6th Edition has taught us a lot of new ways to LOOK at the battlefield, not just at units and lists.
Discussion on this would be great. I have compiled some tactical notes here over time that I have found to be fundamentals. Perhaps they will help newer plays look through the Unorthodoxy lens at things. Some of these are not so strange, but I am sure some will generate some controversy. Newer players will get more from it... So share this with newer players or send them the link!
We take the turn in step:
Before the Game Starts:A number of things happen here that have dramatic impacts on the game itself. One can easily argue that what you do before the game, and how you deploy, have an enormous bearing on your chances of winning. Sun Tzu put great importance on the way that one APPEARS to have deployed and what one APPEARS to be planning. Despite what negative Nellies claim (that it's a "Dice game played with Beer and Pretzels"), it is those very pints of beer that may be blinding them to how seriously the game can be played if one is applying oneself. Having a good time can be accomplished at the same time as calculation towards a good win.
Choose Your Army:A lot of time is spent on this subject, here and elsewhere, to help you build your force. My overriding advice here is this: Do not overlook the movement phase when looking at army builds as a way to win. Almost all the missions involve objectives and nearly every major tournament scores them as (generally) more important than raw kills, for a number of wise reasons. From the standpoint of a General, those reasons are irrelevant but the simple truth of it should suffice for our discussion. The ability to kill things, while rightly prized and often the subject of mathematical debates, isn't the be all end all of 40K. It is just facts for when such math is allowed to happen by the opponent.
You must make sure you have the following pieces in the force to be successful. If you do not, you will find certain match ups quite difficult. Only shining brilliance as a General will help you overcome deficiencies in the roles of your army components. You will also find that covering all these bases consciously and intentionally will never penalize you unduly. Do not shy away from units that are designed for a specific purpose as being too specialized. They are part of the greater whole and necessary for overall tournament play, even if in any one game they may be LESS fruitful. It is the rare unit that is fruitless, a point that is wasted on lesser commanders.
One unit at least should be included as part of your core, to accomplish each of these missions before you move on in army building:
At minimum, you need one unit that has the ability to handle aircraft convincingly. Storm Ravens, Vendettas, Crimson Hunters or Heldrakes are all examples of the kind of aircraft you will face. Monstrous Creatures have grown to be the largest consideration, actually. When you see one at all, you're probably going to see more than one, in competitive environments. If your anti-air measure comes in the form of a vehicle or monstrous creature (MC) and does not have intercept ability, consider reserving it to preserve it for its role. Enemies will target such anti-aircraft threats early if they can, to protect their own fliers. Reserving the anti-air measures helps keep the enemy from doing it. Hydras, for example, can sometimes be placed in reserve if they are too easily gotten to. Beginners might question the wisdom of "not getting to use the anti air earlier" but what good does the anti-air do you at ALL if it's dead? One shot the entire game as compared to the two or three they might get if they are reserved? Worth considering.
Incredibly hearty or multi-purpose anti-aircraft elements like a Stormsurge Battlesuit or Space Marine Devastator Squad with Sky Fire missiles can be placed on the board earlier and with more confidence, secure that it can withstand the battering long enough to carry out its anti-air mission when the time comes. while contributing mightily in the meantime. Devastators can use the Devastator doctrine to stay in reserve and come on later without losing shots in a way, so even this unit may be reserved if the enemy aircraft are numerous. The point here is that anti-air elements may need to be reserved and when that is the case, don't be afraid to do so. Also: Make sure you give a nod to this function in the list even if it is as little as a Scout with a skyfire missile.
Land Raiders, Leman Russ and Monoliths will be the most common versions of this, but fortifications and other things have it as well. You must have a convincing enough amount of firepower to kill such things and they must, through range or mobility, be assured of reaching the target. No army can be considered complete without this element. Bring enough to cause 4 Hull Points in a turn, even if they do glancing hits. Make sure that this firepower is available turn 1, as nearly all such AV14 units will be in the open and available as targets from the word go. Even on the rare occasion that they aren't, you've lost nothing by having this part of your force happily firing on other targets. Many of your units have crossover ability to impact such tanks, but you have to consider the math of making sure its enough.
