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Preparing for a Tournament!

Submitted By: Kaminari Date: March 7, 2011, 07:36:40 AM Views: 1710
Summary: Successfully participating in a tourney is not only posting a random army list and bringing it to the event; it requires a mixture of planning, skills, luck and respect. The more recognizable the tourney is, the more competitive it becomes by attracting good players, so the better you should prepare yourself in all these areas.

A common question on these boards is "Will this army work at a tournament?"

If you ask this question, I would answer "no".  It is you who designs the army list, and it is you who knows how you play that army.  By asking this question, it suggests that you are not yet prepared for the tournament.  A tournament is not just writing an army list and taking the miniatures with you to the event.  If you want to participate successfully you need to take a variety of factors into account.

At a tournament, you will encounter other people, different characters, tooled up armies, ideas for painting and conversions, and much more.  You are outside of your regular gaming group and habits now, so expect to be surprised.  Successfully participating in a tourney is not only posting a random army list and bringing it to the event, rather it also requires a mixture of planning, skills, luck and respect.  The more recognizable the tourney is, the more competitive it gets by attracting good players, so the better you should prepare yourself in all these areas.

Below there I outline a series of points about various aspects of a tourney and why you should consider them:

- Why being the good guy will help you.
- Why not to rely on luck.
- Why learning the rules is beneficial.
- Why you need to be familiar with all the armies, and how to handle the unknown.
- Why understanding the game helps you in difficult situations.
- Why designing your army list is not copy-pasting a random internet list.


Why being the good guy will help you


This seems to be the one thing that most often gets neglected.  Nevertheless I want to emphasize the importance of respect by discussing it as the starting point for this section.

Showing respect towards the other people sharing your hobby is often overlooked in the stressful environment of a competitive tournament, where you try to be better than the rest.  Not putting yourself above the other participants not only makes the gaming a more comfortable experience, but also influences the attitude of the other players towards you.  Imagine all the hobby situations where subjective judgment is used.  If you are exhibiting bad behavior, do you think you can count on goodwill when it comes to determining the following:

- army composition score?
- painting score?
- game pairings?
- reattempting a wrong move?
- getting notified about strengths/weaknesses of specific armies?   

Bad behavior easily causes fellow players to gang up against you as soon as the gossip about your attitude spreads, along with information about how to beat you.

Respect should include:

  • Always being friendly to your opponents and the organizers.  This should include some simple things like introducing yourself and which army you are using.  A bonus is having a full army list printed (including all stats, points breakdowns, rules, etc) for the organizers and each opponent (in case they wish to keep it, or are unfamiliar with the army).  You do not have to show your list to your opponent at the start of the game, but you had better be able to at the end of the battle - (and it should be pre-made to show good faith)

Other things that come to mind are:

