View Full Version : How do you write a good list

world in grey
17-03-2010, 15:00
As the title says how do you write a good list? everytime I start writing a new army list out I end up either with no idea where to start or with a complete mix of different units that don't really back each other up, cos I thought ow they are cool or I like the fluff on that unit. |either that or I buy a load of models cos they look great then have no ideas now to make them into an army, at the moment I have 3 boxes of space wolves 3 boxes of space wolf terminators and a devistator squad just sitting about cos they looked cool when they came out.

So how do you go about writing a good list that will actually work on the table top?

17-03-2010, 15:57
Really, the first question you should ask yourself is the following:

"What do I want to get out of this army?"

If the answer is:

"I want an army that looks great on the tabletop, with models I love, and that fit the fluff and character well."

Then buy the models you like, using your respective Codex as a guide to what is/is not legal (for example, check how many special weapons you can have in a squad, etc). Make your list whatever you'd like - The Boxes of Space Wolves that you have can easily be put into an army - That's 30 Grey Hunters/Blood Claws/Power Armored Wolf Guard and 15 Wolf Guard Terminators plus a squad of Long Fangs. Throw a character in there for your personal battlefield representation, and you got an army.

If the answer to that question is:

"I want to win my games."

Then you'll go about making that army list a little differently. That generally involves looking at HOW people win 40k games, and then taking the units that accomplish that goal. Do you want to overwhelm your enemy with scoring units? Do you want to crush them in close combat? Do you want to table them by turn 3? All of those will yield different results. Part of this hobby is that everyone approaches things differently, and (thankfully!) that will produce different armies.

Yes, you can balance "I want a characterful army that also wins games" but it's not always easy. Find out what you'd like to do with your Space Wolves, and then go in that direction. For help with units, tactics, and choices there is a Space Wolf tactica here as well.

Good luck!

Creeping Dementia
17-03-2010, 16:24
As the title says how do you write a good list? everytime I start writing a new army list out I end up either with no idea where to start or with a complete mix of different units that don't really back each other up, cos I thought ow they are cool or I like the fluff on that unit. |either that or I buy a load of models cos they look great then have no ideas now to make them into an army, at the moment I have 3 boxes of space wolves 3 boxes of space wolf terminators and a devistator squad just sitting about cos they looked cool when they came out.

So how do you go about writing a good list that will actually work on the table top?

I personally start off by thinking about 'how to get objectives'. So first priority is the get at least 3 troop choices, that actually have mobility and survivability.
Next priority is getting reliable or large amounts of anti-tank weaponry.
After that work in ways to deal with hordes.
Then fill the rest with anti-Meq stuff or synergy units.

Those are the general guidelines I use, works well for me, but with more experience I use the method outlined below.

Now if you want to get slightly more complicated, come up with a strategy and several unique tactics before you do anything else. Then build the list exclusively to be able to pull off those tactics/strategy. This method does require playtesting though, because a large portion of things that sound genius in your head won't actually translate to results on the tabletop.

17-03-2010, 16:40
OK, this is a quick breakdown of how I personally go about picking a list that is balance at dealing in a reasonable way with just about anything:

Pick 2-3 units of similar troops

Two thirds of the games you'll play are about holding objectives and that's done by troops so troops are always a good place to start. If there are no-brainer options for them (like a leaders with hidden Power fists) add it now. Other options leave for the time being.

Compensate for your troops weaknesses

Speed Ė Most troop units are slow, so buy them a vehicle to speed them up. You have a choice here of dedicated transports and other vehicles with transport options. Either are good, but remember this primary purpose of these units are to transport your troops quickly so donít get carried away buying weapons that youíll not want to fire. You donít need to mechanise every squad, some objectives will be in walking distance or even in your deployment zone and so these units can make good use of heave weapons.

Anti-Tank Ė Most troops are armed with anti-personnel weapons so taking those Lascannon in tactical squads may work well but arenít the idea as it means there are at least 4 other marines not firing their weapons. Solve this by buying dedicated anti-tank units (I find ranged is better than combat unless you can support your combat anti-tank unit(s) with your troop units). Avoid mixing weapons, either focus on anti-light vehicles (S6-7) or anti-heavy vehicle (S8-9).

