Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Writing army lists vs. Army Builder

Need some crutches?

Oh hi!  I wanted to touch upon an very interesting topic as of late and I wanted your opinions.  As you can see by the title post, I wanted to talk about writing lists by hand vs. writing lists via army builder.  Call me old fashioned, or crazy, but I'm very much against the idea of army builder.  This is something unique in my personality because I also consider myself a tech junkie.  I love new tech, and I love using tools that make my life easier.  It min-maxes time, resources (brain power) and other finite little things that take up the most precious commodity of all:  Time.  Yes, I said it again for good measure.

The reason why I don't support army builder is because I feel that every gamer should know their armies inside and out.  I used to teach GW Academy.  My favorite seminar to teach aspiring nerds was how to build your army lists.  For me, building army lists is a hobby in itself.  Maybe it's because it hits my designer bone, but I love designing an army to play on the battlefield.  I pay for the models, I spend time putting them together, so why not give them a good showing on the table?  I strongly believe that writing army lists by hand makes you a better gamer.  You learn the rules quicker, you understand why you take certain weapon choices over others, you give your units definition and purpose, and you know how much they cost.  Your familiar units become almost second nature to you since you've committed them to memory.  I mean after all, you've written down the same units (unit bucket!) over and over and you really know them.  When the time comes and you've got to change to change your list from 2K competitive to 1750 casual, you can adjust your list in 30 seconds.

I don't believe Army Builder accomplishes the same thing.  It is merely a tool that allows you to add and subtract units with all the USRs and special rules written onto a piece of paper.  When someone asks you what that unit does (points at a unit on the battlefield) and what it's equipped with, most army builder dependent people pick up their sheet of paper, and then read off the rules.  Does this make you a better gamer?  Fuck no.  Does it save time for a player who doesn't care much about his gaming aptitude but instead likes the paint scheme of his models?  Most likely.  What if you had to cut a 2K competitive list down to 1750 casual as a army builder addict?  I'll see you in 30 minutes.

So what about you guys?  Army builder or no?

PS - WHFB new Empire book comes out this weekend.  I will have a review up ASAP :)


Old IronWulf said...

I don't use army builder for all the reasons you stated above but another reason. Why I don't use it is because most of my hobby budget goes to the models/rule books so I want to use in my games.

Is it useful yes but its also optional I'd rather spend my money on new units/bits for conversions. Besides it is just simple math anyway.

Kevin said...

I have not and never will use army builder.
First, I can't as it seems they have no version that works with my MacBook Pro.....
Second, my local tournaments have always required a typed list and always frowned on Army Builder so I just never used it.
I feel, like you've stated, that people should know their chosen Army Book/Codex in and out and AB is not reliable at all.
I'm having a current issue for Adepticon.
One of my team members is organizing my list into AB (which Adeptiocn requires you to present your list in) and it continually tells him that a Codex:Blood Angels Heavy Support Dreadnought cannot take a missile launcher, which it clearly can. It even states that a C:BA Librarian cannot take Melta Bombs, again, they clearly can.
Basically, I find AB to be rubbish.
Plus I can write out or type out my list faster then using a builder program anyways.
Know your Codex in and out.

ColKillgore said...

I am a Army Builder Fan. I would rather use it to make my lists and save them on the computer for later than have notebooks of old army lists like I use to.
Another plus in my book is having all the stats and rules on the paper saves wear and tear on the increasingly expensive rule books.

One cons with the program is that sometimes the data files are full of bugs and it takes a while for the authors to correct them.


Bloomfield Cricket Club said...

I know my Dwarfs inside out but use Armybuilder as my maths sucks quite frankly. that and its a cheap way of looking up opponents lists in tournaments (at least those where u get everyones lists ahead of time) without having to buy/borrow the other army books.

For Flames of Wars its even more invaluable as while the units stay the same the points cost varies considerably from book to book and era to era so Armybuilder helps.

That being said paper is usually the staring point AB just helps confirm things

agemmanjw said...

Great article! I also believe strongly in using paper and pen to get that army list down, so I had to give my kidos to an agreeable point of view.

