The other day, The Fortress Monastery posted an article about "picking an army."
Reading this got me thinking about something I wrote a while back about changing your army list. This really applies to me now that I'll be starting to use my Saim-Hann at 1500 points in the near future (as soon as I get them finished).
Here's how I "make changes" to my army lists...
First, this is not about list building.
I think list building is making your army what you want it to be. If you want all dreadnoughts or all mechanized or footsloggers or whatever, then build it that way. I wholeheartedly support all those players who step out from the mold and play something other than a “cookie-cutter” type force. I really like to see theme armies but that’s another post all together.
This is about taking what you want and modifying it or “tweaking” it so you can get the most out of it while still remaining true to what you want to play. Accomplishing this is not without it’s problems though.
A quick glance at any of the hundreds of bulletin boards or forums out there will yield an infinite amount of “expertise” on “tweaking” your army list and such. Everything from careful insight gained from years of gaming experience to pointless rants that offer nothing of any real value to someone serious about trying to learn “how” to play a particular force and do well with it.
There are the quick fixes like “take unit X and upgrade Y and Z and you will rock!” all the way to the other extreme of “make sure you have accurately pre-positioned your maximum effective fire base to numerically support you incoming flexible deployment, blah blah blah” advanced theoretical concepts.
It’s amazing what’s out there.
I suppose each method has its merits but that’s something you’ll have to decide for yourself. Here’s how I do it.
Playing vs Tweaking
Once you build the list you want to play with, it’s time to get playing.
Notice I didn’t say “start tweaking,” I said “start playing.”
You need to be prepared to lose at this point. As long as you keep on track, your losses will decrease in your wins will increase.
For this example, we'll use my Deathwing. I’ve played 4 games with them and I’ve only made one change. I've lost 3 of those 4 games. There are tons of things I could change right now, but... I think modifications to an army list should be done carefully. This is not to say that you can’t change a lot of things, just that you should do it slowly and in increments so you can make sure the changes will help you with what you’re trying to do.
I played 4 games before making any changes to my list because I wanted to make sure of a couple of things:
1. I was learning how to use the units in my army. For example, shooting with the shooty guys and assaulting with the assaulty guys. Simple but worth saying.
2. That I wasn’t jumping to conclusions and changing things just because I couldn’t handle one particular unit in one particular person’s force. Do you need to change what you field or HOW you field it?
3. That there really was a need for the change and I wasn’t doing it just because I was losing game after game.
With my force, after playing four games, I decided to make the same change to each unit (I only have 5 units). I took out a regular Terminator armed with a Storm Bolter and Power Fist and replaced him with a Lightning Claw equipped Terminator or Thunder Hammer and Storm Shield. This might seem like a minor change but I think in reality, any changes made to a list, whether it be to one unit or not, can have a huge impact on the rest of the force.
Now I’ll play another four or five games before I make another single change to my list. Again, for the reasons listed above. I already have a few things I think might work but I still need to make sure they are things I need to change and not just for the sake of doing it.
What I don’t subscribe to is playing one game and then changing out a complete unit for something else because it didn’t perform the way you wanted/expected/thought/needed it to… or whatever. I don’t think one game is enough to really see how a unit works. Especially when you consider it’s impact on the rest of your force. Changing one tactical squad out for an assault squad will have an impact across the rest of your army… and to play only one game and think you’ve got a good base for how effective that unit will be is cutting yourself out at the knees.
Here’s what I recommend to those of you who are looking to “fine tune” or “tweak” your army list to get the most out of the units you want to play without having to resort to what the general consensus says you have to do or field to win…
Stop changing your list for at least 5 games. Play the same list without making any changes between games and make notes at the end of each game on what you wish you had or didn’t need or use at all. After a couple of games, you will start to see the same issues coming up repeatedly. Here is where you focus your changes.
Keep in mind you’ll do better by facing as many different opponents and armies as possible. Try as many different scenarios and missions as you can as well. The more variety you can expose your army to, the better your results will be and the more likely you can make changes that will help you.
Once you have some changes you want to make, pick one (and only one change) and make that change. Swap out that one heavy weapon or one unit or transport or whatever and then start the process over again. If you’ve played against different armies under different scenarios, you should notice a change in your army’s performance. Your one change should have closed up one of those issues you found kept coming up over and over again.
How to try something new
It might not always be an equipment change you need to try. Maybe it’s a different tactical approach you need to try. Maybe you go from always placing a unit on the table to always infiltrating or deep striking it for 5 games (regardless of the game) to see how it plays in that role.
Keep the changes you make to your army small and play test more than 3 games between each change and you’ll find yourself making fewer changes that give you better results with the units you want to use and not what someone tells you that you have to have if you want to win.
As a side note, since I made the one change to my list, I won my last game (game 5) and it was against a previous opponent who knew my list and tailored his to beat mine this second time around.