FAQ: New Army

I often get emails asking what units to buy for an army.

The first step is to buy your books! It's not very exciting, but it needs to be done. Spend a few nights in bed with your first army book. Keep the book with you and take some notes.

When designing an army I like to take a blank sheet of paper and draw out the various units, as if the paper were a representation of the table itself, rectangles or circles showing each unit.

There's no law you can't just take blank pieces of paper, or chits, or blank bases and do a few playtests with your army list, even taking both sides if you don't have a friend to go in for the playtest. Things that look good in theory aren't always the best units.

There will be a temptation to make a "one trick pony" army. "Ooh wow this unit is really powerful, I'm going to make an army of all that". Don't do it. These games are designed with the idea that you need a variety of different units.

Besides, with a "one trick pony" is a no-win for the meta-game. If you win, you will crush your opponent and he/she won't have a good time. If you lose, you will usually lose big time as the fatal flaw of your army is exposed. You almost can't go wrong by taking one of each kind of unit in an army list.

For GW games, they have done a really good job of evening out the units. There aren't too many outright broken unit types. And they have shored up weak units. In the Eldar list (which I love) there are lot of examples of this. The Wraithlord was vastly overpowered, and now they are about right. Wraithguard are about right. Shining Spears and Warp Spiders are still waiting for them to get it right.

In that same vein, when choosing units consider the "eggs with hammers" idea. This means a unit that is very fragile but hits very hard. Shining Spears are like this. They are great, but are pretty pricey for something that can die relatively easily. Imagine a unit with T3 and no armor save, but that has a gun stat line like S10 AP1 Assault 4. That seems powerful, but they die ever so easy. Keep survivability in mind. This is why a unit like Plague Marines is so popular. They can take a punch and still come out swinging. These are fun to play because they stick around. Wraithguard are in this category.

Dark Eldar are the ultimate eggs with hammers army. The Raider, for example, is an open-topped vehicle with 10 armor all around with one giant powerful gun stuck on the front. The difference here between Shining Spears and a Raider is that the Raider is priced correctly. It's cheap, I think 35 points.

Speaking of which, you may have noticed that a Rhino has gone down in points, but comes with upgrades standard. They dropped the net cost about half. That makes Rhinos a really good option, especially that they are essentially mobile scenery. I'm also a fan of transports because it makes it faster to get your army on the table during deployment.

For 40K, also note that the game is not geared to be a short range firefight. Mid-range fighters are stronger because the game is designed to push units into short range really quick. I advise against the shooting-heavy army. For both Fantasy and 40K, the shooters are typically in a Troubleshooter role or (more likely) in a soften up the enemy role; they are support for your close combat units. Your archers should peel off a critical rank or two before your close combat guys move in to mop up. In 40K this is even more pronounced because a unit can shoot, then charge and effectively provide both roles.

This is why you'll see a lot of combi-weapons on veteran-type squads. They can strike an almighty hammer-blow just where needed.

Your army is like an orchestra. You've got to have lots of different instruments. When you settle on an army, ask these questions of each unit:
1) What role does this unit fill? How does this unit help you win?
2) How does this unit interact with the other units? How does this unit help other units?

Harpies: This unit helps me win by ___________. This unit helps other units by ____________.

Too often, a new player just picks what looks good, or what seems powerful, and then gets dissected by a more experienced player.

Play for fun. Losing all the time isn't fun.

Win by making sure your opponent has a good time. Be in the game, but not so invested that you can't see how your friend is doing.



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