What is enough, and what is over committing? Great question. Every shot inside 1/2 melta range has a 36% chance of doing nothing, 54% of penetrating. In comparison, when a Lascannon hits, it has a 67% chance of doing nothing, 17% chance of penetration when it hits. Yet Meltas can't kill an AV 14 vehicle at all without glancing it to death at more than half range. Your reach with meltas is therefore a consideeration.
Clearly the Meltagun actually has more chance of killing AV14 at close range, but keep in mind that meltaguns have to get there first. "Melta caddies" as I affectionately call units whose whole goal in life is to carry the gun that matters, aren't inexpensive with a couple notable exceptions. Even if you can afford the number of melta caddies you need for absolute assurance, lets look at this objectively: Each Melta shot at BS 4 has about 15% chance of actually killing an AV 14 vehicle when in optimal range. That includes having to hit, penetrate and roll a 4 on the damage table. Might not want to leave it up to just one meltagun eh? Truth is, you need at least 3 rolls on the penetration chart to give yourself a near assured statistical chance at a kill; and that means you need at least 9 meltaguns you can reliably bring to bear at close range! There's a reason people like Land Raiders. Bad luck happens (of course) but a Meltagun only penetrates 54% of the time when it hits, and it still has to roll a 4 afterwards! The failure of a caddy usually signals the caddies death if it is a min/max'd unit and sometimes even if it does succeed. Depends what the cargo was.
Lances are hybrids. Excellent range and better than Lascannons at the job, not better than meltas in any sense that matters against AV 14, given one shot. The range on lances does however grant them more TRIES than Meltas are ever likely to get, and the law of larger numbers kicks in here. The sheer number of times it can fire skews the odds in its favor somewhat. Assuming 9 Lances, that's really 18 shots because they will not be threatened as early and can fire at least twice before any threat is upon them compared to Meltas. So when looked at through that scope, the Lances actually land a killing blow and perhaps in slightly lower numbers (you need about 8 for an assured kill). So though one cannot argue that any ONE lance shot is better, one can EASILY argue that it takes less lances to do the job and their overall killing power over the course of the game could be more impressive. It also means the Lance unit is less prone to unit "exchanges" (example: Letting the Fire Dragons die in order to kill the AV 14 monstrosity, which is quite typical Eldar tactica).
So in short, 8 lances, or 9 meltas are highly advised in the list, preferably in a mobile platform fast enough to get the jump on the enemy. Though you will OFTEN not actually require that much just because, again, it's a dice game, it isn't wise to leave it to chance any more than necessary.
Another possibility are haywire grenades and the like. Typically these are carried on a model, though there actually are some weapons that fire them at range (the Black Legion's Eye of Night and Dark Eldar Scourge Haywire Blasters are examples). If one has a good assault vehicle, one can pack the grenadiers in, fly to the enemy and let the transport absorb as much as its able. Assault vehicles do allow you to assault from their wreckage. So all in all, if you can outflank Tau Pathfinders or jump Swooping hawks up into position they are plenty deadly enough to both end the big AV 14 juggernauts as well as be a nuisance on their own against other things when no AV 14 is around (Note: this has changed since the new GW FAQ came out in 2017, making it so that only one grenade can be used in close combat).
Regardless of your decision, take enough in your force to kill 4 AV 14 Hull points reliably at one go.
