Tag Archives: List Building

Playing Nice


That’s right Internet, I’m heading up a post today using a picture of a miniature that I myself have painted! It’s still not finished mind, I’ve been painting other stuff but as I want to spend some time talking about 40k today, I wanted to add a little touch of something personal.

In my last post I touched on the Internet and the impact it has on our gaming. It seems like you can’t hit up a forum without finding a veritable panoply of threads dealing with how to make a list capable of winning tournaments and your average fluff list is buried under all the WAAC-ness.

Now, if one were so inclined when it comes to picking up 40k they could choose their Codex and then just hit up the web for a list that can rock the proverbial kazbar. These lists do tend to be “point and click” but there are certain armies where this kind of list building can prove very effective even in the hands on a novice player. I would imagine that most players want to have fun in their games but there is also an inherent part of a player that wants to win.

I’m pretty positive that there will be people out there that will decry my opinion as heresy, no doubt trotting out some abhorrent fluff list composed of nothing but Gretchin or something. Now, obviously we want to have fun, if we’re not having fun then there is no real point in playing. However, what I am interested in is how groups of players balance what they take in their respective environments. I’ve already stated on this blog that I am not a tournament player. Nor and I ever likely to be, most of these events last over two days and Sunday is not a day I feel comfortable spending gaming, it being the Sabbath and all. There may be one day tournaments but we’re then into the territory of me actually having a fully painted army to attend!

So, I am more than happy to be playing with my buds over a cool glass of DPZ and some salt-encrusted snack products. With easy access to the Internet these days you;d be mad not to have an idea about your army list gathered from players far and wide. There is normally a general consensus of what is and is not viable from a particular Codex. While I am not a fan of list tailoring there are those who are proponents of this idea. While I don’t write a list to win a tournament I do write it so that it has a chance of winning.

What do you do then, when a player brings a tournament army into a casual play environment? I am not speaking from personal experience here, we do have some strong lists though and I see myself changing my lists so that I can compete (Dark Eldar and Grey Knights dripping with S7 weapons don’t mix well). We’ve been trying to encourage the “all-comers” list mentality on the newest player we have around these parts. I think it’s a valuable skill to learn and helps you when you are against such a broad range of opponents. It’s how I’ve always written my lists although they do adapt to my local meta.

I’ve recently changed a squad or two in my Dark Eldar, I’ve added more shooting to it and removed a few things that have been hit and miss for me. The new list might not work but then that’s half the fun for me, finding stuff that works for the way that I play the game. Sometimes I get hammered, sometimes I am the one doing the hammering, I hope that good times are had by all.

To be honest I find that this is where 40k can fall down a little. Someone can bring a tourney list and destroy all that come before it and no one has fun except for maybe the chap that brought the FOTM list. We had a game of Warmachine Mk2 in our regular Wednesday play session last week too. I took Siege, a Sentinel, Lancer and Defender in a 15pt game against nBreaker with Sorscha, a Destroyer and a Juggernaught. The Sentinel got his arms hacked off by the Destroyer and the Lancer was pounded into scrap by the Juggernaught. Things were looking good for nBreaker before I got a clear LOS to his Warcaster through dropping a Foxhole on the Juggernaught, a Ground Pounder and boosted Defender Heavy Barrel later and Sorscha was a pair of smoking boots. Things were not looking great for me but I pulled off the win. I like Warmachine for this reason, there are no really cheesy combos of stuff. The whole game is based around a threat vector and exploiting it. You’re guaranteed to get it off once but then your opponent will know what to look for. I know that the game is regarded as having a steep learning curve but it’s a fast paced game that plays ruthlessly. This appeals to me against rolling up and finding that you are almost certainly going to lose against what is deployed against you at the start of the game.

Do you have an internal balance meter? How do you judge what is competitive enough to take to challenge you and your opponents? Do you even care? Has the Internet written your lists for you? Are you happy with this?

Are these issues endemic of the games system themselves, poor rules or poor Codices? Should Mat Ward be allowed near an army book ever again?

I think these are the questions I’d like to see answers on.

Tutorials in Gaming – Warhammer 40,000 Army List Construction 102


Yesterday I went into the start of constructing an army list for 40k. These same principles do translate into Warhammer with some adjustment. We looked at the basic Force Organisation chart and picked out units that matched these slots fulfilling what core Troops do as well as picking up some punch in the form of an HQ unit. Today we will delve into some of the other unit choices available and the various other slots. While I am using Orks as an example as these are the lists I am more familiar with building the basic concepts I am trying to convey work on any other army list too.

