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A Checklist and Guide to Army Building

Submitted By: Algavinn of the Many Paths Date: December 5, 2010, 09:26:17 PM Views: 2844
Summary: An article by Algavinn detailing the theory and practice behind creating an army theme and army list to work efficiently and effectively in a variety of scenarios. General 40k article for making any army type list.

Original thread: http://www.40konline.com/community/index.php?topic=177589.0

The strategy of 40k extends well past what you do once you place your army upon the table, face off with your opponent, and start throwing dice.  This is the most crucial part of victory, but only a part.  Having some concept of how you will use your army, what style, what theme, which units will play what role; this is an enormous facet of combat.  However, there is again another part, which is what I am here to speak about.  List building is an art and a strategy which has immense importance on the battlefield.  As an example; my main gaming partner is an excellent gamer.  He plays very intelligently and reacts fairly well to changes in the battlefield, but his lists contain many un-synergetic elements that do not always fully conform to an overall style of attack.  For years I have seen hundreds of lists on these forums and others that are built with just a number of ‘strong units’ instead of units that will work well together, are a compilation of units which are meant for a style which do not fit the commanders intent, or just lack the elements needed to meet battlefield goals.  This is fairly normal, as knowing and understanding which units do what and how to combine them is as similarly difficult as knowing how to use them once they are on the field.  This article is not necessarily meant to tell you how to play your army, but is something of a beginners guide (though it is certainly in no way suggesting the content is concerning trivial details.  Many advanced tournament players still put forward crappy, or at least inefficient, lists.) and checklist concerning what should be going through your mind when you are making a list.

Please note that I have left out commentary when it comes to fluff, or other non-strategic components as that is really not what I am going for here, and is an entirely separate topic.  Given that this is a general topic which applies to all armies, I will be using unit examples from both Eldar and Space Marines (my two main armies), but hopefully examples/theory should be general enough to help readers understand the concepts entailed. 

Also, I wish to reiterate that your own style of play is something you should form that you and your opponents (assuming you aren’t in a tournament seeking to utterly annihilate all those who stand in your way!) can enjoy time and again at various levels of gaming.  This is a guide to the parts I personally consider essential to a successful list.  Any concerns for fluff, local considerations for specialized rule sets or levels of competitiveness are up to the reader.  Also, please note that there are concisely stated bullet point checkmarks at the bottom to summarize this rather wordy article for your convenience and use; so if I get a bit wordy or unclear, worry not!


PICKING A STYLE/THEME:

First and foremost in creating an army, and a list, is picking a style and theme for how you want your army to play and how you want to fight.  From this will sprout how you want to move and how you want to attack, and the units from your specific codex that might get it done.  Matched with the goals you need this army to fulfill on the battlefield (which we will look at in more detailed theory later) you start weaving the strategy (how your units will behave independently, together, and in total concert to complete your goals) that you will use in battle.  It is a complicated matrix of variables, which I will seek to address below, but here you create the core of your army based on the units that your style demands, and working out from there.  Do you want an aggressive army?  If so maybe you want a mechanized army with assault troops or heavy transports, or maybe you want to do it with long range weapons instead?  Do you want a small but elite army, that either boasts incredible power or resilient armour (or both!), or instead a massive and unstoppable horde?  Whatever you answer to this will let you look through your codex and chose the core elements of your army that are all about that facet of combat.  If you wanted speed in an Eldar army this might mean jetbikes as troops, and heavy amounts of mounted/jump based aspect warriors, and/or vehicles.  In a Space Marine army this might be tactical marines in transports, or drop pods, with strong supporting elements such as deep striking vanguard, dreads, and other drop pod/mounted/jump/bike units.  If you were to go into a strength in numbers list, or a slow but purposeful, or even the SAFH (shooty army from hell) model, you would choose core units based off of this, and then supplementary units and gear (units and equipment that aren’t true/pure to your main theme, such as a jump CC unit in a gunline army, or ranged support in a mech CC army) to shore up weaknesses.

So as you go along with creating your army, keep this core in mind.  Most of your units should fit directly into the description of for theme.  If you were to be a mechanized rapid fire army, for example, most of your army would either be units that intend on getting up close and personal with your opponent, or be a transport responsible for getting them there.  Only a small section of an army should be units that can’t jump right in there with the core of your army and contribute in the same manner. 

