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"Lessons Learned" (Revised 04/2009)
Most of my
advice is for Marines, but other armies may benefit, too. Just check the
list below for topics and follow the links. Hopefully, you'll find something
Dark Eldar. Dark Eldar are like sharks: once they stop moving, they die. Take away their mobility: the fewer Raiders, Reavers, and Hellions they have, the better it is for you. A canny Dark Eldar player will try to use his superior mobility to throw most (or all) of his army against isolated units and then roll up your flank. Don't let that happen. Keep your men together.
Many DE players like to invest a lot of points in a tooled-up Archon with a large Incubi bodyguard, which they then mount on one of those ridiculous kites the DE call Raiders. Shoot down the kite and the Archon and his Incubi have to walk, at no more than 6" a turn because Incubi can't Fleet of Foot. Yes, it really is that easy to negate an expensive and otherwise terrifying close combat unit.
Some DE players rave about the number of heavy weapons (particularly dark lances) that they could field in a static, Shooty Army From Hell of little more than Warrior squads. While the numbers might sound good (12 dark lances just from Troops alone), I am skeptical: Dark Eldar are not Imperial Guard or Tau, who can field vastly superior firepower. I am inclined to believe that a DE SAFH is throwing away its greatest asset: speed.
"Effectiveness." A lot of players like to judge how effective one of their units is by calculating how many points worth of enemy their unit has to kill to earn its points back. Thus, if a unit costs 300 points, it has to, in their opinion, kill 300 points worth of enemy units to be "worth it"; if it doesn't kill at least 300 points, it's "not effective."
That's one way to look at it, but I think that's a simplistic approach. You don't necessarily have to wipe out the enemy to win a game--sometimes all you need to do is trick them into moving out of position, make them forget the objective, or just distract them from what you're doing.
Eldar. Balance is key when designing an army to fight Eldar. It's usually their firepower that kills, so you'll probably want to take the fight to them and assault them as soon as possible. However, the Eldar have quite a few units that excel in close combat, so you'll want to take several shooty elements to deal with them before your troops arrive en masse. It doesn't do to rush in carelessly and get an entire Tactical Squad caught by a Wraithlord or some Howling Banshees.
You can win a shootout with Eldar, but it isn't easy. The way to do that is to exploit the (relative) short range of most Eldar weaponry, usually 36" max. In contrast, lascannons and Marine missile launchers have a 48" range: if you can keep your big guns out of range of theirs, you'll win.
Many Eldar players take small Guardian squads, which aren't much to worry about. Guardians are pathetic except in mass quantities: a squad of 20 Defenders can fire 40 shurikan catapult shots a round. Aspect Warriors are hyper-specialized to either shoot really, really well (Dark Reapers, Fire Dragons) or assault really, really well (Striking Scorpions, Howling Banshees). So assault the shooty squads and shoot the assault squads.
Marine players like to whine about star cannons and Wraithlords. Star cannons are nasty but can be mitigated by using Rhinos and Razorbacks to get your troops into hand-to-hand combat, whereupon the star cannons are nigh-useless. Heavier tanks like Predators and Land Raiders can ignore star cannons (but beware of bright lances). Wraithlords are overrated. They're slow and can't lay down a lot of fire: so long as you keep your troops away from them, you can concentrate your fire on more pressing targets.
Fast things first. Usually, I try to take out an opponent's fast things first. "Fast" does not necessarily mean "Fast Attack": if you're facing a horde of Orks and two mobs are in Battlewagons while the rest walk, then the Battlewagons are "fast" even though they're a Heavy Support choice. When you knock out the enemy's fast things, you limit his mobility and increase your chances of victory.
Note that HQ units in certain armies can be extremely deadly in close combat and extremely fast, a combination that means nothing but trouble for you. Archons on jetbikes or on Raiders, Ork Warbosses on bikes or Trukks, Winged Hive Tyrants--these should all be given top priority. You can't afford to have any of these rampaging through your battle lines.
Fighting fire with fire is stupid. "Vanilla" Space Marines can do just about everything well, but they don't excel in any areas. Eldar, Imperial Guard, and Tau can outshoot them; Chaos Marines, Orks, and Tyranids can outfight them. Getting into a shootout with Tau or charging into Tyranids is stupid. Use the flexibility that your Marines have to take advantage of your opponent's weaknesses.
General strategy. At its simplest, good strategy boils down to maximizing your strengths and minimizing your weaknesses. If your army is based on firepower, you want to have lots of guns and you want to stand still as much as possible so that you can shoot those guns to best effect. If your army is based on assault, you want to get into close combat with the enemy as soon as possible.
You must also
bear in mind what the enemy is capable of and minimize his strengths. There
are armies whose strength is shooting, armies whose strength is assaulting,
and armies (I call them "wild cards") capable of doing either very well
but perhaps not as well as specialized armies. I tend to base my strategy
on what the enemy can do best. If their strength is shooting, I try to
assault them. If their strength is assault, then I try to shoot them. And
if they are a "wild card," I'll assess the situation at the time and respond
Cover is your friend, if you can get it. Position units behind or among terrain features like hills, ruins, and trees in an attempt to block lines of sight or at least to provide cover. Take smoke launchers for every vehicle that can.
