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Turnabout
12-10-2009, 00:09
Hi to everyone on warseer, this is my first thread, so fingers crossed it has some value to it.

As we probably all know, one of the hardest things about Fantasy, and by extension other wargames, is choosing an army. And perhaps more importantly, sticking with it.
I've been going through army after army in Fantasy for the past few years, never able to settle on any. I eventually chose Empire, but... that was a lot of effort, money and time wasted if you ask me.
So, while I mightn't be experienced in the game itself, I am pretty experienced in the precise art of choosing an army. I used to try all kinds of crazy things, from forcing myself to construct elaborate pros and cons lists of possible armies, to drawing some of the units to see what imagery I liked best.

The problem, I think, lies in that there are so many ways to choose an army. Either by... judging the miniatures or the gameplay or the background, or even more abstract aspects such as the army's character. So I thought to myself, isn't there some easier way which doesn't require years of soul-searching? Not that everyone has as much trouble as I did, but some people do.

All this led me to Philosophy. It never really occurred to me, but one day I was thinking that Occam's Razor would almost be perfect to apply to choosing an army. A strange application, and not everyone believes the Razor has any merit, but it was just a theory.
For people who aren't familiar with the principle of Occam's Razor, it means "The principle states that one should not make more assumptions than the minimum needed."
Though Google will explain it much better than I do.

Basically it means, if you have 2 opposing choices, you need to go for the one which is simpler, and based a lot less on assumptions.
An example I read once is about crop circles. Are their aliens? Or are they just hoaxers?
If we use the razor, then they're most definitely hoaxers. For the alien theory we'd have to assume aliens are real, that they're coming to our planet, that they have the technology to do that etc.

So how does this apply to warhammer? (more specifically army choice)

Well, like all good experiments, I made myself the first subject:P
I thought back to the last time I had to choose between two armies.

Dark Elves or Empire? I'd started an empire army, had about 800 points. And I'd just picked up the DE book recently.
Applying Occam's razor... I realised Empire was the right choice to make because... I already had a solid foundation for an Empire army, I'd had them for almost a year so was more familiar with their rules and background and the models were mostly plastic.

In comparison...if I chose Dark Elves, it would assume that I'd need to learn the rules better, start an army from scratch and actually learn to paint metal:P
So as much as I liked them... Empire were the better choice.

So now I ask everyone else what they think of this.
I'm by no means a philosopher, so if I got anything wrong about the razor then feel free to correct me.
More specifically, I'd like to know what people think of applying the Razor to army choice.
And maybe even to in-game tactics....it could have some application there.

That's it from me for now, sorry if that was a bit long-winded.

sigur
12-10-2009, 00:11
Yes, this sounds like a reasonable approach. Is there any question to this thread or did you just want to share how you choose armies?

edit: ah, now that you added the other 80% of the posting, it's much clearer to me. ;) Thanks for sharing!

Turnabout
12-10-2009, 00:22
haha sorry, my finger ah...slipped and put the thread up a quarter finished:P
Corrected now though.

Axis
12-10-2009, 03:59
The big issue with occam's razor is that it often isn't clear at all which option is simplest or rests on less assumptions.

This is doubly so with choosing armies.

For starters i have no idea what an assumption would be for this? It's like choosing between chocolate and vanilla ice cream.. assumptions don't really come into play, nor does simplicity. These choices are choices of taste, it is not positing any metaphysical theory where you can actually list some assumptions (e.g. assumptions based on causation or determinism tend to be usual). I just don't think you can talk about assumptions (in the sense meant by occam's razor) in relation to choosing armies.

You can talk about assumptions in different sense but those are things like 'I assume empire is easy to paint'. These are assumptions that people have about armies. I don't think these sorts of assumptions are the same as the ones in Occam's Razor. These are just epistemological concerns.. It is equivalent to saying "i think empire is easy to paint but if i am wrong please correct me" or something similar.

It get's even more foggy when you try use the 'simple' incarnation of occams razor. "Which theory is simplest?" is a question that you can answer (though it isn't always clear). "Which army is simplest?", just begs the question of what you mean by simplest. Are you talking about simplest to paint/game/assemble.. or something else?

A final point. Occam's razor doesn't actually guarantee best results. There is nothing to say that a theory based on more assumptions might not be right compared to the one based on less. It all depends on what weight you give to the assumptions. Some assumptions might be more dastardly than others. In that case you have to give different weightings to different assumptions (not strict numerical comparison). Occam's Razor also does nothing to help when faced with two different theories are based on the same (quantitative or qualitative) assumptions. I think it was Quine (or at least i read it in relation to something he wrote) that pointed out that for any theory, T, you can always have an equally good theory, T*, which is different and conforms to all the evidence.

