Balancing Theme and Strength of Army

Hey guys, Cavalier checking in, commission painter for Frontline Gaming and co-host of Splintermind: The Dark Eldar Podcast back with my thoughts on developing a thematic army that can roll with the punches in almost any gaming environment.

I consider myself a narrative driven gamer. I have a Corsair themed Y’nnari army (that I dont play as Y’nnari most of the time) that I’ve named the Lions of Asuryan. Nearly the entire army is kitbashed, I’ve named characters galore, a fully fleshed out backstory charting where in the galaxy my army has fought, their allies and rivals, squad markings, Corsair coterie markings the works. Yet at the same time I play to win every game and very much care about my win-loss ratio and performance as a player.

I stick very closely to both my own background and that within the codices. I never take Coven units, I only feature named Y’nnari allied sub-factions  (no Black Heart, no Frozen Stars) and I always have my sub-factions painted differently to make them standout on the tabletop when the models alone are not enough to differentiate them.

That being said WINNING is also a part of my narrative, and the narrative of most armies unless you are Lamenters Space Marines! lol Being invested in the background of my army as I am, the last thing I want is for that story to ring hollow on account of my crappy army lists or blundering play on the tabletop.

For example, while I love the MODELS from the Forgeworld line for my Corsairs, their rules are a nightmare. My work-around? Lean more heavily on my Drukhari (who I play as Flayed Skull) to get that Corsair vibe and their allied Umbral Watcher  Corsair (Alaitoc) buddies to get those stealthy Nighthawk Interceptors aces (Crimson Hunter Exarchs) and get my army in top form!

For better established armies such as Iyanden Eldar for example… so often I see players who LOVE Iyanden but feel absolutely compelled to have every single unit in their Iyanden army be a ghost warrior. This in my opinion is totally unnecessary. Setting aside the fact that their is much more to Iyanden than just their infamous Ghost Warriors, you can bring out that Iyanden vibe by say bringing a declarative investment in points, strategies and resources in a single unit with some support characters, meanwhile filling out the rest of your list with other very competitive choices.

For example instead of going all out like in the photo above, to me you could represent a very strongly thematic Iyanden army taking a single unit of Wraithblades with shields + axes, stick them in a Serpent with Spirit Stones, Prince Y’riel and Spirit Seer with Protect/Jinx, the Pystronome of Iyanden and a Farseer on Jetbike trailing behind to cast Fortune on them. This unit considered very poor by most people is now a legitimate threat (30 attacks, re-rolling ones, at Str 7 D3 Dmg AP-4, 2+/4++ saving throw with a 5+ feel no pain) that takes skill, experience and dedication to running. Then the rest of the army can be filled out by more stock paths to Eldar victory by say taking some big units of Guardians (yes Iyanden does have a healthy supply of Guardians see the Valedor Apocalypse book from 7th edition for details) to take advantage of their excellent morale control and infantry shredding abilities via a webway bomb, some nasty Hemlocks who were practically invented on Iyanden (see the 6th ed. Iyanden supplement). If you’ve got points you could ally in some of Y’riel’s Harlequin buddies (Veiled Path perhaps who led Y’riel to the Spear of Twilight) you have a very thematic army but one that can compete in any local scene.

To take the example outside of the Eldar family of armies. Take Blood Angels for example. Just because Blood Angels are famed for their close-combat units, doesnt mean you cant have a single gun in your entire army. While all the rage before the FAQ, that famed BA/Guard/Knights combo can go from an eye-rolling netlist, to something that while yes, very much a tournaments style army, something I would whole heartedly embrace as narrative driven by that player investing just a bit more in the Blood Angel side of things say a unit of Primaris Blood Angels, maybe some Hellblasters, some Death Company with Jetpacks and led by an infamous Smash Captain.

I say the same for World Eaters. I cant think of anything more metal than a unit of World Eater Havocs all with Heavy Bolters 30 bodies deep claiming some bullet riddled skulls for the skull throne.

This is purely subjective take by me. Yet in my opinion an otherwise stock army can be made highly thematic by the inclusion of a single unit, painted and played to the best of your ability even when supported by the more competitive offerings a particular edition’s codex has to offer.

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About Cavalier

Commission Painter for Frontline Gaming + Co-Host of the Splintermind: The Dark Eldar Podcast

6 Responses to “Balancing Theme and Strength of Army”

  1. Avatar
    The Traitor October 19, 2018 4:20 am #

    As a corsair player who has been converting everything from the other Eldar armies to play in 8th Ed, have you noticed they made corsairs playable again in the latest big FAQ? They may not be the best, but you can replicate the infamous DE blasters in venom spam without kabal rules and more expensive but with more damage potential due to having splinter carbines (ore even 1d6 pistols at 6″). Basically it’s a more glass cannon version of the DE venomspam, which probably isn’t as competitive, but since you were talking about narrative…

    • Avatar
      Cavalier October 19, 2018 8:27 am #

      Hey Traitor, yeah I saw what they did. TBH I have no idea what the hell forgeworld is doing. The Corsair stuff is a mess. While at least you can legally field them I just cant bring myself to do it. I’ve got a battalion of Skyreavers, 6x Hornets, a Warp Hunter and the jetbikes (which I still use as Windriders) collecting serious dust. Just giving up waaaaay to much to field them. I play against very serious Imperium gunlines and I just cant do it.

  2. Avatar
    Ujayim October 19, 2018 6:43 am #

    I made a thread on reddit and in a few FB Groups talking about how I was going to try out a Knight Preceptor with 6 Armigers and some Guard. More or less every response was “You’re an idiot and hate winning if you play this”, and it was refreshing to read this article.

    Keep it up, man. Love your work.

    • Avatar
      Cavalier October 19, 2018 8:28 am #

      Hey Ujayim thanks so much man I really appreciate it. I know exactly what you are talking about. I really cant fathom where people with that attitude are coming from. That list you are talking about sounds freaking SOLID though! Really appreciate the kind words. I’m gonna do more articles like this going forward, so I’m glad you like them!

  3. Reecius
    Reecius October 20, 2018 7:14 am #

    Love the article, buddy. I am the same way. I always try to strike a balance between theme and power. The game is a lot more fun that way, IMO as it engages me left and right brain and keep me motivated to hobby.

    • Avatar
      Cavalier October 20, 2018 7:59 am #

      Thanks so much Reece, really appreciate your feedback. Yeah it really does engage both parts of the brain. I also think it can really throw your opponents for a loop when you run less common units and combos. Plus like you said it gives a lot of inspiration to paint up a new unit or 2 when you’ve already got a number of go-to lists already painted up. Thanks bud!

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