Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Writing Army Lists, My Way

I've recently posted my list for general viewing, but, in lieu of a long awaited post on another subject, I thought i'd take a side track and go through how I would write an army list in any game, for any situation.

Step 1: "What do you want to do?"

I stole this from day[9], a famous Starcraft 2 caster. Basically, he said the basics of a good strategy in Starcraft is to have a simple one sentence outline of what you want to do in a game and try to stick to it. I've used this when writing my lists as the first point because it gives you an idea of what you want to pick.

Too often I hear gamers say that they 'want to win' or something similar, but that is too vague. To give an example of two of my successful lists, with my recent Eldar force the outline was "I want a 1k force that could stand up to most armies", my 600 point Necron tournament force started with the idea of "I want lots of troops with lots of guns". It's simple, and it gives you a basic framework right from the off if you think about it.

Step 2: "What do you want to use?"

This was a step that was introduced to me by my local Games Workshop manager when I was just starting out (again), and it is a very important step. Everyone has that miniature, or miniatures that drew them in in the first place so you should do your best to put them in the force. It might even be "I want to see how XXX unit does", so start with them and build from there. At this point, it doesn't matter if you go over your point limit, throw in what you want, and then adjust from there.

Step 3: "What is the purpose of this unit?"

A more focused version of step 1 is to look at why you are taking the unit. Is it anti-armour? Is it an objective holder? Is it there just to be an annoyance? Take a unit to do a task, and make sure you stick to it, later on you can figure out if it fits the job you want it to do and whether there is a better alternative, which leads us to:

Step 4: "Where are things most effective, and how do I get them there?"

A lot of the time, players will reject a unit as useless because they have sold themselves on it by only thinking of it in it's optimal situation. This assault troop will kill you all dead on a 2+! But it's got to move across the board at 6" a turn, suffer shooting attacks each turn then the survivors have to weather Overwatch. At which point, there are probably not many of them left, that's not bad models, that's bad tactics. Can you put them in a transport? Can other units provide a bigger threat to allow them to move freely? Spend points to help everything work effectively.

Also, when looking at ranged units, at what range are they most effective? Are they short, mid or long range? Again, how do you get them into position? It's all well and good for Eldar Guardians to have the Bladestorm rule, but with a 12" range they are going to be out shot by most things. Consider these things and you will find your units will synergise much more.

Step 5: "Play and Adjust"

No list is effective until it is on the table, so when you have settled on something, go play it. See what happens. In the end you will either win or lose, but when trying to write a list, it should be a continuous and developing process.

After each game look at how everything performed and analyse it. If it worked well, why? If you can answer that, then you can save it in your memory for future lists as an effective combination. If it didn't work, what happened? Was there something that it was weak to? How can you mitigate that in the next game? One exception is if it was the focus of the majority of the opponents forces shooting at it. Most things will die in that situation, but did you effectively use that advantage?

A good army works together, that is perhaps the greatest thing that can be said about army lists. Try not to take 'distraction' or 'sacrificial' units, as this will just make your job even harder because your opponent may be fielding 1800 points, but your 300 points of distraction makes you effectively field a 1500 point army.

The most important thing however, is to have fun.


  1. Couldn't have put it better if i'd tried dude.

    Good advice and not written to belittle the less experienced!

  2. +1 guys.

    I always do my army list that way. Thinking in the pourpouse of every unit and how to field them in any situation. Starting first or second, knowing the potential dangerous unit of all the armies and how to face them, etc.

    Great post man. And I agree, the most important thing is to enjoy :P

  3. Thanks for the comment, nice to see other people other than Matt add their feedback :)

  4. Good post mate and i agree, and day9 does have a lot of good things from SC2 hes my fave caster. The play and adjust thing has helped me a lot in the past and is a great way of learning. Another thing to do is if you can try some other amys out read their codexs as understanding what you opponent can do is always valuble information.

    Keep up the good work m8.

  5. Certain units require a certain style to be used effectively. I think that many units in the game get pigeonholed as garbage units because they are either a bit difficult to use, or their usefulness isn't readily apparent. Unfortunately, many people won't discover them because they never see the field. Shame really.