Tuesday, March 29, 2011

On Spam - The Case for a Flexible Force

Spam: the practice of utilizing multiple copies of a particular within a particular FOC in order to be able to have better odds of being able to rely on the specific capabilities of that unit type when they when needed.  At its heart – spamming is a way to “beat” the odds – or at the very least to tilt the odds in our favor.  This is a close cousin to the probabilities and odds behind Poker, Magic the Gathering (MTG), Bridge, Spades, Euchre, and Hearts, differing only in the random card draw mechanic rather than the roll of a dice.

With that in mind, a typical competitive list (just like a good MTG deck) has a balanced repertoire of duplicated functions and replica units; duplication = spamming = improving the odds = functional focus.   This functional focus is generally possible to achieve in 4-6 of the following focus areas with cross-over in varying amounts: psychic attack, psychic defense, anti-armor, anti-personnel, close combat, ranged shooting, durability, disruption, and fast movement.  I’m sure additional categories can be defined, but you get the idea. 

The conventional wisdom is that no truly competitive list can do everything; trying to do so dilutes efficiency from functional focus.  It logically follows that true competitive potential lies in maximizing the functional focus areas that are most point-efficient within a specific codex.  This is good game theory 101: no rubber stamp identical armies here!  Paper must face rock must face scissors!

But the idea of improved odds doesn’t entirely hold true.  Functional focus is at heart a lack of flexibility.  If I build a force that has capabilities A, B, C, and D; with two units in each, each unit with a 60% chance of success – I have a good chance of (only) those four capabilities functioning even with battle damage.  If I take capabilities A-H, also at 60% chance of functioning each – I have the equivalent chance, assuming battle damage, of four different capabilities functioning.  Obviously, there’s more mush and depends here than a whole suburb of rest homes – but if the idea is to bring a “take all comers” list, a really good general should be able to tailor which of those eight capabilities are most needed given the situation, and which are sacrificial.  It will change in every battle – it might even change from turn to turn.

So here's my theory: it should be possible to regularly beat functionally focused lists by being more flexible.  Less spam = more flexibility. 

Nasty, nasty theorycraft!  It burns – the stupid, it burns ussss!!   A good functionally focused list should have sufficient balance to deal with the single-unit bits of flexibility in a non-focused list.  Unless...  flexibility is the focus. 

After long study, I am coming to the conclusion that Tyranids may be one of the few codexes capable of pulling off an overwhelmingly flexible list, rather than spamming.  If everything on the board represents a different threat that requires a specific response, target priority goes out the window as paper faces rock and then there isn't enough paper to go around. 

Interestingly, this has sat on my computer in varying forms for weeks.  As I get ready to publish it I find this excellent ramble by TheGraveMind, which makes almost the exact same point – variance!  Bloody confirmation bias! 

This leads to a list concept I've been putting together in the back of my head for months now; but I’m having difficulty putting points to it to get it under 2k, and this is where I’m asking for some of your thoughts.  I consider the base of the force to be the warriors, tervigon, stealers, ymgarl, biovores, and tfex as described below; although the individual unit numbers can go up or down a bit.  

Hive Fleet Flexibilis:

  - Parasite of Mortrex (or a tervigon w/tox,ag,cat)
  - Prime w/BS, LW, DS, and regen (or tox)

  - HGx3 (or 6)
  - Zoanx3 (or none – or 2 and a spod)
  - ymgarlx8

  - tervigon,w/tox,ag,cat
  - 10x devilgaunts+spod (or just 10 devilgaunts, or just 10 gaunts)
  - 5x warriors with double BS, DS, tox, and VC
  - 15x tox stealers (possibly with broodlord) 

  - 15x gargs w/ag,tox

  - tfex w/rupture

  - 2x biovores
  - dakkafex or trygon w/ag or harpy w/tlhvc

How would you crystallize this down to 2k?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

NOVA list #2 .. a Baby Sealswarmlord?

As ever, tweaking my list endlessly for NOVA.  My first list is fun, but it lacks a center.  Finding that to be a bit of a playstyle want for me - something big and obnoxious I can bait my opponent with.  Fortunately, we have just such a bait, all fat and wriggly:  Ye olde Swarmlord.

A lot of posts lately have covered the nasty potential of Swarmy and ravs, stealers, and ymgarls - probably no better example of the potential than a very tasty stealer shock list here by Kevinmcd28 on Jawaballs' blog.  Reposting here for brevity:

Hive Tyrant w/ Wings and Hive Commander - 255
Hive Tyrant w/ Wings - 230
2 Zoanthropes in a Mycetic Spore - 160
8 Ymgarl Genestealers - 184
8 Ymgarl Genestealers - 184
8 Genestealers w/ Toxin Sacs and a Broodlord (w/ Toxin Sacs and Scything Talons) - 184
8 Genestealers w/ Toxin Sacs - 136
8 Genestealers w/ Toxin Sacs - 136
8 Genestealers w/ Toxin Sacs - 136
Trygon Prime - 240

As GraveMind helpfully points out - this list practically begs out loud for a Swarmy variant.

Unfortunately - I'm not posting that variant yet as I foolishly tried to apply the concept to my NOVA list, which I like, but think needs more cowbell.  This is an experiment with both shooty and nasty things for Swarmy to boost.  

Swarmlord + 2 Tyrant Guard w/LW: 410
Prime w/LW, BS, DS, Regen: 110

2x2 HG: 200
3x Zoanthropes: 180
Tyrannofex w/Rupture, DL, Spines: 265
2x Biovore: 90

Tervigon w/Cat, Tox, AG, Scytals: 200
12x Termagants: 60
16x Stealers w/tox: 272
6x Raveners w/Rending: 210

I'm a bit horrified at the lack of bubble wrap.  I liked this idea until I started to try mock deployments.  What I came up with:  Swarmy and his flunkies, behind the 3++ zoans led by the Prime for wound allocation, flanked by the HGs, tervigon on one side, tfex on the other.  Raveners ahead of that line, then termagants out front; genestealers infiltrate.  Biovores in the rear.  Definitely a walking blob intended to take and hold the center.

