GWvsJohn’s Adventures in Vassal, Chapter 1: The Difference Between Right and Wrong

Uh, oh, it’s new author time. Someone’s blog is about to blow up like N*Sync (Lucky Boys Confusion)

Anyway, I asked Kirby if I could do some guest articles and he graciously agreed, so here we are.

First, a little bit about me. I live in our nation’s capital (I’m gonna go ahead and assume you’re all American, because that’s what we do 🙂 ). I’m married, and in about 2 months, I’m going to be a (Medical) Doctor. So, I guess I can handle any health related questions in addition to 40k. For my gaming history, I started playing exactly when the 2nd ed box came out. Played hardcore all through 2nd ed and into 3rd ed. I fell off during college and missed all of 3.5 and 4th ed (there was 3.5, right? Or is that only D&D?) I’ve gotten back into the game with the advent of 5th ed and have hit the web-side of 40k pretty hard. Besides Kirby’s blog, you may know me from banging my head against the wall on Warseer or getting yelled at by Stelek. I’d say I’m an A- list writer (if my posts here haven’t convinced you, please see: all my advice being ignored on Warseer, a guide I wrote that Stelek liked here and my award winning Mycetic Spore army here) I’d also say I’m a B- player. Deployment vexes me, I get hung up on objectives, and I’m the worst roller ever on the vehicle damage chart (arguably the most important roll in the game) Still I think I have something to add. Due to my schedule and a crippling inability to paint, most of my gaming takes place online. On Vassal (scary, right?) For those not familiar, Vassal is, for the most part, a barren wasteland of stupidity and noobism. Still, the roving bands of mutants are usually up for a game, and I’m happy to oblige.

Long-term, I’m hoping my articles will be battle reports, army list analysis and tactical thoughts. However, like any good blogger, my first post will be a rant.

The first thing you need to know about Vassal is this: it’s not real 40k. At best, it’s a close replica, at worst, a very abstract simulation. As such, you can’t take it too seriously. Unfortunately the unwashed masses don’t realize this. Mistakes will be made. It’s inevitable. However, there’s a right and wrong way to make a mistake and a right and wrong way to deal with them. We’re going to use two recent examples to illustrate this. (NB. In general, I will try to avoid using names, unless someone really pisses me off)

If you don’t know me, one of my usual lists (and my go-to if I’m in the mood to win) is a Vanilla Codex double LR/Assault Termie list. Since you all read Kirby (and probably YTTH, TKE, etc.) you all know that Vanilla Terminators have Thunder Hammers and Storm Shields. Every time. Most of you probably know that Army Builder defaults to Lightning Claws for Assault Terminators (because that’s the default in the codex) Often when building lists, I forget to change this, since Termies ALWAYS have TH/SS. So I start a game, post my list and muster my sprites. Before sides are chosen, my opponent points out that my list says Lightning Claws and my sprites say Thunder Hammers. I made a mistake. I admit said mistake and apologize. He calls BS. I explain that clearly my Termies have TH, because they always do. He doesn’t relent. I link him to multiple threads on Warseer where I mock anyone who suggests Vanilla Lightning Claws in any situation. He still maintains that I am switching the armament to my advantage, i.e. cheating. I was incredulous. This same opponent insisted on knowing what army I was using before he chose his. He also did not post his list until he had seen all my sprites. This situation was ridiculous for several reasons. 1) It’s Vassal. Who cheats here? 2) They’re vanilla Assault Terminators, they always have Thunder Hammers 3) It’s Vassal, why would I cheat? 4) He chose (after seeing my army no less) to run mono-Slaanesh CSM; I would have beaten him regardless of what the Termies had. So, here we have the right way to make a mistake (admit, apologize, explain) and the wrong way to react (accuse, be an asshole, stay adamant).

