The Reserves Game

Opponent: “Ok, I’m done deploying my spammy gun line, you are up.”

Fritz: “I’m done, I reserve everything…”

Making use of mass reserves is perhaps one of the most potent weapons is the Eldar toolkit. It helps to minimize some of the weaknesses facing our out of date codex, low model count, etc. while taking away some of our opponent’s advantages. However, more than anything else, using reserves are a great way to keep your opponent guessing, and guessing is good because it leads to mistakes, mistakes that we can and will exploit.

Let me walk you through the game a bit with some examples of how reserves effect things…

First things first, did I get or take first turn? If my opponent has first turn (preferable) then I look at their army and what the board offers me in terms of terrain. If they are lining up for a first turn alpha strike, and they have the range and shots to hit me, why would I set up and let myself get blasted off the table?

Reserving everything means my opponent loses that first turn of shooting, and when I do come on the table I will at least get in a turn of my own shooting before being hit back, think of this as the counter to the alpha strike.

Reserves also cut down on the number of turns that you will be shot at- very important when you are fielding an point heavy vs. low model count army. More than anything else reserves help to smooth over the fact that our units, and many of the best of them (wave serpents, prisms, etc) are overpriced and that we are going to be outnumbered. Cutting the game down to five rounds of shooting vs. seven round in a seven round game is huge.

Reserves also encourages your opponent to spread out and move ahead since everything looks all clear. When my units come on the table I’m entering in from an angle/spot where I can wolfpack isolated units while using cover and range to protect myself.

Of course there are a few points to consider when playing the reserve game- things you have to be ready for. The first and most obvious is that your units could enter in piecemeal or much later in the game. I once had a lone jetbike unit zip on with the rest of my forces arriving turn four/five. With redundant units in the list I don’t feel this is a deal breaker, but it could happen. Really paranoid players can throw in an autarch to help with the reserves.

And then there is the question of what to do with a seer council if you play one. Reserving means no powers when they enter the table on that turn thus reducing them to very expensive jetbikes. My usual solution is to deploy them, castling up and using terrain to try and completely block LOS. LOS has to be complete since a cover save is meaningless with a 4+ invul save. However, at most it is only the really long range stuff that I have to worry about like las cannons, missiles, and orbital bombardments for the first turn.

Above all, reserves takes the punch out of the fist turn, especially with drop pod heavy armies or in your face assault armies- my solution to for the new Blood Angels. Nothing takes the wind out of those in your face armies when they have nothing to shoot and assault in that decisive first/second turn.

Fellow autarchs & farseer, are you playing the reserves game? Mon-kei, how could you adapt your army to use reserves, and is it something you regularly see in your gaming club/group?

Creating Skimmer Walls

The ability to generate cover saves on the go is one of the major strengths of mech-Eldar over the other 40K races in the game. Setting things up (in theory at least) to get a 4+ cover save on all your vehicles ups their indestructibility factor before energy shields, vectored engines, and holo-fields are thrown into the mix.

In this article I’m going to talk about creating cover on the move since a good opponent will be trying to flush your skimmer out in the open to deny precious cover saves. We are also going to look at using your mobility to create skimmer walls which are especially potent since they get a 4+ cover save from shooting and in the assault your opponent will need “6”’s to hit.

The idea is rather simple in theory and a bit more complex in application. Assuming you can’t block 50% LOS to your tanks from any tabletop terrain you want to make sure there is one of your own grav tanks in front of the others to help grant a cover save. Which tank to use depends on where you are in the game and what army your opponent has.

Unlike marine heavy games where my vypers are key, against IG the fire prism takes on new life and needs that cover save more than ever. For now, throwing fast moving vypers in front for the cover save is my best option.

Of course you have to remember the battle field is a changing place, and when you throw up your skimmer wall look at not only where your opponent is now, but where they can move with units that will have shots, so they don’t get a new LOS taking away your cover save.

When your grav-tank can’t shoot it then moves fast for the 4+ and blocks full LOS for other tanks- you do have spirit stones right?

Vypers really love cover saves- they are the key to keeping them up thoughout the game bypassing their AV 10 open topped nerfness. Using squadron rules, just get 50% of the unit obscured and you get full cover saves all around. Working in tandem with your wave serpents and falcons this should be especaiily easy.

Your tanks and skimmers should also be used as moble walls, especially to prevent objective grabs and contests by your opponent later in the game. Move that scoring unit up to the objective, and then ring around your tanks/skimmers to repel your opponent keeping them more than 3” away.

Turn five! Time to move in- vypers move all out for the cover saves as the jetbikes turboboost to the objective for a 3+ cover save. Very resilient and keeps my opponent more than 3” away from my objective. Of course there are ways around this, but the mass cove saves makes it much harder.

Fritz, throw us non-Eldar player a bone on how to deal with it! Ok, to keep it balanced…

Get a unit out that can run and move them up to the vypers in the picture above. Blast the said vypers hoping to down them, and then run the infantry in the blasted hole to contest the objective.

Finally skimmer walls can be used to keep those pesky horder armies off your jetbikes and out of assault range, especially in conjunction with star engines. Mass the jetbikes and shoot away and then bring the tanks in with star engines into a “V” formation in front.

Agree or disagree? Comments, Feedback, Flames?

The Null Deployment Army Model

Before “Way of Saim-Hann” and all my jetbikes I used to play Space Wolves. Funny right? Could you picture Fritz playing Space Wolves? This was right around the time 3rd was moving over to 4th and I had lots of grey hunters, scouts, long fangs, a land raider, and blood claws with assault packs. Once I really got rolling with my Eldar the Sons of Russ got tucked away in the gaming closet with Space Fleet and Dark Future.

