Saturday, 14 May 2011

Guest Article - Fluffy vs not Unfluffy

Today we have a guest article courtesy of my regular gaming opponent Mike. The words are all his though I take the blame for the picture ;-)

Ok, so most of us know how to write fluffy armies (or know GMort’s email address if we need help doing so). There is a wealth of background information out there, off the top of my head we have the background section of our codex, various short stories in White Dwarf, the entire black library section (especially the Horus Heresy novels, if you haven’t read them, I recommend you do) and even various films of all descriptions that aren’t 40k (or fantasy) related but can still serve as inspiration.

So we’re not short on themes, however we are short on people theming their army well and still making it, for want of a better word, competitive. For some theme is short-hand for “tying my arm behind my back” and in many cases a theme will cause people to do that. But this needn’t be the case!

Now, hands up, how many people are thinking this is about to spiral into a “there’s nothing wrong with counts-as” article? Yeah, most of you? You at the back scratching your shoulder, either put your hand all the way up, or all the way down, don’t hover in the middle and wait for my response. Ok you’re putting it down. You and the other 4 people are correct, thank you all five of you for reading the title!

Now, I have no problem with counts-as, I think in many cases it benefits the hobby, it allows me to field an army of Custodes when currently there is no codex specifically designed to represent them (and there isn’t likely to be) but I want a Custodes army because it looks cool. But that’s a tangent, today I want to instil the virtues of not un-fluffy army list writing.

I’m seeing some blank looking faces around….and you, you look angry….is that because I used a double negative?’re nodding…ok I better explain.

So I think it’s obvious what a fluffy unit, but I’ll explain anyway. In a Salamanders army it is considered in theme to take lots of fire and heat based weaponry as apparently if you come from a volcano based planet then you like weaponry that does the same as what that mountain does anyway. This is actively encouraged by GW who in the space marine codex have put a salamanders special character who actively rewards you for using those self same weapons I just mentioned.

Conversely, according to their background, Salamanders don’t use a lot of jump packs or anti-grav vehicles as apparently if the ground is on fire you don’t want to jump over it, but I digest*. So a “fluffy” or “themed” Salamanders army will contain lots of melta weapons, Thunder-Hammers and Flamers of all descriptions. It will contain a minimal amount of anti-grav. But those two extremes don’t cover everything.

Bikes, Thunderfire Cannons, Dakka preds, Librarians, I could go on, but if you want a Salamanders army then you’ll own the Space Marine codex already and can go through it and make a list of stuff that isn’t a Jump Pack Marine or a Land Speeder. All these things are frequently over-looked by people in their initial haste to theme an army as they’re not particularly fluffy. But since they’re not un-fluffy why not take them? What’s un-fluffy about a Salamander bike squad armed with Melta or Flamer weaponry getting into range while they have the chance?

And although my example is limited to one flavour of the Space Marine codex, this is by no means the limit of people over-looking not un-fluffy choices.

Biel-tan aspect warrior eldar armies….Biel-tan still have guardians, vypers and wraith constructs (after all, lot of Aspect Warriors die!).

Imperial guard based on Dan Abnett’s Gaunt’s Ghost books are all infantry…but they rode in another regiments tanks on numerous occasions and even phantine aircraft in at least one book.

Ork armies themed as Bad Moonz should have lots of flash gitz and Mega-Armoured Nobz, but they’ll have their share of Lootas and Boyz too.

And Chaos Marine armies with 2 Daemon Princes with Lash of Submission would probably have a lot of Slaanesh marked troops but what’s stopping you taking an odd unit of Nurgle plague Marines? (that’s right dual lash players, an odd unit, not your entire troop contingent!)

So next time you theme an army, spare a thought for useful units which may not be the fluffiest, but are by no means un-fluffy.

*10 points for getting that reference

Thoughts and Comments are (as usual) most welcome.


  1. The only problem for me with this is that when doing a fluffy list your promoting the taking of the pros to the fluff but ignoring the negatives. Isn’t it the combination of both that make the army truly fluffy as it highlights both elements. A regular game of 40k is to small to really depict what a true fluff army would look like so you need to be a bit more ruthless with it to truly get a feel especially as all marines are melta heavy these days so how do you make Salamanders more distinct, other than one of the most over used SCs in the game without highlighting the negative parts.

    What your actually saying is pick a theme you like in the story that has some decent rules and then add more good stuff on to make it work and justify it by saying it can happen rather than it commonly works that way. This is fine and is part of the game and people should have fun picking there lists but i do protest at using a fluff justification for power building off a theme where your looking for loop holes over the more balanced approach a fluff army should have in it.

  2. Word. Biel-Tan Eldar are a particular bugbear. As far as I'm concerned, Aspect Warriors should do the heavy lifting, with Guardians reserved for objective camping and support roles. I've heard the die-hards say "Guardians are there to defend the Craftworld so what are they doing off it?", but that way lies the madness of "is your army a large, undefended civilian population? No? Then my Dark Eldar are going home" or "why are we even fighting a ground war when we have orbital weapons?" This ain't a realistic or consistent setting and the best has to be made of that.


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