In brief we picked two Troops units to fulfill the compulsory selections, these units we designed around taking objectives as well as survivability for Kill Point scenarios. Out HQ was picked as being able to add some punch to a squad but we will also add something else to this selection as we go through options today.

Following the selections we took yesterday we are now left with 1 HQ, 3 Elites, 4 Troops, 3 Fast Attack and 3 Heavy Support. I also mentioned that we were going to tackle the questions of army selection so, to start, before we build the rest of our army, what are these questions? These are questions that I like to ask myself when seeing if I have all the bases covered when creating a list, I’ve already stipulated I make “all-comers” lists rather than tailoring against specific opponents, answering these questions allows me to make sure I am covered against any eventuality. Here are my questions;

  1. How do I deal with large units? (Usually low T, low AS units like Orks and Gaunts)
  2. How do I deal with armoured infantry? (Terminators and their like)
  3. How do I deal with high Toughness? (Monstrous Creatures)
  4. How do I deal with Armour 14? (Not everyone has Land Raiders but if I can cover this other vehicles will naturally be catered for)
  5. How am I going to claim and hold objectives?

These questions are not in order and some units will be able to cover more than one question. If you build an army around covering all of these bases you should have a strong list that can cope with whatever is thrown at it, it won’t guarantee that you can win every game you play but you’ll certainly be in a better place than if you just take a random bunch of models. Luckily in the Ork army the way I answer a lot of these questions is my 40k catchphrase “Moar Boyz!”. Ork Boyz are excellent for a number of reasons, they are cheap, there are lots of them and a Nob with a Power Klaw can total pretty much anything in the game given time, the number of bodies in his mob is what buys that time (normally).

Firstly, let’s take a look at Elites, for Orks we have a large number of selections in this regard, Nobs squads, Mega-Nobz, Burnas, Lootas, Kommandos and Tank Bustas. Nobs can be changed into the feared (and expensive) Nob bikers too so that gives us a fast-moving attack element to go with our Elites options. Each of these units performs different roles, however, now we can also see that our chosen HQ fits something nicely here. In an Ork army a Warboss allows a unit of Nobz or Mega-Nobz to be taken as a Troops choice rather than Elites, not only does this release an Elites slot we could choose to fill with something else it also means that the units taken as Troops is a scoring unit and can therefore claim objectives. It is worth looking deeply into an HQ units special rules as often it will mean you might look into one choice over another because of those options. As you can see above one of the questions I have is for taking and holding objectives. For this purpose I’d be looking at the Mega-Nobz, normally afflicted by “Slow and Purposeful” foot-slogging them to an objective might not be a good idea, luckily they have a couple of transport options; a Trukk or a Battlewagon. Personally I take a Trukk, its cheap and gets them where the action is quicker than if they were on foot. I can fit 12 models on a Trukk but Mega-armour units count as two models, perfect, I can take 5 Mega-Nobz and the Warboss and fit them all in the Trukk. This gives me a fast-moving element and the open-topped nature of the vehicle means I can assault out of it. I’ll throw in a Red Paint Job to grab an extra inch of movement per turn. This unit will rip through most heavy armoured troops but needs to watch out for monstrous creatures and anything with a power fist as they will get eaten up. This unit will also help with questions 1, 3 and 5 due to their own resilience (2+ AS , 2W and T4) and their combat prowess (3 attacks on the charge at S9). Because they are only S9 on the charge they have difficulty with number 4, however, the addition of the Warboss means that they can actually pop armour 14 as he is a mean S10 normally and puts out 6 attacks on the charge. Question 4 is the hardest for me to answer with Orks as they lack a lot of high strength weaponry, the most powerful things you can get are either random (Zapp gun and Shokk Attack Gun) or vehicle mounted (Boomgun and Kill Cannon).

So far we have a lot of infantry, even if one of those units is charging across the battlefield in a ramshackle Trukk. We could really do with some support for these guys as well as looking into what happens if we have an objective in our own back field that the enemy are going to be coming for? While shooting isn’t the Orks forte so to speak they normally chuck out enough bullets to hit something. So to add some fire support we’re actually going to take two units, one that can claim our own objective and another to give additional fire support. A unit of 10 Lootas will put out up to 30 shots per turn and we can back them up with another mob of 20 Boyz, this time armed with Shootas and as they will be sitting back we can throw in up to 2 Big Shootas to give addtional firepower, for a mere 10 points I see no reason not too, we will add the obligatory Nob to the group to help them out if they get attacked and might as well give him a power klaw too. The Shoota Boyz can take on armoured infantry (huge number of attacks still if they charge or are charged means enemy has more chance of failing saves) and their firepower should put dents in light infantry, their Big Shootas also allow them to pop light vehicles as you have 6 tries per turn. The Lootas meanwhile can pop light vehicles and light infantry as well as picking off lone characters.