When the new Space Wolf codex dropped I dug out my old army and put together a list. 1750 back in the day quickly dropped down to something like 1680 in the new codex. Now, I knew GW was reducing the cost of models to sell more, to get more on the table, to get us to play Apocalypse one way or the other, but seeing it like this with an army that I used to play day in and out was the first step in a new direction for me.

I knew armies were increasing in side, more bodies, more guns, more vehicles, as I’ve felt this creep first hand with my Saim-Hann still stuck with a 4th ed. codex especially hurting with the cost of wave serpents vs. similar transports like Valks and Razorbacks. Alpha- strike, mass reserves, turn five contesting, etc. – all points on this blog keep my Eldar in the fight, and hopefully yours also…

Rewind to a month or so ago when I had a chance to pick up a massive Tyranid army for a very reasonable price. I wasn’t looking for another army, and I’ve never played Tyranids before, but it was the type of thing that I knew I would kick myself later for if I didn’t snatch it up.

In many ways, this army is the Battle For Salvation’s (the 40K club where I play) Tyranid Army. Some dude started out with it first back at the very start of 4th, then it went to Brother Captain James, followed by Ultrabob, Black-Matt, back to Ultrabob, again to Black-Matt, and now to good old Fritz. Along the way it got a couple of repaints, conversions, and updates. I’m adding my own touches and 5th ed. models to it, and I’m sure a few years from now another proud club member will be fielding it on the table…

So I’m sitting here with this army as a complete n00b. By that I mean I’m not saddled with any of the baggage that long time ‘nid players have from the old codex. I still see cats playing the ‘stealer rush and nidzilla, and the only thing I can say about that, having faced it, and continuing to face it from an Eldar perspective is that X-zilla is dead and buried. I knew I didn’t want to go in that direction.

Time to hit up the internetz and spy on some of the other Tyranid players in my local area to get a base to build on, and what do I see? Tervagons and gaunt farms everywhere the eye can see! The strategy of pooping out as many gaunts as possible each turn seems to be working for them, but what worried me a bit was how some of the other club members had started facing these lists in the local tourney scene and they were really just a paper tiger. Swarm out as many gaunts as you want but when you are facing a crapload of razorback, predator, and land raider spam what happens? Now, I will further admit that it might be the player rather than the list, so what I do is put myself in the game with that list and compare it to some of the best players in our club- Danny Internets, Charlie Wolf, and Iron Ed. These guys bring the pain with their listhammer armies and I just can’t see standing up to that kind of firepower, especially with everything getting cheaper and cheaper in points to the point where 6+ razorbacks, 3 preds, land raiders, and rifleman dreads are the norm. For the first time in a long time I’m afraid of marines, and let’s not even talk about Imperial Guard!

I suited up, put my cup on, and promptly got my balls kicked in a few times. Not getting armor saves on the majority of your army (Tyranids) is the kiss of death with so many template weapons and ways to negate cover saves- either through them or by objective placement. This was the second step, besides, pushing 100+ models across the table gets very tiring…

Time for another way, and for me when the rules of the game chance, you no longer play by the rules is how I look at it- and this is what I mean by that statement. In every game “system” there are two sets of rules- the official game mechanics rules and the rules of a social contract between you and the other player. Obviously if you break the official rules you are a cheater, but what about the social rules? What the other player expects to face besed on experience? Nothing says you have to play by these expectations right?

Each club and gaming community has those unwritten rules- we play at 1500 points as our standard, no “special characters” allowed, we just play for kill points, we use comp because it makes thing fair, etc. These are the rules that I want to chance, or approach from an unexpected angle. Now let’s layer the internet over this social concept idea. Everybody has an opinion on 40K out there- some good, some bad, some you can’t even understand- but what is FACT is that the internet drives the 40K community more than we are all aware of. Say it loud enough and over and over until it becomes canon. Lists take shape, “best” ways to play the game, listhammer. The social contract of 40K says I line up my plastic dudes here, you line yours up there and we play a game. You know where I am coming from and everything is real straight forward. Well, what if I don’t want to play this way? Can the game be played another way?

Somewhere along the lines I just started reserving everything in my Saim-Hann warhost to cut down on a turn or two of shooting for my opponent, and to prevent being alpha-striked which seems to be the way the game is going. I may still get blasted off the table, but at least I can get some shots in or set up skimmer walls, everything I talk about on the blog here. Even now in tournaments when I reserve everything people either seem to panic and freak out, or look at me like I’m completely nuts. What if I could build on that only be all on top of my opponent by turn two?

Enter Tyranids as the first codex that can really pull off the game model that I’m going to present and want to exploit. Blood Angels and I’m sure the releases after that will follow with the same build possibility. Other codexes can attempt to do it, but there are fundamental design handicaps that fully prevent it. Now to the heart of the article- I’m going to summarize as best I can this model opening it up for comments and trail with your own army. Now obviously I can’t cover everything so fill in the gaps to make it work. I’m also going to cover the concept from an Eldar and generic marine perspective even if it doesn’t 100% work in the next few posts, but best case scenario first so it is easiest to see…

I want you to completely rebuild your army list and forget about deployment zones- every table edge and empty spot on the table is your deployment zone. Forget about lining up like its WW I, time to move into WW2 Blitzkrieg! Other players have built their army (social contract) to work in their deployment zone lining up, moving and shooting. I want you to smash that conceptual model in their face and hit them from everywhere- game over by turn three!

Here is my presentation of the model:

Group One: Spearhead.
These are the guys that do start in your deployment zone (Yes I just said not to have any!) and get deployed as far forward and to the center as possible. In my ‘nid list it is done by carnifexes and tyrannofexes. Their job is to march forward shooting, running, etc. to get to the center of the table as fast as they can.

Group Two: Outflankers.
This is the bulk of my army- genestealers, a huge gaunt swarm with hive commander, etc. that are going to come in off the edges. One or two don’t work- delivering six huge units will.

