Theory Craft - The Art of Building a solid army list in Warhammer 40,000. Step Two - From Concept to Reality

The decision has been made to create a new army for Warhammer 40,000. Now, whether this is your first list, or your hundredth list, in my opinion the process remains much the same.

In the first post of this series, we formulated a rough list of criteria required for a “competitive” list in Warhammer 40,000. The second post of this series we discussed inspiration for a new list. There are many places to gain inspiration for your list concept, but once you have honed in on something which garners your interest, it is almost time to start putting points on paper.

In this third post of the series, we’re going to discuss taking this list concept and begin making it a cohesive and well thought out build.

First, let me take you on a little trip back to 1994…. I was already deeply interested in Warhammer 40k, building my Eldar force up one model at a time. My friends and I were the prime age for Warhammer, just young enough to where we couldn't drive or have real responsibilities, but old enough to grasp and understand the game itself, and earn some cash helping our folks.

Well, one of my friends at that time was a big Space Wolf fan, and from that point on I also was a Space Wolf fan. Fast forward 20 years, and I find myself will a pile of 2nd edition era space wolf marine bodies, a couple boxes of unopened Thunderwolves, and a brand new codex release. Well, I’m hooked.

This brings us to the current times, and my need to show Leman Russ my worth! I have decided I want to build a Space Wolf force based on the Thunderwolf cavalry. They are absolutely devastating in the current edition and in the current meta as well, so they’re a natural choice.

I have recently purchased an Imperial Knight Errant, and got him all painted up fancy, so I want to include this beautiful model in my list.

Iconic Space Wolf armies include Drop Pods… why should my list be any different? I also need some units to give my opponent some target saturation issues as my thunderwolves close in, so these units will work perfectly for this.

I already know there are going to be issues when facing fliers, so depending on points, I may try to get a stormwolf in there as well.

Thunderwolves, Drop Pods, Stormwolf, Knight Errant… go!

Before I even build a list I begin researching the units I want to take. Finding out how others use these units is a good way to see what may or may not work for me personally. So I scour the internet, hitting up forums, blogs, battle reports, anything about playing Space Wolves, especially playing Thunderwolves will get absorbed and will weigh into my decisions.

Now, let me say that I regularly play in tournaments, and my local meta is very competitive, so I am able to get a lot of practice in against some of the top players in the country. This gives me the ability to experience some of the most lethal combos in the game, as well as get tips and yield wisdom from these players as well.

I recently attended a tournament which featured 20 players. In this tournament, I faced no less than 3 Thunderwolf based armies in 3 rounds of 40k! These armies were built similarly, but with subtle differences which made a big difference in the battles themselves. I won 2 of those games on that day, so I also have a good idea on how my opponents will address my thunderwolf list.

In the next post in this series we will look at the exact army list I have come up with, and discuss why I have selected these units, and the specific upgrades I chose. We will discuss how my research and experience influenced my decision making, and we will also review this list and critique it based on the Criteria we outlined in the first post.

You should begin to see how unit synergy can help to cover multiple roles in an army, and how having overlapping skill-sets, or specialties will help the redundancy and reliability of your list. There are many subtle differences between your list and someone else’s list and these are the details which can take you from mid-table obscurity to top table glory.

Until next time… 

Keep rolling them 6’s!!!

Theory Craft - The Art of Building a solid army list in Warhammer 40,000. Step One - The List Concept/Inspiration

Inspiration for a list may come from many different sources. Maybe it is what attracted you to Warhammer 40,000 to begin with. Perhaps it was the fluff, or maybe you played the video games and saw something there. Maybe it was a particular model or a novel you read. No matter what inspired you, there is a core idea that sparked your interest. It is time to develop this concept further and create a list out of it, and hopefully something you can compete with.

Let me take a moment to say that while designing your list there are going to be those who criticize and critique your choices. Some of your chosen units may not be "hard" enough for some people, or perhaps your list is too "cheesy". Remember that this game is about fun, so the bottom line is love your list, and love your army. It is what you have spent your hard earned money, time, and energy focusing on... It is what excites you about coming to the table each time you play. BUT this does not mean what others have to say is complete garbage... I mean if it was, why would you be reading this? :p Gamers love to share their opinions and findings about their chosen army race. Veteran players will be able to share their experiences and gave you insight that perhaps you wouldn't normally have access to. Love your list, but don't be afraid to test some things out either. Each battle is different, so play it a few times before making a change. In the end who cares if you win or lose, as long as you had a good time.

