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The Tiger Roars 

Winning With Style
Every so often, notably here, I’ve mentioned a 40K gaming concept I call “Winning With Style.”  But what exactly is that?  Well, I’m glad you asked. “Winning With Style” is my preferred way of playing 40K.  It’s a middle ground between win-at-all-costs hyper-competitiveness and wimpy “fluffmeister” Warhammer.  “WWS” acknowledges that winning is a good and desirable end, but that certain behaviors and attitudes should be embraced while doing so, and certain others should not.

I will emphasize that this is way *I* like to play, and while that’s all sweetness and light for me, you might not agree on one—or even any—of my assertions.  And that’s fine.  As I’ve said before, I’m all in favor of people playing 40K the way they want to.  I’m not going to bust anyone’s ‘nads for “breaking” one of my “style rules,” nor do I look down on anyone for doing so.  Buy what you want to buy, build what you want to build, and play how you want to play: it’s a mostly-free world, and getting torqued out about a game is the height of silliness. 

“Winning With Style”: What It Is
So, what (in my over-inflated opinion) components make up “Winning With Style?”  Allow me to elucidate….

The army is fully painted to the best of one’s ability.  Notice that I didn’t say that the army is painted well.  If “well” was the operative word, only my Necrons and Lizardmen (neither of them, for the most part, painted by me) would qualify.  Let’s face it: not all of us are artists.  In fact, many of us are not.  But what even if one isn’t an artist, one can still attempt to make the time and effort to paint one’s army as best one can. 

Lest anyone get all affronted, yes, some people have more free time than others.  A lot of people have much higher priorities than painting.  I spent most of the 1990’s working two or even three jobs at a time, while raising a child and trying to keep a marriage together: I know that squeezing in even a few minutes here and there to do something as trivial as painting can be a challenge.  But to me, one element of a player who wins with style is having a painted army.       

The army has a name.  It can be as simple as, “The Ultramarines 3rd Company.”  It can be as extravagant and far-out as, “The Righteous Sons of Zanzibar.”  It can be “The Avengers,” for all I care.  But a player with style gives his army a name, not just, “Uh….these are my Necrons.”

The army has an identity.  Hand-in-hand with having a name, the army has a back-story, or “fluff” behind it.  They’re not just “The Ultramarines’ 3rd Company”: this version of the 3rd Company has fought in the Battle of Ferndock’s Creel against the horrific Deathtongue Chaos Space Marines. Or whatever.  

One can make up a background for one’s army out of whole cloth, or by using the games one actually plays a basis.  For example, my Fighting Tigers of Veda recently found themselves on the losing end (again) of a campaign to take the planet Auros IX from the Orks under the villainous warlord Sho-T BigHed.  This is after their home planet was under attack by Dark Eldar.  See?  They’re not just wretchedly-painted Space Marines: they’re wretchedly painted Space Marines with a background!

Characters have names.  Does one’s army have an HQ unit?  Of course it does.  That HQ unit needs a name, not just “my Librarian” or “my Farseer.”  Name the character after one’s self, one’s loved ones, after fictional characters, one’s dog, whatever, but make sure that character has a name.

No special characters.  Here is where I’m sure a lot of you will part company with me, and again, that’s fine.  It’s been my experience that almost all players add special characters to an army solely for what that character does on the table, not for who that character is. 

That is, they take Pedro Cantor because he makes Sternguard scoring units, not because Pedro is inherently cool and they like how he rallied his Chapter after the whole Rynn’s World fiasco.  If the next version of that army’s codex came out and nerfed said special character, I guarantee you that almost every player would drop him, counting the model they used as something else (“I know this is the Pedro Cantor figure, but I use him for Captain Bob Nostril—have you read how awesome his special rules are?”).

Yes, it’s an arbitrary, nigh-nonsensical personal preference.  Yes, my best friend Patrick likes to use special characters in his armies.  No, I do not think poorly of him for doing so.  Yes, I might win more games if I abandoned this illogical prejudice I have against special characters.  No, I will not.  At least not for the foreseeable future.

The army has a good list.  So far, I’ve been discussing soft, squishy, liberal-artsy things like characters and backgrounds and painting: let’s move on to something with a bit more beef to it, shall we?  Simply put, a player who “wins with style” wins games, and a fairly big part of that is a solid army list.  There are whole websites seemingly devoted to building army lists.  Some list-designers, however, seem to think that the best way to go about the task is to simply identify the “best” unit in each Force Organization Chart category and then take as many of those units as possible.  Alas, I disagree….

