...In this sense, shooting is "default" only because it is also "decisive". It is the best tactical option, at least until your enemy's numbers have been reduced down to a manageable size.
I agree with everything you said about this except for the fact that shooting is "decisive." I would argue that shooting is a Water army's default strategy for the exact opposite reason; because it isn't decisive. Water armies don't want to commit to any given course of action until the enemy provides an exploitable weakness. Shooting allows the Water army to keep all their options open, so they effectively haven't commited to anything. If they were to charge into CC, they are absolutely commited to that course of action until whatever unit they've charged (plus any other enemy units that will probably charge in as well) is gone.
... I'm starting to think that my own assertion earlier on -- using Eldar as the example -- is not so solid. I think we're starting to agree about what distinguishes true Water units from units that are merely Waterish. I also think it's fair to say that an army primarily composed of Water units can be successfully employed as a Water army. But where is the dividing line? How much is nature (unit and list composition) and how much is nurture (overall tactical approach), to use another analogy?
Agreed. I too would love to hear some other opinions on this. [hint, hint
I think these are valid comparisons, and, in fact, have already been thinking along these lines. Your army list and batrep here definitely reinforce the Air/Water similarities. I would say that Air only ever has strength in either ranged firepower or close combat power because it's that specialization that truly distinguishes Air units from Water units. To be effective, they must employ their specialty, overwhelmingly, on small pieces of the enemy. Water armies never have to worry about things in quite that way. Move, shoot, or assault ... it's all dependent upon the current enemy being faced. And oftentimes that kind of decision-making is made individually, at the unit level. Air units and entire Air armies have those decisions pre-made before the game even begins, before the opponent is even determined.
My next question is, are there any areas of overlap between elements, mostly in terms of army composition?
You make a good point about the relationship between Air and Water. I'm not sure it's necessarily a hard-and-fast rule, but it certainly would seem to apply most of the time.
I think at least one similarity exists between Water and Fire. Both of them require mobile units, but not necessarily fast, speedy units. Water requires mobility because it needs to keep it's tactical options open for as long as is possible. If you sit still, that's impossible. Similarly, Fire units must be able to get to the enemy in order to inflict its will; impossible if forced to stay put. In both cases, speed is definitely helpful, if it's available, but neither is it truly a requirement. So a good way to defeat both types of armies is to inhibit their inherent mobility. Anything you can do to control the movement choices of the Water or Fire army will go a long way toward being able to beat them.
This makes a lot of sense. While it's not always possible to cripple mobility (GKs, for example, have it inherently), when it is possible it helps a lot. For example, if a person could take out both Land Raiders in Silent's sample list, that player would be in good shape to win the game. Similarly, I used to play against a Space Wolf player, and my first priority every game was busting his 5-6 Rhinos to buy myself enough time to shoot down his footslogging men before they got to me.
I would say that both Fire and Earth share the capability to overwhelm entire armies all at once. The difference is that your typical Earth army does so from long range with heavy firepowr, while your typical Fire army tries to do so up close and personal, in the assault phase.
While I agree with this similarity, it fits in more with the playstyles comparissons, and not so much with the army composition comparissons. Earth and Fire armies will be, must be
, almost entirely different in nature as far as composition (except the weird uber-horde 'Nids list TJ mentioned, which defies categorization into one element).
I've thought of a couple more things I want to talk about. Since most of this discussion is in this thread already, I'm just going to go ahead and post them here, and hope some mod comes and moves the whole conversation at some point. It doesn't make much sense to have the conversation going on in two different threads simultaneously.
So, the two new ideas I wanted to discuss are these:
1) Do any of the elements benefit more from playing games with certain points limits?
2) To what extent is it possible for an army to be, simultaneously, two different elements at once?
I was thinking last night, and I came to the conclusion that Water armies are best in the 1000pt-2000pt range. Here's my thinking: Any lower than 1000pts, and strategy tend to go out the window. With 400 or 500pts, a player only has a few units, and small units at that. There simply aren't enough units to use clever strategies. At in games of more than 2000pts, there are simply too many units to successfully engage in most of the clever Waterish strategies Silent outlined (LoS
and VP denial, pruning, focus fire, fork/skewer, etc...). With the board so crowded, it comes down to which army can eliminate the other army more quickly. In fact, I would argue that a 2000pt Water army needs to be fairly elitist, even for a Water army, to be fully effective.
