Road to the Tournament : Part Duex by Digital Unicorn

10 Aug

Hello all. Welcome back to the Road to the Tournament, part duex, the return, reloaded, the Road 2 the tournament 2, this time its personal. Wait no, actually this time its about the list.

So you’ve picked a Tournament, you’ve got your ticket and made all your arrangements. But everytime you make a list it means buying 30 death cult assassins and 3 Assault terminator boxes. The models you have just don’t seem to form into something that seems competitive and it seems like you’ve spent all this money on a tournament and your not gonna stand a chance. Sound familiar?

Don’t be ashamed! A lot of players hit this phenomenon, when they try and up their table top game and achieve that ever elusive veteran status. Most gamers will run into this at some point, because unless you researched netlists for 3 months before you bought a single model, you probably spent your first year buying mini’s that you thought looked cool or were just cheap and cheerful. And if like me, you can only afford a box every other month or so, you’ll spend your second year of gaming trying to phase out some of your less effective units. We’ve all done it and its part of what makes the hobby fun but, it tends to leave our lists a little unfocused and not very optimised (much like my sentences aparently).

So, if you have a list that you like to run already that you feel needs just a little tweaking or your struggling to make a list from what you have, heres a few tips for making a more competitive list.

Along with some general tips, im also going to take some examples from the list i’ve made from my model selection. So if your interested in the specifics, my models and the list i made are here.


The ones and twos

Pretty simple really, keep a keen eye on your force organisation chart. The 1 HQ 2 Troop minimum and the 2-6-3-3-3 limits on the other choices. Most armies tend to have lots of good options in one force org slot, like the elites for example, and it can be easy to get carried away when list building and try and squeeze in more awesome units than the chart will allow.

Its also important to do a little research about the Tournament you are going too. Are there any restrictions on what you can take? No special characters? A restricted Force Org? No Force Org? An increased troop minimum? Make sure you know what your Tournament requires, and maybe draw up a relevant Force Org chart to help remind yourself.

Cross your T’s

One thing that I personally cant stress enough is troop choices. While it may divert some points away from the more killy options in your army i find that a 3 scoring unit minimum is almost mandatory. In a game where 2 thirds of the missions are objective based and where a lot of the tournament mission packs are objective heavy it pays huge dividends. If all you have in ur list that scores is two 1 man Paladin squads, then your opponent doesn’t have to be a tactical genius to identify his priority targets. Once those very fragile eggs in that very small fragile basket are eliminated, your opponent need only ensure 1 scoring model survives and he’s completed assured of victory. Having 3 or more survivable scoring or troops choices in your list means that you at least aren’t handing the victory over on a silver platter. Make these the bedrock of your army and you’ve got the firm foundation of a good list. If you have the models to make 3 troops your golden. If you don’t, most Dex’s have smaller squad sizes than you get in the boxes, can you shrink the size of your squads to use the extra models to make a new squad? Seperate squads may mean more Kill Points but, it also means your opponent cant annihilate your scoring units in one massive volley of fire, or one assault.

In my list for example, although i only have 2 troops choices, Pedro Kantor makes my Sternguard Veterans scoring. So i have 4 scoring units. And giving my scouts camo cloaks makes them excellent objective holders (or ‘deck chairs’) because if they go ground in cover they get a 2+ cover save. Which makes them very difficult to shift with shooting, making my objective easier to defend because my opponent is forced to come to me.

Tech-Priests are from Mars, scoring Sternguard are from Venus

Another way to make your list more competitive and versatile is to try and include units that can perfore multiple tasks or do lots of jobs. Some armies are starved for choices like these, like the Necrons for example, but most have a few that fall into this category. Mr Gary Percival talked a bit about this in Episode 5 of the Podcast in his segment about microbalance. He used the prime example of the Blood Angels assault marine. Its a Unit that can be kitted out to deal with Mech and Infantry, has good assault capabilities and scores. Units like this are versatile swiss army knives that make your list able to adapt and react to anything put in front of it. While sometimes it can be difficult to identify these units they are worth searching for. They often have options for special and/or heavy weapons and either improved wargear or statlines and while they will be more expensive, they are worth the points. They are rarely fantastic at one aspect, but rather good at a few different jobs. While specialised units have an important place in an army, Units that can Multi task will help you avoid being steamrollered by a bad match up.

If you are struggling to find units like these in your own model collection, do a little research online. Most large forums have dedicated codex tactics threads that will often point you in the right direction. If you find that you don’t have them in your army, could you convert some other models into being that unit? There are many online bitz sellers that can save you from buying a whole box for one chainsword arm.

In my list, my Sternguard are my Multitaskers. As mentioned previously, they are scoring, these are my frontline units that push forward and TAKE enemy objectives. Their compliment of special and combi weapons, along with power fists makes them excellent at dealing with Mech and Heavy infantry like Terminators. Additionally their special issue ammunition means they can put the hurt on light infantry, especially MEQ’s with their AP3 rounds. And to top it all off, they’re no pushover in combat, being veterans they have the same amount of attacks as an Assault marine on the charge.

Left? Or Right?

This is where you have some choices to make that will depend entirely on your army and your playstyle. Put basically, how do you want to do your damage? With shooting? In assault? Or perhaps a mix of both. A lot of this decision will depend on the flavour of your chosen codex. And hopefully you have chosen the codex you have because it suits your personal playstyle.