Group Three: Center Smashers.
The final group are infiltrator, deepstrikers, and pop in guys like lictors, and raveners who support the second group till the first arrives.

First, second, third group, got it- now the plan.

In a tournament setting, and now especially that I have posed it all here to see, I have to assume my opponent is going to look at my list and know what I am going to do. You guys previously running those ‘stealer shock lists ruined it for me! Now as soon as guys see genestealers they thing genestealer = outflank. What do you do against an outflanking army? Pull back to the center of the table and fire away as the incoming flankers advance. If my opponent does this then it is the same as me just running across the board and that’s not going to work. Allowing them to do this, especially if you only have one or two outflankers means all of their army is shooting at those two units- that is the first reason why you need 8+ units able to bypass the normal deployment zone plus a way to tack on a +1 to reserves so most stuff comes on the table. Hive commander, Swarmy the Swarmlord, Deathleaper, Lictors, all help with this, indeed helping to make the idea completely viable.

You need a way to keep your opponent in place so your outflankers can hit them, and this is done though objective placement and group two/three in the model list. With as many objectives as I can deploy they are going 12.” away from the table edge. If my opponent tries to hold them I’m assaulting the turn my stuff enters, if they pull back then…

…my second group pops up in the center and starts attacking all from there while the third group continues to advance putting pressure on my opponent to expand back out to the table sides so they aren’t assaulted by carnifexes and tyrannofexes. Imagine the idea of a wagon train suddenly attacked in all directions and they pull close together. As soon as this happens my guys start popping up in the center of their circle while a huge anvil like battering ram is running right at them. My artistic MS paint map below sums the idea up…

THAT is where I am heading and where I want to be playing the game while my opponents are still stuck in a warhammer fantasy type model.

Now, I’ll be expanding in more bits and details with Tyranids over on my Tyranid blog, while adapting the model for my Eldar and other armies here on this blog. Unfortunately for now Necrons need not apply till they get a new ‘dex. This idea might be an option for other codex armies, but for Tyranids and Blood Angels I can’t really see any other way to play them. Doing so is like going back to running a 4th edition infantry army vs. 5th edition mech gunline armies…

Comments, feedback, flames on the Null Deployment Model? What do YOU think about building an army to bypass deployment? Especially hand for those tournaments that have wacky deployment parameters. Good model plan or just too risky for your tastes?

Blood Angles: Everything You Knew About 40K Has Changed…

Will YOU be able to change with them?

A while back, and on some of the other blogs like BOLS & YTTH I’ve been talking about how 40K has been changing and evolving, and how there are now two ways to fundamentally play the game as it exists with the system we know as “5th Edition”.

The first, and dominant method is to play listhammer. Min/max units, analyzing units based on their performance and direct relation to the game- blowing stuff up and taking objectives. Fluff, cool figures, and your leftover models from your previous army have no place in the cruel world of listhammer. Everything is efficient and by the numbers, and I fully credit Stelek and the fantastic work that he has done bringing this method to the 40K community. Stelek made 5th edtion, or at the very least was the first to openly talk about how to play it. In house I joke about these lists as three dread/three pred lists since that was their first inception at the club where I play and on the tournament scene as it started with Vulkan lists when the current marine ‘dex fist dropped. Even now it is solid and hard to argue against facing three preds, three dreds, five rhinos, a land raider, and speeders- all melta options of course. I think the pinnacle of this method of thinking shows in the current guard lists played around my neck of the woods. All vets in chimeras backed by a flavor of tanks- manticore or hydras being choice, followed by three valks. Line them up, and start rolling some dice…

For the most part, emphasis on most, these lists blew 4th edition lists completely out of the water- and by 4th edition lists I mean foot/infantry heavy, with only the odd vehicle here and there. Why is this? Now, all this is old news but I’m bringing it up to build my point so hang in there with me for the history lesson…

Listhammer armies wasted 4th ed. armies based on the fact that the rules had changed and the current set of codex took full advantage of that rules potential. 4th Ed. lists were literally playing a different game and they didn’t know it. It started with codex Space Marines, IG, ‘Nids (to a lesser degree, but bugs have always been out there on their own), ‘Wolves, and now of course Blood Angels.

We are now at the half way point for old vs. new codex’s and in the competitive tournament scene, again around here, one is rarely seeing any 4th ed. codex’s on the table. We are now at the point where the listhammer players are no longer beating on 4th edition lists or non mech lists. Literally over the course of 5th edition so we have gone from the likes of World War I type imagery of mass troops, and the occasional odd tank lumbering forward to all out mech warfare with legions of tanks moving across the table. I sometimes feel like I’m playing a scaled up version of OGRE rather than 40K. In my own Black Templar list I rarely take the infantry models out of my case since they never get out of the tanks… Somebody watching 40K for the first time would easily think it is a “tank” based wargame.

So where do we go from here? It was fun gunning down infantry armies with my eight assault cannon razorbacks, three predators, and crusaders, but not so much fun anymore when my opponent is sitting across the table from me with the same “build”. The last remnants of 4th edition are dead- unless you play Chaos Space Marines or Necrons as you don’t have a choice, but at least Chaos can play Chaos ‘Wolves, or Chaos Space Emo Vampires now. There is NO reason to play the Chaos Codex anymore and maybe that abomination will finally be dead and buried for all time.

