Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Where To Fight.

“Sometimes you can beat the odds... With a careful choice of where to fight.”

- Dwight McCarthy, The Big Fat Kill (Sin City)

With all the never-ending thoughts and internet chatter on the army list-building metagame, and various discussions on undercosting/overcosting new units in recent ‘dex releases, I thought I’d try and build and post an article here on the 512th regarding the importance of knowing the battlefield, knowing the strategic value of terrain, and how to use this to one’s tactical advantage.


I refer you to the graphically modelled map of the game I will play (hopefully) tonight earlier. Refer also back to said post for photograph, list, etc.

(Leman russ model added for scale reference & northpoint for orientation)

D had set up the landscape with a ‘grass / plain sortie’ type of engagement in mind, realising full well I’ll be trying out a mech-ed out list, and that my opponent, L, will either be using a mixed/spam list of vulkan hestan/drop pods/bikes/jump troops/rhinos/landraiders, and/or whatever he can fit into a 2000pt list.

There are woodlands granting 5+ cover saves and counting as difficult terrain. A river (5+ cover save, difficult terrain), impassable terrain (2 large tree-balls), stacks of hills (that give an elevated position but no cover save), and 2 ‘buildings’ (inaccessible, but giving a 4+ cover save, not difficult terrain).

The type of mission, deployment, and who goes first will be decided when we start playing, so that’s all up in the air. All I can do here is mumble on theoretically how I would deploy, using the terrain to my advantage, and get further into the nitty-gritty depending on what mission, who gets first turn, etc. Hopefully, by giving you an insight into my reasonings in doing so, I hope that an open-discussion critique can shed better light, or ‘learn me some lessons’, on the art of ‘choosing carefully where to fight’.


Classic set-up. Top third (roughly) vs. Bottom third, with a 12” gap from the middle of the table. Here’s how I see the battlefield starting from ‘above’.


If I were to deploy in the northern sector (lets call it that) I have a good spread of 'hills' in the corners & the middle, some impassables, a choke point (bridge), river, and a building. Ideal?

The building would give me a good location to place my rats, preferring to stick them close to a PBS rather than infiltrate them out to give away a kill point. I’m still keen to test out this possible pinning synergy (as discussed in a post by Sandwyrm on his blog), so we’ll see if this will reap me rewards, or I’ll be punished adversely so for not taking a more competitive combo (e.g. another squad of troops).

I note I can always deploy the rats making use of their infiltrate ability to create an infiltration denial zone in the event of marine scouts, but since i’m using a mech-ed up list, I’ve not much to fear myself from sniper rifles and to me, this is a non-issue.

Trees and hill give some amount of cover to obscure my chimeltas, relying instead of the enemy to approach me aggressively and get bogged down manoeuvring through the difficult terrain (also making it harder for drop pods/jump troops to approach).

Sticking chimeltas right next to, or in a river, gives me an immense advantage due to the amphibious rule (all water features count as normal terrain. Vroom vroom). That is something players tend to forget, and I will make it my duty to remind L of this rule just so he knows and can't cry foul later. I can just run my chimeltas up and down the river no bother, and place them in such a way that forces the enemy to take difficult, or dangerous, terrain tests, in the event of an assault. Bargain!

Of course, my Russes are still subject to the tests as they go up and down the rivers, so the choke points then become a strength or a weakness. Should I park a Russ on the bridge, in the hopes that if it does get wrecked or blown up, it makes the choke point a greater disadvantage to the enemy (or even myself?). Time will tell.

I have also squadded up my Executioners to lay on the 6no. blast template pain on heavy infantry. The 36” threat range should prove an effective deterrant, and force the enemy to rely on a rhino rush instead, right into my chimeltas/PBS Soulstorm/leman russes.

Finally, I’ve separated my 2 leman russes, relying on their long reach to battle cannon the enemy to death. I have noted that however I position them, there exists a few blind spots in the southern sector where the enemy can hide from my battle cannons .

All in all though, the north sector seems a good choice, given that I also intend to outflank with Harker to funnel my opponent into the centre, plus the same reasonings apply even if I reserve my army in the event of a drop pod assault.


