Lets talk today about one of the most venerable army building philosophies out there: Spamming.
First a definition:
SPAM ARMY: An army designed to contain as many identical min-maxed pieces of equipment or optimized units, based on a mathematical determination of the equipment/unit’s superiority on a per/point cost basis.
Once you get the basics of any gamesystem down, you can begin to do cost-benefit calculations to any set of things as complex as army-books/codices to determine the most undercosted units or pieces of equipment. While we all like to believe that Games Workshop balances everything out perfectly, we all know in practice this is an impossible goal.
Conventional wisdom says that once the best unit in a army has been determined you should spam that unit/equipment as widely as you can, to effectively gain a points advantage over a non-spammed list, and give yourself a great tabletop advantage.
We see these lists everywhere. From the min-maxed las/plas squads of 4th to the new melta-spam builds in 5th. Lists such as these are commonly available off the net, and every day some new player picks one up and starts collecting, sure his path to victory is certain.
It is my premise that this is utter hogwash.
To be sure, the spam list does have its advantages. It relies on a smaller set of divergent units and is easier to use for newer players. It tends to be relatively straightforward to use, also a bonus for newcomers. Finally the list does not have single points of failure, and the loss of individual units is seldom crippling.
Now look at the advantages a spam list gives to its opponent. The number one advantage is the removal of the critical skill of target priority. When facing a spam list, veteran players don’t have to apply their judgement skills from unit to unit to determine effectiveness, as the units are identical. The game becomes an exercise in blasting the closest unit, or those advancing on objectives. Worse still, spam lists are very easy to identify player intent with. In contrast, a divergent list with multiple units with similar mission roles presents much more of a challenge to enemies, who can often make mistakes regarding target priority, or fatally misjudge what the army is even doing as it moves about the table.
Is that dev squad with 4 missile launchers in cover, or the triple las-cannon predator, or the advancing Land Raider Redeemer the critical target? Choose wisely… What I believe to be true is spam lists are crutches for new players, which artificially increase their effectiveness, while divergent lists are superior in the hands of more experienced players. If you’ve ever had a game against a seemingly “non-focused” list and gotten wiped out, but just couldn’t nail down exactly where it all went wrong you are seeing this point in action.
~Perhaps the next time you draw up an army, try to add a bit of subterfuge and variety to your units. It just might pay off on the tabletop. Your turn!