There are many different ways to play 40k. I, myself, enjoy many different aspects of the game; I love a good narrative match or campaign game, and love a game which results in a narrow win, draw or even a narrow loss, as long as it was fun and tense.
I also love a good tournament. There is nothing better than testing yourself and your army against some top players, trying to come up with tactics and a battle plan to beat your opponent in a competitive setting.
Recently, I attended Caledonian Revolution. From what I had been told, this was a pretty hardcore tournament and would really test my skills. The first game of the tournament was certainly a swift, sharp education! You can find the battle report for the game here.
My first game was against Sid's army. It was a proper tournament list featuring two Riptide Wings (6 Riptides), some Grey Knights (including 2 Dreadknights) and a Cullexus assassin. I was thoroughly trounced in that game, getting tabled by turn 5, but essentially the game was lost after turn 2. Despite my thrashing, it was still a great learning experience, Sid was a great player and very friendly and I did not feel as bad as I have done after other tournament loses.
The battle report received a lot of comments (in fact, all my battle reports from Caledonian Revolution are amongst the most commented on in my blog's history). Many were along the lines of "that is such a tournament list", "that is not fluffy" and "such a WAAC list". Most of the comments were against that kind of tournament list, most simply as it was not seen as fun to play against. This is completely understandable. I see St Andrews Wargaming as a hobby blog. Yes, I do go to a fair number of tournaments, but I think most of my readers are fans of the more casual side of gaming.
One of the players from my local club (Dundee Wargames Club) saw the report and comments and it prompted him to write an article of his own. Innes is very much a tournament-style player. He had featured in a few of the battle reports on the blog, most recently in a game where his tournament Deathstar list completely crushed my tournament White Scars.
Innes wrote an article about his style of play that I found really interesting. I decided to copy his article here (with his permission of course!) so that it could be the first of my Guest Post articles. You can check out more of Innes' work on his blog, Knight Erratic.
Why would anyone play that List? On Competitive Warhammer 40,000
by Innes Wilson
‘Why would anyone play games like this?’
‘I’d rather have friends.’
‘That army makes no sense, that would never happen’
I’m no stranger to statements like the above when it comes to Warhammer 40,000. There’s a certain mentality that likes to poke its head up whenever someone starts talking about playing competitively, and it’s one that seeks to point out the flaws in people’s way of enjoying the game. One of the players in my Local Playgroup (Dundee Wargames Club) has a blog, and I’ve shown up on that blog a couple of times now, to more or less the same reaction time in and time out. People don’t like the way I play. And I get it, sort of. Not everybody wants to play cut-throat games of 40k that end on turn 1, need an 80+ Page FAQ document (ETC FAQ) to make it work, and where even the least lore-abiding citizen’s wildest dreams are a reality. Michael’s most recent post (Found Here) features him playing at Caledonian Revolution, a 2 Day, 5 Game tournament which we both attended. The army he played against was 6 Riptides, 2 Dreadknights, a Culexus and some ancillaries. I’ll allow you to read the comments there yourself, but I feel like they’re the prime examples of exactly what I want to talk about, and the reason I decided to write this post.
When you design a list, how do you go about it? Do you read some awesome lore, and go out and sit with the book, thinking how to best represent the battle scene you just read? Do you mash together all the units you have available to you until they fit the points limit? Both of these are valid ways to write a list, but I think that they have a fundamental mentality underlying them, which makes people who write lists in this manner miss the point of what a Tournament List is (or should be) trying to achieve, which is the best list to win any given match.
If you show up to a tournament of 5 or 6 rounds, odds are you’re going to play a pretty decent spread of armies. At Caledonian Revolution, I played against War Convocation, Iron Hands + Inquisition + Sisters of Battle Death Star, Tau (3 Riptides, 3 Ghostkeels, 1 Stormsurge), War Convocation, and Screamer Council + Seer Council. I’d say that I pulled a pretty decent spread of armies, 2 MSU High Shooting Armies, 1 Pure Deathstar, 1 Split Deathstar (The Councils List) and 1 Low Model Count , v High Damage Output. I was playing the same list from my previous Tournament (Found Here). What do you think it did well against? Which would you say were bad match-ups and which were good? I’ll be posting a full report of the event later this week, so give yourselves marks out of 10 when that comes out. (1 point for correct Good/Bad Match-up, 1 point for correctly guessing win or loss).
|The Big Cheese?- Highest placing at Caledonian Revolution? - 33rd.|
What I’m trying to say is that at any given event you need to be prepared to play against a huge possibility of lists, and that means that you had better god damn optimise what you’re running. Running through the list pack for Caledonian Revolution, you’d be hard pressed to find more than a couple of lists that you couldn’t say ‘Yeah that could win the event’. That’s because (most of the) lists are written in such a way that they don’t take into account what book something’s from, or whether it makes sense. The only concern is how good the unit is for how many points it costs.
