Hmmm... Spam...

Threat saturation, redundancy, target overload, cookie cutter, copy and paste – aka spam.

From what I've read around the mighty internet over the past few years, the use of the term of spam can differ from place to place. Extreme examples are easy to spot, but is seems particularly tricky to identify the line at which spam occurs (I never thought I'd write a sentence like that with a serious face...). What seems to be limited though is an explicit detailed discussion of whether spam is useful or not (any suggestions welcome!).
This CONCEPTS: article discusses the definition of spam, and then looks at the benefits and drawbacks of the most famous of all gaming foods (ok, maybe cheese should win this title).
As alluded to above, pinning down an exact definition of spam is potentially a contentious subject. For the purposes of this post I will use the following:
Spam – Taking an identical unit in multiples over and above what is commonly considered acceptable in casual games.
That's about as good as definition as I can get to. The real problem is not so much in defining the concept, but rather agreeing what counts as spam as this is appears to be highly subjective (as highlighted by Mercer's discussion on Imerius Dominatus here). Let's go into this in a little more detail to show you what I mean.

Easy ones first. Filling all available slots with the largest possible number of identical models automatically qualifies as spam. For example, taking three units of three broadsides (the maximum allowed per unit) with the same load out is definitely generally accepted as spam. On the other hand one unit, even with identical options on each model, is not spam. I don't think many would argue against this as a commonly accepted starting point. Now for the large grey area in the middle.
Two identical units is borderline in some people's opinion (personally I'd say two is definitely not spam), but what about two identical units and a third unit with a different load out? What about three units of largely similar but slightly different equipment? Or even better, three units with just one model, but all with the same equipment? In the broadside example, I think many would class three units of a single broadside as spam, but the exact same number in one unit would be fine. Good huh?

Then we have the repetition of similar weapons across different types of units. If taking 12 missiles in 3 squads of long fangs is spam, what about spreading the same number of missiles around more units? Does taking 2 units of long fangs with 2 missiles each (plus other different weapons), a couple of landspeeder typhoons (which have missiles) and a couple of cyclone missile launcher wolf guard still count? I'd guess that the latter wouldn't instantly trigger cries of spam, but it has the same number of missiles!

So given the above, I'm leaning towards the use of the term spam in relation to a combination of weapon types, rather than by unit type. So missile spam Space Wolves are in, but long fang spam is out because isn't precise enough. If a unit has only one common load out (with minor variations), then I would say using 'unit' spam ok as it is easily understandable, e.g. wave serpent spam.

So that's considering units and weapons typically the 0-3 FOC slots, but what about multiple troops choices? Would a Necron army with 4 units of 10 warriors trigger 'warrior spam'? Or maybe an army full of tactical marines should be considered 'bolter spam'? I would say no for the former but a technical yes for the latter. What about chess and it's terrible burden of 'pawn spam' (Google search this at your own risk!)?

I thought that the idea was that troops make up the majority of an armies fighting resources, and even though specialised or elite forces exist in the fluff, people seem to get offended when gamers take a large number of very common units for that army, especially when this includes multiple dedicated transports like razorbacks, venoms or night scythes.

So as you can see, pinning down an exact definition of spam that everyone can agree on isn't easy. Personally, I'd suggest that spam is relative to the number of slots available and that troops and dedicated transports have a higher threshold before gaining spam status. So for 40k, I'd say that outside of troops 3 identical or very similar units qualifies as spam but anything lower isn't. For troops I'd say at least 5 units, with similar amount for dedicated transports.
The ultimate gaming food!
What's I've completely avoided in the definition is the question of whether it's beneficial to spam anything in the first place.

The primary benefit is of course redundancy, in terms of threats (offensive redundancy) or targets (defensive redundancy). I think a balanced competitive list will use the right amount of both offensive redundancy using multiple threat vectors and defensive redundancy through a focus on one aspect (e.g. light or heavy mech, infantry). I also prefer my threats to be diffused throughout the army rather than in discrete targetable units, but ideally have enough of a threat range (via weapons and mobility) to be able to concentrate on one area if I need to. This is easier said than done though!

If it's good and cheap, why not take lots? (see Cons below!)

