The Tiger Roars
Deployment for Dumbasses (Like Me): Elites by Kenton Kilgore
Welcome to the fourth installment of this series on how to better deploy your 40K forces. Previously, I discussed best practices for placing Heavy Support units, be they shooty or not; and then I talked Troops. This time out, we’ll discuss the moneymakers of 40K: Elites.
Bear in mind that I’m not a master player, and this series isn’t meant for master players: it’s for newbies; veterans who want a refresher; and idiots like me who need things explained using small words.
include Space Marine Sternguard, Vanguard, and Dreadnoughts; Eldar Aspect
Warriors (too numerous to list); Chaos Space Marine Terminators; Dark Eldar
Mandrakes and Grotesques;
Elites are often infantry units, but can be vehicles (usually light), single characters, or Monstrous Creatures. They’re usually small in number (though some Ork units may have up to 15), and are often specialized for shooting or assault. They also usually cost quite a bit in points.
I referred to Elites as “moneymakers” because they often dish out a great deal of damage disproportionate to their number and size (Tau Crisis Suits can be an excellent example). Most players know this, of course (often through painful personal experience), and will do their best to kill or neutralize opposing Elite units. So let’s talk about some ways to better position your go-to guys to minimize their casualties and maximize the pain for the enemy.
A Necessary Aside About List-Building
I’ve warned you before that this series would occasionally veer onto the topic of list-building, and this is one of those times. As I discussed with non-shooty Heavy Support units, “force multiplication” is your friend, and especially so with Elites. That is, having one of a particular unit is good; two is better; three (or more!) is best of all. There are a number of reasons why that’s so, but three right off the top of my head are:
So whenever possible, go all-in and replicate Elite units. One squad of Chaos Terminators Deep Striking behind enemy lines will cause the other guy some concern; two will worry him; three might make him have to call time-out to change his shorts.
To Reserve, or Not to Reserve?
So you’ve chosen your Elites: now you’ve come to the part where you put them on the board. Or should you? Instead, maybe you should keep them in reserves. It all depends on what they are and what they do.
Usually for shooty units in the Troop or Heavy Support categories, you’re best off having them start on the table so that they can use their long range fire to start chiseling away at the enemy. But shooty Elite usually have shorter-range weapons (albeit often pretty powerful: cf. Fire Dragons), and need to spend a turn or two moving to get into position.
While they’re doing so, an opponent with an IQ at or above room temperature will throw some heat in their direction to cripple or wipe them out before your Elites can do what they do so well. Consider Deep-Striking or Outflanking your shooty Elite units if you have that option. To use examples most everyone will recognize, Space Marine Terminators can pop in anywhere on the board, as can Sternguard in Drop Pods.
The same goes with assault units, but it gets a bit dicier for them. A shooty unit that drops in behind enemy lines can start wreaking havoc right away, but one that does their business with fists and stabby things usually cannot charge on the turn they arrive (yes, there are some exceptions). Meaning, say, that a unit of Ork Kommandoes will walk onto the board, blast off some slugga shots (ooooh—I’m scared), then stand there to suck down return fire until they can assault on their next turn—if they have a next turn.
To mitigate this and give your assault unit a better chance of surviving and succeeding, you can do one or more of the following:
Elite vehicle units (such as the iconic Space Marine Dreadnought) that can Deep Strike or have a Transport that may (Drop Pods), are probably best off doing so, especially if they’re like one of my Dreads, which is armed with the relatively short-ranged assault cannon, heavy flamer, and Dreadnought close combat weapon.
If for whatever reason you can’t or don’t want to put your Elite units in Reserve, how should you place them on the table? Whether they’re shooty or assault, it’s often good for infantry Elite squads to each to have a Dedicated Transport. Examples of such Transports are Rhinos, Razorbacks, Wave Serpents, Trukks, Raiders, and Devilfish (Necron Night Scythes are also Dedicated Transports, but as Flyers, they start off the board).