At this point, if youíve chosen to take just one unit then take heavy weapons on troop choices (especially the non-mechanised one) that fill the other niche. I.E. if you took a devastator squad with lascannon, take a plasma cannon for your tactical squad not mounted in a rhino. This gives some emergency backup when facing lots of vehicles or when youíre getting unlucky with the dice and that tank really needs to die.

Anti-Horde Ė This is actually really easy, take template weapons on troop choices that have the options or add a support unit with that option. Template weapons mow-through horde armies and their troops will want the objectives your troops are contesting (or vice-versa).

Characters usually enhance your troops either by their leadership or by special rules, often both. Look at your available choices and look for the synergies. Where does that special rule further enhance your troops or help compensate for their weaknesses. Exampled being commissars giving stubborn to large infantry squads negating their fragility in combat or Vulkan making all the flame weapons in your army even more deadly.

Avoid over-arming your characters and keep in mind where they need to be, ensuring there will be enough room in transports where necessary.

This will give you a basic balanced list. With the points you have left, expand on the same principle or buy what I call ace-in-the-hole units which are units you can use to throw your enemy off guard and force his hand. This could be terminators (or practically anything that deep strikes), very fast vehicles like falcons which must be dealt with or they could steal a late game objective, etc. These options are often the most attractive units in the army book and rightly so, they attract a lot of attention from the enemy and help let your little guys win the game by taking the heat off a little.

That should get you started with at least some food for thought.

17-03-2010, 16:44
I think about the basic type of list I'm trying to build- Assault based, fully mechanised, all Infantry etc.

Then I fill the various roles that the Army must furfill- objective takers, anti-horde, anti-tank capacity etc...

Then I think about if I actually have the models available. Most of the time, with my guard, the answer is yes.

17-03-2010, 17:51
I never write new lists. As soon as I get a new codex I just write down the best unit from each FOC section and then throw the codex away.

(just kidding) :)

I think carefully about what the force I am creating represents, at the moment I am playing with LATD, and with limited models available, but I put together the aspects I feel should be present and then sprinkle a few goodies on top.

For example, if my force has been stranded away from the supply lines for a while they might have fewer working transports, however if they are a fresh linebreaker force they may have several battle tanks. If they are just holding a position there is likely to be plenty of basic infantry.

On top of this I add the more elaborate choices - Chaos Marines for elite punch, plaguebearers for some toughness, chaos spawn for a laugh. Whatever else I feel like fielding today really.

17-03-2010, 17:54
I find that a focus is the main point.

Its all fine and well having a Jack of all Trades army, but they tend to do a little of everything, and you tend not to know what to do half the time.

If the army has a focus, then you know what you need to do, and every unit (and Special Characters now) will increase the theme you are working around.

I am not talking one tactic armies (mass assaulty, mass shooty) but merely a theme. My Sallies are unsurprisingly led by Vulkan , and his abilities gives the army a focus, a fast, short ranged force.

17-03-2010, 17:56
I have yet to play often enough to become good at list writing, but I still have a formula that I think produces a decent list that I'll enjoy playing.

1) I look through the troops section, and think about what I like the most. Chances are, I'll have 2-3 of these units. Then, I outfit them for basic anti-tank or anti-horde capability. Usually one of each.

2) I look at the HQ section, and pick an HQ that synergizes well with troops, and whatever other units I might be using. I prefer HQ's that add a bonus to HQ's that are straight killy.

3) I ask myself 2 questions: Do I have enough anti-tank, and do I have enough anti-horde? If the answer to either is no, I set about rectifying that while staying within the constraints of the FoC.

17-03-2010, 18:02
I generally pick my core first. This is not my troops, this is the part of the army that gets me excited, what I want to play. Then I figure out how to complement it on the battle field.

I allow myself to splurge on my core to get them how I want, and strip down the support. Play a few games before painting so I can work out bugs, then I fine tune.

17-03-2010, 20:19
When I build my army list I first take a step back at the army and ask myself; what is this armyís strengths and weaknesses? Usually there are four areas that I look at; ranged firepower, close combat prowess, speed/maneuverability, and resiliency.

