Friday, May 8, 2015

Is List Writing A Skill?

Over the past month there has been a debate raging on The Warhammer Forum as to whether list building is a fundamental game skill or not. The debate has been come at by rather a circuitous route under the premise of whether using a "netlist" is cheating.

Well upfront I'm going to declare my hand:

  • List building is a skill; and
  • Using a "netlist" is not cheating.

On the first, there is undoubted skill in being able to look at an army book and determine the most efficient choices that it contains. This then has to be overlain with your style of play, your normal opponents and your model collection. Finally, if playing tournaments, you need to consider the comp pack, the scoring system and any houses rules in play.


Distilling these factors into a workable list definitely takes some skill. You can define "workable" in many different ways - efficient, tabletop effectiveness, enjoyable to paint, fun for an opponent to play etc - but the key thing we are utilising here is analysis - and to me analysis and the analytical method are definitely a skill.


So based on that is so-called "netlisting", cheating? Here you are supposedly using the work of someone else to come up with a list, the construction of which is IMO a skill. My answer is no and here's my reasoning.


It is all very well to copy something from the net but the proof of the pudding comes in the application of that list. The number of times that I have seen people copy the latest hotness and then spectacularly fail with it is significant. And that is largely because people either don't understand the intricacies or pressure points in a list or haven't included their own play style or ability in the analysis step.


In these days of Internet immediacy there is very rarely anything new about eight weeks after an Army Book is released. Things are worked over, maths is analysed and a clear view of efficiency developed. So you quickly know the building blocks that you are dealing with.


However there would very rarely be a list on the net that I would look at where I wouldn't want to make changes based on my own preferences - usually play style driven. That's because another choice better papers over other cracks in my game. An example of this was the use of Rat Swarms in my Skaven army. Early on in 8th Giant Rat darts were the cheap chaff of choice. However they didn't work for me - pack master susceptibility, low Ld etc. For me a Ld 10 unbreakable swarm while more expensive was light years better in my own game. Similarly around Stormvermin and Clan rats. I much prefer Clan Rats other than in the ETC game where points denial is a key aim for the Skaven player.


So when I see a published list I'll generally look at it and see if it works for me, my play style and then dismantle it to look at building blocks and potential for improvement.


Generally if someone picks up a net list they are cheating - themselves. They have abandoned a crucial part of the skill and are probably going into battle with a sub-optimal weapon than they could have if they did the whole process.


That said, conventional wisdom as encapsulated in a net list with give you a head start but unless you know how and why it was built, for whom and why, then I think you will eventually run into a cul-de-sac known as disappointment.


Just my thoughts - I'm sure a lot will have a different take.


1 comment:

  1. Absolutely list writing is a skill, not just the maths - but the tools for every situation, synergies and having back up plans for when certain strategies do not succeed.

    List driving is also a skill, without this latter skill the former won't often translate into victory.