Monday, May 13, 2013

What's the Price of a Mile?

So I am in discussions on various forums, and as always, I am on the side of finding solutions rather than pretending like nothing but problems exist.  The negative tone on some threads is oppressive.  One of those threads got me thinking thoughts.

The subject matter is units like Draigo Paladins, FarSun bombs, and the deathstars of 40K in general.  In addition, certain matchups.  I have been hearing that Necrons are struggling to fight Tau using their typical tactica of croissants, croissants and more croissants!

Most people who like to use Deathstar units extol their virtues to the rafters and make grandiose statements about how brain dead you'd have to be to lose with them because because because becuase BECAAAAAAAUSE....Because of the wonderful things they does.  When you tell them how they could be beaten, or even do it to them to illustrate the point, they act as if you've never played the game before, instead of acknowledging the wisdom of the now proven counter strategy.  Le sigh.

And so to my point:

As in trench warfare in World War I (and to a lesser extent World War II), there is the vast gulf between your starting position and the enemies.  Betwixt them lies a veritable killing field upon which you DO NOT want to be caught without cover.  It was called No Mans Land.

That distance grows with each casualty.  Getting across to a Deathstar, en masse and fast is the key.  The question for Generals then, and Generals in 40K now, will always be:  At what cost?  What's the price of a mile and can we pay it?

I would like to say that when you are planning your tactics for the terrain at hand, and especially when a Deathstar is present or soon on its way, a head for math will really help you.  A person who can do math quickly will be able to estimate his losses across that span and know what is an acceptable loss, foreseeing the stages of those losses.  But lets assume you are not a math savant.  How then must you gauge threats like the Farsun bomb? 

My answer?  Treat it like they do WarMachine Casters:  singlemindedly destroy them, even with less appropriate weapons.

Figure out how many points the biggest baddest thing is, and expend at LEAST that much in killing it without hesitation.  Fair fights be damned, you want to bring overwhelming force against the most overwhelming thing.  You must make future rounds far less productive for the enemy.  The "Elite" armies (40 models or less with uber models in those numbers) and those that are just generally good have the achilles heel that they lose their hitting power more quickly.  Many times their movement is so cumbrsome that they cannot quickly react and are more easily "kited" (pardon the W.O.W. reference, a game I've never actually played).

Hastening that attrition process, even at cost to you, is worthwhile.  You didn't see Red-5 concentrating his efforts on a bunch of Tie Fighters.  Thats what his escorts were for.  He was there to kill himself a titanic ball of bad news and that's preciesely what you gotta do when cheeky players bring 900+ points of Ha-ha-neener neener to the table.  Bring the house and bring it fast.  Don't let up, sacrifice a unit if you have to but GET RID of the Monster.  Over time, such units can devastate worlds.

The Three biggest mistakes that people with Deathstars make are:

1.  Putting them in a corner to start the game, possibly to protect them or use them for a flank sweep.  Whether it's a shooting unit or not, this means that it has made it hard on itself to reach the further parts of the board with shooting OR assaults.  It has also made itself susceptible to motion oriented armies that can simply move away or corner it.  Even FAST deathstars suffer when you do this.  So many times a flank attack is the best kind of attack in general terms.  If the enemy stuffs that unit over there, surround it and kill it from the center inwards so that his only avenue of escape is towards you at all times.  Alternatively if you're fast enough (meaning to avoid its most effctive attck form, charging or shooting), then you can devalue the enemy unit by moving away and acrificing units at the very end to keep the Deathstars relevance low.  You'll take losses, either way, but not ones that matter like his does.

2.  Being impatient.  I was told imperiously that only a foolish cur would ever reserve such deathstars.  They proudly plant their flag in the ground and say "I'm coming", practically daring you to kill them.  What these impatient sorts dont seem to recognize about 40K is that the enemy grows weaker as the game goes on, because the full hammer strength of the two forces is at its zenith.  It is THEN that such Deathstars are the greatest liabiliy and of least usefulness, giving the enemy all kinds of time to kill them that they wouldn't normally have with firepower they wouldn't have had later.  What you need to know about Warhammer is that it is not where you start nor what you kill in the No Mans Land that wins the games generally.  It is what you can bring to bear late and what you can effectively CUT OFF (see my blog entry on blockers in 40K).  If I have my strongest units at full strength at the end, and the enemy no longer does, advantage me.  If I only kill three things with a deathstar instead of five, yet I am still alive and able to effectively block or contest anything I want, then it does not matter the kills.  The net effect is in my favor.  Impatience is an enemy you should be mindful of.  KNOWING what the enemy plan is before you strike is so fundamentally a good thing that the British famously said "time spent on reconnaissance is never wasted" in both World Wars and I will tell you that its true now.  British Pathfinders were a great asset to the allies.  They'd rather know the enemy and lose less men.  So should you.  Commit your forces where they will be the least fair to the opponent instead of announcing yourself with the clashing of sword on shield only to be cut don for your efforts by an overwhelmingly powerful unit!

