Sunday, May 31, 2015

Intro to phase 0 - aka List Building

In part one of this series I talked about finding the game for you.  Now that you have started into the hobby, you'll find the next part crucial to all your future gaming.  The dreaded Phase 0.  No this isn't listed in your rule book, and no you find it mentioned in any FAQ.  This phase is also known as List building.

All joking aside, list building is the one point in a game that can help or hinder your experience while your playing.  If you build a list that is geared for your own play style, then your going to have fun and a greater understanding of how the army should preform.  If you just build a list of what seems good or build a list that someone tells you is the best build, you may not be able to utilize the army correctly.  Most NetList are geared to how the originator of the list plays the army it was created for.  

Step 1 - Familiarizing yourself with your army.

So where do you begin when building a list.  Well this part is actually going to be kinda intuitive, but sit down with the army list / book / codex  of the army you want to play. Read and absorb the way the units are designed to be played. Figure out if they are meant to be played in close, or at range.  Once you have done this start looking for the synergies and flaws in the army.  Does one unit do something that can help another or hurt another? 

This isn't meant to be a study in frustration, just a way to get you use to really looking at the army.  Once you can see the small things in an army, you'll be able to tune it to your play style. 

Step 2 - Deciding on how you want to play the army.

While this step can lead you in some weird places, it's one of the more overlooked when it comes to some games.  Sure you can always just follow the current power build that you can find online, but that isn't always the best way for you to play the army. That said, there are things your army just wont do if built focusing on a phase of the game that their not meant to be good at.

Lets say your playing 40k, and your playing a primarily shooty army such Necrons.  Does this mean your locked into only being a shooty army? Well yes and no.  Yes because the army is very specialized to excel in the shooting phase of the game.  That does not mean that you have to give up on the assault phase.  The necrons have two solid close combat units in the wraiths and the lychguard.  So if you want to build an assault heavy necron list you can. The problem is your going to run into is that if you face an army that does the assault phase better, your going to have to make up for the difference in your other phases to compensate.

Step 3 - Build an initial list.

Take some time, sit in front of your favorite army list tool, and build a list that you want to test out.  This is in no means your final list.  Think of it as a first draft of an essay.  Your just getting the basics of what you want to do on paper.

What you'll want to do in this step is to take what you learned in step 1, combine it with the ideas on what you want to do from step 2, and put them all together.  Start with the units you know you need for the base of the list.  In Warmachine / Hordes, for example, these will be the caster, war-thing to use the casters free points, and any units or solos that you feel you need for a combo / synergy.

From there you'll look towards how to finish filling out your list.  If you are playing a list that relies on 1 or 2 units in particular then think about maybe backing them up with another.  Redundancy is a good way to fill a list, but doesn't work for games that rely on one of a kind characters / units.  Some systems also actually prefer diversity over redundancy. The big thing when filling out a list is that this is usually where your edits will occur in the future. If you have a solid base idea then your probably not going to be changing the core of your list.

Step 4 - Play test

This is where the fun of list building starts; play the list your just created.  This doesn't mean play the list once, and change it. Play the list 10-20 times to get the feel for it.  Pay attention to what works for you, and what doesn't.  Adjust your play little by little to see if what doesn't feel right can be made to work.  Once your at a point you think you've played it enough to get what needs to change, play it one more time. This will help solidify the changes you want to make to how the army is built.

Step 5 - Revise the list

This step is pretty self explanatory; revise your list to adjust it to better fit your design goal for the list.  Remember that there are things in your army that it can and can't do as well as other armies. If one of the problems in play testing was in one of these areas then they may be worth adjusting for.  Once your done with this it's back to play testing.

The one thing you have to remember is that list building is a never ending thing.  You may have a list that works for you for a time, but by the time the next book comes out it may have a new flaw. That is the thing about miniature war games these days.  The meta doesn't stay stagnant for very long any more.  The only way to counter this rapid change is to never get lax in the way you build list. When 40k and fantasy were 4-6 months between releases you could actually go a year or two before actually having to changing your list, but those days are long gone.  Every games meta is now ever shifting. What may win one week, may not the next. That is why it's a good idea to always look at your list as an long term project.

Another thing you have to think about that I didn't cover was if your building for a tournament.  There are a total different set of parameters you have to keep in mind when building for tournaments. The first is the format. Is the tournament a single elimination, or swiss style.  From there you have to also ask yourself these questions. Do you have a single list or multiple. Do you have restrictions on what models you can use, or how to build your list. Does the tournament use a game standard FAQ, second source FAQ, or local meta rulings.  Once you answer these questions, you'll sit down and run though steps 1-5.  The entire time keeping mind the answers you gave to the questions. Just remember to be prepared for stuff you may or may not see in your normal games.

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