Thursday, December 27, 2012

Range Banding in 6th Edition

One of the interesting phenomenons of 40K tactics is range banding which works better than it did in 5E thanks to the preeminence of shooting.  More sophisticated players actively use this idea to great effect.  Like Japan in World War II, the idea here is to layer the defense, create lines of repositioning and play the timing game.

To be less vague and esoteric, you want to line your guns up in strata, based on their range.  You will usually have three strata of Guns, and then you will have the sacrificial lambs whose only job is to die and keep those guns firing (while themselves contributing to the fusillade). 

In this strategy, the list may seem at first more disjointed than usual, but it's function is merely to time the enemy approach so that it most advantages the Big Guns.

Look at this example list here, farthest back first:

Strata 1:
2 x2 Broadside Team leads (TL plasma, Multi trackers)
2 Pathfinder units
Sky Ray
3 Kroot Units

Strata 2
3 Teams Sniper Drones
3 Missile Suits
2 Pathfinder Devil fishes with Flechette (use flat out movement to block for their charges)

Strata 3
3 Fire Warrior units
3 Devil fish's with Flechette (use flat out movement to block for their charges)
Aegis Quad Gun

This list is very specifically designed to slow and clog the enemy and generally make it as hard and slow a bit of work as possible for the enemy to get to the rear areas; and if they do get there, to protect the guns for an extended period.  The idea obviously is to maximize damage at the expense of mobility and simply playing a space denial game.  Some refer to the idea of "winning in the movement phase" and essentially, range banding can do that for you.  it also helps you create target saturation more easily than the more aggressive movement strategy of dividing the enemy efforts by exploding outward in all directions (a personal favorite way to fight for me, but certainly not the only way to skin the cat)

Deployment is key to this kind of idea and one of the oddities of it is that the Aegis Defense Line goes nearly to the very center of the board.  It isn't even used as a shooting barrier per se FOR the Tau Empires defense as much as it is used as a hindrance TO the enemy movement itself.  The SOONER in the game you are able to slow the enemy, the more fire you can pour in.  You don't want to give a lucky charge the chance to negate that Aegis Line right in front of you and you don't want the decision by the enemy as they are coming in to be an easy one.  By placing the Defense Line so far forward it means they are slowed SOONER and now they might well be tempted if taking casualties, not to cross it and take advantage of its value on defense.  Some of the advantage of placing the Defense Line so far forward is psychological: The option to utilize the line "for free" makes movement behind it ever so slightly more complicated.  In the end, this can put an offensive army on the defensive.  On its own not game winning, but consider that you as Tau can negate all of the benefit of the Defense Line.  So just one round of indecision by the enemy or one moment of caution by them can prove not only futile but ultimately, the tipping point advantage you need.  Once they realize their error, there will be one less turn to do anything  about it.  Their instinct to self preserve and convert over to the long game, even though they aren't really built for it may prove fatal and bring you victory.

This same basic mechanic is very adaptable to most armies.  The army that seems to make a lot of sense for it to work is the Tyranid forces.  I have often thought that they can fight very well with Range banding.  I know unbridled aggression is the philosophy of Tyranids but given their restrictions, it could be quite good.  They amongst all the army have readily available tar pits and units that are designed for exactly this kind of game.  They have counter charge units that are hard to beat, and they have outflanking/Sneaky mobility.  Unfortunately the build to do this is really specific, but the fun news is, they have the tools to actually do it.

Allies create an immense wealth of possibilities for this idea to flourish.  Armies that start with fearsome barrage capability can couple their forces with other forces of similar ferocity.  This wouldn't be done so much to add firepower as it would be to add UTILITY to that firepower.  Consider that IG have endless streams of long range artillery.  However, imagine what it might add to have a second Range band of artillery, much closer than the others, that is very tough (as Artillery now are), that can roll out a 3 small blast pinning barrage, Re-rolling misses, wounding on 2's, re-rolling wounds and Penetrating tanks 33% of the time (3 times)!  Now the enemy has a VERY tough choice to make:  let THAT keep firing at short range, or expend energy on Armored artillery long range!  Eldar D-Canons added to IG might be a terrifying prospect because within that range band, it's dangerous as hell to be anywhere near it yet the enemy knows if they assault towards it, its "bodyguard" units will defend it.  IG don't really have a unit that can change the VALUE of enemy loadouts when so much of what they bring to hurt you is ARMOUR, allowing an enemy's anti-armour to shine.  It changes the TYPE of weapon you need in order to kill the threat and it multiplies the amount of shots that must be expended, all of which is just ONE range band worth of problems added.

Intentional range banding of armies isn't as common a practice as I thought it would be, but it does seem an effective primary strategem to use (understanding that all strategems must alter as the battle dictates after it has been joined).  I have taken to using the similar approach with Sisters of Battle, especially in certain missions, but other armies can do this equally well. 

Give it a try and report back, or just tell me what you thought about the idea in general.

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