3. Fire Hoses:
At least two units of these will dramatically help you against the hordes of the world. Fire hoses are high volume shot output type units (think Tau Stealthsuits, Ork Lootas or Grav Cannons), which can also come in the form of Templates, Blasts or Large Blasts. Anything that can fire 3 or more shots in a round is a fire hose, and the bigger the concentration of them, the better. Massed cheap troopers that hit reasonably well can fill the role as well. Barrage weapons are one of the most tactically important systems you can include in your force. Fire Hoses don't rely on AP as much to do their work, so a great deal many of these exist in most armies and are worthwhile. Eldar Heavy Weapons Platforms, Tyranid Biovores (and the spore mines), Blood Angel Whirlwinds, Tau Airburst Fragmentation Launchers, and Imperial Guard Wyverns or Manticores are all possessed of these abilities. You can use the Barrages to cause separation in Tau ranks, parting them enough to eliminate supporting fire. Also, they can be used to assassinate independent characters or just knocking out influential weapons systems like Flakk Missile carriers. Another point is that Ordinance Barrage weapons ALWAYS pin (no longer true in 7E), no matter how weak they look, and as I will say in many many places in this blog, enemy morale is one of the most important targets there is. Attacking that can single handedly win you the game at crucial times when sheer ferocity or firepower cannot. Scarabs and other Swarms are very susceptible to blasts as well. I can go on and on, but as Fire hoses go, Barrage weapons may be underrated because the enemy can spread out to mitigate this somewhat. It's clearly not a focus in most lists. Nonetheless, consider Barrages to be in the fire hose category and its ability to get around cover is as important for the "bullet hoes" as it is for meltas and the like. They can, coupled with the "Focused Fire" rule, be extremely effective on bunched infantry who've recently exited their vehicle. This will be often if you've followed my advice in #2 above.
4. Anti-MEQ (Space Marine Equivalent)
"Space Marine Equivalent" is a model with Tough 4+, and 3+ armor for simplicity sake. A single unit dedicated to reliably whittling such a unit is necessary because a break through by such units usually doesn't end well, and getting rid of them can take longer than you have. Your answer can be a shooting unit as much as it can be a melee unit. You will want your answer to MEQ to be stationed behind your main line or perhaps outflanking to surprise and cut down such enemies as they approach, diverting them when possible. IG Plasma Veterans, Vespid Stingwings, Devastator units, Tau Pathfinders with Rail Rifles, Heldrakes, Battle Conclaves, Gey Knight Purifiers with force weapons and other units that can jump an enemy MEQ unit and end them unexpectedly or at least diminish them to the point of combat ineffectiveness is a good thing. The reason you don't NECESSARILY need two dedicated units to handle that is because normal shooting still works on MEQ at a decent enough rate. But at a critical time in the fight, you will need an absolute assured kill on a unit like them and lacking it will cost you the game. Don't go crazy and buy every Battle Conclave model you can find. But a single unit of that sort, that convincingly can demolish a MEQ unit with no trouble should be a must.
5. Anti-TEQ (Terminator Equivalent)
TEQ (Terminator Equivalent with 2+ saves and a Space Marine Stat line) units are expensive and you won't see a ton of them in enemy armies at a time. When there are, such as Dark Angel Death Wing Armies, or Sanguinary Guard forces, their limited number means you wont have to kill as many, so ultimately a singular dedicated unit with weaponry to handle this is probably enough. It may be by happenstance that there is lap over between roles with Anti-MEQ and anti TEQ units. Try not to waste points making every unit do everything. SternGuard Vets, Broadside Battlesuits, Imperial Guard Lascannon teams, Eldar War Walkers or Chaos Obliterators are all good choices for Anti-TEQ duty, Many melee units will work as well. If you have a unit that can reliably kill most of 5 Terminators on the drop, you've probably got the right unit. It's a dice game so nothing works all the time but you want a unit that has a pretty good chance of de-fanging a single important TEQ unit.
I said it before: you absolutely positively MUST make sure your army has a way to get scoring units to the objectives. Outflanking, Scouting, Infiltrating, Jetbike quickness and even Fast vehicles are all possibilities here, but do not fail to choose a unit just because it doesn't kill a lot. Those units may have mobility options that make them valuable in a different way. Do not forsake movement. In the way that I fight, my opponents would tell you that my mobility is a weapon unto itself. I believe in that. Don't underestimate it.
1 Scout,1-2 infiltrators, and 1 Deep Striker are never bad assets to include. The various missions have objectives scattered everywhere and sometimes getting across no mans land is just not going to happen in a vehicle. Grey Knights can form a wall of fire so ferocious that only the fool hardy would try early on. As the game gets older, the equipment and supplies start to wane... Having other options can really be the saving grace of an army. Learning to use such units well is the sign of a more accomplished General as such mobile units don't always tend to be optimized as much but they provide you a critical advantage and at worst equalize a critical disadvantage.