I then decide which area to exploit. Usually if an army appears to be strong in one particular area, I build around that area but, occasionally, Iíll build around an area that I consider weak. This has tactical viability because, if I consider an area to be weak, I can usually expect my opponent to come to the same conclusion and attempt to exploit that weakness. My favorite example is a CC IG army.

Once I have a general idea of how I want my army to function, I then look at the core units Ė the troops and ask; how do these units support my strategy? I also ask myself a second question; how do these units support my ability to take objectives?

Once Iíve established the core of my army I then ask myself a very important question; how do I deal with armor? If my troops canít, than I need to add something that doesÖ and try to ensure it capitalizes on the initial strategy Iíve selected for my army.

Once I have a versatile core I then ask myself; if *I* were my opponent, how would I attack this core? I then add units to counter the most obvious vulnerabilities in my core and this often includes a strong HQ choice.

Now that I have a robust core, I then ask myself, what units can give me the edge to help my core achieve its objective?

Hereís a sample of my thinking when I built my current tournament Eldar army list.

Eldar appear to be a fast/shooty army so I will capitalize on those featuresÖ that means wraithlords, avitars, and other slow units do not fit within the context of my army.

The core units I felt were strong are jetbikes and waveserpent-mounted dire avengers. Given comparative resiliency and cost, I elected to take 2 squads of mounted bladestorming dire avengers. As a side note, Iíve also decided to take 10 guardians with shuriken cannon that I ALWAYS hold in reserve. This unit is designed to sit back and camp an objective and force my opponent to come to me Ė this forces my opponent to play my game in objective-based missions.

My poor dire avengers, despite their 1000+ years of training, do not comprehend the use of a fusion gun so I am completely unable to deal with armor. For this reason Iíve included 2 squads of 6 mounted fire dragons. They are nothing more than AV/MC seeking suicide units.

Now, I ask myself, how would *I* attack that core? The answer is most definitely CC. For this reason Iíve elected to take a large mounted sear council.

Lastly, I ask what will give me my edge and the answer, for me, lies in Deep Striking Warp Spiders. This is because I often simply need a solution to a problem somewhere on the board thatís nowhere near my spearhead force. Warp Spiders are decent at dealing with low AV, awesome at dealing with infantry, and pretty good at dealing with MCsÖ plus they can be just about anywhere when they come in.

So thatís how I do it. Itís not the right way or wrong way, but itís my way and it wins me lots of games.

17-03-2010, 20:23
I start by selecting what I want to be sitting in the center of my deployment zone. What is going to be moving the least and what will I want to be able to fall back on? From there I figure out how to defend that, first placing units that will be able to support it up close and then picking something that can react quickly and cut off the enemy before they get to me. After that I pick an HQ that will lend to one of the groups and then fill out the points with support fire/ a back up plan.

In a recent list I centered things around some Pathfinders. From there I took some Striking Scorpions that could infiltrate and some Dire Avengers in Wave Serpents. I could keep either back to support the Pathfinders and either unit could be used as Vanguard (Scorpions being able to start close and Avengers being in transports). After that I took my HQ and looked at some Fire Prisms because they could lurk near the back or move with the Wave Serpents.

17-03-2010, 21:50
get a pen
get a codex
get some paper
put in everything you like
put in troops
put in hole fillers( ie anti tank/horde or some speed)
throw it in the bin and copy a cheesey list of the internets:evilgrin:

17-03-2010, 21:53
get a pen
get a codex
get some paper
put in everything you like
put in troops
put in hole fillers( ie anti tank/horde or some speed)
throw it in the bin and copy a cheesey list of the internets:evilgrin:

lol awesome

17-03-2010, 21:55
get a pen
get a codex
get some paper
put in everything you like
put in troops
put in hole fillers( ie anti tank/horde or some speed)
throw it in the bin and copy a cheesey list of the internets:evilgrin:
Think you forgot two stages, namely:



17-03-2010, 22:06
Think you forgot two stages, namely:



LoL two of the most important steps ever haha.

17-03-2010, 22:29
Think you forgot two stages, namely:



That only works if your armies in underpants:D

17-03-2010, 22:45
I see there as being two main ways of building a competetive list: balanced and easy button.

