Saturday, October 24, 2015

Tactical Comments on Range

There are some basic things that better generals recognize more readily.  Being a good sport and being good at the game are both goals for players who want to win tournaments.  Ranges are something you learn as you play the game and you become progressively more aware of what enemy units both can do and actually do.  That refers to both charge ranges as well as shooting ranges.

There's little shame in not recognizing the threats early on, but as you improve your skill set there are some very important distance considerations you must make.

First and foremost, deployment.  Put simply, you need to measure, before you do anything, how many turns it will take the enemy to crash into you if they are a mobile close combat force and if they are not, how many turns it takes to get to the objectives which will inform you on how much time you can afford to take in getting tied up in melees.  If the answer is that the enemy can be on you in two turns, and you're not disposed to defending against it especially, you need to consider retreating in round one as a viable option.  Fortunately games do not have infinite length, and the extra round can seriously reduce the time a capable melee force has to operate against you.  The more you steal from the strength of an enemy, the more you increase your own chances.  In a recent tournament, I was faced with a Tyranid army full of Forge World horrors, one of which had an ENORMOUS flamer template centrally in his deployment.  I measured the distance, knew he could decimate my Chaos Raptors in round one, and retreated everything to either side.  As a melee only army pretty much, my Night Lords would have liked nothing better than to advance and we had initiative but the reality of the battle dictated that it would be walking into certain death.  Adding his movement plus the template size...  Cowardice is a perfectly legitimate answer to that kind of problem because it forces the enemy to make a decision as to which side he wants to go towards.  It also signals to him that he must advance if he wants to catch you, and once he has advanced beyond the point of no return, you can express your speed, close, and lock him up before he annihilates you in a phase you're outclassed in, which is what happened.

This brings up one of the most important tactical tenets you will ever hear for war games:  just because you can assault doesn't mean you should.   Just because you can shoot doesn't mean you should.

Ranges matter.  Measurements beforehand not only warn you of disaster, but they also make certain there's no...disagreements... later as to distances on charges.  I have found that sportsmanship is very much appreciated.  Sometimes the way to avoid arguments about your opponents turn is to preempt them in yours.  To win tournaments, you must be thinking actively about sportsmanship.   Announcing and getting agreement on the relative distances between two units on my turn (lets say 13") then informs both of us that his 6" move will leave him with a 7 inch charge (9" if through cover).  Reminding him of it later won't seem pedantic if you've already agreed.  You're going to need that information anyways, so it creates a good habit in you of anticipating his charges as well as giving you the info you need to decide on your final positioning.  All in all, sportsmanship might be the best outcome of all on that practice.

Drop Pods present another challenge on ranges.  Experienced Generals know that a drop army or ones that acts similarly can physically cut you off from objectives and so the threat from them is not just from their firepower (as they tend to be bristling with special weapons whenever you see "drop" type armies) but from their effective use as gates that slow you down.   In this case the distances from you to the objectives become VERY important as you must plan at least an extra turn to get to them because of the new "terrain" the drop armies create.  It also may call you to try and dominate the midfield very early on to force him to split his drop up more.

The other range to be aware of against drop armies is this:  6".  That is the distance you DO NOT want Meltaguns dropping in on your tanks.  So if you know this and can use a unit or terrain to cut off at least that much distance outward from the tanks, you will suffer significantly less.  This is referred to as bubble wrapping quite often and the wrapping doesn't necessarily need to stand up to the firepower as much as simply be a barrier against the probabilities of losing the tank to the Melta special rule.  Even in deployment you have to be thinking about ranges.

During the critical first turn, you also need to look at ranges for melta weapons if you use a tank heavy force.  A Dominion squad can be 36' up the board in turn one and meltas have a 12" range meaning that there is almost nowhere a Dominion squad can't reach turn one!  In a recent game i played against Grey Knights, my Adepta Sororitas caught his Dread Knights quite by surprise with this and losing them both was crushing blow to his chances.  The game was nigh over before it began. So the first turn requires your utmost focus on ranges and how far things can truly go and fire.  If you're sporting a pair of Land Raiders and you want to live to see turn two, may want to sacrifice some position to keep them safe initially.

In other phases I see people carelessly move their figures after a successful close combat or perhaps Eldar do it in their shooting phase using their Battle Focus, perhaps euphoric over their victory or their near miss with death as the case might be.  Whatever the reason, you should ALWAYS be checking the enemy ranges to your miniatures before you consolidate or move (as the rules specifically do not let you go back and fix it once you actually start moving a model).  Measure the threat range from the enemy to you, adding in their movement rate and decide if you can escape the worst of it or even if you want to.  If there is no way to escape the worst of it, there are a few things to do.

1,  Circular deployment.  By circling up as wide as you can, you mitigate a great deal of the enemy's ability to hurt you with blasts and templates as well as cutting off ground for their flyers.  Leave nothing in the middle of the group for him to target so that blasts only hit the outside of the ring of soldiers and not the center.  Given you cannot escape the enemy retribution, you can mitigate it significantly.  But you'll only know this by being aware of the enemy ranges and being very conscious of your consolidation moves.

2.  Remember to place the important figures in the back of the unit UNLESS you know they have deep strikers in which case you want to put a couple of bodies on the back side of the unit just to make sure the important models don't get skewered.

3.  Consider not making the move that would get you there in the first place.  While it is quite satisfying to see an Ork Horde Detachment fling its mighty Ardboy blobs at hapless Militarum Tempestus soldiers, completely secure in your victory, remember what I said:   Just because you can charge doesn't mean you should and whatever small gains you may get from seven dead Scions could be inconsequential in comparison to, say, walking into First Rank Fire! Second Rank Fire! range of a supporting blob squad!  Sometimes it is better to forgo the closer target and set your sights on assaulting the potentially offensive blob itself later.  For surely you can shoot the Scions and cut them below combat efficacy without the need for a potentially damaging shooting response, a phase orks suffer in!

That also brings up a very old conundrum in 40k:  Do I shoot at all, if it risks missing a charge?  With random charge distances and consolidations and so on, it is perfectly reasonable to ask yourself that question.  If your unit is a primarily melee oriented unit and you're confident in your ability, then weather the overwatch and don't risk missing the charge.  If you're a middling melee unit, you might need the help in lowering the enemy numbers.  My mind goes to the few times I have had to charge with my Tau Fire Warriors.  I have done this to get free movement before as well as to contest objectives and with Aun'Va making them stubborn, it's really not the risk it sounds like.  In those instances, I simply had to take my chances on missing the charge because I knew my strength lie in the Carbine not the cudgel.  Whereas my Chaos Raptors are quite likely to fire ONLY their meltas guns and not much else before a charge because missing the charge is not an outcome they can really afford.

Whether the range be in close combat or in the shooting phase, consolidation or with Battle Focus the goal is the same:  be elite by making sure you are cognizant at all times of the risk; and exhibit good sportsmanship by preempting the arguments ahead of time.

And now for some gamer humor, click this link!

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