Some hills to give an elevated position gives me a great ‘commanding overview’ of the battlefield if I were to position my russes at each corner. With tiny blind spots in the northern sector deployment zone, should I choose to play a long-range shooty game, this would seem worth it.

I would note that the southeast corner suffers from a more restrained position, and is less flexible in the event of a fast, shock assault. With less places to run, perhaps the SE is more of a liability than a strength. Also, the proximity of a large hill near a bridge can be dangerous re: jump troops assaulting, and the lack of a spread of soft/hard cover means I’m inclined to look at this southern sector less favourably.

The one thing going for it though is ‘blind spots in my own zone’. Behind the impassable ball, and the hill I could conceivably park my chimeltas/executioners in such a way to avoid getting shot by devastators and other long range badness, rushing them out in the last minute as the enemy approaches.

I will note though, that my Marine opponent tends to rely less on a shooty game, knowing full well he’ll be outgunned, thus I’m more inclined to expect a greater emphasis on assault, and so a sector with clearer terrain, but more blind spots, I think, is less effective for the list I’m playing. Also, the threat posed (both statistically real, and psychologically evident) by my Master of Ordnance and Marbo, means I won’t have to worry about my opponent hiding away as he’ll want to keep them moving towards me anyway.

The way I see it, irrespective of mission (KP, and/or objectives), I want my chimeltas to be able to engage the opponent in short range using the cover to my advantage, not hang around hoping to get shot, and when rushed out at the last, they fall to pieces. Also, should my mech armour fall to pieces I want to be able to move my men into cover (as Guard die by the droves in the open due to AP4, 5, etc) and force my opponent to take difficult terrain tests to counter-act the fast assaults.

I way I see it, the Northern Sector seems like the stronger option. Though this is obviously all hypothetical as my opponent may end up going first, or I deploy in a way and then the enemy takes the initiative, with regard to my thoughts above re: terrain, would you agree? Or disagree? And why?


Corners V Corners, with a 12" radius gap from the centre. For expediency’s sake I’ll describe my thoughts as such:


With my forces superimposed on the map above, and with much of the considerations described already re: cover saves, rivers, blind spots, etc, the NW quarter has the advantage of being in an immense blind spot (due to the hill in the SE quarter), and should anything be going up the hill, it’ll get shot to pieces by everything I’ve got. Also, again with Marbo and the MoO I’ll be forcing the enemy out of the shadow of the hill into the reach of my battlecannons, and the proliferation of soft cover is good news for my forces. However, there is the lack of water features that give my chimeltas an advantage. A cheeky trick is traded away for greater flexibility for all my vehicles. Seems a good trade.

In the SE, putting all my forces in the blind spot will serve me well to not get shot, but I would think is a poorer location for my ordnance. I would have to end up doing my best maximising the river cover for my chimeltas, and pushing my russes to the extremities of the deployment zone to make use of slightly less favourable firing zones. But as it’s also quite clear with nowhere for troops to run into in terms of sort cover,, I will not willingly choose to deploy in this quarter. If my opponent gets the first turn in this mission setup, and is canny enough to realise that forcing my list to castle up in unfavourable conditions, I will certainly be fighting an uphill battle.

I would think forcing my opponent to setup in this quarter, pie-plating him with battlecannons as he peeks round and up the hill, and dropping MoO barrages as his vehicles are bunched up, would be better for me.


This seems more evenly matched now. SW has a spread of soft cover, a building, some impassable terrain, and a location to hide in. Conversely the NE also has choke points, long stretches of rivers, and a building closer to the edge to boot.

I’m sort of torn between the SW/NE setup, both seem fine to me and what I believe a ‘balanced’ fight will take place if this setup ensues. What I can see though, is the NE suffers somewhat from the hill being in the way to block LOS into the SE quarter, where fast moving assault troops can stick to the shadow of the hill to get closer and closer to my forces. A lot of my ‘fears’ regarding the SE quarter, having less cover spread and less room to move about generally, apply here.