We are going to get to Blood Angels in a moment and what role they are playing in game, IF the Blood Angels players can see it…

What do YOU do now that listhammer is no longer an advantage and the playing field has been leveled? Suddenly all those uber generals beating up on 4th ed. lists aren’t racking up as many wins. They jump to the newest codex/flavor of the month still chasing that listhammer concept. We, and by that I refer to the enlightened readers who follow this blog, need to find a new conceptual model to play the game with- going beyond listhammer since it is no longer that golden advantage. So Fritz, what have you been cooking up? Much like my own playstyle radically shifted with 5th, it has again radically shifted- here is the core of where I’m going and will try to communicate over the next few months on the blog…

You can continue to play the game under the listhammer model, jumping from IG to Blood Angels for now, and then to X armies in six months, OR you can view the game from a different perspective, and build your list on that perspective…

Until very recently 40K has been a two dimensional game- you have your “side” of the table, and I have my “side”. We deploy, line up, and play the game. Sure you have the ability to deepstrike and infiltrate but they were always an afterthought. Then came outflank, but again, it rarely seems to be used. This two dimensional model no longer works or offers any advantage. Why would I want to be downrange from a dozen or so tanks regardless of whether I am going first or second? Look at IG players- the pinnacle of the listhammer model- they try to line up and go first blasting you off the table AKA leafblower. If you go first, they still line up and then try to seize the initiative and blast you off the table. Even if you go first you down a valk and a tank or two, and then get vaped. Why would you want the game to come down to rolling dice to see who can get blow up the most first?

I want you guys to start playing and thinking the game in five dimensions instead of two…

Your table edge = 1. Right table edge = 1. Left table edge = 1. Deepstrike = 1. Infiltrate = 1. Add ‘em up and we get 5! Of course that is just the outline, we will get into the nuts and bolts of it over the next few posts...

I want you to build your army to enter the table by outflanking, deepstriking, infiltrating, and reserves first and foremost, with lining up in your deployment zone as the last option. Stop thinking about the game in terms of your side and your opponent’s. ALL the table sides, and everywhere on the table is your side!

In order to sell more models GW has reduced the point cost of everything in most of the 5th edition codexes. When you can get a razorback from 35 points why aren’t you going to spam out 6+ of them. The glut of models on the table AKA Apocalypse style means that ironically with all your tanks which are supposed to offer mobility are now actually demobilizing you. The point cost of tanks in the 4th edition codexes allowed only so many on the standard gaming table- you had the room to move around, now with the same size table + deployment, and double/triple the models you are bottlenecked up for the first two turns. You are fine if your opponent is still playing the game of lining up opposite of your army, but what happens when their army bypasses that and starts hitting from the sides, and right into your ranks with deepstrikes and infiltrators? THIS is the new model that I am now playing with- once the current/popular “rules” no longer offer an advantage, find a new set of “rules” that does.

So finally we arrive at Blood Angles, and bonus points for sticking with this long rant so far. BA’s are the first codex to combine FLUFF and 5th ed. design RULES. Tyranids tried to do this, but epically failed nerfing carnifexes and ‘stealers. All the bad of BA’s are gone, and the stock marine rules have been augmented by fluff. Overcharged engines to the extreme- fast moving vehicles, razorbacks with assault cannons, outflanking baal predators, stormraven drop ships. BA’s can adapt to this new model without even trying. Only BA’s and one other army right now can 100% play to this proposed model without radically changing the army or using handicaps in some way, question is are they going to do it?

By that, I mean, are BA players across the Imperium still going to be lining up across the table using listhammer playing like “Space Marines” or are they going to be able to see what could be, what their codex could do and fully exploit it?

I also wonder if GW is taking an even newer codex design model of combining actual usable fluff with 5th edition concepts? Dark Eldar and Necrons up next will tell us, and if so, shudder in fear, since that puts the previous 5th edition codexes in a different and lower bracket. Further good news means I only have to wait a bit longer for my 40 point wave serpent…

As always thought, comments, feedback, and flames! Now that the majority of the armies out there can build a proper mech 5th edition list, is that “advantage” dead and buried? Is the model I’m proposing crap? Are Blood Angles the first to marry FLUFF and RULES? Will Blood Angels players still be playing like 4th Ed. Blood Angels?

Storm Guardian Attack!

Are storm guardians the new fire dragons? Round up all the craftworld farmers and artisans, give them a pistol and a fusion gun and pack them into the wave serpents! All kidding aside, with some warlock AKA a sergeant support could they fulfill the role or fire dragons with the advantage of being scoring and cheaper for the points/numbers ratio?

In my last article about Fire Dragons (search the blog archive to find it) I posed the question about what was the optimal number to bust open tanks- ten not needed, five is a good number. Well, with two fusion guns and a singing spear in the storm guardian unit, could they maybe do the same thing? They are both meched up in a wave serpent so hitting rear armor is easy. True you only have two shots hitting on a 4+ and the S9 spear hitting on a 3+. Is that tradeoff with picking up a scoring unit? Maybe?

On the opposite side I’ve been using storm guardians as a cheap troop choice to sweep units off an objective at the last turn. I know it is all the rage to take five dire avengers as a wave serpent upgrade, but sometimes you have to get out of the transport or are forced to get out and that is where the storm guardians come in. 10 with two flamers and an enhance warlock. Was the unit with two flamer shots and shuriken pistol shots to soften them up, and if you are objective sweeping then odds are good your opponent’s troops are clustered up, and then charge with two base attacks plus the charge for the majority of the unit, striking at I5. The softening up shots followed by striking first and the witchblade on the warlock makes up for the lack of power weapons and ho-hum S3. If I’m cracking a tougher nut, then other aspects of my army can pelt the objective with long range shots before the storm guardians attack. Another option depending on your meta-game is to drop enhance for destructor giving you three flamer shots before the charge.

As a “scoring upgrade” for wave serpents, are storm guardians a better choice, more effective then the five dire avengers? What role do you see with storm guardians on the table?

Saim-Hann Apocalypse Style

I’ve probably played in over a two dozen Apoclaypse games with my Saim-Hann, including an Epic weekend of gaming at BOLSCon, and I’d thought I’d share some idea on adapting your warhost to the big game.