The second example occurred before the game started as well. My opponent rolled mission and deployment, as is often done. However, he rolled Seize Ground. For those of you familiar with the BRB, Seize Ground clearly tells you to place objectives, then roll deployment. I calmly explained this to him. He replied that I was reading the rule wrong. Just to be sure, I opened the BRB and re-read the page (aside, I wonder how many players have the BRB next to them when they play Vassal, 10, 15%?). I explained again how the sequence works. He played the “I’ve played hundreds of games…” card which works great, unless you’re wrong, and he was. Eventually we had to bring in outside voices (including our esteemed Master Kirby) to moderate. He relented, I smiled (smugly) and we played. So, here we have the wrong way to make a mistake (boast, don’t check the BRB) and the right way to react (be easy like Sunday morning)

I guess that’s it for now. Hopefully we’ve all learned a bit of etiquette and to keep the BRB handy. My next post will try to be meatier. If anyone wants to ask me a question, or have me review a list, you can post it as a comment on one of my posts (I don’t care if it’s off-topic) or e-mail me at tjbalt@gmail.com

Blood Angels Jumpers @ 2k

Well my list from my review of BA Jumpers is actually under 2k pts…woops. The players I beat with it I shall keep your names a secret :P. Anyways I think this is nearing the “final phase” of what I want it to be so let’s see if as a group we can fine tune it. Tactics at bottom.

NB: Most jumper lists will be built around the same premise so there isn’t that much variation which is a bit of a shame but since no other army can do this…well who cares :P!

HQ –
Libarian w/Jump Pack, Blood Lance, Shield of Sang

Libarian w/Jump Pack, Blood Lance, Shield of Sang

Honor Guard w/Jump Pack, 3x meltagun

Honor Guard w/Jump Pack, 3x meltagun

Elites –
Sang Priest x2 w/Jump Pack

Troops –
ASM x10 w/2x meltagun, Power Fist

ASM x10 w/2x meltagun, Power Fist

ASM x10 w/2x meltagun, Power Fist, infernus pistol

Fast Attack –
VV x5 w/Jump Packs, glaive & SS, PFist, LC & SS

VV x5 w/Jump Packs, glaive & SS, PFist, LC & SS

Totals: 2000 pts
54 Jumpers

So this looks pretty similar to Stelek’s 2.5k list yes? Well as I said you don’t have much choice other than spells and equipment. So let’s look at it.

Libbys w/shield give cover saves when dropping into the open. Dropping into cover is sometimes neccessary but risky. Every 1 = a dead marine and you’re attempting to overwhelm your opponent with FNP marines, don’t give em free shots! Blood lance is self explanatory as are the Priests. I’ve changed the HG to 3x mgun and no combat weapons for the bigger targets. Biggest problem I’ve had so far is a Land Raider and some Storm Ravens, more concentrated AT does well against these tougher melta targets. ASM should also be self explanatory and the Vanguard are what make this list work. You can tie up valuable units early on with these bad boys and they have a decent amount of hurt and survivability. They aren’t going to take on super-units but they will quickly get rid of mediroce combat units (i.e. the things that shoot you dead).

I’d like to get THs on the Vanguard but not sure if it’s worth it (or the LC). Comments on those? Dropping the LCs could get me some more infernous pistols elsewhere (I don’t think they are worth it on Vanguards as they can’t shoot if they HI) or maybe some mbombs. Thoughts?

Armies in 5th: Basics Part 3: Target Priority

I tried to write an article on deployment…but eh, it was getting lengthy and when I chopped it down it was so simplistic I thought it wasn’t worth it. If anyone has ideas on that I’d love to hear them. But basically for deployment, know yourself and your opponent. What does their army excel at and where does your excel? What are their weaknesses? You need to maximise your strengths and minimise your weaknesses and vice versa for your opponent with your deployment. For example, don’t clump up against blast armies, don’t stay on the board against alpha strikers unless you have defenses for it, etc. Without going into detail…that’s pretty much what you have to do. If you’d like army specific deployments, that I can do just post here or send me an email.

Anyways this is sort of simple (let’s see if TKE does a better one) but often poorly done by opponents. So, we’ve built our army and deployed. Before we get to movement, we need to think about what we are going to shoot (sounds backwards right?). There is no point moving then deciding what to shoot. You could block your firing lanes or have given your opponent cover, you want to avoid this if you can. So first you need to decide what you are shooting and with what. You also need to have multiple options. If your prime target gets destroyed you need to be able to shoot something else.

