Saturday, 8 October 2011

On the Spot List Building

It’s Friday night. You just finished handling your colleague’s screw up and it took you longer than expected. Your smartphone’s message alert can’t stop buzzing and you can’t be bothered opening it. It’s probably your girlfriend’s text reminding you to buy her tampons. What you need now is a good game on the table to escape reality and perhaps your girlfriend’s demanding demands.

With your army bag in hand, you walk into your nearby LGS which houses wonderful terrains and one of the friendliest owners you’ve ever met. Steve is rambling about how awesome his Avatar of Menoth is at one corner while Dave was arguing if a Khadoran Devastator is worth a spot in his list. “BOOM HEADSHOT!”, shouted Alfred. He just one-shotted his opponent’s warcaster, leaving a grunt of frustration coming out from his opponent. This is your Friday night. This is where you will get your sanity back. There just isn’t a better place than this.

“Hey! Want a game?”

You turn and see Rocky behind you with a big smile on his face. Rocky has played Warmachine for 1 year and is a nice guy. He’s 22, single, and has a knack of playing in character while in a game. He usually plays Cygnar but occasionally, he brings his Menoth to the forefront instead. This would be your third time playing against him.

“Sure! I had a tough week and need a game bad!”
“Alright! Which hero are you playing?”, asked Rocky.
“Venethrax! I want to see how viable he is.”

As both you and Rocky pull out your armies, you notice rocky pausing while looking at your side of the table. “Infantry heavy eh” he says. He puts back a unit he took out and replaces it with another unit. You squirm as you see that. You know where this is going but you hope it isn’t as bad as it looks. As you finish taking out all your models needed, you notice Rocky takes one final glance at your side of the table. He then pulls out pEiryss.

How often does the above happen to you? Most people do not like playing against a list tailored against theirs, especially in ‘friendlies’. List-tailoring can be as simple as putting in a solo (i.e. Eiryss, Bokur, etc) to give him an upper-hand, or can be as complex as choosing an army focusing on the opposing faction’s weakpoint (non-siege/caine cygnar gunline with no magical weapons against Menoth jacks with choirs). It may not happen as often in real life, but it does happen often in Vassal as it is easier to do so. While some matchups may be of concidence, you can really identify if you are playing against a tailored list by observing your opponent’s behaviour.

So how do they do it? They ask a simple question.

“What hero are you playing?”

Or if they want to do it in a subtle manner,

“What faction are you playing?”

Asking what faction is being played contributes to list-tailoring may come out as a shocker to some. A lot of players tend to ask this question without realising that by knowing faction type info, they can tailor their list against yours. A good example is the Cygnar Gunline vs menoth as stated above. Some do it without even realising they are doing it! The honest player may have swapped his unit for the sake of “wanting to play it”, but the opponent may perceive otherwise.

Many say they ask what faction their opponent is playing because they do not want to field “useless units”. However, the only “useless units” I see are the game-specific ones i.e. Machine Wraith, Feralgeist, etc (it really feels like a wasted point slot when playing Machine Wraith against a Hordes-based faction).

To alleviate this problem, a player has 2 options.

1)  Play a pre-build list. It doesn’t matter what faction or warcaster your opponent plays. You have a set list that is both advatageous and vulnerable against certain armies. If the opponent is petty, write down your list on a piece of paper.

2)  If you insist on not playing “useless units”, ask the right question i.e. “are you playing a warmachine- or hordes-based faction??” Knowing whether you are up against a Warmachine or Hordes faction is enough information to exclude models like the Feralgeist and such. Swapping your unit of Blackbane’s Ghost Raiders for a unit of Satyxis Raiders because you found out he is playing Khador is as good as tailoring your list.

Noone likes to play against a list made to go up against theirs. Tailoring a list can be done in a subtle manner even without realising so. Unfortunately, many have the habit of asking what faction their opponent is playing. Warmachine players around the world should be educated on information of whether you are up against a WM- or Hordes-based faction is enough to not field “useless units”. Only then will the rate of list-tailoring be reduced.

What are your experiences in going up against a list tailored against yours?


  1. I'm blessed with some very nice opponents, and I wouldn't mind having lists tailored against me anyway (it's a good way to discover weak parts of a list), but if they did it without telling me I'd probably be pissed.

    I've done some soul searching on the concept of friendly games, and it all boils down to communication. List tailoring is something that should be agreed upon, and personally I'd like people to show up with premade lists if at all possible.

  2. In a free form game I would prefer to face a premade list. I personally do that as I have iBodger on my phone so when an idea strikes I can play around and build plenty of different versions. But not all my regular opponents do this. A couple do build lists at the table. However, I don't believe I've faced a list deliberately tuned to defeat me.

    What I have faced is a premade list that does leave me struggling. Last time was Scaverous(me) v Severius2 with the covenant. The spell holy ward, the choir saying no spells and the book preventing spell casting meant that my ideal way to win was highly unlikely. I did try and gave him a couple of scares but failed to do much and thus lost.

    To be honest though, I do not mind what I face. All my games down the club are for learning. For fun as well, but I'm always trying to learn. Especially when there's a tournament upcoming.

  3. @Lamoron: I agree on your concept of friendly games. It all comes down to communication! It makes or break fun games!

  4. I sometimes have prebuilt lists that I want to try out, but often I build the list at the table in iBodger. I'm much more of a casual player than anything else, so often I simply throw in units and models that I like rather than ones I know will screw my opponent. I never considered that I might have lists built to trip me up, but it's an interesting question - are prebuilt lists a better match-up because it forces you to compete at your best game regardless of what you're facing?

  5. I've never really understood the appeal of on-the-spot list making. It just seems like one is doing both themselves and the opponent a disservice, even when no list tailoring is occurring at all. A well thought out and planned list makes for such a more pleasant match then some off the cuff mishmash.