Friday, February 4, 2011

Army "Cores" - Variety Via Inflexibility

So, not that I do tactics/list-building articles with any gusto or regularity, but I thought I would share what I do as sort of my "baseline" when building lists.

First thing I do is determine which components of my list are likely to always stay the same, and turn them into a "tax" of sorts on a list build ... in the case of my Imperial Guard, there are a couple of things that factor into this:

1) Models I like that look the best
2) Units that reliably function for me in a variety of roles

For my Imperial Guard, this boils down to the following building blocks that I really don't like to part with:

1) Straken + 2 Meltaguns + 2 Bodyguards + Carapace + Medic + Banner + Chimera - 315 points
 - The reason for taking this is multi-fold; one, it gives me a serviceable combat unit for counter-punching, holding things up in a key moment, and "breaking" the backs late-game of shootier armies that foolishly eschew combat of their own
 - Two, it gives me the auras I need to stretch my resources and get more out of the rest of my "core" and my army as a whole - 12" from the edge of his Chimera I get re-rolls of failed morale and pin tests (HUGE for guard), furious charge (my guardsmen charge like space marines), and counter-attack (which often doesn't come in handy against MEQ all that often due to initiative, but is huge against other guard units and the like)
- I'll OFTEN take an Astropath with this unit, maybe 75%+ of the time, as it helps with outflankers and keeping Vendettas alive ... but it's not MANDATORY for me in my core, so I don't always take one

2) 4 x Vet Squads w/ 3 Meltaguns, Shotguns, Chimera - 620 points
 - This is Straken's "honor guard" of sorts ... it gives me fully assault weapon equipped (remember furious charge) scoring troop units with a total of 40 models in serviceable tank transports, and it gives me a dozen more meltaguns, for a 14 melta core ... this lets me shoot anything I really need to shoot
 - I have the points costs memorized for 5 and 6 meltavet squads ... 775 and 930 ... but they aren't "mandatory" ... love 'em or hate 'em, 4 meltavet squads with aura support are a critical component of any mechanized, mobile, closer ranged guard list ... and that's what I most prefer to run

3) 2 x Vendettas - 260 points
 - Try as I might, I often find Vendettas to be the best choice to support my army builds ... I may wind up with Ogryns, or Demolishers, or more Meltavets, or Al'Rahem ... but whatever happens, a couple of Vendettas to reserve or start on and bang up enemy mobility or silence/kill opposing long range shooters like Autolas BA preds or even opposing Vendettas just is too much of a big deal, and Vens are SUPER reliable at this ... against AV13 (preds) a Vendetta's damage odds are 3 x 3/4 (to hit) x 1/2 (to cause a damage result) ... it's just ... reliable.  You don't have as strong a set of odds to your points level as you do with something like a Hydra perhaps, but the flexibility of the platform is just too good to pass up.  I never expect them to live, either, but - and especially when I take 3 - I'll usually add an Astropath to the cost so that in games against shootier opponents, quarters deployment games, etc., I can reserve them and bring most on Turn 2 in better / safer positions, or lanes where their targeted tanks don't have cover

So, when you look at this, my personally assessed "tax" for building an IG list is a hefty 1,195 points ... I think a lot of us do this subconsciously, and it takes "effort" to get outside your personal core ... and it's related to more than just what's "best" ... lots of people like to listhammer on the net, with things they'll never personally buy or even own.  4 of my vet squads are really well painted for me, 3 of my Vendettas are really well detailed up for me, and my Straken squad looks good and is characterful.  I want to use these models either way, and when I vary the list up (like I did adding Al'Rahem and the Brother Captain for BFS) it makes painting a lot easier when you've got a solid core.

It's also frankly easier when going 1850, for instance, to know that what I'm REALLY working with is 655 points ... and no real FOC restrictions.

What is YOUR "core?"  And don't fret - NOBODY sticks to it all the time no matter what, but realistically we all have those building blocks we just can't stomach living without ... what are yours?


  1. I definitely have a 'core' in my Warmachine army; it's a pain in the head to get beyond either six or ten Mechanithralls with two Brutes, plus a Necrosurgeon, two bonejacks with arc nodes and two Pistol Wraiths. The ten Satyxis with Sea Witch are becoming similarly hard to shift from my consciousness.

  2. Good stuff MVB. I actually do my AirCav Guard in a similar fashion, only I make the Astropath mandatory , I give the Vets squads Doctrines (either Demo or Carapace), and I go for around 6 Vendettas (or usually 4 Vendettas and 2 Valkyries).

    But back on topic, I find it easier to start off with a "core" for your army and build up in there. Whether it's Straken's CCS for my Guard or 3X Grey Hunter Squads with attached Wolf Guard for my Wolves, having that focus and "core" to direct your army development is key.

    The benefit is, once you've got you "core" set up and you're comfortable with it and how it plays, you can begin branching out and experimenting with different units across the FOC.

  3. Roland has it, honestly - even if I go "whacky" and add a bunch of Ogryns or something, my list above is going to allow me to fight well enough against most odds ... I'll inherently be hamstrung a little, but I'll never be straight "out" of it ... and that's the kicker here.

  4. I've always favored core units over more exotic things, so the appeal for me is a solid troops section. beyond that I love the look of a lot of vehicles on the table but kind of hate the cheesy feel of way over-the-top firepower.

    As a result of this I'm grooving on Blood Angels. Their assault squads are a rock-solid choice. Better, the buff fome sanguinary priests enhances the troops choices rather than just being some uber-model on his own. 6 fast-moving rhinos backed by Baal and predators tanks gives the feel of a real mechanized company to me.