Charge anyway. It's awfully intimidating to look across the board and see all those tanks and heavy weapons pointed at your guys, but you certainly can't sit in your deployment zone and hope the Guard will go away and bother some Orks instead. No army (with the possible exception of the Eldar or the Tau) is going to win a shootout with the Guard, so you might as well charge anyway in the hope of getting your troops into close combat, where the Guard's heavy weapons are useless.
Expect casualties as you move across the board, because blasting other armies to bits is what Guard do best. Battle cannons and Demolisher cannons have the painful habit of vaporizing entire squads at one shot--suck it up and keep going anyway. I've found it helps to:
Clever Imperial Guard commanders will understand that even when you play Guard you can't rely on shooting, so they'll advance some units (Ogryns or Rough Riders) to delay your attacking force. Be ready for them.
Necrons. Though they have some scary hand-to-hand units, the Necrons' strength is shooting, so try to assault them. Always remember to keep track of how many Necrons you need to kill to reach the Phase Out point: regardless of the mission, if you can Phase Out the Toasters, you win. Be happy when your Necron opponent brings a C'Tan like Nightbringer or the Deceiver: they're very expensive, very slow, and don't count towards Phase Out. Stay out of their reach and keep killing 'Bots. Nightbringer costs 360 points, the equal of 20 Necron Warriors. That's 20 less Necrons you have to kill.
Orks. Greenskins often give me problems. When fighting Orks, I spend most of the game ignoring the mission objectives. Instead, I just stand back and shoot: if the dice are going my way, there's usually been plenty of time left to grab table quarters or counters or whatever once most of the Orks mobs have been wiped out or broken. I rely on lots of flamers, heavy bolters, and missile launchers; the occasional lascannon or autocannon is good for cracking open Ork vehicles. And I avoid hand-to-hand combat like the plague.
Here's an example that my friend Micah used on me. In one game, Micah kept his Devastators well back from my defending troops and fired krak missiles into my guys, leaving me with two bad choices. I didnít have the firepower to outshoot the Devs, so I could either:
a) Ignore the Devs, and suck down 4 krak missiles each turn;I chose b) and wound up even worse off than I thought I might. Micahís heavy weapons crippled my Tac Squad's Rhino before they could reach the Devs, and they were forced to retreat before his Captain and his Dread. The Captain and the Dread caught my guys anyway and ripped them to shreds.
If you can set up situations where your opponent has to choose among two or more bad choices, you're virtually assured of victory.
Space Marines (Loyal or Traitor). Normally when I play I rely on my Tigers of Rudra (Tactical Marines) to engage the bulk of the enemy, but not so against Marines (Chaos or Loyal). Marines are so tough that I prefer to use as many heavy weapons or power weapons as I can against them: hence, my Devastators, tanks, Dreadnoughts, and Assault Terminators do most of the fighting, with my Tacticals mopping up survivors or securing mission objectives while the "heavy hitters" distract the enemy.
Tau. The Tau are a Shooty Army From Hell, so when fighting them, I prefer to take lots of Tactical Squads in Rhinos and rush them. There's no need to bring tooled-up Sergeants or Big Bad Heroes to deal with Tau: if your Marines can make it into close combat with them, you shouldn't have many problems.
Many Tau players try to mitigate their weakness in close combat by taking Kroot. I've never been impressed by Kroot--at best, they're a "speed bump" to slow down your Marines. Kroot Shapers are bad, but can be dealt with. The rest of the Kroot are unremarkable. Gun them down or charge them--they'll drop either way.
I've found that Crisis Suits (particularly Broadside suits) are very tough in hand-to-hand combat. They won't kill a lot of your guys, but you'll be hard pressed to kill them without using power weapons. But that's okay: so long as the Crisis Suits are in close combat and not shooting, you're doing well.
One should approach them much the same way one would fight Orks. The task
of all the "little bugs" (Hormagaunts, Termagants, etc.) is to hold your
troops in place for the "big bugs" (Raveners, Warriors, Tyrants, etc.)
to eat. Bring lots of bolters and flamers to cut down the little bugs and
devote your big guns (missile launchers and lascannns) to blasting the
big bugs. Stifle the urge to simply shoot whatever's closest and try to
knock out the Synapse creatures first, if you can. You will be amazed--AMAZED,
I tell you--at the speed of a Tyranid army, especially if it has Hormagaunts.
Conversely, Carnifexes are slow and can be ignored for the first few turns,
but you definitely don't want one crashing into your lines: when it gets
close, either re-deploy (if you can) or devote some serious firepower to
it. I've killed one with rapid-firing boltguns, before.
Last updated April 2009
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