For the easy button approach, find the "most optimal" units in the codex and max out on them. The internet will help you with this. The result should be a list with maximum damage output and resilience that should hopefully require little actual brainpower to use. As you may be able to tell, I'm not a fan of this approach :)

The balanced approach basically involves taking a variety of units. The main consideration here is that you try and cover as many roles and potentual problems as possible. How able are you to deal with tanks? hordes? MEQs? things with feel no pain? mechanised armies? monsterous creatures? fast moving assault troops? You can't be great against everything, but make sure you have multiple tools for dealing with each of the challenges you are likely to face. This produces a list that is potentually very powerful in the right hands, but requires that you co-ordinate your units and understand their strengths and weaknesses.

A few additional tips:
- Minimum 3 troop units, 4+ is better but not always achievable with some armies.
- Try and make as many of your units "duel use" as possible, i.e. able to take on both tanks and infantry. So meltaguns and powerfists make very good upgrades for your units. With the volume of mechanised lists and vehicles in 40k its always nice if everything has at least some AT capacity - if you don't you'll find yourself regretting that the one unit in a position to deal with a vehicle has no way of harming it.
- Mechanised is good, it means manoevrability and maneuvrability means your ability to control the game and concentrate force when and where you need it. Unless it is a heavy weapons squad give it a rhino.

18-03-2010, 00:29
This is how I go about it:

First of all, decide upon what kind of army you want to play, get an overall idea about how you want it to perform. Want it to be shooting heavy? Fast? Durable? This step will set the tone of your list, as you will take units that either fits into the categories that you want to focus on, or at least supports them. Only because you want to make a fast mÍlťe list does not mean that you can not pick a stationary shooting unit.

Second of all, build up a core around the "themes". These should ideally be troops, tough it does not have to be so. Make sure that you can fit some troops into your list, at least 1troop+1per 500 points is a good basis, tough again, nothing is set in stone.

So now you have a core, it's time to expand upon it. Does this core have any weaknesses? Let's say that you realize that you are low on anti tank, then of course your next step is to invest in some anti tank options. Make sure that these works with your core, a slow moving short range anti tank unit might not be the best thing to bring in a fast close combat army, but a long range stationary unit might well be what you want to bring.

Alright, you have the essentials, your list should be able to go up against an opponent, but it still has holes in it. Try to spot any weakness. What unit would you kill first if you were your opponent? Well, why not take another one? Or a unit that fulfills a similar role. A bit of redundancy is important, you don't want your army to fall because your opponent killed your only anti-tank unit, right? Redundancy does not mean unit spam tough, your anti-tank might well come in many different shapes & sizes, but it should be able to do the job well.

Leftover points without enough to build a full strength combat unit? Invest in a small objective grabber. A unit of grots, a 5man tactical marine squad, you name it.

A few things to remember:
-1 is a target, 2 is a threat, 4 is downright lethal. If you have a single tank in your army, guess where all those las cannons will be pointed. Having multiple tanks means that your opponent won't be able to deal with all of them at the same time. The same is true for infantry squad. A lone infantry squad will simply be a sitting duck.
-Realize at what point of the game each unit will be dangerous. A unit that is dangerous early on in the game will also be targeted early on in the game. Also, a unit meant to crack transports won't do you any good if the rest of your army will already be engaged in close combat by the time it reaches the enemy.
-Know your meta-game. If everyone brings meltas, and nothing else, a tank based list will suffer, but an infantry horde will do rather well. If you want a game winning list, it might be a good idea to do the opposite of what is common in your region.
-Don't expect to get it right at your first attempt. Building an amazingly good tournament winning list that will be copied on the internet for generations to come takes time and patience. You need to test things out before you know how well they work (for you).
-Building your own lists is fun, copying lists from the internet is boring. Yep, it's true.

18-03-2010, 02:23
I focus on the following guidelines for every army I build.

1) Anti-Tank. What methods of tank-hunting does my army have? Str 8 or less works alright on AV 10-12 for the most part. Str 9 is the minimum needed for AV 13 to 14, with Str 8+ Lance/Melta weaponry being preferred. As Orks are my primary army, this boils down to just PKs and Deathrollas, since there really isn't much else.

2) Anti-Monster. Similar to Anti-Tank, but requires low AP values and/or PKs/P-Fists for combat. Generally speaking, you need to wound them at worst on a 4+, and ignore any armor saves of 2+ to 3+. 3+ save monsters of T6 can be brought down through EXCESSIVE weight of small-arm fire, or can be fed expendable infantry while a P-Fist/Klaw chokes the damned thing.