7. Objective Secured Scoring
4 is the minimum number of scoring units I would use in a game in most armies, Among them, make sure at least half are mobile and able to cross 48" of terrain and gunfire. Tourney players are very aware when you have but two troops. They know that in most missions, they need kill ONLY the troops and play keep away to win. Consider it. If they can get First Blood, slay two troops and an HQ, then stall you until the games end and push a stray unit into your deployment zone, they auto win almost every mission! The HQ and two starting troops become the only objective. They could lose nearly their entire army and it wouldn't matter. Just kill the two troops choices and the leader at all cost. When you have three troops this is harder to do and when you have four, it no longer is a viable primary strategy for the enemy for while they might try, they probably won't succeed. They can afford to be reckless though when you only have Objective Secured choices, no matter how tough you think they are. The right army can perhaps gank 3 completely with some time and effort. Take away this "seek and destroy" stratagem from the opponent by having enough Objective Secured units.
Roll for the Mission, and Roll for SidesThe list is done. Time to get down to it.
The terrain in a Narrative game is set before you get to the table and informs your choice as to where you want to deploy. I assume for this article that this is what you are doing, in the spirit of fairness before you roll for mission and sides. Regardless, there will always be more than 24" between the two forces generally and that's a number you need to remember when you're planning to deploy because if you keep count in your head each round (and by pre-measuring), you can count what round is optimal to move and calculate what your chances are of crossing the gulf with a given units speed.
Fortifications deploy before armies do. Make sure the enemy does this. Whether you go first or you don't, the placement of the Fortification gives you a very clear indicator as you grow more experienced, as to how he plans to deploy even should you go first. Don't let an opponent "accidentally" forget to put it down, just because you're deploying first. I am sure it's accidental when it happens. Probably. Nonetheless, you can be a good opponent by reminding him to do so, so that he doesn't have to feel bad about forgetting. (Note: This too has changed, as in 7E the Fortifications are placed along with your army)
The various missions you might roll will very directly effect how useful your army is. As all but one mission (essentially) has objectives, and it is just a matter of how many and what units are allowed to claim them, the main things you want to think about once the mission is chosen is whether or not you are going to reserve units for this fight. You're not required to, but Reserves are an enormous reason for my personal success. I have learned that time is ticking away and the enemy cannot forever stand in optimal position and expect to win. They must COME for the objectives and do so at the right time, into sometimes open terrain, into sometimes narrow paths. So must you. Why expose the units who can score for you as targets until the count in your head that I mentioned earlier tells you to do so? This is the part of the Art of 40K. Going for the objective too soon is a rookie mistake that is as common as the sun rising.
Consider though that if an objective is in the middle, a scouting Transport can help with it later. If its on the sides, an outflanker. If in your deployment zone, a Troops choice coming on from normal reserve; if in the enemy deployment zone, you may wish to simply focus on closer ones when you can or feint as if interested to draw him off the real prize. In all these scenarios you have time. Use it. Reserves is something you must be thinking about as soon as that mission is revealed. When executing these maneuvers, sometimes the best strategy is to simply time things, and then create walls of units that the enemy must churn through while your troops escape with the real prize.
Why do people NOT use reserves? Well the newer players find it counter intuitive to reserve because doing damage seems like the obvious thing to do. How can one benefit from all the points spent on weaponry or inflict damage on an enemy when they aren't even on the board, right? Many veteran players will even espouse this opinion. They will use words like "unreliable" or "too random" to describe their fears over using such tactics. Don't fall in love with negative advice. Get good at USING a tool instead of focusing on the things it can't do and then you will know what a sharpened version of that tool is capable of, at your command. That expertise will serve you in the long run even when you don't choose or need to use that tool in a particular match up.
Once you know the Mission, roll to see who chooses their side. Time to deploy.
