Wednesday, 18 January 2017

40k Starter Tournament Tactica - Part One

At the end of February, I'm running a small tournament for 40k. It's aimed at the lads in Antics who are just getting into/getting back into the game. I've kept the mission simple, as it's more about getting some games in as a group than learning complicated strategy. It being run as a tournament is simply to give it some easy structure.

A few of the players have been asking for tips on building their lists,which highlights something I feel is a weakness of mine. I have trouble articulating my advice to people, as i often feel like I'm playing on instinct and learnt habits rather than thinking through what I'm doing while gaming. So hopefully this Tactica can be a wealth of good tips while highlighting anywhere I may be going wrong.

So obviously, if you are playing a game of 40k, you should be trying to win. There are 2 places that matter for achieving this aim; Building the List and Playing the Game. You need to build the correct list and play the game in the right way. To do this you must Know the Mission, otherwise you could end up building a list that cannot complete the victory conditions. These 3 things are the key to doing well at this, or any game of 40k.

To give the best example, I'm going to illustrate the points by building an Imperial Guard force alongside the article. Those points will be denoted by this font colour, and be focused on the Combined Arms Detachment.

I'll also be looking at a Formation based build in this font colour.

And finally, a first glance build, featuring stuff from the Fall of Cadia book.  As the stuff in there is brand new, I wouldn't consider this a serious build. but sometimes you just want to have fun with new models.

Know the Mission

"It will be 3 rounds, all playing The Relic mission (page 147 in the main rulebook). Essentially your army will be fighting over possession of an artifact of strategic significance. Everything will be done as per the rules in the Rulebook, alongside Workshop's own FAQs.

Army building is simple. 1000 points. The only restrictions are no Flyers/Flying Monstrous Creatures, no Lords of War. and your army must be Bound. This should allow everyone time to get an army together. Formations and Detachments are fine, as long as they don't breech the above restrictions.

So, this will be a small force, with some restrictions, fighting one of the missions from the main rulebook (BRB) from 40k 7th Edition. All the rounds will be the same mission, so we don't have to worry about building a force that is able to handle multiple missions. 3 rounds and an expected wide variety of armies means we do have to consider various different opposing units and strategies.

The Restrictions mean that, while we won't have access to Flying units and Lords of War, our opponents won't either so we won't have to consider dedicating any of our points to Anti-Air defence or taking down Super-Heavies. 

The final note on list building is that Formations and Detachments are allowed. There are a wealth of these available now, so comprehensive knowledge of what we could face is improbable. Especially for the players the event is aimed at, many of which are only just starting their journey with this edition of 40k. Also, some Formations, and many Detachments are simply too expensive for the 1000 points point limit. This can narrow our focus somewhat. 

 The mission is The Relic. So, what does that mean?
"Eternal War: The Relic pg147
Random zones, Standard deployment, 1 objective marker in the centre of table
Primary: Objective marker is worth 3VP at end of game
Secondary: Slay the Warlord, First Blood, Linebreaker
Special Rules: night Fighting, Reserves
The Relic: the objective marker is the Relic. It can be seized, moved and dropped

Capture the flag/relic and keep it moving out of enemy hands"

So after you get to the table, dice off to choose deployment zone, with the standard 24" gap between the forces. Therefore we have a 24" deep and 48" wide zone to set up in (as the tables will be 4'x4'). This gives plenty of scope to set up different armies in different ways.

The objectives give us a total of 6 victory points to play for. Only 1 player can hold the Relic at the end of the game, and only 1 can score First Blood. However the other two can be scored by both players, and can make a decent shot at catching you up should you be struggling to capture the Relic. Bear in mind though that the Relic is worth the bulk of the points so it is the best route to Victory. It seems unlikely that you can fail to have the Relic, but score all 3 Secondaries while stopping your opponent from doing the same. Even if you were able to manage this feat, that would still force a draw. Your best bet is to attempt to score the Relic, and see the Secondaries as a decent source of Victory Points for Tiebreakers as the event goes on.

As a side note; Tabling the Opponent. Obviously this is a route to victory. If your opponent has no models left, you automatically win. Some bloodthirsty players will see this as their primary route to victory. However, it has it's own risks. Some opposing armies will be easier to kill than others. Some models will be near impossible to kill if your opponent takes out the weapons in your army that can hurt them. And the games have a variable turn length, so if the game ends while they have at least one model left, you have failed to table them.
This is worth pointing out as armies that are attempting to wipe out the opponent often fail to actually achieve the mission goals. Some players are fine with this and enjoy that style of play. If this is you, then fair enough. It doesn't fit my style as it's a little too High Risk/High Reward for my liking.

The Relic can only be picked up by Non-Vehicle models and cannot be moved more than 6" in any phase. If the model is killed, falls back or is forced to move more than 6", then the Relic is automatically dropped. 
So, we don't want too many vehicles in the army, as they can't carry the Relic. We also don't want too much in the way of fast moving stuff. We want to be able to get to the Relic quickly, but can't retreat quickly with it. If a fast moving unit has control of it, they can't use their speed which means they are probably being wasted when they could either be running interference or going for Line Breaker.

So, what does that mean for our 3 proposed forces?

The Combined Arms Detachment will need to be mobile, needs to be resilient and needs to be able to kill a wide range of stuff. That's a lot to ask for from 1000 points. Our best option is to do what we can, sacrifice where we need to and see what we come up with.

Formations tend to be a little more specialised, so we will have to go through the options and see which one fits our needs best while also fitting in the points limit.

