Guest Editorial by Edwin: A Balancing Act and Why I Fail at It.

 A wonderful balancing act.

A guest editorial by Edwin on balance. -ed


Howdy everyone. Edwin here and I want to talk about something I try for in every game I play. Without this key element, games suck. They are really bad no matter what game you are playing.  I am talking about balance. People often don’t want to play a game more than once if there isn’t some semblance of balance. Great games have been ruined by lack of balance. Players have to have a balance too or often people will not want to play them. Remember that balance is subjective. Today, I will talk about how I try to achieve balance and how I have utterly failed at it when it comes to trying to balance things out. For the record, I am trying to achieve a balanced list with Necrons. I settled on a list with a few flyers (no more than 3) and armor 13 wall.

Where I failed: I tried to balance things for all player types and not try to balance for groups of players. My list may not have been tough for a tournament, but it was a tough as nails list for any beer and pretzels style player.

Binding the hands.

So in my first attempt to try and balance the army list I have been using, I have tried to bind what really makes the army nasty. All the combos  that really pack a serious punch with the list are out. That means to try and avoid Stormlord with Eternity Cryptek, Spyders with Particle Casters and tons of Scarabs, or anything where allies can be abused. I ended up using one powerful combo.

I am using death marks in a Night Scythe with a Harbinger of Despair. After picking this unit, I decided I needed to have a few restrictions to use it. Max the unit size was a good start so the combo at least costs a good amount and no more than one Despair Cryptek. Other than that one unit, the rest of the army consists of solid choices, but nothing on the cheese levels that the codex can really do. Gotta try to keep out the gimmicks because while strong combinations are really powerful, nothing sucks more than losing because your opponent pulls am unforeseen trick out of their backside. I used to like such tricks and after I saw how bad they were for people, I steadily grew to dislike them. It soon began to cheapen wins and make ties infuriating for other players.

Where I failed: It wasn’t the powerful combo units that were cheese, it was how people were playing them.  The other units I fielded were usually play more in a dickish manner than compared to my Combo unit.

Playing the Odds

I wanted to build an army that played roughly the same no matter what happened. I wanted the odds to be in my favor for surviving against most weapons in the game. If your weapons worked against one half of the army, they wouldn’t be very effective against the rest of the army. Flyers are hard to hit, but once hit go down easy. The Ark vehicles were there to be easy to hit, but hard to take down. Everything infantry was protected by their mechanized counter parts.  This leads to an army that was statistically accurate a lot of the time. Things generally worked out how they should. The army generally tried to balance itself inside a vacuum. Everything seemed to work with itself.

Where I failed: The concept worked a little too well. Most things needed six’s to hit the flyers and six’s to damage the Ark vehicles. Throw in cover saves and other factors and you could have an entire turn of shooting that does nothing which often makes people angry.

What to do?

With the homage to Harry Houdini complete, I want to discuss the conclusion. Having realized that the list has tons of problems, I have decided to do something out of the box for me. I am trying to tweak the original list for play against people who only want to fight a tough as nails list. I am also going to build a list that is both themed and ready for play against most people who don’t want to play against a really tough list.It will be at the end of the article. The list is softer, easier to play against and hopefully won’t be that bad. It is a Footdar list without some of the things that make them awesome. Hopefully, with these two drastically different lists, I will be able to play a wide range of opponents in a fun and friendly manner.

Why I failed: I really hope I haven’t cause I really want to be a better person to play against.

1500 points


Farseer-doom, guide, fortune, warding/witness/spirit stones, singing spear


10 dire avengers-exarch with blade storm, defend, dire sword shurikan pistol

10 dire avengers-exarch with blade storm, defend, dire sword shurikan pistol

10 dire avengers-exarch with blade storm, defend, dire sword shurikan pistol

10 dire avengers-exarch with blade storm, defend, dire sword shurikan pistol

Fast attack

2 vypers- double shurikan cannons

2 vypers- double shurikan cannons

2 vypers- double shurikan cannons

Heavy support

Wraithlord-Wraithblade, bright lance

Wraithlord-Wraithblade, bright lance

What do you guys think about Edwin’s decision to switch great entirely? Do you like the new list? -ed


About Reecius

The fearless leader of the intrepid group of gamers gone retailers at Frontline Gaming!

15 Responses to “Guest Editorial by Edwin: A Balancing Act and Why I Fail at It.”

  1. jadedknight January 30, 2013 10:14 am #

    Maybe you should play lower point levels. Perhaps your opponents aren’t able to optimize there lists at 1500+ points.

    Another idea, maybe you need to change the frame of reference with which you are thinking about the problem. Instead of: how can I build a list that is dumb’d down enough. Try: How weak of a list can I build and still win?

