Sunday, July 30, 2017

8th Ed Tactica: Combat Moves

Hey Everyone! Today I want to go over some tactics for my favorite part of the game of 40k: combat.  In this article, I'm going to go over the three moves involved in an assault, as well as some tactics for getting the most out of your assaults (or minimizing your opponent's impact in theirs). The moves and positioning involved in the combat phase is an area where the streamlined rules of 8th Edition actually generate an incredible depth of complexity. The changes to the rules in this phase are mostly pretty subtle, so I regularly see them being read or done wrong. Interestingly, using 7th edition movements is usually legal in 8th edition, but rarely the best option.

The strength of Hormagaunts lies in Pile-in and Consolidation
Let's start with the main moves: the Charge Move, the Pile In, and the Consolidate.

Charge Move:

... roll 2D6. Each model in the charging unit can move up to this number of inches - this is their charge distance this turn. The first model you move must finish within 1" of an enemy model from one of the target units. No models in the charging unit can move within 1" of an enemy unit that was not a target of its charge.
Some key changes here from this edition to last. The biggest is that, with the important caveat of not moving within an inch of undeclared targets, there is no other requirement on how any model in the charging unit moves except the first one. The "initial charger" still has to move to get within an inch, but that's the only requirement of its move. The "initial charger" doesn't have to move to the closest model in the target unit, or in a straight line. The rest of the unit does not have to move as close as possible, base unengaged, or anything else. In fact, the rest of the unit can move away from the target unit so long as they maintain coherency.

Pile In:

The next move comes when a unit is chosen to fight in the Fight phase. Once chosen it first Piles In:
You may move each model in the unit up to 3" - this move can be in any direction so long as the model ends the move closer to the nearest enemy model.
There are some important things to take away from this move. First off, it's entirely optional - no model has to move at all, and if they do, they do not have to move the full 3" or try to get as close as possible. The only requirement is that they end closer to the nearest enemy model than they started.

This brings me to Golden Rule of Combat #1:

Never move base to base with an enemy model without a reason.

The reason being, as clarified in the FAQ, if you are based with an enemy, it is impossible to move closer, so you cannot move. There is a noted exception for basing - if you have a reason to - and we'll get to some examples later. As a note, this is an intance where it is important to clarify your intent with your opponent as models in close proximity often get bumped and shifted. 

Consolidate:

The last step for each fighting unit, this move follows the same rules as Pile In and is optional but if it moves, must end the move closer to the closest enemy model. More or less the same tactics will apply here as those that apply to Pile In. 

With the basic moves covered, let's look at a couple examples to highlight the differences tactical use of these moves can make. The first two scenarios will have the same scene: 6 Lychguard with shields and swords are staring down a unit of Boyz screening a Warboss. The Lychguard have moved up and rolled an 8 for their charge.


First up, Scenario A - where the Necron player moves largely following convention and habit from previous editions. If the Necron player simply moved straight in, the charge would end up something like this:


At the end of the charge phase, the Warboss now gets a Heroic Intervention and can pile in. Since he wasn't a declared target, the Lychguard won't be able to swing on him.

Next is the Pile In step - the Necrons don't really have a Pile In; most of the models more or less based their target as the Necron player moved out of old habit:


After the non-existant Pile In, the Lychguard fight; they do 4 unsaved wounds to the boyz. The allocation is pretty straightforward, and the Ork player kills off two unengaged boyz and two boyz on the edges. This will allow all his surviving boyz to fight and keep the Big Shoota alive.


The last move for the Necrons is the Consolidate, which again is pretty straightforward - the Lychguard on either end pile in toward the center, basing or nearly basing the next guy in the line out of habit.


With no other units in combat, now the Ork player gets to go, first with the Warboss, who does a short pile-in and promptly smashes one Lychguard down.


Then the Boyz go. The Nob kills another Lychguard on his own, and the Boyz do 4 wounds, getting 2 through the Lychguard 3++.


After the combat, the Ork player killed 3 Lychguard to 4 Boyz in return (plus another in Morale).

Now, let's look at how the combat could have gone if the Necron player took a savvier approach.


In this instance, which we'll call "Scenario B," the Necron player has assessed the positions of the units and opted to only engage the topmost Boy, swinging his unit around. This clearly avoids the Warboss as well as the Nob's power klaw, and could also potentially cause some issues or decisions for the Ork player as the combat plays out.

On activating the Lychguard for their pile-in, unlike in Scenario A, he has some options. He opts to continue to surround the top Ork Boy:


A quick note - the Lychguard that has wrapped around behind the boy is not in base-to-base, though he may look it. Again - clarify where you're putting your models with great care.

The Necron player has positioned to allow all his Lychguard to attack, and prepped himself for the different ways the Ork player could remove casualties. In particular, he has made sure to have one model within 4" of the Boy with the Big Shoota, surmising that the Ork player may be hesitant to pull that model, meaning he should be able to still remain in combat (and force the Orks to either stay in or fall back in their following turn).

Again, as with Scenario A, when the Lychguard fight, they deal 4 unsaved wounds. However, in this scenario, the choice is more difficult for the Ork player as he still wants to maximize his attacks back, but needs to make sure he doesn't strand the Nob and put him too far out of coherency.


