Friday, 27 May 2011

List Design for Beginners - Part 3(d) - What Army to Choose?

So far we've covered,

Blood Angels, Chaos Daemons and Chaos Space Marines,
Dark Eldar, Eldar and Grey Knights,
Imperial Guard, Necrons and Orks.

As the whole 'alphabetical order' system seems to be working just fine we'll carry on like that.

Space Marines.

First lets clear up a bit of a misconception. The newer Space Marine variants like Blood Angels and Space Wolves are not better than 'vanilla' Space Marines, they're just...well...different and therefore have their own builds that work well. I have Marine builds that can happily kick the shit out of other Marine books because they're builds that compliment the codex. If a build would be better using the Grey Knights book then that's what I'll use but the fact that I still have 'vanilla' Marine armies that win games should tell you something as I don't play to lose now do I?

Now that I've got that off my chest...

'Best Of' - A concept that was first made popular by Stelek of YTTH that was then stolen by lots of people who claimed to have been doing it that way all along...Some of them actually may have been I suppose, but if they were then they were keeping very quiet about it, lol. Anyway, the idea was to take Marine units that were cost effective and offered both Duality* and Redundancy* and then repeat that idea across your whole army.

* These are all fundamental list building concepts we'll go into later in the series along with a few others that I've mentioned in earlier articles.

The basic format was a Master of the Forge with Conversion Beamer who fortified a building and sat in it with a unit of Camo Cloak equipped Sniper scouts (so they all got a 2+ Cover Save), 3 Basic Dreadnoughts, 2 or 3 Tactical Squads in a Rhino with Multi-Melta + Flamer, Some Multi-Melta + Heavy Flamer equipped Landspeeders and 3 Predators in the cheapo Autocannon + Heavy Bolter configuration. This particular build is still an excellent example of list building at it's finest and is a good example of all the concepts we've been talking about as we've gone along so far.

Biker Armies - Taking a Space Marine Captain or Kor'sarro Khan on a Bike enables us to take Space Marine Biker Squads as Troops. This gives a highly mobile army that can pack a lot of Melta but is quite low on models even at high points values. It also really requires a tooled up, expensive Command Squad if it actually wants to kill anything that's a bit tough as normal Space Marine Bikers aren't what you'd call an assault unit by any stretch of the imagination. The basic template is Biker Captain, Biker Command Squad, Space Marine Biker Squads supported by either Land Speeders or more Bikers depending on your preferences. I've also seen it fielded with two Captains and two Command Squads but that particular army is 'Elite' in the extreme. Both variants are relatively cheap to buy if you use the  Dark Angels Ravenwing Battleforce as a basis. Four of the aforementioned battleforces will set you back just over £200 but will give you 24 bikers, 4 Attack Bikes and 4 Landspeeders to build your army out of.

Editors Note : I've just checked and Wayland Games are currently doing the Ravenwing Battleforce for £41.00. Their banner is at the top of my blog so give it a click if your interested ;-)

Dreadnought Spam - The Master of the Forge enables us to take Dreadnoughts in both the Elite and Heavy Support slots giving us the option of taking up to six in total. Most often used to take six Ironclads but has also been utilised to gain access to six 'Rifleman'** or 'Dakka'** Dreadnoughts in the same army. The Master of the Forge/Multiple Dreadnought concept is also a fundamental part of certain 'drop' builds.

** These are the common internet nicknames for a Dreadnought that's replaced both it's arms with Twin-Linked Autocannons as four Twin-Linked S7, AP 4 shots at BS 4 can be pretty scary...

Fast and Slow - A hybrid of the Biker and the Dreadnought builds. The basic idea is that the Bikes zip about killing things and drawing the enemy fire while the Dreadnoughts move forward and punch things when they reach the enemy in later turns. I'm not convinced about the idea myself but I'm told it has been used effectively by other people. If any of them are reading this then feel free to extol it's virtues in the comments section.