  • Do not yell or talk too loudly.  Of course, a good cheer for certain things is well within protocol.
  • Do not rub an opponent's face in it following a defeat.  Highlight the things that an opponent did that worried you, so that even though (s)he lost, (s)he did learn something from the game and had some fun.
  • If you are watching, do not ever give tactical advice until the game is over.  In fact, if you interrupt someone else's game, then you might as well try to play it for them.  Their tactics and ideas may be different from yours, and that is okay, as the game is open to diversity.
  • Personal hygiene; smelly odour shortens any discussions.  Seriously guys, go back and read this again.  Take a shower, brush your teeth, and use deodorant, as you are going to be in a small room with a bunch of other smelly guys for a long time, so why would you want to make it any worse?  Oh and do not wear clothes that make you look like you fell out of bed.  Just think, there may actually be the odd person you might wish to impress (like that rare female opponent - try and guess why they are so rare)...  ;).
  • Show that you have prepared yourself well, for example, by bringing all gaming equipment with you, presenting a well painted army, and knowing your rules.  Pack the night before, and make sure that you bring a few extras for the guy that does not have as much as you (loads of dice, two sets of templates, and as many codices as you can).  Prepare your army list in advance (typed is better).  There is nothing wrong with having a photocopy of stuff, but use a staple to keep it from going all over the place.  Regarding painting, even if you do not think that your painting is great, I would rather see the painted models than a bunch of 'grey globs' or base primed stuff.
  • Back to knowing the rules.  None of us know them all, so be open to discussion, and if agreement cannot be reached, simply ask to roll for the rule (4+ is in your favour, and 3- is in your opponent's - do it as early as possible and retain the ruling throughout the game).  Rules are discussed in more detail later in this article.
  • Acknowledge the efforts of the other players, and recognize their experience. A twelve year old beginner hasn’t the same resources as a hardened veteran.  Some of us, when we first started going to tourneys, were lucky enough to have a few friends that were already into the scene; but for those who are not so lucky, just help them out.  Show them your stuff and brag a little, but take the time to look at their stuff and always point out something that is good.  There might be some of the worst painted stuff that actually has very cool conversions, or it could be that the painting could be fixed with one coat of ink, etc.  Take advice and give advice freely, just don't saturate a guy with too much too fast.  If he asks you something specific like: "WOW, how long did it take to paint that wicked little HQ guy?" do not tell him something like three hours and leave it at that (because the player learns nothing from that).  Let him know that with practise he could use certain techniques (layering, and so on), which you could explain to him, to get similar results.  It will take a bit of practise but eventually he could probably pull it off in a few hours.
  • Play correctly and, obviously, do not cheat.  Quote this about one million times for truth.  If you do make a mistake though, and it does happen, simply admit it, correct it, and move on.  In addition, I would say that while playing, do not tell a guy how to use his army.  It may be obvious to you, but part of the fun is that you get to think for yourself, so let the guy think.  Do not badger the guy either, if it’s his turn, let him have it, unless he is obviously stalling for time (which is just like cheating).  If a guy forgets something, like a whole turn of shooting, do not be a prick and hold him to it, simply ask him to rewind to the shooting phase and carry on.  Who knows, he may even return the favour?

    An easy way to avoid discussions is to clarify rules before the game starts.  The most important thing here is to agree on terrain classification and size before deployment, cover saves, and other possible issues on the current gaming board.  Explain specific rules of your army to the opponent (Vibrocannons and Guardian Platforms come to mind, for example, when playing the Eldar).


Why not to rely on luck

Luck is required in getting the correct pairings, luck is required to get the right dice rolls at the right time, and luck is a gift granted to very few of us, so do not rely on it, otherwise it will betray you in the end.  There are, however, a few options to make your own luck through the laws of statistics, which tell us that all sides of the dice will be shown equally over time.  Some ways to achieve this are:

  • If pinning against a certain enemy only works one in ten times, then make the unit take five pinning checks per turn.
  • It is not recommended to rely on a super weapon to roll one dice for success or failure, but to roll a high number of dice from standard weapons (e.g. Fire Prism dispersed shot versus a squad of six Warp Spiders), which will at least have some impact, even with bad dice rolls.
  • Even better is not rolling at all (which equals one hundred percent success). Flamer weapons do not need to hit rolls, Vibrocannons do not need to roll of penetration against vehicles.
  • Target overload.  If the battle plan requires you to destroy a specific unit, assign more than the statistically required units to take care of it.  For example, if you need to get rid of a Marine Squad in cover, do not plan in the movement phase to send just a single squad of ten Howling Banshees (including an Exarch), but also send another unit to soften up the target with shooting first.
  • Last but not least, Eldar are the masters of modifying chances.  The psychic powers Guide, Fortune, Doom, and Embolden allow you to re-roll failures, which makes up for poor odds more than anything.  For example, a one third chance of success becomes a five out of nine for success, but doubles the chance to roll the required six.  The more dice you can manipulate in this way, the better your result.  This favors Doom for most armies, as it allows all of your army to potentially make use of it during the shooting phase and close combat phase of both your turn and that of your opponent.  Fortune comes in second, due to it being only applicable to one of your units.  Making your whole army rely on these powers does, however, leave you susceptible to anti-psyker tactics.


Why learning the rules is beneficial

Skill is difficult to quantify.  It is augmented most from playing experience, but in case of the first points listed below, it can be substituted partially by learning and abstract imagination.

