I've seen a lot of people say that you don't see any good tactics posted on the Internet. Supposedly list building trumps tactics and strategy. I have always tended to stick to the following tactics I’ll cover here and break it down into the three essential phases:
Before I get started on the main topic I’ll make a quick reference to the role of deployment and how it has changed quite a bit with the advent of 5th edition. There was a time when you could setup a serious gun line and blast away. Back then a game could well be decided by whoever got to go first. To me these were the most boring games and could be tough to win. I rarely ever play gun line but I have, mostly with Dark Angels or vanilla SM prior to the release of their new rules and 5th edition. Now the ability to hold your entire army in reserve really can befuddle any opponent running a gun line army. Cover saves have also hurt gun lines. I am all for the new rules and think the more dynamic 5th edition has been a great change for the game.
Deployment is still very important and I think it's still the most important part of the game. Look at this way, a bad deployment can kill you before the first dice is rolled. I believe an army should always be deployed such that your units can support each to the hilt. Tyranids have always been about sending in several waves... Tyranid players that can't grasp this important concept rarely if ever win versus a good player that recognizes the Nid army was hastily deployed. Nidz are pretty much designed to be played in waves with synapse. One big change is how does the Nid player go about using their troops. I see a lot of outflanking genestealers, it sounds like a good idea but it is random in that your bugs might come in on the wrong side or your opponent simply castles in the center position of their deployment zone.
I should also mention anti-deployment as well. What is anti deployment? Anti deployment is starting with units in reserve. It used to be that each player would take turns deploying one unit at a time. Now one player first deploys their army then the other player deploys theirs. I have noticed a lot of players don't use the ability to hold units in reserve and I think they are missing out on a great tactic. I sometimes like to hold my best assault units in reserve and then bring them in. For the spearhead deployment your reserves can come in across the entire long table edge, not just your table quarter. This prevents the opponent from shooting them. This is a fantastic tactic for orks... Basically you take a strong unit such as Nobz with a warboss and put them in a trukk or battlewagon, don't forget the red paintjob. The turn they come in the transport moves 13" then the squad disembarks another 2". The warboss then calls down the Waaagh for a d6" fleet move and then they can charge up to 6 more inches. 13" + 2" + d6" + 6" = 21" + d6", or all the way up to 27" total. If it were me I'd always run Ghaz for this style army, you can't beat the guaranteed 6" fleet. Suddenly enemy units over halfway across the table are getting pounded by a huge power klaw. I think of this as an advanced anti-deployment tactic since I don't see many ork players using it. If the mission is objective based then place one of your objectives to lure in the opponent.
Using anti deployment has been with us a long time... Wolf Scouts, webway portals, terminators, drop pods and the monolith all come to mind. I personally think that drop pods were played out a long time ago but for some it's a brand new way of playing SM. I even used the old rules for drop podding prior to the release of the 4th edition SM codex... You had to go all drop pod though and there have always been some restrictions on what you can place in a drop pod. It was a great way to quickly close with the old static armies such as Iron Warriors. I have always been a big proponent of anti deployment and it only makes sense that I play daemons now as just like an old drop pod army everything starts in reserve. Deployment is meaningless to a daemon army and this is one of their biggest advantages.
Personally I think the movement phase is the most important. All of the best players I have faced excel in this phase of the game. In 4th edition most transports were death traps so armies such as the 13th Company and Necrons had a big advantage since they could move long distances quickly without using transports. Both the Necron Lord with Veil of Darkness and the Rune Priest with Gate could teleport/deep strike anywhere on the table carrying a powerful unit along with them. Blood Angels was another army that could cover a lot of ground quickly due to strong jump infantry units such as Death Company and Honor Guard... Death Company at one time could choose to rage as well for an additional d6 movement. I felt that Blood Angels was one of the fastest armies around which is one of the reasons why it was such a powerhouse at the time.
The beauty of mech is twofold now in 5th, transports are resilient providing protection for your infantry plus you can cover up to twice as much ground as a foot slogging unit not accounting for running. Mech has hurt armies like Nidz due to the resilience of mech. Landraiders are a true terror again. Everything seems to follow cycles.
It's hard for me to lay down simple tactics for the movement phase. There are a lot of variables. The role of a transport changes quite a bit depending on which army you play... tactical squads typically will sit in their rhinos and pillbox. Wyches in raiders want to move in and assault as soon as possible, same thing with boyz in trukkz and battlewagons. The monolith is probably the strangest transport in the game. I'm not a big fan of drop pods (except for dreadnaughts) and for the most part I think they have been played out.