Here’s where a lot of people come unstuck. They plan their shooting but they plan on shooting the wrong things. Take your biggest gun and shoot it at what is most likely to be destroyed (this is generally in relation to armor). No, don’t target those LRs. Sure you can stop it T1 but you’re much more likely to have an easier game if you take things out every turn. Yes there is bigger gain to be had from taking out your opponent’s biggest guns but what happens when you screw up? This is where suppression fire comes in. If your big guns can take out smaller AV or weaker infantry and your suppression fire stops the opponent’s big guns from firing…well, cha-ching. If you fire everything on the big guns and just stop them shooting though, your opponent is still in the game so to speak.

However, a condrunum. Your suppression fire is often excellent at shooting AV10-11 whilst still being reliable and stopping AV12-13 from shooting, so what do you do? Here it comes down to discretion. If you have S10 guns it is quite likely you can still damage those AV12s whilst taking down the AV10 with suppression fire. You also have to take into consideration what does the damage on the opponent’s army. Such low AV units like Land Speeders or Vypers can put out a lot of damage for their points so these should be higher on your target list than a Rhino with tacticals in it.

Furthermore, what is the best gun against your army differs per army. A jumper list is obviously more afriad of low AP and blast guns because they arrive via DS so they want to disable those ASAP and with guns like meltaguns were AV is often irrelevant they have much more choice in their targets on their drop. A mech army however obviously wasnt to limit anti-tank coming at them and might be able to ignore lower AV platforms who are more anti-infantry oriented for more medium armor but anti-tank guns (i.e. Manticores).

So, overall you want to try and do as much damage as possible, maximise your chances to cause some damage. Some damage on less important things is better than no damage. As the game goes on, the more important units of your opponent will move up the target priority as sooner or later you have to deal with them but trying to deal with the toughest units first is generally not a good idea unless the army around them isn’t very strong.

Email in: 1500 SM List


Hey Kirby,
I was hoping you’d be willing to help a novice player with aSpace Marine list. I have two lists, a biker and a mech list.

Biker List:

HQ
Space Marine Captain (Space Marine bike, relic blade)
165
Space Marine Librarian (Space Marine bike)
Psychic powers: Null Zone, Avenger
135
Troops
Space Marine Bike Squad (5 Bikers w/2 meltaguns, Sergeant w/combi-flamer, Attack Bike w/multi-melta)
245
Space Marine Bike Squad (5 Bikers w/2 meltaguns, Sergeant w/combi-flamer, Attack Bike w/multi-melta)
245
Space Marine Bike Squad (5 Bikers w/2 meltaguns, Sergeant w/combi-flamer, Attack Bike w/multi-melta)
245
FA
Land Speeder (heavy flamer, multi-melta)
70
Land Speeder (heavy flamer, multi-melta)
70
Land Speeder (heavy flamer, multi-melta)
70
HS
Predator (heavy bolter sponsons)
85
Predator (heavy bolter sponsons)
85
Predator (heavy bolter sponsons)
85
TOTAL: 1500
This list seems pretty self-explanatory. Predators hang back and whale on transports and footsloggers while the bikes and land speeders zoom up and destroy stuff that look at them funny.

Mech List:

HQ
Librarian (jump pack, combi-melta)
{Null Zone, Avenger}
140
Troops
Tactical Squad (9 marines w/ flamer and multi-melta, sergeant w/ combi-melta)
{Rhino Transport}
215
Tactical Squad (9 marines w/ flamer and multi-melta, sergeant w/ combi-melta)
{Rhino Transport}
215
Tactical Squad (9 marines w/ flamer and multi-melta, sergeant w/ combi-melta)
{Rhino Transport}
215
Elites
Dreadnought (twin-linked autocannon x2)
125
Dreadnought (twin-linked autocannon x2)
125
FA
Landspeeder Squadron (heavy flamer, multi-melta)
70
Landspeeder Squadron (heavy flamer, multi-melta)
70
Landspeeder Squadron (heavy flamer, multi-melta)
70
HS
Predator (heavy bolter sponsons)
85
Predator (heavy bolter sponsons)
85
Predator (heavy bolter sponsons)
85
TOTAL: 1500
I’m leaning towards this list simply because I have the librarian and one tactical squad bar the multi-melta. I didn’t know what to do with the HQ slot so I decided some psyker defense couldn’t hurt. Slap a jump pack on him so he can keep pace with the rhinos and a combi-melta in case he feels like peeling open a tank. A chaplain or a captain didn’t seem to fit since they help a sucky tactical squad in close combat suck a little less so I didn’t see the point.

