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 Post subject: Writing Army Lists
PostPosted: Sun May 08, 2011 2:27 pm 
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Joined: Wed Jan 26, 2011 2:27 am
Posts: 579
Location: Kitchener, Ontario
Hey Guys,

Because I'm a huge strategy nerd, I have taken to writing a series of tactics related articles for my local gaming group. Since we're only about 10 strong, I figured there's no reason why I shouldn't share these with you too.

They're written with no particular army in mind, in order to be applicable to all readers, so they aren't High Elf specific.

Anyway, without further Adieu!

Writing Army Lists

I spend an inordinate amount of time mulling over lists. I write 'em, then I change 'em, then I write 'em all over again because I'm not happy about how it turned out. I stress over magic item combinations and I sweat over 5 points in a 2500 point list.

But there is both rhyme and reason to my insanity. The reason I do this is because I love what list writing is: deciding what, where and how you're going to crush your opponent!

Recently I've been involved in helping write several lists, and in doing so I've compiled some pointers for getting a solid, unified army down on the board. I'm going to summarize these points in a simple list form, for reference next time you're having difficulty putting together a list you can get behind.

1. How are you going to win the battle?

Simple question, right? It's tougher than you think; summarize in one sentence what the army you want to play is going to accomplish. Some examples:

I am going to overwhelm my opponent by separating his units and concentrating force on one unit at a time, thus mitigating incoming damage
I am going to delay my opponent while I bombard him with shooting and magic
I am going to overwhelm my opponent with superior numbers, and attack his flanks with compact, hard hitting units


Once you have that written down, you can now begin spending your points on accomplishing that goal. Whenever you buy a unit, think to yourself "How does this unit fall in line with my theme?". For example, if your list's theme is the third one listed, how would a unit of 10 archers help your list over the course of the game? Well, they could help protect your flanks... but your list is supposed to have superior numbers, so your flanks should be covered. They could put a few casualties with big blocks, but again, you have superior numbers. In this case, the archers don't fit well within the context of your list. If you really want to bring the archers, maybe you need to rethink what you want to accomplish?

The other thing this does is moves your list writing away from "This is a killer unit" and moves it more towards "This is a unit that will accomplish its task". The sum of a well coordinated army is often much, much more powerful than its individual components.

2) Are your units equipped to accomplish their task?

When you have an overarching list theme, you can now devote units to specific tasks. I'll use one example from a list I wrote recently. I had a fast moving army of elves, who would be deployed in a refused flank method. My main leadership would be in that flank, leaving the unit of spearmen tasked with holding the center of the line high and dry. This presented a risk - their job was to hold, but they would be at leadership 8 with no re-roll from the Battle Standard Bearer. One out of place panic test could spell disaster for my carefully laid plans. To mitigate this, I gave them the "Gleaming Pennant" (Credit to Seredain's army list thread here, for giving me this idea!), which allows them to reroll their first failed leadership test. This unit is now a solid steadfast block that can take some punishment before running off like wimpy elves.

The unit is built for a specific purpose within the overall context of the army.

Let's use another example - "I am going to overwhelm my opponent with superior numbers, and attack his flanks with compact, hard hitting units" - to illustrate further.

This list needs two key components - large steadfast/unbreakable blocks to keep the opponent locked in combat, and small, maneuverable units for making mincemeat of troops and generating combat resolution. Using an army that I know does this well, a Skaven player might accomplish this by including large blocks of slaves for cheap steadfast blocks, and a hellpit abomination or doomwheel for flank assault.

The sum of these two units is much greater than their individual accomplishments.

3) What is the least amount of points you can spend to accomplish your goal with any given unit?

You've got a limited number of points to spend, and there will always be something else you want. So how do you choose what to take?

let's take that slave block as an example. They're 2 points each, and another 2 points for the musician. Their job is to hold the line long enough for me to bring my heavy hitters to bear. How many rounds of combat will this take? I think 3 is a safe bet - they charge in and flankers move into position, then a round of combat in the opponent's turn, then finally a turn of combat with the flanking force charging in again on your turn. You still want your rank bonus for static resolution when your flankers hit, and we think we'll be facing some nasty stuff and losing 10 guys per combat. This puts us at an even 50 slaves to accomplish their goal. Any less, and you're running the risk of losing steadfast early and the plan dissolving. Any more, and you're spending unnecessary points for very little marginal benefit.

Same thing goes with hitting units. If your goal is to do maximum damage on the flank with your unit of Black Orcs, is it necessary to take a unit of 30? Remember your overall goal states that you want compact, hard hitting units. Any troops past the second rank don't produce any more damage - which is why they're there in the first place - and are essentially just extra wounds for the unit. Is it worth 13 points for an extra wound? Are the Black Orcs even the best choice to fill that role, or is there another unit that can do it better/cheaper?

