Community Contribution

Lets take a couple minutes to look at something that can be very intimidating for a relatively new 40K player , List Design. I suppose certain parallels can be drawn to other table top games like Age of Sigmar but it is not a game I am familiar with so ill keep this to 40k as it is the game I play and I am the most familiar with.
This is one aspect of this game that I find to be very intellectually stimulating and often misunderstood.   When i started playing 40k last year I found this to be a daunting task, there were so many units available to me and so little info on how or why I should consider them. Where should I even start? how do I add value to one unit and compare it to another? Should the units be compared in the first place? what role do these units fill? how many points are they giving up? do they have a net return on investment? why do I take a named character over a basic character? what war gear should I take and when? ect.
when you finally fire up battlescribe and want to take the dive into building a list from scratch here are some of the basic things you should really look at:

1.  What problem are you trying to solve?

This is a broad idea that basically asks what the local meta is like and what is the terrain like? I will use the LVO (Las Vegas Open as an example. At the LVO they have ‘magical boxes’ aka ruins that have roofs on them that only infantry models can enter.  These boxes will be on 40% of the tables, meaning that if you plan on going the distance you HAVE to account for this.  This single piece of terrain invalidates some units and drastically increases the value of elite combat infantry models such as wraithblades, paladins, bullgryn and so on.
Why?  because gunlines/knights have no way of going in there and digging them out.  they are great in combat and usually have a 2+/3++ save in cover with 2-3 wounds per model.  it requires an amazing amount of fire power to move this unit while it is sitting there scoring every turn.
This means if your army does not have access to these really strong combat units or tough elite units to hide in buildings  you must dedicate a good portion of your points to indirect fire that can also remove cover.  This is just 1 example in hundreds of how a single piece of terrain can drastically shift the way you need to think about your list design.  So when you go into battlescribe keep your local meta and terrain in mind when you think about what units are required.  There is not a point in building a list to deal with a huge horde if no one in your area runs hordes and vice versa.
an example of how I tackle list building right now is this:
– Can I deal with a castellan? (this does not mean kill it.  it just means have a way to deal with it being on the table.
– Can I deal with dark reapers and spears?
– Can I outlast Orks?
– How is my list scoring points
– How many points am i giving up?
– Is my list making it easy for them to choose secondaries?
This is where my list begins.  I build with these key things in mind.

2.  What style of list do you want to build?

There are a couple of different styles of play a list can build towards such as mid board control, hit and run, heavy handed tabling army, balanced, defensive, aggressive, elite, and horde to name a few. 8th edition is probably the most balanced version of this game so far and all of those styles of play are completely viable and typically most codices have ways to play almost all of them. Some are obviously going to get better results over others as their codex will tend to gravitate towards certain styles of play.  So what speaks to you?  What codex do you play and what units are available to you to play this way?
Two lists to look at that have very different play styles are:  Chaos 1ksons with plague bearer spam and AM/castellan.
That chaos list thrives on building a large extremely hard to shift infantry unit that moves onto multiple objectives (ideally wrapping a unit like a scout sentinel)  and screens for the 1ksons who are outputting a lot of reliable damage without being able to be shot at.  This list is a mid board pressure style.  the idea is not to kill a knight but to outscore the knight, it can if it has to kill a knight but that is no longer the win condition. Scoring more by holding more every turn while smiting out a unit or 2 per turn really puts the onus on the enemy to keep up.  Its a very strong style of play and if you enjoy grinding out wins.  Its a style for you.  You typically take secondaries such as recon, behind enemy lines if possible or ground control.  Your win conditions are based on just staying on the board.
That AM/castellan list depending on its build typically plays the defensive castle game until later in the game when you attempt to push out and score objectives.   When you add a castellan you almost always know you have the potential to kill more every turn.  You focus on screening your big boy and scoring hold 1 and kill more.  You take secondaries that sync with that such as butchers bill and big game hunter/ old school.
So when we add this into our list design we start removing some units from play and looking hard at others based on now the meta and the style of play you are attempting to play.   If you are playing a castellan/AM list you really don’t want to take 5 chimera’s for example.  your infantry is used as a cheap screen that is also obsec, adding a chimera to this list takes away from the primary role of the infantry which I will break down further in the next section.

