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Tactics for New Players

 Post subject: Re: Tactics for New Players
PostPosted: Thu Oct 13, 2016 6:28 pm 
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How about Special Order tactics? Special Orders are one of those things in the game that looks very straightforward, but actually conceals quite a bit of tactical options. The three special orders in the game are March, Assault and Overwarch.

March: March is used to get somewhere quickly. Because the march column on the firepower table is so deadly, you want to avoid using this order in the vicinity of enemies. For this reason, it is best used early in the game (to grab forward objectives and begin the army morale benefit as early as possible) or late in the game (to fall back and recapture lost objectives), particularly if you have air superiority or good anti-air capabilities. Enemy air power, or long range artillery, will completely negate your ability to use the march order, as both of these can strike at your detachments anywhere on the table without requiring normal line of sight. For this reason, the march order is probably the least used order in the game, and you may only find yourself issuing it once or twice per battle, often to cover desperate situations and fill holes in your defensive line.

Assault: If march is the least used, then assault is perhaps the most used special order in the game. At least one faction, the Space Orks, benefit from special rules for the assault order, but every army will want to take advantage of the assault move frequently each battle. The benefit of assaulting is that you can move twice and still shoot, albeit at half firepower, with no penalty to your defenses. Some units, such as cavalry and jump pack troops are especially quick, moving 20cm in the standard movement phase and another 30cm into close combat during the assault phase. This is not, however, the only thing you can do with the assault movement. The infamous "coiled spring" technique is to move away from the enemy during the movement phase (so you are out of range during the shooting phase and beyond firefight range during close combat) and then "snap back" into close combat during the assault phase. This allows you to pick your battles and choose how the close combat will be set up (which will net you at least a +1 for higher assault scores, as you pick and choose which unit will fight which target). But you could also use the assault move to circle around an enemy (entrapping them in their inevitable retreat) or to move in an entirely different direction altogether. Although the rules say that you must move towards an enemy with your assault movement, you do not have to move towards the closest enemy, and thus flanking units can slowly approach a rearward unit (getting behind the true target) or you can pick an enemy on the other side of the table so your assaulting detachment can move off in a new direction.

While clever use of the assault order is key in many battles, the downside (halved firepower) is all too often overlooked. The assault order should by no means be your "default" order—you should only ever use it in three situations: when you need a little bit of extra speed, when you want to pull a surprise movement in an unexpected direction, or when you actually want to close assault the enemy. In any other situation, the lost firepower is often far too great a loss for using the assault order without a clear strategy in mind.

Overwatch: The overwatch is another order to which many players will "default," without having a clear strategy to take advantage of it. Overwatch slows your movement to a minuscule 5cm and gives you a reroll to all missed shooting dice for the turn. This is certainly quite powerful and is a good counter to the assault order, but it also has specific uses on the battlefield. For a detachment dug into terrain and defending an objective, this is a no-brainer—you weren't going to move anyway, and you need to slow down the enemies that are coming at you before they drive you off with an assault or firefight. Overwatch lets you split fire without worrying too much about the loss in firepower this usually entails. It also allows you to set special orders, like flak anti-air fire and preparatory bombardments by artillery.

That said, essentially losing an entire turn of movement can be devastating. Even with normal movement, it could take an infantry detachment the entire game to get halfway down the table. In this context, losing an entire turn can be a big deal. You are basically taking a detachment out of the battle for a turn in order to put some damage on nearby enemies, sacrificing the ground you would have taken if you had moved. Point for point, it is a much better use of your limited time to break an enemy in close combat and seize their territory, if you are able, than to put an extra few hits on an enemy detachment. If you doubt your ability to break an enemy in close combat this turn, then overwatch can be useful to soften them up for an assault on a later turn (or just slow down their advance, if you are defending).

There are a lot of tricks for using overwatch. For one, having a "spotter" unit on the flank will allow you to pick targets from the side instead of the front (where the enemy has set up expendable units). This is true for normal attacks and even more true for deadly overwatch fire. (This strategy may not make much sense in the real world, but I like to think of these units as spotters, directing your detachment's fire from deep behind enemy lines.) If you use this strategy, "spotters" should ALWAYS be in cover, since they also invite counter-fire on your detachment and you might as well force the player to choose the "in cover" column if he wants to use the spotter unit as the closest target.

On the defense, you could also include at least a few low-armour units in your detachment to force enemy overwatch to reroll fewer dice, since more dice "hit" the first time around (remember, even if there is only a single 3+ armour unit in a detachment of 6+ armour units, all dice rolls of 3-5 will count as "hits" for the purpose of denying overwatch rerolls). This is a particularly gamey tactic, but it has its uses. Personally, we do a "left column shift" on the firepower table for overwatch fire (instead of rerolls), to avoid these weird results! The math works out almost perfectly the same, in any case, but it doesn't reward cheesy tactics!