Looking forward to your advice and feedback!

Lists and emails like this make me happy. Both of those lists are spot on. The only change I might make would be in the 2nd list to drop a speeder for a scout squad for the Libby to sit with (dropping the JP gives you enough points to buy camo and an ML or HB for the squad, too) but with the libby hiding behind the Rhinos and then joining a squad once it bails out is fine as well, just beware people are going to try and get ID lines on him.

I think out of the 2 the mech list is the stronger. Bike slow’n’fast really gets it’s kicker at 2k where you can put dreads/preds/typhoons in on top of the bikes and whilst at 1500 it’s still a solid list, the mech one rolls a bit better.

So on list building, well done Josh. Play a few games with them and let us know how you go and if you need any help on tactics we can work from there. The hardest part for most people is the list building and I think you’ve done an excellent job for a proclaimed novice.

Competitive Foot

Yup, foot can be competitive. For those of you who aren’t thinking outside the box, this is for you. This is related a lot to my recent posts, particularly with Tyranids but this stems from Warseer. See posts here and here in the BA tactica in relation to all JPs being good. So it took many months (years even) of beating into Warseer that Mech is better than foot for rather obvious reasons which have been expounded upon many times here. If you want them again, ask or search. So first off let’s all laugh at ork foot being competitive. It still can’t deal with mech so it’s competitive how? Then let’s consider that thinking outside the box is good and foot as been viable for a book since SW. That was months ago and Vanilla bikers has been good…since 5th ed came out.

So what makes SW foot, Bikers, Tyranids and Jumpers good? Individually, a lot but what do they have in common.

They can keep up with mech. This is huge. Mech barely pays to be able move at a minimum 12″ a turn and quite often shoot as well. Foot infantry generally can’t do this. Bikers w/combat tactics, Calvary, Fleet, Jump Infantry can. Take one advantage of mech away please! This is also important because most of these armies are assault oriented and carry short ranged anti-tank guns (i.e. Warp Lance and meltas). This combines well for their meltas and assault based strength.

But what about the extra protection mech provides? Well each of the mentioned lists has improved survivability in some way. Whether improved T/W or special abilities like invuls/coversaves/FNP, etc. they can withstand being shot for longer. This was designed to be this way. Mech offers you a little mobile piece of cover so effective non-mech lists have to have an extra defense for them to not be disadvantaged too much.

And the crutch, they are either in your face on T1 (or T2 if they reserve) and/or have excellent suppression fire. JP BA drop very accurately with a lot of guys and can assault out of DS with certain units. Stopping that alpha strike can take a bit more skill. Add in you’re eating meltas and decent combat units and they can chase your mech? Hey! That sounds competitive. Bikers boost, get a 3+ cover save and are in your face. What are you going to do? Hope you can outshoot them because you can’t out move them unless you are eldar and if there are Command Squads you don’t want to go into combat because command squads > you. Oh ya and there’s 12+ meltas in there, too. And what about fast’n’slow lists (which are essentially hybrid but a biker base)? Now we’ve got suppression fire! This is good as it slows your mech even more. What about Tyranids and SW? Well both can get into assault quickly with beasts/cavalry, pods/spores and other reserve units (I.e. Trygons) and can walk across the board with good suppression fire (I.e. Hive Guard and Long Fangs).