Some people like to take lots of something because they think it looks cool or is fluffy. Noteable examples include Deathwing and Ravenwing, but there are many more. Others might like to play a certain style afforded by spamming one aspect. When I was playing 40k at school in 2nd/3rd I always loved the idea of a mechanised space marine army because I really liked the idea of an independent strike force speeding around attacking the enemy. I didn't ever get this far but when I started playing again in 5th, vehicles had suddenly become usable and were actually really good so I was very happy! I think Mech still has a place in 6th, so I get to play with a style of army that I like in a competitive setting.
False economy
It's easy to spam something that really isn't that good! Imagine taking an army full of flamers and virtually nothing else. Even if they were massively discounted, they have limited range and are only really effective against certain targets. This example would be so severely hampered against most other armies that this would not be a good choice of weapon to spam. Mid-strength weapons with a decent range are a much better choice, as they can effect light vehicles and MCs, but usually come in enough numbers to have some use against infantry too. However...

TigerofMyth on DeviantArt

Too many spoons
Spam can limit your capacity to deal with a number of target types. Spamming strength 7 with good range may be a strong choice, but if it's all AP4 or worse your army will find AV13 or massed 2+ saves a challenge. Repetition can come at the cost of operational flexibility.

Opponents won't have much difficulty working out your battle plan and can plan to play around your spam, potentially turning your strength into a weakness. For example, going first with an effective threat range of 36" will prompt most enemy generals to deploy out of range, wasting a whole turn of your shooting. Loads of static shooting units can be out-maneuvered by using cover or line of sight blocking terrain to limit your effectiveness and mobility to tackle sections of your army at a time. Being predictable isn't usually a benefit!

Opportunity Cost
If you're filling your slots and spending a large proportion of your points on the same thing, naturally there won't be the points or space to cover other important functions or tools. The basics still need to be covered if you're aiming for a balanced list.

Repetitive Gameplay and/or Aesthetics
This is the other side of the coin to aesthetics/theme. Whilst some people may love to model, paint and play a certain way, this could be torture for others. Not everyone is as motivated to spam a unit by the time they get to their 8th razorback or 100th kroot. Also, playing against the same style of army over and over can be a bit dull for opponents!
Irene Koehler on AlmostSavvy
Composition scoring (aka comp) deserves a special mention here. Not to repeat myself as I've already covered this in some depth, comp typically seeks to restrict spam, as some TOs see as spoiling the fun in the game (and of course everyone agrees with the TO's version of fun, right?).

If the most efficient choice is, say, 4 fliers but the comp limits the choice to 3, I'd suggest that there's a good chance there will be a lot of armies with 3 fliers. Players will just push to the limit of what's allowed. Added to this, some armies are better placed to get around traditional comp and still spam certain effective elements thanks to a better range of choices to select from.

I think that comp aiming to restrict spam just changes the strongest builds available, and I've yet to see it restrict all players equally due to the differences between armies.


I don't mind the term spam when it's used accurately, and see it as more of a description than an insult. However, I've seen or heard it used so many times as a derogatory term by players who don't like repetition, often under the guise of fluff, sportsmanship, or maybe their own made up version of the rules. I would like to respectfully point out three things.

1) Many armies, in both real life and in the gaming universe, take an efficient unit or weapon and use it in multiples because they think it gives them the best possible chance of winning the battle. Fluffy and competitive, no?

2) Using spam as an insult is deeply unfair on themed armies, as they often seek to repeat an aspect as the driving narrative behind their army (e.g. Deathwing = terminator spam, any mech army, you get the idea...).
3) Spam is entirely legal and supported by the rules. GW, or whoever wrote the game, have specifically stated how much of a certain unit an army can contain. GW in particular are well known for their aversion to competitive gaming in preference of forging a narrative (selling models is apparently mutually exclusive from good tight rules and random is supposedly fun too...), and could very easily have further restricted the available options. 

If players wish to introduce house rules or comp to control spam, that's completely ok and their choice, but this is not standard gameplay and everyone else should not be expected to play a different version of the game to suit another's preferences by default. As I've mentioned before, I politely suggest finding like-minded gamers and enjoying the type of game you prefer, rather than trying to impose your own expectations on others (this applies to both casual and competitive games alike!).


Spam can be effective when units/weapons are taken that provide offensive redundancy and/or target saturation whilst being points efficient and still covering all the required tools/battlefield roles. However, spam can also be limiting by reducing an armies capacity to deal with a wide range of threats and by being predictable.

I don't have a problem with spam, either on competitive or fluff grounds, but I understand that not everybody feels the same. However, there can be a lot of factors to consider when choosing what to spam, taking into account the pros and cons discussed above.

Now I need to go and have a snack...

Further Reading
What is Spam? on Imperius Dominatus
Ideas For Army List Restrictions at Blog Wars 6 on From the Fang
CONCEPTS: Redundancy and Reliability

Food For Thought: Path of the Autarch on Craftworld Lansing

Craftworld Lansing

This week I suggest checking out this excellent 5 part series on Mobility on Craftworld Lansing. I love global strategy articles which look at the how and why, the really high level thinking that can go on in a game.