So i am not even sure if you used Occam Razor in your post. It seems you did what most people do anyway which is list some pro's and con's and give different weightings to each accordingly. To go back to the ice cream analogy. Picking chocolate or vanilla... well maybe you like vanilla more (pro) but it costs twice as much as chocolate (bigger con), maybe you already have a chocolate bar so dont want to double up on flavours... etc etc etc. Your result (VANILLA!!!) depends on how you weight things.

Typical criteria for choosing warhammer armies include:
Aesthetics
Background
Cost (money)
Play Style/army composition
Ease of assembly
Ease of aquisition
Amount of variety (which comes under a number of things)
What people in your group already have (people don't like doubling up for some reason)
Good/evil/in between (comes a bit under background)
Elves or not ('if elves no thanks' is the usual one)
Humans or not (why people dont like humans is beyond me)
Effectiveness (will this army win lots?)


I'm sure there are more and there is definite overlap between categories.

Turnabout
12-10-2009, 07:42
Thanks so much Axis haha

I was hoping someone with a lot more experience in Philosophy would reply.
All of what you say makes a lot of sense. I was never too sure about Occam's Razor, but it's a pretty interesting idea.
I guess it would have a lot of problems if you tried to fit it to warhammer. Oh well, excuse the silly thread:P

And thankyou again, that was really insightful.
You'd be getting extra reputation points if this was the sort of forum that did that kind of thing:D

Gobbies
12-10-2009, 08:00
I dont believe it's a good idea either. To pick your army, you gotta see what each race looks like and also look at their style of play. Im sure one of them will make you feel excited. There's always that one army that will get you really excited inside, and when that happens, you go for it and dont doubt it

mrtn
12-10-2009, 09:58
I subscribe to Gobbies' "gut feeling" theory. But then I spend ten times as much time painting than playing, so in my case aesthetics should be weighted ten times more than play style, so maybe I am using Occam's Razor after all? :confused:

highelve0065
12-10-2009, 10:11
what i have found out from my friends is that if you like the way an army looks then you wil generaly liek the army itself. armies can always be customized, to some extent, to acomidate your playstyle as long as that is able to be flexable as well.

Turnabout
12-10-2009, 11:53
Yeah, going for your gut feeling is a pretty good idea.
My problem was... I didn't... researched every army countless times, committed to a different one every week...and then more or less desensitised myself to my gut feeling haha

But then... I think I got it back with Empire. I just had to admit that I was a human player in the end, stop being in denial about it.
So maybe it does work after all.

The Red Scourge
12-10-2009, 15:23
Funny approach.. But... Seems an awfully academic and intellectual approach, where most people approach the game and army choice on an emotional level - there is a reason people stick with their armies despite their underdog status and collect armies of 5K+ points, despite playing most of their games at 2K :)

Its more a question of whether you commit yourself from the beginning. Of course you're going to get confused if you spend time drooling over every army book, when you haven't got a primary army of some size yet - it will be a lot easier to change, since you haven't committed to your first army yet or taken the time to learn how to use it. While those who go out and get a 2-3K force from the getgo, will have to commit themselves to the army, both to get it painted and looking good, but also to learn how to use it, or else they'll have wasted a sizable "investment" that could have been used better on a S.O. :)

enygma7
12-10-2009, 21:14
This might help you pick an army (which is the easy but) but not to stick with it. I normally want to play and collect an army because I'm enthused about it. As I actually buy and paint the models this enthusiasm will inevitably fade as it becomes less fresh. I think this is why people tend to rush out and buy the latest army released, get bored and then buy the next one that comes out. The best cure I've found is age: as I've got older I've got better at finishing the projects I start. A good narrative campaign also helps as it keeps you interested in your chosen army as you "role play" it and different events keep things fresh.

GodSlayer
13-10-2009, 03:20
Hows that for philosophy : Finding a good army is like finding yourself...

Looking of the astetics, playability or fluff are all ways of expressing how we play. I paint a lot more that I play (sadly), and build my army accordingly.
The Occam Razor is (if I remember well) more of a way to choose between two theories when you don't know more. It would only work on choosing your first army if you never played (or seldom) and don't know much about the game/armies.
A prime example would be someone building an army solely on the BfSP box. Not knowing that there is more evil and chaosy than goblins will stop you from choosing a Warrior band.
As you play, and read about, the rest of the game, you will discover a better fitting army. May it be WAAC, fluff or purely how hot you find the models.

Arjuna
13-10-2009, 05:39
Interesting original post. I do not think that this quandry is a valid use of Occam's Razor however I do appreciate that the OP is unafraid to think about things in a novel and creative way.

A couple of points, the razor is not properly referred to as a theory. It is a formal philosophy how to choose between two theories. The op has the gist of it. The more modern term used extensively in science, especially the subdisciplines of evolutionary biology known as systematic biology or alternatively phylogenetics is called the "principle of parsimony".

