Some Tactics by Andrew Ovel

26 Jul


I feel a lot of time is given over to discussing very complex levels of tactical thought, and how to out think your opponent’s equally complex plans. However it doesn’t seem so long ago that I was more concerned about getting the rules for moving and shooting right, let alone planning how best to counter an opponents complex multi outflank pincer manoeuvre!


In this piece I was hoping to cover some of the really basic tactics (and I mean really basic) that I think some of the more experienced gamers take for granted and go unmentioned, but for new gamers could be invaluable. I learnt my tactics the best way through experience and an unforgiving opponent; watching your gloating older brother exploit your mistake to the fullest is a really good way to remember your errors.

So I have tried to list some really basic tactics, and if anyone disagrees with anything, or has anything to add then please add a comment.


Why So Many Tanks?


I was talking about the proliferation of tanks and transport with a friend recently; he couldn’t understand why they were so common. His thinking was why put all your models inside a larger target that can be taken out with a single shot? The answer is because it makes them so much flexible as a unit, that the benefits out ways the risk!


Firstly and most obviously, transports can make units move quicker. Moving units so you can deploy them where they are most needed is a game winning strategy. If you assume all things are equal then having the ability to move more of your units into your multiple assault should win you that assault, combine this with an increased chance to be in assault range in first place, and in the case of models with 1 Attack (A) it doubles their effectiveness on the charge. This, as I said, is just basic tactics.


Also when you bring in objectives missions this ability to move distances quickly with a troop choice to claim or contest an objective is a game winner. I can’t count the number of times I have been a few inches short of claiming an objective, much to the amusement of my opponent; having a squad of tactical marines jump out of their rhino and claim that last objective that wins you the game, and the tournament is points well spent I think.


Now let’s have a look at the two criticisms put forward by my friend that they are bigger targets and that can be taken out by one shot. They are bigger targets this is true, but this means you have to be more careful in deployment and movement to ensure you have the necessary cover to protect your vehicle. Ask any Dark Eldar player about the importance of cover saves, with the flimsy armour of a Raiders getting into cover will play an important part in keeping them alive, and therefore allowing them to deliver their troops where needed. You need to ensure you have a cover save for your vehicles as often as is possible, even using the hulls of your own vehicles if it is necessary (Do you have an empty rhino with no guns? then move it to give your other transport cover if you have no other option), this will increase survivability by 50%. So that’s like halving all shooting at that vehicle that turn, before we even consider rolling to hit and penetrate.


If you put Marines In transports with Armour 11 you have just effectively made them Toughness (T) 7! Ok bear with me on this one: a T4 model is affected by a Strength (S) 4 weapon on a 4+, and an Armour 11 vehicle is affected on a 4+ by a S 7 weapon, which means in my head at last all the troops inside are now the equivalent of T7, even better a S4 weapon has no chance of hurting them at all! This is great news as they are now unaffected by small arms fire, and to stand a significant chance of destroying them your enemy will need to direct  S7 or higher firepower against them. How many S7 or higher weapons are there in most armies (probably not as many as they have S4, which they just became immune to), so your enemy has a much more limited number of options on which weapons they can use your tanks. You have gone from having a unit that could potentially be wounded by any unit in range, to a unit that can only be affected by S5.


If your enemy has four missile launchers in a single unit and you have four tanks, then they are bound by the rules of the game (ignoring Long Fangs etc…) to target one tank a turn with all four of their missile launchers. So you know some of your tanks will last at least four turns, easily long enough to get there cargo where it’s needed.


The “one hit one kill” fear that your tank will be popped in the first round of shooting is an understandable concern, but 40K is a game of odds and this is unlikely. You can use cover as described to help mitigate “tanks popping”, but every so often your opponent will blow your tank up and you need to just accept this and have a backup plan for when this happens. Eventually the odds will “bite” you, but not every time.


Then you must consider the extra weapons they bring with them, a Rhino only has a Storm Bolter but a Razorback has a range of superior firepower available to it. A Tactical Squad can effectively double the number of heavy weapons in the squad by taking a Razorback, or save you having to take the full 10 models to qualify to take a heavy weapon in the first place.


What Equipment Should I Take in a Unit?


A good question to ask when you are starting to think about tactics, you need to decide upon which extra equipment you’re going to add to your squads to improve the efficiency. I remember when I started playing 40K my first few squads would have a real eclectic mix of equipment, depending on the modes I had available, but as I played more games and I collected the models more suited to the needs of my play style I became more discerning about what I used.


Heavy weapons are good for bringing a superior firepower; they can increase the effectiveness of the shooting of a unit, but consider that it may also slow the unit down: most units must remain stationary to fire that heavy weapon. If you need the unit to move to claim an objective then that weapon will not be firing, in fact if that model would normally have an assault weapon then you may have just paid to make your shooting less effective!


