To quote Dwight D Eisenhower, “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.” In WFB, as with most war games, planning your army can be more work than playing the game itself.
Happy Tuesday everyone! Today, I’m going to be talking about the basics of writing a good list for WFB. In case we haven’t met yet, I’m Adam from TheDiceAbide.com, and I will be your guide. Before you play any game of WFB, you will first need to write up a list. Sometimes this can be as easy as taking all your models, adding up the points and hoping to hit the point limit, but most of the time, you’re going to want to put some thought into your army and really figure out a tough list. Everyone has their own way of playing, own play styles and own strategies, but today, I’m going to go over what I consider the essentials, as well as some general pointers to help you write a good list.
The simple bare necessities
When constructing a list, one of the first things you should consider is your command structure. This typically consists of your general and battle standard bearer, but may also include additional heroes that can be used to bolster a units Ld which you expect to get out of your general’s 12″ bubble. For armies which do not rely heavily on Ld, such as Tomb Kings, this portion of your army may be less critical, and for armies like Ogres and Beastmen, who have poor Ld, keeping these units alive is of the utmost importance. In my Ogres and Beasts, I generally prefer to give my general and BSB as much protection as they can get, since losing either one of them can really cripple my army, Additionally in my Beastmen, I put a Great Bray Shaman (Ld 8) inside my unit of Bestigors with Standard of Discipline, boosting them to Ld 9 and letting them operate outside my general’s very crowded Ld bubble.
After I’ve established the kind of command units I’ll be taking, I start to think about magic defense. This can range from just having a Level 2 with either a Dispel Scroll or Staff of Sorcery to provide some minimal defense, or more often, I run a Level 4 in anything over 2000 points. The reasons to run a level 4 are many, but to quickly summarize, it both increases your magic defense and your magic offense. Occasionally, there are some armies which I think can get away with less magic defense than a level 4, this would include High Elves, since they already get +1 to dispel, they could potentially take a Staff of Sorcery on their Level 2 and dispel like a level 4 for much fewer points, or if your army has other ways to compensate (Rune Priests, Warrior Priests, Spell Breaker Daemonic gift, etc.). Overall though, if you have no magic defense at all, you will have a very hard game ahead of you.
After this point, every army is going to be a bit different, so I wouldn’t say hordes of infantry or large monsters are necessities across all armies, instead I’ll go into some tactical advice.
Focus young Jedi
It is very easy to get lost in the variety that each book has to offer, you will want every unit in your army all the time, and isn’t common that you will be able to take absolutely everything you want. To make the best out of this situation, you need to focus on exactly what you want to accomplish. When I start thinking about an army, before I even start writing what’s in the list itself, I try to think of what phase of the game that the army should dominate (Movement, Magic, Shooting or Combat). My Ogres dominate the combat phase, my Lizardmen dominate the magic phase, etc. Having this kind of focus allows me to kind of hit the enemy really hard in at least one phase, and in the process usually defend myself the best against the enemy in that phase as well. When you make an army that seems fairly balanced in all phases, you may think that you have the edge, but in the end, it means that you wont dominate the enemy in any phase, and often times, the enemy will find a weakness to exploit.
Even the Movement phase can be powerful when controlled by skilled opponent. I never thought that a pure Slaanesh army would be good, until my friend Britton started completely controlling me in the movement phase, dictating when combat would happen and what units would be involved. By controlling the flow of the battle, he was able to avoid fighting my big death star and pick off all my supporting units for the victory. To further his goal, he uses multiple Heralds with Siren Song, to force you into charging some worthless redirection unit, or run away and suffer the consequences. His entire army is built around the focus of controlling movement, with large numbers of mounted Daemonettes and Fiends. When you are writing your list, if possible, you should try to use units which both work towards your focus and lend support, which is what he accomplishes.