3.  Underestimating a Storm Bolter.  I don't mean literally a Storm Bolter but we often laugh about how bolters do all the killing in 40K in my circle.  That small arms fire adds up and those who use Deathstars tend to scoff at such peasantry. for they are ANTs before the might of their Deathstar.  But did you know that the most feared crature in many parts of Africa are the ants?  Any one of them is no match, but then...they never come in they?  Those who enjoy playing Deathstars can be rudely awakened by the Storm Bolters of the 40K universe.  In all their analyis, you hear Deathstar players saying "and when I get hit with 72 STR 5 shots, here's why I dont care".  Palpatine aid something similar know... 
I have news for you sirs.  You should care about "Storm Bolters".  Averages, for those who dont knwo, are essentially never true.  They represent what happens at least 50% of the time!  THINK about that!  The most commonly occuring number will be X...  yet...  If I charted out for you how many "failed attempts" you need to reach the successes they quote, well...  you'd be a lot more uneasy than you are now about your Deathstar.  Enemies are well advised to try and use their least powerful units to affect the Deathstar first.  Think about it:  The less you need your powerhouses to do, the more effective THEY become.  So dont be afriad to fire lasguns at a DreadKnight before you start in with the Lascannon groups.  Might free them up in a couple turns to do damage elsewhere.

To take the mile your General needs, you will pay a toll when facing Deathstars and that price should be unflinchingly equal to the threat bfore you.  Overloading such threats means you also are going to overload the next one in line.  Swarm the deathstar and dont let it get off the mat.  Give it as little time to live as you can.

Another piece of advice.  Grey Knights have proven that a Deathstar can be a decoy.  This general advice assumes they are not, and assumes you can tell the difference on your own when you see that it is.  However, when you see 6 units of 3 guys running around, well...  make sure to count the rounds and ensure that you can cut off the little wasps buzzing around.  Obviously if your list isn't able to do this, Deathstars are going to work against you more easily.  I wont turn this into a list building seminar too much, but just be aware of this proviso.  I have been known to sucker a few people into bad movement using scary units just to create the void I need a turn later for the scoring elements.  Be aware that itty bitty scoring units like that kindof Grey Kight army are a little deceptive in where the threat really lies.

I'll wrap up with this:  This isn't a points driven victory systm anymore, so why do I refer to points?  Well because they are the easy way to gauge an "amount of strength" the army has in a general way.  As we are not sitting in front of a map nor with army lists in hand., this advice is abstract.  It still requires you to determine the threat and eliminate it.  If you DEPLOY in order to kill that Deathstar, some will try to preserve their units too often at the expense of not ever killing that which is killing them.  Look at Markerlights.  People focus on them because the internet says so.  But have you ever seen a Markerlight wound anyone?  Nope.  The things doing the KILLING still roll dice.  And those dice may well say "Dont need any help, Mr. Markerlight, but thanks for the assist" and hit anyways many times.  So by focusing on the Markerlights, you might cut your own throat and might not be hlping yourself at all.  Focus on the Deathstar thats being made to benefit first.


  1. Its fair to day that the direction GW are taking with these releases (in my opinion) is they are trying to balance out all the armies like other game systems. I foresee alot of whinning from powerbuild players in the future as their lists become redundant in favour of more all comers lists. Again just my opinion ;)

  2. This was a fun read, although, I've warned you in the past about investing emotion in forums; don't do it, it's a trick!

    As an aside, the term kiting goes as far back as Everquest. I used to 'quad kite' melee mobs with my wizard. It may even extend further back then that, but, that was my first introduction to the concept in a video game.

  3. Thank you for the reminder. I do remember kiting things in Everquest as well. thank you for the compliment. I try to intertain while making my point. =)

    John: I agree actually. They have made a serious effort to make the newer codex's usable in a LOT of forms. There is no "monobuild" BS being talked about in regards to the newest codex's. I like that a lot.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.