Sunday, October 9, 2011

Generals Matter

There are a number (and it's growing) of what I call NetListers:  People who put lists up and not only haven't tried them, nor do they even typically play that army, but yet are willing to tell you that any way but there's is the wrong way for that army to be built.  Sometimes they might be right.  Sometimes.

The trouble here isn't the lists.  Sharing lists and commenting on them is a fun pastime.  What I bristle at is the underlying assumption that comes across loud and clear:  the List wins or loses you the game and the General is accounted little respect.  If you won with an "unoptimized" list it was "because the other General sucked".  If you lose its because "the list sucked like we said"...but if you think about it, that really just means in both cases that they thought the list was the issue, and they accord you yourself no recognition at all.

Only a blind man would suggest that the list doesn't matter.  But really, how much does it matter? 

I know this:  Generals matter more.  Terrain, dice, opponents and enemy army lists are random factors that create a multiplicity of game situations that one cannot fully anticipate, yet the list requires you to try!  That requires you to consider points denial, sacrificial units, terrain issues, line of sight issues, range banding and likely counter measures the enemy may take plus a bevy of other considerations.  In fact, it is the countermeasures issue that I get into such heated debates online about.  As I mentioned, the NetListers of the world think that their unit is in a vacuum and will never be countered effectively and they like to claim that only a "Bad General" would counter their super unit with a lesser unit..  That hubris drives a lot of lists and list discussions and of course it ends as badly as you might imagine on the field of actual battle. 

The goal here will be to talk tactics as a result of list building, tactical deployment and fitting your armies components to the kind of General you really are.  It will be about the strategy as well.  A lot of new generals look around in confusion after every loss and wonder what they are doing wrong, but really, it's that they don't have a plan to execute nor a framework to really form one.  They know they have the "good units" they've read about and heard analyzed in their list but they haven't any idea what the enemy is thinking about doing to nullify them until its too late.  Anticipating countermeasures and respecting the skill level of the opponent enough to think they will actually do it is important.  Some of that comes from knowing the enemy codex's reasonably well, but a lot of it is just simple foresight.  I am hoping what I write will help on those things.

Your comments are appreciated on whether this kind of focus for the Blog would be of interest to you.


  1. Could failure to initially win by new players also be an incomplete knowledge of rules?
    Do you have a way to contact you? Maybe we can do a short audio interview for the 11th Company podcast...

  2. Speaking from personal experience fielding a "good", or optimized unit, is a lot different than effectively utilizing it as an asset.

    Fortunately, playing against you, Matt, Mat, and the rest of the denizens of Olympic Cards and Comics (shameless plug for the best Local Games Shop) I am slowly developing a comfort with my codex, and the game as a whole.

    I'm still losing more than I win, but I don't feel dumbfounded as much when it happens.

    PS: Check your txt messages, freak!

  3. Failure to win by new players is absolutely a function of rules knowledge, at first... There are a number of small tactical pieces that newer players have not caught on to yet. The interaction between codex and BRB causes no end of headaches for newer players. but honestly, it is the simple chess match of it that sometimes nettles them.

    Just a few examples of where newer players fall down:
    1. The Assault rules and how to keep an independent character from being exposed during a charge can be game changing against a character with a Force Weapon or similarly nasty "trick". Newer players get their characters, like Sanguinary Priests killed because they haven't caught all the nuances of the charge.

    2. Newer players have a hard time recognizing the best time not to fire. They do not recognize when it is a bad time to shoot because they are not anticipating the enemy will take the closest model. This simple lesson is learned eventually but it takes them time to learn that in their exuberance to blow your face off.

    3. Reserves. New players absolutely get creamed by experienced players who know what they are doing in thius regard. They are not yet adept at deployment in anticipation of outflankers and deep strikers. This might be the number one thing newer players have GOT to get down.

    4. Effective threat distances from Storm Ravens, Land Raiders, Open topped vehicles with fleet units and the like are all constant causes of losses to newer players. Not knowing that its coming inevitably spells doom.

    5. Going second against Daemon and DeathWing armies is a well known tactic...but not to newer players. Not understanding this can be a downer for them.

    6. The concept of exchange units is critical, especially in new players who are trying to play MSU.

    7. New players sometimes let the enemy sucker them into charging them, thus coming off their own objective on the pile in move. Here again, a mistake that newer players sometimes "fall for".

    8. Void tactics and movements are one of my specialties. My opponents can tell you that I prefer not to be there when the punch lands, as often as possible. A lot of veterans don't even use such tactics. So it really catches some people off guard. The blank stare they give you is pretty gratifying though.

    So yes. Most definitely Codex and rules knowledge is a barrier to winning. But I think newer players NEED to recognize the kind of General they are and start with that, so that the plan they have forms the units they take instead of the other way around.

  4. @Gonewild:
    I agree that having a sharp knife and knowing how to dance with it are two different things. NetListers like to take a set of the very sharpest knives and tell you to " go to it lad". When your face gets ripped off, and you stand looking confused at the emptiness that once was your deployment zone, you realize that maybe the sharpest knife isn't always the best. For example: when is it best to destroy a unit on the charge? answer: almost never, unless you're just doing it to get free movement. The sharper knives will certainly cut through the heart of the enemy, but that in itself leaves you vulnerable and a savvy general can anticipate the attack and maneuver to blast your uber unit from the face of Terra for a nominal loss of a couple scouts or a pair of drones. =)

  5. @Pat, sounds like fun. contact me via email.

  6. sorry for slow reply, i had subscribed to email updates, but must not have gotten it...

  7. Good to know there are champions against List-Hammer out there.


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