Having managed to squeeze in two enjoyable games of 40K in on Monday night, I got thinking on my drive to work the following day about the games the night before and why smaller points games seem to be more enjoyable at the moment.
1. Clarity of Rules
One thing I've personally had is I'm still not 100% on a lot of 6th edition rules and no matter how much I read the book, it's not sinking in. I'm the sort of person who needs to play the game, encounter a scenario and then see how the rules work for that (with a bit of prep before hand of course).
Smaller games allow you that kind of freedom to check things and not impact the length of the game drastically. It also means you don't get so many of these instances cropping up all throughout a game.
This then means that when you start stepping up to larger games like 1500 - 2500pts you know how these units handle quite well and you're not wondering how a Chariot moves, or what distance a Beast unit falls back, etc.
2. Decisions Matter More
In a lower points game like Monday night, I found myself really having to think a lot more about movement directions, distances to and from units, weapon ranges etc.
Every casualty you take in a smaller points game is felt more. There's less units for your characters to hide in, less vehicles to target saturate enemy heavy weapon troopers with.
I was using a unit of 6 Dire Avengers on Monday night in a Wave Serpent and when it eventually got blown up (it took 1 and a half games to blow up though) 3 Avengers were blown up in the aftermath. Normally, for a full 10 man unit in a Serpent that's not THAT bad. When you only have 6 models, you've lost half of your unit and half of the available shooting power. Which for Dire Avengers is baaaaaad.
3. Cinematic Feel
In larger points games, the cinematic feel comes from two large forces sweeping across the table and the odd close up moment where someone facepunches someone else to death.
However in these larger points games with multiple units of the same type, multiple heroes and such it's easy to lose the individual narratives when unit Sergeants are just a Sergeant, rather than the cowardly Dire Avenger Exarch who fled after his unit was destroyed, the vein Jetbike riders who go for the glory of capturing objectives and the warrior Farseer holding up a unit of Terminators on his own.
You do still get these moments in larger games, it's just they're far more prevalent in the smaller points games with less things to distract you from them.
4. Learning Your Army Basics
This one is very key for me as I've got Multiple Army Disorder, where I own an army for most of the 40K races, but chop and change them every week. This makes games like 1500 and 2000pts pretty slow as I don't know how half the units work in 6th, how they work at all, how any FAQs affect them, etc.
Playing 500pts with the Eldar let me get a good grasp of their statlines, how the army plays and what most of the basic weaponry does. Next game I could be playing 750pts and know very well how the units I've used previously will work and then press on with newer units in the extra points.
My plan is to add in some War Walkers and maybe some more Dire Avengers, so now I know the core of the army I can start to play around with some things. One thing was swapping the Eldar powers for Rulebook powers and see how that works for the army, since in my first game I stuck with the Codex powers.
Obviously this isn't going to work if you want to run 400+pt Nob Biker units, Riptides and equivalents or Flyers. But it'll let you get a good feel for your army, know the core rules, stats and weaponry for them and then add in the flair units like those.
5. Multiple Games / Actually Finishing Games
One problem I've found in 6th edition is actually getting games finished. A 1500pt game shouldn't take 4+ hours to finish, even in a social situation. Half of the issue comes from 6th edition generally taking longer to finish games, and the other half comes from unfamiliarity with the rules, codex or in some cases, nagging from elsewhere.
On Monday night even though I was late to show up, we managed to fit in 2 full games of 500pts and be home for 11. Previously I'd be lucky if we were on turn 3 by that time, unless I was getting absolutely pasted by Slaanesh Daemons again.
I understand that 1500 to 2000pt range is the done thing and some point in the future I'll be able to finish those games through to Turn 7, then do that comfortably and get home at a reasonable hour.
However, I'd much rather get a game finished through to Turn 7 (if it gets that far) and see it's actual conclusion rather than calling a game half way through, since a lot of armies rely on late game pushes for objectives and other armies can deal a lot of damage in the early turns, especially when reserves come into it.
So that's my take on it all. I've enjoyed the last few smaller games I've played and I think from now on, the future when using a new / changed army is to start at 500pts and build my way up from there with a few games. Then by time I'm hitting 1500pts I know the army well enough to be finishing games on a club night and in any events.