This series looks at the different stages in the game (list building, start, middle and end) and how to use a mobile army in each of these. What I also liked was that the stages are approached differently depending on whether you are winning, losing or fighting tooth and nail.

Good reading for generals playing and fighting against mobile armies. More please!

Food For Thought: Keeping It Legal

It's always good to know that you're blog isn't stepping on anyone's intellectual property rights toes, so thanks to Bryce963 on Dissenting Dice for this helpful post on keeping the right side of GW's legal team!

On a similar note, for anyone looking for free stock photos, I can recommend stock.xchng. No need to sign up and its very easy to follow their minimal rules.

Happy blogging!

ETC 2013 Results

Just found the results! Congrats to Team Germany for the win, and Team Ireland in 5th, Team England in 6th, Team Wales in 16th, Team Scotland in 19th, and Team Northern Ireland in 29th.

Blogs: Death or Glory

Death or Glory

I've enjoyed the Death or Glory blog and podcast for a while now, which offers an insight into the thoughts of some of the UK's top 40k players and some great hobby inspiration. They have also started running their own tournaments, and with their first 40 player event selling out rapidly and high demand for more spaces, they have their sights set on a 128 place event next time.

I had the chance to meet and play against the guys at the recent Brighton Singles Tournament, and was delighted when they asked if I would contribute to their blog. One definite 'yes' and a few emails later, I'm now an author on the Death or Glory blog!

Never fear though loyal (or even occasional!) readers, Total Immersion Wargaming will continue to see business as usual. We haven't decided what my posts on Death or Glory will cover just yet, so we will have to see how things work out. In the meantime, if you're interested head over to the blog and have a look!

Food For Thought: Firebase deployment on Tau of War

Tau of War

Some advice never goes out of date and the articles linked below are good examples of this. There are a number of armies that make use of firebases, so this advice on Tau of War offers some very handy advice on how to deploy and protect your guns to best effect. Bubblewrap and blocking units are key to this, and I especially like point 8 of the last article that states "A good Tau army is like an onion, it has lots of layers and makes people cry". Brilliant!

Rules of Engagement (Points 7 & 8 particularly)

List-Fu: Space Wolves and Imperial Guard 1650pts (Part 2)

Lining up for Best Painted just for the photo!

I thought I'd do a quick review the army (original list here) having played it up to and at the recent Brighton Singles tournament, plus throw in a few photos of my models for good measure. I may do a unit-by-unit breakdown in a later post too if I can find the time!

My 8 scratch built Hyperios Launchers
I had a bit of a nervous few days a couple of weeks before the event when I found out that Forge World had released alternative rules for the hyperios launchers in IA12. I've seen some FW units been nerfed to oblivion on a whim, and what made it worse was that I'd nearly finished scratch-building and painting 8 of the things! In the end, the TO ruled that only the latest issued rules for the hyperios should be used based on some Facebook evidence showing that FW had said the same thing. Fair enough, but this was a pity, as it removes twin-linking as standard and I did notice a slight drop in reliability over the course of the tournament. It could have been worse, however, as their FOC slot moved to heavy support! Thankfully I had all these slots free so it didn't matter and could just shift them across, but this could have royally messed up the list so I got away fairly lightly I think! I knew there was a risk in going for Forge World, and it's good to know I wasn't being paranoid...

Forge World Heavy Quad Launchers, Maxmini heads on Cadian bodies

So after IA12 adjustments and a very productive few weeks I was had the following all painted up to a reasonable standard, plus 6 custom objectives for extra soft scores!

4 of my 6 custom objectives. The other two are wolf claws from the Canis model
1650pts Space Wolves and Imperial Guard

100pts Rune Priest, Jaws, Living Lightning (Warlord)
150pts Company Command Squad, Chimera (Heavy Flamer), 3 plasma guns

4x 125pts 5 Grey Hunters, Razorback (Heavy Bolter), plasma gun
2x 120pts 5 Grey Hunters, Razorback (Heavy Bolter), melta gun
150pts Platoon; Platoon Command Squad, 4 flamers; 2x Infantry Squads (no upgrades)

130pts Vendetta (PCS goes here)

2x 105pts 3 Hyperios Missile Launchers (Forge World)
70pts 2 Hyperios Missile Launchers (Forge World)
100pts 2 Heavy Quad Launchers (Forge World)


Company Command Chimera (I've since done the searchlight with lense-flare etc.)

