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Unit Tactics

So far I've been talking about 'big picture' plans and how to move your army as a whole. Now let's have a look at some smaller scale tactics.

Unit tactics deal with smaller situations where units are trying to gain advantage over one another to acheive smaller tactical goals within the larger strategic picture.

Basically, the units need to do their jobs so the battle can be won. Here are a few tips and tricks to help get the job done. I'll post some more when I think of them.

"The Speedbump"

This tactic is used primarily by shooty armies like Tau and Imperial Guard. Assault specialists can make a real mess of a shooty army if they can get in on them, the "Speedbump" is a way to try and keep assault units from running roughshod through their lines.

The idea is pretty simple. One unit moves toward the assault unit and 'takes one for the team' so the rest of the army is spared. The sacrificial unit should ideally be pretty cheap and a real pushover in close combat. Units of Imperial Guard infantry work well in this role due to their low leadership, as do Tau Firewarriors and Gun Drone units due to their weak close combat ability and low unit size.

The Speedbump

The unit is moved between the approaching assault unit and the rest of your army and then spread out to maximum coherhency distance in order to create a skirmish screen. The idea is that the "Speedbump" will be the only viable assault target in the opponents turn. By placing them in such a thin line, you force the assault unit to either assault the "Speedbump" or try and go around them. Either way, that nasty unit of close combat nasties will be unable to hit your main line.

Since the "Speedbump" unit is so small and/or fragile, it should either run away or be wiped out completely if assaulted. The assault unit is then sitting with it's ass hanging in the breeze, just waiting to get shot to bits in the following turn.

Though primarily used by shooty armies as a 'save my bacon' manuever, the "Speedbump" can also be used by assault armies. Assault armies are more effective when charging, so a smart opponent will generally try to charge you instead. Having a skirmish screen can stop an assault unit just long enough for you to get in position. Then it's up to you, blast them into the stone age or pound them so flat they'll have to roll down their socks to s**t.

"The Bullet Magnet"

This one is a pretty simple idea. You're making one of your units so dangerous and tempting that your opponent would be a fool not to try and take it out. The best units for "Bullet Magnet" duty are heavy vehicles (like Leman Russ tanks or Landraiders) or big gribblies (like a tooled-up Carnifex).

There is an element of psychological warfare in this tactic. The threat of damage from a "Bullet Magnet" is often greater than it's actual performance. Many times the reputation of a given unit, and the possibility of what it could do, is far greater than what it actual does.

The Bullet Magnet

For example, I have a Looted Leman Russ (now fielded as a Battlewagon with the new ork rules) for my footslogging Ork horde. This clanking behemoth has great armor and a pretty nasty gun. It is viewed with a mixture of fear and loathing by most of the folks in my gaming group. Da BIG Tank, as I call it, has dropped a few ordnance templates in it's day and obliterated a few units. I play up these events in spite of the fact that during many games it doesn't kill much at all. It's reputation and potential for mayhem is what keeps people shooting at it.

The key feature of a "Bullet Magnet" should be it's resilience. It's purpose is to soak up fire so the rest of your army can get on with destroying the enemy. By creating a focus for your opponent, preferably front and center where it can't be avoided, you are forcing them to allocate firepower to it or face it's wrath. It really doesn't matter if the "Bullet Magnet" spends the entire game stunned or shaken and not doing much of anything, it's doing it's job by being there to take hits.

This tactic gets even nastier when using Monstrous Creatures. They can soak up the hits and still maintain their effectiveness, firing away with big guns and slogging it up the field in spite of the punishment they receive. The ideal situation is for the big gribbly to be in cover or have some sort of invulnerable save. It WILL be taking horendous amounts of fire from some pretty big weapons, it's nice to be able to shrug off at least some of those hits.

The Myth of "Making Their Points Back"

Many players get hung up on trying to get a return for their investment. You will hear many people on the various forums talking about a unit being able to "make it's points back". Broadly speaking, they are asking themselves: "Will this squad be able to kill it's points value worth of enemy before it gets wiped out?" This mindset is, to put it bluntly, stupid!

They are not taking anything into account other than straight unit vs. unit dice rolling contests. There are no tactics involved in thinking like this, because a unit's effectiveness is largely dependent on how much support it receives. I don't care how nasty Chaos Terminators are. If you throw them into the meat grinder with no help, likely as not, they're gonna get pasted.

Instead, look at your mission objectives and try to think how your army as a whole can best accomplish them. The survival of individual units is irrelevant when compared to the victory of your army. Rarely will any squad pay for itself in points based solely upon the casualties it inflicts. The best way to fight is to put the enemy on the defensive - make him react to what you're doing, not vice versa. If this results in the destruction of an individual unit (or units), but ultimately wins you the battle it was worth it. This is 40k, folks. We don't have to worry about little things like casualty reports and the media portraying us in a bad light. As long as you win the battle, nobody cares if you lose half your army.

Remember: In the Grim Darkness of the Far Future there is only War. The universe is a big place and, whatever happens, you will not be missed...


The tricks and tactics illustrated here are only part of the equation, they won't win you any games by themselves. They are meant to be used as part of an overall plan, where all the elements in your army are supporting one another. What use is throwing a unit into a "Speedbump" if there aren't any units to take advantage of the situation?

The tactics listed here are general tactics, and can be used regardless of what army you play. Next up, I'll talk about some special rules tactics specific to certain units.

Back to "Putting it all Together"

Next: "Infiltrators"