The Tiger Roars
Deployment for Dumbasses (Like Me): Heavy Support (Non-Shooty Units) by Kenton Kilgore
Welcome to the second installment of this series on how to better deploy your 40K forces. Previously, I discussed best practices for placing Heavy Support units whose main strength is shooting: Space Marine Devastator Squads and Predators, Eldar Dark Reapers, Tau Broadsides, Dark Eldar Ravagers, Chaos Space Marine Forgefiends, Tyranid Exocrines, etc.
Though most Heavy Support units wield big guns, a few do not, and there are enough of them to warrant their own article. Almost all of these "non-shooty" units are either a) Monstrous Creatures, Walkers, and the like; or b) transports of some kind.
Bear in mind that saying they are "non-shooty" is a bit of misnomer: even if they're not used for shooting, some of them have some pretty impressive weaponry anyway (the Space Marine Land Raider, with its two twin-linked lascannons and its twin-linked heavy bolters, is the example that immediately pops into my head).
And next week (or even sooner, given their recent hyper-flurry of releases), Games Workshop could come out with a new HS unit that is not shooty, not a Monstrous Critter, nor a transport. And if they already have, don't tell me about it: I can't keep track of all the new stuff anymore.
So let me share with you the best ways I've learned (through grievous trial and error) to deploy these units. I'm not a master player, and this series isn't for master players: it's for average gamers and newbies who need coaching.
To Reserve, or Not to Reserve?
Unless you are able to and plan to Deep Strike or Outflank your unit, you will probably start them on the board. Off the top of my head, the only non-shooty HS units I know that can do so are Necron Transcendent C’Tan and Monoliths; Blood Angel Land Raiders; and Tyranid Trygons and Mawlocs (I’ve not had much luck Deep Striking Trygons, but you will definitely want to start Mawlocs in reserves).
A Necessary Aside
Before we talk the nuts and bolts of deployment, we need to discuss army lists (I did warn you back in the introduction to this series that we would do that now and again). As I mentioned in this piece, force multiplication is a Good Thing. And what is “force multiplication?”
Simply put, it means that while having one of a particular unit is usually okay, having two is good, and having three or more is disproportionately better. While force multiplication is applicable to all units in 40K, it is especially so, methinks, for non-shooty Heavy Support (NSHS) units. Meaning, that if you’re going to bring them, go whole-hog or not at all. One Carnifex with scything talons doesn’t scare anyone; nine makes all but hardcore veterans defecate their drawers.
If you’re following the principles of force multiplication and have several NSHS units, you’ll want to deploy them first. Why? Because the models are usually large, and each will take up quite a bit of space. Make sure they have the space they’ll need at the outset.
How to Deploy Non-Shooty Heavy Support Units (Monstrous Creatures)
Let’s start with Monstrous Creatures, Walkers, and the like, because they’re easier to deal with. For the newbies, some examples that fit into the NSHS category are Tyranid Carnifexes, Trygons, and Mawlocs; Necron Canoptek Spyders and Transcendent C’Tan; Chaos Space Marine Maulerfiends; Dark Eldar Talos and Cronos; and Ork Deff Dreads (yeah, you can equip a Deff to be shooty, but at BS 2 and only one per unit, why bother?).
So for these Monstrous Critters (et al), place them front and center. They need to move towards and engage the enemy as soon as possible, so there's no point in having them anywhere other than the forward edge of your deployment zone, along the line. They should be in the center of that line so that they have the potential to attack or intercept several of your opponent's units.
All this, of course, assumes two things: 1) that you followed my advice on force multiplication and have a plethora of MC units available; and 2) that you're comfortable with the risks of exposing said units to enemy attention.
As to the first, if you have a single MC model, maybe you want to be less aggressive, keeping it back (perhaps out of sight behind cover) to counterattack your opponent's forces if/when they threaten to invade your deployment zone. As to the second, take heart that MCs and their ilk are fairly tough and have a decent amount of Wounds/Hull Points—and that sometimes, you can boost them with other units (examples: Cronos + Talos; Venomthropes + Tyranid MCs).
If you're not going first, place your MCs in cover, if there is any up there at the front and center of your deployment zone. You can also give your Big Guys some ambulatory cover by placing a squad of smaller, cheaper dudes (i.e., Troops) in front of them.
If possible, deploy your MCs so that their path towards the enemy will take them through terrain (and remember their inherent Move Through Cover ability!) so they benefit from whatever protection they can. However, you don't want them unduly slowed: with the wonderful exceptions of Maulerfiends and Trygons, most MCs are no faster than Infantry. When in doubt, choose speed over protection, because the sooner your Big Bads are in close combat, the sooner they'll be safer from long-range, high-Strength weaponry that is their bane.