    So it suits things I like: Solid troops, fast-moving and hard-hitting. The Blood Angels can do all this, and without needing powerful special characters to pull it off.

  5. I enjoyed your admission that how proud you are of the paintjob of parts of your collection influences your decision making.

    For a long time my pickup armies have revolved around tactical marines with powerfist sergeants, flamers and lascannons riding in a rhino.

    Not because they're effective in a game, but because I've six of them painted up real nice and I want to show them off as much as possible.

    Building a core utility force as a base for experimentation is a good idea. Taking a wacky unit when you know your bases are covered isn't a terrible idea and can add something to a game which might otherwise be a little sterile.

    Great article.

  6. The typical Tyranid core: 2 tervigons w/cat/tox/ag, 2x10 gants, 6 HGs. Everything else is mutable...

  7. So basically, even though I agree with having cool models etc - most people generally sticks to "what works" as the core of their army because it is the "best in slot" item. What guard armies now a days don't have 10 vets, 3 melta, chimera x~5 now a days? They're taken because they're the best - not to mention I don't know the last time I saw guard without 2-3 vendettas either.

    Look at space wolves. Seems min/mas squads of GH, with at least a priest are the norm. I can honestly say I've never seen a bloodclaw played... ever - of any variety! Granted, I wasn't looking toward the bottom tables the whole time, but I've never seen them.

    All lists have mandatory units that are taken if you want to be somewhat competitive. I use the word mandatory, because that is exactly what they are. Run a game without melta vets and vendettas, then run the same game with them.

    Mike your lists are prime examples of a true 'this works, and I know it works' type of build. It then allows you to play with ~700 points (depending on game size) of doing whatever it is you want to do. But as you said, you picked those units because they're awesome and happen to suit your play style.

    Thats the problem with the game, all the codices out there limit 'competitive' builds because so many of the units are utter crap. Because of that, you have the melta-vet, grey hunter, min/max squads memorized because they work 'the best'.

    I honestly like the new DE book quite a bit, because there is a lot of variety and strikingly 'balanced' of game play. By making some of the elites a troop slot, it allows the player to field them and their other elites they want to bring. Granted, my list spams min/max almost as much as possible, but it's a very solid and well rounded list. Will guard give it a problem? Dear god yes. But I think they can deal with all the other armies out there.

  8. My core guard build consists of a 45 man infantry platoon replete with 2 commissars, 1 plasma vet squad, and 1 melta vet squad.

    I run it because this is how I think guard should run. Not super competitive but then again thats how I roll.

  9. SM 'Core'

    leaves another 750 to 1500. or i just double it :)

  10. For me, it's obviously going to depend on which army I'm using. But one universal theme is a bare minimum of three Troops in any army, if not more. All 10-man squads, if they're any of my Space Marine armies.

    For my Space Marines, 3+ Tactical Squads/Grey Hunters/Bike Squads and almost always a Librarian (also fluffy for my Chapter), plus a dedicated assault unit, whether it's a TH/SS Termie squad, Thunderwolves, or a Biker Command Squad.

    With my Chaos Marines, my squad of regular CSMs and Berzerkers see the field in every game I play with them, and my counts-as Kharn is nearly always there, too.

    My Eldar, I don't really have a core, as I only have about 2000 points of them anyway, so the list is pretty much always the same.

    And finally, for my Tyranids, the Swarmlord and the Doom of Malan'tai are around pretty regularly, along with some Genestealers (of both varieties) and a Tervigon.

  11. This is pretty much my core. Can't seem to get away from it.

    2x 10 gants
    2x Tervis
    2x 2 Hive Guard

  12. My core for Dark Angels has usually been Belial and 3 Deathwing squads, one with an apothecary. The units are kit out for wound allocation shenanigans, but the specific loadout has changed with the recent updates.

    There are a lot of things that can be added to that core to give different playstyles. I've got a build currently that is based off the Loganwing list I had been playing with that performs stupid well. I find the all-foot army very appealing right now.

    For Eldar, my core is definitely 2 Fire Dragon Squads in Serpents, 2 DAVU Serpents, and some vypers. Usually I play around with falcons, but I've been giving prisms some serious consideration in my recent lists.

    For Dark Eldar (when my opponents don't mind me going counts as with Eldar), I'd say 2 warrior squads in venoms, 2 wych squads in raiders, and 3 ravagers is my core. I usually run with 4 raiders and 4 venoms in that setup though.

  13. That's an awful lot of shotguns - what do you use to model them?

  14. For Tyranids:

    6 Hive Guard
    3 Zoanthropes (2 anti-transport units and 1 anti pred/landraider)

    2 Tervigons
    10 Gaunts

    5 Shrikes (because they kick ass, haha)

  15. Late to the party here, but I almost always start my core guard list with the following 975 pts:

    Colonel, 2 meltas, 2 flamers
    Chimera with multilaser, heavy stubber, heavy flamer


    Red platoon

    Hq 4 flamers
    Chimera with multilaser, heavy stubber, heavy flamer

    Squad with lascannon & plasma gun
    Chimera with multilaser, heavy stubber, heavy bolter

    Squad with lascannon & plasma gun
    Chimera with multilaser, heavy stubber, heavy bolter

    Blue platoon

    Hq 4 flamers
    Chimera with multilaser, heavy stubber, heavy flamer

    Squad with lascannon & plasma gun
    Chimera with multilaser, heavy stubber, heavy bolter

    Squad with lascannon & plasma gun
    Chimera with multilaser, heavy stubber, heavy bolter

    That gives me 7 chimeras full of infantry - which I find can beat most 40k armies on their own - and then I tend to add 500 (750pt I suppose for GTs now) blocks to support that.