Everyone has a list of units or heroes that they like to play with in their army list. Mine just happens to be the most cost effective ones. Now I’m sure I’m not the only one that does this, but whenever a new codex comes out, I look through the book and construct something I like to call: a unit bucket.
The idea of the unit bucket is very simple: Separate the units that you can see yourself playing with, and the ones you can’t see yourself playing with. For me, I like cost effective units that fit the criteria of the army I’m trying to design. My playstyle is competitive and I love getting the best bang for my buck. The art style must also fit my needs as I have a particular taste of what kind of look I’m trying to go for. For example: I play Space Wolves. Although Thunderwolf Cavalry is one of the most badass units in the book in terms of cost effectiveness, I don’t own any. There is no official model for them, they take too long to convert, and/or I have to spend a good amount of money to find replacements. On top of this, I don’t like the idea of Space Marines riding giant wolves into battle. If I wanted something outlandish and fantasy-driven, I would play WHFB.
So why is making the unit bucket a good idea? For one, it gives you a clear focus to what you’re trying to accomplish when you’re designing your army. You take all the units that you like in terms of look, fluff or downright effectiveness and put them all to the side. Win or lose, you know that no matter what happens, these units will make you happy. This leads directly to the second reason why making a unit bucket is a good idea: You save money. By not purchasing the units you’ll never use for any reason, you save tons of money since you’re not over-committing into something with no return. For me, I’m a gamer. I only buy models that I play with and I can care less about buying a cool model to paint. You might be the exact opposite and that’s completely fine because you’re making a “unit bucket” for models you want to paint. Everyone’s in this hobby for their own reasons and that’s what makes this hobby awesome.
To show you guys what kind of insane thoughts I go through when I first look at any army book, let’s run through the Space Wolf Codex together. Let me take you back in time to the day I first sat down with the SW Codex:
Opens book and goes directly to the units.
Rune Priests are just fantastic. The fluff is good, their spells are great and they’re really cost effective. I can build a few from bits and pieces from my Wolf Pack.. which is awesome. Wolf Priests are good too, but they’re not as good as the RPs so I’ll save a few bits for them. The same applies to the Wolf Lord and the Battle Leader. Hmm.. the Wolf Lord can be made into quite the badass, so let’s save some bits for him just so I can play around with a configuration I like. Ohh.. look! I really like Ragnar because he fits my personality and his rules look really awesome. I think he brings real character to my army so let’s try and get one of him.
OK, that’s Rune Priest check and Ragnar check. Everyone else can get tossed in my “meh” bucket since they don’t really appeal to me as a gamer.
HQ check, now for some actual units..
Now I need to load up on some core troop units that will carry my list to victory. Which ones are the most cost effective? Well, I really like the Grey Hunters. They’re probably the best troop choice in the game right now so I’d be crazy not to take them! Let’s load them out with some meltas to deal with armor, some Wolf Guard with Power Fists to threaten ICs and put out wounds, give one Mark of the Wulfen and a Wolf Standard, and call it a day! Looks like 9 guys with a Wolf Guard in a Rhino.. so multiply that by 3 and voila! The bulk of my army is nice and chunky with 30 MEQ boots on the ground with Counter-attack and Ld.9.
Adds up some points..
Alright, looks like I got room to add some more stuff. Wolf Guard in Power Armor doesn’t look too cost effective and adding a big unit of them with Ragnar will only raise my kill points. Wolf Guard Terminators are pretty awesome.. they look cool, can take a lot of custom weaponry and have Wolf Claws. These would go really nice with Ragnar and his Furious Charge bonus! Hmm.. if I take Termies geared for battle, I might as well seal the deal with a Land Raider Crusader. I mean after all, foot slogging a bunch of expensive dudes across the battle field just doesn’t float my boat.
Adds up some more points..
Well.. looks like I have a few more points with nothing in my Heavy Slot yet.. so let’s add something that I like. I like big, loud, scary Vindicators on the field.. and due to my lack of imagination, let’s just add 3 of these. But wait.. these Long Fangs with 5x Missile Launchers are so damn attractive too! Points wise, they’re quite similar and I think they’re both really cost effective for the amount of firepower and threat they provide to the table. Why not. Let’s buy some of each for list flexibility.
Goes through the book again..
Now that I see some Bloodclaws, I’m still unsure which one is better: Grey Hunters or Bloodclaws? The big turn off for me here is that BCs are only WS3. I’m not really a big fluff kinda guy.. but that puts me off a lot. I like discipline and routine and Grey Hunters are not only better with their shooting, but their fluff matches what I want in my army more. Sure, the headstrong thing is kind of cool.. but if I really want the best bang for my buck with these guys, I’m going to have to invest in a Wolf Priest. Nah.. not really feeling it. With that in mind, I don’t think I’m going to get any Skyclaws or bikes either. I have enough anti-armor I think and Land Speeders don’t feel too “wolfy”.
Stops and looks at the Thunderwolf Cavalry..
Skips to Arjac Rockfist and begins reading..
The fluff is amazing and his stats are great. He’s a big burly brawler with a S10 Thunderhammer that he can throw! On top of this, he’s great at killing ICs and can’t be picked out in combat because he’s not an IC himself. Oh wow.. how is this guy not a auto-take in most lists? It says here that his fortitude is the reason the Great Wolf made him his Champion and his Saga of the Bear matches that perfectly. I’m definitely going to find a way to take this guy if I have the points.
Finishes the book and puts it down.
Now did you see what I did there? I looked through the book and pin-pointed all the units that share a special bond with me. Ragnar and Arjac just hit home for me in terms of fluff and character while the rest of the units I chose are cost effective and competitive. I’m a competitive gamer, but as you can see, I will refuse to take a unit if it does not fit my personal tastes. As for the Vindicators vs. Long Fangs debate, I went back and read the back stories on both and I loved them both to death. Vindicators are your big guns (and I love big guns) and your Long Fangs are your most experienced and elite marines (with big guns too!). Not only are they super effective vs. the many enemies of mankind, but their fluff compliments each other and that in itself, is very rewarding for me.
So what happens when your list can’t all the units you want to take? As long as you know you’re going to use them, get them! That’s pretty much what I did. For all the units that I couldn’t fit into my list the firs time, I made sure I was going to buy/build them so I can try them out in the many games ahead. Believe it or not, I still use the same list I put together on day 1 in the games I play today (with a few tweaks). I do not own any Bloodclaws or Thunderwolves, nor have I taken any Speeders or Bikes. I simply.. don’t care for them and I know no internet forum or whine thread is going to change my opinion.
In the end there’s nothing more satisfying than building your own army with the units you love while saving a few extra bucks. It’s your hobby, do with it what you wish. How close is the Unit Bucket idea to how you devour a new codex and design your miniature purchases?