Why, you might ask?  Well let’s get into some details.  There are a lot of qualities that make up what a unit is and what it can accomplish/how it should be used.  Without getting into its stat and equipment line, units can generally be described based on what their resilience is (a unit is resilient if it has strong innate wounds, toughness, armour save, numbers, or some other characteristic), their medium of damage (close combat, rapid fire/close range, medium to long range), their speed of movement (6” footslog, fleet of foot, jump troop/mounted, fast vehicle, drop pod/deep strike), and what their target (are they anti-infantry, anti-tank, anti-heavy infantry?) is.  One can also describe a unit on the utility it brings the entire army, a single other unit, or such mission handy things as being scoring.  Based on these characteristics, the theme you have chosen, and the battlefield objectives (goals that you can pursue in order to achieve victory, such as a mission objective, or taking out your opponents most threatening units, maybe their transports, etc.) you have, you may choose the core of your army and precede from there to fill it out.  When you start mixing units that don't either fulfill the above variables in roughly the same fashion, or are very complimentary to each other, you start running into issues where you can't use your whole army at the same time, and can be picked off in piece by overwhelming resistance.  Below I will actually go into some details as to what you may want to keep in mind to do it properly, and how bad an idea it can be to mismatch your army.


MEDIUMS OF DAMAGE AND MOBILITY: 


This is the method by which you will destroy your opponent, or at least remove threat to your own army while you complete your objectives.  Some armies, as mentioned, will host an awe inspiring quantity of firepower that will reign down on their opponents from the opening of turn one, and leave nowhere to hide.  Another may be based on getting into close combat, or using more close-range mediums such as assault/rapid fire weaponry.  Regardless of what particular method you use, you must choose which is going to work for you.  You can certainly mix mediums, but beware of splitting your damage base unwisely, and be VERY careful when mixing the mediums of mobility among your main units (main killing and scoring units, that is). 

Imagine that you have half an army of ranged firepower and half dedicated close combat.  For the first half of the game your ranged elements are pounding away at enemy lines, while your close combat is doing nothing because it is moving into position.  In the second half your CC element assaults your enemy, reducing the possible targets you can fire on, and possibly leaving your ranged elements with nothing to do, especially if your opponent moshes your CC elements leaving nothing in the open and quickly disposing of your forward squads.  This is an extreme scenario, but it certainly happens.  You should be ensuring that your force is capable of putting out a large amount of damage while minimizing TTT (Time to target) and time out of combat.  Thus if you are an aggressive force, ensure you have enough units to make it through enemy fire while footslogging, or have some manner of transports/drop pods/infiltration/deep striking to get you where you need to be to apply your medium of damage.

One concept that I believe is more important than any other in list building is to select your medium of damage and find a way to apply it that works best without wasting points or slots on things that you do not need.   This is not something that I can easily tell you how to do; it is something born of experimenting and the resulting experience.  The best way I can probably put it is that you want to be able to direct as much damage at your opponent as possible for as long as possible, and create the army that allows you to do that.  This is of course weighed in with variables of your opponents damage verse your resilience.  Two turns of precisely targeted close combat via Eldar aspect warriors may be enough to completely gut an enemy army.  For a ranged army, this may take 4-5 turns.  So this means that your unit selection should try to insure that however you intend on damaging your opponent and keeping yourself alive, you should be able to put as much damage down and prevent as much damage to yourself as possible at all times, with any time not spent attacking or preserving yourself to be worth the cost in points and in turns.  (I know, I know, terribly wordy, convoluted, and probably redundant, but at least it’s probably sinking in then isn’t it!)

Also you need to be careful in general with mixing mediums of damage and mediums of movement.  I will give a couple of examples in addition to the former one and then move on to not dally here too long.

