Proper deployment is at least as important to winning as having a good army list is. Though I am by no means a master tactician, I will share with you what I've learned by trial and error (mostly error). The lessons in this series won't get fancy or complex: this is basic information that new players or dumbasses like me need to know and remember to better their chances at victory. This article was originally posted in 2015, and has been updated for 8th Edition rules.
Welcome to the second installment of this series on how to better deploy your 40K forces. Previously, I discussed best practices for placing Heavy Support units whose main strength is shooting: Space Marine Devastator Squads and Predators, Eldar Dark Reapers, Tau Broadsides, Tyranid Exocrines, etc.
Though most Heavy Support units’ primary task is the shooting of very large guns, a few units are more dedicated to close combat, or for conveying troops from one location to another. There are enough of these units to warrant their own article. Here are some examples:
- Space Marine Land Raiders (Loyalist or Chaos) when used to carry troops;
- Chaos Space Marine Maulerfiends;
- Chaos Daemon Soul Grinders;
- Ork Deff Dreads and Battlewagons;
- Drukhari Talos and Cronos;
- Necron Monoliths (when used for tranport) and Canoptek Spyders;
- Tyranid Carnifexes, Trygons, and Mawlocs.
Almost all of these “non-shooty” Heavy Support (NSHS) units use one of the keywords <MONSTER>, <VEHICLE>, and/or <TRANSPORT>. And though they can look and be quite different, one deploys them in much the same way.
Bear in mind that saying they are “non-shooty” is a bit of misnomer, as some of them have some pretty impressive weaponry anyway. The aforementioned Space Marine Land Raider, with its two twin lascannons and its twin heavy bolters, is a great example, and the Necron Monolith can shred infantry, once it gets in range. Even the Ork Battlewagon can pack a mean gun.
For the purposes of this article, though, I’m going to assume that you’re more interested in loading up <TRANSPORTS> with bodies and sending them into the enemy, and that any shooting they do is incidental.
A Necessary Aside
Before we talk the nuts and bolts of deployment, we need to discuss army lists, specifically force multiplication, and how it’s a Good Thing. And what is “force multiplication?”
Simply put, it means that while having one of a particular unit is usually okay, having two is good, and having three or more is disproportionately better. While force multiplication is applicable to all units in 40K, it is especially so, methinks, for NSHS units.
Meaning, that if you’re going to bring them, you should go whole-hog or not at all.
One Carnifex with scything talons doesn’t scare anyone; nine make all but hardened veterans defecate their drawers.
This applies not only to <MONSTERS>, but to <VEHICLES> and <TRANSPORTS>. If one such model can be difficult to deal with, two is a much bigger challenge, and three is a migraine waiting to happen.
The downside to this is that you’re going to spend a lot of points, but the results can be well worth it. Having multiple <MONSTERS> rampaging through the opposing player’s infantry, or dumping a mess of close-combat Troops or Elites into the heart of the opposing player’s deployment zone while your <TRANSPORT> provides additional fire, can seriously throw off the other guy’s game.
To Reserve, or Not to Reserve?
Unless you can and plan to deep strike or infiltrate your NSHS, you will probably start them on the board. Off the top of my head, the only NSHS units I know that can do so are Monoliths (if you’re using them to bring in <INFANTRY> units); and Trygons and Mawlocs. But there may be other units out there, or ones that Games Workshop will release in the future.
How to Deploy Non-Shooty Heavy Support Units
Deploy them first. Why? Because these models are usually large, and each will take up quite a bit of room. Make sure they have the real estate they’ll need at the outset.
Place these units in the front and center of your deployment zone. They need to move toward the enemy and engage them as soon as possible, so there’s no point in having them anywhere other than the forward edge of your deployment zone, along the line. They should be in the center of that line so that they have the potential to attack or intercept several of your opponent’s units.
This is especially true for <TRANSPORTS>, so that they get into the action quickly and disgorge their occupants (Space Marine Terminators, Khorne Berzerkers, Ork Boyz, or what-have-you) against worthy targets.
Another reason to put these units in the center is that many of them don’t move much more quickly than most <INFANTRY> or other <VEHICLES>. If you deploy our NSHS units on a flank, your opponent can “castle” in the other corner of the board or simply move his units out of harm’s way.
The above recommendations, of course, assume two things:
- That you followed my advice on force multiplication and have a plethora of these units available; and,
- That you’re comfortable with the risks of exposing said units to enemy attention.
As to the first, if you have a single model, maybe you want to be less aggressive, keeping it back (perhaps out of sight behind cover) to counterattack your opponent’s forces if/when they threaten to invade your deployment zone.
As to the second, take heart that these units are fairly tough, have a decent number of Wounds, and that sometimes, you can boost them with other units (examples: Talos + Cronos; Tyranid <MONSTERS> + Venomthropes, below).
If you’re not going first, place your units in cover, if there is any up there at the front and center of your deployment zone. Don’t, however, place your <MONSTER> or <VEHICLE/TRANSPORT> behind a very large piece of terrain that will require an entire Movement Phase to circumvent. Sure, the other guy may not have been able to see and target your beastie or ride, but you just wasted a turn moving/driving around a corner instead of hurtling towards the enemy.
Also, if possible, deploy your NSHS so that their path towards the opposition will take them through terrain so they benefit from whatever protection they can. However, you don’t want them unduly slowed by having to go around obstacles: when in doubt, choose speed over protection, because for those NSHS units intent on getting into close combat, the sooner you get them there, the sooner they’ll be safer from long-range, high-Strength weaponry that is their bane.
Leave room for backup. NSHS units often generate a lot of enemy attention, so you can (but don’t have to) deploy coordinating units near them to help out.
<MONSTERS> and their ilk (such as Deff Dreads, which aren’t technically <MONSTERS>, but sure act like them) can benefit from some ambulatory backup by placing a squad of smaller, cheaper dudes (i.e., Troops) near them.
<VEHICLES> and <TRANSPORTS> can benefit from this, too. Just as how WWII fighter planes escorted bombers, you can have smaller, zippy vehicles accompany your Big Bad Tank, to draw fire and stave off enemy units.
Doing so forces your opponent to consider carefully how they want to deal with your <MONSTER(S)> or <VEHICLES> or <TRANSPORTS>. Should they devote all their efforts to deal with your NSHS unit(s), ignoring your Troops, who can then inflict damage and/or seize objectives? Or should they split some of their strength to deal with the little guys, and thus potentially fail to stop your NSHS?
There: that’s not so hard, is it?
- Take lots of NSHS units, if you can;
- Deploy them first;
- Place them front and center; and,
- Put them in cover if possible.
“Non-shooty” Heavy Support units, no matter the type, are fairly easy to deploy: line them up and shove them right at the enemy. Next time out, we’ll discuss how surprisingly tricky it can be to place Troops.
All images copyright 2020 by Games Workshop, Ltd.
When he isn’t playing or blogging about 40K, Kenton Kilgore writes killer SF/F for young adults, and adults who are still young. This Wasted Land, his latest novel, isn’t your typical teenage love story. It’s more like: Boy meets Girl –>Evil Witch takes Boy –>Girl goes to get Boy back.
He is also the author of Lost Dogs, the story of the end of the world as seen, heard–and smelled–by a dog. His first novel was Dragontamer’s Daughters, like Little House on the Prairie…with dragons. With Patrick Eibel, he created Our Wild Place, a children’s book about the joy to be found in exploring Nature.