Again, how do these lists not compete Warseer? Lash isn’t an answer because most of these lists can take psy defense (putting it into pure bikers is hard as you lose a command squad) and they are fast enough to ignore lash (clumping is not the big advantage of lash, it’s movement is). And if you do clump, on no I sure hope I can make a couple extra 3+ saves and don’t pop that DP x2 next turn. Let’s here your rational answers. And let’s see some battle reports. I’m putting this out to my readers as well, I want to see Lash versus these foot lists. I want to see good mech lists versus these foot lists to show they can compete. I know they can, I’ve played them and beat mech but let’s prove it.

P.S. the reason why foot armies like Orks, Necrons and Daemons can’t compete? They have no reliable answer to mech and thus get dominated by mech. Mech controls the board against them. Their suppression fire can generally be quite good (Lootas & Destroyers) but that’s about it. They can’t keep up with mech en masse, they can’t mass or heavy armor reliably and don’t threaten the mech mentality. Do you see the differences?

Email in: Roland’s Revamped AirCav IG


Hey Kirby!
Thanks again for the help. I’ve been playing this list for a while and recently made some minor tweaks to it (namely adding the Hydras and dropping a 5th Vet squad), so I’m curious for some input. It plays fairly well, usually lends itself to close fun games, so no complaints there. I’m also curious to see what the consensus is on it’s “competitiveness”. Thanks bud!

5th Romulan Recon & Surveillance Company aka “Creeping Death”

HQ:

Company Command Squad – Valk 1
3X Meltaguns
Officer of the Fleet
Astropath
Carapace
1X Bodyguards
Medic
Krak
Total: 210

Iron Hand
Total: 95

Elite:

Scout/Sniper Team (counts as Halflings)
Total: 35

Troops:

Veteran Squad (all with Shotguns) – Vend 2
Demolitions
3X Meltagun
PF
Total: 145

Veteran Squad (all with Shotguns) – Vend 1
Demoltions
3X Meltagun
PF
Total: 145

Veteran Squad (all with Shotguns) – Valk 2
Grenadiers
3X Meltagun
PW
Total: 140

Veteran Squad (all with Shotguns) – Vend 4
Grenadiers
Heavy Flamer
2X Melta
PW
Total: 140

FA:

Valk Squadron (2)
MRP
Total: 260

Vendetta Squadron (2)
Total: 260

Vendetta Squadron (2)
Total: 260

Heavy Support:

Manticore
Total: 160

Hydra
Total: 75

Hydra
Total: 75

Total: 2000

I usually switch how I deploy the Valks/Vends, depending on mission/enemy. Manti sets up as usual, and I use the Hydras to flank him and provide fields of fire for fire suppression. The ratlings I added in b/c I had a spare 35 points and I figured (gasp I know) it’d be fluffy to have sniper rifles. Worst comes to worst, they can either infiltrate forward somewhere to try and pin down an enemy unit / harass them, or they can chill at the home objective to contest it, freeing up the squads to grab and go. Anyway input much appreciated as always!

Roland

Not a problem Roland, sorry it took me a while to get to it.

For a fun list it’s not too bad, again I think you’ve got a few upgrades chucked in there you don’t need (mainly the CCS). I think if you shave those you can get some more cuddles in there like double up the Hyrdas. So I think drop pretty much most of what you’ve got in the CCS barring the meltas, the combat upgrades on the Vets (PW and PF), armor upgrades (Grenadiers) as you don’t need it (Demo is good :)) and I don’t think you need straken, but if you want to keep him we can. With that let’s see if you can get more Hydras.

So if we take off the PW/PF, grenadiers, carapace, medic, bodyguard, kraks and officer of the fleet that gives us 210 pts to play with so we can get two more Hydras and have 60 points left. So if you drop Straken you could get another Vet squad most likely but that’s up to you, otherwise maybe drop the snipers and get some Storm Troopers?

i think shaving the upgrades for more Hydras keeps the army similar but more effective, less upgrades is more in 40k :P, quite literally. I think air-cav defunks against anyone who can screen well but it’s like the IG version of Slow’n’Fast so I’d say it’s pretty decent competitiveness wise. It’s not the best but it’s pretty decent.

So what are your thoughts Roland and anyone else?

Warseer Battle Report: Picture analysis: Tyranids vs Orks, 2500 points.