3) Anti Heavy Infantry. This is a catch-all for anything of T4 to T5 at max, with a 2+ to 3+ save (a.k.a. MEQ/TEQ). Generally speaking the primary methods of dealing with these units are to either ignore their armor entirely, or drown them in saving throws. Both methods work, especially for less-expensive armies that can easily outnumber them on a 2:1 ratio or more. Most Heavy Infantry is priced according to their survivability, and thus the point to damage ratio on them tends to be pretty low.

4) Anti Light Infantry. Also referred to as 'Horde', I view this as more accurately being the 'standard army style', with MEQ being the odd ones out. Light Infantry tends to be of 5+ or worse saves, with T values around 3 to 5 at most. They can easily outnumber more 'elite' armies, and provide a sizable body-count. The point to damage ratio on lighter infantry also tends to be quite a bit higher, due to not having to pay for their survivability. As such units like Guardsmen or Shootas tend to out-shoot the more expensive infantry in even points comparisons. Light Infantry tends to stick to cover, or will bring their own. Anti-cover weaponry or mass small-arm fire tends to work best. Templates work as well, provided they can't claim cover from them (especially expensive template weapons). But Troops provide the most firepower for their cost, and are always a solid choice against high model count Light Infantry armies.

5) Anti-Mechanized. Consisting of a multitude of lighter transports, often with some tank support. Anti-mechanized requires weaponry capable of effectively dealing with the light to medium AV values. While weapons of Str 8+ with Lance/Melta tags work alright, lower-cost weaponry of Str 6 to 8 tend to be the some of the most optimal choices. Autocannons, Assault Cannons, Missile Launchers, and Rokkits can be solid investments for dealing with Mechanized formations. Since there's still usually plenty of Infantry (inside the vehicles themselves), Anti-Infantry weapons are still useful.

6) Objecitves. By no means the least important, Objectives are the game. If you're army has 20 more KPs than your opponent, you're in for a rough game if that's the objective. If Objectives are used, and you've got nothing to quickly (and efficiently) capture/contest them... then you may just find yourself fighting for a draw. Scoring units are key here, as is keeping your total KP count from going out of control. My typicaly recommendation, is to take at LEAST 4 solid scoring units... and go for more whenever applicable. This does not include combat-squads to get your 4 units, as small 5-man units of MEQ/TEQ are not particularly difficult to nullify. Faster scoring units (like bikes, where applicable), or tougher ones (like monsters or Deathguard) tend to work extremely well.

I keep these points in my mind as I write a list, and will often check back over it once the list is finished. Certain armies are have no problems meeting these kind of requirements, while other armies will always have a hard time with some of them. Marines for instance, can handle just about anything if fielded right. 6 solid Tac squads can give a light-infantry army serious problems, due to both damage output in relation to unit costs, and in their survivability. And they're at no shortage of anti-tank/monster weapons like meltas. Orks on the other hand, have absolutely no problems murdering infantry, thanks to their horrendous firepower and expendability. But they have serious issues with battle-tanks, which their answer to is charging with PKs/Deathrollas.

Cromwell Haarlock-Leth
18-03-2010, 04:49
I take my Codex.
I look at what could get "red job paint" and carry Troops.
I look at what has got the "fast" USP.
I look at what kind of bikes are offered.
I look at what can make them be even faster, stronger, deadlier.
I got my list.
I scream: "WWWwwaaaaaaggghh"!

More seriously, I tend to build "themed" armies.
So the first thing I chose is the very concept of the would-be army.
Horde? Mech? Speed & CC? Gun line? and so on.
When I've done this, I only have to find the relevant units in the Codex,
then I check if they can deal with armoured vehicles and hordes,
then I check that I got my 3 or 4 (minimal for me, I play either Orks or IG) scoring units.
Usually, the list become very obvious at this point.

Lord-Gen Bale Chambers
18-03-2010, 05:27
I think it depends on what army and type of play style you enjoy most.

