Continuing to expand on the definition of balance as “having the right tools in enough numbers to give you a fighting chance against any army”, this post explores what ‘in enough numbers’ means and what this offers for strategic gaming – ie. redundancy and reliability.
Simply put, redundancy is taking multiples of the weapons/units/roles you need to make sure your army can still function with the loss of a few of these key elements. Because let’s face it, everything dies in 40k and it doesn’t hurt to have a back up plan.
For example, if I’m relying on a handful of lascannons to cover all my anti-tank needs, and my opponent destroys, supresses or avoids them, then I’m in trouble! Similarly, taking three rhino hulls in a 2000pt game as my only mech and expecting them to survive to carry my troops across to the enemy deployment zone is also asking a bit much. Other examples include counting on limited scoring troops or relying on a single tarpit/blocker to hold up an enemy deathstar, but I hope you get the idea…
Now, some armies are able/forced to repeat the same units to achieve redundancy, otherwise known as ‘spamming’ (personally, I don’t mind spam, either on competitive or fluff grounds, but this is a subject for another day). Whilst this is perhaps the simplest way of achieving redundancy, the choice of repeated elements can (although will not necessarily) lead to diminishing returns at the cost of providing other tools. Also, if the spammed unit/element faces a difficult matchup (e.g. a Deathwing/Loganwing army with only missiles vs lots of AV 13-14), then spamming one type of weapon won’t necessarily be a great advantage.
As an alternative, some generals choose to provide redundancy across different units, FOC slots and weapons. Although it can be argued that this can be at the expense of efficiency, varied units can have the added benefit of making target priority harder for some opponents (although if this is the case then you may have less to worry about than you think). This is a part of the argument against tournament composition limitations, or ‘comp’. Whilst spam can be avoided by placing artificial restrictions on (typically) the numbers of units a legal army can include in order to make the games more fun/balanced across all the codices, I think it merely shifts the ‘broken’ armies across to codices who have the depth to achieve a competitive level of redundancy across multiple FOC slots.
A further way of achieving increased redundancy is via duality, typically considered as a unit being able to provide both anti-infantry and anti-tank. I will expand on this further in a future post, but for now it is sufficient to acknowledge the benefits of units performing multiple roles.
Really, the purpose of redundancy is to improve the reliability of an army. It’s very hard to formulate and execute a strategy if you run out of tools or your dice desert you. Whilst luck is an integral part of the game, building in layers of contingency and increasing the reliability of your army when list writing goes a long way to mitigating the loss of a portion of your forces or disastrous rolling in-game. Of course, the tools still need to be used in the right way, but I’d prefer to have the right tools in enough numbers to make the game one of strategy rather than rely on my dice rolling hot to win!