Now, it would take hundreds of blog posts to discuss the difference between what makes a good shooty list and what makes a good assaulty list. So, instead im just going to give a quick overview of what to look for in your model collection that will work well in each type of list.


If your looking to build a list that focuses on shooting there are a few things to look out for.

#1. High Strength.

Fairly obvious but, it still needs to be said, you will need high strength to deal with Vehicles and things with high toughness characteristics. High strength is generally considered to be 7 and up, things like assault cannons may also fall into this category, despite only being S6, as with the Rending special rule they have the potential to damage higher AV.

High strength weaponry is not always cheap and it can become a horrendous points sink but, it is a neccessity if you intend to have a purely long range army. As far as finding them in your model collection, most vehicles have the option for a high strength weapon and have the added bonus of mobility. They can easily become devastating mobile weapon platforms. Also most squads like marines or guard have the options in their kits for heavy or special weapons, could you combine the models from these squads to make a heavy/special weapons team?

For example in my list, i took several of the special and heavy weapons from my unused tactical squads and combined them. Using the special weapons to become the sternguard and the heavy weapons to boost my devastator squad. While not every codex is lucky enough to get such an obvious way of adding high strength to a list, most have an option in the heavy support or elite slots that can fill this role.

#2 Melta

To quote this blogs great benefactor, Mr Dave Symcox, in the current metagame, Melta is King. The ability to roll 2D6 instead of 1D6 for armour penetration, in a game that is so heavily affected by luck, is invaluable. Also having the highly prized, rarely found AP1 makes it damn near perfect. With the tournament game, more often than not, leaning considerably towards more mechanised lists, shooting weapons with this rule are almost mandatory.

They can make light work of even AV13/14 vehicles, which even S9 Lascannons can have a problem with. And the +1 to the damage chart guarantees at least a stunned result on a penetrating hit.

While these are incrediblely effective weapons, they often have a short effective range, usually about 12′-6′. This often means that the unit using this weapon has to put itself in harms way to inflict damage. So, while its useful to have Melta units in your list, bear in mind that some units with melta weaponry may need more support from the rest of your army than others. The strategy gap between a Meltagun toting guardsman and a combi-melta wielding Terminator is massive.

Put simply, tougher more survivable units are much more likely to reach that 6-12′ killzone all by themselves. 5 marines with a meltagun have a fair chance of at least surviving the charge across the board with their special weapon intact. They are small, dont need tons of support and probably wont attract too much attention until they start getting close. If you have the models for this unit, it can still accomplish its role semi-reliably without help.

Weaker, less survivable units will struggle immensely to play that way. 12 Guardsmen veterens will die to stray bolter fire long before they’re in range. However, give that unit a transport, the ubiquitous Chimera, and its now much more survivable and much more mobile. The 12 front armour will protect them from light to medium arms and is still reasonable protection from dedicated anti-tank. It will also vastly speed up the unit, allowing it to move 12 inches consistently. Not to mention the nice hull and turret mounted weapons available to most transports, including the Chimera.  Another technique is using other vehicles and units in your list to give that Chimera a cover save as it pushes up the board making it incredibly difficult to shift.  If your short on vehicles for cover saves remeber a strung out infantry squad will grant one to a standard size transport.

In a rare deviance from the articles theme, if you don’t have the vehicle models to give these weaker units transports, these should really be put on your shopping list. T3 models with no better than a 5+ save were not designed to move around the battlefield unprotected. Most standard infantry have a bolter equivilent that will bypass such weak armour without a thought. A little investment in your force may be needed. If thats not an option, larger squads will help you absorb some of the damage, but ultimately some well focused fire will still shred the largest of squads.

Now, list building is a massive rich vein of discussion, so massive in fact that its more than i can comfortably fit in this one post. So, stayed tuned for the next installment, that will wrap up shooty list building and introduce some of the mainstays of an Assaulty list. Hold tight, hold the line and remember, don’t stop reading until

Digital Unicorn is GO!


3 Responses to “Road to the Tournament : Part Duex by Digital Unicorn”

  1. Digital Unicorn August 10, 2011 at 13:34 #

    Props to Neil Gilstrap for help tweaking the list on the 11th Co boards, probably didn’t need it but, I pestered him for it anyway coz he’s a legend and I just love discussing lists.

  2. Digital Unicorn August 10, 2011 at 16:06 #

    Also heres the link to the list< i wasn't sure if Dave would be able to make it work, so iv just put it here instead. The link is:

    Check out the rest of the boards while your there, its a great place to be!

  3. Andy Ovel August 10, 2011 at 18:35 #

    Good article, I agree with what you were saying about making your list, and then looking at the models you have, and realising you actually need to buy a whole new army of models; as every time I design a new army list I don’t have enough of something.

    I also agree with you on the necessity of troop transport; I realised that I need about 10 Razorbacks and 15 Chimeras and currently I only have 1 of each! 😦

    I know Neil has been stressing the importance of playing with your list to understand how it works together, if you keep tweaking the list and changing it then you are not actually playing with the same army and not learning how it works together and learning how to optimise the tactics for that army list getting experince on how to use your list is more important than a super list, that’s why experinced Necron players can still do well with an
    older codex.

    Good stuff 🙂

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