This takes us up to 4 Troops choices filled, 1 HQ and 1 Elites. This adds up to around 1100pts with the various options we have and 106 models already. We have nothing from Fast Attack or Heavy Support yet, however we are managing to fit our units into the questions posed earlier. As mentioned you will find that sometimes units will fit the bill to answer more than one question, the Orks certainly do that but their weakness is with question 4. Various armies have strengths in certain areas and weaknesses in others, playing to your strengths is something that you want to do naturally and all the Nobz I have are S9 on the charge and they can pop AV14 but the Warboss is best placed to do it (unless it’s a Monolith and ignores the power klaw strength bonus of course, but that thing is evil in and of itself).

Looking at our current selections shows that we have a horde of foot-slogging infantry and one unit that will be zooming out across the battlefield. What we do not want is for isolated units to be picked off by the enemy before they can do some damage, we need something to backup those Mega-Nobz and give the enemy something else to worry about. While we could take more Boyz and pop 12 of them in a Trukk we only have 2 Troops slots left and have 3 Fast Attack. So, here come 10 Stormboyz, they are Jump Infantry so can move fast and their rocket packs allow them an extra d6″ movement per turn, so they can zoom up to 18″ in the movement phase and still assault 6″ in the assault phase, not bad at all. We’ll upgrade them to have a Nob with Power Flaw so we can pop vehicles if we have to and have a solid unit that can jump between terrain and support our Mega-Nobz. This unit comes in at almost 200pts leaving us with around 200pts left on the army. we haven’t taken anything from Heavy Support and to be honest I tend to find this a bit lacking for the Orks, sure there are some nice options like Deff Dreads and Battlewagons but I like boots on the ground. In any army there are a number of ways to answer the questions posed earlier and therefore I am not giving you a definitive way of building an army, if you like a unit then by all means take it, you have options with building an army, that is why each of the various Force Organisation slots has a number of choices, knowing what to take and how it will perform will help you to balance your army. Blast templates will rip apart a foot-slogging Ork army, but I know this and therefore will try and use cover to my advantage to reduce the casualties that my Boyz take on the way in. The Waaagh! I can call should help me get in combat by turn 2 or 3 and the sheer number of models I have is designed to overwhelm the enemy. Most things will be killed by the sheer number of attacks I can put out, that’s the way this army is designed to work. In your own forces think about what you want to achieve and design a list that sticks to that theme, think about how you are going to play on your advantages while trying to play down your weaknesses. Going in half-hearted is a surefire way to gimp your army selection.

To round off then I’m going to ignore Heavy Support, other armies have much more interesting choices, Space Marines have Whirlwinds and Vindicators that are well worth looking at for taking out Question 1, Daemons have Soul Grinders and Daemon Princes that can answer 1,2,3 and 4 so really it all depends on what you are taking. Finishing my army is going to stick to my old adage and fill in that fifth Troops slot, another unit of 30 Slugga Boyz, with a Nob armed with Power Klaw. Yes I have three units armed the same way but very few armies are going to enjoy 90 Ork Boyz running at their lines when backed up by Stormboyz and a Trukk-load of Mega-Nobz.

Is this the best army list I can come up with? Probably not, I know I can fit 6 squads of 30 Boyz into 1080pts and that’s evil as it is. However, hopefully reviewing what we’ve put together and the reasons why I’ve chosen what I have chosen give insight into the principles behind army selection. I could have argued for and against Tank Bustas, chucked in an extra Warboss and taken two units of Nobz in Battlewagons and all kinds of other options that would have produced viable army lists. Experiment with what you have but always keep in mind the roles that you have for your units, throwing into something they are not designed to do is a sure-fire way of getting them killed and edging you towards defeat.

This is our final army list;

Ork Warboss with Power Klaw, Mega-armour, Attack Squig and Bosspole

5 Mega-Nobz in a Trukk with a Red Paint Job

10 Lootas

30 Ork Boyz with Slugga/Choppa, Nob with Power Klaw and Bosspole

30 Ork Boyz with Slugga/Choppa, Nob with Power Klaw and Bosspole

30 Ork Boyz with Slugga/Choppa, Nob with Power Klaw and Bosspole

20 Ork Boyz with Shootas, Nob with Power Klaw and Bosspole and 2 Big Shootas

10 Stormboyz with Nob armed with Power Klaw

Approx 1500pts with 136 models.