Consider: if you and your opponent each have over 80 models, it's extremely hard to hide any of your units completely from any of his units. Certainly, even if you can hide one unit from one of his units, chances are he'll have LoS
to other units of yours with his unit, and LoS
to your hidden unit with other units of his. This overcrowding of the board makes it very difficult to enact clever strategies.
Of course, all this means less if you play on a larger board. While 5000pts per side is a lot on a standard 4'x6' board, it seems quite reasonable when you play on a full 5'x9' ping-pong table.
And what about the other elements?
Air, I think, suffers even more than Water from higher points games. Well, first off, a good Air army is almost impossible to pull off at fewer than 1000pts, simply because they're so very elitist. But back to my main point, at greater than 2000pts, the board gets very crowded. Even if the Air army itself doesn't have that many models, whatever army it's facing will. That means the enemy will be running in very large chunks, which makes it considerably harder for an Air army to overpower flanks. Also, what I said about LoS
for the Water armies applies just as much to Air armies. And with Air armies usually even more elitist than Water armies, they depend even more on LoS
denial to survive.
Fire, in my experience, doesn't work well at low points values. About 1500pts seems to be the point where Fire armies become viable, and they get more effective around 2000pts. As with any army constrained to a single Force Org, Fire armies start suffering a bit at over 2500pts, but if they're allowed multiple Force Orgs, they can remain effective even at very high points limits. Indeed, one could argue that Fire armies prefer higher than normal points limits, since that allows them to cover more of the board without actually spreading themselves thinly, thus allowing them to shut down mobile armies' ability to avoid CC.
Earth seems to be a more consistent army. In my experience, Earth armies are just as effective from 500pts on up. This, in my mind, is because Earth armies tend to sit still and shoot, a strategy neither helped nor hindered by tighter clustering.
My next question is: to what extent can an army be two different elments simultaneously? Such an army might bring up interesting questions about the elemental category structure. For example, it might lend some insight into the connections between the different elements. But before we get into that, we need to figure out whether such hybrid armies actually can exist.
Two examples have been mentioned so far in this thread: my Biker list, and my 'Nids list TJ mentioned. I'm not actually sure how to categorize the 'Nid list, but TJ put forth the proposition that it is an Earth/Fire list.
The Biker list is clearly in the Air/Water range. The question is, is it Air, is it Water, is it somewhere in between, or is it both completely Air and completely Water at the same time. Let's even go so far as to say I put a power fist-wielding vet sgt. into every squad, just for the sake of argument. Given my flexibility and reactionary tactics, I think it would be foolish to claim that the army is not at all Water. Likewise, given the extreme speed and maneuverability, it would be foolish to claim that it is not at all Air.
The difference between an army that is parts Air and parts Water, and an army that is simultaneously both Air and Water is that the latter would fit the description of each element perfectly, whereas the former would only fit certain aspects of each element's description. Here we see the reason I postulated the addition of power fist vet sgts. Without those power fists, my list would be predominately shooty. This violates one aspect (complete insouciance as to method of engaging enemy) of Water. Therefore, even though my army had several other definitively Waterish characteristics, it failed to be completely Water, and thus fell into the range of "Air, with aspects of Water." However, once I add in the power fists, my army is very capable of dealing with assaults, and I wouldn't think twice about charging in instead of shooting, if the situation demanded. Therefore, with that slight change, my Biker army would fulfill all the requirements to be a Water army (as well as the requirements to be Air), and thus would fall into the range of "Both an Air and a Water army."
At least, that's my current thinking.
Now, what about my 'Nids list. It had (to my recollection) 42 genestealers, a broodlord, 2 zoanthropes, 8 gargoyles, and about 98 spinegaunts (1501pts, if I recall). Basically, they just overran the opponent utterly, and he couldn't possibly kill them all. Most opponents simply wouldn't have enough shots/CC attacks to take down that many warm bodies. So in that sense, it was an Earth army. True, most Earth armies are shooting-based, for reasons Silent outlined in his tactica. However, Silent makes a point of saying that as a general trend, not as a defining characteristic. However, I clearly needed to get into CC, and my strategy did involve "overwhelming" the enemy, which are both very Fire-y tactics. So how do we categorize this army? Is it an Earth army, a Fire army, a little of both, or a full hybridization?
Sorry for throwing even more theory at you guys, but this has been on my mind recently, and I figured I should get these ideas down before I forget them.