Drop Pods - Another army that requires a bit of practice to utilise correctly. The 'Drop Pod Assault' rule enables you to drop half of your army (rounding up) on turn one with the rest arriving from reserves as normal. Drop Pods also have the advantage of not dying if they land on another unit like most 'deep strikers' do, rather they stop just short of whatever they would have landed on...they can still scatter off the board though so be careful ;-)
There are many different 'drop' army concepts though my personal favourite is to alternate between standard Dreadnoughts and Tactical Squads till you reach your chosen points value (including a Master of the Forge once you need that 4th Dreadnought) and then use the Dreadnoughts as an 'Alpha Strike' first wave with the Tactical squads arriving later in support. A Master of the Forge with no upgrades, 6 normal Dreadnoughts in Drop Pods and 5 Tactical Squads (with free upgrades) in Drop Pods comes to 1965 points if your interested. Dropping a Tactical Squad and a Dreadnought and their associated Drop Pods reduces the army by about 250 points so you can easily scale it down if you so desire.

Salamanders - By taking Vulkan in your list, all your Flamers, Heavy Flamers, Meltaguns and Multi-Meltas become twin-linked. Combine this with BS 4 and you have Melta weapons that rarely miss (It's something like an 11% chance of missing I believe) and Flamers that re-roll to wound. This rather cleverly makes your army behave exactly like a salamanders army would, lol. Don't forget to take some long range weapons though or you could find yourself outmanoeuvred or crippled at range by certain opponents.

Razorback Spam and Rhino Rush - Yes they can do these if they like but they are (imo) two of the 'other Marines do it better' builds.

Hopefully the above will have shown you that there's still plenty of life in that particular book. It also contains the 40 point Thunderhammer + Storm Shield armed Assault Terminator which is one of the most cost effective assault unit in any Marine book and arguably one of the most points effective in any Codex...

Editors Note : It's also been pointed out to me via E-Mail that my alphabetical order system has failed by virtue of the fact that I forgot to mention both Black Templars and Dark Angels...I am therefore going to pretend that I intended to cover Dark Angels with Space Marines, sneak Black Templars in the next article with an equally lame excuse and just hope everyone believes my poor attempt at deceit...

Dark Angels.

Dark Angels basically had no build that couldn't be done better by somebody else in Power Armour. The recent FAQ has however created one viable build by virtue of the fact that they now get the 3+ invulnerable save version of the Storm Shield and the two shot version of the Cyclone Missile Launcher. It goes a little something like this...

The Dark Angels Build - Belial, Upgraded Terminator Command Squad with Apothecary, Cyclone Missile Launcher and maybe a Standard Bearer, 3 or more Deathwing Terminator units with Cyclone Missile Launchers and a couple of Ravenwing Attack Squadrons with 2 Meltaguns and a Multi-Melta attack Bike. Everything that can have a Storm Shield gets one, every unit that can take a Cyclone Missile Launcher does so.

If anybody deserves a new codex then it's the Dark Angels as only having one build that works and a load that don't must be pretty annoying.

Space Wolves.

The Space Wolves Codex is another fine example of what wonders can be done with a 5th Edition codex if some thought has gone into it's design. Their Grey Hunters get the 'Chaos' weapon load-out of Bolter, Bolt Pistol and Close Combat Weapon giving them that all important extra attack, in addition they get the 'Counter-attack' special rule so they get the same number of attacks when assaulted (if they pass their Leadership test) as they do when assaulting. This is somewhat mitigated by their lack of a 'sergeant' making them Leadership eight, but even taking that into account they're a bloody bargain.
Wolf Guard can be taken as elites and configured with almost any combination of Marine equipment that you so desire. Additionally, members of the Wolf Guard unit can be attached to certain other Space Wolf units giving the controlling player considerable flexibility in unit configuration. This wide variety of war-gear also extends to your HQ's making them flexible in the extreme...Oh...and you can take four HQ's if you like...
Before this turns into a unit by unit Codex review, lets look at some builds...

Razorback Spam - A Grey Hunters squad in a Las/Plas Razorback costs 150 points, three Wolf Guard with Combi-Meltas in a Las/Plas Razorback costs 144 points and your Long Fang Squads can take them as well. Add in a Rune Priest or two with the 5+ Cover save power (Storm Caller) and at least one with Tempests Wrath in order to annoy deep striking opponents and maybe a Chooser of the Slain or two in order to keep Infiltrators at a safe distance. Twelve razorbacks at 2000 points is enough to annoy most people but certain Tau, Dark Eldar and Imperial Guard builds will still give you a rough time should they be going first.

