Despite the opinion of the naysayers in the forums, tactics
and strategy play a large role in Warhammer 40k. At a very
simple level, tactics and strategy are both plans that you
make to win the game. The line between strategy and tactics
is a blurry one, and categorising a plan as one or the other
is often a matter of personal opinion. Broadly speaking,
tactics are plans that deal with situations at the unit
level. Strategies deal with things at the army level and
affect the game as a whole.
That may seem like a very simplistic view, because
it is. In wargames, just like actual warfare, simple is
generally better. Complex strategies and tactics may sound
good, but they often come up short when put into practice.
The more complex the plan, the more there is to go wrong.
Think of it as driving a nail into a peice of wood, you
could build a huge complicated machine using hydraulic rams
or electromagnets to do the job ... or you could just hit
the nail with a hammer. Which is more reliable?
Strategies, as I said before, are plans
the deal with situations at the army level. These are the
"big picture" plans, and are generally fairly
simple. In the real world, strategic planning deals with
a lot of political issues, not just military ones. Thankfully,
we're talking about wargames here. We can concentrate on
the military aspect of strategy, and we don't have to sweat
the political stuff.
In Warhammer 40k, most strategies will
be determined by the objectives of the mission being played.
For example, in the Seize Ground mission, victory
is determined by who controls the most loot counters at
the end of the game. Your strategy will be as simple as
"Control more loot counters than your opponent".
I’m a big fan of simple tactics
and strategies…but simple isn’t the same thing
as easy. Most of the strategies and tactics that I will
be talking about will look really simple. Getting them to
work will take some practice. Also, no matter how good your
plan, you need to be flexible.
Generally speaking, tactics
are techniques for using weapons or units in combination
to engage and defeat an enemy in battle. In military terms,
tactics are the lowest level of planning, involving small
units ranging from a few dozen to a few hundred men.
I'll be talking about a lot of different
tactics in the following sections. I'll cover small scale
tactics like how to move units to gain advantage over an
opponent, as well as tactics based on some of the special
rules in Warhammer 40k (i.e. Infiltration, Deep Strike,
etc.). Lastly, I'll look at some tactics specific to certain
units and armies, like the "Shoot and Scoot" tactic
of the Tau battlesuits or "Grots 101" for the
But there's more to winning than strategy
By now you're
probably thinking "There's a big difference between
taking a hill and winning the war." You know what?
You're right. There's a third level of strategic/tactical
thinking, one that is very often overlooked, and not just
During the Vietnam War,
the US Military won every major battle. Every single one.
And yet they still lost the war. What they lacked was a
concept that would later be known as 'Operational Art' -
the ability to turn tactical victories into strategic gains.
You've probably seen this happen in
wargaming as well, I know I have. One player will have a
hard-hitting unit that destroys everything in it's path,
but fails to achieve mission objectives, thus costing them
the game. This isn't due to any fault of the unit per se,
but in how it's used. I talked about this before, when players
get carried away destroying the enemy and lose sight of
the mission objectives. It's the classic case of "Win
the battle, lose the war."
Where you engage the enemy on the battlefield
is nearly as important as the outcome of those engagements.
Let's use the Capture and Control mission as an
example. In Capture and Control, each player is
trying to capture their opponent's objective while maintaining
control of their own. If you keep the pressure on and engage
the enemy near his objective (or at least neutral ground),
you're fighting on ground that is advantageous to you. Regardless
of the outcome of the fight, the enemy is not on your turf.
Even if you lose the fight, as long
as you bloody the opponent's nose enough so the unit is
no longer a viable threat, it won't cause you any future
problems. This is good example of 'Operational Art'. Even
if you lose many of the individual fights, as long as the
opponent's units are not on your turf, or are inneffectual
when they get there, the best your opponent can hope for
is a draw.
Tactical victories are meaningless unless
they are part of a strategic plan to win the game. Likewise,
tactical losses don't mean anything either as long as your
strategy is successful. I've seen games where one player
has obliterated the other army, but still lost because the
other guy managed to acheive the objective. I've been on
both ends of games like this. Believe me, the winning side
is more gratifying. You feel like a real idiot when the
casualty ratio is heavily in your favor, but you still lost
because you didn't pay attention to what was really important.
A good player needs to have a firm grasp of all three levels
of gameplay - the tactical, operational, and strategic.
Without knowing how to turn tactical victories into operational
ones, players can't accomplish strategic goals. They will
continue to lose games without a clue as to what went wrong.
If Strategies and Tactics are the "What"
of accomplishing battlefield objectives and winning games,
Operational Art is the "How". In order to put
this into practice, it's best to have a battle plan. Next
up, I'll talk about at some large scale battle formations
to "Know the enemy, Know Yourself"