you don't take something at least similar to lose lists, you will lose when you face such a list).

The question then becomes how can you differentiate between a bad unit and one which is okay but generally described as inefficient. Space Marine Devastators for example, aren't a bad unit. They are the carbon copy of other Devastator units out there which are classed as good. Space Marine Devastators are just priced differently and less favorably. This makes them inefficient and there are often better ways to get such firepower into Space Marine lists or better units in direct competition said unit. In this case Missile Launchers/Lascannons can be gotten from Tactical and Sternguard squads whilst there are a lot of other shooting options (i.e. Speeders, Predators, Razorbacks, Dreads) with one of those options (Preds) being in direct competition with the Devastators. The combination of these factors sees the quite cheap Predators used more often and the Devastators relegated to little use. This doesn't mean they are a bad unit - they are simply priced incorrectly which was highlighted when cheaper versions came out. In the context of the Space Marines codex, good use of Devastators can be made and whilst having those extra points if they had been costed similarly to Blood Angels Devastators would be great, it doesn't mean the list as is is bad.

What this is highlight is using such units in your army isn't the sign of a bad army. There are certain times when you want or need to use those units and together with the rest of the list, they make a good list. Many a time a player will get into the game based on a unit's fluff or aesthetics just to find out it's not great. This doesn't mean they cannot be used. The trick is finding out which units can be used in such roles and this is all based on evaluating units.

The issue is, well unit evaluation is very subjective. You can go onto the Internet and get the general lay of the land (assuming you are going to the correct sites) for each codex and it's pretty easy to tell the really bad units from the one's which might not be too bad. A unit who's role often doesn't fit what an army needs, is expensive for what it does, cannot succeed at what it does reliably, etc. are all indications of a bad unit. You can certainly still force them into a list and often make a list which isn't that bad - Legion of the Damned jump to mind here, though the opportunity cost is often higher than the poor unit you're using.

Flip this around though in some ways and even bad units have their places. For example - a unit who has a role nothing, or little, else does in the army. Tyranid Harpies (mobile, reliable, heavy firepower) are prime examples. Tau Pirahnas (24" move, fast melta), Space Marine Typhoons (mobile, heavy firepower), Dark Eldar Mandrakes (infiltrate), etc. Some aren't the best of units (i.e. Mandrakes) and are generally a bit, if not a lot, over-costed but they bring something very unique to their parent codex (seen in brackets). Whilst these units may not be the best and the most common complaint against them may be they are over-priced, they have a unique role which can overcome this. Now this doesn't mean having a unique role allows any price to be justified - Harpies are on the far end of the scale here where they have some uses but for the points cost, need to be a lot better to see even irregular use. Typhoons and Piranhas on the other hand are both quite decent in price and are bringing something unique so see more use (though we see Typhoons a lot more in Black Templar and Dark Angel lists where they are much cheaper). Being unique allows some units to be used even though they are bad but doesn't excuse it completely.

Furthering this, a unit who fulfills a role other units fulfill but at a steeper price such as the aforementioned Devastators. Again, these aren't bad units but rather inefficient. If there is another unit which can do their role at a better price there are a couple of options here depending upon where that unit is placed. If such units are in the same Force Organisation slot, well using the inefficient unit is very questionable but when they are in different Force Organisation slots, there are different approaches to list building available. Taking the inefficient unit to cover a specific role and freeing up the Force Organisation chart for a different unit (i.e. taking Venerable Grey Knight Dreadnoughts for Dreadknights or Purgation squads) allows different army builds to become viable. Furthermore, increased saturation of unit with a specific role can also occur (i.e. six Grey Knight Dreadnoughts).

What this is all leading to is bad units and specifically inefficient units, have their place. Their places are often few and far between and using them exclusively or in great numbers can see your list effectiveness drop right down but using them here or there or to allow other units to see use can generate good if not great army builds. Hopefully what we'll be able to do over the coming months is look at some of these units and how they might fit into a good list without being a square peg forced into a round hole and maintaining the lists' overall effectiveness.

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