Hey, Buddy – What’s your problem?

  • Posted by
  • at

A serious look at Warhammer 40k problem solving.

Before we get into Warhammer 40k problem solving – specifically army list generation or deployment problems – let’s take a look at a real world example of a problem.


Imagine a tall office building downtown in a major city. Imagine it has 50 stories and hundreds of offices spread throughout the building. There are six elevators located in a bank that goes up and down through the floors all day every day.

As the offices become fully staffed congestion starts to occur and lines begin to form at the elevator banks every morning and eventually stretch all the way out of the building and onto the street. This causes people to become quite frustrated and late for work causing even more problems for the offices in the building.

So I ask.. Wut the problem is?

Let’s further imagine that you are the person tasked with figuring out how to solve this problem. You show up at the meeting with your boss and break out some very complicated charts. She asks you what the problem is and you say with the utmost confidence – “We need more elevators.”

Do we? Maybe it would have been nice if we added more elevators to the bank before the building was completed but now that we have a full building (or a fully purchased and painted army – stay with me!!) adding elevators (or new figures) may be outside of our scope.

To really solve this problem we need to take a step back and look at the whole situation. We need to avoid stating what we think the solution is in the problem statement. So our real reply to our boss should be “The problem is the elevators are not making it down to the lobby to pick up passengers and get them to work often enough.”

We further go on to explain that it is likely that once people start to get to work they begin to navigate through the building – using the elevators – to go get coffee or visit with friends or whatever. This further delays the elevators getting down to the main level to pick up workers just arriving to work.

I am sure there are many solutions to this problem but the easiest one to implement is changing how the elevators operate. IE making to where the elevators cannot be used to navigate to higher floors from any floor other than the lobby during the hours of 7-9 or that if you get on an elevator from any floor other than the lobby it will only take you down to the lobby. All easy fixes to the programming of the elevator without having to tack on new elevators to the outside of the building. Follow?

So… What the heck am I talking about?

Let’s say we just played a game of 40k with our IG auto cannon spam against someone’s shiny new chaos army with 3 or 4 land raiders. We set up behind our aegis and for the first two turns of the game we shoot with all of our guns and make the pew pew sounds like we always do. We don’t do anything to the Land Raiders and his assault squads get out and chew us to pieces of the course of the next two rounds.

We can say ‘Crap.. I need more melta guns’ or we can address the problem using the method described above and say ‘He was able to get into my lines with his assault elements and grind me down not allowing me to showcase my army’s strength.’

Meaning we might be able to address the problem with a better deployment or set up or by adding a single figure with a power axe costing us 3 dollars instead of adding 3 or 4 melta gunners that may cost several times that amount and result in more painting time that you don’t have.

Of course this scenario is taking for granted that we have finite resources of either time or money. This is not a factor for everyone. I find that most people at least care about one or the other and by approaching issues that we encounter in games with a problem solving tactic like this one we will end up saving one or both.

This is a very basic 40k example but it has a huge impact on how we approach the game in general. You will find those guys who have been using the same figures since 2nd edition and still continue to win games. This is likely because they are sub consciously using the method described here to adapt to the changing format of the game, year after year. I like to buy figures. I like to model them and as I become a better painter I start to actually enjoy painting them. It is easy to fall victim to the process of just throwing money and time at the hobby but we don’t always have to if we want to stay competitive.

The main take away here is ‘Don’t state a solution in the problem statement.’

Thanks for reading!

Comments are closed.