Ok, back on topic... Most often my lists begin with a simple idea, a single unit or combination of units, which for some reason inspire me. Perhaps it is Thunderhammer/Storm Shield Terminators in a Land Raider. Those heavily armoured close combat masters are some of the most destructive and powerful units on the table, and when riding in their Land Raider, they are almost invincible until delivered on target.

Perhaps it is having as many vehicles as you can on the table, a tactic which was prevalent in 5th edition. The Dark Eldar, for example, are able to effectively take a large number of lightly armoured vehicles with a few troops in each of them (lovingly referred to as Venom Spam). This gives the Dark Eldar player a large number or units on the table. This enables the player to take advantage of a huge part of this game, redundancy. The DE player will have several units, or unit combinations, which can handle the different threats your opponent throws at you, while still being able to fulfill the necessary requirements for victory. This means losing one of your units will never lose the game for you. You'll have to lose many.

In those two examples above you can already see a huge difference in how each list is going to play. The TH/SS list will have a huge point valued unit barreling down at the enemy, hoping to catch them and smash them to bits with hammers, while the Dark Eldar will be skimming all over the table using their superior speed and numbers to perplex and hopefully run those Terminators in circles, eventually destroying them with small arms fire. Both tactically viable, and both extremely effective when played correctly.

For this article I'm going to use the Space Wolves as an example. My vision for this particular build is a list I call "Wolf Pack" (cue NWO entrance music). It will consist of thunderwolf cavalry, supported by a Stormwolf, an Imperial Knight, and a couple drop pods. I have a picture in my head of what this would look like, and now I want to make it into an army.

Next time we will take a look at this concept and begin the fine art of composing a list from it. We'll take a look at our options and see what best helps our build answer those questions asked in part 1.

FFT (food for thought) - what is your concept? or some concepts you have used to create builds? Do you tend to favor deathstars, or a more balanced approach? For the next article, have an idea or a concept of what you would like to bring, as we begin to put pen to paper and really see what we can come up with.

Until then, keep rolling them dice!

-the Overlord

Theory Craft - The Art of Building a solid army list in Warhammer 40,000

This series of articles will cover in detail what I consider to be a solid method of designing a competitive list in 40k. Now let me first preface this by saying, there is no perfect list. No list will be equipped perfectly to handle every situation. That is fact. There is always a weakness, no matter how minor, that your list has, and I can guarantee that a quality general will identify it and attempt to exploit it. The trick is to design a list with few weaknesses, and usually ones that you can cover with your generalship, or by exploiting the strengths of your list.

While there are many forums and blogs devoted to critiquing your army list and telling you if it is good, really all these people are doing, whether they realize it or not, is looking at a series of conditions and whether or not your list can contend with each problem these criteria present. I don't believe that you can just look at a list and know if it is truly good or not, until you see the designer play it, as no one knows exactly how it works, until the director is there to put it all together. A good army list is like an orchestra. You may have all the right instruments, but without an accomplished conductor, you'll just be making noise. You need to know what part each unit plays and when to use them, this is when the orchestra begins to play the symphony. More on this later.

No matter the type of list you are planning on making... gimmick, themed, deathstar, balanced or TAC (Take All Comers), etc... your list must meet a number of criteria or else it will not have the right tools to take care of the job at hand. Let's take a look at these criteria. I have phrased them as questions here as I usually will ask myself these things as I am writing my list (each will be detailed further in the series):

1) How is my list going to handle hordes?
2) How is my list going to handle Deathstars?
3) How is my list going to handle 2+ and 3+ saves?
4) How is my list going to handle light/medium vehicles?
5) How is my list going to handle heavily armoured vehicles?
6) How is my list going to handle flyers?
7) How is my list going to handle Super Heavies/Gargantuan Creatures?
8) How is my list going to handle psychics?
9) How is my list going to handle deep strikers?
10) How is my list going to handle Invisibility?
11) How is my list going to handle Alpha Strikes?
12) How is my list going to win the game?
13) How is my list going to compete with the current META?

This list is not the be-all and end-all of criteria for competitive lists, but if you are able to address these questions confidently, then I believe you should be prepared for most situations seen in competitive play.

In the next segment of this series we will begin to discuss these questions in proper context, including how we can approach each question confidently. While it looks like a lot of things to consider, you'll notice as we go through each item, most of them overlap on some level and we end up having a few units which can cover several jobs, as well as support each other. The key to a good list is simple... SYNERGY. Your list must work together to create a more powerful entity. Not simply be an inventory of items placed on the table.

Until then, keep rolling them 6's!

-the Overlord