    In my own experience the latter has led to much richer satisfying games. Reason being, if you are:

    1) Better at building lists
    2) Better at deploying
    3) Better at making tactical decisions

    Then just coming down to your opponent(s) level on #1 will still lead to consistent crushing victories. Which is what you want to avoid because then no one wants to play with you.

    • edwin January 30, 2013 1:52 pm #

      Honestly, the guys I play with have been play for at least 10 years+ on me. It rarely comes down to option 2 and 3 on enough of a basis for me to consider that. The only reason I build better lists is because they often go for theme and fluff. While I don’t completely disregard fluff, I try to build tough lists that would be possible in fluff. It isn’t that they can’t build a tougher list, but that in the 10-20 years they have been playing, they have found what is fun for them and they probably aren’t gonna change it for little ole me. It sucks.

  2. JGrand January 30, 2013 12:01 pm #

    So in order to achieve a subjective and poorly defined idea of balance, you made a list with 40 overpriced T3 4+ save models, 3 overpriced, paper thin bikes, and two Wraithlords with awful weapons?

    The problem I have with trying to create a list to play against players who don’t want to play against a tough list is–where do you even start? What level of “gimpiness” do you have to build in? How many inefficient units should you use? Inefficient options? How do you even go about defining “what is too cheesy/too good for non-competitive games”?

    I’d agree with the above comment. Maybe just help out your opponent. Help them with list building and in game tactics. Discuss the game afterward. If the person is so bull-headed that they can’t take constructive criticism, they probably aren’t worth playing with anyway.

    There’s definitely a way to have fun without being overly competitive. However, the perceived problematic aspects of competitive 40k from non-competitive players seems to be an attitude thing. Don’t be a dick, have fun, and it should be fine–no matter what list you use.

    • Reecius January 30, 2013 12:51 pm #

      I agree that the issue most people have with “WAAC” players is not the way they play but how it makes them feel. Gamers can be pretty non-confrontational individuals and if you have an A type personality that is forceful in their point of view, the passive gamer gets really mad but instead of voicing that anger to the individual, they vent it on the net about all gamers perceived to be that way.

      I have found that if you set the tone and are nice and respectful to the other person, you avoid 99% of problems. Also, I have found that if you are coming into a pick-up game and you know you have the advantage in skill, better to just present the person you are playing with several lists for them to choose from to play. That puts the burden of responsibility on the army selection on your opponent and as such, they are less likely to accuse you of “cheese” or whatever.

      • bugsculptor January 31, 2013 11:04 am #

        I always try and ask what kind of game opponents want up front. It’s important to gauge how much they’ve been playing and whether they want to fight my tournament list or if I can just play a fun list I’ve been messing around with. The funny thing is, given the choice a lot of players don’t want any suggestion that you’re going to pull your punches.

        Occasionally going easy on an opponent goes badly wrong. I remember scraping a very lucky win through board control against a newish player with a horrible 750pts net list packed full of leman russ executioners, vendettas and plasma vets.

        Some of the best balanced games I’ve had are when one player designs both lists and then the opponent can pick or dice for which they want to play. The player designing lists has incentives to make sure units have counters on both sides and can even build balanced inefficiency and fun units into both sides. As long as he’s happy to play both lists, it’s great. Sadly… people always want to play their own models.

        • Reecius January 31, 2013 11:58 am #

          I agree. I am really competitive by nature, and I always used to play my best list and as well as I could (lifetime of playing sports, etc.) but around my mid twenties I learned that wasn’t always the best way to go about it. I started just asking people in a nice way what type of list they wanted to play. That made them happy, and I enjoyed the challenge of playing whichever list they put in front of me.

          Like you said, most folks balk at the idea of playing with kid gloves, so if they do tell you to bring the heat, they know it was their choice and don’t get butt hurt as easily.

    • edwin January 30, 2013 2:32 pm #

      Balance is subjective and really hard to define. The internet is clear example of that. very few things get agreed upon as actual cheese. I have seen people do things with units that were “bad” that made me wonder what the hell everyone was talking about. I have had someone claim mass bladestorm and double wraith lords was kinda cheese. It is a bad list, but the important thing is that it is gonna be fun list to play with.

      Also, these people genuinely don’t need help. These are the people who taught me how to play.I have been fighting with the question of where to start with creating a list for people who don’t want to fight tough lists for almost two years now , but the question is even more complicated than what you suggested. You also gotta find what is fun for you. That is where I have problems. I find something that I genuinely have fun with and get really, really good with it. I run twin doomsday arks and people consider them cheesy after they see how well I can use them. There was a local tournament that was held every two weeks roughly. It usually had 10-20 people every time and I haven’t lost one yet. They really lay the hurt down on most people. As for the discussing the game afterwards, we always do, but it is hard to hold your ground when at the end , cheese is claimed. It is doable, but after a while, it just gets ridiculous to argue against the same point over and over again.

