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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Tavern Talk - Army Lists

 Kuffeh of The Trading Post writes:
After listening to a recent show of Heelanhammer I came across the idea of list building.  I wanted to see how people went about building their lists.  There are a host of methods people use.  Some start with the rare slots or their character choices, while others get the core choice out of the way.  Do you see a difference between a friendly pick up game list and a tournament list?  One thing it seems many gamers often appear to view and consider with their lists is the meta game – how much attention do you put on the local meta-gaming?  Are your lists consistent or do you change from game to game?  I have heard of gamers tailoring their lists to work against certain armies or lists, does this appeal to you?  How do you feel on the topic of tailored lists?

I'm a competitive player and so are everyone I play against; we're a thriving community filled with other nerds who build strong lists that are often challenging to defeat. That said, being a game designer and writer, I like games to tell stories and it's the same with my army lists - they have to have a theme. For me, that's where any army list begins: I'm always looking for a concept or a theme to my lists. That can sometimes be a self-imposed restriction to make me build and learn to handle lesser-used units in the army books, for example a Goblin warband with no Orcs about, not even as a General, or the All-Orc list a la Grimgor, where goblins are too weedy to fit in. It can also be a Mountain Waaagh! that allows no mounted troops because the landscape is too rocky to be riding anything. However, just as often I get an idea of a certain unit of any kind, that I'd like to tailor my list around. For example a Wyvern Warboss, where I'll take Trolls and Goblins that can benefit from his 18" Inspiring Presence, or a big nasty Black Orc unit as the center-piece, where I'll often give them a Shaman to help them with augment spells to boost their combat ability. Doing it this way automatically creates a backstory and the battles you fight turn into narratives, and before you know it you're telling stories. I like that.

That being said, I appreciate the competitive and tactical side of the game equally much; in tournament times perhaps even more so. I'll theory-hammer with the best of them and I feel like by encouraging myself to explore new ways of using lesser-known units (through army lists themes) I benefit greatly in the meta-game by at times being able to surprise my opponents with new tactics, instead of resorting to the latest trend on the internet forum of that particular army. I'm the guy that finds good uses for Black Orcs when everyone said they were too expensive (in the last book) or finds a way to make Ironbreakers effective when everyone else would rather go with Hammerers. In the end, I think I benefit from trying to think outside of the box. The gaming setting (campaign or  tournament) of our local scene will decide what kind of theme I'll be running; whether it's the self-imposed restricions, or building an army around a favorite unit of mine. 

I've just recently reached the level of experience necessary to get a sense of the local meta-game, and it has started to influence my army lists. A good example would be my recent experiments with the Wyvern. Earlier, I would have been very hesistant to put my Warboss general on a flying monster in tournament settings, due to the risk of running into Empire or Dwarf cannons that would make short work of him. I'd have much preferred to keep my General on foot in a unit of boyz, where he'll probably stay alive. However, when using my safe, all-comers list, I found that there were some matchups where my army constructed in such a safe fashion just wouldn't be able to get the job done. Longtime readers will know I've had a lot of problems against Warriors of Chaos in 8th edition. They're an army that wants to fight early, and I'm an army that wants to fight early, but the problem is that they're much better at it, with far superior armor to boot. So I had a lot of problems against it and suffered several loopsided losses. That is, until I started using the Wyvern against them, with its S6 thunderstomping goodness, I usually did enough damage to break Chaos Warriors when the Boyz provided the numbers.

However, it's not without its limitations, as the aforementioned cannon problem would suggest. That being said, I normally place fairly high in tournaments, and with the boost of Chaos Warriors, I tend to run into plenty of them. Not many Dwarfs or Empire armies usually place very highly though, and thus the Wyvern should do well most of the time. It's a meta-move that since most voices say flying monsters got worse in the new edition, good players won't use them, so other players won't need to tailor their lists to fight them, which is why, in the end, you should bring a flying monster. Simple in theory, right, and if it works I'll look like a genius. Or you'll find me at the bottom tables fighting it out with Ogres and Empires due to my plan backfiring. Only time will tell.