First off, as a training tool for your army, Apocalypse events are a great place to start. Since they are all about fun, and throwing down the most models this is your chance to try out that crazy and wacky stuff that you were thinking about doing in a regular game to see how it works. Apoc. events also allow you to go up against and take a pounding for a large variety of models and armies- it will really give you a quick rundown on just how durable your army is, and what it can and cannot do. New players to the Way of Saim-Hann should just go out and play some big games to lean the subtleties of Eldar.

I’ve found, especially in Apocalypse events, that Saim-Hann/mech Eldar have a huge advantage as the game move on. With so many models on the table, as they blow up, move out, shoot and assault, the battlefield literally becomes a choke point and bottle neck of models. It literally becomes a traffic jam on the table that you don’t have to worry about. Since your models can just fly over everything else one can always get their warhost where it needs to be- the side that courts the majestic Eldar really has an advantage with this in terms of delivering the hurt or last turn objective grabs.

Tactically you want to use your warhost together with the grav tanks on the outside shielding the weaker jetbikes and vypers on the inside, and at the front of the spearhead is your seer council. Datasheets and assets aside, your warhost is really about delivering the fury of your seer council right into the vulnerable spot of the other side.

Seer councils are like the ultimate weapon in Apocalypse, especially when the other side has a lot of super heavies which can blast through armor and cover saves but not invulnerable save! Fortune up that seer council and get to work- the rest of the warhost is really just a bodyguard and shielding unit for the seer council, opening up pockets and diverting off incoming units. As a backup you want to have Eldrad and/or another seer riding in a wave serpent ready to throw up fortune on the seer council if they get hit by a psychic hood. You need that fortune going off every turn 100%.

As a side note, an old psychic hood should ALWAYS be included of you are playing any Imperial armies, the ability to zap the entire table is uber.

The second advantage of the seer council is all their witchblades and singing spears which get stacked with the invulnerable save. Here is an awesome tactic that I’m always on the lookout for…

On the crowded Apocalypse battle field there are always other units clustered around a super heavy like a baneblade or a titan. You want to get your seer council right into the super heavy and assault it causing an apocalyptic explosion. The blast clears out everything around it, while your seer council gets the 4+ invulnerable save with a re-roll. Only in 40K can a space elf on a flying bike survive ground zero of a nuclear explosion…

Finally, you always want to use reserves with your warhost, especially if the other side is taking firs turn. With reserves you can enter the table moving fast to collect cover saves and put yourself in a position to optimally strike or make an approach to that super heavy.

Sound off! What do you think of Apocalypse as a training tool for your army? What tactics and ideas are you using with your warhost on the table? Send in an sacrifice the mon-kei, while the Eldar zip in and get all the glory?

Turn Five! I Win!

Last turn objective grabs are even better for Eldar these days when compared to the older editions of 40K. Back in 40K 4th edition all the games ended on turn six so as an Eldar player you could count on it, and your opponent was always ready for it. It was an awesome tactic and one I regularly used.

When 40K 5th edition rolled around I naturally got upset for a bit since now the game could end on turn five, six, or even seven! Was last turn contesting dead? Hardly, in has gotten even better! Like Obi-Wan it has been struck down only to arise more powerful than ever!

The reason?

Experience still shows me that a majority of 40K players still don’t plan for the game to end on turn five, even knowing it can happen 33% of the time. This is something we both want to plan for and exploit, being in a position to win on turn five, but ready to extend it our incase things go to six or even seven.

The first thing that needs to happen is setting up for turn five from the start of the game. Based on how many and where the objective are de-meching your opponent is key. Getting those guys out on foot so you can later tank shock in with your wave serpent to contest/control is key. After that you want to start looking at targets that could do the same to you on turn five such as land speeders or other fast moving units.

Then you want to plan your grabs/contests in waves. If I have a group of vypers and a wave serpent still up, send in the vypers first to contest and hang back with the wave serpent. If the vypers get blasted, then next turn send in the wave serpent. Remember that you only need to hold one objective to win!

It only takes one jetbike!

Finally you need to keep your units alive so they can move out in waves for turn five/six/seven. Cover saves, fortune, star engine scoots are all valid, but so is the strength of your models. Let’s say you are running a group of three vypers- when two of them go down, pull back with the third surviving one and keep it for turn five. A lone vyper isn’t going to do anything killy, so its role on the table changes based on squad size and strength- this applies to every unit you have. When turn five rolls around go for it!

What is your turn five game based on your army list?

Fritz Training Regimen: Army Of One

Listen up readers! For this week’s post I’m going to be your martial arts master and immortal sage all rolled into one, delivering secrets well worth the price of admission!

Regardless of the army you play, we all want to get better at the game, and above almost everything else that is the number one reason we are all trolling the internet and sites like dakka dakka and warseer exist. Everybody has their secret elixir of truth for getting better, and I’m going to drop one of mine this week beyond finding the best player in your club and getting your ass kicked by them till you learn the ropes. While this is a fantastic method not everybody has the stomach or ego to take it week in and week out with their eye on the ultimate prize. This idea is more of a solo exercise for when you are away from the master and with your friends rolling some dice in the basement.

One of the skills of becoming a good 40K player is knowing how your army operates as a whole, and how to maximize the most out of each unit. With each unit you have to instinctively know what it can do, how you can keep it alive, and what the odds are for accomplishing its goals. Learning how each unit works means less mistakes on the table, and without actively thinking about it your focus and energy on the table can be put towards strategy and not “what-if’s”. Here is the game I play to learn how to use each unit, and it was instrumental to mastering my seer council and land raider with terminators inside.