- Know the Rules:

Learn the rules in the big grey book by heart.  This is no exception to 40k old farts as in stressful situations it may happen that you remember rules from earlier editions which puts you in a difficult situation.  It is worthwhile investigating 'small rules' that describe special situations, and can provide you with a huge benefit through loopholes.  Examples of common rules that often get overlooked are:

  • 'And They shall know no fear' which gets interpreted along the lines of "My Space Marines flee, but regroup automatically next round”.  While they may group even when below fifty percent, a nearby unit in your army can still prevent them from doing so, and usher them from the table.
  • Models in terminator armour can never run down fleeing opponents!  Too many (C)SM players think that their Assault Terminators/Abaddon can run down a squad that breaks.  Thanks to moc for that reminder
  • 'Steel Coffin'.  This is more difficult to accomplish than was the case in fourth edition.  A unit forced to disembark a tank, but which cannot do so due to the exit hatch emergency exit and movement limitations (i.e. the unit must not be within one inch of an enemy models) gets destroyed automatically (pray for not rolling an explosion for the vehicle).  The Battlefield Raisbona IV winner did this with his Witch Hunter tanks early game against a Khorne Berserker Rhino.  That basically won him the game, the rest was cleanup.
  • 'Caught in a trap' while retreating is also a cheap way to wipe out large units.
  • 'Tank shock' is an option for you to move enemy models before your shooting phase (for example, to clump them for a Flamer attack, or bring them into charge range), as they have to keep formation during the evasive maneuver.
  • 'Range-Sniping', where you pick out certain models within a unit, (for example, models with special weapons or a model with a Power Fist), is no longer valid.  You can now, however, shoot the whole unit while only being able to see the head of one model.
  • 'Thorn in your side' which was used to prevent return attacks due to wiping out everyone within the two inch zone in an assault is no longer valid in fifth edition either, as an opponent can choose the casualties from anywhere in the unit.  Nevertheless it is important to know whether it is better for you to attack the dangerous independent character in the unit, or to attack the unit itself and hope to cause enough wounds there to win the combat (and maybe force additional saves on the independent character).
  • 'The Cover Getaway' to negate grenade initiative bonus is also no longer valid, due to new offensive grenade rules.  Nevertheless, it is better that your unit has one additional attack relative to your opponent's squad, and you can prevent him spring-boarding towards your other units/objectives by denying the charge move.

You will find some loopholes covered in the topic Unconventional Tactics.


Why you need to be knowledgeable about all the armies, and how to handle the unknown

- Know your own army

This includes errata and rulings for your army as well as house rules.  Expect other gaming groups to interpret ambiguous rulings differently to you.  A good start is to read the rules discussions on this forum as they provide you with significant (counter) arguments during a possible discussion.  Such discussions are mandatory reading for contentious rules regarding your own army, and a bonus to be aware of for other armies.  Know your specialist units and how to use their special abilities to best benefit for you.  We Eldar have the most specialized units around making unit selection tricky.  Which units are versatile all rounder’s that can react to unforeseen actions, or hinder your opponent's plan?  The types of armies and their advantages are listed at the section 'Planning your army' which is discussed later in this article.

- Know your opponents’ armies
Being knowledgeable about the other armies not only allows you to detect rules mistakes made by your opponent, but also gives you insight into the strengths and weaknesses that you can exploit.  You should especially focus on those rules limiting the use of units.  Examples are the forced movements of Chaos Dreadnoughts, Black Templars, Tyranids, Ork-Waagh etc, which can potentially disrupt your battle plan, but can also allow you to bait and trap these units into difficult or even dangerous terrain.

