Wednesday, April 17, 2013
The Beta Strike - How To Instructions
This is a tactical article explaining how to execute a Beta Strike. First though I will discuss the Alpha Strike as it is commonly referred to in 40k - the Alpha Strike mostly consists of going first and shooting as much as possible at your opponent's army to quickly cripple them during the first turn of the game. It's just that simple too unfortunately or not.
Mitigating the Alpha Strike
The Alpha Strike sounds good in theory and commonly encourages the use of static gun line armies. There are some fairly mobile armies that can also Alpha Strike as well but typically most units shoot to their full effect if they do not move plus you are paying more points for that movement which can drastically cut down the amount of shooting you can generate the first turn.
Back in the days of the Ard Boys tournament the penultimate Alpha Strike army was an Imperial Guard build referred to as the Leaf Blower created by Nick Rose (aka Darkwynn) from Bells of the Lost Souls. Nick went first each and every game (nine total games - three each in the first round, semi-finals and lastly the finals at the Chicago Battle Bunker) tabling just about everyone and handily winning the title that year. Each turn consisted mostly of the IG player rolling lots and lots of dice to shoot one enemy unit (i.e., Torrent of Fire) after another while the opponent simply rolled dice in turn for any possible saves they had available plus removing lots and lots of their own models from the table. Very boring but it was also very effective obviously. If you the opponent opted to hold any units in reserve IG could use a character in their command squad for -1 to your reserve rolls while the rest of your army bore the full brunt of the enemy IG shooting plus Sly Marbo popping up chucking a demo charge on your best unit to p0wn them all as early as turn two. This was back when IG was at its most potent strength and they had access to an allied Inquisitor from the previous Daemon Hunters codex that had an ability similar to Coteaz's special rule We've Been Expecting You... Seriously broken at the time!
Now though a shrewd opponent can utilize many tactics to neutralize an Alpha Strike. Note that if you find yourself typically playing on tables that have little terrain or its all placed along the table edges you're doing something wrong. GW encourages an ample amount of terrain and it should be placed all around the table.
Some means to negate an Alpha Strike are holding your key units in reserve and placing your other units behind LOS blocking terrain. Of course there might still be some barrage weapons across the table so you'll need a way to quickly nix them.
There are all kinds of crazy cover saves available now such as the Telepathy psychic power Invisibility which grants both Stealth and Shrouded to the friendly target unit (i.e., Blessing). You can also Go to Ground (GtG) in area terrain for a 2+ cover save... Combine that with a jink if possible and you've got a 2+ or 3+ cover save depending on the type of terrain. You can also GtG behind an Aegis Defense Line for a 2+ cover save... IG can issue an order to their units gone to ground to get back into the fight. It's kind of crazy now - maybe even the case of too much of a good thing.
You might be asking why is mobility useful versus an Alpha Strike and it is a good question. Remember that most often there is at best a fifty percent chance your opponent will go first. Of course there are some characters like Vect and Immotekh that can seize the initiative on a 4+ but that's only two races. Going first versus an Alpha Strike army is often very useful so you can either/or jink units, cast the right blessings and move them into better positions for cover saves. Alpha Strike armies typically don't have much in the way of melee dedicated units so you want to move forward as well to close the gap across Dead Man's Land to later launch your assaults.
I see players often make the same mistake time after time when placing objectives versus an Alpha Strike army. You should place them in the mid zone (i.e., ead Man's Land). As noted in the previous section Alpha Strike armies are often weak in the assault phase which also tends to make them not so good at taking and holding objectives. Forcing your opponent to move some of their units forward to grab objectives plays against their main strength and can also net you some easy kill points as well.
On the other hand placing objectives deep in your own deployment zone plays right to the strength of an Alpha Strike army. You must dedicate some units to hold them which in turn weakens your opportunities to control the mid zone of the table. I know a lot of players will say you should place at least one objective marker in your own deployment zone behind LoS blocking terrain and camp a cheap scoring unit on it. This strategy seems sound but based upon my experience in the current edition and meta it's almost always better to place objective markers forward... Not so close such that your opponent can reach them the first turn but far enough away from their deployment zone so that they'll need two turns to reach them. It can take a few games to master so practice, practice practice... You'll eventually get it down pat. Use the terrain in the mid zone instead of terrain in your own deployment zone. Even if it is working for you just fine so far I recommend you give a go and see what happens... You might just end up liking it.
The worst thing you can do is place markers in your opponent's deployment zone. Sometimes the mission rules will force you to do so - if this is the case then simply place them along the outer boundary and a good distance from the side table edges. You want the bulk of your army to be able to reach them without splitting up your army.
Of course the overall placement of terrain has a big impact on the optimal locations for objective markers but just as I said above if there's not much on the table you're fundamentally doing something wrong.
So now finally we come to the main point of this article! Let us first define what is a Beta Strike. A Beta Strike is similar to the Alpha Strike - the main difference being you will start with most of your shooting no sooner than the second turn. If properly executed you'll bare the brunt of your total shooting starting on the beginning of your third turn. This might seem counter intuitive at the first glance... I simply ask you to bare with me a bit longer. Beta Strike armies as opposed to Alpha Strike armies should be highly mobile and as such are designed to scoot and shoot. 24" is the optimal range for most of your guns in this type of army and many infantry units are limited to this as their maximum range plus 6" give or take a few inches for their movement. Heavy weapons still have a place since you can either snap fire them or hold those models still while the rest of its unit surges forward.
So you can see immediately this style of army is diametrically opposed to the the Alpha Strike. You place objectives in the mid zone of the table and then move forward towards them to control, shoot and possibly later launch assaults. Reserves can work well with this type of army - more especially so if you have any units that can Outflank. You are boxing in your opponent and quickly controlling objectives, forcing your opponent to move their own units towards you while blasting away all the while with your mighty plethora of mid ranged guns.
This is inherently an aggressive style of play and not for the many squeamish players who want to keep the enemy at arm's length. Remember the closer you move towards the enemy the more you can shoot so this directly works in favor of units with assault and rapid fire weapons.
Obviously it requires more patience to play a Beta Strike army since often you won't be able to shoot the bulk of your guns the first or even possibly the second turn. It is okay though... Trust me. Heh ! Of course your opponent has the potential to outshoot you the first two turns so go back and reread what I said about how to mitigate the Alpha Strike... It most certainly applies to other shooty armies as well.
If you read some of my batreps that will provide in-game examples how a Beta Strike army optimally performs.
A Sample Army
My current tournament army is the combination of Necrons (primary detachment) along with some Grey Knights (allied detachment). You can find the exact list here on this blog if you're really interested. Recently I switched out a full Purifier squad for five Paladins... The two psycannons can always fire four shots each at full ballistic skill unless of course their firing on Overwatch. Those four extra S7 rending shots can and does make a huge difference.
First I defined what is an Alpha Strike army and how to mitigate it. I then defined what is a Beta Strike army. They both shoot a lot (optimally) but the latter type of army first moves into a solid position to control the mid zone then later starts to shoot as much as possible. You might lose a unit or two on the way in but as the game proceeds you should be able to proverbially turn the table and end up outshooting your opponent over the remaining course of a game. You'll need the right army build to pull it off so it will probably require some practice on your part. Don't be afraid to try new things - both the game and meta have changed a lot since the advent of sixth edition... You can do it in time if you're willing to spend some time practicing.