Although I haven't got any gaming in recently, due to my nasty commute to work combined with my mates preoccupation with Magic, it has allowed me to embrace the Dark Eldar codex with a passion; each day on the train allows me to clock up hours of reading time, and time to develop battle plans.
An essential rule to becoming good at 40k is first to learn your own codex like the back of your hand. All the basic stats should become as second nature as reciting multiplication tables, but that's only the start of the story.
Next must come the impartial look at every unit, including delving into their wargear options, and wargear combos. You must ensure that you never right a unit off too early, and spend the time to think of all it's uses on the battlefield, plus the combinations with other wargear and/or units available.
The next stage is army list building, but rather than just build a list look at the balance accross the army, do I have enough:
- Anti-Heavy tank firepower
- Anti-Light Tank / Trasnport firepower
- Anti Heavy Infantry Firepower / Close Combat Ability
- Anti Light Infantry Firepower / Close Combat Ability
- Number and Resiliance of Scoring Units
- Ensuring that the qualities above are spread accross enough units
A good example is a heaviy mech force taking out your ravagers early; can your list recover from this with its remaining anti tank ? Another good example is a MEQ or terminator army (mainly without storm shields) takes out your only incubi squad with your HQ character, do you have enough AP2 firepower that can be diverted away from anti-tank duty, enough liqifier guns for MEQs, and close combat weapons that ignore armour (power weapons, agoniser, talos or pain engine attacks etc.) to take up the slack.
Lastly you can consider how your army can do when faced against one of the top tier armies and different types of armies, examples include:
- Mech space wolves with supported by thunderwolves
- Missile spam space wolves
- Heavy Assault Terminator army
- Mech guard
- Guard blob army (big fearless units, still supported by a high number of various heavy weapons, and probably still a good number of vehicles)
- Decent of (Blood) Angels (60+ marines with 75% landing on your doorstep turn 2)
- Ork Horde with Kans & Buggies in support
- (4-5) Battlewagon Orks with Loota support & Kustom Forcefield in the middle battlewagon, plus Gaz giving them a close combat threat range of 28" from the front of any battlewagon.
- Twin/Triple Landraider army
- Nid Zilla (multiple tyranid monstrous creatures)
- Tyranid swarm
As well as looking at the armies suggested above, browsing forums and blogs for army lists gives you lots of material (which will probably be more balanced) to compare your army against. Always critic the listasking yourself questions such as; how would I play against that ? what's the threat the must be taken out early ? does it have a weakness that would allow you to deal with the army early, eg. crippling a few key transports allowing you deal with the army easier ?
All of these things can be done before your army is taken out of it's case for a real life battle, and while nothing can make up for battlefield practice, it doesn't mean you can't prepare yourself.
Go on, give yourself over to your army, live, breathe and think it. The ideal is that never again will you see an army accross the battlefield and stumble to create a battle plan.
PS. Aan example of my own gaming where this could have helped is two tournaments last year. My Tau were on the top tables in each tournament (table 1 and 2) in the last game of the day, and stumbled to form a good battleplan. Result was I was slaughtered, and dropped out of the top 3. Even though I had not faced those army types before I could have done better preparation.
An example of applying this method recently is I have been looking at the Dark Eldar list I created recently and worrying about it's close combat ability against heavy infantry. It was all isolated in one small incubi unit. Dropping one small warrior squad in a venom would allow me to:
- bring the rest of the troop choices up to full strength (to offset losing a scoring unit)
- add agonisers to two wych squads
- add 2 members to the incubi squad (so they weren't so frail)