For those who don't know, null deployment is where you essentially only deploy enough forces not to auto-lose in turn one. You let the opponent go first. This became known as null deployment over time but at first it was called by another name: insane.
Even as 5th Edition aged and progressed, there were probably only a handful of Generals I ever saw utilize the method. Unlike most of the buzz words in 40K, null deployment lacked a name for a pretty long time. "Null Star" doesn't exactly inspire fear or notoriety in the minds of those reading those words, now does it?
Nevertheless, I have discovered over time a few kindred spirits on disparate forums such as the infamous Egorey (AKA The Duck, AKA Felixcat) from The Dark City who appreciated the technique and it at least gained some recognition, if not applause, as the Edition wore on.
Then as if to mock me, 6th Edition obliterated the ability to do it! I was understandably upset, and my cheese moved, forcing me to go find new cheese. Nevertheless, the principles of null deployment did not leave me and I have employed the concept in as good a rendition of it as the new rules allowed to continues success in 6th Edition.
Now we are in 7th Edition and Null deployment is back, baby!
Null deployment has extremely positive strategic value for several reasons:
- Going second ensures your units show up that much later and they are therefore targets that much less.
- The enemy must commit to a strategy before you do.
- You have the maximum amount of time possible to see what the enemy wants to do and FORESEEING what he WILL do becomes easier. A more novice General greatly benefits from this while a better one positively feasts on the intel.
- The clock forces the enemy to eventually do SOMETHING. Making mistakes is one of those somethings.
- The Clock allows you to make less mistakes
When properly executed, null deployment forces should look something like this:
- Two hearty high damage output units (preferably with very good range) spread to the corners, or far apart enough to force the enemy out of its blob or gun line formation if the enemy wishes to pursue them. The damage your two corner units deal must be enough to worry the enemy into realizing that shooting the targets may not kill them faster than the corner units can cause inordinant amounts of damage, thus either forcing the enemy into accepting the inevitable losses or pursuing the units physically (moving to kill or silence them). Consider them the "Lures".
- Units capable of being at any part of the board, on command. This means a likely concentration of Outflankers, Deep Strikers and long range normal reserve units. Special Rules, Wargear, Psyker powers, Warlord Traits and the like that support or insure such movement are prized. Things like Aegis Defense Lines and Autarchs are prized for their usefulness in insuring reserves come when you wish. Webway Portals and Positional Relays may be prized for their ability to bring your units where they wish. These are just examples. These units are called the Hunters.
- Finally you will have mobile reserves that can take objectives when necessary and preferably with long range weaponry. Eldar Jetbikes, outflanking Chimeras, Slaanesh Lords on Steeds accompanied by Slaanesh bodyguards can all accomplish this task. Fire Warriors with their long ranges can make admirable units this way also from normal reserve.
Null Deployment has a basic goal: wait for the enemy to divide itself, and give them motivation to do so. This could be to send units at the Lures. This could be to take objectives. This could be to accomplish Secondary Objectives and this could be to avoid what the think you will do next.
For example since the enemy deployed first and gets to choose to go first or not, it is likely that he will, given the seemingly insignificant resistance before him. Knocking you out early seems a reasonable thought for a General to have. If he does, you have him where you want him. He will possibly over commit to the two disparate corners of the board to silence you if you've hidden them well. Lest he give you a lot of free damage, he wont trust his shooting to end the hearty unit on it's own. He will send his own Hunters for you. The more he splits off the better.
If he chooses to make you go first, sensing a trap, you oblige him. The Lures start whacking tanks or high value high cost targets. He realizes that letting you go first will now potentially allow you three rounds of this kind of sniping. He will get impatient and move to you in order to silence you. This is good. If he waits too long, this is better. Either way he's breaking formation AND has allowed you to pump damage into him.
Here's a real example. A Chaos Space Marine takes two units of two Nurgle Obliterators, puts them in Ruins 70" inches apart from each other after his opponent has deployed. Nothing else. Just them. What will the enemy do, his massive forces arrayed against just four models. Think he'll give you first turn or will he attempt to wipe you out and end the game turn 1? Oh I think he can't turn down that opportunity can he?
Understanding that the two Obliterator units are too far apart to fire everything the enemy has at just one group of them, the enemy dispatches a Rhino or a Wave Serpent maybe, full of angry killers, to start the journey to both table corners in turn 1. He splits his rear fire groups up and moves them to get shots at the two targets if not already able to. What do you have now? Four groups of enemies with dead Obliterators on their mind. Possibly more groups if some stay centered. The Obliterators fire and kill/silence a central tank apiece with Las Cannons, ignoring the Rhinos, because side arcs from the table edges aren't hard to get and the Multimelta will be more useful at closer range. Forward arcs aren't as big as some wish they were! The second round comes and the enemy surges to the corners again, firing at the ones they can see, still in four groups, now farther apart from each other. Again the Obliterators fire, killing the two rhinos/Wave Serpents/Whatever, only now the Aegis line gets used to hold off most of the friendly reserves, and preparing for the tidal wave in round 3. The best case scenario...and I mean best... Would be that the Rhinos survive and disgorge their occupants. Enter the tidal wave on round 3 and 4, isolating the weakest enemy groupings and then swarming their objectives and positions.
The fracturing of the enemy force and its lack of direction (for where else could it go but blob up and cower in the middle perhaps while the Obliterators take there toll?), coupled with your ability to strike the weakest piece (or ignore it if its horribly out of place) means every model this Chaos player has is killing its fill and taking almost inconsequential losses in return fire. With all the intel in the world as to what the enemy is doing and where he/she wants to go, it is a simple matter of simply putting the best unit for the job on point and attacking it relentlessly. the army has to look more like a tool bag and less like a D-bag army to pull this strategy off.
Clever use of terrain and vehicle wreckage means the beginning of an Exchange game the enemy cannot win. The Obliterators? Their life or death is irrelevant. Consider them acceptable losses.
I did this same thing with single Broadsides and two Shield Drones. You can do it with Necron Doomsday Arcs. The longer range and the tougher they are, the better. Regardless of the tool you end up using, the principle is the same.
Only actual games will teach you how to employ your particular army this way. Nonetheless, the concept is there and ready for you to use. 7th edition has brought back this excellent strategic approach. Each match up will probably determine if it is the right way to go, but it is one of the few strategies I know of that can equalize what would otherwise be a pretty unfair match up and even the odds quite a bit. Feel Free to ask questions about it below.
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