DeploymentThe three deployment zones present different problems for different armies. Armies that have Barrage capabilities are much advantaged in the Hammer and Anvil, albeit the long table edges are perilously close and out flankers can make them pay. Vanguard is the best of both worlds in the sense that you have the same dimensions for reserve use as you do Dawn of War and you get depth for barrages but can still deploy far enough away for help to come. Downside is that infiltrators love Vanguard deployment, as do drop armies in general. So it is difficult to cover every aspect of how to look at the deployments. However it is good to think about those things.
Most Generals understand that First Blood (a Secondary Objective in all 6E main rulebook missions) is important as a tie breaker. It counter balances the advantage an enemy General gains over you by going second and knowing your deployment. He who goes second is in superior position from the start to deploy intelligently, but the General going first gets the counterbalancing shot at First Blood. Newer players may find going second to be counter intuitive because they obviously do not wish to surrender First Blood and they want to damage the enemy first. But the endgame is THE game. Going last means you have last shot at objectives worth three times what First Blood is worth. It means having the best deployment. It means having information. And information is critical if you are to win a war. The Relic may be the only mission worth going first in, as it complicates things quite a bit.
When deploying, make sure you ask these questions:
1. Is it Night Fighting?
Night fighting advantages certain armies a great deal more than others and it impacts what can hurt you; and that in turn informs a whole lot of other questions in deployment. Make sure you calculate this, pre-measure liberally and turn Night Fighting to an advantage and not a disadvantage. Going second means being able to DEFANG an enemy going first through skillful deployment. If you can sucker them closer out of a frustration from this, you can claim victory for yourself.
2. Do I know how far 2" really is and do I need it?
2" coherency is a lot farther than it looks visually. SPREAD OUT if enemies have Blast weapons or flamers they can get to you with in turn 1. when you spread out, do so in circles whenever possible. this allows you to take up a lot of space and also allows you to make blast weapons CONSIDERABLY less effective against you. Circle the wagons and everyone guarding them! On the other hand... Do not spread out at ALL when you deploy if they have no such weapons able to come into range. You can use movement and running to spread out AFTER deploying. This free movement can really be valuable later in a game.
3. Are my characters protected?
If enemies can outflank or deep strike and there is a vulnerability to one side, center characters so they are not taken out from any angle. Dead leaders lead no one, buff no one, care for no one. Only commanders whose job is to take hits (like baron Sathonyx does in a Dark Eldar "BeastStar") should be placed in such vulnerable positions.
4. Have I blocked off lines of sight and will my round 1 movement cause it?
Already you have to be thinking ahead and asking this. If you cannot avoid the effects of terrain or intervening models in any way, so be it. Do what you can to get clear shots early because enemies have a large number of ways to increase cover saves. The waters of war get much murkier with blood in rounds 2-4. Get the clear shots while you can and are alive to do so.
5. Does the enemy outflank or Deep Strike?
Much bigger topic.
If they do, you need to make sure you are prepared for their appearance on your flanks. Measure in 19 inches from the sides of the board and deploy there in the case of your immobile units. Don't get closer to the sides than that with them. While enemies in 6E cannot charge in the round they appear, they can rapid fire or hit you with fairly significant fire power. The enemy knows you'll scootch in and they may even be hoping you'll do it just based on the fear of Outflankers. If you go second, they would have had to have declared their intention to outflank and could not force you into a bad deployment decision like this. Mobile units can be within 13" of the board edge because they are free if need be to move to 19". Examples are Eldar Dark Reapers or Space Marine Centurions.