What a long title! This is from MagicJuggler via e-mail.

Hey. Didn’t get to finish the game against Pokeylope, but did this one against Orks. It’s rather sad really. 2500 points and I had:

2 Hive Tyrants each with Bonesword/Lash Whip, and Heavy Venom Cannon, and a Bonesword Guard for each. The Tyrants had Paroxysm and Leech Essence.
3 units of 3 Hive Guard
3 Tervigons with Toxin Sacs and Cluster Spines. 2 had Onslaught and Talons. One had Catalyst.
3 units of min-strength Termagants
3 Tyrannofexes with Rupture Cannon/Dessicator Larvae/Cluster Spines

His army consisted of:
Ghazkhull
A Big Mek
4 Battlewagons
2 units of boyz; one is Ard-boy’d.
A unit of Nob Bikers
A unit of Burnas.
2 Deffkoptas with Buzzsaws and Rokkit Launchas.

He got first turn, plinks a wound off a Hive Guard. This is the end of my Turn 1…see any Nob Bikers? They died to being blasted by Venom Cannons, then torrented down by Impalers. The Deffkoptas died to assault too. And there’s enough bubblewrap to keep me shooting for another round or two. He folded that turn anyway. Basically, it’s an underrated army against a *very* overrated army, and the results weren’t pretty.

Everyone complains that Nob Bikers own and that Tyranid shooting sucks…yet as MJ points out, he can wipe them in one turn. I would like to know how many Nob Bikers there are and there is a heap of terrain on that board lol.

Thanks MJ for this send-in.

Armies in 5th: Basics Part 2: Army Composition II

Here we are back at army comp, and you thought it was all over (okay basically I forgot to say a few things so putting them here).

Psychic powers & defense! I said it when I picked up the 5th edition book and I’ve said it every time a new army comes out, psychic is back (maybe not as ridiculous as 2nd ed) and you need to deal with this. For most armies this is pretty simple (Eldar, Tyranids and Imperial armies) where you have some sort of psychic defense. The other armies? Well only really two are competitive (DE and Tau) due to their awesome gun array. Since Eldar are running a Farseer anyways we don’t need to look at what they need to take for psy defense and Tyranid psy defense is incorporated into their army as well up close. However, taking a Deathleaper will improve your psychic defense quite dramatically even when outside of Shadow in the Warp so it’s a recommended Elites slot. For Space Marine armies you’ve got a lot of options in Libbys (& Dread Libbys), Rune Priests, GKTs w/Hood and Inq w/Hood whilst other Imperial armies carry theirs around with them (GKT and SoB) or need to take Inq/GKT w/Hood. Either way, you should be incorporating a Hood/Staff into your army otherwise certain spells well be your undoing. Consider psy defenses to be an extra 4+ save to prevent damage. We all like cover, yes? Take your cover with you.

And the other concept I needed to lay down was something GWvsJohn called forced choices. This is where you give a gun in an opponent’s army multiple targets. This is most often done with saturation (i.e. autocannons like to shoot at AV10-11 but if you have 10 AV10-11 you’re going to overload those autocannons). The idea here is if you have so many ideal places for your opponent to land shots, they aren’t going to be able to deal with them all. Furthermore, if they have to make a choice they are more likely to make a mistake. The opposite of this (and generally bad option) is giving a target to every gun from the beginning. This generally happens with bad hybrid builds (i.e. no bubble-wraps, JSJ troops, etc.) as all those anti-infantry guns and anti-tank guns get a target on T1. More damage = less army.

So how do we incorporate this into our army? Certain guns like to shoot at certain things. Most blasts like to shoot at infantry, higher strength weapons prefer shooting at higher AV (this will also be covered later in target priority), medium strength and good rate of fire weapons like to shoot lower AVs, etc. To make a forced choice outside of saturation you need very specific units for this. A really good example is Tyranids. Raveners and Warrior variants are T4/W3 and subject to ID. This means those S8 guns are perfect for shooting at these units but they are also perfect at shooting at MCs. These are two completely different units and thus force a different choice that target saturation does, do I take out the Warriors or wounds off the MC? By forcing your opponent to make such choices, they are likely to make mistakes.