The Triumvirate are expensive, so we will have to see what goes best with their support abilities while still having an eye on capturing the Relic.

Building the List

So, that's a fair bit of information to consider. Now we know the mission and what we need to achieve, we can focus on actually building a list (or 3). This is the most important bit, as we can't get anywhere if we don't build the correct list. We need to keep in mind our goals while list building since they are what we are aiming for. In order of least importance to most, our goals are;

Kill opposing models
Survive opposing firepower and assault
Control the Relic
Have Fun! 

Goal 4 - Have Fun!

If we aren't having fun with the models we are using, if we aren't enjoying the game, then what is the point in playing in the first place. I feel this is an often underrated goal, especially once competition sets in, and people are more focused on winning than actually playing the models they like. If you want a close assault list, a shooty list, everyone on bikes; then feel free to build one. Take the broad advice from this Tactica and see how you can apply it to the army you want to use. Work out how to use your preferred models to obtain the other goals and lead them to victory. At the end of the day, this is a game. We should be having fun, not using the mathematically optimal models for the scenario. Unless that is the sort of list you enjoy fielding.

Combined Arms Detachments are less focused in what they do than Formations or other Detachments, so the fun in this list is trying to build the optimal combination of units for the mission. I want a list that can achieve the mission while still feeling like the sort of force a Guard Regiment would send on the mission. My preferred style of Guard Regiment is infantry based rather than tank based. This seems perfect for the outline above. I enjoy having a hoard of Guardsmen on the table, even though they are in many ways inferior to the basic troops of the other races. That's half the challenge.

The Formation idea is to find something that would be good at the mission. Not all Formations are created equally,and some of them are completely unsuitable. 3 of the Guard ones cost more than the 1000 points we have available, and another 2 don't have a lot of room for upgrades. I'm going to build the Emperor's Blade Assault Company. It has a mix of vehicles, infantry and firepower. And as the infantry are Veterans, they have a decent Ballistic Skill.

The Triumvirate seem powerful on paper, but take up half the points limit. My best bet for a trial list is to pair them with Space Marines, as you get a bit more survivability for the points than you would with other armies. it's probably going to be a low model count, so tabling is a real risk, but then the Big Three are quite survivable.

Goal 3 - Control the Relic

If we can't control the Relic, we are giving up 3 victory points. This is the Primary victory condition for a reason. If we manage this, we probably win. if we manage this and any one Secondary objective, then we definitely win.

As I've said a few times, vehicles can't control the Relic. So a core base of infantry is best here. Maybe a couple of platoons to give weight of numbers and bodies to keep between the opposing army and the Relic. A Commissar or Priest to help squads with Leadership issues, and Officers to take advantage of an underrated part of the army - Orders. Essentially, surge forward, grab the Relic and retreat while fending off the enemy.

The Emperor's Blade has a core, decent amount of infantry, backed up by transport vehicles. So in a similar vein, speed up to the Relic, jump out of the vehicles to control it, then mount a fighting retreat, using the Chimeras to protect the squads from mass firepower and to channel assault lines.

Both Cawl and Celestine are very hard to kill. Cawl is probably the better bet for holding the Relic, as Celestine's Jump Pack is wasted while she can only move 6" a turn. The aim should be to get it to him and hold it there. We probably want some Tactical Marines to form a squad with him for extra survivability. I'd suggest Terminators, but I'm concerned we wouldn't have enough points.

Goal 2 - Survive opposing firepower and assault

If we can survive what the opponent throws at us, the we are better able to control the Relic. It also makes us less likely to give up First Blood and Slay the Warlord.

Our survivability in this list will come from numbers. The idea is too have too many Guardsmen for the opponent to kill in the available turns. An individual Guardsman dies to just about most of the weapons in the game. 100 of them take a lot of killing, if we can overcome weaknesses like leadership. That's going to require Commissars or Priests to give Stubborn or Zealot. Also Conscripts to form a cheap meat shield. The aim is to have a lot of men, and presumably outnumber our opponents.

This list has a lower body count than I usually prefer. The survivability on this one will come from careful use of the vehicles to screen the infantry, meaning threats to the vehicles need to be taken out quickly. We should also consider upgrading the infantry to have camo cloaks and carapace armour, and maybe camo for the tanks too.

Two of our three main characters are hard to kill. The third is disruptive. Surrounding all three with Power Armoured bodies should up the resilience even further.

Goal 1 - Kill opposing models

Finally, if we can kill opposing models, we have a better chance of scoring those Secondaries ourselves, and of reattaining the Relic should our opponent get it away from us, or worse get to it first. Also, as we remove opposing models from play, they will have less resources to fight back with, giving us a greater chance of scoring the other goals.

Weight of numbers means (hopefully) lots of lasgun shots to deal with opposing infantry. For other targets that the guns can't hurt, we should consider maybe a tank or two to support. The big guns should help with killing stuff. Maybe also some Sentinels to hunt opposing tanks could round of the list.

The Chimera's have decent guns, and the Hellhound is great at slaying opposing infantry. The squads can have 3 special weapons and 1 heavy, so this list can kick out a fair amount of firepower for a small amount of units.

Careful weapon choices for the Marines should do the job. this list might struggle at the killing part. That said, the Triumvirate aren't slouches in assault.

That's it for part one. In part two, I'll take the ideas for succeeding in the goals and parse them together into 3 lists, then in part three move on to discussing some broad tactics for each list on the battlefield.

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