The concept of "bubble wrapping" heavy support units to protect them against deep striking and also infiltrating enemies is important. It's generally aimed at reducing the chance of Melta shots hitting at 2D6 armor penetration or giving Heavy support more time to crush the oncoming infiltration threat. You can pre-measure "rings" of units to the exposed sides of your Heavy Supports or other important firing platform out to 6 inches, which means only a mishap would allow a deep striking unit to hit them at "juice" range (and infiltrators never could start that close). Some units like Imperial Guard can make rings so large that even Multimelta weapons can't get close enough by going out 12". Generally you want to ring them with disposable units like Conscripts, Gretchen, or any other trivial unimportant unit you can. Deep strikers tend to be elite killers tasked with the job of dropping decisive amounts of firepower into high priority targets before they can answer. So don't forget to deal with this possibility during deployment or you'll be a victim when they show up. Keep in mind that units can be moved in turn 1 to BE in position to bubble wrap. Why would I mention that? Part of 40K is doing things so that the enemy sees one thing and may draw a wrong conclusion about what it will mean. If you don't make it immediately obvious to an opponent that you will bubble wrap something on your movement phase, they may take actions in their first turn on a wrong assumption or even plan to deep strike units they shouldn't, feeling falsely sure there's enough room there for them to land. Many canny Generals will anticipate this move but what if they don't? If you think a round ahead and don't necessarily show your hand completely, even when going second, then you increased your chances of victory. Do this enough times and even a canny general may make a wrong step at some juncture. Don't underestimate what fatigue and impatience (or as Sun Tzu called it, temperament) can mean in a battle. It can mean a lot. Take advantage of the enemy's temperament and do not be a victim to your own. Emotions and fatigue do cloud the sharpest minds. Internet know it all's like to say idiot things like "Well a smart opponent wouldn't fall for that". They fail to recognize that smart opponents are humans and their temperament can and does get the better of them at times. That they might miss the ploy is good enough reason to attempt it, at no actual cost to you. To win tournaments, you will have to beat all echelons of opponents, not just the supposedly invincible and mythical "smart opponent" who never falls for anything.
6. Did I use terrain well?
Assault units should go from cover to cover. Plan their path before you finalize their beginning position. Shooting units should use terrain and vehicles/wreckage as reticle, taking down their targets while disallowing as much return fire on any ONE element at a time. Deploying them to this very intentional end is important. The idea of terrain and Vehicles/wreckage as reticles came to me while using Sisters of Battle but its applicable to any army. It stands to reason that if four units attack one, the one will lose more often. The enemy response to this, if not anticipated before the four go again, can end disastrously for you. So try to deploy such that the movement in round 1 will leave you the opportunity or multiple opportunities for overkill through these terrain reticles while protecting the units against the counter battery fire or whatever may come back at them.
Terrain should also be used to slow an enemy assaulter. If you suspect a vehicle WILL be killed in the next round, intentionally place it, using terrain so that its wreckage will serve as a breakwater and reticle. Do not bemoan future losses. Make sure future losses serve your purpose and happen when and where you want them to, as defensive measures.
Okay you're ready. Ready as any man about to die will ever be. It's time to fight.
StrategyOnce the fight commences, there's a few ideas you can always keep in mind. We've talked deployment, we've talked general list building, we've talked about the questions one must ask to be sure one isn't missing opportunities.
However strategy is the over arching plan, the story arc of the battle. It is the modis operandi for the force. What do you intend to do, in order to accomplish the mission?
Below are concepts I have learned and are basic enough to share with a beginner. You may have to read this a few times to remind yourself of them and think on them. I personally have read Sun Tzu, Patton, Rommel and a number of other Generals batreps and methods in order to think more like a General and while some of it is simply unusable for 40K, a lot of it can be applied. Like anything else, it takes practice and study to really take whats on the page and apply it a little bit at a time. So take these entries in bite sized pieces and employ them as slowly as required to get good at it.
Without further ado, some strategic points of view you can keep in mind...
1. Enemy pools.
In the deployment and later movement phase, you can divide the enemy into pieces that are more bite sized. This is where outflankers and Deep Strikers pay big dividends. Once separated, either in pursuit of you or objectives, the enemy is weaker and more susceptible. Try to make this happen sooner by baiting the enemy, then attack at the weakest point. One of the best quotes I ever took from Sun Tzu was Hold out bait for the enemy. Feign disorder and then crush him. By giving the enemy no choice but to pursue a high value target in the far flung corners and breaking up enemy cohesiveness, you give your reserves a clear target. Sun Tzu also pointed out that You may advance and be absolutely irresistible, if you make for the enemy's weak points; you may retire and be safe from pursuit if your movements are more rapid than those of the enemy.