In terms of wargear I do think that dozer blades should be must have for transports... Dozer blades are typically very cheap as compared to extra armor. I only take extra armor for dreadnaughts and landraiders. The chances of immobilizing with dozer blades is 1 in 36 (6*6).
If I am up against an army that is better in assault then I will typically target their faster units first in attempt to take them out before they reach my line. Next I will shoot the slower units that can unleash hell once they get stuck... If they are in a transport then you've got to at least take out their ride and make them foot slog. Also I always favor high odds that have the best chance of paying off as opposed to high risks that require a lot of luck.
I believe in the concept of Focused Fire. Once you have selected a target keep shooting it until it's dead. Too many times I've seen people spread their shooting around. This let's remnant units win games. How many times have I seen a couple of genestealers pop five terminators? Believe me when I say it happens... Or when a single Marine runs on top of an objective. I remember once watching a gladiator match at Adepticon. My friend was running L&tD... He charged a Blood Angels Sanguinary High Priest joined with a squad of assault Marines. The Blood Angels assault squad was destroyed and the priest broke but did not fall back far enough to be able to regroup. My friend decided the next turn to ignore the Priest and assaulted another unit getting stuck in. The Sanguinary High Priest then regrouped and lead three small las/plas squads into a counter charge... Preferred Enemy + furious charge... They destroyed a large block of mutants which won the game for the BA player. Now if my friend had charged the priest again it would have gone the other way for sure. So you have to remain focused at all times, especially when you are winning a close game.
I see shooting as broken up into three phases:
- long range
- mid range
- short range
Against assault armies you are waiting for them to move inside your midrange arc... The short ranged units move up and suddenly you can blast them with everything. It's good to have a balance between the three ranges. You don't want too much of any one type.
Assaults win games and this is most especially where you want to focus on high odds. If I have an independent character (IC) joined to a unit I'll put all of his attacks on the enemy unit and ignore the enemy IC... generally your IC will hit first, hit on 3+, ignore armor and has a lot of attacks. Kill the enemy squad and their IC will break and possibly you can overrun it too. If you focus on the enemy IC it's harder to hit and typically has a better save so you are wasting attacks that could have killed more. You also want to charge multiple units so you can tie them up. Coordinating your charges is very important.
How often do I see people say one army can beat another solely based upon the two lists? It just does not work that way. If you focus on objectives rather than trying to table your opponents you'll be in a much better position to win late in the game. By playing smart you can neutralize your opponent's best units and force them to not use them as best intended. Killpoints are all about tabling but when it comes to controlling objectives that is a completely different ball of wax.
Okay we all know the game is three phases per player turn - move, shoot and assault. A good friend of mine once said that if you can dominate any two phases you should win. I think this is true. 5th edition has made the game much more dynamic. I've covered shooting in good detail already and provided some thoughts on assaults. If you read my blog (greenblowfly.blogspot.com) some of my articless on Blood Angels tactics I wrote discuss linking assaults. Linking your assaults is very powerful for close combat oriented armies and I had a lot of success with this tactic versus horde style armies such as both Nidz and Orks. Linking assaults helps small powerful elite armies to beat hordes. If you stop to think about it horde armies typically have the following characteristics:
- Many cheap units (gaunts, slugga boyz etc.)
- A few uber units - Nidz have their monsterous creatures and orks have their warbosses and Nobz
- Ability to make the many cheap units fearless
Those large swarms look intimidating and they make for effective screens to protect the uber units. However with the new assault rules it's easy to make horde armies inherent advantages work against themselves. The trick is to multi charge and link your assaults. Horde armies are not going to sit back, they are going to come right at you. Both orks and Nidz have some problems dealing with mech lists, lootaz being a notable exception to lightly armored transports. Linking assaults means that you will let the hordes approach, charge your mech wall and then you counter assault. You hit them with everything and make sure that all combats are linked together by charging each of your units into multiple enemy units. Stuff like power fists should preferably target the big stuff. You have the upper hand since you charged the horde, you score a lot more wounds then each and every enemy unit must take all those additional armor saves since you won combat. Being fearless coupled with terrible armor saves is not a good thing. The cheap units die in droves and even the uber units get torn up. When it's all over and done with your small but powerful elite army suddenly has numerical superiority. This tactic can work against any foot slogging army if your opponent keeps his units close together. I've used this tactic to table many armies.
So to me that is what close combat is all about. One super turn of assault that cripples the enemy. It can be done and works best versus hordes.