Friday, October 14, 2016

Roadblocks: Playing Against Fast Armies

Roadblocks: Playing Against Fast Armies

I get a lot of comments asking me how to play against fast armies. Rather than answer them one by one I decided to write a tactics discussion about it.

First, let’s define “fast” units. For the purpose of this discussion, “fast” units are anything that can consistently move at least 12” without sacrificing firepower, and at least 24” if it does. That would mean bikes, jetbikes, and fast vehicles all fall under this category. This specifically precludes units with inconsistent movement or one-use abilities like jetpack infantry or the dreadknight, as well as deepstriking units. Cavalry will be our one grey area, because while they technically don’t meet those parameters, with fleet they can shoot up the board quickly and are usually melee units, so I may occasionally mention cavalry units, but for the most part they will be left out.

I’m going to split this discussion into three parts, general advice, advice for fast armies vs. fast armies, and advice for static armies vs. fast armies.

As far as general advice goes, there’s two rules for playing against fast armies. First, always watch their ranges. Fast units have threat ranges with their guns or potential charge ranges that you can measure out (or use the average of, for random things like charge range). This seems like basic advice but very often I see people deploy where my black knights can hit them turn 1, then complain about my army being “too fast”. You may need to throw some other units in the way to prevent things like charges, but you should constantly be paying attention to their range. The second rule is to try to limit their movement options. If you’re able to surround a fast unit, you can either block off its movement completely or force it to give up shooting/charging to get away from you. You can also bait them out, especially when they need to score objectives every turn like in maelstrom. This sounds easier said than done but I’ll explain it more in the sections below.

Playing against a fast army as a fast army is usually incredibly challenging, and some of the most fun games of 40k I’ve ever had. The hardest part of this is constantly thinking one to two turns ahead. Depending on where you move, you need to guess where he will, and what units need to be there so you can get into threat range before he’s even moved there. Fast armies are typically capable of completely avoiding each other if they want, so the army that is able to force their opponent’s hand usually gains the advantage. This is also a time where going second can be a boon. Getting a minimum of one turn of your opponent having to expose himself to score objectives is incredibly powerful in this kind of matchup.

Mostly, pay attention to each army’s strengths. All fast armies are not alike, and when you're both fast, you need to take advantage of your other strong points. As an example, in a matchup of black knights vs. scatterbikes, the eldar have vastly higher range and are a bit faster, while the black knights are more survivable and will pulp the eldar at close range/melee. So the game becomes the black knights trying to corner the scatterbikes or bait them out, while the eldar try to pick off the black knights from afar. Additionally, there are few armies that are ALL fast units. Try to pick off the stragglers like backline objective holders or ranged units like the warp hunter that’s in almost every eldar list. At worst you’ll force those units to run away, and at best you might draw out some of his faster units to try to protect it.

As a player with a slow army, you need to consolidate your strength. Understand that unprotected or isolated units are going to get picked off quickly, and that there is no way you are going to spread out and catch your opponent. Instead, focus on one side of the board or a couple of objectives. Use screening units to protect your important things, especially long ranged units that can hit most of the board. Deploy redundant units if your opponent has a shorter-ranged fast army, so if he moves up to kill a unit there is a second or third unit nearby to threaten him. The biggest mistake I see in these kind of matchups is opponents being too scared to lose units so they split up their force and get picked apart. Hold your ground and pick your battles, you aren’t going to kill all of your opponent’s units and you probably won't hold every objective, but you can force him into compromised positions once in awhile and take enough ground to beat him at the end.

As always, feel free to ask questions and clarifications here or in the reddit comments. Also, as I mentioned early, there will now be ads on the site! The money from the blog goes right back into the hobby, so please switch off any ad-block software you have while on the blog, and let me know if the ads are intrusive or distracting.

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