Tutorials in Gaming – Warhammer 40,000 Army List Construction 101


A common feature of most miniatures games out there at the moment is that models are assigned a value, games are played with a limit placed on how much stuff you can take and this is to aid balance in the game. Theoretically if you are playing to a points value and you both have the same number of points the armies should more or less be balanced against one another, although this does create the arguments that, points for points, some army lists find it easier to create “more powerful” armies than others. This is a line of thought heavily prevalent in the Warhammer world right now.

However, with this weekend now on the horizon and the mouth-watering Saturday event of 3000pts of new Tyranids spawned from the gene-vats hidden away in Gribblin’s bedroom (I’ve seen this firsthand, he has a live brood of Genestealers stashed under his bed, true story) facing off against the arrayed (much more heroic) forces generalled by none other than Servitob and myself. Below are the general rules we are using for this fight and then I’ll explain where this post is going.

Tyranids; 3000pts maximum with 2 Force Organisation charts available

Allied forces of Servitob and ZombiePirate; 1500pts per general using a single Force Organisation chart each

All normal Force Organisation rules apply. Battle will commence on a 6′ * 4′ table using Hidden Deployment (basically section off the table halves and each army deploys at the same time not having any idea what the opposing team has done). We will roll for mission type at the start of the game before deployment. Variable game length and all other special rules will be used.

Considering that this is something I’ve been looking forward to for a while now I thought it provided a great time in which to prepare an article on how to craft a 40k army list. Afterall, I’ll be needing one, although the example I will use here will be around the army I know best (Orks) the basic principles will apply to any army you collect. I’ll be throwing in units and their upgrades but will also give reasons why they are there. Most armies don’t have the option of their basic troops choice being 30 strong, however, I will be going into battlefield roles and the concepts behind why you build a list the way you do considering what you want to achieve. For new players it is relatively easy to just create a list of the stuff you like and chuck it out there to see how it goes, however, for other players with a reasonable collection of stuff you’re going to want to consider taking one over another or just what do you spend those spare few points on.

The concepts presented here will describe my preferred style of army list, the “all-comers” list, something with a little of everything. If you know what you are facing then it is possible to tailor your list to counter a specific enemy (most tournament armies are designed around taking out MEQ armies, T4 with a 3+ armour save, as that is what is prevalent in that environment), however, I much prefer to write a more generic list and have fun without than take something specifically that I know will decimate my opponent. Afterall, we’re both there to have fun as the main thing, having the perfect counter-force to my friend across the table just doesn’t seem very friendly. I’m not a tournament player where I’d expect this to be the case, games at home with my pals, although we challenge each other, we don’t tend to bring out the most broken combination of cheese that we can, although, I do own a Daemons of Chaos army for Warhammer…

So here we go, 1500pts of list construction tutorial;

The first place to look is at the Force Organisation chart itself, on the left is the chart for standard missions, if you are playing Planetstrike or Apocalypse then this will be either different or removed altogether. As we are concerned here with a standard mission we’ll follow the one shown. The chart is split into various sections, each troop, vehicle, creature and character fits into one of these slots and can be found in that section of the relevant army’s Codex, different armies have differing numbers of options in each of these areas as well. In total there are two HQ slots, three Elites slots,six Troops slots, three Fast Attack and three Heavy Support. Each unit occupies one of these slots and you cannot take more units of a particular slot that there are available, for example, in a normal mission you could not take four Heavy Support elements. You also have a couple of compulsory choices as indicated by the shaded boxes in the picture. These are one HQ choice and two Troops choices, there is no leeway here you have to take at least these slots for a legal army. It is logical therefore to start with these units when planning your list.

If you are anything like myself and my playgroup you probably don’t roll for a mission until you turn up, therefore you have no idea if you are going to hunting for objectives or trying to wipe out the opposition. Someone may even have written a special mission for fun. Therefore you are going to want to be able to cover either of these scenarios, you’re going to want to be able to grab objectives and be able to give the enemy a pounding, this will mean you’ll be taking a balance of units. Let’s take a look at those Troops choices first.