Special weapons are often assault weapons such as Flamers or Melta guns, and Plasma guns which are rapid fire, can still get a shot off if moved. However unlike heavy weapons these will normally (Sniper Rifles being an obvious exception as these are in my opinion more like heavy weapons) have a shorter range but not stop the unit from moving around the game board and shooting. These are good to have in units that you want to be a little harder hitting, and still keep on the move.


You may have heard that “Melta is king” in the current game: this is because it is so good at killing tanks. As I said previously there are a lot of tanks out there, and for good reason, so you will find an effective countermeasure a real benefit in your games. Melta is the best way to kill tanks, with the extra dice for penetration at close range and the AP1 adding 1 to your damage roll. Now it just so happens that a S8 AP1 assault weapon is very good at killing …well everything! There is something to be said for rapid firing plasma guns into rear armour but I feel it’s just not as reliable try it yourself and see what works best.


Quite often the leader of a squad will have the option to take some special extra equipment as well, these can be a Storm Bolter, or a Power Weapon, or even Melta Bombs. As with the special weapons and heavy weapons your choice should support the tactics you are going to be using for that squad i.e. it’s unlikely your Devastator squad will be getting into hand to hand with a tank so maybe he doesn’t need Melta Bombs.


This nicely brings me on to Power Fists. You may have noticed that most squad leaders seem to take a Power Fist if they can, and there are several reasons for this.


What is the difference between a Power Weapon and a Power Fist when you assault a tank?


Well that spangled Power Sword you’re waving around might as well be a butter knife when it comes to attacking a tank.


I like to take Power Fists because it gives you a chance of at least hurting vehicle in an assault; this is especially true when something like a Dreadnaught can assault you and keep you locked up in combat with no way of hurting it.


Another advantage is with wound allocation: when you attack with a Power Weapon the wounds inflicted can get lost amongst the normal wounds. Not so with a Power Fist because they strike last, and all the other hits are handed out and models removed before the Power Fist strikes. Now if there is a particular model in that unit that you want to kill (special weapon, independent character, sergeant etc…) your opponent could have allocated the wounds to other models and had to remove some or all of the other models in the squad “protecting” them. This means when your Power Fist comes swinging in they may be forced to allocate some, or all of the hits on that model, which is good news for you as this can instant death most models.


For a model like an Ork Nob striking last isn’t much of a loss as they are Initiative (I) 2 so they would probably be striking last anyway, and with the poor shooting of Orks smashing up tanks in assault is much more reliable option. I can see few arguments for not taking a Power Klaw on an Ork Nob? One obvious danger is when you have a large number of models armed with Power Fists being assaulted by a large number of attacks that ignore armour saves (e.g. a Mega Armoured Nobs squad being attacked by Lighting Claw Terminators).


There are other options some squads can take, but it essentially boils down to what you plan to do with the unit; add more shooting potential for those units that are shooting, or add more assault potential for those you expect to be in assault. Don’t be afraid to leave them as plain units, as you don’t have to spend points on upgrades if you don’t think you will need them save those points and spend them somewhere else. This brings me back to those squads I used to make when I first started playing, when I would excitedly choose different options and produce a “jack of all trades” unit, with a mix of shooting potential and assault potential. The problem with these types of units is that it tends to work out that you don’t do a lot of shooting while you are tide up in assaults, and you don’t go rushing into many assaults while sitting back and shooting. So you end up wasting your points on items that you never even used, and you have a big expensive unit that does not work efficiently for the points you paid for it.




It’s the last turn of the game, and which of these would you most like to have left on the board?


  1. A Devastator squad with four Lascannons
  2. A 10 man squad of Thunder Hammer and Storm Shield Terminators
  3. A Vindicator
  4. A five man Scout squad!!!!


Well, in an objective mission those scouts can claim an objective and win you the game. Yes, everyone wants to fill their armies with exciting units with all the special rules that bring instant death to their opponents, but it takes a scoring unit to claim an objective and win you games. There is the option of producing a force so powerful it can wipe all opposition from the table and you win by default, but this is obviously quite hard to do.


If you can learn to master the troops choices, and learn how best to optimise their options and make them as effective possible, then you will be placed in the best possible position in objective missions. I always take several troops choices for the simple reason they are scoring units, and when it comes to claiming objectives nothing else will do, the fact I have learned from experience the best way to use them is what makes me a winner (or as my friend James says “less of a loser”)


Also keep in mind if your opponent has taken only two troops choices, then if you can kill both those units he won’t have any scoring units left, and that puts you into a very advantageous position.


