Monday, June 24, 2013

Rock, Paper, Scissors

In the last month I have managed to get in 5 games against 5 of my friends who all play very different lists with very different armies. Ork Speed Freaks, Necron flyer spam, Tyranid monstrous creature spam, Eldar Jet Bike spam and even an Eldar / Dark Eldar Beast Pack. Now, all of these guys are great players and all of them know their armies each of them have won local and regional tournaments and can regularly be found playing on the top three tables at any event they go to. In full disclosure I will say that I have been testing multiple ideas for a revised army list and not all of these concepts proved useful for what I am trying to do. That being said, my research lead me to a conclusion that I have been ignoring for the better part of 18 months now – the all comer list is dead.

I have been an ardent defender of the ‘all comers list’ concept for years. I always felt that a well balanced army played by a person experienced with that army – could win in any match up they were presented with. With great zeal and conviction I held onto that belief until recent events forced me to consider alternatives, the most horrific of which was Baron Von Pretty Pants flying round on his skateboard with a beast pack and a Farseer as they mulched my entire army by turn 5. Scissors ran into rock, a very big rock. The advent of 6th edition introducing psychic powers, flyers, allies and all the myriad of combinations and choices has officially turned up the volume to 11.

Back in December I discussed a ‘punch list’ of things to watch out for and make sure your army had a solution for, the original list is HERE. Looking at that list now has lead me to the conclusion that while it does contain some good ideas to consider, the fundamental flaw in the list is that it relies on your opponent to be playing an ‘all comers’ type of army. Instead of assuming that our opponent will be a rational individual who is going to bring a balanced army like ourselves, we must assume that our opponent will be a nut case who will bring the most broke ass combination of units on the planet.

Once you accept that idea, the punch list of things your army needs becomes much shorter!

  • At least four durable, scoring, units
  • At least two units that can threaten the board from multiple angles (out flank, infiltrate, deep strike)
  • At least five models with a range greater than 36 inches
  • One ‘boogey man'

That is it – that is my new punch list for how I am designing my lists these days. Not overly complicated and instead of worrying about what my opponent will do and how I will react to him, I now look at how to impose my will upon my opponent. I do this by presenting multiple threats and problems through my ability to change my deployment from game to game. By simply outflanking one unit I can push him in off the edges or force him to castle up in one corner, by having deep strikers I can force the same. Infiltrators help me with initial board control and a big evil ‘boogey man’ keeps him from rushing forward to quickly. We will explore the idea of boogey men later – but just to illustrate the idea my current version of a boogey man is 11 Death Company with a single Thunder Hammer and a Reclusiarch in a Landraider.

Will it work for you? Hell – I don’t know. I know how I play and what works for me, and my previous thinking ain’t cuttin it! The only thing I can tell you is the ‘rock, paper, scissors’ aspect to 40k has been turned up to 11 and there are lists out there that you will not be able to deal with ‘defensively’, you are going to need ways to mitigate their advantages and get them out of their rhythm or they will mulch your army like so many others until they run into the paper to their rock.

If you are like me, and you enjoy playing 40k more as the thinking man’s game – the only way to keep doing it is to play the maneuver game and force them to react to you. More on this later as I continue to marinate, but the above list is a good start for now.

_still practicing



  1. I'm sure that everyone who read this post will focus his attention on the sniper ass and nobody ever ask himself what the hell you wrote before :P

    Anyway, I agree with you in both post. Your checklist in the older one was superb, the problem was you cannot afford all tools to accomplish such tasks, so you wouldn't get an all around list.

    This is why we don't see so many Space Marines armies winning big tournaments. They have the right tools for whatever task, but they lack an uber winning "build" to deal with every oponent.

    I'm waiting to read about "boogey man" units. I'm using thunderwolves and thunderwolf lord. With poor success have to acknoledge.

    (O.T. I hate English prepositions!)

  2. well, agreed. I play orks and I try to play balanced lists, but when you have to face 3 Riptides in a 1000 point game, I don't even have to put my models on the table.

    Or the last tournament games, the All-Star GK 10 terminator 3 psibilter + scriptor list ... no chance at all. Or vs 20 gk terminators and 6 Paladins at 1750. Who would think that he fields 26 terminator armours ?!

  3. Great stuff, Tallarn. Always love your articles. I'm beginning to learn about the boogey man and starting to utilize him more and more.

  4. I think you can still bring a TAC list, but only at 1750+ and pretty much requires taking allies. Necrons are the exception, they can make a TAC list without allies pretty easily -- they just get better with orks or CSM.

    The thing is you can't rely on hard counters to everything out there (by hard counter I mean X kills Y handily). You need to explore movement or pacing based counters (mobility, tarpits, reserve manipulation, etc) against things you don't have hard counter to.

    The hardest thing about creating and practicing with a TAC is the reality in 6ed: the meta has yet to settle into a knowable pattern. Its not like 5ed where mechanized ruled above all. There's so many combos, such a fast pace of new codexes coming out and so many subtle changes that people are just now knowing about that once you get a TAC list built and painted the meta could well have shifted.

  5. I've pretty much avoided competitive play for a long, long time, but your re-worked 'punch list' is absolutely superb!

    In short, this is a brilliant post - thanks!

  6. A hurry list of 1500 Space Wolves with your premises...

    Wolf priest with saga of the hunter
    Thunderwolf lord with Hammer, Shield and Saga of the Bear

    10 Grey hunters with flamer x2, MOTW (ouflanking with WP)
    10 Grey hunter with melta x2, droppod
    10 GH with plasma x 2, rhino
    10 GH with plasma x2, rhino

    3 Thunderwolves, 2 shields 1 powefist

    6 LF with 5 missile launchers.

    Yes, of course, I'm considering GH as "durable scoring unit" (in the current meta, 3+ isn't very durable) and TWL and TW as boogey unit, but I have seen Necron armies wipe out this unit in a shooting phase without much problems.

    With the "old checklist" Tallarn gave us, I would probably drop the boogey unit and replace it with a divination RP, more longfangs and probably a vindicator or even scouts.

    I think both list can't stand against tournament tuned up list of Tau, Necrons, Guard, Eldars... But will give a good fight.

    What do you think?

    Perhaps I should revisit the "boogey man unit" concept.


  7. The Thunderwolves are fast and hit hard, but survivability will be an issue for everyone except the Wolf Lord. I think to be effective you need a couple 'ablative wounds' so give the Wolf Lord a couple Frensian Wolves you can pawn wounds on to.

    I would give the Long Fangs a Razorback because it gives you the option of making it scoring in Big Gun missions and you can use it to get them into better position in turn one and snap shot if you have to.

    Instead of the Wolf Priest, take a Wolf Guard Battle Leader with Saga of the hunter to free up the points you need...

    I think you hit all the 'wickets' with this list. You have the maneuver flexibility, resiliency and bogey man I think you need. Just remember that the bogey man is a counter assault unit on your half of the table meant to blunt their attack, not charge across the table and fight into their deployment zone.