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Deployment for Dumbasses (Like Me):Troops   by Kenton Kilgore

Welcome to the third 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.  This time out, we’ll discuss the mainstay of most 40K armies: Troops.  Remember, I’m not a master player, and this series isn’t meant for master players: it’s for newbies, folks who need a refresher, and idiots like me who need things explained simply and slowly.     


Moving along, then.  There is, as even the greenest player will recognize, a wide variety of Troops to be had in Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine Scouts and Tactical Squads; Eldar Guardians and Dire Avengers; Orks Boyz and Gretchin; Tyranid Hormaguants, Termagants, and Genestealers; Necron Warriors and Immortals, and so on. 


Troops can be quite good at engaging and eliminating enemy units, but their raison d’etre in the latest few editions of the game has been to take and hold objectives.  So despite all the varieties available, Troops can be thought of as belonging to one of three basic types, based on how they carry out their primary function:

  • Type 1: Units that take and hold ground on foot, in and near their deployment zone;
  • Type 2: Units that move on foot across the table to take and hold ground;
  • Type 3: Units that deploy from Transports to take and hold ground.


First, A Word About Objectives

Before we delve much further, let’s discuss objectives.  Often, they take the form of counters (varying in number depending on the mission, from as few as one to as many as six or so) that you and your opponent place on the table before the armies deploy (hence the connection).   


When placing objectives, take into consideration which type(s) of Troops you have.  If you have the first kind—mostly static units that aren’t going to stray far from your deployment zone, if they even leave it —there’s absolutely nothing wrong with placing objectives on your side of the board where your guys can start on top of them or easily reach them. 


(If you really want to be tricksy, you can put them where your guys start out AND where it’s extremely difficult for your opponent to get to: say, on one of the upper floors of some ruins way back in your deployment zone)


If your Troops are headed to the other side of the board (Types 2 and 3), there isn’t much point in placing objectives in your deployment zone.  Better, then, to put them in the middle of the board or even in the other guy’s zone (if you’re feeling bold).


To Reserve, or Not to Reserve?

Let’s say you’ve chosen your Troop units, recognized what type they are, and placed your objectives.  Now we need to actually start placing units on the table.  The next question to address is whether you should keep any in reserve.


If you’re running Type 1, the answer is usually, “No.”  I suppose one could make a case for hanging back off the board to avoid enemy fire, then rushing forward to take objectives, but 1) it’s risky (what if your guys don’t make to where they need to be?); and, 2) your opponent can concentrate their attention (and firepower) on your other units on the board.  Trust me, opponents love when they get to fight a portion of your army with all of theirs.


If you’re playing mostly Type 2, the answer is almost always, “No.”  You need to get your Boyz/Gaunts/whatever to where they need to be, and odds are good that they’re not all that fast.  Don’t lose time and valuable real estate by having them start off the board—UNLESS, of course, they can Outflank.  In which case, they’re best off doing just that.


If you’re using Type 3 units, the answer is, “It depends.”  If your Troops are in Transports like Rhinos, Land Raiders, Chimeras, Trukks, etc., then you’ll want to start them on the board.  If you’re using vehicles that Deep Strike—Drop Pods or Dark Eldar Raiders—you’ll have to (in the case of Pods) or you might prefer to (in other cases) start them off the table (this also applies to Transports [or the units in them] that can Outflank).  Of course, if your Transports are Flyers—Vendettas or Night Scythes—they have to start off the board, anyway.        


Deploying Type 1 Troops

Having discussed objectives, what types of Troops you have, and whether to keep them in reserve, we’re ready to actually place them.  Let’s start with Type 1 units: ground-pounders who are going to stay in or move just outside your deployment zone.


First, pick an objective for a unit and place that unit as close to the objective as possible.  The best scenario is to deploy models on top of the objective(s), in your deployment zone.  Next best is to be deployed so that your Troops can reach the objective(s) on your first Movement Phase—and remember, some Troops (Space Marine Scouts, Genestealers) may Infiltrate or do Scout moves, which get them closer to where you want them.


Needless to say (but I will anyway), your Troops should be able to take a straight path to the objective(s): no going around impassable terrain or large enemy units.  In most current missions, you’re only guaranteed five turns, so you don’t have time to muck around, even if you run during the Shooting Phase.  Get to where you need to go, get the objective, and perch on it, if the mission calls for that. 


(In the Maelstrom missions, you usually don’t need to hold an objective once taken, so once a Troop unit has secured its first objective, it can go on to other, nearby ones)


If your Troops can deploy in cover, do so, so long as it doesn’t affect them securing objectives.  Troops are usually plentiful and relatively inexpensive, point-wise, so if the choice is between taking an objective or being in cover, always pick the former over the latter.


If possible, have Troops screen more expensive/fragile units.  I mentioned this in the articles about Heavy Support units, but it bears repeating: place your Troops in front of supporting units that can use the protection.  Thus, Gretchin provide cover for Lootas, Tactical  Marines cover for Devastators, Guardians protect Dark Reapers, and so on. 


This applies to Transports as well: Rhinos are terrific for keeping Predators and Vindicators safe, just as Chimeras are for Leman Russes.  Just so long, of course, as the Troops are either holding an objective or are not needed to do so.  Objectives first, everything else after that.           