For this mission you are taking your learning unit and putting it against your opponent’s entire army in a modified annihilation mission. You get to pick the type of deployment and if you go first turn or second and then see how long your unit can last- the game “ends” when your unit is wiped off the table. At the end of the game you add up all the victory points that you got and compare it to the points of your unit. Keep practicing till you earn three to four time the cost of the unit in points.

With only a single unit on the table, and the ability to focus on it 100% you will quickly learn to use cover, avenues of approach and when to move and shoot, and when to just sit tight and shoot. Work on earning those points in the list! Only when you can do all this on the fly with each and every unit in your army can you afford to start thinking about higher level tactics and stuff.

Sound off! What unit do you need the most practice with? What types of practice missions do you use to get better at the game?

It’s All Good Yo! I Got Me A Psyker!

It’s funny how the tides of 40K ebb and flow, there was a time when a Space Marine librarian was a rare sight on the table, and now they are leading almost every army that I see- and I can understand why! Looking at the trends of the 5th edition codexes, each army has both powerful and interesting psychic powers that are now open to them. No longer are Eldar masters of the psychic arts, and the dynamics of the game have changed, for the better I would argue.

Even in casual pickup games, and definitely in tournaments, odds are better than average you will be facing some sort of psyker. From the Eldar perspective we want to look at both shutting down the benefits of any enemy psykers (null zone especially) while stopping their psychic hood. On the opposite side, to keep this article fair, we are also going to look at the mon-kei perspective, as just bringing a psyker to the table isn’t enough.

In order for a psyker to be effective they need both mobility and durability- movement to get into place to spam their powers, and durability to counter what is thrown against them in an attempt to shut them down. Because of this, your farseer needs to be either on a jetbike as part of a seer council, or tucked away in a wave serpent or falcon as part of a mobile bunker- both options address mobility and durability.

Shutting down your opponent is easy thanks to runes of warding, which much like star engines are mandatory wargear/upgrade options. This potentially throws a wrench in the gears for your opponent, but they are also going to be trying to nerf your fortune and guide/doom rolls with a psychic hood or other negating wargear item, and there is nothing worse than a Dark Angels player with a librarian hiding in the back of the table just to ruin your day.

When facing something like this, depending on the range and ability, just “risking” the roll off isn’t a viable option. Would you roll your seer council up without fortune so they go down like regular jetbikes to rapid firing bolters? Risking the roll off puts you in the position of having this happen to you at some point in the game. If you can’t say out of the range of the negating item, and a good opponent will make sure you can’t, then the next thing is to try and deal with it.

I’m going to use Space Marines as our example since we are all familiar with them, either having armies ourselves, or having experience playing against them. Look at the delivery system for the psyker- is it an active or passive one? An active system (the most popular and effective) often has said librarian in a land raider with terminators ready to push with the hood and null zone followed by dropping vortex and assaulting with the terminators. This is a powerful combination since the termies will probably be going up against something with invulnerable saves like your seer council and the invul. re-rolls are murder. Or, is it a passive one like a librarian sitting in the back joined to a squad- usually the older Dark Angels or Inquisitor variants. Active builds are more dangerous and what we want to look at since they can affect you regardless of where you are on the table.

Dealing with this goes back to our first question of mobility and durability- you need to shut down at least one of these to negate the advantage of the librarian. Often mobility is the easier of the two with mech Eldar- pop the land raider and get that libby out on foot. If your opponent makes this hard for you with placement on the table, then taking the librarian out is key. Take one of your units and set a trap to lure the librarian and terminators out of the hold of the land raider and then torrent them to death.

Now for the mon-kei perspective of that land raider + librarian + terminators…

You want to dominate the center of the table with the land raider so the range of the psychic hood projects out in the largest radius. Sitting or castling up in a corner means your Eldar opponent can hang just out of range throwing guide and doom on your forward units. Repel that seer council with the hood and null zone. Chances are, if you are playing Space Marines you are also meched up and seer councils are murder on tanks with their singing spears and witchblades. Don’t let them gobble up a lone tank, keep all your units within the psyker bubble of the land raider so it is a risk to move in and pop that tank on the perimeter. Finally, to take out the seer council, force your Eldar opponent to cross into your null/hood zone. Don’t go around chasing them since they can turbo boost away and to the other side unharmed. Use objective placement and pushing other units to force them to meet your librarian and terminators head on!

Time for an informal poll- do you guys play a psyker in your army, and what is it looking like at your gaming club/store? Eldar players, what effects have there been to your seer council, and mon-kei marine players, what powers are you taking with your librarian?

Shields Up! Ramming Speed!

Somebody once posted somewhere that I run around thinking *I* invented the idea of tank shocking, well I did! Just kidding of course, couldn’t resist…

As an Eldar player I often spend as much time tank shocking as I do shooting and dropping destructor templates, and the ‘shock is often much more effective, since anytime you roll those dice in 40K bad things can and do happen. Squads run of the table, death or glory ends in glory denied, and scoring units are pushed off the objective at the last moment. Oh sweet joy!

With Eldar, tank shocking is a front forward tactic as opposed to something that comes up once and a while for other armies, unless of course you are now playing orks! With the speed of moving all out, collecting a cover save, and then kicking in star engines you can be in position in one turn to tank shock anything on the table. Throw in the wave serpents energy shield or holo-fields and death or glory really isn’t much of an issue, and most players other then guard with their spammy melta are not ready to risk losing the model to a DOG fail.

Now like a true autarch we want to set things up at the start of the game for maximum that tank shock madness. In an objective mission, with the objectives you can place, put them 17” apart in a straight line on the back edge of the table. The two units that are set up by your opponent on them are then in line for a straight tank shock run- of course you will have to de-mech them first but that is what all the scatter lasers and shuriken cannons are for. Look for that lone model just out of terrain or the 50% that isn’t in cover and hit that model.