There: that wasn’t hard, was it? 1) Take lots of MCs, if you can; 2) Deploy them first; 3) Place them front and center; 4) Put them in cover if possible. Now, let’s talk transports.
How to Deploy Non-Shooty Heavy Support Units (Transports)
Examples of NSHS transports are the aforementioned Land Raiders (Loyalist- and Chaos Marine-); its -Crusader and –Redeemer variants; the Neecron Monolith; the Eldar Falcon; and the Ork Battlewagon. True, all of these can spit out some impressive firepower (even the Battlewagon, if you give it a killkannon and/or any of the other big gun options it has), but for the purposes of this article, I’m going to assume that you’re more interested in loading up these vehicles with bodies and sending them into the enemy.
Just as with MCs, I advise you to bring as many as you can, or none at all. Even something as formidable as a Land Raider can be dealt with if your opponent only has to face one. Two is a much bigger challenge, and three is definitely a headache. The downside to this is that you're going to spend a lot of points (especially for Land Raiders), but the results can be well worth it: in my 2000-point Dvergar (proxied Ork) army, I have 5 Battlewagons, and they usually do a great job for me.
Also like MCs, you'll most likely want to place them front and center, so that they get into the action quickly and disgorge their occupants (Space Marine Terminators, Khorne Berzerkers, Ork Boyz, or what-have-you) against worthy targets. Most HS transports (those of the Eldar, of course, being an exception—curse them!) aren't any faster than other vehicles, so avoid deploying them on a flank lest your opponent "castle" in the other corner of the board or simply move his units out of harm's way.
HS transports are usually big models, so you'll want to deploy them first, and leave room for coordinating units, if you have any (which you should). A Rhino (cheap at 35 points) set in front of your Land Raider acts as mobile cover, obscuring the more expensive tank and thus protecting the Infantry unit inside.
If you don't have "mobile cover" in the form of a cheap vehicle or another unit, don't place your HS transports in cover they'll have problems with. That is, don't put your tank where it will need to make a Dangerous Terrain check as soon as it starts to move. If your luck is anything like mine, you will definitely roll a "1" right out of the gate, and your expensive vehicle will be immobilized (and you'll lose a Hull Point), forcing your passengers (with their short-range guns and close combat weapons) to get out and walk.
Similarly, don't place your tank behind a very large piece of terrain that will require an entire Movement Phase to circumvent. Sure, the other guy may not have been able to see and target your ride, but you just wasted a turn driving around a corner instead of hurtling towards the enemy.
Some Pretty (and Some Not-So-Pretty) Pictures
That’s all well and good, but let’s see and discuss some actual photos of correct and incorrect ways to deploy our NSHS units, shall we?
Starting with the bad, this image above is from the third battle of last year’s King of the Hill campaign. What you’re looking at is a proxied army using Warhammer Lizardmen figures and some toys for Tyranids. The Monstrous Creatures we’re focusing on are the three big green Godzilla figures, which are standing in for Trygons.
This deployment isn’t horrible: the MCs are in the center of their zone, and have accompanying units of proxied Hormagaunts, Tyranid Warriors, and Venomthropes to provide some mobile cover as they advance. In keeping with the Force Organization Chart, I brought the maximum (three) Trygons that I could, and I also have three proxied Harpies (the Rodan figures behind them), also MC’s, to draw some fire away from the Trygons (we’ll discuss Flying MCs another time).
So, not totally sucktastic, but good, either, because the Trygons are much too far back from the front edge of the deployment zone, which is marked by the line of purple Lizardmen. Worse, the Fleet Trygons are stuck behind the relatively slow-pokey Tyranid Warriors and Venomthropes, which, during the game, hindered their advance, delaying them for at least a turn, which allowed the opposing Eldar to pour more fire into them, softening them up.
And now, some better deployment, this time of HS transports. This photo above comes from the second battle of the Saga of the Wolf King campaign, and what you’re looking at are four proxied Battlewagons, stuffed with proxied Ork warriors (represented by Dwarf figures) and accompanied by (proxied) Stormboyz.
The deployment zone is a triangle, and three out of four of the vehicles are as front and center as they can be, given the terrain and the shape of the ‘zone. The fourth could be considered to be on a flank, but it’s not far from the others, and it’s neither in nor blocked by the trees.
Three of the ‘wagons are in difficult terrain (the river sections) to gain some cover, and at the start of the game, one of them became immobilized as it tried to move. So while I will say that this example is “better” than the one with the Trygons, it isn’t optimal. At the time, the ‘wagons had grot riggers, which under the previous codex, could remedy immobilized results, but currently, all my Battlewagons have reinforced rams, so they can re-roll Dangerous Terrain checks.
Though non-shooty Heavy Support units can differ between being Monstrous Creatures or Transports, the deployment for them is similar:
Next time out, we’ll talk Troops. 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 two-part 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.
First posted May 2015