This is the advantage of pure armies (i.e. foot or mech) over hybrid. Whilst certain hybrid builds wreck havoc (i.e IG & Tau), others (i.e. BA, SM, CSM, etc.) can be good but not as competitive because against a balanced opponent their T1 fire is going to be more effective than yours. An all foot list laughs at all of those S8+ guns heading their way (as long as they are an effective foot list) whilst an all mech list early laughs at the anti-infantry fire. These brief moments of ‘security’ give them a leg up on the competition.

So by incorporating psychic defense your army can better stop other psychic powers (both offensive and defensive) which gives you more control over what takes place on the board whilst forcing your opponent to make choices makes the game harder for them and increases the chances of them making a mistake. Sorry these weren’t included in the first post, it was a bit long anyways! Will do target priority next.

It’s my birfday

Internet cookies who whoever figures it out. No one who knows is allowed to say that’s cheatering. Yay for getting older. Doubt I’ll be posting much today but let’s see shall we?
Oh the F1 yesterday in Melbourne was one of the best races I’ve ever seen. I’d put itup there with Brasil 2008, I love rainy races where everyone overtakes. Kudos to Ferrari to doing so well whentheir day kept looking like it was over.

Armies in 5th: Basics Part 1: Army Composition

Army comp to the majority of people means how un-hard or un-cheesy (or how cheesy/hard) your army is. It’s generally a bad system because it’s taking GW’s rules and placing restrictions on what armies you can build to make it “fair.” For the majority of people this is what army comp does but in reality it doesn’t; all that’s changed has been which lists are ‘broken‘. Good job on changing the game of 40k. So what does army composition really mean?
List building is very important in Warhammer 40,000. Games can be lost before a die is even rolled because you don’t have the tools for the job. I’ve been asked quite a lot what my starting point my an army list is and I generally pick a theme, idea or unit I want to base my army around (i.e. Space Wolves = TWC, BA = fast preds, Tyranids = what I already have/Tervigons, etc.) but from there my competitive army evolves around that idea to still be balanced and be able to deal with everything. So what types of units do we need to be able to handle. A list needs to be able to handle a whole army comprised of such units to be able to reliably deal with the balanced lists (I.e. you may never see 20+ tanks or MCs or 100+ bikes or 300 infantry but if your list theoretically deal with those extremes, you can deal with the balanced armies). These unit types include:
1) tanks = anything with an armor value and thus uses the damage chart
2) MCs = anything with the MC status, high T (5+) and multiple wounds
3) bikes/cavalry = anything that augments toughness and movement ability
4) infantry = the basic guys with saves
So to have good army composition you need multiple units which can handle units 1-4 and units which can handle 3 or more of these groups are better than units which can handle less unit types. However, there is a trade-off when the unit which can handle less unit types but handles the specific units at a better rate. This trade-off needs to be considered and such units like broadsides which aren‘t that great at anti-infantry are very much worth it for their ability to damage tanks. So this means your anti-infantry (which generally includes anti-bike/cavalry) and anti-tank (which generally includes anti-MC) needs to be spread across your army and generally the more units who can deal with both, the better. This is simply called duality and duplicity and something that army comp from tournaments frowns upon even though it makes the best lists which are balanced. Having an army maxed out on duality units means you can lose some units but you still have more (duplicity) and no one unit is ever going to be useless if you face extreme armies where they then become inefficient point sinks.
For example, a trip-las pred is very expensive and pretty decent against armor/MCs but if you face an Ork horde or BA jumper army… well you’re killing a max of 3 guys out of 60+ a turn, that’s not very good efficiency. However, for a significant reduction in cost and a minor reduction in anti-armor ability you gain more anti-infantry ability with an AC/LC pred and for a further reduction in points but a more significant reduction in anti-tank ability but a significant increase in anti-infantry ability, you can take an AC/HB pred. Here the trip-las pred is the weak link for it’s related point cost and efficiency ratios whilst the AC/LC and AC/HB preds can shore up either anti-tank or anti-infantry whilst not being a points sink and sacrificing little duality.
So the best armies have multiple options at every FoC slot to deal with multiple threats and more often than not this can be included in a single unit. Armies that are weaker don’t have those options (and thus generally have mono-builds) or can’t build as much duality into their lists. This means other armies will generally be able to target what the biggest threat to them first and thus neutralise it compared to an army with duality where no such targets can be picked out. This becomes target saturation.
What I explain here to many will sound like dealing with the metagame but since everyone has access to the internet and 40k can build balanced lists which can beat any other list out there…well there is not metagame because there is no advantage by knowing what is commonly strong. If you do it to your local area to counter marines or Orks for example that’s tailoring.