- Improvisation

How do you get out of a difficult situation?  Are there any complementary units that can take over responsibilities, for example, a Warp Spider Exarch with Powerblades and Withdraw going after (regular) Terminators if your Banshees just evaporated? Is it better to reconsider your priorities, such as going for a hide and seek tactic now and capturing objectives on the last turn?  Is it better to sacrifice another unit to either lock that murderous unit in another combat for the rest of the game, or alternatively draw the squad's attention to an area of the board where it will not have any influence on the rest of the game?  (I won a tournament final in third edition against the Blood Angels because I sacrificed the biggest threat to his Death Company, my Howling Banshees, and thereby led this unit to a part of the table, where he was forced to charge one squad of three Rangers in cover after the other with his super-unit.  Meanwhile, the rest of my army was free to wipe out his forces in his deployment zone without harassment).  Might you simply start in reserves to avoid the ferocious first turn strike or second turn charge?  Do not get fixated on standard tactics, you need to be able to surprise the opponent and regain initiative.  The most common tactics are well known to experienced players, and they have an appropriate counter tactic at hand.  Splitting your army the usual way in a hammer and anvil list, for example, (because it is the most efficient way you field them all the time) against Tyranid Godzilla or pure deep striking lists will cost you the game, period.

- Abstract thinking
Abstract thinking helps prevent panicking.  Do not fear a unit, especially when it disrupts your battle plan, or assists in the destruction of your core units.  See it as a series of statistics, and work out the odds.  An example is a Fortuned Eldrad, who just infuriates opponents.  The one in three chance of causing a wound gets reduced to a one in nine chance against any weapon (except C’tan Phase Weapons), so against Eldrad you need statistically fifty-four S4 hits to kill him (not probable against an independent character).  It is, however, almost eleven (5/54) S8 hits to inflict instant death on him, so you either need to search for ways around Fortune (such as taking a Callidus Assassin, or blocking his psychic powers, for example with Psychic Hood), or, ask yourself if you really need to kill him.  In objective based missions he is a non-scoring unit, but if you are playing one of the rarer fifth edition games with victory points he is worth 210 bonus points to you, just because the opponent chose to field him.  If you are able to wound him just once, that's 315 bonus points for you.  You then need to decide if the additional 105 points warrant a kill, or if simply avoiding him is the better option, and to make sure that you damage all his scoring units instead.  Morph the panic in your face to a confident grin now.  Along with improvisation, this skill should allow you to correctly combat rarely fielded armies, (for example, Space Wolves 13th Company, and Lost and Damned), and quickly evaluate counter strategies.


Why understanding the game helps you in difficult situations

Understanding the theory of the game

Let us start first with this before analyzing opponents and designing your army accordingly.  It might help you to get a more abstract grasp of the game and to identify the strengths and weaknesses of an unknown army list.

- Rock, scissors, paper.  Despite the size of the book, the game is still a (much more complex) variant of that game.  You must, usually, focus your army on two of these concepts:

      Mobility > Close Combat > Firepower > Mobility

Interestingly enough, this resembles the major game phases.

Keep in mind that this is just a very rough concept for an initial army idea as it immediately becomes more difficult when splitting these 'types' into horde and elite armies.  A mobile, elite army has advantages against a gunline horde, as the latter cannot bring its overwhelming numbers to bear.  In addition, terrain can impair gunline armies.

A close combat army focuses on the most dangerous phase of the game which also gets influenced the most by morale.  The advantage is that you can deal damage in your opponent’s turn as well as your own, often resulting in the highest damage output.  Additionally, such armies have fewer problems facing a dug-in force.  Close combat armies are favored when massacring an opponent gets you additional bonus, and you have fearless close combat troops available who are not going to fall back when they lose a combat.  (Please see the 2008 UK GT results where Blood Angels and Black Templars countered the trend for Space Marines; in addition good results for Orks and Tyranids for an example).  Such an army is, however, more susceptible to bad dice rolls as there is always at least a one in three chance to miss your opponent (making, for example, a Chaplain and combat drugs more efficient than additional attacks for the unit in question), so if you roll attacks, roll LOTS of them, and even better, REROLL them.