In addition, I too used to teach the Academy and I specifically encouraged the 'P&P' method (although I did pimp out Excel at the least and Army Builder in the extreme). I believe that the 'introspection' of building an army is one of the most fun aspects, and the P&P method reinforces this aspect od the hobby.

Why don't I like Army Builder? Kevin pretty much nailed it on the head. In addition, I used to run tons and tons of tournaments and I can't begin to tell you how many mistakes I would find in Army Builder lists, which always ended up in arguments with the gamers. News flash- just because AB says you can do it doesn't mean you can (and vice versa, of course)! Too many of my gamers took this independantly-liscenced product as canon and forgot how it works...

Do I want to see AB go away? Gods no! I do have to say that I do appreciate it and the convenience it entails. I don't much like it myself and I feel the point is rather lost with such a simple 'point and click' system. But I can't lie- the convenience factor is certainly a big bonus!

Robert (Grovel) said...

I use another companies version of Army Builder - but only for while i'm on the train or otherwise unable to access my actual books. When I put together a 'real' list it'll always be done in a fancy schmancy excel spreadsheet, but playing around with ideas and armies I don't actually play is a nice way to kill time occasionally.

Dezzo said...

Army Builder (or equivalent) allows the person to create army lists quickly. This includes deleting units away and adding new ones. Creating a list within 5 minutes and observing the list's composition on the fly are also some of the advantages of AB-EQ programmes.

Of course, the main problem is having the accurate AB files to facilitate this.

I have vetted my share of tournament army lists and can attest to the fact that more mistakes were made on handwritten army lists than AB ones.

One thing that many people may not know or choose to ignore is that there ARE players out there who take the effort to edit their AB datafiles so that they can cheat on points for their AB built lists... its a risk worth taking for them as if caught, they will just blame the datafile.

I have yet to catch anybody doing this though... but damn nearly wanted to DQ somebody for giving every unit in his list a name (like section Alpha, Sgt John Hoe etc) making that army list look like a fucking PHD thesis.

To add to this, he refused to email us the damn army list and decided to give the list to us on the morning of the tournament...

fucking tosser.

Retrospectively, the organizers should have given strict guidelines for army list submissions but I guess we were just too nice to people...

Faolan (Jake) said...

Honestly, I like doing both. AB is a tool and is great as such, but like any tool in your arsenal it shouldn't be the only thing you use.

I can, and do, write out quick and dirty lists by hand. But there are times when I just want to kill a few hours tinkering with army lists, tweaking things here and there, and it's a great tool for that. (I did the same thing when I played EVE, with the EVE Fitting Tool.)

Now, if someone points me to some well done spreadsheets to use for that instead of AB, I might just do that instead, but until then, I'm happy using both tools in my inventory and never completely relying on one or the other - just like I don't always use my favourite skillet if I'm, say, making rice.

Oddjob said...

I understand the author's sentiments about NOT using AB. After all, if you really want too learn something inside and out then writing it down will help you memorize it faster.
OTOH, AB is a boon for people like me who simply don't like fiddling around with numbers! In the hobby there are plenty of people -I think- who prefer the painting side and only play casually. We may enjoy making lists in terms of composition, but we might not enjoy typing them out or doing the math. That is not to say that AB is perfect and couldn't be better. Using it SHOULDN'T substitute for knowledge of the rules or an army book. To each his own I say! I'm just glad there is a choice.

Thor said...

I completely, Hero. That's why I created Command Center, which I'm guessing you haven't seen yet? Think of it as an online spreadsheet with a few bells and whistles. Plus, it's online so you can get to your stuff easily. The site for it is here:

Hopefully I don't sound like I'm pitching you but this article I really do agree 100% with and again it's why I created Command Center.

Ripper said...

I have basically said "fuck army-builder" since it came out, for exactly the reasons you state. Every one of my friends who uses army builder never has a list ready, takes forever to get it together, and then doesn't know what he has when we are playing, so he has to keep stopping to check. I think Army Builder is the Powerpoint of gaming: It makes you stupid and lazy.

