Monday, September 13, 2010

On List Building

The Warhammer hobby is rather intriguing for me.

First, off, the elements which many people love the most are the most painful for me. I intensely dislike assembling models and it get worse if they are metal. I do not like trying to come up with conversions. I do not enjoy the painting...though I do like the outcome.

But of the elements I dislike, perhaps none matters more than putting together a list. Yet it is perhaps the most integral to the game.

This is most true because in our group we habitually play not just with proxy models, but often enough without models...just bases. So having a model assembled and painted is not a requirement to play...but having a list built IS.

I have never figured out why I hate the process so much. From certain standpoints, it is extremely easy to build a list...

Come up with something you want your army to be capable of, select a troop with that capability, pick a number of figures, total it up. Rinse, repeat.

But from another, it is very difficult. Example:

I want to build a 2500 point Warriors of Chaos list. So I start with the models I most want to include...Knights. These days, 5 Knights do not A) survive or B)accomplish anything meaningful.

My propensity to fail 80% of my saves means I need more of them than someone who saves a statistically accurate percentage (and yes, I have been charting it...sad to admit, but true) so they take up a large percentage of my list compared to what they should.

So now I have dedicated 650ish points to one unit.

I like to have a level 4 wizard, typically a D-Prince because I like the model. They are vastly overcosted for what they do, checking in at 535 points. I could do it for 200 points less or so with better capabilities by going with a basic one, but I like the model.

Next I put in my favorite bsb knight with the stubborn banner and I am already at like 1450 points, give or take a few.

Problem is, I have yet to put in any core, am extremely susceptible to failed magic phases (for or against), monsters, shooting, war machines, anything that eliminates armor saves...that is a lot of holes and I still need to have backup for the D-Prince.

Drop in a Infernal Puppet caddy, my beloved but overpriced and almost useless Shaggoth (I think in one game he actually has been able to take out his assigned about 15 attempts.) and I then throw in either some Marauders or some Chaos Warriors and I am at my points list total.

The problem becomes a boring list because it is the same EVERY TIME.

So I try different things, but every time I do it leaves huge, gaping if I try to build a heavy infantry list (which I have tried a couple times) I get squished by shooting/flying monster heavy lists. If I go Knight/Shaggoth/Dragon Ogre-less, I get demolished by war machine heavy lists.

So my choices are either army that is so killy it overcomes having small numbers and are easily outmaneuvered or a larger army that is easily outmaneuvered and cannot deal with anything but soft core troops.

So I end up happy with neither list.

So I started looking at other armies in search of one that I will find fun to use, will be balanced enough to give a good game to the heavy shooting with numerous monster lists, the multiple war machine lists, and still be soft enough to not crush the uncompensated for pointless core armies without them having any hope.

High Elfs are a natural first look. First off, I have enough of the models, most of which are painted, and they have access to most of the elements I like; they can field dragons, knights, wizards.

The problem comes when I start trying to put a list together.

As always, start with the stuff I truly love...throw a Dragon, a high-level mage, and enough Knights to be useful....and suddenly I do not have enough points purchase units to deal with stuff like multi-monster or multi war machine armies.

The High Elfs I have painted look (in my opinion) very cool and fresh. They look together, like a "real" army with enough differentiating factors that they do not look like all the same.

But they are still S3 guys and S3, essentially no armor troops have very little chance against Skink poison javelins, Dark Elf Repeater Crossbows, Bretonnian Trebuchets, Skaven Plague Furnaces, WoC Knights....and that is just one thing from each opposing army!

So I then have the choice between building a list that has stuff I like but will lose and lose badly without much of a chance or I can build a more optimal list that I don not really care if it wins or loses because it bores me.

So I set aside the High Elfs and look at the Dwarfs. the paint job and look. But Slayers die far too easily, I have taken over 20 Cannon shots in various games and have yet to have them do more than a single wound for me, and their elites have 1 attack apiece and are too expensive to field enough to withstand the opponents' blows when it comes to stuff like the Doomwheel, dragons, Chaos Warriors, Minotaurs, Grail Knights, Cold One Riders, etc.