Using this methodology will allow you to assess whether you're dumping too many or too few points into any given unit.

4) Putting it all together

Finally, consider your opponent. What are you going to need for that particular opponent? Chance favours the prepared, so in a game based on chance it is important to have solutions for the problems you expect to face. Think you're going to see regeneration? Better fit that flaming banner in there.

Heroes are a great help here too. Between magic, magic items and combat potential (not to mention leadership bonuses!) heroes are a great way to augment your list.

Notice that I said augment.

It's not worth it to just put a hero in for the sake of putting them in. Heroes (especially in this edition) tend to be costly and as such need to have a specific goal in mind. If you take heroes recklessly, your opponent is going to thank you for allowing him free points.

Every army has its individual nuances, and of course some are more character dependent than others, but universally it is important to think about what they are going to accomplish and whether those points would be better spent on something else.

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There is nothing do fear but fear itself... well, that and Toughness tests.

Check out my Army Blog for tactics, battle reports and general ramblings: Brewmaster D's Coven of Light Army List Blog
The Art of Deployment
Writing Army Lists


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 Post subject: Re: Writing Army Lists
PostPosted: Sun May 08, 2011 8:52 pm 
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Good read.

If you find yourself re-writing army lists often, you might like this. http://www.bugmansbrewery.com/topic/322 ... r-fantasy/
So far it doesn't work for all armies, but it works for HE and is bug-free as far as I can tell.

As for point #4, I tend to favor making armies capable of handling any situation with decent proficiency. I normally play against skaven/gobbos and occasionally WoC, so I could take the easy way out and design my army around killing hordes and throw in a metal-mage to handle the occasional knight. Instead I try to balance myself a bit more against gunlines and magic. Call it a tournament mindset I guess, but at least it's a challenge. Tailoring an army to defeat a specific foe is fun, but building a single army that can handle most situations is more fun :P.
Quote:
3) What is the least amount of points you can spend to accomplish your goal with any given unit?

This almost made me want to replace my kitty kart with a tiranoc, but then I remembered that the tiranoc does not fulfill the role of being awesome.

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Ah, Floorhammer. A time honored tradition. Sadly, I no longer play since my brother tripped and right-angled the spears of a 15-man regiment.
-Original Dragon Prince, July 2011


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 Post subject: Re: Writing Army Lists
PostPosted: Mon May 09, 2011 11:55 am 
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Joined: Wed Jan 26, 2011 2:27 am
Posts: 579
Location: Kitchener, Ontario
I totally agree; to me as well, it's much more fun to write an army with no particular opponent in mind, then challenge myself to use the tools at my disposal to deal with new threats. However, point #4 is still relevant when designing an all comers list. Instead of considering just one opponent, however, you have to consider all opponents and their relevant tactics. How will your list deal with a gunline? High toughness monsters? Heavily armoured troops? The list goes on. As I mention in the point itself, chance favours the prepared, so the more you prepare yourself for these situations, the higher your chances of success.

The purpose of the article is to get players to shift their focus away from the "who" in their army lists and move more to the "why" and "how". I find that if you answer those two questions, often the "who" becomes very obvious and alleviates the stress that many new players experience when faced with writing army lists. I find that far too often players get hung up on individual units, when this is a game of armies battling each other.

Quote:
This almost made me want to replace my kitty kart with a tiranoc, but then I remembered that the tiranoc does not fulfill the role of being awesome.


That's the missing 5th point. Is the army awesome? If the answer is no, start over. :P

In all reality though, you do need to be excited about fielding an army. If you're not, your playing will definitely follow suit.

_________________
There is nothing do fear but fear itself... well, that and Toughness tests.

Check out my Army Blog for tactics, battle reports and general ramblings: Brewmaster D's Coven of Light Army List Blog
The Art of Deployment
Writing Army Lists


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 Post subject: Re: Writing Army Lists
PostPosted: Fri May 04, 2012 3:08 pm 
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Joined: Sun Apr 22, 2012 7:49 pm
Posts: 727
Thanks for this...

It really helps a lot...

I agree with the all comers list but I think it's cpfar more fun to lean to a style like magic which In my case is lots!
If I posted a sample armie list could you give me baisic crit on it? I'm new to the game and I like to think I'm good but I'm not.

On the chariots I agree tiranioc just lacks the fun! But the fear and damage of the lion chariot is worth those 55 points in my opinion it just destroys skaven on a flank charge (I think) and the fear helps to.

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600 trolls and climbing! :mrgreen:

if you are drowning out there as a beginner, I hope this helps.


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 Post subject: Re: Writing Army Lists
PostPosted: Sun May 06, 2012 3:34 pm 
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Joined: Wed Jan 26, 2011 2:27 am
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Location: Kitchener, Ontario
Hey Arch Mage!

