List building 101 for singles tournament games ;)
Today I thought I would do a writeup in response to somebody else's blog post. It was actually Chris Fret's article on list building, published on WWPD. I read the article and I really liked it, but for me, it did not fit under the title "list building 101". What Chris wrote, was for me: "how I built my French infantry company".
With my twist on competitive gaming, when I considered the title: "list building 101" I understood it more like "list building 101 for singles tournaments". And it occured to me, that it is indeed a good mental challenge and fantastic material for sharing my thoughts on this subject:)
In any case, for an article called "list building 101 for singles tournament games" I decided to create a generic description that can be used for the majority of cases. Exceptions are there, but it is not my intention to cover them in this article.
So here it goes my take on "list building 101 for singles tournament games":
Hi, and welcome to another article on Sexy Sixes. Today, I wanted to share my thoughts on what are the basic topics I cover when I build lists for tournament play.
Considering new options on how to build a force normally starts with one of the following triggers: a new book comes out, a tournament that I intend to go to is announced or I was asked to write an article about a given briefing/group of briefings. But no matter which trigger is used, they all lead to one common mental process where I sit down, build a list and refine it to the point where I would use in tournament play. This process itself is the 101.
What is more, although today I focus on singles tournaments, I am sure that for team competitions, the process is roughly the same but considers some additional outside factors, like for instance: the pairings. It also leads to other processes like what models do I need to order to put my company down on the table :P But these are not the focus of this article!
As a note, all the lists I published on this blog follow these steps :)
Ok, so after these lenghty words of introdction, let me present you my receipe to build a decent competitive list :)
1. List selection vs managing pairing risks.
Before I do list building itself, I ask myself whether I want to go crazy with my guys or want to take it easy and be more reliable. When I have the answer, it always leads me to two main types of forces in Flames of War and maybe miniature wargames in general:
- "The brick", which normally means a specialized list, focused around one powerful aspect of the briefing that also has ample support to make it work and cover the weaknesses. It's highlight feature is that it is virtually unstoppable for specific types of opponents - no matter how many mistakes you make. One example could be a LW Soviet heavy tank list based on IS 85 tanks. It can deal with most infantry and medium tank opponents quite easily but is very vulnerable to enemy heavy tanks, since it cannot penetrate anything with FA 8-9+ reliably. IS 85s in the list are "The brick" and all other units, like heavy artillery, sappers, etc. work to cover the main weakness of it. Another one, would be the one I presented in the article about German Tanks.
- "The toolbox" is an army that has multiple units of low/medium strength that work well together when combined. The outstanding feature of this list type is that it has answers to virtually any type of threat. The downside is that it has no preffered enemy and you normally do not score any auto-wins. You will have to play to the best of your abilities each and every time. An example of "The toolbox" is my Romanian Infantry list, which has answers to virtually every unit in the game and can take a lot of punishment and go on at the same time.
Each of these selections is connected to what is called "risk apetite". If my "risk apetite" is high, i.e. I want to have a lot of fun but more or less gamble or make somebody cry, I go for "The brick".
If I accept the fact that wins will not be easy but I will not have any unfavourable pairings, I go for "The toolbox".
2. Build the list itself - this is what Chris described in his excellent article about French colonial infantry, and although I am sure he did all the other steps of this 101 process, he did not talk about them. This point is a topic for a separate "list building 101 for singles tournament games - continued" article. What I need to mention however, is that there is a defined template that I normally use to create my first draft so I do not really start from scratch. Once the draft is ready, I go to step 3.
3. Considering the metagame.
When I think about my list, I always do it in a context. I take my list and evaluate how well would it fare against other lists. The rivals I consider are:
- lists consider top choices for tournament play (e.g. US LW lists)
- obvious counters and how popular are they
- other popular lists (e.g. Schwere Panzers)
- other lists that I created
In the comparison, I look for obvious weaknesses that I have not covered so far and can still be addressed by shuffling some selections around. For example, I might have forgotten to equip my troops enough against dug in veteran infantry. In these cases, I go back to point 2, upgrade my force and try again. Unfortunately, sometimes I have to go as far as point 1 and start over.
Also, I take a mental note of my least favourite opponents to use it in point 4.
4. Considering scenarios.
Now, once my draft is complete and most glaring weaknesses are covered, I do the last step: take the list of possible hard counters created in point 3 and extend the context by throwing in unfavourable scenarios into the cauldron. An example could be my LW German HG Assault Gun Battery list playing an AA US Mechanized or Tank list in Counterattack or Surrounded.
With this step complete I now have three options:
- I figure out my plan on how to deal with the toughest opponents and mark the list ready for the upcoming tournament. Yay!
- I am not satisfied with the findings and go back to step 2
- I deem the risk connected with playing the list too big and have to start over in step 1
So what I really do each time is I go top to bottom - start with a generic concept and a feel to the list and start applying more and more context once the draft is complete. When this process is over, I am sure that the end product fits my needs 100% and will save me a lot of disappointments :)
But maybe somebody else has a different method to do this. I would love to see a description in the comments below! :)