Kill points: crush your opponent and scatter the ashes of their army before your legions…
Let's about kill point missions this week, and how depending on your army you either love it or hate it. Mastering the concept of “kill points” is important from both the perspective of the three standard 40K missions, but also many tournament formats that regularly include it as a tie breaker or secondary mission objective like NOVA, Battle for Salvation, etc…
So we all know what kill point are- each unit destroyed earns you one point and at the end of the game the player with the most points wins. Of course you can just come out dice blazing, push forward, and see where the game lands you, OR we cane examine kill points from a variable structure and try to manipulate it to favor us.
The first thing to understand is that shooting is favored over the assault in kill point missions for the simple reason that you only have 5-7 turns to earn your kill points. Since most assault units take a turn or two to get into the assault, and even then it might take a turn or two to win the assault and collect your points, you generally earn more kill points from shooting since you can be doing this each and every turn.
Focusing on shooting, the next question is do you go first or second given the choice? This depends on both your army and your opponent’s army. Consider the following to help make that decision:
Do you have multiple units that can put out lots of shots AKA Grey Knight psybolt spam, IG parking lot, etc.?
Does your army naturally give up easy kill points as part of it’s design function such as drop pod Space Marines and Tyranids?
How many kill points do you have in total for your army?
And finally, what is the terrain like on the table?
We then want to ask if given the choice can we go first and deliver enough firepower to cripple our opponent (often known as the alpha strike) or do we want to go second and take our opponent’s first round of shooting so we have last turn to make up and gaps in the kill points and pull ahead?
Let me illustrate this though process through my own armies with a brief note on each build…
First is my Necrons since they have been getting the most play as of late. It is a scarab swarm/immortal/Stormlord build that is equally at home going first or second since I have night fight up for the first turn regardless of the mission- I’m protected from the alpha strike and in turn can deliver my own lightning strikes generally hitting at least something for a kill point or two. With that in mind if I’m facing a typical 5th edition MSU spam army I do like to go first to try and get some lightning kills to both earn kill points and cut down on some of the return fire that will be hitting me mid game when night fight ends or my opponent closes to mid range bypassing it.
Grey Knights are next- I run a compact build of two land raiders, two venerable dreads, two strike squads, Mordrak + Ghosts, and a librarian. A really small army on the one hand, but with a decent long range punch of six twin linked las cannons (two hitting on 2+) on the other.
With this army I like to go second since I can usually take what my opponent dishes out first turn. I tend to castle up in terrain to get a cover saves or chain my units to get cover saves, and then use the libby for shrouding to get the 3+ cover saves. Add fortitude and venerable to this and I’m generally around for a while and can keep shooting back. Going second means I take my opponent’s first round of shooting, but that they then also move out of cove with key units to close with me- units that I will be targeting with my las cannons. Also, having a small kill point army means going second gives me that last licks at earning or keeping any kill points before the game ends.
Tyranids are next, my Null Deployment ‘Nids which is an all reserve army delivered by pods, deepstrikers, and outflankers. This army bleeds kill points in the form of pods which die to a single high strength hit. I NEED to go second with this army so I can cut down on two turns of shooting from my opponent before I arrive- so rather than facing 5-7 turns of shooting I’m only looking at 3-5. There are other tactics involved and well look at them briefly once we get past the decision to go first or second.
And finally my Saim-Hann Eldar which have a low model count just based on the age and point cost in the codex (4th edition ‘dex vs. 5th edition ‘dexes) and my personal choice of jetbikes. Such a low model count and without fortitude means I don’t want to even be shaken/stunned along with destroyed so like Tyranids I also want to go second and then reserve my entire army for cover saves and turbo-boosts.
In deciding to go first or second (if you can), or even if you can force your opponent to go first or second we then look at the actual kill points in our army and if they are hard or soft kill point for lack of a better term. Hard kill points are units that can’t be taken out in a single shot such as infantry squads, vehicle squadrons, and multi-wound creatures. Soft kill points are units that can be taken out in a single shot and range from hard/soft like a land raider to soft/soft like a vyper.
In our army we want to protect the soft targets though the use of cover, or perhaps even reserving them to keep them out of harm’s way for a turn or two, and then look to protecting the hard targets with cover since obviously not everything can get cover. On the opposite side we are looking to target our opponent’s soft targets and go for the hard ones last or only if there is no other clean shot.
With Space Marines as the example I want to target those drop pods, land speeders, rhino/razors first and then land raiders, AV 13 tanks and tactical squads second.
From the Eldar perspective with my vypers they tend to get reserved to hopefully come in mid game. AV 10 open topped is easy to kill so I’m minimizing my kill points, but also how they are armed with star cannons and shuriken cannons, it is better for them to come in after I have blown up some transports and spilled the marines inside so I can gun them down with the star cannons.
This is the first part of the kill point strategy…
Part two depends on your army, and movement during the game.
Sometimes, depending on your army build, you can’t reserve or minimize your kill points- this is found with Tyranids and other close assault builds, Blood Angels DOA, etc. You need to get close and throw everything at your opponent- and this is the reason these are the hardest to win with kill points. Nothing you can do, have the courage and try to over whelm your opponent.
Despite shooting dominating kill point missions, mobility and assault do have their place. While you want to hang back shooting at the start of the game, you also want to move center mid game to give you some place to go alter in the game.
At some point your opponent is going to close with you- melta weapons and multi-shot anti-infantry shots will be brought to bear and you are going to want to get away from them. If you are castled up in a corner, there is nowhere to go- if you are center they you can withdraw, pull back, and hide.
Which then leads us to unit capacity- knowing when to fight and when to run…
Let’s use Necrons as an example, specifically scarabs…
I’ve got a big unit of 16-22 that I’ve beefed up and at that strength they can laugh off most shots and tend to chew up anything in their way, especially if they have been boosted by the Z man. BUT, at some point the losses they take along the way will bring them down to 6-8 bases and this is where I ask myself-
What more can they really kill?
At this point not much, so they go from earning a kill point to costing a kill point so I then start running away with them to deny my opponent the kill point.
In your own army when a unit gets below functional strength or a vehicle gets its weapons blow off and you can no longer potentially earn that kill point start denying one by running away- which you will be able to do if you have previously moved center.
So far so good right?
Before we finish let’s look at the assault and how that interacts in a kill point mission. Since it takes a turn or two to earn a kill point with an assault based unit, and since you are bringing them into harm’s way on the way in- you might not make it to the assault getting shot up on the way in, we want to try and earn two kill points for every one we give up.
With the shooting elements in your army you want to try and set them up so your opponent can get really good cover from a specific angle- encouraging them to bunch up so your assault units can potentially hit two or three at a time. You also want to be on the lookout not only for multi-assaults, but for units that carry an IC with them- killing the unit earns you two kill points, again looking for that 2 – 1 ratio…
For the final layer in this post let’s look at the tipping point with regards to kill points. For the most part all you have to do is win or lose by a single kill point, and even with the modifications to the system with certain tournaments (wining by 3+ or 5+ KP) there comes a point at the end of the game where you are either ahead or behind with only a turn or two to go.
If you have enough of a comfortable lead, then start running away with all your units- your entire army goes into kill point denial mode. On the other hand if you are already behind, your entire army then shifts into full attack- everything comes out, pushes forward, and tries to swing the kill points back in your favor.
Know when to go for broke…
So how many kill points do you have in your army, and what is the plan for minimizing them on your end, and gaining them from your opponent’s units?