I remember finding this when I got back into 40k a few years back an thought I would share it. It’s a basic tactics guide, sort of rule of thumb on all the stages of the game. It was written by Lee Jerrum for ezinearticles.com. A lot of the things seem obvious but I found it helpful, mainly because these cross over to all races.
This is a discussion of basic tactics that can be used with any army. It is intended for newer players who could use some basic tips that will work with whatever they are thinking of playing. Some of these points may not apply to certain army lists but should serve as a general guide. Part of knowing the rules is knowing when to break them but experience cannot be gained from a document.
Section one – Choosing your army
This is where your tactics begin, choosing the army you will make glorious battle with. Here are some tips on what to look out for.
- Choose whatever you like! Do not be burdened by thinking that you have to build a super leet army that includes this and that. Army lists do not make you leet, knowing what to do with the list you are playing is what makes you leet.
- Make your selections with an idea of what you want that unit to do in-game. Okay, so you want 10 banshees because they look cool, a great reason to pick them, but think about what you want them to do once they are on the board. Many players have great armies, but spend the first three rounds of the game just trying to figure out what each unit it supposed to be doing. Avoid that by planning it before hand.
- Balanced is best. While any army can be effective, I’ve found that well rounded armies have always won the day for me. Try to include units that can contain and control the various aspects of your opponents force. You will need to be able to launch or counter an assault, destroy armor and create a heavy blanket of fire that will cause casualties on units you cannot assault.
- Do not gameplan around 1 unit’s success. Always use redundancy in your list. If you have a unit of banshees to counter assault when he gets to close to your lines, have something else that can counter assault on your other flank too. Do not assume that your monolith is unkillable, do not assume it will kill anything, be ready for your landraider to be blown apart on turn 1, plan for your enemy to roll an amazing number of 6′s while you roll snake eyes. Plan for the worst, hope for the best.
- Mobility is important. You need to have mobile and stationary elements in your army. If your whole army is static, the enemy can out maneuver you, if your whole army relies on mobility, you can accidently rob yourself of the first turn or two of the game by moving around too much and out maneuvering yourself.
Section two – Deployment
Deployment is one of the most important aspects of winning a battle. If you can control your opponents deployment, you already have an edge. Most armies are extraordinarily well balanced and so many fights become determined by the little mistakes people make throughout the game. Deployment is one of these easy-mistake areas.
Most players will tell you that you always want to go first if you can. Most players are wrong about this. I have won a great many games by allowing my opponent to take the first turn. The reasons for this are many fold.
- If he’s good enough to know where all of his units will be going before he ever moves his first unit, then you can see exactly where he plans to move what and you can then attempt to counter it. Example- By allowing him to go first you can see if that marine assault squad with the melta-bombs will be headed to your Basilisk or your Leeman Russ first, allowing you to prepare a counter assault in that area on your first turn. Once he sees you are ready for him there, he can try to go for it anyhow and risk losing his squad or he will divert to another objective, wasting his first turn of movement. Either way, it’s good for you tactically.
- Many missions rely on taking objectives or table quarters. By going last you’ll have the advantage of seeing the whole field of battle, where everything is and be left knowing that your next move cannot be countered. Many games are won or lost on the last turn, so going last will give you a tremendous advantage here.
- The myth of the first shot- The main reason players like to go first is to try and get a few lucky shots off on particularly threatsome targets before they can do anything. Lets face it, most things on the board are out of range on the first turn if you’ve deployed in a fashion to deny your opponent targets (this will be discussed next). This means that he is likely to either not move very much and wait for you to come in to range (thus making his winning the first turn totally pointless) or he will move up and try to get into range where he can do something next turn, leaving him in range for YOUR first turn of shooting. Either way, it is tactically advantageous to you, as long as you’ve deployed right.
This is not to say going first is never a good thing, but it is not always the best thing to do either. Make the decision carefully.
Deploying Tactically- There are a great number of ways to deploy, but I’ll cover some basic do’s and don’ts and a few formations I like a lot.
- Deploying second is usually best, as it allows you to counter each of his deployments with one of your own. Since you know your dreadnought will be going after his landraider, don’t place the dread until after you see where the landraider is getting dropped. If you are first to deploy, deploy something that would go in a spot regardless of what your opponent does, such as your basilisk behind blocking cover.
- Leave nothing to chance – Deploy assuming you will be forced to go second. This means deploying nearly everything out of los, range or in cover where you can minimize his first turn damage to you while maximizing your second turn damage. If you happen to go first, expose yourself to as little counter-fire as you can while taking out any of those juicy targets he’s accidently left open.
- Infiltrators – You do not HAVE to put them close to your opponent and sometimes it’s best not to. Sticking your kroot 18 inches from my orks “just because you can” is not the best idea.
- Formations - One I use most often is a strong flank attack. Most players tend to evenly spread their force throughout their deployment zone. I’ll often place my orky basilisk first on the side I plan to leave weak. This big, dangerous target often gets far more attention than it needs while I calmly place everything else in my army on the other flank. This often leaves half his army to face nearly all of mine on one flank while he blows up a 120 point tank and realizes that half his army is gone.
