Evolving Meta, New Players and Netlists

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  • Throughout my wargaming history, I’ve witness brutal combinations pop up. The 9th Age is no different. I’ve faced some seriously nasty Sylvan Elf and Empire of Sonnstahl lists. Hell, we even have a player around these parts that, despite being new the fantasy wargaming, has been racking up a reputation as a solid player using Warriors of the Dark Gods.

    Sometimes I feel that this is in response to the starting lists of Snorri and myself. We were the two people to begin playing 9th Age in our local scene, and since, it has really taken on a life of its own. The reason why Snorri and I share the blame and derision to the competitive (read: brutal) meta that we are currently in is that we spent a great deal of time with one army and shifted our lists game-to-game accordingly.

    In the end, my ever-infamous Mono-Change Flying Circus became a thing of nightmares to most new opponents. What they never seemed to realize, initially, is that Snorri usually beat me. Add that in with some new players giving him a run for his money, and many have started to “get it”.

    What the hell do I mean by “get it”?

    The beauty of the 9th Age project is the, overall, toning down of many combos and auto-includes from previous fantasy wargames. I feel there are very few completely useless options anymore; everything has a role to play.

    Whether that role fits into your list, and specifically, against your opponent, is something that is entirely situational. I have a predilection for playing a fast, maneuverable, shooty, magic-y MSU list; something that, for instance, our local Vermin player absolutely detested. In similar fashion, one of our Saurian Ancients players has had a hell of a time taking down anything more than horrors in my list.

    That changed. Their lists changed.

    Despite some worries from our community about power levels, many have adapted through trial and error. Net-listing is something that is heavily discouraged around these parts, not because of any stigma, but due to the nature of what net-listing is, in and of itself: taking someone else’s square peg and trying to jam it into your own cylindrical slot….(Omarcomin’ is going to have a field day with that one).

    One of the real joys is the post-game breakdown (usually with beer). Many new players in our scene have had to ask themselves the following questions:

    1. Why did I lose/win?
    2. How much was luck involved?
    3. Was this just a bad match-up for my list?
    4. If so, how can I shift to a more “take on all” approach?
    5. Am I too reliant on one or two particular aspects of my army?
    6. Is this, sadly, the wrong army for my preferred playstyle?
    7. If I answer “maybe” to #6… am I just not using the units that would be optimized for how I like to play?

    This has, pretty much, become a survey for a lot of new players after their first few games of 9th. Incredibly, no one has given an unequivocal “YES” to question #6. That said, we’ve seen a lot of #7. The vast alterations in lists we see from the “learning phase” to the “competent” way of being is quite something to behold. It seems to take about 5-10 games to go from one to the other, but once its reach, you can always tell. Because they show up the next weekend with an entirely different build. And, usually, something no one had expected to see.

    Some examples of this:

    • Wrath/Lust List turning into a Mono-Change Flying Circus *raises hand*, that’s actually gotten away from MSU, a bit!
    • Standard combined Arms Empire eliminating heavy cav. and becoming a skirmish-heavy, pistol heavy, dance partner backed up by some cheap scoring blocks.
    • “Grab-bag” style WotDG army turned into an MSU, ambushing, vanguarding nightmare.
    • Infantry-centric UD becoming a really threatening Monster Mash list.
    • All Cav. Empire…well… actually, that one stayed about the same… and is still quite good.
    • Another Daemon player shifting from standard Poly to a crazy-fast Lust/Change flanking list. This one honestly worries the heck out of me.
    • My own KoE going from classic multi-Lance formation, double-treb etc list… and becoming an army filled with Skirmishers, Vanguarding, Fast Cav and a couple of massive Peasant Levy blocks for scoring.

    I actually have about another half dozen examples… but I think the point, overall, is as follows:

    No army book is perfect. There will always be balancing issues for as long as there are players to find ways to break books. But, overall, adapting to your meta and the tools you’ve been given is possible with, in my opinion, any of the books.

    Some will be easier than others to work with, some will be frustrating as all hell. That’s fine. In fact, that’s half the fun.

    And remember, Net-Lists are like knickers; they may feel and look good on one person, but they certainly shouldn’t be worn by all.
    Goblin, Daemon Legions and Warriors of the Dark Gods Player and 9th Age Staffer
    Follow my journey through the world of 9th Age HERE

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