The army has a mix of units and weapons.  One doesn’t impress me by giving every squad that can have one a transport just so one can shoehorn extra guns or screening hulls into one’s list.  I’m also not impressed by spamming the Weapon of Choice for each version of the game: in 5th Edition, it’s been melta guns, but before that, it was assault cannons, and before that it was power fists, and who knows what it will be for 6th Edition. 

This is not to say that repetition is inherently a bad thing: some redundancy is necessary to build effective lists.  After all, we are about “winning,” remember?  And some codices (coughTyranidscough) are so limited that you need to only run certain units to have any chance of victory.  And another, perfectly acceptable possibility is that… 

The army might have a theme.  For example, you might want an all-bike Space Marine army (extra rations for you if it’s not Ravenwing, not that I have anything against Dark Angels).  So you take a Captain on a Bike, take Bike Squads as Troops, and Attack Bikes as Fast Attack.  Or, like my friend Paul Hill, you feel that putting Guardians in your Eldar army is merely sending civilians off to die, so you play only Aspect Warriors.  Or your Chaos Space Marines (“The Pyromaniacs") really, really like flamers.  In those cases, taking a lot of a certain unit or weapon is totally cool.     

The army might be of a “crappy” race.  There are some armies that, thanks to the current batch of codices out there, are, for the moment, much easier to win with than others.  I don’t fault anyone who wants to play those armies: there’s nothing wrong with having an army that kicks butt.  However, I give major props to folks who choose to play what most consider to be “sucko” armies.  I don’t mean armies that are poorly put together, but armies from races that are considered inferior.

For example, most competitive gamers will tell you that Chaos Daemons are wretched.  While well aware of that fact, my friend Ken Lacy, also a competitive gamer, has nevertheless built a Chaos Daemon army, selecting the best units available to maximize his chances at victory (also, it helps that Ken has fought hundreds of games and is literally the smartest person I have ever met in my life).  Ken’s played all kinds of armies, with varying configurations: he knows how to take a “top-tier” codex and build a force that will wipe the table with just about any other army.  I imagine that for him, taking an army that most gamers consider garbage and crafting it into a formidable force is a challenge he enjoys.             

Now, having said that, Winning With Style is NOT “playing stupid.”  There’s trying to turn coal into a diamond by playing a themed army, or one that’s considered “garbage” by other players--and then there’s polishing a turd.  Like a lot of things, it’s hard to define it, but you know it when you see it.  For example, under the current rules and codices, you’re not going to win anything except snorts of derision by playing a close-combat oriented force of Tau Fire Warriors.  You’re not going to do skadoosh by fielding stand-back-and-shoot with Tyranids.  Just because you’re doing something no one else is doing doesn’t necessarily mean you have style: maybe it just means you’re (at best) clueless, or (at worst) an idiot.     

The army has a lot of Troops.  Again, this purely a personal preference.  A lot of the competitive lists you see on the Internet eschew Troops, but I’ve been a strong believer in them ever since the Force Organization Chart first appeared, back in the 3rd Edition days.  I’d rather lose fielding a bunch of Tactical Marines than win with 10 Scouts in two squads and lots of everything else.  

Final Thoughts
Winning With Style means winning your own way with your own army.  Your guys kick butt and there isn’t another army like it in the world.  Will you have as many victories by attempting to WWS rather than use the latest and greatest “killer list” that you find online?  Most assuredly not, but I think you’ll have more fun, and your army will be more likely to hold your interest.  Moreover, I think your tactical skills will increase as you learn to make the best of "less effective" units and weapons.  To me, it's more impressive if someone wins with a "crap" list than if they win with something they pulled off a competetive gaming site.  

Regardless of how you play, good luck to you!   


Posted May 2012

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Fighting Tigers:
Codex <> Tactics <> Gallery <> Allies and Enemies <> Tales of the Tigers

Other Pages:
Main <> What's New <> Site Index <> The Tiger Roars <> Themed Army Ideas
Events and Battle Reports <> Campaigns <> Terrain <> FAQ <> Beyond the Jungle