Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A Question Of Focus

by SandWyrm

I ran across something in the tech world this week that sort of epitomized the way most folks approach list-building for 40K. In a high-stakes game that's much more expensive to play than ours. :)

In case you've been living under a rock recently, Apple has finally released the iPad, to much hoopla. Well, now HP is getting ready to release it's own touch-based tablet, the Slate.

What is most interesting to me is an internal HP slide that was "leaked" to various websites. It reveals a lot about HP's internal thought process.

Do you see what I see?

HP is focused on a checklist of parts and what it perceives as a boon or a lack in each. I imagine a group of HP executives sitting around a conference table and yelling out the following:
"Oh no! Apple's panel has more pixels!"
"We have a faster processor!"
"We have an SD card slot!"
"They have a faster WiFi chip!"
"They have 2x our battery life!"
"We have 2 cameras! Woot!"
When, this is what they really should be asking themselves:
"Is our user experience competitive with Apple's?"
"Does our tablet have a wider appeal to potential buyers?"
"Can Grandma use it?"
"How are we different from the Windows tablets that have failed already?"
"How easy are we to develop for?
"How can we build a revenue stream from the device like Apple's iTunes store?
Since HP's not asking the important questions, Apple is going to clean their clock. Just like when the original iPod was released and the competition wondered why nobody bought their crappy MP3 players.

"But we have an FM Tuner!" they cried. "And features X, Y, and Z!"

Nobody cared.

So what can we 40K players learn from this?

A lot of us go through lists that we find on the internet and pick out the parts we like.
"Oooh! A Psyker Battle Squad!"
"Man, Hydras really kick out the dakka!"
"Vendettas are Cool!"
"I like this Platoon idea!"
But those are just isolated parts of a whole. If you don't consider the overall strategy of your list and choose your parts according to the need of the whole, you'll end up like HP. Strong in some areas, weak in others, and totally lacking in the synergy that can take you to the next level.

So ask yourself the following the next time you're making a list for a tourney:
"How am I going to take objectives away from the enemy?"
"How am I going to keep my own objectives safe?
"How am I going to deal with Land Raider spam, Nob Bikers, and IG Leafblowers?"
"How am I going to deal with dedicated assault troops and Tyranid MCs?"

"How am I going to move this army around the table?"
"How easily can I adapt to different opponent lists and playstyles?"
Ask yourself questions like these and, like Apple, you'll choose your parts to fit your strategy instead of vice-versa.


  1. That's an interesting analogy and it makes sense, don't see that often on the interwebs :P

    You could even go a step further and discuss why you don't always need to have the new hotness. Yes PBS/Nob Bikers/Leafblower/Mephiston/iPads are all new and shiny, but they don't fit my needs. Just because something looks cool doesn't mean it will fit in everywhere. Why would I need this new shiny toy when I already have something that does the same job and more? I need versatility (no cameras, no support for Flash), I need something that can work with everything (not just Apple approved apps), maybe it just costs too much for what is essentially a gimmick.

    This is fun :D

  2. I love this article, it is the best written one I have read in a while. I love the real life analogy. It really puts list-building into perspective. Hats off to your writing ability, SandWyrm!

  3. Yeah, the HP tablet actually has 2 hardware features (Pen Support, Cameras) that I think give them a huge potential advantage. I know they're a must-have for me as a digital artist contemplating such a purpose.

    But knowing HP's track record, I also realize that whatever sort of crappy touch-UI they've bought/outsourced is going to be the first thing I un-install to make the thing actually be usable. And then it's just Win7 on a pad with a 3-4 hour real-world battery life.

    Oh... joy.

    So I'm waiting for version 2 or 3 of Apple's pad. :)

  4. Truth... I've actually revised my current Nid list (granted, playtesting is pending) to include twin bone swords on my Shrikes.

    Why pay 50 points for a model with a 5+ save?

    Because it fills a gap that I was constantly worried about - how to take down enemy power units.

    I had for a long time tried to fit in a brood of Genestealers with Toxin Sacs - wounding anything (C'tan/Wraithlords to name a few baddies) on a 4+, with Re-rolls against most infantry I'd come across. Plus Rending. Also able to act independently to get where they need to go.

    I just couldn't find the 170 points for a 10-bug brood.

    However, I could find 50 to upgrade to what is possibly the best power weapon in the game... at least one that can go on a troop choice for only 10 points.

    Power weapons are, obviously, a good thing. Making marines cry is one of my favorite pasttimes. Putting them on a flying creature makes it go wherever you want it, for the most part (and turns my winged node from "quick support" to "fast hunters"). And while I'm not wounding Wraithlords on a 4+, I'm still liable to roll at least a couple of 6's, and after a nice little Ld test at 3d6, there's a good chance that whatever got poked in the eye got poked good.

    Sup Nob Bikers, meet my Ninjanids. Sure, you get a 5+ inv save, but forget that 2+ and FnP that you were bragging about earlier. And that extra wound.

  5. Nice analogy, and great article! Personally, I'm going to buy an iPad, because it's like Star Trek. Kinda.

    I also bought a box of Sanguinary Guard, because they look nice.

  6. Good article. Indeed folks should look at taking units to meet an end, not as an end in themselves.

    "Yeah, there's a unit for that." (hopefully more than one!)


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