So outside of these basic principles what else does an army in 5th edition need to account for? A concept I’ve touched on a lot with this blog is fire suppression. This is a concept which is often underappreciated online particularly with armies who don’t have good pure anti-tank (such as Tyranids). Fire suppression in 40k 5th is all about stopping tanks from damaging you next turn whilst anti-tank is all about stopping the tank. The difference here is anti-tank generally uses higher strength and AP1 weapons whilst fire suppression uses weight of fire. Whilst fire suppression will inevitably kill tanks, it’s all about minimising your opponent’s ability to affect the battlefield. Whether this is simply shaking them to stop them shooting, destroying their weapons or stopping their movement through stunned/immobilised results, by slowing your opponent’s tanks, you are more able to enact your battle plan as you are more able to control the board.

So how is this done in an army list? Some armies do it better than others (I.e. Tyranids) as it’s built into their army books but what you are looking for is medium strength weapons with high rates of fire, good ranges and which are reliable as possible to hit. Such units include MP/PR crisis suits (which are also very good anti-infantry units), Riflemen dreads (who are functional as anti-infantry units), Hydras, etc. They either have so many shots or they are TL’d with good moderate strength weapons which are therefore very likely to do SOMETHING. Your meltaguns are your primary anti-tank but things like auto cannons/missile launchers/etc are there to slow your opponent up from T1.

Another uncommon concept is sacrificial/bubble-wrap units. Bubble-wraps have been covered on this blog before here but little has been said about sac units. In a good list built around duality and duplicity, every unit is expendable (there are obviously more important units than others but a single unit dying shouldn’t change your game plans drastically) but in most lists there should be units you are happy to lose to gain a turn to affect the board. Whether this is a speedbump against assault units, a blocker to slow down an army/unit or simply a screening unit, an army which has the ability to sacrifice a lot but still win is going to come out on top more often than not against an army which relies on a lynchpin.

A concept fundamental to mech is mobility and due to its inherent nature within mechanised lists, is often over-looked during army composition. This is another reason why I believe armies like Tyranids are un-appreciated online. All mech lists are obviously fast so when you are not meching up (I.e. Tyranids, hybrid, BA jumpers, cavalry, etc.) if you aren’t fast (I.e. Pods) you are on the backfoot. This is why lists such as non-mech BA and SW can be very competitive, they can keep up with the mobility of mech’d armies. These are generally the type of armies that also place more importance in fire suppression (I.e. Long Fangs) so they can reduce the advantage mech enjoys until they get start bashing in their grills.

Finally a concept that should be familiar to everyone, Troops and scoring. Two thirds of 5th edition missions are objective based and only Troops can score. I’ve given a common rule of thumb of one troop per 500 points but this is obviously flexible, certain lists can do with more and certain lists can deal with less. But it again becomes a trade-off. Troop choices often have worse point efficiencies in terms of damaging output compared to other FoC slots. You therefore need to consider the trade-off between potential output and scoring ability. The 1 Troop/500 pt guideline is a good rule of thumb for this trade-off but it obviously depends on the army and army type.

So when taking all of these concepts into account and making a list that maximises them to the best of the book’s ability whilst maintaining a balanced theme is going to give you a good list. It seems like a lot to take in early but once you use these guidelines whilst making your own lists a few times, you’ll get used to them. Look at certain lists where I explain my reasoning behind my choices (Stelek does this too at YTTH and some others like GWvsJohn have done it here). It highlights some of the concepts used to make better lists.