[This seems to be a general topic as it's *about* the meta-tactics but not about tactics themselves]
Alright, so I've noticed this in a couple of threads recently and have to address it: 40k is mostly about list building and not about tactics.
Now, I wish to make an argument on why this is an exaggeration and also why it is incorrect.
-In any 40k forum tactics end up talking specifically about your list and how to improve it; seldom does it actually go into the tactics side of things.
-This is not because Lists are the only determinant, but because of a set of reasons:
*Lists are the most common culprit as they'll have inefficient choices or units that simply don't go together; further internal balance issues makes Lists a good start
*One must assume best-play by both sides, and thus tactics during gameplay are irrelevant if we expect good players to be operating the armies; so we look to the Lists to see whether this assumption holds. Note that not using this assumption means you talk down to potentially quite intelligent people.
*One must also assume that the players know and follow all the rules pre-game, such as reasonable terrain and such
*Most importantly those who critique have to consider that there are -so many armies in 40k- that they have to put ideas in the vacuum of knowledge that they can affect; I.E. they can't really know your meta-game or what exactly all the problems on the OPs side is so they revert to a controlled section of knowledge that is quite important
-Tactics in 40k are unrealistic and thus most tactics or advice from books, elders, actual battles, etc are not applicable.
-This could be said about many RTS; let's use Starcraft. There's nothing realistic about battles in Starcraft and almost the entire game is actually about army building and macro. Now you'll point out this is a similar conclusion about 40k! But this is because the only way for tactics in 40k or Starcraft (in a battle sense) to matter is to get to the same level of play. Starcraft pros get to play a minimalist's RTS by having reached the ability to macro and build balanced armies well. Since most 40k players struggle to get a list that is not flawed in some specific and important way (durability, offensive output, mobility, scoring units, etc..) they cannot easily reach that point where it is *only* the tactics that matter and no longer the army lists fault.
-It is also a useful crutch to blame a book's power level (I.E. list building power) rather than attempt to improve your list/game. While we may assume people use tactics perfectly and be unable to admit our own flaws in battles we likely *frequently* make obvious mistakes (however minor) in games that can be the difference between a win and a loss (or draw.) Players make a huge difference in the game; if you're a skilled player (particularly WAAC) you should play a new player with 10-20% points less or so and just notice how easy the game goes. This itself is a counterpoint to the entire argument and can't really be blamed on books (save dramatic comparisons like SW vs. Tau)
-Single dice rolls have gigantic in game effects and the higher the level of randomness make many tactics irrelevant; this means we point to lists to mitigate such risks.
-This is *somewhat* true; but is a crutch and further it is an exaggeration. While lists are built to mitigate these risks and the point stands that randomness decreases the value of tactical decisions (as a perfect tactic can fail due to extreme rolling) I would argue that those who truly understand the value of tactical decisions in the game must mitigate the risk *in game* by having backup plans and so forth. This means that while truly abysmal rolling can still screw you, you can literally double your chances at success by simply formulating a backup plan.
E.G. splitting off an independent character when charging from a transport to charge the same squad anyway (in order to mitigate bad fleet or difficult terrain rolls.) With double the chances of making it to assault it makes the difference between needing one impossible crappy roll vs. needing two impossible crappy rolls to screw your tactic. Further, proper positioning and utilizing this principle can allow one to charge a different squad instead.
The point of this thread is to get across the notion that the game is somewhat tactically deep; order of operations is *extremely* important for many armies, positioning (E.G. the difference of utilizing cover properly vs. putting yourself in range of more weapons), mitigation of risks (both in lists and gameplay), etc..
Personally I think that while people are learning to build lists properly they are often also learning the tactics they need to understand how to play properly; I'd argue however that because the list building portion is purposeful learning and that the tactics portion is intrinsic/intuitive (usually) that those who say that the tactics in this game are simple are merely exaggerating the ease of tactics due to being good at other games (and thus applying previous knowledge to this game) or simply not noticing the learning process.
I will not say 40k requires the utmost of tactical genius but I would say that the difference between an experienced player and a newb is extreme, and similarly a good player vs. a great player is similarly extreme; however list building can water this down enough to be unnoticable. IMO the list-building portion comes down to a difference of objectives for players (some WAAC, some fluffy, etc..) and thus is also an easy focus. Some players may have tactical acumen but lack the will to change a list for what others see as archaic reasons; I'd still argue however that for someone to be tactically relevant in this game they should have the ability to perfectly utilize a power-list of sorts. There is careful balancing in a 40k list that must be done much like in a MTG deck; while randomness exists in both so does perfect play. The difference between a good player with a good deck and a bad player with a good deck is akin to the difference in a similar situation in 40k.
I pose this argument to:
-Potentially change the opinion of some/add knowledge to the pool
-Receive critiques that so that I might see it's weaknesses, flaws, or otherwise be able to improve the argument. (Worst case scenario is actually that the argument is incorrect, but I don't believe that.)
-See if any others are like minded