Sunday, April 1, 2012

Tactics: Deployment

In the wake of my latest battle report (found at this link), I wanted to do a bit more analysis of tactics. In my opinion, one of the most important aspects Warhammer 40k is deployment. Sadly, however, this tactical aspect of the game receives little to no attention in the forums and blogs. Perhaps it is more accurate if I say that deployment does not receive the attention that it is due.

I think we can all remember games where we were unable to overcome the advantage we have given our opponent through poor choices in deployment. Reach back into your memory and feel once again victory slipping away from the start of turn one as you continuously visualize the mistakes of deployment thinking, "I should've done this or that."

So in an effort to be helpful, I would like to explain the strategic thought behind my attempt to gain a tactical advantage through deployment.

I play an assault focused Angels Sanguine force. In my most recent match I was playing against the Imperial Guard.

When you are playing an assault force against a shooty army (or shooty list), you need to deploy with the purpose of coming to grips with your enemy as quickly as possible. You must avoid giving your opponent any extra rounds of shooting.

Generally speaking, shooty lists and their generals want to alpha strike. They want to go first and blast you into the stratosphere before you can get started, and a mistake in deployment can give them the extra round or two that they need to neuter your force.

In this situation, I go first if I get the opportunity. Going first creates a little problem. If we choose to go first, we must deploy before our opponent. I call this deploying blind.

Deploy in the wrong place, and you give your opponent an advantage. If you concentrate your force on one flank or the other, then your enemy will deploy on the opposite flank denying you ability to engage. If you are on the right flank, he will deploy on your left flank. He will fight what we call a 'refused flank,' creating precious time for shooting you down in the extra turns it takes for you to get into close combat.

If you spread your force out across the entire deployment zone, then your opponent can still use the refused flank in order to fight only a portion of your army. In this scenario, you have given your opponent the chance to gain numerical  (or firepower) advantage in one portion of the battlefield.

My solution to this problem is the following: I deploy my force in the center of the deployment zone as far forward as possible (while still trying to take advantage of terrain within reason). Deploying in this fashion eliminates the advantages that your opponent might gain from trying to fight a refused flank. If he deploys on one flank or the other, then you still close on him quickly with your units arriving simultaneously. If he spreads his forces out in the deployment zone, then you have the opportunity to divide and conquer.

In this situation, many shooty opponents will divide their force placing half in one corner and half in the other. The reason they do this is to create as much distance between your force and theirs. I still feel that this circumstance gives you, the assault army deployed centrally, the advantage. You can decide whether to divide your force and engage or to send your entire army after one half of your opponents force. This decision will be dictated by scenario and is a discussion for a different article.

One final note: the Spearhead deployment type will alter deployment slightly. However, I fee that the most significant restrictions posed by spearhead deployment fall on the shooty list. The assault army may still deploy centrally in order to get as close to the enemy as possible. Spearhead gives your opponent some extra depth in his deployment zone; however, your opponent may not deploy wide on his flanks to create more space.

Hopefully this small tactical discussion of deployment will be useful to some. Furthermore, I hope that it sparks a larger discussion of deployment throughout the blogosphere.

Please leave a comment and join the discussion, whether you would like to support my position, advocate the contrary, or pose an alternative which I have missed. Let us have a collegial and reasonable discussion for the mutual benefit of all.

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