2. That you CAN assault is not reason enough TO assault. That you can shoot is not reason enough TO shoot.
Consider the consequence of a sweeping advance victory. Can you survive the aftermath? Worse, will the enemy response get free movement out of you that can hurt you if you rush in now instead of a turn from now? Patton once famously said If we have too many more victories like that, we'll lose this war. Make sure the timing of assaults helps you NEXT turn. Getting two rounds of usefulness out of a unit, regardless of their ultimate fate, is still better than one. Sometimes falling back early and then firing is also advisable as other units fill that vacuum sacrificially. Sometimes the best shot is the one you never took.
3. Eye on the prize.
Objectives. Mere physical presence is enough to contest them. Think about that because Ive seen a lot of games won simply by an army staying alive long enough. Tyranids are played successfully this way by some very good Generals. They have no intention or interest in blistering you with overly aggressive tidal waves of gaunts. They just need the gaunts and FMC's to live long enough to physically exist at games end where you don't want them, like Cockroaches. This can work to your advantage too. Don't be in a hurry to get to objectives if your force allows you the patience and don't forget they ARE the endgame.
4. Don't exchange units when the enemy has 50% more to give than you do.
Fire Dragons and other units are designed to show up, kill something and die. That's fine as far as it goes but those losses are more easily accepted by the larger force and the enemy may bait you into this kind of exchange. It will feel great to you at the time because you're army is absolutely doing what its designed to do, and killing effectively. But then in the end, whose smiling if he's got First blood and more units firing down at your remnants at games end? Don't engage in this kind of warfare unless you have many more units than they do.
5. Not charging can buy valuable time.
Sometimes I will move and run a unit AROUND the enemy so he loses movement the next round and has to assault ME. I probably lose the fight in some cases and yes I gave up my charge attacks and granted him his. But he's stuck pretty much where he started if he beats me up... in front of a lot of guns if he manages my death. I don't lose the unit on my turn, so he HAS to use his turn to kill them which is resources spent he wouldn't have had to use. Consider that if he then shoots me on his turn and I fall back from casualties before he charges I might not lose the unit at all because my fall back is likely to be farther than his charge, being as we had to start the fall back an inch away.. The odds are slightly in our favor. Ironic isn't it? You win either way and that's the best part about this tactic. The wounds you don't take if he doesn't shoot you first are wounds you effectively got to keep in melee in some ways and equate to more attacks against the enemy. See rule 2 for more details but time is a commodity you can take away from enemy units in this way. As long as this is done strategically and does not turn into a constant exchange philosophy it is very useful to think about
6. Let the enemy see the hand...Not the Knife.
As has been mentioned, if you present a threat and the enemy cannot afford to allow it to keep being a threat, you have dictated his actions to him. If you have no such threat, you cannot dictate where he goes.
Shooty armies have more options in their targets but not necessarily a greater ability to take them out. After all, imagine the work it is to fire down on and break a fearless 50 man squad. yet this can be done in one phase of close combat if the right guys die or dice like you better. I'll give you an example of how this works. A guy deploys a Broadside in each corner of the table, one in the center. Nothing else. Now if the enemy allows those broadsides to live, they will claim MORE than their fair share and far too expensive a share at that. Option one, shoot them. But they are separated so much that no massed firepower is possible. Therefore assaulting them WHILE shooting them seems a wiser thing to do, to ensure the death of them should shooting fail. given their shield drones and cover saves, 2+ saves... You have successfully dictated the enemies course because his only alternative is to stand still and take it, maybe kill one, leaving the other two too far out of range for effective firing. Yeah the enemy needs to get over there and not rely on the shooting entirely. So three units are mobilized to each target for assault and three for shooting. There are no other targets. There are now six pools of enemies. Three approaching to the sides one to the middle with support fire behind them in each respective place. I think one can easily see that no one part of that force is now entirely able to support the other. The Tau now have their choice of targets and like wolves, they emerge from outflanking and deep striking to hunt the individual pieces one by one. Sun Tzu advised that by discovering the enemy's dispositions, and remaining invisible ourselves, we can keep our forces concentrated, while the enemy's must be divided.
