Between casual, tournament, and narrative play there is a happy medium, but exactly where is it?
So, from my previous post, I’m sure plenty of you could guess that I love my Eldar; and a few of you might actually think less of me for that. For those not in the know (for the sake of full explanations, let’s assume at least one person that does not read DakkaDakka stumbles upon this), Craftworld Eldar are considered one of the most over-powered (a.k.a. Cheesy, Beardy, OP, Broken, etc.) and unfair codices to play against. There is a lot of powerful stuff floating around in the book, and there is this interesting strain of thought that all people that play Eldar are just out to Win At All Costs and should be avoided like the plague.
Well, stumbling out of the little hole in the middle of nowhere that I came from and started playing in, I would have laughed if someone told me my army was the most powerful thing in existence. I started playing in the previous (read 6th) edition, and lost every single game I played for around the first dozen times I played. There was no beginner’s luck. I almost quit a few times because I apparently just could not get a handle on what I was doing, but there might have been a bit of bias in that thinking (I can, and still do, abhor taking units that I do not own the models for. While my army was decent sized back then, it was nowhere near what it is today and was filled with Aspect Warriors.).
Fast forward to today, and after going through an impressive winning streak wherein I had not lost for probably a dozen games, I stumbled across DakkaDakka and realized just how salty people can be about this game we play. I’ll be the first to admit that I was not super pleasant to play against when I lost (turn two is brutal for my tough-as-paper elves and No, I do not take Wraith-anything pretty much ever); however, this did bring about the conclusion that Warhammer 40k really does turn into this intricate balancing act for a lot of people.
Just recently, one of our friends has expressed interest in picking up 40k, and since my husband is way more competitive, I am the default training-opponent. I’ve played a total of three games with this friend so far, and they have all been very Rock-Paper-Scissors types of scenarios. Either I get totally wiped off the table or he does. It is brutal, but I will be happy to point out that of the three, I have lost two.
And this is really where my balance conundrum comes in, at least for me, because trying to make competitive games wherein each side has an approximately equal chance of winning without knowing what the other person is taking can be extremely difficult. Throw in the relative power difference between the different armies, and it becomes nigh impossible. A list that does relatively well against Blood Angels will get smashed to a pulp by Necrons.
Just as an example, my three games with this friend (let’s go with D from now on) have all been drastically different. First game was D playing tank-heavy Blood Angels and me taking an Ulthwe-style list with one squad of Dark Reapers in a low points match-up on a 4′ by 4′ table. I got destroyed. Guardians fly off the table if anyone so much as sneezes at them, and I did not have the amount of anti-tank required to take on a mechanized set of marines. I think we were done after three turns, after which I was left with maybe a dozen models. Second game is D playing a similar tank-heavy Blood Angels and me taking an Iyanden-style list. I think I had one non-wraith model. That was a little bit of a slower grind, but after choosing the table side with more terrain, D got his tanks kind of stuck in a place where the short-range wraiths could just plink away at him until the tanks popped. Third game is D playing Necrons (I know he had the standard Decurion, but he also had a formation with the Obelisk, so it wasn’t the uber-powerful Canoptek Harvest/Decurion run that is popular right now) against me playing a Biel-Tan style list wherein I made sure to give myself some sort of handicap since I felt bad for the second game. So I took maxxed-out Dire Avenger squads in Wave Serpents for both of my Troop choices (they’re very circumstantially useful at best but great at objective-camping). Oh boy did I forget how difficult Necrons are; they really earn that “Toughness – The Army” moniker. After three or four turns, I had lost all of my anti-tank weaponry and was down to less than half my army, and I think he had lost a Ghost-Ark, five Warriors, and a Tombblade. With a Monolith and Obelisk leading the advancing tide of infantry down the center of the board and nowhere for any of my now-stranded infantry to run to, I was a goner. Called the game as his definite win at about midnight (I go to sleep at 20:00).
After this progression of events, I am left really wracking my brain for ways to better balance my army lists. From what reading I have done, I’ve started practicing a few habits that might give me a better shot at building strong but fair army lists. until Games Workshop releases 8th Edition and the process starts over again.
I recently started was keeping track of my army lists in a Word Document and typing out what I took away from the games I played. While my opinions can be relevant, I have found it very helpful to ask my opponents (and my ever-hovering Husband) what they think of my armies and what they think went wrong/right. During the Necrons game, D spent the whole time hoping to catch my Shadow Spectres out in the open, which led me to actually look at their performance as opposed to lump them into the bin of ineffectual they usually get put in. Since the last time I played them was before their most recent update, I thought I had their utility figured out, but they have gotten to be quite useful since then. A little expensive, yes, but useful.
I am also hoping to start using armies more than once. I have read from a bunch of different places that playing just one game with a list and then throwing it away is a good way to keep yourself in the dark. Play the same army against a bunch of different people and use a bunch of different missions. An army that wildly succeeds at kill points will likely have some problems with other missions such as The Relic; and an army that does greatly against Tau will not necessarily fare as well against Necrons.
All in all, though, just pay attention to your opponent and talk to them, especially if they are a friend. It can be very frustrating going from crushing victory to crushing defeat to crushing victory to crushing defeat ad nauseum, but it should get better with time.
Anyway, have a happy holiday season.