Home

       About

       Gallery

       Mek Shop

       Tutorials

       Battle Reports

       Tactics •

       Commissions

       Online Store

       Bits 'n Pieces

       Contact Me

       Links

       

       

     

Tactics vs. Strategy

 
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?
 

Strategy

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.
 

Tactics

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 Orks.

But there's more to winning than strategy and tactics...
 

What's Missing?

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 in wargaming.

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.
 

Summary

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 and tactics.

 

Back to "Know the enemy, Know Yourself"

Next: "Battlefield Formations"