3.  The roles units fill in your list and having redundancy in place.

Generally you want almost every unit in your list to fill more than just 1 role.  Unless a unit is just SO efficient in 1 single role you really need to look at units that can do more than just 1 thing.  The basic muscle boy infantry model for AM is a good example of this.  They are a cheap screen that receives orders making them one of the most efficient units in the game.  They are not only a good screen but they are also obsec which is a very important ability if you want to pressure objectives.  It fills multiple roles when needed and are cheap so you can take multiple units for redundancy.
A vulture is a good example of a unit that seemingly only fills 1 role on paper but for 160pts you now have a unit that can not be charged by boys/zaangs/stealers etc.  If you deploy them correctly the push back these deep strike units and give them 0 target to charge.  They output great damage and score recon.  They require specific units in your enemies army to interact with them.  they make your opponent make tough decisions which is winning 40k.
When you look at units to add you should always look at having a redundancy in place and make sure they fill a couple of rolls.  If you are building a list around a single unit and you lose that early on for some reason your game is kind of just over.  adding more of them and having backup plans allows you to lose any 1 unit and still be completely functional.

4. Command points.

The most valuable resource in this game, that is often managed very poorly.  You will see some of the best players be extremely careful with how and where they use this practically non renewable resource.  How do you get CP and why is it important?
When you go to design a list you have to look at the main units you are building around and ask yourself how much CP do these take to fuel?  Some lists have not much need for CP and some have an extremely high demand for it.  nurgle engines vs orks comes to mind.  One list hardly needs any and the other will blow through 10 a turn if it has to.
Is your list CP intensive?
If yes? you are probably going to need at least a brigade/battalion or double battalion with a CP regeneration ability.  This will net you 13-20cp with or without cp regen.  This gives you a very good place to start.
If no?  you have honestly a lot more interesting options available to you as you are not worried about paying taxes to get CP.  which equates to every unit in your list is combat effective and fills a very specific role.
A couple specific example currently in the meta that are CP intensive are the castellan list and the Ork loota list. Both of these lists require enormous amounts of CP to fuel and typically you run out after 2nd or 3rd turn. Others like Necrons and Nurgle daemon engines have very few high CP strats that your list NEEDS to function.

5.  Units available to you.

When you start your list building process, you should take all available units and compare them to one another based on what we have just discussed above.  You will find that some units are just more points efficient for what you need them to do.  These are high value units you’ll probably want to add in (a solitaire comes to mind).  One of the biggest issues people seem to have is putting self imposed limitations on their lists or having preconceived notions of what is and is not good.
What do i mean by this?
An example is playing harlequins.  This is a very elite army that on its own can be pretty good but if you limit yourself to a single codex you are really handicapping yourself for literally no reason.  Looking at the available units from CWE really ratchets up their efficiency (Adding doom/jinx)  There are countless examples of this but as a player that wants to take list design seriously and improve your chances of doing well at the table you need to use all the resources available to you.  Often 1 codex is strong in 1 aspect and another codex has specific units that cover your weakness’s.  This game is designed to be played with allies so don’t feel pressured into using just 1 codex, explore your options, don’t be lazy.
When we take this all into account you have a good base to enter into the exciting world of list design.  I personally build 3 lists and post them for my team to roast every night, don’t be afraid to ask for help, ask others insights on your lists and remember to not get emotionally attached to any 1 unit.  you must be willing to drop any unit in your army at a moments notice if things change which is sometimes rather difficult especially when you don’t have the unit or its not painted/ assembled.

To sum this all up, let me show you an example of how I personally take the current meta and table conditions into mind:

What am I going to be playing vs on the top tables?  DE/ynarri, ynarri/CWE, Tau, chaos horde, knights.
What is the terrain saturation?  medium to high with some ruins that will 50% a knight.

The problem:

Getting around hit modifiers, killing knights/taunar (or otherwise rendering them useless).

My solution:

A brigade of catachans with 97 infantry/conscripts
A supreme command of Njal,Rune priest, Rune priest, Wolf guard battle leader, Wolf priest (all with Jump packs)
An aux super heavy with a house Mortan crusader
This is tailored specifically to the meta I am expecting to see.  The brigade is a must as it gives me 12 cp and the bodies to screen out chaos hordes/move block knights.  The SW combat ball all have JP except njal.  They output massive mortal wounds and are extremely strong in combat when they are around each other.  These are able to heroically intervene from 6 away and allow me to enter into combat vs eldar flyers where their hit modifiers mean nothing.  The house mortan knight has a strat for 1cp to ignore all modifiers and a 3cp deep strike strat meaning if i go against a list that has a very strong alpha strike i can just avoid this.  The ignoring modifiers pretty much means any eldar flyers are just going to die when the knight points at them.  With the terrain being how it is i can reliable move my infantry and power ball up the table in cover and contest objectives/pressure others.  Is it the strongest list in the world? maybe not but its an example of how I decided to take all factors into mind and deep dive into the units available to me.
I hope you enjoyed reading this and maybe took something away from it, by all means let me know what you liked and did not like and if you are struggling with anything regarding 40k feel free to PM me.
Thanks for reading!
Jon K a.k.a Larpking