Once you have decided which phase you want to dominate, you should try to figure out at least one more phase where you think you can gain the upper hand. This ensures that the opponent will have multiple threats to deal with, and that even if you are equally matched in one phase, you have another which should push the game in your favor. I’ll use my Lizards as an example. My typical 2500 army has a really mean Slaan (who obviously dominates the magic phase), and then the rest of the army is pretty much blocks of Saurus, Temple Guard and Stegadons, quite a gruesome wall of scaled muscle to fight through, making my army both a threat in the magic phase and in the combat phase.
The last part to making a strong list is proper support. You may think that your Ogre Horde is the bee’s knees, but what is going to happen when a Steam Tank comes your way and makes you park there all game, or what about those Great Eagle spamming High Elves who are redirecting your unit of doom to the point of uselessness? This is where support comes in. To make the most of your army, you need to know how to support it’s strength. This can mean that if you’re doing a gun line empire army, a unit of flagellants, great swords or just a massive block of Halberdiers will be very useful to tie up units that make it across the board. If you’re doing a deathstar army, then you need to have the capability of killing charge redirectors who can tie you up all game, and so on.
In my Ogre army, I have a couple units who are entirely focused on Support: Mournfangs, Ironblasters and to a lesser extent, my Stonehorn. The Mournfangs are simple charge redirectors and warmachine hunters, the Ironblasters are there to hurt enemy monsters (more importantly Steam Tanks), or try and pop some warmachines, and the Stonehorn is there to look scary and soak up some fire, or chase off charge redirectors that get too close. Using all these units to run off redirectors means that I usually get to deliver my payload of Ogres and hopefully win the game.
When you are adding support to your list, it will take a few games to figure out exactly how much you need. If you spend too much on support, you will be sacrificing in areas where your army may be stronger, while if you spend too little, your enemy will be able to take advantage and take the upper hand. There is no set rule for how much you should take, but I believe in redundancy and almost always take my support units in pairs. if possible.
Sum of all the Parts
Command, Magic Defense, Focus, Support, those are the four keys to writing an effective WFB army. When those four are working in unison, you are on the road to success. Since I made reference to my Ogres a few times, I’ll go ahead and share the list with you, and tell you how it breaks down into those 4 sections:
Slaughtermaster: Great Weapon, Level 4, Lore of Death, Armor of Silvered Steel, Greedy Fist, Channeling Staff
Bruiser: BSB, Iron Fist, Heavy Armor, Deathcheater, Runemaw
Butcher: Level 2, Lore of the Great Maw, Great Weapon, Hellheart
15 Ironguts: Full Command, Lookout Gnoblar, Standard of Discipline
4 Mournfang Cavalry: Full Command, Iron Fists, Heavy Armor, Dragonhide Banner
My Command Structure is the Slaughtermaster and BSB, assisted by the Standard of Discipline in the Ironguts (and Spinemarrow from the Butcher). Magic Defense is the Level 4, Runemaw and Hellheart. Focus is clearly my Irongut horde, and for support I have just about everything else. I don’t necessarily consider my Mournfangs direct support to my Ironguts, since they often are doing their own errands, but if they can help the horde in doing so, it is often a good idea.
So that is my example army of an Ogre Deathstar army that I play when I’m feeling very competitive. As I mentioned before, you don’t need to make one single unit your focus, and often times that is a bad idea (Purple Sun loves this list and makes me cry). My Beastmen are also a combat focused army, but they use 2 hordes of Gors and a horde of Bestigors to get the job done, and have a bunch of Razorgor and chariots for support. Two totally different armies with the same focus and a large variety of troops.
Creating an army which works in unison takes a lot of practice, but when you follow these guidelines you will probably end up with something decent. This isn’t the only way to write an army, and maybe not even the best, but it does certainly help to consider these 4 sections when you’re writing a list as it will help you cover all the bases you should when you are contemplating your army. If you’d like to read more about my ogres, check out my blog: TheDiceAbide.com, I usually post a few times a week, often about my big ugly brutes. See you next week!