So I either take a list other people hate to play against because it is blocks of shooting and little else...or I take a list that in my hands has no chance.

I do not have enough models to field Vampire Counts of any particular size, so I am back to Warriors of Chaos.

On the one hand, they have the advantages of being my best painted, best based, favorite army.

On the other, they are repetitive...and that is largely because of list building.

So it becomes and endless loop...grr.


John said...

Nicely written mate... list building is a real pain. Like you I struggle wanting to take the models I like and not being to include them all, or watching them get slaughtered because they arent a good choice.

After playing WHFB for 2 years Ive learned that there are two extremes to list builders. The first go for the ultimate refined uber combo list that deals death in tournaments. The second builds lists for fun based around what they have or what they like.

Me I filt back and forth between the two - just take whatever you like to play and have fun thats the main thing.

Darth Weasel said...

I think part of my issue is somewhere in the back of my mind I am convinced there is a happy medium...

Which in truth may not exist.

But an army of marauders/Knights/Wizards might have the elements I am looking for.

On the one hand, they are all capable of dealing out mass damage, the Marauders are squishy and die in droves, and the Knights fall fast enough that they might prove competitive but not dominating.

The only holes are things regularly and properly fielded by two armies I face pretty frequently...

John said...

Yeah its a strange conundrum but then again you can make quite strong lists out of units that most ppl would reject.

For example I seen Orc & Goblin players take nothing but night goblins no Orcs, No big uns, no black orcs or trolls etc just goblins and incredibly well.

The more you play with the same list the better you will get with it. My Dwarf list has remained pretty much the same for well over a year with 1-2 units at most getting switched - i.e., Hammerers for Miners, Bolt-Throwers for Grudgethrower without changing the overall mix/theme of the army.

An all Marauder force would be pretty cool especially with the new step up rules cheap GW carrying infantry is gold in 8th

kennyB said...

I enjoy list building. I memorize points costs and options and think about it to reduce the monotony of life. I have built lists of almost every army, and in my experience the elf lists end up being the least variable and the most susceptible, because their troops are not utility troops, they are specialized (though not exceptional at those specialties), low strength, low toughness, no armour, expensive few choiced troops. I found the Dwarves the easiest to build, and the Warriors of Chaos to be the most fun and varied, because of their varius options from cannon-fodder 4 pt marauders to giant monster Shaggoths, from already tougher than nails but boosted further Chosen, to the poor bumbling Spawns, from Fast Cavalry with thrown axes to the meanest Cavalry, from Trolls to Dragon Ogres, from Hordes with Hand Weapon, Shield, Tzeentch, and an Ironcurse Icon (5+ Ward Save vs War Machines and in Close Combat), to kitted out 500+ point utility daemons with magic, Gifts, and magic equipment and basically equipped but incredible Exalted Hero's. There is a lot to choose from. You can't pick them all, but neither can anyone else. And if you could, what would be the point in playing out the inevitable? Most of the lists I build are fun to play, but only if you can have fun even when not winning.

Darth Weasel said...

All Marauders would be I think very effective...though A) cost prohibitive as the sheer number of models you would have to oh, it hurts just to think about and B) the antithesis of my normal style. Which might be a good thing...

Darth Weasel said...

h, and...daemons are not allowed magic items. so they might be a little worse than you think...

trolls are much better with stupidity all but a non-factor now,that is true.

for the rest of it...the Chaos list ends up looking the same because they all fulfill the same role; "pick number of close combat attacks, pick strength, the resulting model is..." as opposed to the other lists which, as you mention...have actual roles.

With WoC the strength and weakness is use the same guys to deal with high t as low, with block infantry as you do monsters so any list is by definition almost a take on all comers.

hence the repetitiveness.

