What's my army missing?

Image from Games Workshop

All the time I see articles listing how an army needs to have this or that or whatever included in it and if you don't, you'll never stand a chance at winning.

How about this... if you've got your compulsory one HQ and two Troops choices, then you're not missing anything! That's all you're required to have. Everything after that is stuff you want to add to your army based on the number of points you decided to play and what you like to use.

I think more often than not, people build lists and forget that they are playing against someone else. For example, they say things like...

"I'll take unit XYZ and shoot at my opponent from across the board and I can take out all his transports before he can use them."
You're right, I'm going to park all my vehicles out the open, leave them there and cry how your unit XYZ is destroying them wholesale.

"I'll take unit ABC and charge right up the middle and get into hand to hand combat and crush my opponent."
Because I'm just going to stand there and let you charge right into me?

Do people forget there are mission objectives? Doesn't anybody build their army for those anymore? We only look at how good a certain combination is and how impossible it is to beat or how well it could make it's points back. What makes you think I'm going to let you just do what you want with your army?

If you're great plan is that you are going to destroy my army by doing this or that... do you think I'm going to stand by and just watch? Think about it people. Did it ever occur to anyone that your opponent is trying to win as well or did you get so wrapped up in how powerful and cool the combination you have in your force is, that you can't see four feet across the table at what the other guy has lined up?

Credit goes to those players who pick the units they want to use, take the time to learn how to use them and do well (better than expected) with them in their lists. It goes to show that it's not just unit selection that wins games. It's how you use what you have as well. Fritz from over at Fritz40k is probably the most well known for this kind of thing. He always seemed to be trying to stay ahead of the curve while using his "outdated" Eldar Codex.

I'm at the point now where I've got a handful of 5th edition games under my belt with my Deathwing (enough to see some trends in my force) and I'll be sharing what I've done with them so far in some coming posts. It's not tactics based on unit selection, but based on the mission and what you can do with your army given certain scenarios.

And you guys thought you'd never see tactics here.

Ron, From the WarpIf you've got any questions about something in this post, shoot me a comment and I'll be glad to answer. Make sure to share your hobby tips and thoughts in the comments below!


  1. My thoughts exactly!

    I have always wondered if the 'awesome' listbuilder just skipped the part where they actually played against REAL people. Seen too many times how the latest flavour-list will beat all other lists before they've even deployed and I just wondered - "don't they have a opponent that will be trying to win as well?"

    I try to build armies based on what I want to play and I would never exclude anything based on someone's Internet-advice concluding that "this unit is crap and you'll lose without this"


  2. I think the most sound advice is to take an army you like, and try to make a force that can take on most any other force. an "all comers" list. It should be able to handle hordes in cover, as well as tanks-a-plenty.

    It won't really be optimized for either, but it can handle both.

    SandWyrm and I boiled it down to 4 things we like to have in armies:
    1. long range Anti-transport
    2. close range anti-heavy armor
    3. anti-infantry (either CC or shoot)
    4. Maneuverability.

    those 4 elements make games much easier to play, and help you be able to take on most armies you'll face.

  3. Unfortunately, due to the high traffic of the site, the BoLS math-hammer/metagame has leached out all over the place. They play in a highly competitive group, that's great...for them. I think probably close to 90% of gamers play in friendly pick up games the majority of the time, in those games I generally use the mindset of what do I want to use this week. Rather than going about the clinical dissection of a particular codex to get the most efficient use of points, so that I win at all costs.

    I've lost count of the times I've heard (and often from newer players) 'but on BoLS they said you 'gotta have this to win' or 'I got this list off of BoLS', etc. Sadly, I think it's leading to a lack of imagination on the part of some players to figure out how they want to play the game themselves, instead just following someone else's methodology.

    Note: I too read BoLS, and am a member of their alliance. I'm not trying to demonize them (I have my own blog if I want to do that) as they've been upfront about their style of play. Unfortunately though, they seem to be (whether intentionally or not, and its probably 'not') spreading their flavor of the game, throughout the community at large, and that flavor isn't for everybody. I personally have (minimum) about 100 points or so in every list devoted to unit(s) that aren't very competitive, but are fun to use (and still effective despite their mediocrity) which is something I've never seen in a posted BoLS list.

  4. Amen to that. I got in two games this weekend, one at 600 pts Capture and Control against SM's and the other 1100 pts Annihilation against CSM's. I won both of them. Not because I had uber powerful units, but because I played the mission and used sound tactics to accomplish that and nothing more.

    I play to have fun, therefore I don't build lists with the sole intention of winning. It's nice to win, but the game is more than that. Warhammer 40,000, in my opinion, should never be like a Poker game where your one and only focus is on winning. Warhammer 40,000 is about the 'experience' I have playing the game no matter the outcome.

