Grimdark Future List Building

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The following is a guide to the general principles and relevant thought processes to the game. It is meant as a starter for new players to the genre who might be overwhelmed by both the preparing process (as well as the playing one, but this part won't be covered here exhaustively).

Factions and playstyles

Before playing the game, you need a list, which is the number and the types of units you will be fielding in the game. The 2 overarching choices behind list building are faction and playstyle.

Factions are the available armies, with each of them having their own specific units which can be customized by following the tables. Playstyle is the general strategy favored in playing the game. One note of importance is that—as with many other wargames—all factions are not equal. Different factions allow different playstyles, depending on their available options. While you can field a lot of low cost units with most factions, there are a few of them that can pursue this playstyle more efficiently than the others. Even then, these horde-optimized factions differ in the flavor by which their mass-spam can affect the game.

Choosing a faction or a playstyle is usually a process that can be approached very freely. You might like a certain faction for their motif and then decide to lean towards a specific available strategy when building them. Or, you want to play a specific motif and search for the factions that offer the most possibilities for that playstyle.

To build a successful army

While armies can be built freely, especially if not playing competitive, that’s no excuse to make a barely functioning army. Certainly, having nothing but Flamethrowers will pretty much torch any mob in range, but that won’t save your army from being outgunned and killed from afar before even having the chance to attack. Low cost infantry spam can make it difficult for your opponent to inflict heavy losses, but don’t think those monsters and anti-infantry of his won’t have a field day reaping your mobs.

When building your army you can think of what counters what and tailor accordingly, but making countering the backbone of your list can be very risky: if I want to counter a vehicle heavy build by bringing lots of Deadly, my units will find themselves helpless against anything not sporting Tough. Too-heavy emphasis on countering can heavily skew your list towards one end, which in turns makes it easy for others to counter you.

This does not mean you cannot go for a specific end when building your list, considering that factions’ playstyles promote focusing more on specific traits instead of others. Prime Brothers lists will sport elite units, while Human Inquisition will be centered around their Heroes.With the Human Inquisition as an example, taking nothing but Heroes and Henchmen will give you some strong units, but you’ll miss more specific answers that you could grab by taking other kind of units (in this case, Deadly ranged weapons available to Private Guards and Light APCs).

Weapon Types

To quote a specific page, "Good players build a list to deal with whatever may come their way. Bad players build a list hoping their opponent cannot counter it”.

The best armies are usually TAC or “Take-All-Comers” lists that can answer in one way or another to different playstyles and/or threats they may face. This characteristic is usually determined by the weapons and attacks the units bring with them. A TAC loadout revolves around specific offensive motifs:

AP (4), Deadly

Your army must be able to deal effectively with anything sporting 2+ Defense and Tough values. While you could whittle down a tank with nothing but heavy rifles and some unlucky defense rolls on your opponent’s part, this method is really inefficient. While bringing more models can help achieve this, if you have that many shots they’re still better spent against a unit they’re more likely to wound. Weapons that best fit this role are fusion and laser ranged weapons.

Multiple attacks, Blast

The weakness of aforementioned fusion and laser weapons is that they’re very ineffective against units with no Tough value and multiple models, as usually high AP values will be wasted on them and Deadly wounds do not transfer over to other models. To take on infantry you’ll need either weapons that have multiple attacks like flamethrowers and machine guns, high models count units to increase the number of their attacks or weapons with the Blast rule, like grenade launchers for ranged and energy or shock hammers for melee. AP can be useful for these kind of weapons, but anything more than AP 1 or 2 is overkill as most infantry has 4 or 5 Defense.

Poison, Rending

As there are weapons specifically tailored against big, beefy units and against lots of mobs, a special mention goes to weapon that can be used as a middle ground for both cases. Poison and Rending can be effective against respectively big units and armored ones, but never as effective as the dedicated anti-infantry and anti-tank weapons. They do however make for good support choices: if the opponent is fielding more armored units, Rending weapons can be good for more additional anti-tank firepower; on the other side, Poison weapons can help defeat massed infantry faster. This, however, doesn’t mean these rules don’t have specializations that can’t be covered by other weapons. Rending weapons can negate on a 6 the Regeneration rule, while Poison is useful both against Tough units and non-Tough ones.

Various grades of middle ground

While Poison and Rending can be considered mid choices between the 2 main ones, multiple types of weapons can help cover various kinds of needs. If you want to lean more on supporting your army’s anti-tank units, Plasma weapons with their AP[4] can be pretty useful, especially against non-Tough armoured units. Weapons with the Lock-On rule like Missile Launchers can be another source for Deadly while also providing good anti-air and anti-buff capabilities, although with a lower AP than other more dedicated anti-tank weapons. Sniper Rifles are for when you REALLY do not want their heavy weapons alive to torch your infantry or blast your tanks away. Another use for snipers is to kill a specific Hero or Tough models within a unit, but you’ll usually need to bring an entire unit dedicated to that purpose.