Another formation I use is a weak center. I’ll allow my opponent to crack the center of my lines where I have a dangerous, but cheap, squad or tank, then envelop him from both sides. This is similar to a hook and bait tactic I often use with my scouts. I’ll infiltrate them into a position that is very likely to get his main assault unit to chase it, then run around in the open while my army shoots it to death, keeping it from doing what it’s really meant to do.
You can use all sorts of various formations that rely on hook and bait. Just remember that the bait needs to be something chap, but dangerous. (Good examples are 5 man scout squads with a rocket launcher or a trukk boyz mob.)
Section 3- Movement
This section will be written later. (Note: this was never updated)
Section 4- Shooting
- My rule of thumb for choosing what to shoot at is to always destroy, or nearly destroy, any unit I take aim on. Concentrate your anti-infantry fire on a single infantry unit until it is broken and running or it is wiped out. Note that this tactic must be used with a measure of common sense, even if that lone scout is making his man alone tests don’t go firing a full squad at him when they can do a lot more damage else where.
- Lanes of fire – Always set up your shootiest squads where they will have good lines of sight to multiple targets. While this may expose them to return fire, it is better they lose some of their number than squat behind cover the whole game easily avoided by the enemy. If it’s a heavy weapons squad who has no targets, MOVE THEM. I see too many players worried more about not getting to shoot because they moved than not getting to shoot because there is nothing in sight. If nothing else, simply moving them to a new position can force your enemy to move something he’d rather leave stationary.
- Don’t shoot at squads you are about to assault unless you are sure of a few things. You have to make certain you can still get into the assault if your enemy removes the shooting casualties that are closest to your assaulting squad. You do not want to be left in the open with nothing to assault. You also usually want the assault to end on your opponents turn, since that will deny him the chance to shoot at the assaulting squad in his next shooting phase.
- Don’t waste shooting on things you have low/no chance to kill unless you have no choice. Landraiders, greater demons, avatars, wraithlords, monoliths… all of these things are so difficult to kill that shooting them with half your army becomes a total waste. You are usually better off tying them up in close combat with a cheap squad like a 5 man scout or tactical squad than trying to kill them. If you have a weapon or two with a good chance then go for it, but wasting a whole 10 man tac squad’s shooting on a 14 armor vehicle because the missile launcher in the squad MIGHT glance it is not a good choice, not if you have a whole lot of other choices before you.
Section Five- Assault
Setting up an assault requires a lot of things to go right for you. Many assaults have failed because of shooting casualties that robbed you of the chance, an extra 1/4 inch that didn’t seem to be there or a bad roll to move through cover. here are some tips that should make your assaults more successful.
- Always move assault squads as far as possible when you can. This means careful measurement and taking your time. Many assaults fail because the squad is just a tiny sliver too far away to make it.
- Assault squads can be used in one of two major fashions, to launch an assault or to counter assault. Counter assaulting does not mean waiting till your enemy is already engaged either, you can launch a counter assault on an unengaged enemy who is getting ready to assault you just by holding your squad behind your lines. Hit and run units are the best for counter-assaulting since they can withdraw in your opponents assault phase, leaving the enemy open in your shooting phase, and then re-assaulting in your assault phase.
- All squads can be useful in the assault, even ones that would normally be considered weak. It’s not just about how much damage you can do to their best assault units in the assault, but how long you can tie them up. Dire Avengers are not a great assault unit but they can be very nice at keeping a super expensive assault squad tied up in that one assault for ages.
- Don’t use your best assault unit against his. This is the mistake I see most often among players. Your best assault unit will do far more damage and take far less by taking out targets who are expensive and also poor at fighting back. While it may seem fluffy to throw your chaplain led assault squad at his greater demon, is it wise? Sometimes it might be, if you have the powerfists to back it up, but usually that squad will do a lot more damage chewing through tanks and heavy weapons squads. The exception to this rule comes if your best assault unit is far better than his or is designed specifically to dismantle those types of units. That assault squad won’t do much to a greater demon most likely, but a squad full of rending Harlies will. Choose your battles carefully.
- The two round assault
It is nearly always beneficial for your assault unit to fight the assault for two rounds, yours and your opponent’s. This will disallow him the chance to shoot at your assault squads in his shooting phase. Don’t run your ten man genestealers into his five man scout squad if it will leave you wide open to his fifty assault cannons. Chances are you will wipe that five man squad out and then your genestealers will get mowed down on your opponent’s turn.
Section Six- General Tips
This section is for a few goodies I’ve left out of the rest of the discussion.
- Deepstriking can be fun and give you a great advantage, but don’t do it just because you can. That terminator squad with two assault cannons won’t do much if it’s stuck in reserve for three turns and will do even less if you get a bad scatter into an enemy unit or off the board. Throw caution to the wind if you like but a careful General is far less likely to loose a key unit.
- Using terrain for cover is great but don’t rely on trees or other area terrain to save you from pie-plates. You will take far less damage with your unit spread far and wide than you will if you have tons of guys huddling in a 5+ cover save. Trees do not save you from artillery shells, distance from the blast does.
- Arguments over ambiguous rules are not well solved by an hour of bickering, let a six sided die decide and win despite your bad luck.
Want to add anything? Please comment and share your tactics.