An army with several different movement mediums will not be able to attack together, thereby lowering the time and amount of damage applied, and increasing time to target (giving your opponent more time to attack and spreading out your army so he can attack it piecemeal quite often), as well as allowing your opponent more of a chance to isolate your units and crush them with local superiority of force.  So for example you have an Eldar army with Banshees in a Waveserpent, some Swooping Hawks, some Guardians and an avatar.  This obviously isn’t a real army, but let’s just pretend these speed ranges represent whole sections of an army.  The Banshees can get to the target very quickly, but then either attack alone and fizzle, or wait on the rest of the army to arrive (then having to hide or sustain ranged damage and showing your cards to your opponent).  The Swooping Hawks will show up a bit behind the Banshees, but still have to wait on the Guardians and avatar to attack with full force.  Attacking in waves isn’t really a good idea, especially with a more mobile opponent.  We certainly see a lot of lists like this out there.  Some slower elements are useful in a fast list, and some fast units are definitely useful in a slower list, but these typically should make up more of a ‘supplementary role’ that offers support fire, or reactionary attacks.  It should not be expected to be part of a main attack and should not detract from your ability to make a strong enough main attack, as we see below.

Now back to my example of mixed mediums, I have one opponent who does something of a Rhino rush, but uses a couple of devastator squads and some other static elements.  When it comes down to his attack the devastators have not yet laid down enough damage to compensate for the points spent there instead of on the aggressive advance.  The result is that his attack stagnates and is countered by my reactionary counter-assault units, and while I’m in close combat his ranged does nothing (and during his advance his Rhinos and the squads inside do nothing), and then is pummeled by my ranged and mobile units after I finish his CC assault.  Too many points were sunk into a supporting element with a different medium of damage that wasn’t fully compatible with a main attack that depended on mass and momentum.

A positive note has to be made about support units, however.  There is a very big and important role to be played by support units in most armies.  Most ‘themes’ and ‘styles’ excel at a particular kind of combat, such as CC armies ripping apart infantry.  This often results in a balancing weakness, such as taking down armour.  Also a ranged firepower army might lack mobility and CC punch (other than swamping their enemy, which isn’t all that useful if you’re trying to swamp an Ork CC horde!).  So because of this, we often choose to take supplementary units to shore up these weaknesses.  The static gunline army might take some Rough Riders, Shinning Spears, or Assault marines to react to mobile or CC threats.  A CC army might take some Sternguard or Fire Dragons to make sure some anti-tank power is available if it’s lacking, or some ranged firepower if taking something out early on before the bulk of your army arrives/disembarks is important (bright lancing/Lascannon-ing that pesky mounted CC unit or heavy tank, for example).  So as you can see, support units can be the all important fire extinguisher that can stop your opponent from taking advantage of a particular weakness your army as, or help you take care of a specific threat you know you will be expecting (damned invincible C`Tan/Land Raider/Etc.!).

There is another point or two worth mentioning here, which I will touch on further in the next section to some degree.  Firstly is that when choosing your core units keep in mind what your targets might be.  If you know you will fight nothing but GEQ opponents (guard equivalent – T3 Sv5+) then focus on anti-light-personnel capability.  If you will face heavy MEQ or heavy vehicles, make sure the core of your army has an ability to take this on.  If you are unsure, you better pack like a boyscout and come prepared for anything.  In game terms this might mean that in my Eldar list I make sure to bring a squad of Banshees and Fire Dragons to give straight up power against vehicles and MEQ, as well as a high volume of attacks from Dire Avengers, Striking Scorpions, Guardians, and general support fire from the rest of my army to take down GEQ or combine it against tougher targets.  In a Marine list I may put power weapons or fists on my sergeants, take flamers/melta guns where appropriate, and maybe pack in a mean as hell Sternguard squad. 

Towards these ends you also have to ask yourself, is one (unit/gun/upgrade) enough?  Is two?  Is seventeen point five?  (for the purpose of killing light infantry…heavy….light to heavy tanks, or whatever else you need to get done) Consider the strength of your unit(s), the amount of the given target they may have to kill, and the comparison between the resilience of your target and his ability to kill you.  In some specific terms I am talking about unit/role redundancy.  The more units you have that can deal with a given type of target, the better chance you have that you can kill it before your opponent stops the threat, and it gives you more options as well.  In my Eldar army almost every unit can take down a medium tank.  Will my opponent ever be able to stop me from taking down a tank before I get to it if it is my primary goal?  No chance.  There is such a thing as too much, however, as you start packing on every upgrade or take give anti-tank units and can’t do anything against massed infantry, etc.  It is up to you to take all these variables and decide what is enough, but you must ask yourself the question first to have a chance of getting it right.