A firepower army causes damage from a distance.  It tries to keep the opposition at the optimum distance for their weapons to continue damaging opposing units.  Gaining the first shot in a fire fight is beneficial as it limits the expected return fire.  Gaining the first turn is a random event, jumping out of a transport, for example, is not.  Most standard troops are able to 'double tap' their weapons at a range of twelve inches, making short range firefights more significant.  These units create a threat range of eighteen inches when on foot, or twenty-six inches when mounted.  It is important to get an eye for these ranges and to set up supporting units within this range, so that, for example, they can open fire on an assault unit that has just defeated your forward team.  If you have played chess you may already have some idea about setting up redundant defensive screens and how to take them apart.  In fifth edition, the inclusion of good counter chargers, or a mechanized shooting element, among your reserves can stop an opponent's assault, especially as these elements cannot be damaged until they are carefully placed on the board in the most valuable position.  They should be a key component in any firepower army!  Less common is the long range fire fight that is usually limited by not being able to move the units in question.  Heavy weapons, artillery, and snipers spring to mind, due to their static nature, and are, therefore, adversely affected by terrain heavy tables.  Pinning weapons are available but you should not rely on the pinning effect, due to the widespread availability of fearless and high leadership units.  If your pinning weapons can cope with destroying units though, (the Eldar Ranger Rifle is a good example), then you are fine.  You need to field several units, in order to force multiple pinning tests per turn.  See pinning just as an occasional bonus that might stop units in their tracks at a critical moment.

A mobile army dominates the movement phase to augment the offensive, defensive and scoring capabilities of the army:

  • The offensive way allows you to bring your weapons into their most efficient range to damage the enemy.  The disadvantage of weapons with a twelve inch range is significantly reduced when mounted on bikes, or the unit carrying them is in a transport.  Close combat units can start their devastating work earlier, (for example, by engaging the most dangerous element of a gunline in close combat).  You can also detect weak points in the opposing army, and exploit them by bringing the best counter unit for the job to those particular points of the battlefield.
  • When used defensively, mobility involves limiting fire lanes for your opponent by making the best use of cover and line of sight blocking terrain, as well as preventing opposing units from assaulting you.
  • The scoring abilities of mobile armies are important because they can make sure that the right elements are at the right place of the battlefield at the right time, as well as well as denying your opponent his objectives with a fast non-scoring unit.

Mobility is the key for armies using lots of dedicated specialist units, (for example, Eldar Aspects, and flamer teams), because what is the benefit of an elite unit if it cannot maximise its strengths?  The more mobile army is usually the one which dictates the flow of battle.

Another ability armies sometimes incorporate is resilience.  It is not often possible to avoid incoming fire or slashing blows, but you can limit the damage done to you, and then continue with your original task.

  • Armoured transports are almost invulnerable to anti-infantry fire and have received a bonus in fifth edition, due to the improved protection of their passengers and the changes to the vehicle damage table.  Some of them, such as Rhinos, have become so cheap that it is almost mandatory to take them, as they are worth it if they protect your unit for just one turn.  It is best to mechanize your whole army to prevent any target for small arms fire or to create cover providing, sometimes LOS-blocking, terrain with the wreckage (from Landraiders or Battlewagons, for example).  Transports are, however, countered by anti-vehicle weapons (S6+ weaponry), and especially AP1 weapons (bonus on the damage chart).
  • Cover saves are relative, as you might have to play on boards with little terrain.  As cover save has improved in fifth edition, exploiting terrain is very worthwhile.  Some army options allow the improvement of the cover save even further.  Cover shines when it confers a 4+ save, and is used in conjunction with high toughness models.  Cover usually gets negated by flamer type weapons and close combats.
  • Invulnerable saves are rare, but they can be a pain, (for example, the Shadow Field of a Dark Eldar Lord).  An invulnerable save allows you to go against Power Weapon wielding models or shake off anti-tank fire directed at you.  Only very few options exist that actually bypass invulnerable saves, (for example certain choices available to the Inquisition and Necrons).  Your best counter to it is to use mass firepower, close combat attacks, or AP5+ Weapons.

