List Design for Beginners - Part 1 - Too Many Choices

I've been thinking a lot about list optimisation lately due to the 'Throne of Skulls' being 1500 points and all of my usual lists starting at 1750.

At the 1500 points level, not wasting any points is even more important. Picking the correct units for the job is of course an issue as well...

So where do we start?
Well it has to be the HQ really doesn't it.

He's the guy (or gal, daemon, mutant, robot, etc.) that shapes your army or supports it depending on who he (she, it, etc.) is.


We can split HQ's broadly into 3 types.

1) Utility.
2) Army Changer.
3) Death Star.

Obviously some cross over into multiple categories but there are few (if any) that can do everything.


The most obvious of these is the Librarian or equivalent thereof. He gives us a chance of neutralising enemy psychic powers (usually within a 24" range, but not always), has a selection of useful defensive powers (Various 'Shields of whatever' type abilities), Offensive ones (ranging from direct shooting attacks to combat enhancers like Warptime) and the more situational abilities (like Fear of the Darkness or Null Zone for example).
Also you have the individuals who enhance one unit directly such as Chaplains, Wolf Priests or give a specific benefit such as Masters of the Fleet in Imperial Guard Command Squads.
All of these have one thing in common, which is they support your army (or aspects of it) but don't actually do the 'Heavy Lifting' themselves.

Army Changers.

Formally a rarity, but have now (since the Space Marine Codex) become more common place are HQ's who change the whole way your army works. Characters who by virtue of the special rules they give you, move your army towards a very specific build. Vulkan is the most obvious example as he makes both your anti-tank (Melta) and anti-infantry (Flamers) much improved as well as making the one unit that doesn't need much help at smashing things (TH/SS Assault Terminators) better at smashing things.
Also in this category or those characters who move units within the FOC usually from something else into the troops slot. Bike Captains who allow you to take Fast Attack Bikers as troops, Mek boyz who allow Killer Kanz as Troops and with the recent arrival of Dark Eldar Haemonculi who shift Wracks also into troops.
Each of these choices forces fundamental changes to your army before you've even started.

Death Stars.

Units with incredible stat-lines or abilities who are there just to kick the shit out of things. That's oversimplifying some of them I suppose as some have other abilities as well. Good examples are the Swarmlord or other tooled-up Hive Tyrants, Lysander or pretty much any Greater Daemon in the Chaos Daemon book.

So, certain HQ's shape our army from the ground up others are added after in order to help out, but whichever you pick they need to compliment your plan not be in spite of it. Vulkan doesn't help a mech gunline particularly and neither would Lysander whereas a Librarian with Shield type power obviously would increase it's survivability by a fair margin.

So that's the guy at the top clarified, now for the guys who do the grunt work...

So 2/3rds of the standard missions require troops to win and the FOC says we have to have at least 2.

These fit into different types as well. Broadly speaking 3 types exist.

1) Sit on an objective and refuse to die
2) Take objective and then try not to die.
3) Actually do stuff as well as sit on an objective and refu....

Okay they're a little more difficult to categorise but we'll give it a go.

Sit on an objective and refuse to die.

The requirements for this role include but are not limited to,
1) High toughness
2) Good armour save
3) Weight of numbers

The best example of this is the Plaguebearer in the Daemon Codex. It's useless in a fight,moves slow and can't hurt vehicles but it's great at not dying. T5, 5+ Inv. and Feel no Pain combine to make a unit that at a trivial 75 points for a minimum unit of 5 will sit in cover and annoy the fuck out of you if you can't spare a dedicated assault unit to go in there and shift it.
Another example of this kind of unit are Space Marine scouts that with Camo Cloaks combined with a bolstered building gives them a 2+ Cover Save. Though different in use to the above mentioned Plaguebearer unit they serve the same purpose which is obviously 'hold an objective and bloody well stay there'.
A unit that does this job but in a completely different way are Gretchin from the Ork Codex. For 100 points you can get 30 bodies (you can have less, obviously) that can sit in terrain and go to ground for a 3+ cover save that will take forever to shift with ranged weaponry.
Then there's the Tyranid Tervigon. A 6 wound, T6 MC with a 3+ save that can spawn other scoring units around itself for free while simultaneously making them better.
All perform their role well but in slightly different ways and they (or something like them) are imo essential for any competitive army. Always remember however that if their job is to just sit there then avoid giving them unnecessary 'just in case' equipment if those points could be better spent elsewhere ;-)

2) Take objective and then try not to die.

Okay I have to give them a mention...Khorne Berzerkers. A unit of charging Khorne Berzerkers will punch a whole through 95% of units that are foolish enough to be out of a vehicle anywhere near an objective...which they then defend with...Bolt Pistols...So am I saying they're good?
Not really, but they are a good example of an objective taking unit rather than an objective keeping unit.
Of course one of the best units for this job is a standard (if there is such a thing) Marine. Decent stats across the board, Good armour, Frag and Krak Grenades and a wide variety of equipment options make them about the best choice for this role. Unfortunately not everyone has access to Marines now do they...
Swarm units approach this type of activity in the same way as they'd approach the 'not dying' one only they have to reach it first which necessitates large units or a sacrificial unit that gives a cover save to the unit behind it. Gretchin and Termagants amongst others might just reach an objective with enough numbers to still be able to switch back to the job of 'Not dying' by the same 'Go to ground, don't get assaulted' method they would have been using if they had been there all along.

3) Actually do stuff as well as sit on an objective and refu....

Be aware of what you want the unit to do and equip it accordingly. One of the biggest mistakes I see (and if I'm honest the one I used to make the most and probably sometimes still do) was loading a squad with enough equipment to open a shop when you had a specific purpose in mind for them but kept adding stuff 'just in case'.
As a brief rule of thumb, if dropping the upgrades is enough for another unit then you've probably overspent a bit, lol.

I think that'll do for now. I'll cover the other FOC slots tomorrow and do some sample units for specific purposes either then or the day after.

Thoughts, Comments are (as usual) most welcome.
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