OBJECTIVES:

There are many things I would entitle ‘battlefield objectives’, which I will address a bit later, but the primary and most important are those which win the scenario.  These most often include putting a scoring unit on a particular objective, and/or contesting objectives your opponent is trying to hold.  So this comes down to this question when building a list: (1) How am I going to get scoring units onto the objectives, (2) keep them alive, (3) stop my opponent from doing the same, (4) and how many is enough?


(1) The first point is medium of mobility.  How are you going to get your scoring units to the objectives?  The obvious options are A: footslog, B: use a transport, C: deep strike or use another medium of speed (such as a librarian with gate, drop pods, etc.).  Which medium you use is going to be tied into a lot of variables, such as how resilient your troops choices are, your ability to dig out opposing units from objectives, how many troops choices you took, what other roles your troops choices might have, and the style that best fits into your army in general.  I will leave the specifics to you; just keep in mind you have to choose a viable way to get your scoring unit on the objective if you are going to make a move for them at all.  Having a non-infantry heavy marine list and trying to footslog your only two tactical squads onto objectives is not going to be very reasonable at 2000 points, for example.

(2) The second point is how to make sure your unit arrives intact and stays on the objective to hold or contest it.  The obvious first way to manage this is to either take enough scoring units that your opponent won’t be able to dish out enough damage to destroy them by sheer number of units, or because if they focus that much on your scoring units, your main damage causing units will destroy him.  This can mean an infantry spam list such as many large squads of guardians, a Saim-Hann jetbike list, or putting down a near battle-company sized marine list and combat squadding.

There is next the option of not spamming scoring units, but making those you have be resilient ones.  This either means taking units that are inherently resilient (Sternguard, Marines in general, Eldar jetbikes, Wraithguard), taking large units (squads of 20 guardians, for example), using supplementary means to improve their resilience that we find in HQ units, or attachments like warlocks with conceal/embolden, camo cloaks for scouts, etc., or minimizing TTT/making it safer, which means very quick or safe transportation.  A quick moving Waveserpent is pretty safe, and a drop pod is going to allow very little shooting on your squad before it takes hold of the objective, where it’s resilience will increase from cover saves or hiding out of LoS(usually, anyway).

In general you are going to have to size up and analyze what your opponents’ armies may be comprised of, and what level of mobility, resilience, and numbers you are going to need to get to take and hold objectives.  There is no set number or formula.  This is not even to mention if you decide to largely forgo objections and just roll your opponent (and the possibility of him doing the same and possibly leaving your squads alone!).

(3) Thirdly is stopping your opponent from ending the game holding objectives.  This is constituted by getting to objectives first and holding them, stopping your opponent before he gets there, taking him forcibly off the objective, or contesting objectives.  The first option is already covered.  Maintain speed and initiative and get there first.  It’s going to be harder for him to get you out of cover and off the objective than to walk onto it and defend. 

The second option is multifaceted.  You can outright destroy him with firepower or CC, destroy his mobility by knocking out his transports or blocking it/stunning them, or if they are not in a transport you can lock them in CC to stop him from moving toward/onto the objective.  I’m a big fan of combo-locking big mobs into CC and drop-poding marines behind them so they really can’t go anywhere, or drop poding dreads and other units into breaks in terrain, making them deal with my units or straight out blocking all avenues with armour so transports can’t advance (at least until my units are smoking wrecks anyway!).

Digging your opponent out of a fortified objective is a real pain, and often quite difficult, so having to do this isn’t exactly ideal, but sometimes it happens.  Once an opposing scoring unit gets into hard cover digging them out with firepower is seldom the solution, and charging into close combat is often also not ideal, but is often the better of the two.  Designing an elite unit meant to clear off an objective is likely to be an expensive and inefficient element of your army if that’s its main purpose, so either intend going in to use large amounts of focused firepower, an elite CC unit (Harlequins, Banshees, Vanguard, Terminators, etc), or some element of your army that can take care of this problem, or follow the next step, if necessary.  It’s good to at least have a unit(s) in mind that can do this in case you find yourself in the unhappy position of needing it (these units usually kick ass at destroying the enemy anyway so can be of good use in many situations).
 
