Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Everyone's a king when there's no-one left to pawn - sacrificing units

But what do you do if the only things to sacrifice are Astartes?

Hey everyone,

So the post title is a lyric by Razorlight but I had to think a bit about sacrificing units in my game tonight against Blood Angels. It was an interesting list the my opponent brought and I had to really make some tough calls about which units to keep and which to lose.

My Deathwing 1500pt list took on a Blood Angels army consisting of:
- Astorath the grim
- 5 jump pack Death company (DC) with Lemartes (uber chaplain). All with power weapons.
- 5 jump pack Death company, all with power weapons.
- 5 terminators with assault cannons
- 5 lightning claw terminators
- 5 tactical marines
- Death company dreadnought with Blood Talons

Now this isn't a very balanced 1500pt force but it sure packs a lot of punch if it gets the charge on you. Plus the death company get furious charge, feel no pain, rerolls to hit when charging and rerolls to wound (plus Astorath makes the opponent, i.e. me, re-roll successful invul. saves). Very nasty.

I quickly realised when my early shooting phases didn't kill off the jump troops that I would have to sacrifice units while the rest of my army moved to deal with the threats of charging Blood Angels. The death company with those characters hit so hard on the charge that you're pretty much bound to lose a lot of guys, or the whole unit if you lay with Deathwing five man squads.

Thankfully I spent a lot of time talking with Old Shatter Hands about the necessary sacrifice tactics he played with when using Tau and having to block the opponent's movement. The Kroot bubble wrap, Piranha blocking and accepting one charge in order to prevent multi-assaults etc. were all in my mind during this game. The harder part is that I had to accept the loss of ~250pt units as part of my sacrificial strategy.

As it played out, I whittled down my opponent's non-DC force with firepower and focused assaults while I fed in two units and the librarian to control the rampaging Death Company attack on my left flank. My army as a whole mopped up the entire BA force through careful shooting followed by concentrated assaults, then brought the weight of thunder hammers to bear on the rampaging Death Company and special characters. I had to use the assault rules to my advantage when I charged into the existing combat by making sure that I only made it into base contact with one or two DC marines and not the characters, meaning the new attackers could only be hit by a few shots each time. In the end it paid off and the Deathwing cleared the table, losing two entire squads, the librarian and a couple of terminators.

The victorious Deathwing posing on the GW gaming table.

Sacrificial tactics.

So here is my take on the steps of sacrificing units.

Do you need to sacrifice something?
If you don't need to have a unit die for a greater purpose, don't put it in a place where it can die. Simple really but something that people (me included) forget at times. You should sacrifice things when they will help your overall strategy, save a better/more important unit, tie up an opponent's powerful unit or act as bait that puts him in a vulnerable position. Otherwise, I would try to keep your toy soldiers alive as much as possible. They can't help you if they die for no reason after all.

Which unit will you sacrifice?
There are two main factors to consider when it comes to choosing who will die for your victory.
- The first one is who is close enough to get into the right position. Clearly if you have only one unit that can block your opponent, they are the ones with heads on the chopping block. The more your forces are set to work together and overlap, the more choice you will have about who to use for your sacrificial strategy.
- The second is to choose the unit you can most afford to lose. Most of the time you will go for your more basic choices over the expensive elites (choosing scouts over losing a squad of terminators) but remember what each unit is capable of. Assault terminators can kill like nobody's business but if you have scouts on the objective near the end of the game and a dreadnought coming to get them off it, the terminators are perfectly viable to give up in exchange for the win. In my case I gave up a ranged Deathwing unit led by the librarian in order to allow my thunder hammer squads to get the charge on the DC marines, giving them better odds to win.

What is the purpose of the sacrifice?

This one is the really key point that you need to keep in mind when considering your tactical options. You must have a good purpose for your unit or you will simply be throwing them away, which makes your models feel sad ;-)

You can sacrifice for a number of reasons including:
- Stalling your opponent e.g charging a dreadnought with a mob of fearless orks. Even without a power klaw, those orks will last a long time. They can't hurt the dread but they have taken it out of the game for a number of turns. Unless it's a Blood Talon dreadnought it probably won't kill that many orks per turn and will spend the game locked in a combat it doesn't want to be in. The Tau under OSH are masters at this as the Piranhas, drones and kroot all stall your opponent to give more time for the shooting elements to do their work.

- Blocking your opponent's movement. If you have a unit of Furious charge Blood Angel terminators in a land raider, you have a threat range of about 20" (12" move, 2" deployment, 6" assault). If I can move a unit in the way of the Land Raider you have to get past that first before getting into the assault you want to be in. Now I know that in this case my blocker would have to be a vehicle or the Land Raider could tank shock through, but the point stands. I've headed off a potential charge by Nobz with a couple of gun drones, letting me get the charge the next turn (plus another round of firing). Think about your opponent's likely avenues of movement when you start the game and plan on how to block them if you need to.

- Saving a more important unit from dying. Let's say I'm the one with a unit of Death Company led by a chaplain. If I get to assault, my damage output goes way up compared to if I am on the receiving end of an assault. In this case, I would happily sacrifice another unit to my opponent so that they are left close enough for me to get the charge on them (Note: This plays also into the bait tactic below). As mentioned before, you could also choose to save a scoring unit that is on an objective and might give up a very strong elite unit for this purpose. In the case of OSH's tau forces, he would give up a unit of 10 kroot (70pts) in order to save the squad of crisis suits (150+ pts) hiding behind them and let the army as a whole have more firing time. In my case, I let a character and a ranged unit take the killing charge of the enemy assault units in order that my counter-assault folks could return the favour.

- Baiting the enemy forces. Now this one is a tricky thing as it depends on your opponent wanting to kill your bait and expending effort doing so. The trick when baiting is to put your sacrificial unit in a position where your opponent can go for it, but will have to change his line of attack to do so. Putting a single dreadnought in line of sight of a broadside across the table is not bait most of the time, it's a target. Putting your expensive HQ unit (e.g. 3 Crisis suits + Commander) on one flank where your opponent can get to him if he just moves a couple of units is more like it. The idea with baiting is that you make his army start to act piecemeal, rather than as a whole. I will lose my bait, but you won't have the units that moved in position to deal with the rest of my army which is now moving to act on my plan. Of course, when doing this you should endeavour to use units and positioning that will be good even if the bait isn't taken. In my crisis suit example, if you ignore the suits, I'll be able to put a lot of fire on the flank of your force, which vehicles hate. Bell of lost souls did a good article with thoughts on baiting (

That's it from me for now. I'll probably post a little bit more this week but time is rapidly running out for me as I gear up to head off to a new country (Slovakia) and a new career (Teaching English). I fly out a week from now and it's both exciting and scary.

All the best


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