Deploying Type 2 Troops

Next, let’s talk about infantry units that are going to cross no-man’s-land and grab objectives in the middle or the other side of the board.  Tying into army design (I have warned you that we would reference that from time to time), you’ll want these units to be large and/or tough.  No one sweats 10 Orks in flak armor tramping towards them; 30 Boyz will gain some respect; several mobz of 30 Boyz each is much mo’ betta; and mobz of 30 in ‘eavy armor, all screened by a tide of Gretchin, is best of all.


Similar to the Type 1 Troops, you’ll need to get these guys headed on a beeline for their target objective(s).  You’ll want them at the forward-most edge of your deployment zone to minimize the distance between them and where they’re going.  If there’s cover they can deploy in or move through, fine (so long as you don’t expect it to slow them down too much); if not…well, that’s why they call them “the poor, bloody infantry.” 


I’ve had success deploying these units in either a long thin line, one member-deep: this works particularly well for dirt-cheap units like Termagants or Gretchin that are there only to provide cover for other units (more about that in a smidge).  What also works well is to tramp your guys forward in columns of three or four figures across: when done correctly, you get two, three, or more mobz of Ork Boyz, for example, arriving in an area at the same time.  It’s much more effective than having your units move across the board in waves that can be dealt with one at a time.


Following up on what I mentioned about cheap Troops: if they can screen some harder-hitting squads coming up behind them, so much the better.  You can combine units and create some nice synergy—Termagants screen Tyranid Warriors, who screen Carnifexes; or Gretchin block for Boyz, who block for Nobz—but don’t layer the protection so deep that it keeps your mega-badasses too far back, out of the fight longer than they need to be (something I’ve been guilty of before).   


Deploying Type 3 Troops

Now we deal with those moving across the board in Transports of some sort, whether rumbling Chimeras, sleek Wave Serpents, or Deep-Striking Monoliths.  If the Transport will be starting on the table (by your choice, or because it doesn’t have any option not to), then you’ll want it up front, as close to the target objective as possible, in usually a more-or-less straight line from it.  Troops, of course, will be inside the vehicle to protect them from enemy fire. 


Similar to Type 2 Troops, you probably want to bring more than one Transport: one Rhino isn’t hard to counter; six Rhinos are.  If you can place the vehicle in cover or move it through/behind cover as you go, fine.  If not, rely on smoke launchers (if you can take them) or Jinking (if that’s an option) to protect your ride.


If the Transports are starting off the table—such as Drop Pods, Flyers, or something that Outflanks—then the only decision you need make is where to place your unit once it arrives from reserves.  Just as with Type 2 Troops, you’ll want to send your Transports to their target objectives straight away.  Don’t screw around with the vehicle slowing down to better shoot at the enemy, just get there ASAP, drop off your Troops, and then you can have the vehicle provide some fire support, block line of sight to your guys, etc.      


Some Pretty Pictures

That’s all well and good, but let’s see and discuss some actual photos of correct ways to deploy our Troop units, shall we?


First off, Type 1’s, that are going to hunker down in or near one’s deployment zone.  If I may toot my own horn here, this shot is from the recent King of the Hill II battle between my Necrons and Pat’s Eldar. 


As you can see, I placed most of the objectives in or near my deployment zone, and stashed them in or behind cover.  I then camped my numerous Warrior squads on these objectives and dared Pat’s Eldar to come take them.  Because Pat had lots of Guardians armed with  relatively short-ranged shuriken catapults, I had my Troops hang back outside of his reach, but within reach of my gauss rifles.


Now for some Type 2’s, those that are going to cross the board to trample the other guys into dust and take their objectives.  Below is a photo from the first battle of last year's King of the Hill campaign.  Pat has squads of Chaos Space Marines (and Plague Marines), screened by cheapo Plague Zombies.




Finally, Type 3’s, who deploy from Transports, and the photo below is from the same battle.   What you see are several of my Rhinos and Razorbacks, each loaded with Tactical Marines, (and Sternguard).  You'll notice that when I was forced to deploy some of my Transports in difficult terrain (atop hills), I made sure that those I put there had dozer blades, which allowed them to re-roll failed terrain checks.  Also note how cheaper Rhinos screen Razorbacks with lascannons, who can fire over the Rhinos and count as being Obscured. 




So what have we learned?  


  • Make the seizing and holding of objectives the highest priority of your Troops;
  • Place them so that they may reach objectives in the shortest time possible, with the least distance to cross;
  • Use cover so long as it does not interfere with taking and holding objectives;
  • Screen other units with Troops so long as it doesn’t interfere with taking/holding objectives.


Next time out, we’ll talk Elites.  See you then! 


More Deployment for Dumbasses (Like Me)

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.

Posted November 2015



Fighting Tigers:
Codex <> Tactics <> Gallery <> Allies and Enemies <> Tales of the Tigers

Other Pages:
Main <> What's New <> Site Index <> The Tiger Roars <> Themed Army Ideas
Events and Battle Reports <> Campaigns <> Terrain <> FAQ <> Beyond the Jungle