Cavalry - Thunderwolf Cavalry were another 'broken' unit until people actually looked at their points cost and other limitations and then (most) people shut up about them. That's not to say that they're ineffective because they're still bloody good at what they do. You can almost do a pure cavalry but you'll need to have a couple of Grey Hunters units to hold objectives if you want to win two thirds of the missions. If you take Canis Wolfborn as a HQ then Fenrisian Wolves become troops but are unable to score by virtue of their special rules so you can do an all Cavalry list but you'd need to completely destroy your opponent in Objective games in order to win. The basis of a list like this would be Canis (or a Wolf Lord on Thunderwolf), Iron Priests on Thunderwolf with Cyberwolves, Fenrisian Wolves, some Grey Hunters for objective holding duties and Thunderwolf Cavalry (Obviously). As Games Workshop don't produce a Thunderwolf model other than Canis then you'd have to find a 3rd party who supplied something you could use instead, though I've seen lists using Chaos Horses from Fantasy, Khorne Juggernaughts, converted Elven Lions from the Chariot kit as well as any number of other options.

Loganwing - Logan Grimnar makes Wolf Guard units troops so you can have an army of them if you like. For the most part these consist of Power Armoured Wolf Guard with attached Cyclone Missile Launcher Terminators with various support units but the possibilities for such builds are far to varied to discuss here without starting a new series of articles but it's enough to say that it's an extremely viable possibility for now.

Battleforces - I know that's a dirty word amongst competitive gamers but it's possible to take quite a varied combination of Space Wolf units and still have an entirely viable army as long as you remember to cover the basics.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this section, there's a lot of variety possible with this codex so it's not surprising that it's the basis for many 'Counts-As' armies.


Tau only really have one viable build and it's somewhat one dimensional if were being honest. Most Tau armies work by shooting at you and hoping they kill your whole army before you either shoot them dead first or get into combat with them and then kill them dead. It's a running joke at my FLGS (started by me I'm ashamed to say) that if a Tau player is looking at the assault stats of anything in his army other than Kroot then your probably about to win.

The Tau Build - Commander with Crisis Suit, 3 units of Crisis Suits, mandatory unit of Fire Warriors, some Kroot, Piranhas, possibly some Pathfinders and some combination of Hammerheads or Broadsides in the Heavy Support slot.

I've honestly got nothing against Tau. They're an extremely effective army when used correctly but if you want to win games then your army configuration is going to be very similar to every other Tau player who wants to win games...

Okay that's three more done. Just Tyranids, Witch Hunters and Black Templars (that I should have done first but forgot all about) left to cover before we can get stuck into some of the list building fundamentals.

Thoughts and comments are (as usual) most welcome.


  1. as a DA player Amen!! new codex please.

    p.s. i'm really liking this series. Despite being able to write lists (at lease i think so) now

  2. @ Citizenwilliams - There will be one more post like this one covering the basic army builds available using each codex and then I'll move on to some fundamentals of actual list building like redundancy, duality, bubble-wrap and so on.

  3. Since you asked; I have had a lot of success with my Dread Biker lists. 3 Dreads & some Predators supported the scoring bikers very well.

    I would also disagree with your first statement. Newer Space Marine variants are better than 'vanilla' Space Marines for the generic marine builds many people play. Ultramarines may have a few tricks (like bikes) left but for the most part they play second fiddle to the new books.

  4. @Lyracian

    You are wrong. Depends on your idea of "generic". SM can do Razorback spam while not having to give up an Elite Slot for LD9 and having both shooty dreads and preds. Also, Null Zone is an advantage.

    SW do a more Hybrid List with TWC and then either Wolf Scouts and Lone Wolves and BA use Flamerbacks and Assbacks. All 3 are strong armies.

    Rhino rush is done different. Most Marine chapters benefit of a cheap way to take Meltaguns in Mid-field.

    SM can pick a heavy weapon in their troop choices, so you can either go with the old MM/Flamer or combat squad a Meltagun/Combimelta on the Rhino and a Missile Launcher half. Having a single Troop choice do double-duty of mid-fielder and objective scorer is really nice to have. SW uses them as cheap scorers and BA Rhino iffy without some anti-infantry on FA.

