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Putting it all Together

I've talked a lot about Strategies, Tactics, and Formations, and why they're important. I've given you a bunch of examples and shown you some pretty pictures. By now you may be asking: "How do I get all this to work?"

I've played a lot of 40k, some might say too much. In my experience, it's not enough to just grab an army list off the internet, read a couple of articles, put your models on the table and go for it. The battle formations and tactical advice I talked about in the previous sections may work, but you need to think conceptually to understand why they work.

Here are a few concepts that I feel are worth thinking about, especially if you want to get good at the game. Many of them deal with strategic and tactical thinking, and go beyond the mere rules of the game. Some of these concepts may be difficult for me to explain in words, so I'll try to include some examples where applicable.
 

Control the Center

I talked before about the opponent's "Center of Gravity", the point in his formation you're trying to destroy or capture. Now I'm going to talk about controlling the center of the table.

Controlling the center of the battlefield is essential to helping you win the game. It doesn't mean you have to occupy it, just control it. Whether you park your force in the middle of the board or blast the snot out of any enemies that try to do so, you need to be in control of the center of the board. Why you ask?

Most of the missions in 5th edition are objective-based, meaning there are certain points on the table that are of vital impotance to both you and your opponent. To control or contest these objectives, you have to move your forces to them. Controlling the center of the table means you can manuever more effectively. If you need to capture an objective on the other side of the table, or anywhere for that matter, getting to it from the center is a hell of a lot easier than from back in your deployment zone. If you’re too far away from the enemy, you may not be able to take advantage of an opening in his line. If you need to fall back, and you're still in your deployment zone, you're in deep #$@!. For all of these reasons, controlling the center is very important to an army's ability to manuever.

Controlling the center is also important from a combat perspective. By holding the center, you are closer to the enemy. If you play an assault army, you have less ground to cover to get to grips with the enemy. If you're a shooting army, it means that more of your weapons will be in range, and you have someplace to retreat to in case the enemy gets a bit too close.

Controlling the center allows you to control the flow of the game, keeping the pressure on your opponent instead of vice versa. The only time you would want to voluntarily give control of the center to your opponent is if it's part of some plan. I used to do this all the time when I played Tau. I'd give ground and blast the crap out my opponent when he took the bait. Once his forces were depleted, I'd move back in and take the ground from him.
 

Timing

In broad terms, Timing is controlling the pace of the game. Knowing when to hit your opponent can be just as important as where you hit him. For example, let's say you're playing Orks and you have a Wartrukk full of Ork Boyz with a Warboss aboard in a good position to charge straight into the enemy. The rest of your army, however, is footslogging behind and is at least a turn away. Do you charge in or hang back?

If you're a gambling man, you might try and get stuck in. However, depending on the situation, the more prudent tactical choice may be to manuever into a protected position within striking distance of the enemy and wait for the rest of your army to catch up. That way you can charge with multiple units at once and engage more of the enemy battleline.

If you send in the Trukk unsupported, the best case scenarion would be to tie up a unit or two to keep them from firing at the rest of your army. If the unit performs too well, they'll wipe out the unit(s) they assault and then get hosed down with enemy guns in the following turn. If the unit performs poorly, you may lose them entirely for little or no payoff. In this case, you just fed that unit to your opponent for no gain... and they're still shooting at you.

By hanging back and waiting for a turn, you not only prepare to strike en masse, but you present your opponent with a target priority problem. With multiple units poised to hit his line at once, he has to make some hard decisions about what to shoot. It's very unlikely that he'll be able to kill all of your Orks before you're on him.

By slowing down the game in this way, you have kept the units in your army supporting one another. Granted you hit the army a turn later, but you undoubtedly hit harder. The danger with being too eager and going too fast is that you'll hit the enemy piecemeal instead of all at once. You give your opponent the opportunity to deal with threats one at a time instead of overwhelming him.

Timing is also very important when deciding when to capture or contest objectives. If you park a unit on an objective early in the game, you have just made them a target. That unit may take more fire than they can handle over the course of the game. When your opponent comes to capture that objective, your unit may not be strong enough to hold him off. Conversely, if you wait too long to go for objectives, you may find yourself trying to play catch up, struggling in the late game to get into position.
 

Spacing

Spacing is all about distances and where you move your models on the table. If Timing is the when, then Spacing is the where. For example, two armies are facing off against one another across a broad frontage, i.e. a phalanx deployment like I discussed earlier. As the armies move toward one another, there will come a time where the first army to move beyond a certain point will move into the threat range of the enemy, and will likely get assaulted or rapid-fired for their trouble.

Knowing the distance at which the units in your army operate best is the key to using them effectively. For example, my Tau army is really heavy on Crisis Battlesuits. They are highly mobile, and can really lay down the firepower. However, their guns operate best at rapid-fire range, and they really suck in close combat. I need to operate close enough to inflict maximum damage with thier guns, but far enough away to keep them out of assault. That means keeping them 12-18" from the enemy and constantly moving. Jump in and shoot, then jump out of thier assault range. It's a tricky balance to keep the enemy close, but not too close.

Another good example of spacing is what's called a "banana deployment". I used this tactic to great effect with my Tau army, but it can be useful with any firepower army. Roughly speaking, the army is deployed in a crescent shape with the units equally spaced from a chosen point. This chosen point is generally a unit, or units, in the opposing army that you want DEAD!

By deploying in this way, the target is in weapon range of multiple units, making their destruction that much more likely. Once the target is dead, you then shift your army's position and pick a new focal point.


Banana Deployment

The flip side is that if the enemy survives the storm of firepower you just laid down, he is often in range of multiple of your units as well. This isn't as bad as you think. By deploying in a crescent shape, the enemy will likely only be able to contact one or two units at most. The rest of your army then fades back from these 'sacrifical lambs'. Those units take one for the team and if they die, the enemy that took them out becomes the new focal point for the rest of your army.
 

The Subtle Art of Subterfuge

Sneaky Stuff goes here.

The game is mostly mental, reading your opponent .

Hit your opponent hard and maybe his confidence will cave.

Sucker moves like playing up the abilities of one unit over another, and standing on a different side of the table from where your main attack is going to come from .
 

Summary

I've been going on about battle plans and their importance for a while now. Why it's important to have one, and what can happen if you don't. By now you're probably saying "This is all well and good, but when the hell is he going to show us some of these fancy plans?"

Well folks, the wait is over...
 

Back to "The Flank Attack"

Next: "Unit Tactics"