Sunday, March 13, 2011
40k for dummies: Scaling, what every gamer needs to know
What you will find in 40k is that there are certain design elements to creating an army in 40k. A "balanced army" generally focuses on including each element in its design. You have to take into account movement, armor, shooting both anti-armor and anti-infantry, assault, etc. When a list heavy loads one design element in hopes of offsetting deficits in other areas, it becomes what is commonly known as a rock, paper, scissor army. It is matchup dependent. My sanguinary guard list that I have been working on lately is such a list. That is also why I think of it only as a fun army, not competitive.
Let's say that you have a desire to be a competitive player and want to create a balanced list. Another thing to consider is scaling. For a beginner this is somewhat easier than for a person who is used to playing at a higher points level. Most beginners focus on creating smaller lists such a 750pt, 1,000pt, or 1,500pt lists. The good thing about this is that once you find a winning combo, you can just add to it to bring it up to higher points levels. When you try the reverse, things become much harder. A list that barely works at 2,000pt. rarely will work at lower points.
Scaling takes in to account a few things. First, can the army achieve as well under more restrictive circumstances (lower points levels) or more abundant circumstances (higher points levels)? If you had to take away a few elements of your army, does it have the necessary redundant elements to handle the loss? Can it still impact the various phases of the game? Conversely, if given more points, can you add to the army in such a way that it can handle other armies with so many bells and whistles?
It is important to understand that scaling can be difficult on a codex by codex basis as well. The newer codexes generally do a better job of scaling up while older ones don't. This is usually because the majority of your must-have units end up in your elite, fast, and heavy slots instead of troop. An example would be the Tau codex. When kroot and firewarriors are your primary troop choices, it is hard not to field a list with maxed out elite and heavy choices. Thus, if you you fill those slots with a 1,500pt. list, you only have troop choices left to help you fill up to 2,000pt. Since these choices aren't as desirable, it makes scaling up tough.
I have two examples of lists that have a hard time scaling down. The first is my sanguinary guard army. Since each unit is so expensive, you have very few units. Last night, I asked someone on Vassal about scaling the list down and when I tried, I found it very hard to do. If I cut out even 1-2 sanguinary guard units, I find myself lacking in scoring troops, but if I cut out my vanguard vets, I have to deepstrike in and then wait until the next turn to act beyond taking a few shots at enemy tanks. That is why this list isn't that competitive. A competitive list can work well at whatever points level you give. Space Wolves are a great example of this.
My second list is the vaunted Crimson Fist, Pedro Kantor build. Sure troop Sternguard squads are nice, but to get them the most effective you have to input a lot of points and the army just doesn't do well until you get to 2,000+ points.
So, what does all of this mean?
For new players, I recommend seeing if an army you are interested in fielding would do well at 1,000pt. That is a great start to shoot for. Then make a plan of action that fills out the rest of the army in such a way that as you scale up to 1,500pt., 1,750pt., 1,850pt., and 2,000pt. you are still able to handle all aspects of the game without having to take meaningless choices just to fill in your points. If you can do that, you have created a balanced army that scales well.
For more information on scaling, check out yesthetruthhurts.com as Stelek covers this information quite a bit and probably even has a dedicated article or two in his primer. As always thanks for reading.