One of the great things about co-authoring with Hulksmash is that we bring such different perspectives to the table on so many issues. This particular issue is something we’ve chatted about from time to time, and our opinions differ.
In short, if I pick an army…take Orks for example, my 1500, 1750, 1850, 2000, and 2500 lists all follow the same theme. I might even call them modular. If I want to bump from 1850 to 2000, I can add another unit of XXX. If I need to drop from 1850 to 1500, I can cut a unit of YYY. I play Battlewagon Orks led by Ghazghkull Thraka – and at every point level…that theme is readily apparent - a solid army core of my theme with modular additions and subtractions based on point level.
Hulksmash on the other hand subscribes to the theory that an army’s playstyle changes at point levels. Tyranids at 1500 are different than Tyranids at 2000. To some extent, I agree…my Necron theme works at 2,000 points – but I can’t keep the theme below 2,000 points, so I would have to change it. So I don’t play Necrons below 2,000 points. =p
In this monologue/discussion/article, I’m going to talk about the advantages of thematic, modular play.
Practice makes perfect. Anyone ever heard of that? Practicing with a Katana will make you a better swordsman and katana-user, but not an expert with a Celtic Greatsword. The same analogy applies to a pistol and an assault rifle. Or assault rifles of different caliber and make. More on this in a moment.
Hulksmash and I have argued about “stagnation” in 40k several times. He believes that my 40k career is stagnant because I don’t change my army lists – I don’t continually shift and evolve them, trying new things and am therefore stagnant. On the flip side, I believe that stagnation has nothing to do with your army list, but instead completely to do with your attitude and your gameplay – to me, stagnation is when you are stuck in a rut, unable to advance.
To tie these together, rather than continually shift my army around to try new things…I do all that testing up front, and evolve my army into a final form – tweaking it until I have it humming as well-tuned as I can get it. From there, I practice. And practice. And practice. I learn to use the tool I’ve created in every possible way, in every situation, against every any opponent possible. I’ve often said that the highest level of competitive 40k is determined by mistakes, who makes the fewest, and how well the mistakes made are exploited.
The “tuned” theme I refer to is meant to overcome the propensity for making mistakes through repetition. Playing 40k in many venues, with different codices can make you a good 40k player – but to be exceptionally competitive – you have to be intimately familiar with every detail of the list you’re putting on the table. And thus we return to my premise about the modular, thematic army. I play the same army, or theme within a codex at every point level.
‘Ard Boyz is coming up; 2500 points. After that, 1750 Nova Invitational is coming up. I’m playing Dark Eldar for both. I have never in my life played Dark Eldar at 2500 points. I haven’t played them at 1750 points in about two years, with a previous codex. I’m not concerned about practice though, because the theme that I use won’t change – only my modular installations will. For 2500 points, I’m going to have to either sub out warriors to add wyches, add reaver jetbikes, another beast squad, or expand an HQ. I haven’t looked at all my options yet. I honestly haven’t thought about any of it at all yet. For the 1750 Nova Invitational, my standard 2k army is going to simply drop a couple units to 1750.
No restructuring, no changing theme, no paradigm shift. To go back to the gun analogy…firing an assault rifle – an M16. Add an extended clip, laser sight, flashlight, suppressor, railgrips, retractable stock…and you’re still firing the same M16 that you’ve been practicing with. A little adjustment is in order to compensate for weight, kick, grip…but it fires like it has every other time you’ve tried. Remove accessories and you still have your trusty M16.
To summarize, that’s my style of play. I toyed around with scourges – came close to buying some. Put my old reavers on the table, played with hellions, and got a feel for my codex – all the while driving towards my original plan for my army. Hulksmash and I bounced ideas for my army back and forth, and when I found what I liked…I tested, and tested and mercilessly honed it, tweaked it, adjusted it, added units, removed units, changed wargear and sizes…until I had an army that I would put down in front of ANY opponent, in ANY mission, in ANY tournament.
And regardless of point level, I get to play the same army that I’ve tweaked and practiced with!