Some questions you may want to ask before you write anything down are:
1. Do you want to be heavy shooty or assault oriented or have a balanced approach?
2. Do you want to be all mechanized, all infantry or balanced?
3. Do you want a reserve heavy list? (deep strike / infiltrate)

Once you have that out of the way, you'll want to think about the synergy of your force. Every unit should have a role. Typically I break my armies into three sections.

1. Firebase: This is where my static firepower is. This section should include troops to hold any objectives in the deployment zone and contain any static artillery or shooty units.

2. Strike Force: This section is for taking the attack to the enemy. Mechanized troop choices, outflanking units and dedicated assault units usually fill this section.

3. Support Units: These are units with roles that will vary depending upon the mission or the enemy. In some battles they may sit back to increase the backbone of your fire support as a counter assault unit while in others they may join the assault with your strike force.

If you build a list with this in mind, you'll go into every battle with a basic plan that you can adapt as needed. I do play Guard&Marines and they have units that support this approach.

18-03-2010, 06:26
As the title says how do you write a good list? everytime I start writing a new army list out I end up either with no idea where to start or with a complete mix of different units that don't really back each other up, cos I thought ow they are cool or I like the fluff on that unit. |either that or I buy a load of models cos they look great then have no ideas now to make them into an army, at the moment I have 3 boxes of space wolves 3 boxes of space wolf terminators and a devistator squad just sitting about cos they looked cool when they came out.

So how do you go about writing a good list that will actually work on the table top?

Start small- make a couple of different 500 point lists.

I know, I know, everyone says 40k ain't 40k until you hit x points, but if you're new to an army, you need to figure out what works for you. Playing a 2,000 point game full of brand new units and a codex you're having to flip through four or five times every turn is going to make for a slow learning process (and a boring game for your opponent). Sure, it looks like fun to put out a bunch of crazy new stuff that you've read about on the internet, but you'll find that you learn much more slowly than if you take your new army in smaller portions.

Also, don't take units with a ton of special rules or have rules you don't understand either- if you don't know how psychic tests work, don't take a librarian. Don't understand the Guard's orders system? Simple- don't use it. I don't mind helping a guy out while he learns his army, but when half of his force is made up of units with rules he doesn't understand (or worse- thinks he understands but actually doesn't), that gets old quick. Take one "new/ special rule" type of unit in your 500 point list and figure out the rules, and if possible, the best situation(s) to use that unit in now that you understand it's rules.

When I said make some different 500 point lists, do that- make them different. Take a vehicle or two in one list, take only infantry in another list, run fully mechanized infantry in a third list. If you've got the model for it, take some super expensive unit like Terminators or a special character, then take only standard troops with few upgrades in another list.

After you play around with the options available to you, you'll most likely find that you favor a particular unit or build over another. That's what you build your army around. You mentioned you have a bunch of Space Wolves stuff- once nice thing about the newer codexes is they tend to have a lot more viable units in them than before. It seemed like in 4th ed, you had to run a particular build if you wanted to win, but most of the 5th ed codexes have several competitive builds in them. Don't just mimic what you see on the net- use what you can get your head around for your core then build out from there.

Once you kind of get a feel for what works for you, and you start playing a little more competitively, play to not lose. Don't play to win, play to not lose. At least at first. Don't take unnecessary risks while you're playing- stay in cover, take objectives early and hold onto them once you get them, don't assault units you have no shot at beating, stuff like that.

Play it safe, try to minimize your losses and worry about how to kill the enemy a little bit later. Once you learn how to keep your troops alive and your vehicles moving, you'll find that killing the enemy comes pretty easy.

Good luck!

18-03-2010, 09:25
Best way to write a list is to write whatever you want and then play with it!

Playing will teach you what is good and what is not.

The more you play the better you will become at list making.

18-03-2010, 18:59
A *Good* list? One that wins?

1. Hang out at the local dork store and listen for cries of "Cheese!" and those units/subjects being discussed are the ones to be used.
2. Online, check for the lists that won the 'Ard Boyz tourneys. Use them.
3. Go to an RTT and get the army lists of the winners.
4. Ignore your conscience about trying *not* to be a cheesey-beardy-power-gaming-munchkin.
Take 4e's 'Nidzilla army list for example; it almost ran itself. Mech Eldar? Still a tough/competitive list. Use/acquire/get a list that makes people groan. They gripe about them for good reasons.