Monday, November 14, 2016

The Most Important Part of List Building: Win Conditions

The Most Important Part of List Building: Win Conditions

Win conditions are something I see very few players consider when list-building. I thought I’d write some guidelines to developing these.

Win conditions are a fairly abstract but incredibly important part of list building. They are the reason a list can’t be properly critiqued without knowing what kind of missions it will be used in, and far too many players completely ignore them. Defining them can be tricky, but for the purpose of this article I’m going to define them simply as “the things you need to do to win”. For the most part this means “how you are going to score points and stop your opponent from doing so”.

Your win conditions should be flexible, but when building a list you usually won’t know your opponents and it's fine to have general win conditions. The best thing you can do is think about what your units force your opponent’s units to do. I see far too many people play out games in their head where they just say “my units kill his units”. The game rarely works that way, and good opponents will never leave their valuable units where they can get killed easily. Instead, think about how your opponent will react to your units. If you have a wraithknight, your opponent will either have to avoid the area of the board it’s in, or dedicate a lot of firepower to killing it. That means your wraithknight establishes board control for you. If you have a drop pod alpha strike, your opponent will probably hold some units in reserve or change his deployment to protect valuable units, giving your other units space and time to move.

For some concrete examples:
My Ravenwing NOVA list revolved around establishing board control with my large squad of black knights, while having durable, utilitarian units that could threaten any unit and be anywhere on the board I needed them to. In pretty much every game, my win conditions revolved around cleaving through my opponent’s scoring units while avoiding or quickly killing deathstars/superheavies. This worked because NOVA’s allowed me to choose to score at the end, and my units were fast enough that they didn’t need to worrying about scoring until the last couple turns.

My Ork ITC list combines a bunch of threatening individual units with a “centerpiece” unit and a few throwaway units. The stompa gives me a huge swathe of board control, while the bikes can threaten most tougher units. The deffkoptas, grotz, and lootas can be placed just about anywhere, to score objectives, screen for other units, or tie up enemies. This list works because it has three distinct types of units my opponent has to try to deal with, and each of them support each other. The stompa is difficult to kill, and my bikes are capable of killing most things that actually threaten it. Meanwhile, my opponent has a lot of smaller units they have to deal with if they choose to ignore/avoid the stompa.

Understanding your win conditions is important because they’re how you win bad matchups, or ensure you can win 50-50 ones. Most games it won’t matter how much stuff you kill if your opponent scores more points than you at the end of the game. It also allows you to take on armies you haven't encountered before. You may not know what everything in their army does, but if you keep in mind your general win conditions, you’ll be able to play the mission your way and work around the enemy units you’re not familiar with. When making your list, don’t worry about which of your units kill what type of enemy units, but what they do to help you win the game (which very well could be killing enemies that threaten your important units).

The hardest part of considering your win conditions is often being honest with yourself. Two squads of space marine scouts are never going to hold objectives if your opponent wants to kill them, and a squad of deathwatch marines aren't going to kill all of your opponent's vital units. Always treat your opponent like he's going to play smart, and think about what you need to do to win the mission, or stop him from doing so.

Sorry if that was a bit abstract, if you have questions or even want to show me your army list for feedback, please feel free to do so. Have a great week guys.

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