Warhammer 40K: Are Spam-Armies Bad?

Occasionally, one has to ask oneself basic questions. Or, failing that, ask the readers of your blog some basic questions. So here is one for you: Are spam-armies in Warhammer 40K inferior to other armies (lists), or do they merely represent a different, just as viable approach to the game?

#1 – Warhammer 40K Spam & Me!

Let me get my personal bias out of the way. I don’t like repetitive lists (spam-lists).

In my reviews and rants and other articles, if you read this blog before, you may well have seen me praising the virtues of unit synergies and/or bashing spam-lists (both the Warhammer 40K players that use them and the Games Workshop codex writers who seem to encourage them).

Long Fang Spam Space Wolves Warhammer 40K

Missile Launcher Long Fangs by + Frater Domus +

#2 – What Is Spam in Warhammer 40K (and what isn’t)?

What is spam, you are asking?

Well, opinions on what exactly qualifies as spam (and what doesn’t) will likely differ. It is surprisingly difficult to give a concise, definitive response.

For the purpose of this blog-post, I broadly consider spam-armies/lists to be those build around redundant multiples of (usually highly cost-effective) units.

In 5th Edition, a notorious example for spam were (all too often) Space Wolves, thanks to highly point-efficient, fairly autonomous units such as Grey Hunters and Long Fangs (with Razorbacks by the dozen), as well as the inexplicable “we-get-twice-as-many-HQ-for-shits-and-giggles“.

The game-play appeal in “spam” is precisely the sort of redundancy they offer. The “ideal” spam-unit often (can) act largely independently in the game. If one gets killed, the others keep on doing their things. There is little (necessary) synergy between different army elements to win the game and no particular unit is crucial for the others or to the overall functioning of the army.

The inverse, consequently, are units (and army-compositions) that build upon one another and rely on each other to work to their full potential.

Broadly speaking, these are all game-units that buff your units (e.g. Sanguinary Priests, Farseers) or debuff the enemy (e.g. Dark Talon, Farseers). Units that work off each other to leverage their potential (e.g. things that guide a deep strike in). Force-multipliers. Etc, etc…. .

This is, perhaps, blurring the line a bit between, on one hand. two units with great synergy potential and, on the other, an entire army working as an integrated whole.

The important contrast to “spam” is that (hopefully) all synergistic units working together are, ultimately, more effective than the mere sum of its parts. On the other hand, synergistic units/lists obviously all suffer the weakness of an opponent spotting (or knowing) how to throw a wrench in the works and stop the units from working together (i.e. foiling the “battle-plan”).


Not all canines work alone…

#3 – Is Spam Worse, Or Only Different?

I’ve disclosed my bias above.

I find attempts to win games through redundant multiples to be mostly an anti-thesis of an actual “game”, where each opponent tries to achieve something (make his army “work”) while simultaneously trying to foil his or her opponent from doing the same. Spam (I believe, at least so far) doesn’t “play” the game as much as sidesteps it altogether.

Admittedly, I’ve never given it as much thought as I did writing this article. I might simply be wrong.

The effectiveness of a spam is certainly undeniable, perhaps due to its simplicity, perhaps because too few Warhammer 40K Codexes offer enough bang for the risk of trying to work with unit synergy (with its inevitable “weak-points”).

So, do you consider “spam” in 40K to be inherently bad or wrong. Or do you consider it a viable way to build and play an army in Warhammer 40K?

I am looking forward to your thoughts!




I am Zweischneid. Wargame Addict. Hopeless painter and founder of Pins of War. I hope you enjoyed this article. Don't forget to share your favourite miniature pictures and wargaming videos at www.pinsofwar.net.
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  • Esolo2200


  • Esolo2200

    Hi there,
    Unfortunately we the players have made spam what it is today. We don’t play the game the way it’s meant to be played, to have fun. Every body wants to be competitive all the time, not just in tournaments. I went on a Tuesday night to play a “friendly” game and this guy showed up with 30th/ss terminators!!! Really?! If I didn’t have my 3 units of long fangs, I would have no chance of winning. In tournaments it is what it is. You play to win, does it suck? Yeah, but how am I suppose to give myself a good chance to win, if I don’t take at least two of every unit I use?

  • Esolo2200

    Also 40k is a war game, and in war when does anyone just bring one tank, or one fighter jet or one ship? So maybe it’s not smart to spam in an army list? Just sayin…

  • http://twitter.com/ghostpressbed Derek J. Kinsman

    It’s the same for Starcraft players. Everyone hates the guy that plays Zerg and sends in 1000s of Zerglings except for the dude that does that. I’m generally okay with spammers. It’s annoying but there is usually a way to build an army that can defeat spam armies.

    What I personally find really annoying is the highly optimized army lists that basically programmatically create the *perfect* army for any faction and against any faction. That’s more spammy to me then someone who wants to play with 1 unit times 100. Playing against a spam list can be fun. Playing against the perfect unbeatable killing machine is never fun.

  • http://www.facebook.com/spyderscott Scott Wainwright Jr.

    I hate over-competitive lists period. I’m fortunate enough to a laid back gaming group with only a few power gamers. But spam lists just seem like metagaming. Ignoring the point behind the game in order to bend rules or exploit rules to win.