Wednesday, July 26, 2017

How To Structure Building an Army

There are a ton of different way to go about building up your newest army for Age of Sigmar or Warhammer 40,000, from collecting what you like best to setting yourself a hard deadline for an event or tournament. All of these are valid ways to go about it, and each suits different people and situations. Today I thought I would go over a few of these and the pros and cons of each.

I've been in the GW hobby for close to 19 years now, and over that time I have had many armies (and half finished, later abandoned armies) and have approached all of these in different ways. Each has suited me in different ways, with some becoming some of my favorite armies, while others have been abandoned halfway through. So, without further preamble, here are some of the most common ways to build up your newest army for the tabletop.

1. The Collection

I personally believe this is one of the most common ways army building is approached, especially for newer players. Essentially it's more of building up your collection and, eventually, getting an army out of it for the game. My very first GW army, the Ultramarines, was built in this way, with myself buying whatever I thought was coolest or I wanted to paint most. Over a year or two this resulted in my first full GW army with an assortment of units allowing me to play a variety of army lists. My second full army, the Sons of Dorn, was built in much the same way, again over the course of a year or two. I think my very first model for my Ultramarines was a Land Raider. Clearly not a practical choice for army building, but I thought it was cool and I wanted to paint one up.

Even my Tomb Kings kind of started out this way. To be honest, this is the way a lot of my armies have been started. Building up a collection can lead to you having a wide selection of a specific army's unit types, usually one of each, occasionally doubling up. Once everything is done you have a ton of freedom with your gameplay style because you have so much to choose from. Your army is usually more able to adjust to changing editions and codexes/battletomes as well. This is because you haven't built the army around a single gimmick or unit which worked really well in one edition, but in the newer edition may not be as good. With a little of everything to choose from you can adjust your army list with the changing meta, and add in what you want/need as you go along.

A collection is generally pretty well loved too (which is why you started collecting it in the first place) and will most likely hold a special place in your heart. A few of the downsides, that I have experienced, for approaching army building as a collection involve the time spent and how the army plays during that time. I'm a slow painter, so it could just be me, but most of my collection armies have taken years to get to where they ended at. During that time they also weren't the most well rounded army to play with, since you are limited by your unit selection as your are still buying, assembling, and painting them. I lost plenty of games with my Sons of Dorn as I was building them up because I only had a set number of units to pick from until I added the next unit to my collection. Like I said, once you reach a certain point you will have a ton of variety, but until you reach that magical tipping point you'll be a bit more restricted and your gameplay may suffer for it. Since a collection can also stretch over a rather long time you run the risk of losing interest in it, which has been the fate of many an abandoned army. My Astral Claws never got larger than the picture above, and I'm considering starting over with my Stormcast with a new color scheme.

2. The Tournament Army

This is something I never did until recently. Essentially it's buying, assembling, and painting an army for a specific upcoming tournament or event. My Tomb Kings started out as a collection, with just a few units from 2011. Over time they had more and more added to them, but it wasn't until I decided to take them to the first AoS tournament at Adepticon that I finally got them into fighting shape. Once I had purchased my ticket for the tournament and had a hard date set of when I would need to have everything done by I really kicked into gear. I probably got more painted for that army in those few months then I did in the past year. My current army I'm working on, my Nighthaunts, were originally purchased to be a 1,000 point list to take to the Adepticon Team Tournament last year, and because of that I got them finished in only two months. Now I'm determined to take them to the Michigan GT in October, which is a full 2,000 point tournament, so I have been expanding them. I'm currently wrapping up nine Spirit Hosts, which I painted as a group. Nine of them. Normally I wouldn't do that because I like some variety in what I paint, but it's getting them done and I'm really happy with how they're looking.

When you set yourself a hard date you need the army done by you'll most likely find yourself a lot more motivated to get it done. For me, this is the only way I can get an army finished in a reasonable amount of time, otherwise I jump from project to project. The downsides to this method are the risk of burning yourself out, and losing interest in the army. When you make something a task you may end up resenting it, and no one wants to resent what is supposed to be a fun hobby. Make sure you give yourself more than enough time to get it done, that way if things end up taking too long you have some built in extra time. Also, make sure you definitely like the army and painting it before fully diving into it. Paint up a test model or two, or even a whole unit. This way you can judge if you'll still be happy painting them after 30 models.

3. The Escalation

A really fun way to build an army is to do some sort of escalation league. AoS has two built in ways of doing this already with Skirmish and Path to Glory. By starting off in Skirmish you can buy and paint just a few models for the army, adding to it as your warband grows throughout the campaign. Once you have completed your Skirmish campaign you can move onto Path to Glory where you should already have half or more of your starting warband completed. In Path to Glory you add whole units at a time, so you may want to stretch it out over a slightly longer time period. At the end of the campaign you'll have a decent sized AoS army that will only need a few more additions to be a full sized force. This method engages you and rewards you as you build your army. It also gets around the issues I talked about in The Collection where your army is not as effective as you're building it. Since you are playing smaller scale games that gradually ramp up in size you'll find you army just as effective when it started as when it ends. You also get to get in a bunch of games with your friends and craft a story for your force as you go along.

While at the moment 40k doesn't have something like this, you can still do a Tale of Four Gamers style project. The idea behind this is that you and a group of people all start a new army at the same time and set monthly goals. For instance, you can all begin with a Start Collecting box and aim to have all of that painted by the end of the first month, then each month you agree to add a new unit onto your armies. This way the act of building up your army becomes a group project of sorts, with set goals and benchmarks to reach, but in a fun and rewarding way. I'm thinking about starting one of my next armies as a Path to Glory warband for AoS so I can ramp it up as I go along.

4. The Modge Podge 

There are many armies that have started one way and ended up finishing in a completely different way. Like I said, my Tomb Kings started as a collection and switched into a tournament army to get what I needed done. When I took them to the Michigan GT later that year I decided to change my army list around a bit and ended up painting even more for them to meet that deadline. My Nighthaunts are a tournament army, but will grow into a collection as I keep adding to them after the GT. I want to add enough units that I can drop one of my Mournguls for more friendly games and also so I have one of everything since I'm currently missing a Black Coach. I also want to build up a larger Grand Alliance Death force that will incorporate elements of my Nighthaunts. At the moment I'm also building some Morghasts and have Nagash half assembled as well.

It's pretty common to see a tournament army sprawl into a collection, since usually you'll really like the army you built and want to keep it going. Armies can bounce back and forth between all of these categories too, going from a collection to a tournament army as you commit to finishing new units to a deadline, back to a collection, back to a deadline driven army, and so forth. You can also intertwine two or three different projects, switching between the different armies with each unit to vary up what you're painting and help avoid getting burned out. Of course, for this you would need two armies that are different enough. Switching from painting one red army to another red army won't give you much of a break. There really is no "correct" way to do it and the whole process is pretty organic and situational for the person, army, or event.

I know there are probably a bunch of other ways to go about building up your army for the tabletop that I haven't listed here, so if there's something I missed that you want to share, please let me know in the comments below!

Until next time,

Tyler M.

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