Friday, March 30, 2012

All Killer, No Filler!

A long time ago I wrote a post about list building and nearly 18 months on I find myself needing to write another one. This comes as I'm trying to figure out my list for Blog Wars 3 in June. The title of the post sums up my approach to list building. I don't like there to be anything in my list that's just there to hug an objective, contest late on or otherwise is just there to spend some left over points.

Every unit in my army has a role to play. Ideally every unit is pretty horrible too. This is easier with some armies than others. Let's take a look at my standard Space Wolves 1,750pt list to see what I mean. This is a very slight modification of the list I took to Blog Wars 2 last year. I'm hoping to take Dark Eldar this year (more on that later) but this will be my back-up if I fail to get the DE painted in time.

1,750pts of Space Wolves
Wolf Lord w/ Thunderwolf, Wolf Claw, Runic Armour, Storm Shield, Saga of the Bear
Rune Priest w/ Chooser (Jaws/Living Lightning)
Rune Priest (Jaws/Murderous Hurricane)

3x Wolf Guard (2x PF/CM, 1x Arjac Rockfist)

2x 7 Grey Hunters w/ Melta, Standard, MotW - Rhino
8 Grey Hunters w/ Melta, Standard, MotW - Drop Pod

4x Thunderwolf Cavalry (PF, SS, Melta Bombs)

2x 5 Long Fangs (4xML)

All Killer, No Filler
Looking at that list everything it in is pretty horrible. Grey hunters are always nice but we've got 2 squads which both have a rune priest and a wolf guard and then a third squad in a drop pod with Arjac. This is the core of the army. Each unit is capable of taking on most enemy units. With a pair of melta shots (initially at least) the squads are all capable of de-meching and then charging something. Arjac and co will drop in turn 1 and normally take out a vehicle or rapid fire a squad. The thunderwolves make a mess of most things in combat and provide a great distraction. The long fangs can either hit transports or monstrous creatures with their krak missiles. Against massed infantry they'll switch to frags and torrent them down. Every single unit in the army is nasty. There are no 5-man squads sat on the home objective.

Decisions, Decisions
That's a point worth noting, distraction. If you were facing that list what would you shoot first? The long fangs will be taking down your vehicles or killing your monstrous creatures but they'll be at range and in cover. The thunderwolves are T5 and have a couple of 3++ saves but if you ignore them they'll be charging you turn 2/3. Then you've got two rhinos full off grey hunters coming your way both firing Jaws out of the top and picking off choice targets. That or they're just blasting 12" and popping smoke. That's assuming you chose to ignore Arjac Rockfist and his boys who just dropped in behind your lines and blew up that precious land raider/dreadnought etc. See what I mean? Each unit is too good to ignore so your opponent will be faced with a lot of choices and whichever one he makes there's always something else in the army to punish you.

Not just a wall of tanks
If I didn't have Arjac in the list I'd probably have enough points spare for another long fang pack and a normal wolf guard. However, then I'd probably just put them in a rhino which makes the list very one dimensional. Your opponent knows what's coming from where and chances are he'll be able to down your transports and pick his targets after that. The inclusion of the drop pod means he's got to choose between either ignoring Arjac (who'll charge something next turn without a doubt) or turning his fire on him and hoping he can get rid of the entire squad. Arjac has 2 wounds, Eternal Warrior and 2+/3++ so odds are he'll survive a torrent of fire at the cost of most of his squad. Depending on what you're targetting you'll probably be able to string the grey hunters around the drop pod so they get a cover save from most angles. Meanwhile the rest of the army is advancing unscathed.  

Not All Plain Sailing
The problem with everything being deadly is that in KPs games you're golden but in objective games you can be torn between going for the tabling or playing for the mission. The grey hunters need to get stuck in but they might over-commit and end up getting themselves killed. By dropping Arjac in on an enemy objective you can even up the odds but realistically he probably won't be there by turn 5! However, if we start throwing in units to just hold objectives and we come up against an army that can do that for cheap then we'll be giving them a points advantage from the off. If we had 5 grey hunters in a razorback sat on our home objective that's a 115 point advantage to your opponent straight away.

A Matter of Style
As I've said on numerous occasions it all comes down to play style. I like an army to have something exciting about it. I could write a Space Wolves list that was less risky. I could ditch Arjac and the TWC and throw in more long fangs and grey hunters. There's no doubt that a list of that kind would be more reliable but I simply wouldn't find it fun to play. Now it's at this point that people say "yes, but winning is fun". Frankly, sometimes it isn't. The main reason I go to tournaments is to play games against new people. I'm not going to win an event but that's fine by me.

So the question is, how do I apply this to Dark Eldar. Ravagers aren't as good as long fangs and frankly nothing is as good as grey hunters. However, whilst they aren't as flexible I can still make my army nasty for my opponents and fun for me to play. That's for another post to discuss though.

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