When it comes to guidelines and archetypes, the corollary always comes up: "A good player plays by the "Book", a great player knows when to throw the "Book" away and still win." For those that play MMORPGs, you might know what I mean. Tanks tank and squishy Nukers nuke, but slowly so that the Tanks can keep aggro. RIght? Except for my buddy on a top raiding guild. He didn't need the uber casting gear for raids, he had to nuke slowly, so his raiding gear was about extra AC, Hit Points and Resists. Which meant when the primary Tank went down and the secondary didn't grab control right away, he'd unload his biggest nuke, the a series of stun spells to chain stun the mob. Yes, he died, but he gave the raid time and a chance to regain control instead of wiping.
So, the question is: What is "Style"?
- Like or dislike of certain units AND the reasons for that. For example, as a Black Templar player, I despise Rhinos & Razorbacks. They simply cost waaaay to much for what we get for them. Despite all the fancy jiggery about how "our Rhinos" with XA & Smoke "only costs 8 points more" than everyone else's, it breaks down to ours cost 150% of other codices since 15 point XA isn't worth it so nobody buys it. Which means in a five Rhino list with Smoke, we pay a penalty tax of 90 points. Or enough to buy a squad with a meltagun. Oh, if we buy the XA (which is an okay deal at five points), then the tax just went to 115. Hey scrape up five more points and stick that squad in a Drop Pod! Now, I actually have nothing against Rhino/Razorback lists, I just don't think that a cost effective way of fielding them exists for the Black Templar. It doesn't play to our current strengths.
- Preferences for certain play styles AND the reasons for that. Do you prefer Alpha Strike shooting? Do you like the glorious Assault? Do you want to march your army forward smashing all before you? Do you like to dance around your enemy while stinging him to death? Amusingly, I've just realized my preferred play style is also much the same as when I used to engage in personal conflict . The details would change, but the three things would happen: 1) Distraction that couldn't be ignored to get the initiative, 2) Hammer with punches until down or on the ropes, 3) Close in to use holds and/or put the boots in. Note: Player A and Player B can use the same play style and from the details, it can be totally different in application.
- The method by which cost-benefit analysis is done. Every unit has a CBA. Every last one of them. Now, it can be extensive and esoteric math hammering, it can be what the player perceives as "more fluffy", it can be that the player simply admires the way the mini looks, maybe the way it plays on the board or the sheer uberness of the stat lines. It can also be some combination of the above or even more methods by which a player chooses to measure the worth of a unit. Familiar example: Black Templar Assault squads. Awesome potential for squads, especially with a leader attached. Priced out of the ballpark by our old codex.
- The reason the player plays. Pushing plastic men around and rolling dice? Showing off the old modelling & painting uberness that is you on the tabletop? (Well, it darn sure isn't me.) Trying to make sure you get the beat down on everyone? Wanting to grok the inherent harmony in the conflict to ensure a mutually satisfying gaming experience? Like to dazzle everyone with rules interpreting skillz? All this affects how you play and what lists work better for you.
Gunlines go out the door with me because they don't do much different, they are more flexible in many ways but IMO in ways that play to our current codex's strengths, they are less flexible in ways that do play to our codex's strengths. PotMS lists are fun, but if I wanted to do Fast Rhino bodies, I could go play the emo mutant Chapter that sparkle red in the daylight and go on the rag.
Oh, I've been talking about Black Templars, so what do the Necrons have to do with this? Well, I got caught away from the casa for the last couple days and started messing with variant Necron lists. The variety they have of actual options is insane, especially compared to the BT codex. I'm talking about several different lists built around the same core units that will perform differently depending on which "plug 'n' play" units you add to it. So for the first thing to my fellow Black Templars: No matter how much they pork up the fluff, we are going to get real options again.
The bottom line: if someone is playing a list you don't care for, still try and figure out why they are running it and what benefit it would have