Wednesday, August 17, 2011

From 40k to Fantasy Part Two: List Building

I'm not an expert list builder like Kirby or Stelek, but I know what makes a 40k list good or bad.  At the end of the day, in 5th Edition, the most important principal in list building is the ability to kill light mech.  This is the beacon that we all follow in order to make sure our lists start out on the right foot.  Sure there are other important benchmarks for 40k lists, but that is the most important, I hope you agree.

The second most important concept to master in 40k is MSU.  Barring horde armies, multiple small units is far an away the best list strategy to pursue.  The way codices are written, you will almost always have superior firepower and target saturation to play an MSU list.  But enough about what you grizzled 40k vets already know.  How about I tell you the main list building rules for Fantasy?

In no particular order except #1...

Castin' spells in your faces

1.  It's All About the Magic: a Level 4 wizard is mandatory.  The only army, and I stress this heavily, that can get away without a Level 4 are pure Goblin armies, and Dwarf armies (because they don't have magic users).  Everyone else has to have one.  Why?  They are not only the most potentially potent offense in your list, but they are your first line of defense against your opponent's most potentially potent source of offense.  They are much more vital for defense than offense: you can still win the game if you don't get any spells off, but it's almost impossible to win if you can't stop your opponent from casting.  Many 40k players are attracted to Lord level characters that aren't casters and are turned off to the idea of their armies being led by a mandatory choice wizard-lord.  My only advice is that if this concept troubles you that much, put a full stop on and ask yourself if Fantasy is for you.  

2.  MSU is NOT king in Fantasy.  Fantasy has better balance than 40k in one major respect: MSU is not undisputed king.  The game is balanced so that MSU > Magic/Warmachines > Hordes > MSU.  If you play 100% MSU, despite what you may hear, larger units can brush aside your weaker units.  But if you bring nothing but large units, expect to get eaten alive by magic and warmachines that are capable of templating and characteristic testing them to death.  If you overload on magic and warmachines, small units will overwhelm you.  The best Fantasy armies, in my estimation, are balanced and contain each small units, big units, and magic/warmachines.  Sure, some armies do one of these aspects better than they do another, and you tailor your list to your strengths, but retaining balance here is the key to avoiding the rock/scissors/paper match that could otherwise arise.

3.  Go ahead, bring a pet unit.  Unlike 40k where pet units are frowned upon, in Fantasy you can build a list with a centerpiece pet unit and still achieve some success.  Good luck with your Legion of the Damned 40k list.  But you could easily play to great success a beefy unit of Plaguebearers, or Dark Elf Executioners.  I'm not saying all units are equal; some units will require more support to work well.  Dark Elf Executioners, for example, need a Hag Battle Standard Bearer and/or a Cauldron of Blood to be effective.  But you can still do it.  Fantasy is much more forgiving in that respect than 40k.  Yes, from a competitive standpoint you are better off taking 'good' units, but in Fantasy even mediocre units can and do shine.  I consider this one of the great redeeming qualities of the system.

4.  Multiple paths to victory.  40k, unfortunately, has one path to victory that is better than all the rest: heavy shooting backed up by just enough close combat to finish people and/or keep them honest.  A 40k list that strays too far from this formula will only ever have limited success.  This is another great redeeming quality for Fantasy: there are multiple ways to win.  You can be a very successful close combat list that has minimal shooting.  Plenty of people win plenty of tournaments with Warriors (and Daemons) of Chaos armies that are very, very heavy on close combat and very, very light on shooting.  On the other side of the coin, plenty of people win consistently with lists that are almost all shooting.  Granted, not every army has every avenue open, but the fact that there are multiple ways to win makes the different armies feel very characterful in a way that 40k armies rarely do.  Be honest, does a razorwolf list feel a ton different than a vanilla marine list?  No, it doesn't.  But a High Elf list feels completely different than a Wood Elf list.

The differences could go on forever, but I think I hit the big points.  Let me know in the comments if I missed anything big, or what.


  1. Good read. Looking forward to more. Fantasy has been tickling my brain lately. My lizardmen stare at me accusingly from their box (it's clear plastic... the Stegadons are looking at me!)

  2. Great article, its highlights why I'm playing lots Fantasy and generally ignoring 40k at the moment. I think you're one of the few people to acknowledge that just about any unit can be worked into a fantasy army to some degree of success (although I'm still trying to find a role for my Saurus Cav, my best painted unit, but so over-priced). This is what really has me turned off from 40k right now - I have so many "useless" units in my Eldar that I've invested a good deal of time painting up (Warp Spiders anyone?) but which now collect dust in my display case.

    I love the level of vaiety and experimenting that Fantasy allows. For example, playing Lizardmen, most people expect to see a Slann with Life due to the presumed collective wisdom of the internets - but I've talked with many other Lizardmen players that have tried other Lores and found ways to make them work. I'm using Light frequently and playing slightly more offensively, and I am enjoying the results.

    @Purgatus: break out those Lizards, it's a fun army!

  3. This article puts me in the mood to redesign my O&G! I want to play some games this autumn.