      • JGrand January 30, 2013 4:52 pm #

        And at the point in which you are having to argue that a Doomsday Arc isn’t cheese against a mob of people, it may be time to find a different gaming group.

        I know that fun for me is a challenge. When I put as much time and money as I do into something such as 40k, I want to be the best at it. That doesn’t mean that I cheat, use shady tactics, or that I’m an asshole to people. In fact, I like to lose games to other competitive opponents because those are the ones in which you actually learn the most. I always try to be at the minimum, a cordial opponent. I understand that not everyone likes to laugh and joke around during games, but everyone should be nice.

        I also understand that not everyone wants to play the game in a “competitive” way, but really, what can you do about it? I don’t get mad and pout when someone brings a sub-optimal list. Why should anyone get mad that you like to play the game a different way?

        I guess my point is that if people are really that far apart in their definitions of very subjective things such as “competitiveness”, “fun”, and “cheese” to the point of arguments, it might just not be a good fit.

  3. Alex Yuen January 30, 2013 12:16 pm #

    If someone is weaker than you. first, you should teach them how to get better and not lowering yourself to his level. “How weak of a list can I build and still win?” this is a stupid advice. for one, I hate to play a game where i have to put on an act pretend that i am doing my best. And for whoever i am playing with, he knows that i am not playing my best. that just disrespectful to him. Rather then lowering myself i ask this questions when i came across a weaker player. How can I make our game enjoyable for him and also improve his game? I show him what i am doing and thinking.

    The most dangerous list is a balance list. you got a bit of everyone and counter for all. Anyone that stack on one sided or depend on a powerful combo are not suited for tournament play. And any balance list and a good player will win against any unbalance list.

    Unbalance list is a weak list. Anyone that build in counter measure will just laugh at such list. So therefore no fun for you and him. He knows he is going to win so why bother playing the game.

    The great balance (objectives) that build into 40k 5th and 6th ed that most players still don’t get it. the game is about objectives and not about how many models or points u can kill. killing helps u to get objectives but killing models is not how u win games. As long as i have one more objective than you i don’t care i need 6’s to hit your flier or 99% of my army is dead.

    in 4th ed VP is the measurement on who is the winner. so “making it points back” mean that i am not losing. since 5th ed, that statement is stupid. Is like saying i capture his queen, rock and knight and didn’t losing any pieces but i got checkmate.

    • edwin January 30, 2013 2:45 pm #

      The “How weak a list” idea is something for fun. It isn’t disrespectful to use weaker lists if you play your best. Often people don’t wanna get better. I play with a beer and pretzel crowd and these guys don’t want to get better at all. This isn’t a game in which you beat your oppoenent, but a hobby and a way to relax at the end of the day. I know people if I want to play a hard game to go play with, but those guys kinda suck to play with as they give up at the first sign of cheese. (had the toughest opponent there give up after seeing I had 3 flyers (2 night scythes and a doom scythe) even after tailoring his list to be vulkan with max melta, quad guns, and 2 flyers of his own (Storm raven and storm talon)), so I stick with my beer and pretzels friends until tournament time.

    • bugsculptor January 31, 2013 11:32 am #

      This is a hobby with several different dimensions though. It’s social, it has a visual hobby element and it has a competitive element.

      For me the first two trump the second, most of the time. If you have friends who’re fun to game against, paint well and have great looking scenery, why would you want to play power gamers with lists full of grey plastic and bad personalities?

      Sure the hobby can be at it’s best when someone brings all three to the table at a tournament, but just getting two out of three right can make for some pretty fun games.

  4. Hippesthippo January 30, 2013 5:14 pm #

    Soundslike you have enough models to execute this simple solution. If you’re going to thebstore for apickup game bring three lists. Hard, med, easy. Ask your opponent how competitive he is before each game.

    Problem solved.

    • Hippesthippo January 30, 2013 5:21 pm #

      Ahhh ok, i see the problem after reading your comments. Go on Dakka and find some better players. Or just ask your friends what units are ok to take.

      • edwin January 30, 2013 8:21 pm #

        Dude, I am in the mountains of Tennessee. II doubt dakka dakka has a place that plays around here.

        • Hippesthippo January 30, 2013 9:55 pm #

          Go to the “find a game” subforum. Pretty much every 40k player in existence worth a damn is on the dakkadakka forums. You’d be surprised how many people you’ll find that play within an hour driveof you. I don’tcare where you are.

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