The Psychology of lists

I know of only one person who never moans about his army list. (You know who you are…Urban Knight) Most of us make lists, build armies and spend every opportunity telling everyone who will listen how bad they are and how they will get beaten by any army they face. Why do we do this?

This is not about the lists nor what is in them, it is about why we all think our lists are rubbish! Is it to hide our inadequacies and give us an excuse when we lose? (I’m sure this is part of the reason I take under powered lists and talk them down all the time) Is it so that we can be pleasantly surprised when we win? Is it so that we can join an elite and rare club of players that seem to win whatever army they use? I’m not sure but I know I do it as much as the next man.

Clearly my armies are not always rubbish when I trash talk them, what I really mean is ‘it could be so much better’. If I already know the army is not optimised why do I moan about it? More importantly I constantly hear good players with very ‘top tier’ armies moaning as well. What can they be moaning about and why do they feel the need to do so when onlookers cannot see anything missing from their armies and dread facing them?

I’m more interested in why 90% of us think our own list is rubbish? If we think it is then why don’t we improve it? And when we do, why do we still moan? What psychology stops us improving our lists, or keeps us dissatisfied even when we do?  There are many excuses and we have all heard them: I don’t like the models, I don’t want to play on the top tables, I can’t afford new minis etc etc etc….but in our heart we all know these are just excuses.

So if we know what the good lists are and we are NOT using them why, oh why, are we still moaning about how rubbish our lists are? Is it because even with the best list possible we still feel the need to bleat that our army is ‘rubbish’? One final thought, and this is the kicker, perhaps we moan because we would have nothing to talk about if we didn’t!


10 thoughts on “The Psychology of lists

  1. For me it’s not so much that I think my list is rubbish, I just recognise that it is not as cut throat as possible.

    Take my bikes as an example, its pretty good and with the right tactics and strategies and be very good even against bad match ups (managed to table a horde ork army with it on Sunday at Vapnartak despite only having lots of Melta guns and bolters). Could that list be better, sure if I didn’t take bikes I could certainly make a far more cut throat list with it. But were is the fun? Where is the challenge?

    For me it’s about does the army play in as many phases as possible, therefore letting you get the most of gaming with it? Whilst at the same time does it compliment and support your own particular game style to make sure you are enjoying playing with it as much as possible?

    Sure, again as an example, I could rock up with a Grey Knight army to the next tournament I go to and beat all possibly beat everyone to 1st place. But the kind of army I would be taking is too 1 dimensional in its game play and too far removed from how I like to game. So what is the point?

    I say stick with what you like and enjoy, not with what will make winning games easier.

  2. To be fair I don’t think that the exorbitant cost of minatures is an excuse but a very real fact of life. I would love to add Forgeworld items to my lists or go and buy another 2 vindiactors or add 3 soul grinders to my lists but can I justify over a £100 on 3 models? Nope. So I stick to what I have and convert what I can and when I can. The invitational woke me up to Jetlocks but the thought of the cost and conversions made me go pale. However a quick review of the net and I found an article using warlocks mounted on grav weapon platforms much like Hellions. So an hour later of ravaging the bits boxes and I have 7 servicable Jetlocks and a Farseer mounted on a Vyper with a fighting platform that I made years ago. Unfortunately their first outing last weekend left 5 broken and not a great performance on the table but it was my deployment that failed and not the army. I also need to pin or magnetise the stands to avoid my clumsy builder’s fingers but that is another story.
    Therefore I will endeavour to change my lists and get the must have but don’t own units in by conversions and modifications. Will I change my Emperor’s Children much? Probably not as the new codex will bring it’s own joys and woes as new units come in and others fall by the wayside that will bring it’s own challenge to get a killer list out of the book for an army that I love.

  3. Excellent article Michael.

    “I’m more interested in why 90% of us think our own list is rubbish? ”

    I don’t actually think my lists are rubbish, I think they’re good, enjoyable, true to the background of 40K and balanced. However here in lies the real issue, as in a lot of the current 40K tournament events those values are not widely held amongst an emerging group of younger generation 40k players.

    “So if we know what the good lists are and we are NOT using them why, oh why, are we still moaning about how rubbish our lists are? “.

    Here I disagree with “if we know what the good lists are” I’d suggest “if we know what the competitive lists are”, would have been a more accurate reflection. I’d suggest that as Neil has alluded to “we” as players choose not to use such lists because we want (in no particular order), a challenge, an enjoyable game, a game our opponents enjoy also, etc, etc.

    I think it’s natural for most people (Alan obviously isn’t most people or is totally confident in each of his army builds), to consider what they perceive to be weaknesses within their selections and attempt to justify such weaknesses. You only have to watch the 6 o’clock news to see how this mentality pervades our culture with our politicians/bankers/Heads of industry persistently doing this and the media and General Public expecting (and sometimes even demanding) them to.

    I accepted a long time ago that it’s unlikely I’ll ever perform highly at 40K tournaments, because “I” don’t/can’t play mathshammer, I choose armies on what “I” consider is true to their background, I pick models “I” like and also want to paint and model and most importantly as to what “I” think is or will be fun to play with.

    For me playing 40K is just a form of escapism, some light hearted fun. I deal with life or death situations involving people’s “real” lives and consequences of my actions/in actions daily. Do I give a flying Feck if I win or lose a GAME of 40K -rarely.

    Whilst I’m aware I can moan for England I don’t think I do about my 40K army lists.
    ( I’ll now wait for people to pick me up on this at future events should I lapse into a diatribe as to the shortcomings of any of my selections!)

    • Hmmm I shall have to add this to the ‘WaaCee-nomicon’ and start complaining that my lists are a bit rubbish in future.
      “That Logan he is so rubbish I may as well play with 275 points less than everyone else.”
      “I already I had nine Necron Wraiths so I didn’t have much option BUT to get another 3. Now I am stuck using these two rubbish wraith units”
      “I would have more Annihilation Barges but their Rear Armour value is only 13”

  4. I came to the conclusion years ago that I am fundamentally unable to write a killer list. I see other peoples lists, usually on the recieving end of a good thrashing, and think, “yeah, that’s pretty good (read “mean”)”. Then I go away and sometimes start thinking about maybe how I could play that list or something similar. Other times I might start with the intention of coming up with a list that is downright nasty but then look at the finished article. Sometimes it might actually be a hard list but then I start picking holes in it (well, if I just tweak that, drop that and save points for this et etc), and before you know it, it isn’t a hard list anymore. I’ve always been more of a fluff bunny than the other thing so I’m not surprised or disappointed anymore when I find myself in the middle to lower table order, but generally having better games.

  5. I have given up moaning about what is in my armies and whether they are rock hard and make their points back, mainly because I know it won’t matter a jot what I have in a list once I start the cube rolling.
    I started of with Guard and took stuff that was “fluffy” for what I had in mind as a theme. Got battered a lot and advised to go hard with my choices, so gradually I drifted into a leafblower selection that was very similar to what Josh Roberts would use. I played a good many games with it and eventually got demoralised with it, JR would rock onto a table and promptly roll some dice and table his oponent. I would be on a nearby table playing against a weaker list than JR was and getting my face punched in by killing three blokes in two rounds of Guard shooting. So I now choose what I like using, what fits my chosen theme and gives me and my opponent a good game and a laugh. Still roll many sh##e dice but I don’t care any more. Hell I even struggled with razor GK’s, so why beat myself up when I can have fun and extra beer, cheers.

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