I have tried different things a few times. Giants...ineffectual. Chariots...worse than giants. Warhounds...even worse than I thought and I thought they were worthless. Heavy infantry good v. shooting armies, worse against fast, mobile armies. Grr.

I should go back to 40K... :-)

Liam said...

You seem to do pretty well in all the games I play against you, despite continuous appalling dice rolls.

For the most part, if it is about countering every troop type, I don't think that is always a big deal. Warmachines (atleast my own) typically fail to do any damage for me because of armor saves, monsters usually soak up all the shooting/magic there is and ever will be, and my flyers tend to get off track from the squishy targets of shooting blocks and warmachines (which isn't surprising as about halfish my games have been against you and your WoC, making such targets non-existant/scary to charge).

To wrap it up, I think you should table more Forsaken :P

kennyB said...

I think John really nailed it in the second paragraph of his first reply. I play to play, field some terrible units because I think they're neat or neat lookign, and even manage to legitimately laugh it off when my opponent saves 8 of 10 needing 5+ (when I fail most saves, and actually, most of us do if we ever get them), then my sorceress blows herself up and the spell she cast requires a dice roll for every model, on a 5+ they're removed, and didn't kill a single one as she was dragged screaming into the abyss, but did take 5 of my own troops with her (d6 rolled a 5 for how many of my models in the building with her took hits). lol then, lol now

kennyB said...

You are ,of course, correct about the Daemons, they appear more like they make a resilient-flying auto-ward-carrying mage more than a warrior now that you mention lack of equipment, although a Chaos Lord (while not auto-flying-ward-saving-and-able-to-take-magic) can have any equipment, 100 points of magic items, and 50 points in gifts of the gods, in addition to their already insane statlines allowing for pretty ridiculous characters if so inclined.

Also, you might find it fun (or at least not more not fun) to try actually fielding the other armies you talk/write about, and more than 1 or 2 games. Around 5 or 10 might START to give an actual accounting of them and teach you how to use those troops. You may find that using troops that you CANNOT just throw forward and win with will be more fun, as it is more challenging when trying to close the gap through necessitated tactics. Or maybe not, it can be stressful having to use all wimps! lol

P.S. Maybe John will share a couple of his fun based Dwarf lists with you that you could try unchanged for more usefulness (5 or 10 times). ;)

Darth Weasel said...

st Liam: yes, my ability to throw such a ridiculously high number of attacks at things does tend to help counteract the brutally huge number of bizarrely bad rolls. I went back through and read almost every post I have made...I w2ould estimate I have about a 20% save rate with my 1+ armor save knights in the ones mentioned.

Of course, this also plays to the tricks of memory...we tend to remember the outliers far more than the standard rolls (though to be honest...statistically speaking, anytime you roll the "correct" percentages, you have actually beat the odds since, while it is the MOST LIKELY single roll, it is an occurrence that happens well under 50% of the time).

At the same time, I did note that game after game after game, regardless of opponent...Bretonnian, Dark Elf, Ogre, Skaven, Lizardman, Vampire Count (!), Dwarf, Wood beloved Knights finish at about 20% capacity.

This is both good and bad.

On the good means they are extremely vulnerable.

On the down side...kill my infantry, leave my knights alone!!!!!


Darth Weasel said...

Ken, on your first one...that is why I was surprised last edition when you stopped taking assassins, did not field harpies or with elves or spearmen and only rarely black guard, executioners, etc.

Admittedly (especially in 8th!) the assassin is going to die...but still a cool model and concept!

Darth Weasel said...

I find it highly unlikely I will field a dwarf army. They just are too...well, to me, to use them feels boring. I have done them in a couple small games and they were okay (the back to back v. Phillip was kind of nice) but their style does not mesh well with my style. I keep hoping Josh will return to the fold and pick them up!

Darth Weasel said...

Oh, and if the Orcs had S4 and no Animosity...they might actually be fun!