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?


  1. Thank you for this post, is there anyway to contact you?

  2. It was a bit of a ramble wasn't it. haha

    I like the list btw. if you drop the parasite, lean towards tyrgon prime if possible as you'll need foward synapse. I'd consider the deathspitters on the warriors a bit too much as each one is already expensive and they want to get into combat, not shoot.
    Maybe drop a few TS stealers to make ymgarl 10 sized brood. with a 4+ they are a bit more survivable.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. @Pat - fixed my rather noob oversight in my 'About Me' section; here it is: warlocke dot 21 at gmail.

    @GraveMind - Good points; looking forward to finalizing it and doing some playtesting.

  5. Wow- That was a good read, Ghostin!

    Yer right- no army in 40k has the number of troop choices, or the support units to buff them like we 'Nids do, and no army has as many multi-wound, strength 5+ units, either.
    The combinations are endless, and can get pretty nutty, but that's what makes 'Nids so damned fun.

    I like the Parasite w/Gargoyle attendants as a 'Fast-Strike' element, or held back for counter-attack, as needed.
    Bonesword Warriors? Grey Knights are here- check.
    5 points for 'Spitters, to give 'em something to do when they're not hacking dudes? Why not...VC's scare DE Vehicles, too.
    But so does a strong wind, so....

    I would go Ymgarls- GK means more Hoods out there- you'll have a problem with the Zoeys in the Pod, I think.
    There's so much anti-psyker out there now, in every army, that I think this unit is not a good idea in competitive lists.

    Bring the Harpy for a nice double-team with the T-Fex. The Harpy can hop around and use the T-Fex for cover! Fun!

    I'll be honest- I don't like Biovores OR the idea of throwing around barrages, since the nature of the 'Nid army is to 'get in there and mix it up,' meaning after turn 2 or so I risk hitting my own troops, and the Biovores don't really help.
    If you have some insight that could make me consider their use, I'd love to hear it!

  6. @SinSynn - I just have to get that list down to 2k; it's coming in around 2100 or so... plus I have to build the damn tfexes. Thanks for the kind words though, and for crossposting the link on BoLS =)

    I'll put together a biovore post with more detail; the bottom line is it will depend on your list, playstyle etc... - but I keep reading batreps with opportunities for biovores to change the game. I can make lists of dozens of ways and situations to use biovores - and every one doesn't require me to close with the enemy first. I just have to be willing to play a list that generates those situations, and to risk scatter.

  7. It would be very cool if you could write something regarding proper use of the biovore.
    I definately feel that this unit has some application, just not sure what it is.

    That's all me, though...most of my lists are built to jump on my opponent, silencing Long Fangs and blocking the inevitable 'mech rushes.'
    So Biovoresdon't synergize with that 'list style.'
    So I look foward to a possible Biovore post...learning is fun!

    And hey, if I can help a 'Nid player find some help, or help good blogs get clicks, I link stuff.
    It's all about the 'Nid love....
    Hmph...that sounded weird.


    Nids make the TOP 4 TABLES AT ADEPTICON!

    'Nids aren't competitive'
    My backside, they aren't :P
    This oughta prove it....