Theme: New Army on a Budget
Now that the summer is done and I’m back to my old self again I realize just how much more writing there is to do on my blog. I’ve got a lot of ideas in the pipe, and will hopefully be able to muster the motivation to turn them into articles.
The article after this will be the first of these new articles. 10 others will follow, one for each faction. All of these articles will share an overall theme that should not be readily apparent in any way when your army hits the table: budget. This first article isn’t about how to build an army on a budget, but about the things you should keep in mind to get the most use out of the army you do build.
The idea for this series started on the Privateer Press Forums (www.privateerpressforums.com). There are always new players looking to get into the game, and invariably they hit the faction forums for advice on what they “should get” or “what do I do to win”. What they get from these forums is both good and bad advice. They are told a lot about different playstyles. They learn what models go well together, what pieces fit into combos, and how certain model plays. They learn about “auto-includes” and “never-gets”. They get mountains of information on Epic Haley (a strong caster), and very little on Darius (a weaker caster) unless they specifically ask about Darius. There is also some talk of cost (mostly in reference to Kriel Warriors), and a lot of differing opinions.
All of this advice is certainly helpful, but I think is a little much for a new player. There is talk of getting the models you like the look of, or the ones with the good rules, or the super combos. There is little to no talk of something I see in my other hobbies, bang for your buck.
I’m not talking about how many points a unit is compared to dollars spent. I’m talking about what your money gets you in terms of army playability and collectability. After years of playing I’ve realized that certain things have inherently more value for their cost then others.
First, we should define “playability”. When I say it in this article “playability” is the amount of play a model/unit can get. Models with high playability have a lot of flexibility on the battlefield and can fill different rolls in different lists depending on the other models around and the plan. A unit with high playability that you will hear a lot about is Dawnguard Invictors. High armor, good melee, good range, a solid UA, Flank and jack marshal make this an incredibly flexible unit who’s roll changes with each Retribution caster that hits the field. Conversely, a unit with low playability is the Squire. The Squire is a very strong model, but he doesn’t do anything. His job is to sit there and give bonuses to his warcaster. He does this well, and reliably, game in game out no matter the opponent or controlling warcaster. But that’s all he does. The Squire you fielded in January will be just as exciting as the Squire you fielded in April. So, playability is a game version of variety. Not everything in a good budget list needs high playability, but overall the list should have high playability.
The lists below are the things to look for, and to avoid, when building a budget list. More faction specific examples will follow in the coming weeks, but these are a good general guide for now.
Multi-purpose unit – Units which can fill multiples rolls on the battlefield have inherently high playability and good value. Dawnguard Invictors are the kings of this, because they can excel at doing so many things with the right support.
Straightforward use – Straightforward models with simple rules are better for newer players (to the game or to a faction). Learning the rules of the game while also trying to perform a complicated charge with Lord Commander Stryker will lead to frustration and possibly wasted budget.
Lower model count – The fewer things on the board there are for a player to use, the less overwhelmed she will be, the less rules there are to remember, and the less interactions there are to forget.
Options – The more options a player has with the pieces in his initial purchase, the longer he can go before he needs to heavily invest cash in his new army to expand his play experience. This can involve Unit Attachments that alter the way a unit plays or models with several battlefield roles.
Plastic – Plastic models are inherently cheaper then their metal counterparts. With some creative use of pins and magnets, they can be a lot more flexible as well.
Single purpose units – Units which do only a single thing should be avoided. This is not to say that all dedicated melee or ranged units should be avoided for budget lists, but things that do only one thing should be. Longgunners are a good unit to illustrate this. They stand still and shoot things. That is about the depth of their tactical application. They are effective, but planting this unit on a hill (or behind a wall) and shooting gets boring fast.
Complicated Rules Interactions – Models that are just tricky to use should be avoided. If a model requires too many conditions or rules interactions to work well, it’s not providing best bang for buck.
High model count – From a transportation and a painting perspective, nothing turns new players off faster then having to move and paint masses of troops. 30 zealots are cheap, and they make an interesting list, but you will gouge your eyes trying to paint them, and use far too much space moving them safely.
Expensive or complex models – When you are just starting, stick to the simple. The Harbinger looks cool, but if you’ve never built a miniature before, trying to put her together will ensure that you never will again. Also avoid cavalry; a full unit of them is an investment of $100, which is a large chunk of money for a single, usually single purpose unit. Character warjacks fall into this category too. They are typically advanced, highly detailed kits and are priced higher then their standard counterparts due to lower sales numbers.
One shot assassins – Your goal with a budget army is to build a maximum army on a minimum of dollars. With this in mind, avoid one shot assassination warcasters. Models like Epic Cane, Epic Asphyxious, and Baldur have very set “end the game” moves that are available if they get within a certain number of inches of the enemy warcaster/warlock. These often involve feats and several detailed steps, but the plan does not vary from game to game. These casters are not good for a budget army because they give you very low variety play, and the rest of the army is nominally filler around this warcaster’s super move.
As I said at the beginning, you are looking to build a maximum army on a minimum of dollars. You’ll see me do this soon, but the tenants I’ll be following are very simple:
- Models/units with flexible battlefield roles should be given priority. This will allow you to change how your army plays quickly and easily, keeping playability high
- Focus on a combined arms force, rather then a specialized army. This will avoid bad matchups and autopilot builds, and will keep frustration and boredom to a minimum
- Keep an eye towards how your army grows. Good budget armies work very differently depending on the caster. A well built budget army can change it’s whole game with the low cost addition of a new warcaster.
- Play what you want to play. All of this talk is a guideline. In the end, never compromise if you are in love with a particular unit. This passion will always keep playability high.
And the overriding rule: Get a new army and get the maximum amount of playability with the fewest dollars spent.
The best armies to build are those that can adjust their play style with a few changes in models or tactics, are easy to learn, and provide a lot of battlefield ability for the fewest dollars.