Glad you're getting some benefit from these articles!

If you post a list in the Army List section, I'll definitely take a look at it and give you some thoughts.

D

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There is nothing do fear but fear itself... well, that and Toughness tests.

Check out my Army Blog for tactics, battle reports and general ramblings: Brewmaster D's Coven of Light Army List Blog
The Art of Deployment
Writing Army Lists


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 Post subject: Re: Writing Army Lists
PostPosted: Sun May 06, 2012 8:10 pm 
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I've got a couple more steps or things that should be kept in mind for your list.

1) Having a plan for how you want to deal with every phase of the game. So deployment phase, how many units of chaff are you going to bring to help you win your deployment phase. At the moment I'm thinking you should try to have 1 unit for every 500 points which you don't mind placing early.

2) The magic phase. If you read some of the great battle reports on this site or others you'll see how getting a few crucial spells off at the right time can help win you a game. I'm not saying every list must take magic or magic defense, but every list needs to account for the magic phase.

3) How do you deal with your opponents death star? By this I mean there is always going to be some opponent that has a nastier combat unit than you do and you won't be able to defeat it in a head on fight. So how is your list going to deal with it? Do you have the re-directors necessary to make the unit a non issue? Are you going to defeat it through the cunning use of flank charges? Its just what is your plan to deal with one.

4) Win conditions. So for most games you win game by having more victory points than your opponent. Well keep in mind you only get points for whats dead or fled. So when an opponents unit gets reduced to a couple models from shooting and he hides in behind a building, what are you going to do about it? Do you having anything fast moving that will get to such a unit? What if your opponents unit is defeated in combat and starts fleeing across the board. Unless you catch it or it flees the table before the game ends, it won't provide any victory points. Then there are the other victory conditions, like blood and glory and the watchtower.

5) Countering your opponents strategy. Regardless of how you want your army to win, sometimes your opponent just won't oblige you. Maybe he's got the better gunline and won't cross the board to meet you. Maybe his hammer units are better than your hammer units, or maybe his horde army is larger than your horde army. So the question is what are you going to do about it? Also your opponent is trying to win that game and has a strategy he's following to do so. So try to have a plan for disrupting is plan while implementing your own.

6) Specific counters. So some armies have units and abilities that you're going to want to have a counter for. Typical examples are flying monsters, like blood thirsters or dragons. They can ruin your day if you don't have a plan for them. Other example are ethereal units, steam tanks, congo lines, the unkillable dreadlord and probably some others I can't think of at the moment.

7) Dealing with your opponents chaff. Chaff is great for redirecting, warmachine hunting and such. So what you need to plan for is how will you deal with any chaff your opponent is running. Maybe he plans to redirect your horde some eagles so that it won't see meaningful combat. The question is what is your plan to stop that from happening.

8) Redundancy. Dice are fickly things and it might be that your wizard blows himself up on the first turn, or your awesome unit panics and runs of the board before the game even began. Does your list have enough redundancy build into it to survive the lost of any one unit.

9) Identifying your armies weakness. What's the weakness of your army list and what can you do to overcome that weakness and prevent people from taking advantage of it.

Anyways those were just somethings I came up with, that I think are also important to keep in mind when writing an army list.

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 Post subject: Re: Writing Army Lists
PostPosted: Mon May 07, 2012 5:22 am 
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Well played Sir
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Joined: Fri Dec 10, 2010 1:46 pm
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Location: Queensland, Australia
HaHa~ My list building is completely different. I look at the units and then try to fit them into my story some how. I've cheated so far with Dragon Princes( by converting my own heavy cavalry and making up fluff about them being paladins of Mathlann). Everything else has a place in the story. Makes my list not so competitive, but I play for fun ^_^

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Beastly member of The Mage Knight Guild.
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These may be the last days of the Asur, but if we are to leave this world let us do it as the heroes of old, sword raised against evil!


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 Post subject: Re: Writing Army Lists
PostPosted: Mon May 07, 2012 3:01 pm 
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Here's the URL of the list I plan on making for now:


http://www.ulthuan.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=67&t=39487

Thanks for all the help! I agree with all comers, I nicer challenge. Besides saves model costs!

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The Arch Mage of light and true magic

600 trolls and climbing! :mrgreen:

if you are drowning out there as a beginner, I hope this helps.


my army lists


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 Post subject: Re: Writing Army Lists
PostPosted: Wed May 09, 2012 2:51 pm 
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Just quickly, I think your point in your army lists tactica is very valid, target isolation. It is a style but very very good for us since we have units like sm.

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The Arch Mage of light and true magic

600 trolls and climbing! :mrgreen:

if you are drowning out there as a beginner, I hope this helps.


my army lists


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