Thursday, January 26

The Joy of Small Games

As players in the US, we tend to think almost exclusively about 2,000pt games... sometimes 1,850. What I've learned in the past year since the vast majority of my models were stolen was how to love smaller games.

My remaining forces are down to around 1,000 points each, which means that I play a lot of smaller games, play the occasional weird game where I just field 1,000pts of 'nids and 1,000pts of Grey Knights together, and try to impress that I don't have money to throw at toys upon the occasional spoiled and bratty shop munchkin who informs me that I should "buy more stuff." While I still do spend a lot of mental effort lusting after the armies I had and the armies I see, I've developed a real love for smaller games. Yes, they are technically the same thing, but they often feel very different. This is what I've discovered from playing small games almost exclusively.

  • Army lists for small games are totally different. You don't have the option to take multiple identical units for the same task. If I loaded up my Grey Knights with three Venerable Psyriflemen I'd have killer long range firepower against light armor, but the rest of my army would probably be terrible. Likewise, I only have space for one monstrous creature in my 'nid lists. Multi-taskers really shine in small games. Any unit than can threaten infantry and light armour will be invaluable. On a related note, units that require synergy with other units to be effective really limit you. Large and tough units can be really sturdy against only 1,000pts of firepower too. Four Paladins and a Brother Captain will often go through a game without casualties. Games with more than two to three objectives can pose a problem too. There are only so many scoring units to go around. In small games, every unit needs to be able to accomplish its role without support from the rest of the army.

  • Maneuver and Delivery is an even bigger issue. If you deploy evenly across the battlefield, there simply won't be enough firepower concentrated in one area to do much damage. This means that your army will probably be focused on one side of the battlefield and 4x6 seems a lot bigger at 1,000pts. If everybody is on foot you might just be screwed. Cheap transports like Rhinos or Trukks and versatile delivery systems like Ymgarls' hibernation or Deep Strike can be invaluable here. This brings me to...

  • Objective placement determines even more about the way the game flows. If objectives are more or less clustered together it's fairly likely that the game will take place almost entirely on a 3x4 section of table. If they are spread out, long ranged armies will have a huge advantage.

  • Heroes are extra heroic. In big games Hive Tyrants seem like they're about as tough as crème brûlée in that they offer slight resistance and then fall apart entirely. In a small game units like Hive Tyrants, Space Marine Captains, and Ork Warbosses really get more of a chance to go on a rampage.

  • Small games are fast. I've managed two games in two hours a few times when I'm playing against other players who actually know the rules. It's a lot of fun to be able to have a few match-ups in one session of gaming and can really speed up the process of testing out new units and strategies. If you lose the first one you've still got a chance to win one before the night is spent.
Next time you're at your local gaming club and that new guy or pathetic theft victim is asking around for a 63 point game give it a shot. They're a blast. Soon I'll be posting up the small lists I've been playing with recently (1,000pts of Tyranids and 1,250pts of Grey Knights) with some discussion on what works and what can be improved.

Have you played any small games lately (<1850)? What are your thoughts?


  1. Good post, I agree that smaller games are always better. They make a player think about their choices they take for their army and how they play the game instead of the larger games.

    To me the larger scale games are like a buffet style type of gaming where players will take either a little of this and that or load up on alot of their favorites because they can. When you get to a smaller game it is like eating at a Tappas bar, you have to decide what you want to take and enjoy the smaller portions and enjoying the flavor/quality over mass consumption.

    I may be playing at least one game tonight at my LGS of 1k with Orks against Demons, I may even get a second game in if someone wants to play which appears that there will be a few others attending and know to bring 1k lists tonight.

  2. I am a huge fan of 1500 points and below. 1250 is fun too. I really don't like going above 1500 points myself.

    From the Warp

  3. 1,500pts was the standard on our side of the Atlantic and my friends and I have only recently increased our standard game size to 1,750pts.

    The Thing as you have pointed out is the thought you have to put into the list to get the most out of it and personally there are few things I enjoy more than to formulate an army at 1,500pts that works in a balanced setting.

  4. We do some 1250 team events (each player gets 1250) so the games are big, but each player manages a small army so it works out well.

  5. Great article! I love the idea of smaller games, especially for pick up/ friendly games. Maybe this year at feast of blades we will have some component like this. Hmmm


  6. Duke, have you read the Killzone rules? That could make for a very fun event.

  7. No, I haven't... I have heard good things though.


  8. I love playing small fast games if for no other reason than it shows match ups that you dont get to see play out in a larger game.

    Like a Dev squad that gets to fire for 4 or 5 rounds, or a Dread that gets the chance to eat three units.
    Not jump out of a pod fire once and die due to the fact that your opponet has 20 meltas spread all over the table.

    Small games give some units the chance to function better just because they take a bit more time to set up.
    Such as Firewarriors, to be able to get in a transport, move, get out and set up 24" to 30" shooting attack will never happen in a 2000 point game. But it could in a 1250 game.

    The real story is the case of the stolen figs, whats up with that?

    1. Swags, and other who may be curious... here is the sad story of the stolen miniatures:

      When I went off to college (what, six years ago now?) my mother was moving from Phoenix, AZ to Claremont, CA. What this meant was that I boxed all my stuff up before I flew out with only my necessary possessions to Indianapolis to go to Butler University (Go Bulldogs!). About six months later when I returned to visit on the winter break with the intent of retrieving much of my nerd-dom. To my horror, two large boxes were nowhere to be seen. Whether the one of the movers decided to swipe them (my suspicion) or some other terrible event took my 'nids, knights, eldar, and role-playing whatnot, including a lot of out of print world of darkness stuff, from me. Sadness ensued and I took stock of what remained:

      1 box of Grey Knight Terminators
      1 third edition Carnifex, currently on hive-tyrant duty.
      2 Hormagaunts
      8 Termagaunts
      2 Tyranid Warriors
      1 Horribly modeled and painted falcon from my youth.
      7 Guardians
      2 Warlocks

      I gave the hobby up for a few years, but the allure caught up to me again and despite my crippling poverty (YAY! Arts degree!) I have slowly began to rebuild.

  9. I've recently started playing small games, and they're lots of fun. Remember though that 6x4 is the recommended size, when you're playing smaller games I would play on 4x4 or even 2x4 if you want the battle to seem like it's in a valley. My first game at 500 points was on a 1x2 section; most fun game I've ever played.

    Also, you can actually use foot units in 1000- games! Hybrid armies work well at that point level. It also lets you spend more time painting figures because you need less of them, and it saves quite a bit of money too since you don't need lots of uncost($)effective transports and you also need half the figures than you do at 2000, because it's half the points. You can really go to town on terrain, too.