Offense, Defense, Mobility

Complementary to the TAC fantasy are the army’s main ways to win the game. While bringing a varied amount of different weapons is a good start, it is not the only step one must take. Equipping your mob infantry with Fusion weapon is a good way to deal with Tough, but if they all have 5-6 Quality their attacks will be unreliable. Another important thing is that in the first place they must be alive to actually shoot the damn things. If they were your only source of Deadly in the army and you couldn’t protect them well, it will be no surprise those tanks will seriously threaten your units. Finally, while you could theoretically stay afar and blast everything that comes close, with GF being a objective-based game if you can’t physically contest the points then you’ll never win.

A good army needs then to cover said three points to not find itself on the receiving end of an ass whooping. For starters, having no reliable ways to harm your opponent will make his battle plan come to fruit and you more likely to not contest objectives. Without some ways to block or mitigate incoming attacks it will be instead YOUR battle plan to completely disappear. Lacking the ability to have the right unit in the right place in the right moment can spell the difference between victory and defeat as well. To put it bluntly, think of your army as a RPG character: while you could skew everything towards a specific attribute, a balanced approach will help you more on the long run. To further elaborate, you need to cover said three points:


You need ways to reliably hit the opponent’s units as well as to harm them. Units with good Quality will give the hits you want the moment you need. To actually deal damage, AP, Deadly and/or multiple attacks on your weapons are appreciated.


You need units that can withstand most attacks and won’t fall over everything, especially when contesting objectives. Good defense values are good, but they’re not the “be all, end all” in terms of defense. Regeneration and Stealth add a needed layer of resilience where you need it, while anything that helps you with morale like Fearless will be appreciated. Another way is also to increase the amount of units you’re bringing, making it unlikely that the opponent will be able to eliminate a needed unit if you have more of them. Other options also include using transports to hide your units behind sturdier ones and Ambush to keep them outside of harm until you need them.


Given the importance of map control, terrain and objectives, you need a way to reach places fast and when needed. Some already mentioned ways are transports and Ambush, which also add a layer of defense. Other keywords like Strider, Scout and especially Fast will help for this purpose.

Big units or small units

Before going over the kind of units an army can have, a big dilemma most players have is when to have big units and when to use small ones instead. An easy way to understand the process behind the choice is to consider the pros of each choice. Do remember that as per rules, the maximum allowed number of units for normal 2000 points game is 10 (1 unit for each 200 points).

Big units

  • Because of how melee works, big units will generally be better at it than small units as not only they can dish out more attacks, but are also more prone to survive the charge and answer it
  • Big units are also better at dealing large amount of damage, as more models mean more attacks per activation
  • Having more models, big units are more difficult to kill. You’ll either need a serious amount of firepower or to dedicate multiple small units to kill a big one
  • Big units can benefit more from buffs provided by Heroes, other units and spells
  • Since morale tests are made when your unit’s models are reduced to half or less, big units are both more resilient and less prone to start such checks

Small units

  • The opponent can score overkills more easily, wasting attacks. For example, if the opponent scores 10 hits with 2 different weapons, if you have a big unit he’ll simply deal all of them to it, but if you have 2 small units he’ll have to split them, giving your units more chances to survive. In this case, he might score 9 hits with one weapon and 1 with another, meaning one of your small units will survive instead of completely losing your big one
  • Less models means it gets easier to get your unit inside cover or to hide it from line of sight
  • More units means more activations, which means more agency in terms of answering to the flow of battle. For example, if you attack a big unit with a small unit, you can decide to keep attacking that unit with another one of your small units or, if the first unit was successful, use it for something else, preventing overkills
  • Objective capturing is based around not having a single active opponent unit near the marker. Having multiple small units contesting the objective means that if one of them gets pinned or killed, you have the others to keep the opponent from capturing
  • Debuffs inflicted on your units will be less harmful if you have more of them. 2 big units getting -1 to hit will be more detrimental than 2 small units getting that debuff

Units archetypes

While having big or small units is an important concept, an even more important one is the archetype a certain unit fulfill. Units are not made equals and their stats and keywords reflect this. To introduce them from a more general view to a more particular ones, stats can be useful to discern under which archetype a unit falls under:

Cannon fodder

Defense or Quality 6 means the unit will almost never score a hit while being decimated like no tomorrow. On the bright side, it also means they do not suffer from penalties to hit and AP attacks. They are useful mainly for having more activations, as they usually cost little. While you could amass them and theoretically drown your opponent in bodies, their weak stats mean that you should not expect to do much. They can be useful for temporarily tying down an important enemy unit or to absorb attacks for relatively low cost.