The last main option is to contest objectives that your opponent has taken that you cannot retake.  Having the last second dash or attack onto an objective that allows for suicidal moves without repercussions is a great motivation for taking the second turn if you can do it without suffering considerable casualties from first turn shooting.  All armies should typically contain some element that is fast enough to react and respond to your opponents’ actions if your army isn’t already based off of these types of movement capabilities already.  You can definitely use more resilient or slower moving units to contest objectives, but this often requires them to dedicate their actions for several turns to get into a position to contest, likely wasting their medium of damage and giving your opponent the chance to destroy this unit and stop its obvious intent.  So for this role I tend to use my mobile support fire elements when possible (Landspeeders, Vypers, Fireprisms, Falcons, or last turn turbo boosted bikes of either army).

In the end all armies should have some capacity to one of these above options, and do it well.  To give your opponent the ability and opportunity to take objectives when they want and keep them is to offer a huge advantage in most battles.

(4) Of chief importance is ensuring that you have an army with enough scoring units (or enough of high enough quality) to hold the objectives.  I won’t personally give a recommendation for the number of troops choices (or other scoring units like Sternguard with Pedro) you should take, as this is heavily dependent on how you will get them there, how resilient they are, how you intend on keeping them alive, and overall preference in style and to fit your opponents.  I personally only take two tactical squads in my marine lists of 1750-2000 points (sometimes with a scout squad), but almost always only two scoring units for any less.  This choice is based on several variables.  However in my Eldar lists, I tend to base my style on completely annihilating my opponent regardless of scenario, so usually take a light amount of troops, which often function as locking units (described in my Locking, and Lock and Hammer articles, which are in the Eldar project boards, and might be stickied in some army PoC threads) and to just hold my own objectives.  Most people take more scoring units than I do.  It’s a matter of syncing it with your particular style, strategy, and battlefield goals.


DESTROYING THE OPPOSING FORCE:

Your attack power is obviously intertwined with your need to take and meet objectives, and preservation of your own force, but when it comes down to it 40k is about destroying your opponent, even though you can win games while having done very little of this.  So on top of meeting scenario objectives, you have other battlefield objectives such as destroying potential threats to your army and robbing your opponent of his initiative (his big hitting units and his mobility usually).  So here we look at the basic types of threats you may face and what you need to handle them.  This is likely the simplest part of list building, but also a challenging one if you are building a list to be excellent at taking down tanks, MC’s, heavy infantry, and horde all at once while still being able to take objectives and live.  (Because most facets of this article are deeply intertwined it is hard to talk about one without talking about them all, aaaand this article has been largely rewritten in a huge revision, so the below may seem fairly redundant, however the detailing given is important!)

First up is considering the various types of opponents you will have to destroy.  Not all of us are building take-all-comers tournament lists, so obviously you may not have to address all the threats on the list below and can build your lists accordingly.

Armoured Threats (and MC’s)
: Some opponents may host resilient units such as Landraiders, Leman Russ, Falcons, and Carnifexes, or medium to lighter units such as Rhinos, Predators, Landspeeders and Vypers.  Be it a single tough enemy unit or an armoured company, you will likely need to take down vehicles (or MC’s) at some point.  Just as in considering your primary medium of damage, you need to choose whether to take ranged weapons (lascannons, bright lances, melta/fusion guns), CC weapons (power fists, melta/haywire grenades), how many of these types of weapons, and how to implement them.  In my Eldar lists I generally do not believe in dedicated anti-tank units, even in my tournament lists, but this works very well for myself because almost all of my units are capable of powerful anti-armour attacks (at least from behind/in CC) and will be in the position to use them, which leaves my opponent unable to know where the explosion is going to come from.  In my marine lists, this isn’t quite the case, which often sports a fully equipped drop pod Sternguard squad, among other bits of melta, combi-melta and heavy support options throughout the rest of the army.