The enemy saw the hand but not the knife. and because of objectives they were going to have to split up their forces anyways. it was just a matter of time...and not a lot of time either. So for multiple reasons the enemy thought it was making as wise a choice as the situation allowed. He could mass up. But that just means more losses to the broadsides. and while the broadsides MIGHT not do damage was that really a chance a general could take? Sure. But then the tau forces from reserve would not need to fight directly and could throw screens up late game to accomplish the mission. This particular TYPE of tactic is why barrage weapons are so effective also. they force an enemy to try and silence it but can they? And if they do, will their fragmented force be able to stop the rest that masses in their now piecemeal form? Its the same problem many armies can force on their enemies.
7. Dice happen.
When they do, you must not lose your temperament nor remember the sting of losing to a bad roll. Do what you can not to have to roll the dice in order to win in fact. I have often said that a good General is one who makes the dice less relevant. As has been said, the movement phase is a super legit way to win 40K. But so is letting the enemy make mistakes. And if you grow too angered during your game, you are going to slip up. Make the dice less relevant. think actively on how to do what you want with less rolls.
8. Don't make any one unit more important than others. Some units are indeed more powerful than others and they are priced thusly in points. But tactically, if you rely on any one unit to do a lot of your work, it's dangerous. Morale can break unexpectedly and so it behooves you to try and remember that if anyone unit becomes especially important or mission critical, view it as a liability to the strategy you're employing. Don't be too proud to admit that mistake earlier than later and try to correct for it. Certain match ups are going to look dire and the worst mistake is to look to your only AP 2 guns in order to find victory over the Deathwings. already you know what they will throw their initial efforts on. use the knowledge of that to your advantage, use its position to more effect and try to make the other units matter more in order to make the AP 2 weapons impactful for you but costly for the enemy to pursue. I know this is a nebulous comment and one that will be hard to employ. But as the battle unfolds, read this to yourself and think "okay... Have I made a single unit too valuable to the enemy... How can I use that vulnerability?"
9. Have two plans.
Plan B should be as well thought out as plan A invariably is. No army list that ever won anything lacked a Plan A. But you can see it in the eyes of a guy who just lost Mephiston turn 1 to a D-Cannon with a distortion roll for Instant Death that his plan A has been destroyed and he has no other ideas. A lynch pin exists in a lot of plans, but strategically, you must have a plan B that you can easily fall into and more importantly you really need to set yourself up in round 1 to execute EITHER plan. This OFTEN means running armies that are not as maximized because you need points for a plan B. Weakening plan A to make plan B better might sound like a little bit of a bad idea but trust me, in the trenches when its all gone to hell, you wont miss the little extra shenanigan you had to give up to make a second plan work.
For example: I use an Eldar Air force list and the essential idea behind the list is to use Psyker powers to defeat the enemy. as such, a great deal many points were spent to make it happen. But I am aware that psykers are far more common now and Deny the Witch is a 5+ or even 4+ for some units. That is a far cry from a guaranteed strategy A. So I have provided the army with enough SOUNDNESS outside the Psyker phase at YES the cost of the Psyker phase so that if trouble comes early and I rapidly lose my ability to affect the enemies with my Psyker onslaught, I still have an answer and enough mobility to vie for the all important objectives and still deal damage. I go into every game knowing that I have to bail on the initial strategy as soon as X or Y occur. In my armies case, if the Hemlock Fighters both go down, our ability to affect enemy morale drops and we now must fight a different way. We must move to a defensive posture that is aimed at taking the enemy off their objectives because we have too much speed for them to stop the contesting from happening. We're prepared to win by movement when firepower and attacking Psychically cant work. Against a Daemon Army, our plan A ceases to function, yet the army is strong enough to cope against even our worst case scenario and we have anticipated that Daemons will happen.
I know that this little document cannot hope to aspire to the heights of recognition other more practiced works do. There is a lot I cut out here for brevity and as you see I've gone on long enough. So I will sign off and wish you all good gaming and many victories using these and many more concepts.