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The Tiger Roars
Master-crafted 40K
Introduction <> Army selection <> General strategy <> Deployment <> Improvising

Master-crafted 40K: Deployment
Rob Van Pelt-CathcartEditor's note: Veteran gamer Robert Van Pelt-Cathcart says: "I started in 2nd edition with Imperial Guard and continued in 3rd Edition with IG and also started Dark Eldar and an Armored Company. The IG I either play using the regular codex or as Death World vets [See Codex: Catachans]. I  had Necrons in 2nd edition and have continued with them in 3rd Edition.

"I have played in 3 Rogue Trader Tournaments. In the first two, I did not do so hot with my DE and IG. In the third, I scored 5th overall with my Armored Company. I have been tracking my record with my Dark Eldar since March 2002 and am currently at 7 wins and 1 loss.

"I don't track my other armies' wins, but I generally have a win rate of 75% with my Necrons, 67% with my Armored Company, and 50% with my IG.

"This series is designed to provide a summary of advanced tactics for playing Warhammer 40K. The goal is to allow players to read the thoughts and ideas presented in this series and then to use what they like in their own games to improve their chances of victory. 

"The most important thing to always remember is that this is a game and as such should be viewed as a recreational activity for socialization and fun. However, I hope I can provide an edge to give the reader a victory in a competitive environment such as a tournament or in a match with an old rival. 

"I do not endorse cut-throat playing or poor sportsmanship and that is not the intent of this article. I intend to present a smart playing style, utilizing the strengths of your own army, the weaknesses of your opponent's army, the terrain layout, and the mission objectives."

Deployment by Robert Van Pelt-Cathcart
Most new players think deployment is just throwing your figures down on the table top to get it on. The first thing most players learn is to deploy in cover and to make sure you have decent line of sight. That is good for starters, but deployment goes beyond that. 

There are many tactical considerations that go into deploying your forces. Essentially, deploying can be as much of a tactical game as the rest of the game after that. If you have ever played Risk and know some of the finer points to claiming territories in the setup of the game, then you have a good idea of how critical deploying can be. It is all about denial and opportunity. You are denying your opponent choices and creating opportunities for yourself.

I will split this article into two distinct sections, one on "shooty" armies and one on "assault" armies. A "shooty" army is one that has an inclination to engage an enemy at range and to avoid a close-up confrontation if possible. An "assault" army is one that has a preference to engage the enemy up close in melee and to avoid a protracted long-range fire fight if possible.

The basic premise of a shooty army is to kill the enemy at range. When deploying, the first consideration is the distance between your lines. Obviously, the more, the better, since some armies can assault a distance of 18-24" in one turn easily. Let's look at different deployment setups as dictated by the various missions found in the rule book and various supplements.

First I will look at "quarters" deployment in missions such as Night Fight and Cleanse. A shooty army wants to deploy first in these missions. The reason is to use your initial unit to push the enemy back. So, for IG in a Cleanse you put a tank, a Heavy Support choice, up front right at the corner, pushing the enemy back 18". Then the rest of your forces are deployed along the two table edges. This leaves you as much as 36-42" between your lines and the enemy on a 4' x 6' table. 

When you deploy, you must always keep your strategy in mind. The strategy with this setup is to make a full move of your heavy unit back to your lines, keeping it from blocking line of sight, while the rest of your army digs in and shoots. Your deployment along the back edges allows the most distance to be crossed while allowing your flanking units to to branch out and claim quarters. Thus, keep your fastest units like vehicles, calvary, etc. on the flanks. If you don't get to place the first unit and the enemy pushes you back, then still place your units as far back as possible.

Then there are missions like Patrol, Recon, and Rescue, where you deploy along opposite sides or corners. If you have the choice, always choose corners in preference to sides. In these missions, it is best to split your forces. Divide your units evenly and place one on your right flank and one on your left flank, leaving a large gap in-between. 

This presents an enemy with a choice: either split his forces and attempt to engage both flanks at once or keep his forces together to hit one flank first, leaving the second for later. This setup allows you sacrifice one flank to annihilate the enemy. 

If they split, you can concentrate everything on one half of his army. You will lose one half to his assaults. But the half that got shot at should be so crippled that they will not be a problem. Then as long as the sacrificial half ties them up long enough, you are in a strong position to take out the rest of his army as it advances through the gap. If he does not split his forces, then use the same strategy. Either way, this deployment provides a bait with two strong firing positions.

With assault armies, the goal is to get to the enemy as quickly as possible. This is the exact opposite of shooty armies in that you want the least distance possible between forces. 

In "quarters" deployment, you generally want to deploy first. This will push the enemy back and hurt their ability to maneuver and it will give you more breathing room. If you have a slower assault army, like Orks on foot or Rhino-borne Marines, you should deploy along one dividing line to rush a flank. If you have a faster army like Tyranids or Dark Eldar, disperse in your deployment zone to keep the enemy guessing; once the battle begins, use your speed to consolidate on one flank.

As with the Patrol, Rescue, and Recon missions, you want deployment along opposite corners. Here you still want to deploy in the best position to allow you to hit one flank of the enemy. If you see a shooty army deploying with the gap as mentioned earlier, your best bet is to hit one flank at its closest point to the middle, near the gap. Hence, deploy towards the middle of your zone.

No matter the mission, cover is essential, even more so to an assault army, especially an elite one with fewer numbers. Having your units out of line of sight or at least hull down is necessary. You should always deploy as if going second unless you know from the mission that you will be going first. Terrain should be used to protect your initial deployment and to allow you to advance on the enemy, unmolested by their shooting. 

For shooty armies, cover is usually less of a necessity as they either have the numbers to absorb damage or the opposing army won't be shooting much because they are an assault army. Deploy tanks hull down and keep important units in cover. The most important thing is to create and keep clear fire lanes. Generally, you want most of the terrain that blocks line of sight to be in the enemy's deployment zone so that when he emerges, he will be vulnerable. Any terrain in your deployment zone can be used against you as it blocks off line of sight.

Remember, deployment is more than throwing your minis down on the table. It can make or break your entire game. If a shooty army is not properly deployed they will be out of position to maximize their shooting phases and will waste valuable time repositioning. For an assault army, bad deployment could be devastating if the enemy gets the first turn and is able to cripple enough of your army to scrub your assault plans. For example, if a mechanized loses half of their transports, they will either hit the enemy piecemeal or the whole army will be slowed down and vulnerable to fire for longer. Deployment sets the stage for your strategy and provides the launch pad for a victory.
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© Copyright Robert Van Pelt-Cathcart, September 2002. Used with permission.


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