In the end the question is: Do I have the anti-tank power (the number and quality of weapons as well as a way to get them to a position to hit the target) to take down a heavy battle tank if I have to?  Can I take down numerous lighter tanks or MC’s if I face a mechanized/Godzilla/armoured company?

Anti-Personnel: Be it the heavy infantry of Deathwing or Nurgle, or the massive hordes of the Mon-Keigh IG, or the green tide of the WAAGH that can number up to 100 models in even modest games, you will almost always need anti-personnel capabilities.  You can often combine massed firepower onto power armour instead of using low-AP weapons or a squad of power weapon wielding banshees, but if you are going to face heavy infantry you need to have some idea how to go about their destruction (and I will point out that massing a whole army of firepower on one unit can be quite the feat! Specialist units are easier to wield, but your enemy can see them coming and know their intent in advance).  Being able to take both heavy infantry and massed infantry can be a hard balance in list building, but it is also one of the most important when you build a tournament/take-all-comer style list (if nothing else, a lot of people/areas just feel that tooling their list for friendly games is decidedly bad sportsmanship anyway!).  The tools for hordes are obvious: you need multiple shot weapons, blast weapons, massed attacks, or a resilient body for them to sink into but be unable to break (I don’t like the last method much, fighting to defend is fighting to lose in many instances, if that is your intended primary method of destroying the opponent, however Terminators and some other units can excel at this).  Also keep in mind...it isn't just killing the 20 Terminators, or 100 Orks, it's doing it before they get to you unless closing with them is (insanely!) what you intend.  Being a mech Saim-Hann army and just backpedaling, putting out a HUGE amount of firepower, or using slowing tactics like using speed bump drop or footslogging units to lock the enemy into CC, knock out their transports, or a huge other number of options, you need to look at it in a very practical way (can you knock them out before they overwhelm you).

And the simple question is: Do I have the capacity to destroy heavy infantry if present, or destroy a massed light infantry horde before being overwhelmed?

Another point to remember is that if you are filling your army roster to take down that troublesome C`tan, Carnifex, Leman Russ, etc. and decided to take comb-melta Sternguard, or Fire Dragons to fix the problem, it may be very obvious to your opponent what is his biggest threat to this very important (and likely expensive) component of his army, and strive to destroy it.  Make sure you take units and elements in your army that you are sure can get there and get the job done (Fire Dragons in a Falcon are a pretty good bet, as are the Sternguard if they deepstrike onto the target).  Ideally you will see a threat on the battlefield and have the unit and be in the position to ensure that it will be dead when you need it to be, if it is a priority.  This at times means spending points on upgrades and taking dedicated units/equipment.  At the same time you can’t take every bit of wargear and still need to find the points and slots for scoring units, transports, etc.  This is essentially the spirit of my “The Importance of Upgrades” article I wrote concerning upgrades on Eldar transports in mechanized lists (Eldar project boards, may be stickied somewhere).  Some upgrades and units are superfluous or unnecessary, but sometimes those supporting the main elements of your army are absolutely essential, even if for every four of upgrade X you take you could take another unit Y, because you need to be able to count on the Y’s you have doing their job transporting a scoring unit, or blowing up a tank.  The importance, role, and value of upgrades are an important lesson to learn for your army.


DEFENDING YOUR FORCE:

Do I have the resilience, firepower, and reactionary elements to keep my army alive long enough to take objectives and destroy the enemy?

This is the crux of the matter.  You must keep your army alive long enough to meet your scenario and battlefield objectives before your opponent destroys you and your capacity to make war.  This is of course a multi-faceted matter.  It is largely attained by (1) Inherent resilience, (2) Overwhelming damage, (3) and being able to counter your opponents’ attacks.

(1) This is the same as described before for scoring units.  You either take overwhelming numbers of units so that your opponent simply cannot dish out enough shots to kill you, be it by taking massive light infantry or massed vehicles, or you take resilient units that substantially increase the quantity of fire required to take them down (heavy vehicles, or meq+ status), or thirdly use your situation to increase resilience (taking cover, staying out of LoS, or using some kind of equipment (camo cloaks, conceal, etc.) that will increase your resilience.  The longer your opponent takes to kill you, the longer you have more of your force capable of causing damage to him.  Whoever runs out of bodies first loses.  Think Lanchester Square Law.  The higher proportions of units/firepower you can keep for longer, the exponentially better your advantage is over your opponent.  (For those of you unfamiliar with this law, it states that for every measure of force you hold over your opponents, your strength increases exponentially.  Check it out on Wikipedia for a better description.)