The humble universal frontliner with Quality/Defense 5 and a good amount of models to boot. A bit better than simple fodder, they can also be spammed. While you can’t fill your army as easily as with fodder, these guys can do a better job at being hit and holding the line and objectives, while still providing some sort of offensive capabilities.


Improved infantry. These units sport Quality/Defense 4 and work better both for resisting hits, both for attacking. The catch is that they usually cost more than normal infantry and they come with fewer models, meaning they don’t have as many wounds and attacks as their cheaper counterparts. But that’s what your stats are for, as they’ll resist more and are more likely to hit.


There are the units that will make or break the match. Sporting Quality/Defense values of 3 or 2, these are the guys you call when you absolutely want those attacks hitting or when you want to laugh at your opponent’s cheap shots. Very costly and sporting even lower models than veterans, but Tough is common here and most of the times they are the centerpieces of your army.

Unit types

A unit general role is determined by its stats, as they usually translate in other elements like cost, model count and efficiency. Grimdark Future is however a game that is played on one side with dices, but on the other with tactics. Depending on their weapons and keywords, 2 equally statted infantry units can easily be very different from each other, with each one of them being better at something that the other isn’t. Unit types depend on the faction, as certain ones have their units focused more on specific tactics, but a few general types of units can be distinguished. Remember however that while these are general descriptions for a unit’s modus operandi and purpose, certain factions have units that either fulfill multiple types or are overly specialized for a peculiar one.


Any unit with the Hero keyword. They are usually the most customizable unit in the whole faction and for a good reason. Hero units are the only units that can be deployed as part of another unit and this choice alone changes the stats of the appointed units so that they benefit from the hero’s ones. Any unit that has a hero can use the hero’s quality for morale checks instead of their own, meaning every unit with a better hero attached will be less likely to die, get pinned or rout. Heroes have usually 2 roles they can fulfill, which can be summarized in 2 terms: beatstick and buffstick. Beatstick heroes are units used primarily in virtue of their stats and capabilities alone: they have good quality, good defense, many useful keywords and a shitload of powerful attacks. Buffsticks heroes instead provide useful buffs to either the unit they are attached to or to nearby ones and because of their Hero keyword are more difficult to kill. Beatstick and buffstick do not exclude each other, since some heroes can easily fulfill both. Remember however that heroes are an expensive tax on your army, as you’re paying a shitload of points either for a single beatstick unit or 2 units working as one (possibly 3, since you’ll usually want to bring combined units to benefit the most possible from buffs). They are usually the centerpieces of your army and you must carefully consider whenever having a hero for that purpose is optimal or not.


Almost universally heroes with the Psychic upgrades, casters are generally do-well units that provide an additional layer of activations and versatility. They are a fine addition to any army as by rules you can cast a spell any time during your activation before attacking. Every army has their specific 6 spells from which to choose, with some of them more likely to cast and the others requiring either some luck or dedicated caster units/upgrades. Another use for units with Psychic is to try and stop another caster’s attempt to invoke magic, although in this way you do lose your turn to cast spell with said unit. Overall, magic is a pretty powerful tool to have at any given moment and should be accounted either by having caster units or by fielding units that can counter casters, like getting the Anti-Psychic upgrade on your Custodian Brothers’ Sisters units. If you plan to spam only units with Psychic, be advised that the rules prevent this knind of cheap tactic: every round you can use the Psychic feature only up to 4 times (1 time for each 500 points).


The basic of the basic. Their strength comes mainly in their numbers and can fulfill different roles depending on the faction and their weapons/keywords. For example, Infected Colonies can opt for melee focused mobs like Runners and Zombies or a more traditional gunline with the Infected. No matter their focus, these guys will make most of your frontline and be among the first to be sent towards objectives or certain death. A word of mention to certain units with low cost and high mobility, which can be useful for tying down and harass your opponent’s key units.


Between all keywords there are 2 that directly affect units’ deployment. The titular one, Scout, allows the unit to be placed up to 12’ from your zone and after all units without Scout have already been placed. Scout units can have different focuses like mobs and consequentially prefer different locations. Long ranged scout units like Snipers Squads will use Scout to get in the best covered position to start shooting, while melee focused ones like Soul Snatchers will try to get in the farthest, safest position to then quickly reach the enemy units. There can also be scout units that play in a middle way between such extremes and focus more on grabbing the objective as fast as possible, like Vanguard Sisters.