After selecting his casualties to be four of the further boyz, the Necron player then gets to consolidate:


Again, it's important to note that none of the Lychguard based the Boy they were fighting, so they can all move. In this case, since the Boy they are next to wasn't removed, they simply rotate slightly around, away from the remaining boyz, in order to minimize return attacks.

Next the Ork player gets to go with the Boyz, and piles in more or less the only way he can - daisy-chaining back to the nob who moves as far as he can and just barely maintains coherency while keeping the Big Shoota boy from getting close enough to attack.


As a result of more careful positioning, the Ork player now only gets to swing with three boyz, resulting in a single unsaved wound, not even killing a single Lychguard model.


With both scenarios played out, let's review. In both scenarios, the Necron player gets to swing with all 6 of his Lychguard, and kills 4 Boyz, with one more dying to Morale. The difference comes in the return blows. By charging headlong in, the Orks were able to get the Warboss and the Nob involved and deal 5 more unsaved wounds in Scenario A than they accomplished in Scenario B.

This was a pretty straightforward fight with both sides just wanting to mash each other as much as possible. Even so, careful application of the movements available through combat allowed the Necron player to come out solidly ahead in Scenario B, while the  Necron player in Scenario A is probably reeling a bit as he's almost definitely going to lose what's left of his unit in the following turn, even without the Ork player committing additional resources to the fight.

Now, let's look at a much different scenario:


To set the scene, the Fire Warriors are screening something, let's say a Stormsurge. Meanwhile, the Genestealers have a very real desire to stay in combat through the next turn and avoid being shot by Tau.

Starting with overwatch, eight Genestealers live to make the charge, and roll a 10, plenty of distance.


However, they want to be careful here - if all 8 genestealers fight, they'll shred the Firewarriors and be exposed. Instead, they opt to only get two stealers within an inch and staying just outside an inch with everyone else.


The Genestealers forgo their Pile-in and fight, killing 3 Fire Warriors.


Now, for their consolidation. The Tau player didn't make it easy, but the stealers on the end have just enough movement to wrap around the Shas'ui and 3 point his base, preventing him from moving (this is another important place to clarify intent and talk through it first). Meanwhile, the other five stealers move to base every single Fire Warrior and stop them from moving in their own combat activation.


The Tau fight back and unsurprisingly do nothing. They cannot move in their Pile-in or Consolidation. In their own turn, they cannot fall back as the Genestealers have base-locked one of their models, where there is no gap large enough to fit his base between the Genestealer bases.

The predicted outcome of this scenario is that the Genestealers are safe from returning fire, and will wipe out the fire warriors in the following Tau turn, leaving them free to charge, or even possibly consolidate into another Tau unit.

This scenario also includes the override to Golden Rule of Combat #1 - the Genestealers want to base their opponent at the end of their fight to prevent any further movement and lock them in place.

To finish out this article, let's look at Hormagaunts and why they're one of my favorite units.


What you need to know about Hormagaunts is that they have a special rule that allows them to Pile In and Consolidate 6" instead of 3". For this scenario, we're going to use a bit of imagination to say that there's a Swarmlord within 6" of the recently dropped Hormagaunts, and that the two Rhinos and Heavy Bolter Razorback are all Razorbacks with Assault Cannons. Given this appears to be planet bowling ball, the Nids are in for a lot of pain next turn as everything stands - but the Hormagaunts can save the day for the bugs.


Swarmlord being close by really makes this possible. In the shooting phase, he uses his Hive Commander ability to allow the Hormagaunts to move, putting them just over an inch away from the center two Razorbacks.

The Hormagaunts declare their charge on the single Lascannon Razorback to minimize overwatch, which predictably misses. They then roll a grand total of a 3 on their charge.


With their charge they move the first model to within an inch of the target Razorback. The rest spread out a little, staying just over an inch away from all the other units. Then they pounce in the Pile In step with a 6" move that no longer has to stay 1" away from non-declared targets.


This massive move allows them to surround the target Razorback and one next to it, while engaging the Devastator squad and all four Razorbacks. After their paltry swings do a single wound to the target Razorback, they then Consolidate, firming up their position and surrounding a third Razorback.


The Space Marines fight back, killing 4 Hormagaunts, with a further 3 dying to Morale as they're out of Synapse.


Even with the casualties, all four Razorbacks and the Devastators are engaged, with two Razorbacks surrounded and unable to fall back. Two Razorbacks and the Devastators will be able to leave the combat, but the Hormagaunts have done their job; there will be no shooting coming from this firebase in the following turn while the rest of the Tyranid army closes in.

In this scenario, the Hormagaunts show how they can take advantage of all three kinds of movement in an assault to lock down a massive portion of the enemy army. And while they definitely benefited from some not pictured resources, all told, the points used on both sides is about the same: 584 for the Space Marines (not counting the pictured Captain) to 575 for the Tyranids (not counting a Pod for Swarmlord, which may or may not have been needed to get him in Hive Commander range).

Being mindful of what moves you can and can't pull off in an assault can be the key to winning evenly matched combats or even tipping a game in your favor. What are your favorite tricks and tips for making a combat go your way?