There are very formal algorithims that can plot alternative theories of character change for a species or group of species. Under occam's razor, or the principle of parsimony the best choice among those hypotheses would be to select the model with fewest changes. Herein is where many people go wrong in their understanding of evolutionary theory because this method does not assume that the best model is the "simplest". For example, if one had to choose between model a which required 4 very "simple" genetic changes and model b which required 3 very complex genetic changes, one would choose model b. For the most part the ideas behind occam's razor are also essential to maximum likilihood analysis as well Bayesian statistical methods.

Axis
13-10-2009, 05:48
Thanks so much Axis haha

I was hoping someone with a lot more experience in Philosophy would reply.
All of what you say makes a lot of sense. I was never too sure about Occam's Razor, but it's a pretty interesting idea.
I guess it would have a lot of problems if you tried to fit it to warhammer. Oh well, excuse the silly thread:P

And thankyou again, that was really insightful.
You'd be getting extra reputation points if this was the sort of forum that did that kind of thing:D

It's not a silly thread. I think it shows a good mindset to consider applying it to wargaming. Having the creative thinking to apply different methods or paradigms or approaches to a problem is an excellent skill to have.

Boondock
13-10-2009, 09:20
I think an army is like most everything in life. Some stuff suits you and others do not. The problem lies, I think, when people choose not to play an army that fits their other criteria solely because of it's competitiveness and move on to something else that they do not enjoy as much intrinsically.

Interestingly, between my friends and I, I have noticed that our favorite armies, the ones we enjoy the most, are ones that in some ways reflect our personalities.

Turnabout
13-10-2009, 10:35
Wow, wasn't expecting this many posts. Thanks to everyone who's replied, it's all really interesting to read through.

If only I had something else to add, but I think everyone's covered it more or less. It's pretty clear that there's so many different ways to choose an army, and even once you've chosen one, committing to it is another matter entirely.

I'm guessing that... there are as many ways to find an army as there are warhammer players in the world:P Which makes it quite difficult to give advice on choosing an army to a new player.

Anyway, thanks again to everyone whose posted so far. I'm glad it wasn't as silly a thread as I thought:P

I was also thinking you could maybe apply the razor in gameplay.
e.g. should I charge the war hydra with my empire swordsmen, or the dark elf warriors?
Probably should avoid the hydra, since I'll have to make the assumption that my men will roll well enough to hit and wound it etc.

Pretty bad example:P
But...really.... I suppose a much better, more effective way to make battlefield decisions is to use a little thing called common sense.

Tokamak
13-10-2009, 11:58
This is like occam's razor for people you love.

Turnabout
14-10-2009, 02:08
This is like occam's razor for people you love.

Interesting way to look at it, but a pretty valid one.
Though I hope people have a little bit more love for loved ones than their warhammer armies haha

It's a good comparison though.

Dranthar
14-10-2009, 04:24
Okay, so my interpretation of using Occams Razor to select an army would be to take each army, and look at how different you'd need to make a 'standard' army (as in list, models, painting, play style) to make you want to collect them.

So for me;

Dwarfs:
- Would want a combat-heavy army, with only minor shooting to balance it out.
- Would want to theme it in a way that makes them faster to paint and less traditionally 'dwarfish' - specifically an army of stone statues, animated by a Chaos Dwarf Sorcerer (on an "Anvil"?).

Orcs and Goblins:
- Would prefer an orc-free army.

Warriors of Chaos:
- Would want a Daemon Prince
- Would want a list that does something in all phases of the game. This roughly translates to at least one flier (ie Daemon Prince), good magic, some infantry, cavalry and a Hell Cannon.
- Would not want maraulders, instead preferring a highly elite army list.
- Would want to theme towards Malal, rather than any established Chaos God.

So by the above, it's pretty clear that my army of choice is O&Gs (hmm, my main army...funny that ;) ). While WoC seemingly has the longest list of things to change, in my own mind it's actually less 'work' and compromises than what I'd need to do to take a Dwarf army army. So WoC would be my second army of the 3.

Occams Razor FTW. :D

Turnabout
14-10-2009, 11:30
Okay, so my interpretation of using Occams Razor to select an army would be to take each army, and look at how different you'd need to make a 'standard' army (as in list, models, painting, play style) to make you want to collect them.

So for me;

Dwarfs:
- Would want a combat-heavy army, with only minor shooting to balance it out.
- Would want to theme it in a way that makes them faster to paint and less traditionally 'dwarfish' - specifically an army of stone statues, animated by a Chaos Dwarf Sorcerer (on an "Anvil"?).

Orcs and Goblins:
- Would prefer an orc-free army.

Warriors of Chaos:
- Would want a Daemon Prince
- Would want a list that does something in all phases of the game. This roughly translates to at least one flier (ie Daemon Prince), good magic, some infantry, cavalry and a Hell Cannon.
- Would not want maraulders, instead preferring a highly elite army list.
- Would want to theme towards Malal, rather than any established Chaos God.

