I read something over at Claws & Fists today that got me thinking about "fun" and list building.
Simo put up an article titled There is no such thing as right or wrong there is either fun or boring! in which he briefly talked about deciding how competitive you want a list to be before building it, and then he went on to talk about a Space Wolves list he would make. I don't know that he did it on purpose (the title is actually quite apt, so he may have) but he sort of indirectly touched on something quite interesting.
I'll probably stumble all over this without ever actually being able to put anything concisely into words, but here goes nothing I suppose.
The list he put together, while maybe not 100% perfectly optimized, is still a pretty competitive list.
Some Number of WG
4x10GH in Rhinos w/ MotW and standard
(giver or take a squad)
Some Number of TWC
2x5LF w/ 4ML
Flavor the rest to taste, and that's basically his proposed list. Now, the interesting part is that it's the most competitive list he could make out of the things that he likes. He didn't say (to us, his readers, at least) "I want unit X because it can handle unit Y and Z, and because it also offers this tactical option, etc..." it was more like "Hey, I like TWC because they're awesome and happen to be strong, I'm going to bring some." This is the thing that I'm going to try to talk about.
Why do "fun", "thematic", "fluffy", or whatever other lists that people propose have to be weak or made up of bad units?
I can imagine Simo bringing this list somewhere, giving it to an opponent, and having them respond with something about WAAC cheese. Why? Because it has TWC? Because it has 2x5 long fangs with missile launchers? Because it doesn't use blood claws? The list is strong, no doubt about that, but Razorwolves it is not. He simply created the best thing he could out of the units he liked the most.
Often on the internet, I see people talking about competitive gamers ruining the game and not playing for fun. This isn't new and the compeitive community has sort of turned the other cheek about it by now. (at the very least, there isn't quite as much drama about it as there was even just a couple of months ago) Along with this, I often see people scolding folks for taking strong units or lists that aren't "fun", "thematic", "fluffy", or whatever else and at the same time commending people for taking units or lists that are less often used. In all cases, there is little or no regard for people that create thematic, fun, fluffy lists that just so happen to be competitive, and the people getting commended are almost always doing so because of some crappy units they brought.
It seems to me as if the only way to be given any credit for making a fun, fluffy, or thematic list is to make it out of terrible units.
This hits home with me especially, because it is exactly how I am. I identify with competitive gamers, but winning is not a priority over playing with a fun list.
I would never play Razorwolves because I hate the rhino chasis. Loganwing, though, is something I legitimately enjoy as far as fun, fluff, and theme is concerned so I would really like running that style of list. Going one step further, I love wolf guard with storm bolters. I will absolutely build the strongest, most missile-spamming, storm bolter-spamming, foot Loganwing list that I possibly can with TWC (because they really are awesome) and long fangs and everything, and it would be my fun list.
I legitimately am in love with the shooty Tyranid list; hive guard, t-fexxen, tervigons, harpies are all my favorite units in the codex. Why don't I use genestealers? Because I don't like them that's why. They don't fit into the fun, fluff, or theme of my army list. The fact that they aren't very good doesn't come into it at all (I mean, if I liked them and they had their current rules, I would use them, but I don't so I don't... the same can be said that if they were amazing game-winning units, I still wouldn't use them because I don't like them) it just happens to be the case.
My DE list is basically a warrior kabal with a few beasts thrown in and will likely be fairly competitive. I am at a point with it where I really like the level of fun, fluff, and theme that it has, but I think it will also be quite strong. Lots of S8, lots of SX, lots of skimmer platforms, lots of bodies, it's going to be good but it also has all of the units that I really like. (well, except for scourge and harlies I guess, I just couldn't fit them in; I can only take so many points, after all...and to be fair, incubi are pretty awesome too)
My point is, these lists are my fun, fluffy, themed lists. They are also my competitive lists. They are very obviously not optimized or WAAC, but they are still the strongest I could make them while still taking all the units I like and nothing I don't like. Will I ever get anything other than snide remarks from certain people about not being fun? Not likely. But why? Because I use a special character? Because it looks like a netlist? Because I have a lot of spam? Because it can actually handle itself in a tough spot? Because I put thought into it at all when I put it together? Because it isn't what they think of as being fun, fluffy, or thematic?
Why do fun, fluffy, or thematic lists all have to be about blood claws, or genestealers, or thousand sons, or Necrons, or Chaos spawn? Why do strong units automatically negate any level of fun, fluff, or theme a list has?
Your idea of fun, fluffy, and thematic is an all Blood Claw army led by Wolf Priests, mine is an IG armoured company. You get to be right and I wrong just because I can win and you don't get to? Well, I've got news for you: there is no such thing as right or wrong, only fun and boring!*
* - See what I did there? Yeah. I'm pretty proud of that.