Star engines and tank shocking are like peanut butter and jelly…

Star engines allow you to then move that 12” to get within six of any unit that is running from the shock while making your full 24” run- this way they keep running off the table or at the worst falling back. Nothing more satisfying then de-meching terminators and then tank shocking them back and off the table. We are elite 1st company veterans running from a silly space elf tank!

Following the new “theme” of WOSH 3.0 we are going to look at the other side of the table from the perspective of the mon-kei and throw up some advice on how to stop all this tank shock stupidity.

Be ready for it! With any objectives you can place make sure they are in terrain and keep your units in terrain as much as possible- make that Eldar player take a terrain test- that is a 1 in 6 chance of crashing. Tank shocks happen in a straight line- zig zag the deployment of your troops so it is harder to catch two or three in a full ‘shock run, use vehicles as a buffer to protect units next to them, and finally have faith in your wargear and go for the death or glory- epic things also happen when you roll those dice!

Time to share those tank shocking success stories or some addition ideas on how to stop the madness…

I Want YOU For BOLSCon 2010 & Games Day 2010!

I know we are still a few months out, but it is time to start making plans now! I’m hoping you guys will consider attending BOLSCon this year as one of the premier 40K events of the season. I just picked up my ticket and am playing in the doubles tournament on Friday, and the narrative events on Saturday and Sunday. I’m putting out a call to all Eldar players in the known galaxy to assemble with me and take on the mon-kei in the Apocalypse games. There is also going to be a special Thursday night event that BOLS is letting Jawaballs and I host. I can’t give it away full yet, but let’s just say I need some Xeno players on my side, and it is finally going to settle the Blood Angels vs. Eldar question once and for all. Personally, I’m aiming to set the Blood Angels chapter back 1000 years and make their little screw up in Space Hulk a footnote compared to what is cooking.

JB and I are also set for Games Day, and we are going to be running a club table again just like last year. Bring your army, miniatures, and army lists for open gaming, painting tutorials, and tactical reviews. We are also going to be running a mini-tournament event with some prizes and the soon to be coveted Golden Jawa trophy, more to come once we finalize the schedule…

Saim-Hann Alpha Strike: Crushing Face First Turn!

“Foolish mon-kei! The stars themselves once lived and died at our command and yet you still dare to oppose our will?”

If you have been following my blog for any amount of time then you know my playstyle for Saim-Hann Eldar- deception, guile, reserves, and general trickery. One never knows what is true and what is an illusion on the table…

Besides being fun as hell, on a practical level this playstyle suits the current meta-game of the Eldar codex. Our units were never cheap and disposable, and they are even less so with each new codex, requiring finesse and balance to work as an entire warhost.

That said, there are times one has to go balls to the wall with a crushing all out attack delivering the alpha strike. For those new to our unique hobby the alpha strike is where you take first turn and deliver such a crushing blow to your opponent in the shooting phase that their entire army is broken on turn one. Unable to mount any further resistance they can’t really win the game, and the rest of the game is spent mopping things up. Think of the alpha strike as the ultimate sucker punch.

Why go for the alpha strike? Maybe you are playing in a tournament and you want to get the maximum points for the mission to help catapult you ahead as a cushion for the next games. Maybe you are facing an army that you can/need to break before it moves out- punk those rhinos before they can pop smoke, thin the Tyranid horde a bit, or maybe you just want to show the might and majesty of the Eldar!

Why not go for the alpha strike? If it fails you are hanging out in the wind and in a place you don’t want to be, while taking first turn closes your options later in the game to have that last turn to grab/contest objectives and pull ahead in kill points.

Let’s take a look how to pull off the alpha strike from a Saim-Hann perspective and how to deal with one if you are facing it on the other side of the table…

Obviously you have to take first turn so it is going to be a battle of the dice to see who goes first. Even if you lose that roll off you may still get passed first turn if it is an objective mission. Either way now that you have first turn you are going to want to deploy in the center and as far forward as possible. The alpha strike is all about pushing out your firepower so everything gets deployed.

Now, as small of a chance as it is, and actually it isn’t that small, being one in six, you need to plan for the possibility of your opponent seizing first turn from you. Just in case, you need to place your models so your wave serpents, fire prisms, and vypers get cover saves from the rest of your models. Ironically, in this case your jetbikes are up front to act as a cover save shield. You don’t want to get totally alpha striked by your alpha strike! Of course this is going to be adjusted for terrain, and a board setup with a nice big piece of terrain in the center is awesome.

If your opponent doesn’t seize and you are going first, fortune up the council and guide the unit that pumps out the most shots. Then you take a step back and see which side of the table your opponent is weaker on. The key is getting your opponent to spread out across the board, and this can be influenced through objective placement by stringing them out. Whichever side is weaker, with less units, that is the side you are going to move out against and wolfpack. Use your wave serpents and other tanks to create a cover wall blocking off the weaker elements of your army (jetbikes and vypers) so they get a cover save from the shooting next turn. Once you take out that side of your opponent’s army, you then work your way down the table. The speed of Saim-Hann is especially suited to an alpha strike since you can gang up all of your army on a small portion of your opponents.

Now, how to deal with the alpha strike when it is being aimed at you. Certain armies like Imperial Guard always like to use the first turn strike. With all their cheap chimeras and valks this seems to be the one trick that they all use. Depending on your army you have two options- play the reserves game of go for the seize.

The reserves game works very well for mech Eldar since our units can move and shoot when they enter the game making up for any lost ground on turn one. The down side to this is that if you roll poorly for reserves you might have your opponent shooting all his stuff at one or two units, but then you use cover saves from turbo boosting and moving fast, along with staying out of range of all but the longest guns to help keep your stuff up. If you are really paranoid about this then throw in a cheaply autarch for the strategist bonus.