  • Feel No Pain is a characteristic of some elite units, which usually come with a good armor save as well.  It often acts as an additional(!) invulnerable save against most weapons, resulting in only a sixth of wounds from standard weapons and half the number of wounds from Space Marine armor penetrating weapons inflicting a casualty.  This is the calculation for the most common FNP units, Plague Marines and the Death Company, which are both considered to be extremely resilient.  You either have to allocate anti-tank fire to deal with them, which limits your capabilities against the vehicles, or attack them in close combat with Power Weapons, which ignore this rule.
  • A high toughness and armor combination only works reliably when both combine together, and there are a solid number of models using this combination.  This combination is found in Godzilla Tyranid and Iyanden style Eldar armies, and limits the effectiveness of anti-infantry weapons and standard close combat weapons.  It is usually countered by anti-tank and sniper weapons, or Power Fists.
  • Numbers allow you to tarpit expensive elite units by sheer weight of models, and hope for occasional return attacks to cause casualties.  It is highly recommended to do this with fearless units, so that you are not sent running after the first crushing assault reaches your line, but keep in mind the new combat resolution rule that inflicts additional wounds on fearless units when they lose the combat! The Avatar/Guardian/Avenger screen comes to mind, as well as a Gaunt, Ripper, and Scarab swarms, or the Ork Infantry 'protect the Powerclaw' horde.  It works by preventing your opponent from inflicting a high number of casualties on you, locking elite units in combat, keeping them out of the way in the process, and allowing your more important units to do their job with reduced harassment.  This approach is usually countered by template weapons, high rate of fire (and preferably high strength) weapons, and by outmaneuvering.
  • Wound allocation allows you to reduce the damage inflicted on your units by assigning multiple wounds to the same model.  This is effective when a unit takes more wounds than it has models.  You can make use of this rule by purchasing different equipment for as many models of the unit as possible to create a number of 'wound groups'.  Also, this technique can be adopted to counter a few power weapon wounds, in case your unit contains one model with invulnerable save.  Beloved of Seer Councils and Boss Mobs.  This can be countered by attacking with multiple units that only cause a low number of wounds each.
An example of a very resilient and expensive, but extremely mobile, unit is the infamous Ork Biker Boss Mob.  Cover saves (turbo boost and smoke), invulnerable saves (Cybork bodies), Feel No Pain (Painboy), high toughness (Ork + Bike), wound allocation (just check the armoury options for that unit).

  • Against cover saves either use a flamer or a close combat option (but they are a dangerous unit in an assault).
  • Against invulnerable saves use a high number of attacks.
  • Against Feel No Pain use low AP or Power Weapons (hmm, this contradicts the invulnerable one).
  • Against high toughness use high strength (monstrous creatures...)
  • Against wound allocation use smaller packages of wounds (monstrous creatures... again...)

The more points you can address, the more successful you will be against that unit.  Check the tools you have for the job.  To my mind, some options are: the Landraider Redeemer, Wraithlords, Seer Councils, C'Tan... and, hiding in terrain, since they are bikes after all.  Also, don't forget about dangerous terrain...


Why designing your army list is not copy-pasting a random forum/internet list

Designing your army:

There are basically three requirements your army list must cope with: those which are imposed by the organizer, those which are set by your fellow players and those which are determined by the army lists being played.

Design requirements from organizer:

Are there any restrictions on the Force Organizations Chart or the points distributed in each section?  Common restrictions prevent the use of special characters, force a certain percentage of points to be distributed in the troops section, or limit the number of Force Organization Chart slots or duplicate entries.  Mostly these restrictions are in place to prevent 'power' army lists which are perceived as abusive, which might help you due to weaknesses of your army against certain lists.  Therefore, when there are restrictions, your planning should not just involve you looking at your own army list, as you might see some opposing power combos suddenly become invalid.

Is there a soft score implemented for army design?

If yes, check how much it influences the overall result.  You might rob yourself of winning the best overall trophy just because you wanted to give your army that additional bit of hitting power.  The main problem is that this soft score is a purely subjective view of your army and your play style (see the beginning of this article on how to make a good impression on your fellow players).  If you do know the judges and what they view as abusive, you are lucky, and you should try to gain an advantage from this knowledge by composing a proper army list.  If this option is not available to you, or the army is judged by a random selection of players at the event, then you should ask yourself if your army violates the following guidelines, which are often seen as indicators of a 'power' army list:

  • Maxed out elite or heavy support slots.
  • Only selecting the minimum number of the troops.
  • Repeated selections of the same unit type (e.g. 3 Scatterlaser/Shuricannon Falcons with Holofields, Spirit Stones, Vectored Engines; three squads of five or six man Lascannon/Plasma Marine squads, etc).
  • Min/maxing units: min/maxing is commonly used to get a large number of certain heavy weapons into your army (e.g. three units of three Obilterators, along with two units of five Marine Lascannon/Plasma Squads).
  • Fluff restrictions: does your army book suggest a restriction on certain units or did a previous version (more difficult to investigate, but forums might help here) limit selections (e.g. favoured numbers for Chaos units, such as eight for Berzerkers; the lack of Guardians in Iyanden/Alaitoc lists…)?  Even if there are no limitations in the current rules, you will please all the veterans out there when adhering to old style guidelines.

As a rule of thumb, anything that distances you from 'power' army lists is seen as intentionally weakening your list, so try selecting rarer units (e.g. non-yoyo Swooping Hawks, Storm Guardians, War Walkers, Striking Scorpions).  Of course, you might have a diabolical plan for them, but as long as they are seen as inferior during the evaluation of your army list, you are good to go.

The armies fielded by your opponents:
Please keep in mind that certain army types rely on running large numbers of certain unit types to overload your counter measures (e.g. Deathwing armies with 2+ saves, Imperial Armored Company, mechanised Tau, mechanised Eldar, infantry based Ork hordes, and Drop Pod Marines), so a backup tactic, such as decimating opposing scoring units, or preventing your opponent from achieving the mission objectives, might be a better idea than the attempting to wipe the army out.


Some Ork and Tyranid builds field so many bodies that several specialized army lists simply cannot kill all of them.  The obvious solutions are lots of templates weapons, a very high amount of shots, and if they finally reach your line, durability in close combat.  Other options focus on the mission objectives, and could include measures like tank shocking whole units off the table, being able to reliably contest mission objectives late in the game, and denying the opposing units their movement.

Armor (MEQ)

The MEQ (Marine equivalent) model is the most common thing you will see at a tournament.  Focusing your army to be able to deal with MEQ opponents should be your first priority.  The 3+ save can be overcome by weapons with an appropriate AP, or just a high number of attacks or shots (which also limits the effect of cover).  Nevertheless, make sure that you have at least some power weapons or suitable AP weapons to hand dealing with Terminator style units (TEQs), because the difference between a TEQ and a MEQ is huge.

Tanks and Monstrous Creatures

This type requires the use of high strength and/or good armor piercing weapons. Several S8+ or fixed wound roll/auto penetrating weapons are required, and you will need more of them if they cannot move and fire.  Try to include at least two long ranged anti-tank weapons in your army to get that important early shot against a dangerous vehicle (e.g. vehicles which fire ordnance are a priority target for infantry based armies).  If you are able to mount such a weapon on a mobile unit, then so much the better, as you might be able to get around that first turn cover those vehicles hide behind.  If you are expecting Tyranids, you might want to add some short ranged mobile anti-tank weapons if you cannot get hold of armor piercing snipers, as a monstrous creature maintains its threat level even with a single wound left.

Assault Units

If you field a gun line type army, are you capable of fending off those quick assault squads with jump packs, transports et al.?  Is it possible to create a forward line that will get sacrificed, but allows the main line to rapid fire the opposition to death?  The forward line can also be used to endanger the rear armor of fast tanks when they try to ignore the forward line and head towards your center.  Can you set up multiple firing lanes that could circumvent line of sight blocking close combats?

Deep Strikers

An even more dangerous version of the assault unit are deep strikers, as you cannot get to grips with them before they appear right next to you.  In my opinion, the option for Space Marines to create an all deep striking army has influenced the tournament scene like no other codex, as it invalidates lots of army lists.  Funnily enough, it has made mechanized Eldar so strong, as the tanks cannot be downed as easily.  Your advantage lies in the fact that these deep striking armies arrive piece by piece and can only shoot (not assault) on the turn they arrive.  The following turn, they are vulnerable, so you should set up your army in a way that allows your units to support each other with ranged weapons and counter assaults, and you should focus your attention on one opposing unit after another.  This often ends up in your army cowering down in a corner for the first few turns though, or starting in reserve.  You should not forget the mission objectives!
Infantry shooting

Can you make your way through a death zone of rapid firing weapons and ordnance?  Do you use fast transports, or can you kill those dangerous units from a distance? Is deep striking an option to circumvent fire, or can you count on infiltrators instead?

