Building an army is one of the most important and fun aspects of Age of Sigmar. When I started out with AoS, I just took the units that seemed cool and threw them together in a list.
After a few humbling losses, I quickly learned that there is a lot more to it than just getting the strongest units.
To help us all build better armies, my friend Sjoerd (and the best Death player I know) offered to write an article about army composition.
Building an Army List
Every army in AoS is different, dependent on their alliance, army composition and playstyle. Whenever I am looking for a new unit in my army I look in the following points.
- Point efficiency
- Damage output
- Mental pressure
Even though no unit can perfectly fulfil all 6 criteria, it will give you an idea what I think is important when building an army.
Cohesion is the first and foremost factor, a good list can’t do without it. Your army is as strong as the weakest link.
Every unit in your army has a specific purpose and supports the rest of your army. When looking at units, make sure it fulfils at least one of the following criteria.
- A unit is either beneficiary for your own units or is there to decrease your opponent’s efficiency.
- The unit has a specific purpose in game (e.g. to secure or snipe objectives, function as a tar pit etc.)
- The unit is present to make sure your list fits the criteria of a matched game (battle line for example)
The more criteria your units meet, the more efficient your army will be. It is important to remember that due to the dice rolls, AOS is still a game of chance.
The more you improve the chances of success, the more reliable your army will become. You can read more about building a synergy heavy army in and an earlier article on Buffs and Synergies.
Movement, missile, ability and spell range will determine how much pressure your unit can put on a specific target. The more flexible the ranges of an individual unit, the more versatile it gets.
Having matching ranges throughout your whole army will greatly increase their ability to compliment each other. This way you can use your Hero, Movement, Shooting and Charge phase to optimise your options.
Option 1 the obvious
In most scenarios, we try to go straight for the kill. We cast a spell, move, shoot, charge and kill.
In this scenario, it will result in firing an arcane bolt and a move to get the Terrogheist as close as possible to the Dryads. In the shooting phase, you can only fire at the Dryads since the Terrorgheist can’t move closer to the Branchwych due the 3″ rule.
Finally, in the charge phase, you need a 12-inch charge to reach the Branchwych which you are never ever going to make. This will force you to chew on Dryads for at least a turn before you can get to more important units.
Option 2 increasing your chances
As shown above, all my ranges overlap. When I start my hero phase I always take into account that if I’m moving (purple), my shooting phase (red), may give me the options to take out prime targets before I have to decide what target I will charge.
The red circle in the hero phase is dependent on the placement during the movement phase. If I move my Terrorgheist in-between Dryads, the Branchwytch and Drycha, I can potentially reach all targets with both missile fire and charges.
If I get to fire at the Branchwych with an arcane bolt I’ll put off D3 mortal wounds. I know that I will be able to scream D6-1 mortal wounds (6+D6- 7 bravery) at the Branchwych in my shooting phase.
(With some luck) The Branchwych will be finished off in both phases. If it doesn’t work out I can always charge the poor lady and finish her off that way. If it does, I get the chance to severely weaken Drycha and potentially kill her too.
Stacking ranges gives me loads options to take out different targets and lets me take calculated risks. This way, if I get lucky on one of my damage rolls, I can still shoot or charge another juicy target.
Understanding how the ranges of individual units complement each other will greatly help you build a coherent army.
Both the combat and the shooting phase generate damage output. Every battle round you have one shooting phase and two combat phases. In general, this results in melee weapons being twice as effective as shooting weapons, with the downside of them needing to be in close combat.
The damage output of units is determined by their stats. The lower the rolls you need to hit and wound, the greater their chance of causing damage. The most common damage outputs are D6, D3, 3, 2 and 1 damage.
Variable damages usually have a higher potential but can turn out lower than expected, that is why I usually prefer non-variable damages.
A lot of units can also inflict mortal wounds. These can come from magic, shooting attacks or the by-product of high rolls in close combat. Mortal wounds are always preferable over regular damage but are quite often only found on expensive, special units.
When building an army, I always try to make sure I have enough damage output in my units, on their own or through combined attacks, to deal 10 -20 wounds before the opponent can respond. This will allow you to severely weaken or kill key targets before they become a threat.
When encountering a lot of incoming damage, the only thing that keeps you alive is your save rolls.
There are three types of saves, wound saves, mortal and wound saves and mortal wound saves. Wound saves are the most common saves in the game. 99% of the units in Age of Sigmar have wound saves.
Regular wound saves can easily be boosted by picking the right heroes and units. It’s not uncommon to come across a unit with a 2+ or 3+ save with rerolls. These units are extremely hard to kill without any form of mortal wound output.
A second factor which can boost your sustainability is regeneration and resurrection. Loads of armies have abilities that can regenerate lost wounds or models. These abilities keep your heroes and units alive or make them come back after a harsh beating.
If you eventually lose models the only thing that can save you is your bravery. Higher bravery will prevent your models from fleeing from the table.
Models with high saves, regeneration and high bravery will give you some much needed staying power. Sturdy and resilient units are key elements when trying to hold objectives.
Point efficiency is kind of hard to determine. Damage output divided by the points, or range/saves can give you pointers on how efficient a unit is.
You can use this spreadsheet to roughly calculate what the damage output of your units is. Just copy the file and fill in the white blanks. It’s not perfect, but it will give you a starting point.
A friend of mine took another approach to it and put it like this; “If a unit is worth 300 points and you kill more than 300 points of your opponent, it is worth it.
In my eyes point efficiency is how well a unit performs its tasks in the game. Test them and don’t be afraid to ditch them after a few games when they do not do what they’re supposed to.
Mental pressure is something few people actually think about. Mental pressure is more than how well your army works together, it is about messing with your opponents plans.
Usually, this will be a big scary unit or monster. Units that deal damage in D6s are great for this, especially if they have a long move or shoot range. Even though we all know that there is a slim chance you will roll a six, it is still scary as hell.
In most cases, your opponent will either focus or avoid those units. The moment they do either, they are adapting their plans which will create opportunities for you.
Try to take advantage of these situations without abandoning your own plans, otherwise, it might work against you.
Other aspects of mental pressure, which I prefer to steer clear of, are mind games at the table. Opponents often use it to distract you or to force you to make hasty decisions, this is usually done by smack talking or questioning your decisions. When this happens I try to turn it around with a joke or completely ignore their remarks.
Try to remember that you are both playing with toy soldiers and throwing dice. There is absolutely no reason to get hostile! Keep your calm while playing and make sure that you and your opponent are having fun.
Finding a balance between all these different points will help you chose the best units for your army. There is no such thing as a perfect unit, but there are perfect units for specific jobs.
To recap, when building an army list:
- Make sure your units meet at least one of the following criteria
- A unit increases your efficiency or reduces that your opponent’s
- The unit has a specific purpose
- The unit is a requirement
- Optimise your success chances on dice rolls
- Make sure your units ranges compliment each other
- Optimise your damage output
- Maximise sustain and staying power
- Test play to see if it all works properly (don’t be afraid to switch things up)
- Put some mental pressure on the table. Make sure your opponent needs to make (bad) priority choices when it comes to your units.
That is all Sjoerd has to say about it, for now. Thanks for all the awesome insights!
You can support this site by sharing these posts with your friends and other wargame enthusiasts. You can also help me out by checking out the ads on the site or buying some discount models through Wayland Games.
Thanks and have a great day!