Always carefully study your opponent’s army list prior to the battle and see which units are troop choices; also look to see what other units he has chosen as you should be able to predict his tactics from the type of units he has chosen. If he has chosen all assault units then he will probably come screaming across the board right at you, lots of shooting units and he will probably result in a stand back and shoot style of play. If you play the same opponent regularly then you will probably have a good idea of their style of play before you even see their army list, but this works both ways so make sure you change your style of play and army list to keep your opponents guessing.




No not just me, it is very easy to get stuck in your ways, or get to emotionally involved with a particular style of play or element to your army. Look at how successful they are for you; you might really like taking lots of grots but are they really providing the tank killing power your army needs? There are lots of great players out there giving advice so learn from them! Why not ask your opponent which element of your army gave him the most difficulty in the game? Which tactic surprised him the most? Which unit he felt was weakest? And then try to work out why.




I had no intention of making this article so long, but here are few last bits of advice that I felt I should pass on before I go:


  • Take at least something that can knock out armour 14.
  • Any model in cover shot with a Melta Gun (with no invulnerable save!) will get the same saving throw it doesn’t matter if it’s an Ork Boy or a Terminator! A 4+ cover saves will help to keep your models alive. Use it.
  • Don’t feel that you have to assault and get the extra attack, because sometimes it is better to stay behind cover and receive the assault. Also sometimes it is better to assault a superior opponent, so that they don’t assault you next turn; a hoard of Ork Boys won’t get the +1A, and won’t qualify for their furious charge bonus if you charge them first,  which makes it “less worse” for you (although you need nerves of steel if you’re assaulting an Ork horde)!
  • Sometimes the best place to hide from shooting is in hand to hand combat.
  • When choosing your army decide what your plan is for each unit, whether it’s assaulting, claiming an objective or just to react to your opponent manoeuvres, and then try to follow that plan in the game.
  • Sometimes you are playing just for pride, so enjoy it: sometimes the games you think you have already lost end up being the most fun, because there is no pressure to win. I have had games I was sure I had lost in the first turn, but carried on just for fun and won them against the odds.
  • It’s just a game make sure you both have fun.





7 Responses to “Some Tactics by Andrew Ovel”

  1. Digital Unicorn July 26, 2011 at 13:20 #

    Great post Andy, some great advice in there. Its touched on some stuff im working on in my next blog post, i will be interested to see what u think of it.

    Its often the most basic stuff thats the easiest to forget, the simplest game plan often works out the best.

    Keep up the great work man.

    • Andy Ovel July 28, 2011 at 12:46 #

      Thanks, I look forward to reading your blog 🙂

  2. Charlie St. Clair July 27, 2011 at 07:11 #

    Good post Andy. The only thing I would add, is to really learn the key tactic that goes with your army, as you’ll get a lot of mileage out of this.

    For example, an assault orientated Ork army lives or dies by learning to multi-charge properly, and learning the limitations of a multi-charge to know when it can also get you into trouble.

    When you amass a few of these skills by playing with and against different armies, it makes you a much better player over-all than if you had a bit of a hodge podge approach to the various tactics in the game.

    • Andy Ovel July 28, 2011 at 12:33 #

      Cheers Charlie, I agree completely. The armies were designed from the very beginning to have different play styles, and fill different niches in tactical play styles; I don’t think any Tau player should be trying any Ork “Green Tide” tactics quite yet. 🙂
      Perhaps someone out there in 40K land would like to come up with a list of recommended tactics for each army, combined with the relative strength and weaknesses of those armies?

  3. Mark Perry July 27, 2011 at 12:53 #

    On lists, I would say that net builds are a good “start” point, but you have to have a list that fits with how you play. Play the list a few times and then critique as to what works or not – not enough troops, need more ranged AV, need a tarpit CC unit. However, make sure you play a few times before changing and don’t chop and change after every game!

    In game, I would just say – remember your special abilites – write them down if you need to, and don’t ever forget the objective of the mission!

    • Andy Ovel July 28, 2011 at 12:44 #

      Very true. 🙂

      I think we’ve all been guilty at one time or another of forgetting the objectives of the mission, I know that I have. It’s easy to get carried away, lose sight of the objective and lose the game! :$

      I agree online army lists are good place to start when considering your force, but it really helps to know how that list is intended to be used in the game; a good list is one thing, but knowing the tactics to use them effectively is another.

  4. Digital Unicorn August 5, 2011 at 20:56 #

    Yer that’s some very sound advice that I’m gonna be talking about too, playing the army list quite a few times before changing and only making small incremental changes. It really helps u understand what every unit does, and also helps u notice the really good and bad units and combos that sometimes only become clear with playtesting.

    Also learning to watch the objectives has saved many a game for me, if all ur units are dying all the better to blind ur opponent with his blood lust, lol.

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