The Transport will make them invulnerable to small arms fire (bolt guns, sniper rifles, shuriken catapults, pulse rifles, etc.), as well as shield them from the worst of Ordinance blasts (battle cannons and such) that could otherwise nuke the entire squad at once.
The Transport will also help speed your Elite unit on its way to its target, whatever that may be. While some Elites are good at just about everything (those Termies again), many are specialized: you don’t want your Ogryns going after Flyers. Play to their strengths and assign each Elite unit a target to engage, even if it’s as general as, “Kill tanks” for a squad of Dark Eldar Trueborn with blasters; or “Attack nearest infantry” for a mob of Ork Nobz with big choppas.
Once you know what each one is going to do during the game, you can place it accordingly. As I mentioned before, I like to place Heavy Support units first and give them the prime real estate. I deploy Elite units after Heavy Support, to give them the next-best locations, and I place each unit to engage its target as soon as possible.
I also put Troops and other coordinating units in front of and near Elites to help them out. Elite units are usually too small and relatively fragile to go it alone against the firepower and/or bodies your opponent is willing to throw at them, so plan on assisting them with either more-expendable Troops (who can screen the Elites), or with Fast Attack and/or other Elites.
What you’ve read may sound like it’s meant for infantry, but it applies to Transports, too. If you have a Rhino full of Sternguard, put some Scouts or Tactical Marines (on foot or mounted in another Rhino) in front of the Sternguard’s ride to allow it to count as Obscured and to intercept enemy units sent its way.
If you have Elites with long-ranged weapons, you will probably want to hang back and shoot. In which case, deploy them after Heavy Support and put Troops in front of and near, but also place your Elites in cover. Remember, these guys are your money-makers, so take good care of them!
Everything I’ve said also goes for Elite vehicles: assign them a target; place them after Heavy Support; line them up to engage their target ASAP, or in put them cover (depending on whether they’ll be moving); assist them with Troops and other units.
Put Independent Characters with a squad. Screen Monstrous Creatures with cheap Troops. You don’t want your expensive and usually lone Elite figures standing around by themselves where they can be easily picked off by fire or swamped by infantry.
Some Pretty (And Not-So Pretty) Pictures
That’s all well and jolly, but let’s see and discuss some actual photos of correct and incorrect ways to deploy our Elite units, shall we?
First off, the good. What you're looking at below is a shot from last year's Counter Offensive. In a cityfight with lots of terrain (including various levels, of course), my friend Bryan chose to hold his Deathwing Terminators in reserve and then Deep Strike them atop an objective, which they held for the rest of the game, despite my persistent efforts to blast them off said objective.
Bryan made the right call, because had he started them on the board, there was no guarantee, given all the difficult terrain checks infantry had to make in this game, that his guys would make it to the objective, which was in the center of the board, three levels up. His Termies might also have been more exposed to fire, and/or been delayed/thwarted in reaching the objective by being assaulted.
Now, the bad. The photo below is from a game last year. The Ork horde is deployed on the table, and the guys circled in red are a unit of Burna Boyz, an Elite assault unit with very short range (i.e. Template weapons). Let's count all the things wrong:
So what do you suppose happened to this unit during the game? The opponent (me) ignored it until Turn 3, when it got close, and then easily shot it dead. Sure, that mob only cost 80 points, but it contributed nothing to the Ork side--a shame, because 5 flamer templates or 15 WS 4, S4, AP 3 attacks on the charge don't suck.
So what have we learned?
Next time out, we’ll talk Fast Attack. See you then!
Kenton Kilgore is the author of Lost Dogs, the story of a German Shepherd and a Beagle-mix who survive the end of the human world, only to find that their struggles have just begun. Kenton also wrote Dragontamer's Daughters, a young adult fantasy novel based on Navajo culture and belief. His latest work (with Jungle Guide Patrick Eibel) is Our Wild Place, a children's book about discovering the fun to found exploring Nature. Follow Kenton on Facebook for daily posts on sci-fi, fantasy, and other speculative fiction.
Posted March 2016