In the case of the Orks I have two basic choices listed under the Troops section of my Codex, these are Ork Boyz and Gretchin. If I have to take two units worth of something to satisfy my compulsory components my best bet is looking at stuff that can grab objectives and be meaty enough to have a go at the opposition, luckily for me Boyz units fit this bill nicely. For the bargain bucket price of 180pts I can get 30 Boyz armed with either Shootas or a Slugga and Close Combat weapon. Both are awesome in close combat but one has a slight edge when it comes to shooting. Orks aren’t renowned for their marksmanship but those 30 Boyz can put out 60 shots a turn with their basic gun and charge into assault afterwards. Here is my first choice, do I want to increase their shooting potential at the expense of the extra attack I get from the Slugga and Close Combat weapon. Normally I am figuring that I will be charging towards the enemy to fulfill either the capturing of objectives or the annihilation of whoever is on the other side of the table and therefore kit stuff out with the Slugga/Close Combat weapon however, either loadout for your Boyz is good. These are my compulsory choices and also, because they are troops, are the only slots I have for capturing objectives. Now, Orks aren’t loaded out with armour therefore to compensate for this I am going to need numbers, therefore I am going to add in two units of 30 Boyz armed for assault. That’s 360pts for now.

However, every unit in a Codex normally has a number of options to bolster the basic unit. In the Boyz case there is the option for a Nob unit leader as well as various heavier weapons to add to the squad. Not all army list construction is down to the maths though, some things will be personal preference. In this case I will forego the option of the heavier weapons, I want my guys to be running into the jaws of the enemy so stopping and shooting isn’t what they are designed for. If I have a role for them to do I should stick to equipping them for that role. I always take a Nob in the unit as this unlocks some  much-needed wargear options to power up my squad. With Orks it is considered to be a must-have upgrade to have a Nob and a Power Klaw, this guy packs strength 9 on the charge and can therefore take on monstrous creatures or vehicles with relative ease giving the unit a multi-tasking role as Orks lack much in the anti-armour department so I need to get it where I can take it. As the Nob is a unit leader he cannot be picked out from the unit which means ramming a unit of 30 Boyz with a Power Klaw Nob into something like a Carnifex is a pretty safe bet, yes the Carnifex will kill some Orks but the return attacks from the Nob will be wounding on 2’s and ignore its armour save.. ouch.

Taking options like this is an example of knowing what your unit is there to do. This is a basic tenet of army list building, every unit should have a role, now that we’ve chosen the two Troops slots we need to fill let’s have a quick look at the HQ options.

In most armies your HQ options will have a few generals to perform different kinds of roles and a plethora of special characters. In general Special Characters are very expensive for what they do and you can normally come up with something that will perform better for less points creating your own character. If we ignore special characters then for our Ork example we have three options, the Warboss, the Big Mek and the Weirdboy. Each have their specialities, the Warboss is a combat beast and will massacre stuff in combat, the Big Mek has access to some pretty weird wargear (mobile cover save and potentially one of the most devastating guns in the game) and the Weirdboy gives you access to psychic powers. The Warboss allows you to take a single Nob or Mega-Nob unit as a Troops choice (this could be a compulsory choice but I’m ignoring that for the sake of this article), the Big Mek allows a Deff Dread as a Troops choice. This is pretty redundant as he is a vehicle and therefore cannot claim objectives, however, if you are taking a lot of Heavy Support choices then this could free up a slot. The Deff Dread might be quite killy but for the cost to load him out I’d probably take another unit of 30 Boyz for the Troops slot as they will soak more damage, do more damage themselves and can claim objectives.

Our options here are really the Warboss or the Big Mek, both are cheap and unless we take a Shokk Attack Gun will not blow themselves up like the Weirdboy can. The Warboss has more wounds, is tougher, has higher Weapon Skill and has the best possible strength available to the Ork army (Str 10 with a power klaw). As we could take Nobs of Mega-Nobs as a Troops slot we’ll pay 60 points for the Warboss and take some upgrades to make him do more damage in close combat. Wargear is a personal choice but keep in mind what you want to do with the character and kit them out accordingly, don’t waste points on stuff, keep things simple as you’ll have more points to spend elsewhere.

To recap so far we have filled our compulsory selections, below is the army as it stands showing wargear loadouts. Obviously unless you are playing Orks (and even if you are) your list may look different but for now we have only filled things we have to take.

Warboss with Mega-Armour, Bosspole, Attack Squig and Cybork Body

2 Mobs of 30 Boyz with Sluggas/Choppas Nob with Power Klaw and Bosspole

For a total of 575pts which is just over a third of our army, but we have 61 models already. As this article is already getting long we’ll move into the other aspects of our list tomorrow when we will discuss the roles of Elites, Fast Attack and Heavy Support, choosing roles for things and what I like to call the “Questions of Army Selection”.

See you tomorrow.