Wednesday, 16 October 2013

List Building: Quick Thought #1

A recent discussion questioning building a list for a small point game has brought to the front of my mind a question regarding unit viability. Mostly, how viable a unit is at various points levels.

This is not simply a case of don't buy a large point cost unit as it will take up to much room in your list, as I have run a Wraithknight and a Wave Serpent with 5 Wraithguard that come in at 545 points of a 1k list, but they have proven effective by drawing the heavier fire away from my weaker units. This is more a case of a unit may be a universally agreed top tier pick in the meta, but does it strengthen the unit at the points limit you are playing at, or does it weaken it?

The first case was a Space Marine list at 600 points. It featured Centurions and some other shooty units, and was then led by a Master of the Forge. The reason for this was to give some punch in assault. It's not the first time I have seen this, but the list was obviously designed to shoot dudesmen and in taking this HQ unit you are sacrificing points into something you don't want to do.

Think of it this way, if your army failed to shoot the enemies that were charging at it, would one guy make any difference? I lean towards no, so my suggestion was to take a Librarian as it was the cheapest HQ option and use his psychic powers to try and buff the units (and no, Prescience is not the only useful power for this). You can then use the points you saved to add more shooting.

The key to victory would not come from having an answer to all outcomes, but to rather position your units in the best possible way, target fire the highest threat units and try and avoid combat at all costs. You don't have the points to cover all the bases, so try and maximise the one thing that will give you victory.

The second case was in Fantasy. In 500 points do you take a ranged unit or mounted cavalry? A few people, including the one who asked the question were leaning towards the ranged unit. The reason was to use the ranged unit to weaken the opposition, then the melee unit would clean them up.

Now, i have painted up 500 points of Dark Elves, and they contain 20 Spearmen, 5 Cold One Knights and a Sorceress. If I was to go up against an army that featured 1 melee, 1 ranged and a hero, I would make sure that I kept his melee unit between myself and the ranged unit, got into combat as fast as possible with the melee and then sweep into the ranged to win the game. simple maths would suggest that 2 units on 1 unit would favour the greater numbers, and once in combat, the ranged unit is useless.

That's not to say that it isn't a valid tactic, I believe it is. But at that points level, you are hamstringing yourself by trying to do too much in too few points. It may also be that you only consider the best case scenario when choosing your army (which I will probably discuss in a follow up), but experience will tell you that the best case scenario very rarely happens (although a few of my opponents have rolled near perfect games) so it is not the best practice to write for the best case.

In conclusion, when playing small points games, focus on the one thing you want to do with that army and then write the whole list around that, don't get drawn into trying to do too much.


  1. Small points games are rough. I think you hit it square when you said to just pick something you want to be able to do and go from there.
    I also tend to feel that units that are able to be multi-role really come into their own during small games.

    1. They are rough, but I think they provide a good learning experience for the newer gamer. Smaller games tend to teach you about the value of each unit, what they should be used for and target priority. All things that you can take into the larger game and would probably get lost up in the confusion otherwise.

    2. The other big benefit of smaller games, in my opinion, is that you get to play more of them. Playing is the only way to get better