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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

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Awesomeness of Being Totally Wrong

Hello, Nikephoros here with an editorial about critical thinking.  

I love, and I mean I absolutely love, when I am proven wrong about something in a competitive game.  Most people would think the opposite; that I would always want to be right, and get the validation of everyone telling me how right I am.  Maybe some folks do prefer that.  Personally, I love when I’m wrong about a conclusion. 

Why?  Simple really.  Let’s say I think a Unit A is great and Unit B sucks.  I play with A, and I win a lot simply because I’m a pretty good player.  Then one day I try using Unit B on a lark.  And I find out that not only does Unit B not suck, it is infinitely better than Unit A!  That’s the best feeling ever.  It’s akin to being one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, then having a coach ask you to change one small thing and after you do, you become an even better quarterback. 

It’s a total free-roll.  Playing with the house’s money at that point.  And I love it.

I bet by now that you are wondering what miraculous discovery I made that led me to make some sick brags about how I am so smart that on the rare times I’m wrong I impress myself.

So here it is, and it relates to Warhammer Fantasy Battles and Dark Elves.

The Cauldron of Blood is really good.  Especially in my chariot list.  The end.

Actually you deserve a bit more explanation for having put up with that lengthy preamble.

I was judging the CoB based on 7th Edition ideas, quite honestly.  In 7th Edition, Deathstars were godly for Dark Elves.  And the CoB made them even godlier.   So essentially, I was judging the CoB by the usefulness of the buffs it gives out.  And this was the correct evaluation, at the time.

However when 8th Edition hit and the DE deathstars died, I was quick to notice that the buffs weren’t nearly as useful unless you’re running big hordes.   Unfortunately, big hordes of ranked infantry are only useful if your units are dirt cheap, which DE aren’t.  So I didn’t give it much thought anymore.

Once I started down the road of developing my chariot list, my initial goal was to pack as many chariots in as possible.  And that necessitated having my BSB ride a chariot.  Under normal circumstances, I would never put a BSB on a chariot, because it would be a fire magnet.  Generally a BSB has to sit in a unit to keep the heat off of him.

In the chariot list though, he is safer because there are 4 other chariots in front of him and two hydras nearby that are probably higher priority targets for the same types of things you’d shoot at the BSB with.  And it was fine.  I played many games with the list, and won many of them.  The BSB on a chariot was rarely a liability.

But I started to ask myself questions like, “since I rarely commit the BSB’s chariot to combat where he could be killed much easier, why am I spending 90 points on a chariot that is essentially an offensive upgrade weapon?”  As a quick aside, it is important, even when you’re ‘sure’ you have a finely tuned and optimal list to ask yourself critical questions about it.  You may have a great answer for those questions which is fine.  Or maybe you won’t have a good answer and you’ll find out some great new information.

The answer to my question was unsatisfactory.  The chariot was by and large a waste of points since I rarely risked putting him into close combat.  But what was the alternative?  A walking BSB needs a big unit, and the strength of the list is not having big dumb blocks.  A BSB on a Dark Steed was a thought, but I ruled it out because while the Sorceresses on Steeds can play line of sight cute tricks to not get killed, the BSB kinda has to be in the right place at the right time.

So I considered, “why not use a CoB as a BSB?”  My initial reply was, “because the buffs aren’t worth it.”  And I was right, the CoB buffs alone are not worth it.  But maybe it’s strengths as a BSB are worth it.  It’s a Toughness 10, 4++ ward, 13 attacks plus Hatred behemoth.  It really is exceptionally hard to kill, which is a huge asset in a game system where the guy who loses his BSB first is at a tremendous disadvantage.

If you evaluate it as a tough as hell to kill BSB first, and look at the unit buffing ability as a nice bonus, the value of the unit really jumps out at you.  If my unit buffs end up not doing much, I’m OK with that because I’m getting such great value out of a T10 4W battle standard bearer.  If the buffs do end up doing something valuable, that’s icing on the cake.

And I was right, the CoB is a most excellent upgrade in my Dark Elves chariot list.  My list is now much better (post on the updated list someday soon) and wins more games more easily. 

The conclusion to take away from here really isn’t specific to Dark Elves or even Fantasy; it’s broadly applicable to anything you’re competitive about or even simply life in general.  Don’t be afraid to ask yourself tough questions about closely held ideas and challenge your faith in everything you have faith in.  Socrates was fond of saying that the unexamined life isn’t worth living, and he was right.  Be introspective about everything, and your life will improve in meaningful ways.  Be introspective about your wargaming lists and strategies and your game play will improve in meaningful ways.

Thoughts?  Comments?  Questions?

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