I would like to start this entry by pointing out that this is NOT related to the myriad legal cases Games Workshop is currently fighting against various other companies. Other blogs and podcasts might like to draw people in with such topics, but not this blogger!
This entry is all about “ownership” of army lists: how the lists are defined by the people who write them and use them, and how they can be shamelessly stolen and bastardised by others. I do not intend to target any one person, this is simply something I have been pondering in general.
First, we shall cover how a person writes lists that can be considered “unique” to them (I use the term loosely: no idea is unique, but among most gaming groups there are lists that only a select few are talented or mad enough to come up with!)
For this, I will use some members of my gaming circle as examples. First, we have someone who will write lists mostly, if not completely geared for tournament play. We’re talking nine War Walkers with Eldrad, Venom-spam and other such nasties. Next is someone who will write competitive, but not disgusting lists: Deathwing, Mechanised Imperial Guard and sometimes Tyranids. Third comes a chap who used to run a bike Space Marine army, that soon became Dark Angels before Throne of Skulls in January. Last, we have me. I’ve never been good at writing balanced armies. I find them boring. I like to build my armies around theme or a high-risk, high-gain strategy (if it fits both, I love it!)
We are all proud of the lists we write, and rightly so! They are often the product of hours of pondering and staring aimlessly at the stock in a Games Workshop store, followed by days or weeks of testing and refining. They provide us with a real sense of achievement when we see them on the board, and get their first win.
So how do we feel when someone sees our list, copies it, and then shows up at our gaming venue with it?
In a survey conducted among long-term readers, fellow gamers and members of several gaming clubs, sixty-six percent of people said they would be annoyed, thirteen percent would be honoured, thirteen percent said they would have mixed feelings, and a further six percent said they did not care.
So what does this show us? Are gamers possessive of their army lists? Of course we are! We put as much work into our lists as we do into painting our models! You steal the list, you might as well have stolen the models too! You don’t walk up to someone who is in their driveway waxing their shiny new Ford Mustang and point across the road at your shiny (and a day newer) Mustang, do you?
Of the people who said they would be annoyed if their list was copied, nearly all of them replied that if their list had been adapted rather than carbon-copied, they would not care. Many also commented that if they had at least been consulted, they would not be so angry.
I would like to mention that the above study excluded those who post their lists online for all to see (as surely they expect it?). This is a study for list-copying on a small scale among a small group, where posting on Warhammer Forums is not as important as the enjoyment of the game.
Which brings us to the question, why do people copy lists? For some, they just think it’s cool, others see it win and assume they’ll do well with it. Sadly, some (and I hate these guys!) simply cannot be bothered to put the work in themselves.
Which brings me to my next point: Do these copied lists work?
In a word: No.
A friend of mine had a rather nasty Dark Elf army list. I once saw it grind a Tomb Kings army into dust without losing a single model, it was the owner’s pride and joy. Then someone copied it, claimed he was a genius for figuring out such a list, and then promptly lost every game he played – much to the amusement of the list’s writer, the guy’s opponents, and everyone who happened to be there at the time.
The same can be said of a guy I know who copied an Eldar Tournament list, everything in Wave Serpents, Falcons etc. The original owner was so embarrassed by the copied army’s performance he actually retired his own Eldar until the copier got bored with losing and sold up.
So, why do the copied lists not work? The answer is actually quite simple: the list itself is only one part of the equation. The rest is down to the player, his or her own quirks, skill and cunning. Anyone can put four Land Raiders on a board in 1500pts, but only someone with the right mindset can use it effectively, let alone find a way to win with it!
I will freely admit that there are some ideas posted online (“Leafblower” Guard, “Cron Air”, Double/Triple Helldrake Nurgle) that can be copied and will probably work reasonably well for most people – but even these lists have some degree of variety from list to list, mainly in the composition and amount of the “bread and butter” units such as HQ and Troops. Even in a world where there are only finite combinations, there should never be two lists exactly the same.
So in closing: Copying someone’s list is neither big nor clever. You risk much nerd-wrath! If you’re going to use someone else’s idea, at least ask first, or better yet some imagination and modify it to suit your own needs!