Anonymous said...

I think Army Builder is a great tool. I hate having to read sloppy hand written lists and having to decipher someone's chicken scratch can be time consuming. I also have caught people cheating using hand written lists. I have yet to catch a cheater using an Army Builder list. As a player I know my codex inside and out and Army Builder just makes things easier to reference things in case my opponent has questions. Also not all of your codex's wargear is listed in Army Builder sometimes the only reference you have is a page number from either the BRB or your codex. So you still need to know what it is referring to. I do think that some people that use Army Builder are lazy and try to substitute it for a codex and the BRB and these are the people that I think you seem to reference in this blog. List building is list building weather you use a spreadsheet, Army Builder, or paper. There is still just as much finesse involved. I don't see why having the rules right in front of you makes you any less of a gamer than someone who has meticulously remembered them. Sometimes the arrogance of rules lawyering can be just as obnoxious as these supposed gamers you hate for mindlessly reading rules to you. Either way to each their own. I just have to say that your experience from people using Army Builder is a very slanted one.

Defenestratus said...

You people who don't use Army Builder are idiots and likely, cheaters.

Excel spreadsheets are even worse. If I had a nickel for every time someone brought me a broken list based off of some whackjob excel spreadsheet that would make my financial department intern cringe in horror.

As for "you're not a real gamer if you use AB..."

I think you guys aren't going far enough.

You're not a real gamer if you don't carve your dice from a block of maple. You aren't a real gamer unless you make your own ruler based off the original measuring stick housed at the International Standards Association. You aren't a real gamer unless your minis are sculpted by your own hand with mud and clay found in your backyard.

You realize what an idiot you look like when you show up to a tournament with a list of chicken scratch that only you can read. Society used to call people like you "lepers".

Thor said...

The fact of the matter is ANY list system is flawed because it involves us, humans, to create them and to use them. AB uses data files created by users and thus subject to being flawed. Handwriting a list, using excel, etc, is only as valid as the person writing it.

The point that Hero was making is that by not relying on a tool like AB you in turn come to understand your army a whole lot more. It's a simple truth and apparently it's hit a nerve with someone.

HERO said...

@Thor, this is exactly the same reaction I got from my Blizzard gaming group lol. It definitely strikes a somewhat unintended cord with some people.

HERO said...

DISQUS has been integrated for this blog!

Thor said...

Nice! Love me some Disqus.

I was trying to figure out why I was getting an email from Disqus Bot regarding your site and now I see.

Thor said...

You probably want to change the default sort order of comments from 'most popular' to 'oldest first' though.

HERO said...

Now I need to figure out how to make all these comments a little darker.

Thor said...

Do you mean the text of the comments or something else? I can show you depending on what the answer is and if you're slightly technically oriented.

HERO said...

I meant the comments for all the comments.  I'm not sure if you're seeing it, but the comments are lighter than the text of the blog post.  I want it to be the same color but I'm not sure if its a DISQUS issue or Blogger issue.

Thor said...

Comments appear normal to me. May be some weird caching issue you're having. I'd try clearing your cache, or if you want easier just hold down shift and press you refresh/reload browser icon while viewing this page.

Tom said...

Sorry but AB all the time for me - mainly because I play in a lot of tournaments and I want the organisers job to be as easy as possible and trying to decipher my handwritting qualifies someone for course credits in cryptography. It also cuts down on the stupid errors where a list is 5 points over or under and like a few people on here the only lists that I've seen when helping out with a tourney that had mistakes in them, (I won't say deliberate but every one of them came in over the 1750 limit rather than under it), were handwritten ones.
Oh and I know my armies inside out thank you very much and I can tell you what each part of my army contains mainly because they are all WYSIWYG, but thanks for the condescending attitude to people who do things differently to you!

Stephanavich said...

I word process my army lists, and always have my army book and BRB handy when creating lists so I never get points wrong. Everyone can understand/read my lists, I can easily add/remove units, I avoid human error as much as is humanly possible and I don't have to pay a penny for the priveledge (besides ink / printer paper which most people have anyway).

Post a Comment