Thursday, June 14, 2012

List Build for Tournament Play

A very good Australian player once told me that the key to winning Warhammer Fantasy tournaments – especially those with large numbers – was to be able to win big when the opportunity presented itself. His reasoning was that you likely played two good players, two moderate players and two new or lesser skilled players in such an event. By maximising the points that you scored in the four games not against the top-line players you increased your options in the two “hard” games.

I’ve found this to be very good advice and its central tenet underscores how I now approach events.

It is reasonably easy to put together a list that gives away points only sparingly however this alone won’t win you an event. You have to have the tools that allow you to score big Victory Points if you want to maximise your Battle Points score. In 7th – with half points for depleted units – this wasn’t as critical as it is now. Effectively you need access to a hard-hitting unit that provides combat punch or to a magic lore that gives you that “big spell”.

Boris took the instruction to dismember his opponents a little to literally

Over the last couple of months I’ve seen two types of list becoming more prevalent. The first is the “butterfly” list which is very hard to get points out of as it doesn’t commit and has the ability to inflict the “death of a thousand cuts”. The most common is the Skink Cloud backed by two Slaans but there are other variants e.g. some Wood Elf builds. However this type of build is entirely unsuited for the NZ tournament scene. Why? Well it is built with ETC-type team events or for events where a W/D/L scoring system is in place. You could play it in New Zealand but with the 20-0 scoring system while you could win all your games, you are unlikely to average more than 12 points per game. That won’t get you onto the podium.

The other list is the extreme Deathstar. This is where everything is in a single unit…..400-500 of jubs and 1000+ of characters. Some Ogre, Vampire, WoC and Dark Elf Cold One builds are examples of this. Your opponent struggles to get points out of you in combat, so your susceptibility is to intense shooting and big magic. If they don’t have those tools then it is really a forlorn hope to win big against them. However a smart opponent will feed you chaff and pick off your support units. Only a muppet will try to engage you and give you the opportunity to win big. By my reckoning you need to strike at least 3 of these to get your average points up to compensate for the draws and losses versus good players.

So what’s my point? Well tournament planning starts with list design. If you want to win the event you need to have the tools to get you 18-20 points off weak and moderate players and 13-14 points off good players. A string of 11-12 point wins won’t do it for you in the 20-0 system. However it’s not enough to just deathstar your army because in that case you are relying on people to throw themselves under the bus. This may work against inexperienced or poor players but even moderate players will know how to re-direct your deathstar, delay it or give it a very poor return on its investment. You mightn’t lose games but you won’t win even.

As always I come back to the premise that the best armies are combined arms where you have tools to compete in every phase. The key is then to develop the skills to use that force to squeeze every Battle Point out of your opponent. Typically this means 14-15 points a game to be in the running for a podium place.

Warhammer 40k is completely different where a "win" is the important goal rather than the differential. Coming from 40k I found that this affected my playstyle for a couple of years when I first switched to Fantasy. I found I was winning my games but my results weren't "ruthless" enough to be competitive for podiums in the big Australian events. Over time I changed my approach to list design to the point where I now build a list looking at how its component parts will help me get the 15 points per game I'm aiming for.



  1. I take a slightly more informal approach, rather than banks of computers working out analytical possibilities, I ask myself only one question "Have I got the tools" if they're is a weak spot in my ability to react to something, I might think a bit more on it. But that's why you're the golden boy :)

    1. Half my bank of computers moved to Auckland 2.5 years ago, the other half sits on the couch playing xBox.

      Dan - you know I only went to school to eat my lunch, right?

    2. Lol, I can't see it somehow. Hrm, you're Auckland division is closer to me than you, I need to find a way to tap it's functions.

  2. It will be intersting to see if 40k6 moves to % categories like WFB with at least 25% troops you might see armies that have more that an token number of troop choices who have replaced their weapons with pompoms and deck chairs.

    Death stars also look a bit risky most spell lores contain unit smashing spells with characteristic tests or die it's worth the miscast to cut the enemy deathstar in half.

    Seems to me you need an army that has lots of medium units, these can be used to lure in the enemy as the opponeny needs to commit something and then get crushed in the countercharge.