  5. Great post Ron.
    I don't know about anyone else, but I've been enjoying the Battle Missions book to the max!

    It has breathed new life into my games of 40k as my buddies and I would always play annihilation scenarios. And maybe that's where the problem occurs.

    It could be that the majority of players make army lists geared towards playing annihilation and nothing more.

    I've definitely noticed that many of my friends struggle with the idea of taking objectives. They just wanna kill and blow stuff up.

    I've lost count on the number of times I've won games b/c I'm sitting on an objective or two and they're not - even after killing 95%+ of my army.

  6. I definitely see a lot of the Magic: the Gathering deck building metagame going on with 40K and its like the other comments say with sites based around the metagame. But without it... I guess there's really not a whole lot of meat there.

    Sometimes when I'm working on an army I read these articles and I lose a little heart because I realize portions of the army is not like its "supposed to be" but then I remind myself... since I don't actually play it doesn't really matter! Just paint the units I enjoy painting.

  7. What's my army missing? Paint!

    I'd love to have even 500 points of a finished, painted army. Free time being what it is, though, I'd settle for even 500 points of an unprimed but assembled and prepped army. In reality, though, the best I've managed thus far after several months of effort is 500 points worth of proxied Black Reach & Macragge figures, Chaos Marines stuck together with putty, and a number of variations on an army list.

    I want to play Spawn (yeah, I think they're about 10-15 points overcosted for what you get) but everybody and their brother tells me that they suck, that they're no good, that they're too random. I happen to think that an average movement per turn of 7" and a 12" charge isn't so bad, and having a bunch of taller models able to screen my troops and vehicles is a decent thing.

    I want to field a Defiler (not overcosted, just kinda goofy looking) but everybody tells me that they're a fire magnet, that they're a waste of points, that I'll never got to shoot with it, etc. I'm still going to field one, but it's actually about half the height with a top-mounted cannon, a much more menacing profile, and decked out in all manner of spikes, hanging skulls, and battle trophies mounted on it. I think that 4 Dreadnought CC weapons and Fleet for a vehicle mounting a battlecannon is great, but what do I know?

    I'd love to field a Chaos Dreadnought, but I think that the idea of one of my own units randomly shooting at the rest of my own units just because it's "insane" is a bit much, even from a background fluff perspective. He's been with my warband or similar Chaos forces for 10,000 years in the Eye of Terror but can't tell the difference between friendly and enemy troops because he's "crazy?" That's not crazy, that's stupid. I've contemplated putting as short a range of weapons on a Chaos Dread as I can manage and fielding one regardless, but I can't get over the rules for it.

    What's my point? I guess there's troops that I'd like to play that everyone doesn't share the same fascination with (I've spent time sticking a bunch of 'em together with putty with my daughter, so they're a family effort), there's units that people consider useful but "turn their noses up at" because of the physical design of the models themselves, and then there's units that rules-wise are somewhat wonky and make themselves less favorable.

    I don't think it's necessarily any one thing that makes people favor one unit over another as "must-haves" because it all really comes down to dice rolls. My Dread has as much chance of shooting me as a Spawn would have of moving 6" in the Movement Phase, for example, and there's nothing that a tweaked design and strategic use of cover for a Defiler couldn't overcome IMO. All I really want is to play how I want to play with my own painted figures - I'd like a competitive list, sure, but I want one with my own flavor. I wish both the rules and other players were geared towards that, but it seems like we're in a phase of "power creep" and "heroic stature" which leaves wonky, random lists in the dust. Pity - I'll keep building and painting in my free time and maybe by the time I'm done, things will have turned around again.

  8. I just play what units are fun, Im not competitive at 40k at all...I dont see it as that type of game. I try to build a list that makes sense, but fun to play.

    Good read!

  9. Tinweasel: ...Paint. That made me laugh.

  10. Ron said it Tinweasel, I busted out laughing at that too!

    As for the Chaos dread, a heavy Flamer & twin-linked heavy bolter is the best I've managed to limit his fire frenzies (though I'll neglect to count up his current body count in friendly models...)

  11. Ron I think you have a solid point, but while I agree with most of what you said there are some exceptions to the rules. I think with the resurgence of psychic powers in all the recent codex, if you have an option for psychic defense you need to take it. Whether it is an HQ choice, Elite choice, an item of wargear, or other; having some way to combat enemy psykers is a must.

    Also as Farmpunk mentioned, there are key rolls your unit choices need to fill. You need both short and long range anti-tank, both options that are dedicated to it and others that can flex between tank hunting and troop killing (Missile Launchers excel at filling this roll). You also need good troop killing options, with both ways to thin the masses and eliminate massed infantry. Finally, you need flexibility and some maneuverability in your army as well.


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