I'm still tweaking the swarmlord version of the shock list...   might finish that late this week.  Hope to hear from ya!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Caught in the Middle

Talk about being flattered, and then deflated in pretty much one go: http://bestoverall.blogspot.com/2011/03/tyranids-sinsynns-riposte-reposted.html

On the one hand, I'm very happy that a few people (or at least SinSynn) are finding value in the collected posts and commentary here; that was and is a major goal - to find, analyze, question, and examine the best posts I can find on Tyranid play in order to be a better player.  Where possible, I want to stimulate discussion, challenge long held assumptions, and find the patterns of usage, tactics, and strategy that go into a competitive Tyranid lists and play.  Of late, and mostly thanks to SinSynn, I'll call that one mission accomplished for the moment.  The recent Tyranid discussions on Best Overall (from SinSynn's riposte going back to the discussion on Dessicator Larvae) and Hulksmash's Homeplace are excellent, with great back and forth in the comments sections, and GMort's nifty Swarmlord list and tactics as well.  

I do want make one thing clear though - getting to the "deflated" part; Purgatus' comment about not reading much on this blog is pretty much spot on.  I don't have the play pedigree that Purg does - this is a blog about discovery, and not the viewpoint of a tourney vet.  I think I can hold my own when it comes to analysis, synthesis, and finding patterns and intriguing tactics or methodologies, but those often boil down to theoryhammer.  It doesn't mean I don't mathhammer things out (which I would guess is a perception that Purg may have of me due to my comments about dicing things out re: dessicator larvae); I do - but I also do real dice testing similar to that done by Lyracian here.  (By the way - this is an article about genestealers vs. twolves - read and heed you genestealer lovers; it's great).  What I'm getting at is my maunderings probably shouldn't be taken as gospel in a head-to-head against a tourney vet; but by all means - discuss, question, flame, what-have-you away - we're all better for it in the end.

Thanks SinSynn - Purgatus - Hulksmash - Lyracian - MVB - TheGraveMind - GMort - Hyv3mynd - NardyPoontango - ThatGuyOverThere - Kennedy - Kirby and all the rest for the excellent discussion and posts of late.  Quite the exciting time to be a Tyranid player.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Old Stuff Day: Stuck on Swarmy

Ah nostalgia.  TK-421 meets Singin' in the Rain should do nicely.

What post am I the most proud of?  The post that brings 'em in as it were seems to be my maunderings on the Swarmlord here: http://midlifegamingcrisis.blogspot.com/2010/11/stuck-on-swarmy.html  The lists are below for simplicity.

I still ponder on Swarmy as I definitely have an affinity for being able to throw Preferred Enemy or Furious Charge on a brood 18" away rather than trying to move my 12" bubble o' doom around.  All three lists hold up in my playtesting, with some obvious weaknesses.  Trading Doom for 2 Zoans in list 2 is actually a bit more reliable against mech.  At any rate - if you've tried any of these, or with minor variations, I'd love to hear about it.  Feeling daunted lately as I'm hammering through my heavy build phase with both tfexes, both harpies, 20-odd gargoyles, a few more raveners and a few more warriors, my tyrant/swarmlord, and both primes to build before I'll start putting things on a table anywhere.

Variant 1: Swarmlord Deathstar
Swarmy + 3 tyrant guard w/lash: 280+195
prime w/lash, sword, rending, AG: 105
tervigon w/ag, ts, catalyst, scything: 200
10x termagant: 50
tervigon w/ag, ts, catalyst, scything: 200
10x termagant: 50
2x hg: 100
2x hg: 100
16x gargoyles w/ts, ag: 128
tyrannofex, rupture, regen: 295
tyrannofex, rupture, regen: 295

1998 pts

Overall, this looks like a pretty tough list to deal with, but it will have trouble dealing with the opponent's maneuver. The concept also went away from the hammer/anvil idea of a Swarmlord/Parasite combo. Keeping that theme is pretty tough, but this is what I came up with:

Variant 2: Hammer and Sickle
Swarmy + 3 tyrant guard w/lash: 280+195
Tervigon w/ag, ts, catalyst, scything: 200
10x Termagant: 50
Tervigon w/ag, ts, catalyst, scything: 200
10x Termagant: 50
2x hg: 100
2x hg: 100
Parasite of Mo : 160
Doom in a spod w/barbed: 145
22x Gargoyles w/ts, ag: 176
Harpy w/tlhvc: 170
Harpy w/tlhvc: 170

1996 pts

Doom and harpies should keep people on their toes while the parasite/gargs go for the center/obj or whatever. Tervs/Swarmy just get to lumber forward and do what they do. 

The third list trades the reserves and drop shenanigans for a 3-wave assault; parasite+gargs, trygons w/regen, and then swarmy+tervs. It trades the 2 big-gun toting MCs for 2 fast assaulting MCs.

Variant 3: Hold it still till I get there!
Swarmy + 3 tyrant guard w/lash: 280+195
Tervigon w/ag, ts, catalyst, scything: 200
10x Termagant: 50
Tervigon w/ag, ts, catalyst, scything: 200
10x Termagant: 50
3x hg: 150
2x hg: 100
Parasite of Mo : 160
18x Gargoyles w/ts, ag: 144
Tryon w/ag, regen: 235
Trygon w/ag, regen: 235