|Submitted By: Kaminari Date: March 7, 2011, 07:36:40 AM Views: 1652|
|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:
Other things that come to mind are:
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:
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:
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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?
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!
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?
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?
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.
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.