Low cover

Did you deploy your army in a way that does not rely on your getting the first turn and can work well even on tournament tables with a low amount of cover?  For Eldar this usually means: can you hide your tanks the first turn?  If not, are you fielding at least five or more Grav tanks, so that they can compensate for losses and pick up important stranded units?

Scoring units

How many scoring units does your army contain?  How many points are the non-scoring units worth?

Transport vehicles (without a scoring unit inside them) and independent characters are never scoring, so you are not getting any bonus for them keeping them alive, nor can you achieve the mission objectives with them.  Your opponent, however, gets points for damaging or killing them and scoring units decide the winner in ANY standard mission!  Even if Eldrad could not be targeted due to independent character status and his save could not be overcome, he still loses immediately against a Land Speeder or five Gretchin when claiming an objective.  If you are fielding only a few scoring units, you need to make sure that they are worth lots of points and are resilient.  Really think twice about any points spent on independent characters and whether they give your army a huge benefit or if they might be better spent on more scoring units instead.

Finally, when designing your army list you are faced with the metagame.  No army list can easily cope with all the problems listed above, so you have to focus on its strengths and accept its limitations.  This means evaluating the current codex, tactics and armies which are being fielded and adjusting your army according to that information.  Each new codex influences tourney play.  While Godzilla armies were feared in recent years, they are now towards the bottom of the tree.  Horde Orks, and especially Lash wielding Daemon Princes with their Obliterator companions, cause them problems, while mechanised Eldar did not get weaker.  With the Daemon Codex, make sure that you know your anti-deep strike strategy and keep those horde control weapons from your experimentation against Orks.  Nevertheless, Space Marines and Chaos are still the most sold GW armies, and are successful to some extent at tournaments, so always keep them in mind.  Do you have options to focus your fire on a fast Eldar Skimmer to finally bring it down?  Are you willing to risk an automatic loss against a rarely fielded army?  That and many more questions are those which you should ask yourself, depending on the strengths of the favored armies.



Now your army list is finally ready.  You have ensured the points are correct, and that you have the models available.  You have not yet finished though. Before you start with the final preparations for the tournament (packing stuff, organization, transport, and/or accommodation) you should think about the post army list design.

Transport Capacity

Are you able to transport your army without damaging it?  I added another transport recently and found out that there was no room for it in my foam suitcases.  Eldar models are especially fragile inside the suitcases and boxes, so be careful.  If possible, bring a presentation tabloid with you (with a terrain structure for the enthusiasts), since this allows you to simply carry your army to the next gaming table (and you do not have to pack it into the suitcase again).

Ask for advice

When you have finished your list you might want to make sure that your thinking and design time was well spent.  Others might have already had experiences with similar lists, and might give you a hint about something which you have overlooked. If you have such resources, use them!  Do not fear criticism.  The longer and more detailed and it is, the more you can learn from it.
If you are asking for advice please share your thoughts during the development process and what your tactics against your most common enemies will be in order to prevent any redundant suggestions from your advisor.  Tell us your answers to the questions you should have asked yourself from the list above.  Do you have some unconventional tactics for certain units?


Finally, it is time to test if your theory matches reality.  Try to play some test games, especially against opponents you have difficulty fighting against.  You get better when you repeatedly fight your nemesis, and find out new counter tactics.  Play as often as you can before a tourney to get a feel for your army, and to automate processes and rules.  The less you have to think about rules and how to use your army, the more room there is for thinking about the correct tactics for the current situation.  You might also discover that some little twists to your army might make it even more efficient.  Believe me, there are only very few tournament winners out there that win without play tests.  They are the rare species that replace play testing with a lengthy experience of war gaming, and a high capability in abstract thinking, imagination and the anticipation of opposing moves.  To be like this though you must have played an awful lot.


Rating: ***** by 11 members.


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