The second option is the ultimate big balls move and personally I only use it in certain games (read tournaments) where I need to win big or are facing an army that really has me bested- like a gunline IG spam list with the autocannon tanks that can ignore cover saves. In this case when my opponent is looking to AS me, after they deploy everything out, I’ll then deploy all my stuff out front and center and then gamble on seizing the turn. In this case, literally the game comes down to a die roll, since I’m blasted if my opponent still goes first. That said, and done when you are probably going to lose anyway, or are so far behind in a tourney, you need a miracle to pull back ahead, when you do get that “6” and catch your opponent hanging out there it is a wonderful game. I can say first hand from both experience and seeing it done to others that this reverse alpha strike is always unexpected and completely devastating.

With risk comes great reward and in many cases the alpha strike can be a gamble- how are you guys using it in your warhost or army, and if now are you considering using it now?

Dreaming Of Fire Dragons

Fire Dragons seem like the perfect melta choice for your Eldar warhost. With so many tanks and monstrous creatures on the table, melta weapons give you an almost guaranteed kill at whatever they shoot at, well as much of a guarantee as you can get with a game involving dice.

Space Marines have their land speeders and tactical marines to deliver the heat, Imperial Guard have their own veterans spammed out with melta guns to do the job so Fire Dragons should naturally fit right in with the same role correct? Perhaps, if you are trying to play like Space Marines and Imperial Guard...

Let's take a look at how Fire Dragons are being used on the table, and then I'll offer up my own opinion on this suddenly popular aspect warrior.

Put a bunch of Fire Dragons into a transport and zoom it up to your opponent's super unit, like a land raider with terminators inside, get out and pop it open. With the speed and survivability of the Eldar grav tank getting there in one turn isn't a problem especially when you take into account cover saves, energy shields, and holo-fields.

But, is this "guaranteed" kill a good idea? Is trading 1 for 1 or 1 for 2 worth it in the overall scope of the game? Consider this: You zip your tank up and the Fire Dragons get out exploding said land land raider. What now? Your opponent can't afford to loose another unit from those 'dragons so they are going to get shot up and die, and in the process you may even loose the grav tank that ferried them since it is now next to your opponent's core.

As an Eldar player with an overcosted codex you can't afford to play the trade game. Aspect warriors are expensive, their ride is even more expensive, while the mon-kei Imperial Guard get both cheap transports and cheap melta options. I often see my fellow Eldar players trying to play this trade game.

Now that is not to say the trade game doesn't have a place. Maybe it is best serving to explode that land raider to cripple the spearhead of your opponent's army and shut down their mobility, but there are other options to this, and a good warhost will seek to take advantage of them also.

Before we get into how I want you to run Fire Dragons, let's look at the unit itself. Do you really need ten to do the job? What is the optimal number to take for a unit size. Allowing for some unlucky rolls, even while hitting on a 3+ I've found five to six to be that magic number. You are committing as few points as possible while ensuring that the what they shoot at is destroyed. Forget about the exarch while your at it to shave off a few more points.

Now that you have your 'dragons all loaded up, here is how I want you to play them. Remember that an active player is always at an advantage over a reactive player. Your Fire Dragons should not be reacting to your opponent's movements going out to kill stuff. YOU should be setting things up for the optimal kill with your Fire Dragons so they are killing stuff, and then getting back in their transport to go on and kill more stuff. If I am playing Fire Dragons I don't consider them a "success" unless they have killed three or four big things. So what is the setup? Again, let's go back to that land raider full of terminators...

Most opponents have a defined role for each unit in their army and they often can't see beyond that role. Termies in a land raider are used to smash through, assault, and wreck face. Like a rabid dog they can only see one thing, they lack the true overall vision of a skilled autarch.

What if you used the bulk of your army to engage your opponent and keep them busy, while depositing a lone unit out somewhere on the table almost in assault range for the land raider. With you army engaged, what is around to stop that land raider from rolling up and slicing up your unit? For that unit, I often use my jetbikes turbo boosting into range. Everybody likes to assault jetbikes...

Land raider moves in for the kill, and then your Fire Dragon grav tank breaks off and intercepts killing the land raider and stranding the terminators. Can you visualize this concept? You want to pull off a unit from your opponent's army, isolate it, and then kill it with the dragons so nothing is around to then reliably counter and kill your them. Of course those terminators are still out in the open and in position to shoot and assault next turn, but the rest of your army can then shoot at them with long range shots, and if you have star engines (you do have them right?) you can then star engine in your tank to block those terminators for a turn, only to have your dragons jump back in and zoom away next turn.That is how I would use Fire Dragons in a conventional type of warfare, but we want to take it a step further and engage in the unconventional being Eldar and all.

Power perceived is power achieved is my favorite and often abused quote.

Often what a unit could theoretically do is way more powerful then what it can actually do. What about using your Fire Dragons to direct and control the flow of the battle, restricting your opponent's movement.

A good opponent will be all about calculating threat range. X unit can move X inches and then shoot X inches. So those Fire Dragons sitting in the transport can potentially move 24" + the 12" star engine move to threaten next turn or move the 12" to threaten this turn. That good opponent will see where you can go and adjust accordingly. Just be having those dragons in a certain area could potentially shut down parts of the table, especially if your opponent is looking to move an expensive or mission critical unit.

The final way I want you to think about using Fire Dragons is to punish your opponent with them, breaking their will in the game. Overall, 40K is about making mistake, the opponent that makes the least often wins, and the general that can force and then exploit mistakes shows a true command. We all make mistakes on the tabletop, so having your Fire Dragons in a central spot on the table so they can zip out and exploit a mistake when it appears is key. It is not enough to "create" a mistake, you also have to set up the game through movement and looking ahead to capitalize on that mistake.

I'm going to go back to dreaming about Fire Dragons...

Need Any Fire Dragons: Eldar Fire Dragons Warhammer 40K