Normal Orders: The most humble, and often ignored option, is to issue regular orders. In fact, most players forget that this is even an option! In my view, normal orders (move once in the movement phase, shoot at full firepower in the shooting phase) should be your default choice. It is great for detachments with fast movement and lots of firepower (for example, Leman Russ or Falcon grav-tank detachments), that sacrifice neither with normal orders. It is also useful when you cannot decide what to do and neither want to lose movement (from overwatch) or firepower (from assault) this turn. Since special order tokens are given in the movement phase, you may not know if an enemy detachment will assault this turn—to avoid getting too close, you may want to use regular movement to control how quickly you approach the enemy. Normal orders should not be overlooked, as they give you a lot of control in a game with a lot of "fog of war" and hidden enemy intentions. While they are not the best for speed or for shooting, they are the best all around and allow for more conservative, careful strategies at critical moments in the game.


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 Post subject: Re: Tactics for New Players
PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2016 5:37 pm 
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How much of an exaggeration is the "most players" comment about normal orders? :)

How important to the rules do you think is the requirement to move towards the enemy on assault orders in the assault phase? Is it just because "you're assaulting, of course you'll move forward"? Or would it have been abusive to allow moving up in the movement phase to shoot at half strength, then moving away in the assault phase? I've wondered whether that would have added an interesting skirmishing element to the game, another way of representing something like a firefight, but less committed. Frustrating if you are slower troops, I imagine.

andy


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 Post subject: Re: Tactics for New Players
PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2016 9:45 pm 
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Excellent guide to orders well reasoned and written thanks for posting.

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 Post subject: Re: Tactics for New Players
PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2016 10:15 pm 
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andyskinner wrote:
How much of an exaggeration is the "most players" comment about normal orders? :)

How important to the rules do you think is the requirement to move towards the enemy on assault orders in the assault phase? Is it just because "you're assaulting, of course you'll move forward"? Or would it have been abusive to allow moving up in the movement phase to shoot at half strength, then moving away in the assault phase? I've wondered whether that would have added an interesting skirmishing element to the game, another way of representing something like a firefight, but less committed. Frustrating if you are slower troops, I imagine.

andy


From my familiarity with AC's game design style (and the "must" in the rules paragraph is almost certainly Andy Chambers and not Jervis), my guess is more the former. Andy's first instincts in design was to make the rules replicate plausible and logical results... Game balance was a distant secondary concern in the mid to late 90's GW studio. It probably seemed counter-intuitive that a detachment would "assault" away from the enemy (effectively using the assault move to do the very opposite... to retreat).

Nothing appears overtly abusive about ignoring that clause, however. You could even think of it as a spoiling attack... Close with the enemy, shoot them up and then fall back. It would definitely change the game slightly, however... The rules force armies to get ever closer each turn so that you can "get on with it" and get into a scrum. After all, it is close combat, not shooting, that decides most battles in Epic 40k. I just played a small battle this afternoon and the Orks had overwhelming numbers and firepower, but were sent packing by the Crimson Fist chapter because of a few assaults and firefights that went all topsy-turvy for the Greenskins. Close combat is the heart of the game, with nearly every pivotal moment decided through assaults and firefights. Shooting is important too, but mostly in preparing you for the final push. The assault move rules force you to deal with that eventuality.


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 Post subject: Re: Tactics for New Players
PostPosted: Sat Oct 15, 2016 1:33 pm 
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I may try to add the above (allowing to move away in assault) sometime. (You can already do it if there is enemy in the opposite direction.) Possibly tweak it by calling it a separate order. It might be fun to have to choose whether you plan to connect or not, but keep that hidden, so the other player doesn't know whether you're coming all the way in. (I'd have you mark detachment for Assault, and put a token face down saying what kind.) But this would be for the fun of trying it out, not because I think E40K is broken.

I've not been very crazy about assault, but that's just because of the guys waving swords. I know it means more than actually whacking folks. But if I have a problem with that, I may be playing in the wrong universe. :) I do think the above sounds like an Eldar thing to do.

andy


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 Post subject: Re: Tactics for New Players
PostPosted: Sat Oct 15, 2016 3:17 pm 
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In all seriousness, I really enjoy assaults in Epic 40k. It feels pretty tactical choosing how to arrange it, you get to play some cards, a lot of models go boom and then someone always runs away (changing the entire strategic situation on the board as they do).


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 Post subject: Re: Tactics for New Players
PostPosted: Fri Oct 21, 2016 1:46 am 
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Great list!

RE: detachments
I try to play with a max limit of 250 points (this makes parceling out detachments for Fog of War games much easier) per detachment but I've found that with Eldar and Space Marines it pays to super specialize with an assault detachment, a ranged detachment, etc.

Re: Infiltrators & Scouts
I'll add that they can also be used as a screen in front of your more valuable detachments to keep the enemy from being able to CC/Firefight the valuable detachment. Once the enemy moves forward, whether during movement or assault phases, and bogs down in front of your screen you can counterpunch with better units.

RE: Titans
A titan's ability to fire effectively is very vulnerable to blast markers so hose them down. Tyranid titans are almost impossible to keep alive in the face of deathrays. Take an ablative hierophant or two to shield your hierodule and follow up with Gargoyles. A hierophant has an ok chance up against even an Imperator so the trick is getting it across the board.


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