Now that I think about it, it’s the shadow cast by the hill that bothers me. While I’d love to use the cheeky ‘park a chimeltas in or by the river’ trick, I think my list emphasises mobility and survivability in such a way that having more space to move around and room to breathe is preferable. To me, SW seems preferable.

When it comes to Spearhead/Table Quarters though, if I had the choice I’d take the NW corner, forcing the enemy to take the less-favourable SE corner. Agree/Disagree?


Table halves, 1 HQ 2 troops, and an 18” no-deployment zone. This one’s a tough call, as the rest of the forces arrive in drips and drabs making long term strategic planning harder to achieve, as the dice gods decides our fates. This is harder to discuss, as the game is now very much a reactive game. I deploy, therefore limiting your options. You deploy in reaction. My guys in reserve arrive or not to react to your reaction, etc. It’s a chain of events that’s harder to theoryhammer, but I’ll do my best.

Using the same considerations as for Pitched Battle above, the Northern Quarter seems to have the better set-up and if I were to deploy first, I’ve found recently that aggressive deployment (put it in the middle as much as possible), to create an 18” no-go-zone can really impede the options of the other player, so this I will do, also taking advantage of the Chimelta’s amphibious rule where possible (illustrated as above)

One thing that also helps is my Astropath, adding +1 to my reserves roll (and helping Harker in his outflank). So I hope my leman russes and executioner cavalry will arrive quickly to attack the enemy’s piecemeal forces.

In the event this tactic is turned against me (me going 2nd), again I’ll rely on my better reserves rolls to pull me through, deploying my forces in a far-out manner as possible to remain unmolested to prove a credible threat against the enemy.

With Dawn of War, only time will tell!


So there you have it. A long winded article (please excuse my rants and ramblings) with some pretty pictures.

I fully realise that all the above is moot, as dice rolls can go awry, luck plays a big part of the game, the missions may and can vary, and sometimes the best laid plans go afoot. Also, I know some people regard 40K as being ‘tactically childish’, so I’m looking to see if serious, well-considered observations on the ‘lay and the lie of the land’ can really have an impact in one’s game. This I believe to be true, do you?

Do cover saves really matter? Do blind spots, firing lines and impassable terrain have that great an impact on your game? Can deployment itself, win or lose a game?

Feel free to comment, agree/disagree, or provide stories/anecdotes regarding how one’s deployment won/lost you a game.

I’ll certainly take any advice on board, and hopefully with the luck of the dice gods and the knowledge gleamed above, I’ll prove victorious soon! Batrep to follow soon, thanks for reading.


  1. Great article.
    I have long been a believer that you can win or lose a game during the deployment phase of a game. I really believe that you need to pay attention to the terrain when setting up your initial deployment. If you are a moving army then you need to make sure your deployment gives you the cleanest avenues of approach. If you are gun line army, you need to make that your deployment gives you clear lines of fire.
    Once again, good article.

  2. Thanks for the feedback Magilla! :)

    I had decided re: the above article to use a real scenario of a game that's just about to take place in a few hours, thereby putting my thoughts and ideas above to the test. Fingers crossed the insights above I'll get to use to my advantage later.

    I had actually lost one game (800 pts IG Vs Guard) in which my castling deployment around an objective actually cost me the game! I put a basilisk too close to an objective and the rest of my forces, and was promptly eaten up by a force of assaulting Chaos terminators that both contested my only objective and chewed up all my forces.

    I learnt there that I should have deployed more carefully, positioning my heavy guns out of the way of the action, and not make the game easier for my opponent!

    In the future, I'll write an article re: deployment, terrain, and how they influence a mission.

  3. "if I had the choice I’d take the NW corner, forcing the enemy to take the less-favourable SE corner."

    Definately something to think about. I know I've taken a less advantageous postion at times as it made my enemy's even worse by comparison.
    Sometimes you have to take a little pain to dish out the real hurting.

  4. That is a great read, I like Magilla think that games can be won and lost during deployment.

    This is another reason that I support using the proper amount of terrain when playing 40k.