(2) Many armies are not particularly resilient, but are capable of laying down so much fire that their opponent withers away, or put their opponent in a defenseless position such as my Eldar mechanized CC army which appears suddenly and jumps into CC, not allowing most armies any ability to fight back nor the time to cause substantial casualties before the point of attack.  Lowering the amount of time your opponent has to damage you is the goal here.  It may be more fitting in the entry below, but this concept can be utilized by coming in via drop pod force, staying out of LoS, etc).

(3) This is not easy to articulate in a clear yet concise way, but I take this to address everything concerning the question of: Other than soaking up shots with resilience or numbers, and destroying my opponents quickly, how will I stop my opponents’ attacks from destroying me? This largely comes down to constructing your army so that it may avoid or negate your opponents’ medium of damage.  This, for me, often revolves around having a limited amount of units that are often mobile, and host the opposite medium of damage than that of the rest of my army.  So for a ranged army, I would have some good reactionary CC units or close ranged surgical shooting units.  For an aggressive army, I would have some ranged support with very long arms.  This is to deal with potential threats the main bulk of my army is very susceptible to, and so that I can always be causing some damage to my opponent by avoiding a stalemate or wasted turns causing no damage.  It keeps me versatile and capable to react quickly to my opponents actions and not lose the initiative.  These list building methods can be enhanced by taking an army that primarily deep strikes so it cannot be shot until it has appeared, can shoot without LoS, infiltrates, and the normal manner of advancing through/behind cover.

In an Eldar army I would often use Fire Dragons or Harlequins in a Falcon, Shinning Spears, or jetbikes as my fast reactionary units, and Wraithlords or Guardians for my slower reactionary units (units that might walk out and engage my opponent in CC to stop them from assaulting me sucking them into a CC they cannot escape, or catching them once they do arrive).  For my supporting ranged units, I would usually use Fireprisms, or Vypers, but more static elements like Wraithlords and Reapers can certainly be useful as well, they are just harder to use effectively and can be expensive, therefore disrupting the balance of support/attack units.

As Marines I would likely use some fast element such as deep striking Vanguard/Dreads, bikes/attack bikes, or Sternguard with a Librarian.  You could also use MM/HF Landspeeders, or Assault Marines, but I’m not a fan of those.  Just to absorb opponents in CC, Dreads and Tactical Squads do a pretty good job for slower units, and/or matched with Assault Marines or HQ squads to attack a squad that has been locked by these kinds of elements.  Landspeeder Typhoons can offer some pretty good support fire when it comes to the mobile stuff, as can vindicators but you certainly have to keep in mind its range limitations.


WRAPPING UP:

To wrap up in a much more concise manner, here is a checklist to keep in mind when making a list:

-What is the core style/theme I want to pursue with my army?  What units in my codex conform to this?

-What should my main medium of damage be? (ranged firepower, close firepower, CC)

-How will I primarily apply this medium of damage? (from range, deep strike, transports, mass footslog, etc.)

-Do I have unnecessary, inefficient, or too many upgrades/characters/supporting units? AKA: Are my ratios of core style/theme units/gear and supporting units/gear efficient and ideal?

-How many scoring units will I take, and how will I get them to the objectives, alive and hold them?

-How/will I stop my opponent from taking objectives?

-Do I have the units/upgrades necessary to destroy heavy tanks, massed tanks, MC’s, heavy infantry, and massed infantry?

-Does my army have the overall resilience, firepower, mobility, and other qualities to withstand my opponents’ firepower for long enough to destroy him and/or get objectives?


Not only should these points help guide you in choosing the units which will make up your army, but it should help you slide into the kind of army that plays the way you want it to, and will help form the strategy by which you will use the units you have chosen to complete your battlefield goal.  The units you chose, the goals you have, and how you use these units to carry yourself to victory through these goals is all one connected endeavor which too many see as wholly separate bodies.  Neglect either ‘half’ and the other suffers.

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