Overall, the army is performing really well and has all the tools I think I need at 1650pts. I'm not looking to change anything and want to continue to practice with the army. Going to 1850pts I would still definitely add Forge World las-cannon sabres for more puch vs AV13 at range and additional anti-flier, maybe a third heavy quad launcher. I would also playtest an aegis defense line, as this offers good cover for my artillery and backfield units, but at the cost of limiting my transport's maneuverability and making deployment more predictable. With the increase of ignores cover weapons (see Tau and Eldar), I'm not sure that the aegis is as useful as it was!

Command and Platoon Squads. Cadian bodies with Maxmini heads again

Leading up to the weekend I'd played with the list against Iyanden twin-Wraithknight Eldar, wraithwing Necrons with triple anni-barges, new footdar Eldar and Imperial Fists mech with double vindicators. At the tournament I played Farsight Tau with Tau allies, Zandrek Necrons, Fateweaver Chaos Daemons, Forge World Sisters with Imperial Guard powerblob and las-sabre allies, venom-spam and beast-deathstar Dark Eldar with Eldar allies and pure Tau. That's a fair spread! That's 10 games, and I'm 6:3:1 (w/d/l) with the single loss against the new Tau in Purge the Alien, my toughest mission.

Vendetta. Bonus points if anyone can name the DVD in the background

That's doing pretty well, but I know there is room for improvement! I'm not using the vendetta to it's full potential yet, and I've made a couple of less-than-optimal decisions with my target priority/psychic power choice with the heavy quad launchers/rune priest (e.g. choosing juicy targets protected by multi-level ruins or going for ignores cover rather than prescience shooting behind an aegis). I'm usually pretty good at remembering not to block the hyperios' line of sight with razorbacks, but I still did this once at the tournament. I'm also trying to speed up my gameplay, as I think I could have turned two of the three draws into wins if we hadn't timed out. I'm getting there though, and this will come through getting more games in on the clock and getting to know the army better.

Another shot of my Hyperios, just because I can

I've yet to test the list against flier heavy armies, but with the 8 hyperios launchers and the vendetta I have a reasonable amount of anti-flier at 1650pts. I'm looking forward to testing this, as there are both scythewing and multiple helldrake lists kicking about at the club. Similarly, I'd like to get some games in against some proper hoard armies, like Orks and Tyranids. I've been really impressed with the heavy quad launchers so far, particularly with prescience or ignores cover. The damage output for 100pts is stupendous and in combination with the small arms, flamers and heavy bolters should cover anti-hoard reasonably well.

Still lots to do, but they're getting there

What I have found so far is that there are no easy wins against tournament level opponents with the list. Instead I think I have had a fighting chance against pretty much anything, and that's exactly what I want from a balanced list. Knowing how to fight my opponents is one of the big keys here, so for now it's more games and more recon!

Blogs: Whisky & 40k

Whisky & 40k and the Nova Open

Home of the creator and chief TO of the illustrious Nova tournament, Whisky & 40k is MVB's personal blog where he puts up army lists, battle reports and general musings on 40k. Given that MVB's regular gaming opponents include a number of the top ranking plays in the country, you can imagine that this is good quality stuff! The site also gives an insight into the huge amount of preparation that goes into running such an internationally renown tournament, and keeps up to date with the coming Nova events.

More Blog Updates!

It's been a busy few months or so for the blog, with regular posts and a bunch of new followers (thanks guys!). I've been surprised and delighted to see that a few of the CONCEPTS: posts have made it into the House of Paincakes weekly top ten, so thanks to Von for the mentions.

As I threatened in my (late) New Years post, I've been approaching a load of blogs to add the site to their blogroll, with Faeit 21240k Kings, Claws and Fists kindly obliging. 40k War Zone even did so without asking (thanks chaps)! Still waiting on BoLS though... I'm regularly adding new links, including a great selection of blogs and the very handy MaxMini and Bitspudlo sites for alternative '28mm heroic scale miniature games' parts and models (no, I don't get a share of the profits!).

One of my 8 scratch built Hyperios Launchers
I'm loving using the Facebook page for quick updates. Writing battle reports in one sitting is so time consuming it's unreal, but doing a few paragraphs on my phone along with a photo is really easy and I can do this whenever I have a moment or two. I intend to collate each report into a full blog post when I'm ready, but if you want a sneak peak please check it out! I'm also putting my hobby progress up on the Facebook page too, and will put a selection up on the blog with some hints and tips when they're ready.

Overall I'm really pleased with how things are going, and I'm looking forward to what the coming months will bring. Thanks to everyone who's visited or left comments on the site, and I hope you keep coming back for more!