Units are determined by the weapons they bring, but most of them will have limited choices in terms of pickings (and even then, only very few models can grab them). Specialists are those ranged units that can pick between a greater variety of weapons based on your needs. Need more potential against armoured units? Rack up those plasma and laser weapons. Tanks annoy you? Bring some fusion. Lots of models in the way? Flamethrowers and grenade launchers on the way. Specialists can also be broken down in 2 sub-groups. The first one is Weapon Teams, which can take heavy weaponry that is usually off-limits for infantry. The second one is Supports, which trade the heavier weapons Weapon Teams can get for the Relentless keyword.


You bring these guys out when you want a frontline that does not fold itself under a single good volley. Blobs, or heavy infantry, are units that are better than others at standing their ground and contesting the objectives. Their most common characteristics between all factions are good defense values, Tough and 3 models. They are usually based around melee, but can also sport some ranged capabilities and specific buffs to help them resist attacks, like Shield Wall or increased defense.


The second titular keyword affecting deployment and the most complex one, Ambush works differently in regard to Scout and brings different strengths and weaknesses as well on the table. The main advantage of Ambush units is that they can be kept on reserve at the start of the match and be deployed on any point of the map at the start of the second turn, as long as they are 12’ away from any opponent’s unit. So not only you can wait for your opponent’s move and answer accordingly, but you can occupy any vacant location and secure it almost immediately. Most importantly, Ambush give your units a big layer of defense, as they essentially move on the map without being targeted by enemy fire. Lastly, ambushers can easily contest objective points by deploying near them, especially if such units are pretty beefy and can stand their ground. All these strengths should not however mesmerize players in passing over their weaknesses. For starters, having your ambushers on reserve in the first turn means you will have less activations and map control than your opponent for that moment. If the opposing player can capitalize on that, it becomes increasingly difficult to salvage the match. Another contro of Ambush is that it is overly reliant on turn orders, as you generally NEED to go first on the turn you play your ambushers to make them properly work without risking them blowing up immediately. Lastly, the ability to use the right ambushers at the right time requires both a good understanding of your opponent’s army strengths and the ability to create those opportunities. Remember that Ambush units cannot contest objectives if they are deployed on the last turn, meaning that you must always risk some sort of retaliation to properly use them. In a certain way, they can be seen as “high risk, high reward” units that compliment armies with limited mobility. A few factions like Dark Brothers and Dwarven Guilds have improved versions of Ambush, while others like Human Inquisition have their own ways to deal with the keyword and its uses.

Bikes and Cavalry

Your Fast units, though with different focuses. Bikes can usually purchase different flavor of firearms and work mostly as skirmishers: they get where they need to and harass by shooting. Cavalry are Fast units with the Impact keyword, meaning they want to get close and personal on the charge. The reason these units are listed together is that the roles can be interchangeable: some bikes can be retrofitted to be more like cavalry, like Rebel Guerrillas’ Bikers, while Brother Bikers work normally more as melee Fast units, but can be retrofitted to focus more on shooting. Whatever their names, you will pick these units when you need to cover the map quickly and capitalize on the opponent’s weak spots.

Monsters and Walkers

The main difference between the 2 terms is essentially if your 3k pounds melee death-machine was man-made or a work of nature. Monsters are units with a single model, Tough, good defense and universal Fear which helps them dominate infantries in melee. One of the main reasons to take them is that they are melee units that require anti-tank weapons to be dealt with, allowing them to fill frontline roles while evading mobs’ most common counters like multiple attacks or Blast. This however comes with the downside that you cannot make a monster unit big, as per rules units with only a single model cannot be combined. They can also be retrofitted to focus more on dealing different kinds of damage from afar and to be tougher, depending on what you need them to fulfill.


Like Constructs, only that they prefer being afar from the opponent’s units. This doesn’t mean they can’t roadkill a few unfortunate lads if on the charge. Vehicles come with the Fast and Impact keywords and different focuses, which greatly make them differ in terms of playstyles. Tanks are your usual beefiest vehicles which can still pack a serious punch in their shots and make for optimal objective grabbers. Artillery are vehicles that sacrifice Tough values and reasons to move for increased firepower and number of attacks. Lastly, transports vehicles sport the titular Transport keyword and are mostly useful for moving Slow or vulnerable units across the map, while providing limited amounts of support. Said differences are not however the ultimate dividers and hybrid vehicles can be found in certain factions. For example. Battle Brothers’ Heavy Tanks work both as transports and tanks.


Aircraft units are peculiar, to say the least. Most of their gimmick is based around their titular keyword, Aircraft, which makes them more difficult to target and hit while having the most movement out of every single other unit. However, they cannot seize or contest any objective and the direction of said movement is very limited, meaning they will always fulfill a support role in any army they are deployed. They are usually useful for attacking specific units and for transporting units in an even safer way than most vehicles. Do remember however that Aircraft rules mean that while units can disembark from an aircraft, no unit can embark such vehicle.