Monday, 23 May 2011

System Generic: Choosing a force

Happy post-rapture everybody!

So, the world didn't end (did anybody really expect it to?), and I'm back. Why? Why the hell not?

Today I will be regaling you with a rambling article on generic force choice. Again, some of you may be asking yourselves "why?" and once again the answer is: why not? Okay, so it might be that I've had a few of these things sneak up on me and smack me on the head lately. It might...

To most of you, this will be old, and nothing news-worthy. Anyone who doesn't feel like that probably stumbled here from Google (I've had a few hits that I suspect ended up here by accident. Hi!).

No matter what (miniature-based) game system is your personal poison, at some point – a rather early one, too – you’ll have to build yourself a force. This entails all sorts of decisions, from the size of the force (“Should I get fifteen hundred points of Space Marines, or two thousand?”) to its faction (“Empire or Dwarfs for my gunpowder fix?”).

This post isn’t about those things.

This post is about what the force needs to be able to do. This will vary from game system to game system, and, indeed, from faction to faction. At its most basic, what any force needs to be able to do is stipulated by the victory conditions of the most commonly encountered scenarios, whether there is one (as in Blood Bowl) or six (as in Warhammer Fantasy) or even more.

We’ll look at Blood Bowl first, shall we?

To win a game of Blood Bowl, you need to do one thing: score more touchdowns than your opponent. This breaks down into two parts: an ability to score said touchdowns, and an ability to stop the opponent from doing the same. Any team needs to be capable, to some degree, of doing both; if you always fail to score, but also prevent your opponent(s) from doing so, you will force a lot of draws, but not win any games. If you manage to score, but not to prevent the opponent from scoring, it becomes a toss-up of who can take the most points fastest.

So, while a team made up entirely of Mummies or Black Orks might sound like fun to the bashy-minded out there, it won’t win any games.

Forwards and onwards.

Warhammer Fantasy. There are six “standard” scenarios: the Pitched Battles. There are, however, only three victory conditions.

Blood and Glory depends on having enough standards.

The Watchtower depends on holding a single building.

The other four use victory points (plus, the first two have victory points as a decider in case of the primary being inconclusive).

So, to be able to consistently win at Warhammer Fantasy (it’ll just be “Fantasy” from now on) an army needs to be capable of punching face, hold a building, clear a building of an enemy presence, and have the standards not to run away (why exactly two thousand points of Ogres would look around, realize they have no standards, and decide to go home to sew some, baffles me, but hey…).

The first one is relatively simple, and infinitely complicated. It’s what most of us build armies to do: kill the enemy. I’m not looking to give you list-building advice in specifics, so we’re moving on.

The second and third ones (the Watchtower) mean three things. Firstly, you need a Core infantry unit of no more than twenty models if you want to be able to occupy the tower from the start. Secondly, regardless of your capabilities in the first, you need at least one infantry unit that can reliably hold the tower until the end of the game. Third, you need at least one (though more might be recommended) unit capable of tossing the enemy out.

For some armies, those three might be the same unit (twenty Chaos Warriors seem like a horror to shift from a building, don’t they?) but for others, the first sort of excludes the second and third. My Empire Halberdiers might be able to take a building with twenty men, but the likelihood would then be rather high that there weren’t enough of them left to hold it against a couple of dedicated assaults. So to send them in, I’d like a unit of thirty at the least, which of course means they couldn’t start the game in the tower. Ah, decisions, decisions, decisions.

My solution will (probably) be a unit of twenty flagellants, made Core by my Arch Lector. See, the scenario has altered my army choices.

The fourth bit (Blood and Glory) means that it might be prudent to bring a couple standards that you mightn’t have before. At two thousand five hundred points (which is what our local Fantasy Campaign will reach) you need the general and at least two more standards not to run straight away. A bit of redundancy would be nice, too. A single lucky cannonball, Spirit Leech or Dwellers Below later, and your general is dead, and your army runs, so a few more standards are necessary to make the list reliable.

I’m not even going to go into 40k. Why? Because this post would be seven pages long by the end, and nothing really new would have been contributed.

The same principle applies, though, as does it (I think) to any other game. The objectives of the scenario(s) affect the way a force is chosen if it wants to win.

With that note, I’m off.

Bye bye.

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