What is a broken army?
Well, it's not what Andy says when he claims that the Space Wolves are "broken". That's him claiming that they are overpowered. Instead this is a term I've picked up from football. I have to admit that I'm slightly obsessed with football, especially the details of formations and tactics. Over the last couple of years, we've seen the concept of broken teams on the rise in football. Now, not to go into too much detail, a broken team is one where a specific group of players just defends and another specific group of players just attacks.
So, this is a football blog now?
No, well, not yet. This has relevance when it comes to 40K. How many times have we played Capture & Control and put our Objective in one corner, our opponent places theirs in their corner and then we put a good chunk of our army on our Objective and make a half-hearted (at best) attempt to dislodge the enemy? Well, I'd say lots since this mission nearly always ends in a draw.
Broken armies are bad?
In the worst case the defensive element does just that, defends. It offers no real support to our attacking element. This means that the enemy can focus their fire on our attacking element and the best we could do in Capture & Control is get a draw by holding onto our Objective.
Broken armies are good?
Now there's nothing wrong in having a portion of your army that never leaves its own deployment zone. However, they have to be able to support any attack that you make. Most of the time they will do this by having lots of long range shooting. They can also try to make sure that their attack is dangerous enough for the enemy to think about leaving some of their close combat units back to deal with it.
Balanced armies are best?
Of course in an ideal world you'd have a broken list (ie a mix between shooting and assault) but your shooty elements would have enough mobility to join in the attack when they are needed and both halves of your list could combine to stop enemy attacks. Sorry to bring this back to the Space Wolves but that's the army I play and have most experience with. In my opinion they are the Spain of the 40K universe. They have a good solid defense in Long Fangs that have the range to support any attacks. The have the best "mopping up" unit in the game in Thunderwolves (Please GW give us some models! You wouldn't expect Spain to play without David Villa) and they have Grey Hunters in Razorbacks which can be defensive but have the mobility to get forward as well (the Xabi Alonso in our metaphor)
If used well a broken army can be incredible successful. However, you need to make sure that you have synergy between the two halves of the army. Although that's just good advice in general, even if you can't really play a broken army (for example Tau and Necrons don't really have the assault elements required) So, like all good teams try and defend from the front and attack from the back and don't forget the half time oranges after turn 3.
PS for our international readers, football is the one played with the round ball that you're not allowed to pick up