So by the above, it's pretty clear that my army of choice is O&Gs (hmm, my main army...funny that ;) ). While WoC seemingly has the longest list of things to change, in my own mind it's actually less 'work' and compromises than what I'd need to do to take a Dwarf army army. So WoC would be my second army of the 3.

Occams Razor FTW. :D

haha thanks for the Dranthar. Maybe the Razor does have a tiny bit of value in warhammer so long as... we don't use it in its strictest, by-the-book form. So yeah, good example.

mrtn
14-10-2009, 14:45
Warseer, shaving Occam's Sideburns since 2009!

Putty
14-10-2009, 15:25
to the OP:

I changed Fantasy armies twice.

Started with Woodelves. Sold them after 2 years.

Started Warriors of Chaos (they actually was Hordes of Chaos but I was wise enough to start an all mortals army just before I sold my WE). Recently liquidated them.

Decided to start Empire. Based on my playtesting and discussions with my friends (who themselves own multiple armies) all encourage me to get into Empire, because they are the most flexible army in Fantasy.

Coincidentally, flexibility is what made me start Imperial Guard too.

I do find it odd that despite the fact that Space Marines are a flexible army, I didn't end up starting SM.

Then again this is most likely because my first 40k army was Black Templars and I hated painting Power Armor.

Empire kinds of emulates IG. Lots of guns. And (S)tanks. :p

Turnabout
15-10-2009, 12:04
Empire kinds of emulates IG. Lots of guns. And (S)tanks. :p

I'll drink to that brother;)

And yeah, I almost started a Hordes of Chaos army too a year or two ago, bought the army book and everything:P

I guess the moral of the story is that there's no catch-all way to choose an army, and everyone does it differently. However, it's easy to forget that maybe there's a lot of fun to be had in the pursuit of that perfect army which suits you flawlessly. And in the end you might make a better choice, rather than committing unconditionally to your first choice.

If I'd done that...I'd probably be playing Ogre Kingdoms right now; which wouldn't have been so bad. But I think Empire, while not perfect for me, are the closest to perfect I can get at this stage, and I'm really happy with them.

So yeah, lesson learnt I think. Thanks for everyone who's posted, it's been a really interesting discussion to read through. Glad I got to share some things too.

artyboy
15-10-2009, 13:59
My criteria for choosing a new army? Whatever's cheap.

Dranthar
16-10-2009, 02:42
My criteria for choosing a new army? Whatever's cheap.
Heh, well that's as good a reason as any! In fact, I believe I'll be building 40k Chaos Marine and Daemon armies for that exact reason - I've gotten almost all of the models needed for very cheap.

It's also the reason I'm looking at doing an Ogre Kingdoms army...that, and the excuse to paint an entire 2000pt army in one weekend. :D

MTUCache
16-10-2009, 02:54
I prefer Einstein's Theory of Relativity.

Once I used some of Feynman's Particle Physics lectures, but I didn't feel like painting that many figures.

Seriously... Occam's Razor... for choosing a bunch of toys?

Why not use a freaking Ouiji board? At least that will give you a shot at getting laid by a freaky wicca-chick. :p

Dranthar
16-10-2009, 03:04
Well there's always Murpheys Law, although that invariably leads you to playing Deamons, where nothing could ever go wrong. ;)

Glabro
16-10-2009, 11:30
While the Razor might or might not have merit in army selection, I don't think what you posted really counts as using it.

In the end it seemed to boil down to convenience vs. style and preference. In my opinion, choosing convenience is not the way to go, and will lead to frustration and disappointment (especially if you keep losing) and yet another changing of the army later on. Sorry if you're already committed, hopefully it'll work out.

Condottiere
16-10-2009, 12:17
In the end, I think it mostly comes down to both an appeal to intellect and emotion.

Some players like particular races, some like philosophies that each army represents (they might be completely different to the one that they subscribe to in real life), some just like the models. The whole is regulated by your budget.

I sort of fell into DoW by accident, as no one else had selected them, and I disliked Empire and Bretonnians. While O&G, Ogres, Elves and Dwarves looked very interesting, they were more or less taken, and then I realized I could potentially play them all with any Mercenary list.

Also, I tended to take Mercenary characters in more futuristic games.

The problem remains budgetary and availability, but that tends to be solved by proxying and auctions.

Turnabout
16-10-2009, 12:36
I am committed to Empire. But I never said I used Occam's Razor to choose it haha That was sort of just...looking back in hindsight. Thanks nonetheless Glabro:)

And MTUCache.. that's a good point. I'm not a scientist though, I prefer Philosophy. This thread was more or less just speculative:P
And I'm not sure if getting laid by freaky wiccan chicks is much of an incentive to employ the use of a Ouiji board in army choice...:eyebrows:

but that's just me...