    And SW are the most "Chaos-like" codex so of course is used for CSM players.

  5. @ Lyracian - I stand by my original statement for all the reasons most eloquently stated by Gx1080.

    @ Gx1080 - All good points.

  6. @Gx1080,
    Just because I have a different opinion to you does not mean I am wrong. Since this series is targeted at new players I feel strongly enough about this to give them a different opinion.

    Unless you buy specific models, like bikes, a new player getting a marine army off ebay or a couple of battle boxes will end up with a pile of marines and an assortment of tanks (including dreads & speeders).

    Unless you are tailoring your army around Null Zone you are going to be better off with Wolves or BAngels. Both offer the new player a lot more flexibility.

    Wolves pay the same for all their tanks; get cheaper Devestators; Grey Hunters bonuses more than make up for the loss of Leadership 9 especially in five man units that get to have a special weapon for less cost than 5 Ultramarines!

    BAngles get the massive advantage of tanks that can move and five as well as getting five man units with a special weapon (and keeping Leadership 9).

    Ultimately it goes back to the advice I gave in part one. If you buy Marines you then have six codices to play with and only need to pay for one army. However if you are only buying one codex I would not recommend Codex Ultramines as the one to get.

  7. You are still wrong, FYI.

    I list the advantages of SM over the other codexes, you list the advantages of SW and BA. Neither of them are "better".

    Also, I don't need to tailor for Null Zone. Just take a 100 pts Librarian. Thanks to Null Zone, I can take a shooty unit on every FOC slot. SW can't. This also goes for the Devastator issue.

    SM get Combat Tactics, which is one of the most powerful LD abilities on the game. They don't get stuck in combat so they get to shoot again and, if you haven't noticed, shooting is how you kill stuff at 40k. Of course they cost more. 1 pt more per guy. Weeee.

    BA NEED to be fast because a)They don't get to have shooty dreads and preds on the same army and b)They use Infernus Pistols, which are woefully short-ranged.

    Come on, tell the whole story.

    Finally, with the things that you get on AobR sets and SM Battleforces, you can make a SM army more easily. Just trade the Assault Squads for Speeders/Attack Bikes and the Terminators for Preds or more Dreads for MotF armies.

    Same by buying Ravenwing Battleforces for Biker armies.

  8. Just because you disagree with me does not make me wrong or you right.

    I am "telling the whole story". Bangels do not need Infernus Pistols. You get to take your "Command Squad" with any HQ; you can move and fire your tanks; Troops in a Razorback swap their bolters for swords and get a free melta for the same cost as the Ultramarine unit. If you want Dreads & Preds then Wolves do that well enough.

    Neither of us are going to convince the other to change our minds. I have presented the information so if we do get any new players reading this they can make up their own minds on how weak the Ultramarine codex is compared to the other options. Ultramarines get the ability to run away, Vulkan, scoring Bikes, Gate of Infinity and Null Zone. Build an army around one of those or do not bother with Ultramarines.

  9. of course in my experience most new players tend to go for looks over effectiveness anyway

  10. @ Mark - What I'm attempting to do with this part of the series is to give people an idea of what different types or lists work best with each codex.
    This should enable a 'new' player to pick an army that suits both his preferred idea of a play-style, and choice of aesthetics without getting that horrible feeling of buyers remorse when he realises he's spent £500 on an army that doesn't do what he wanted it to.
    This isn't exactly a cheap hobby after all.

  11. Dreads and Preds SW lists suck. SW don't support that playstyle, SM do. The Elte slot for LD 9 thing, not having Heavy Weapons on troops, not having Null Zone to making sure that the shooting kills. Come on.

    You are supporting the same old "the best army at CC wins", when is shooting what it matters. And if you want CC with SM, buy Hammernators, which will destroy anything on CC.

    Also, BA do need Infernus Pistols. You need two AT shots to be able to guarantee that you will do damage to a tank.

  12. @gmort, sorry meant the looks point more towards the grand debate of vanilla marines not being worth taking as the newer books are "better"

    this series has been kinda interesting, be interested to see how you approach the actual list building


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