This leads to situations where it’s very easy to end up with 12 different codices (particularly us Imperial fellows), and that’s why detachment limitations exist.
Why are Sisters of Battle so good for Deathstars? Why did Fenrisian Wolves + Azrael and all the Psykers in the Imperium show up 3 times in the list pack and all end up in the top 15? Because they manage to take disparate elements of codexes that maybe aren’t great in isolation, but end up being massive force multipliers when combined.
Saint Celestine is 135 points. In the Sisters of Battle Codex she’s great because she drops in with a unit of Seraphim and incinerates a unit with all the flamers in the world. In a Deathstar, she’s even better, because she provides Hit and Run at 55 points cheaper than Cypher, and without having to go for White Scars Chapter Tactics. She also allows you to take up to 3 Priests, one of whom buys the Litanies of Faith, and now for 260 Points in an Allied Detachment you have 3 independent characters, who provide your Deathstar with Hit and Run, Zealot, and automatic, guaranteed Re-Rolls to Wound and to Save in Close Combat. It also provides as an ObSec unit with 3+ Armour that can hide at the back of the board. Add that to your Iron Hands Command Squad and watch that Veteran with his 3+ Rerollable invulnerable save and 4+ Feel No Pain. Now try and kill 4 of them, and the 6 Librarians, 2 Techmarines and the Chapter Master. Oh, and there’s an Inquisitor.
How awesome would it be if you could fire 6D6 Strength 7 Tesla Shots with Re-Rolls to Hit, Wound, Ignores Cover and Rending, from inside a 50+ Wound Model that covers 3′ Square of the Board? That’s what Wolfkin does. 50 Fenrisian Wolves, one unit with Azrael (Confers 4+ Invulnerable Save to his unit, and 5+ Feel No Pain when within 3” of an objective). Add a Wolf Priest with the Helm of Durfast in a Wyrdstorm Brotherhood, and the Monster Hunter from the Wolfkin Formation, then Misfortune that poor Wraithknight to death. Now sit on 6 Objectives for the entire game multi-charging opposite ends of the board, all you have to do is keep coherency and Hit and Run!
Why do Riptides and Dreadknights show up on the same army? Because they complement each other. Riptides don’t like being Charged, and they don’t like Psychic Powers. So take stuff that stops that. Simple is as simple does.
Seer Councils provide a hell of a lot of dice for you to use with Fateweaver and a Screamer Council. Wyrdvane Psykers in a Psykana Division are amazing at shitting out Daemons so your Flying Hive Tyrants don’t have to come onto the ground to hold objectives or so that your Knights can run around hitting stuff without worrying about holding the Relic.
I think this is the core disjoint in mentalities between both sides of the argument. It’s not that we’re killing the fluff, it just doesn’t come into consideration. If I need a way to make sure my Tau Army can survive your Wolfstar, the easiest way is to stick a Culexus Assassin 6” behind it so the second you charge it, you lose all of your buffs. Not every army has a way to deal with every other army. But most armies have something that deals with something else. The trade-offs we have to make can be minimal, if you just want to plug and play a formation like Riptide Wing or a Psykana Division, or quite large, like having to take two extra Scout Squads or a Grey Knight Strike Squad.
For me, list building is the part of the hobby, other than the actual game itself, that I most enjoy. There’s something amazing in coming up with a combo that breaks the game apart, match ups that shouldn’t be winnable for your army suddenly becoming 20-0 swings because of 1 character or piece of Wargear from a forgotten book. Is that a problem with 40k? That match-ups can be so Rock/Paper/Scissors as to swing with one item? Maybe it is. We’re seeing a big switch towards Deathstars in the UK Scene, even Eldar, traditionally a bastion of the MSU Warp Spiders/Scatter Bikes is moving towards the Wraithbomb (See Jordan Clifford or Brett Armitage’ armies in the list document), even prior to the introduction of the Eldar Erratas.
Building a list to play into any match-up that a tournament could throw at you needs a different mindset to building an army for a "Casual" game, but for those of us who’re that way inclined, it can also be a massive part of the fun.
What’s your take on the issue? Is this an issue or am I just spouting a load of shit? Thanks for taking the time to read – Innes
Thanks to Innes for allowing me to copy his article for you here, I hope to convince him to do a few more in time.
If you are a regular reader of the blog (or even a part-time reader) and have an idea for a guest post, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org . It can be anything you want- tactics on your favourite army, a review of a unit or army that I have not covered (or even if I have covered it and you have a differing opinion) or even photos of your army that you want to show off! Perfect for people who have something to say, but don't want to go to the trouble and effort of having their own blog.