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The Tiger Roars
Guest Commentary

Principles of War Applied to Warhammer 40K by Paul Hill
There are nine principals of war as defined by the US Army. These principles have withstood the test of time and I will now apply them to the game of Warhammer 40,000.

1. Objective. Direct every military operation towards a clearly defined, decisive, and attainable objective
This should be obvious to all. Each time you come to the board you need to know what you are trying to accomplish. Also you need to know and understand why you are moving and or firing a particular unit. Never do something unless you have your objective in mind. Sometimes the battle dictates that you must accomplish a secondary objective before the main objective. This is fine, but know what and why you are doing what you are doing. When planning your army, think about what a unit can do to help you achieve your objective. And remember an objective must be obtainable.

2. Offensive. Seize, retain and exploit the initiative
You must force your opponent to react to you. If you are always reacting you will lose more often than not. Also, if you are forcing decisions on your opponent he is much more likely to fail at the critical moment. Think of it as his confusion under your pressure! In the attack, initiative means never allowing the enemy to recover from the initial shock of the attack. Always keep pressing forward. If you have an assault type army, entangle and defeat as many units as possible. In the defense, initiative means reversing the game on the opponent to negate any advantage he took by being aggressive. 

3. Mass. Mass the effects of overwhelming combat power at the decisive place and time
Nobody fears one lasgun--everybody fears 60! Always support your forces with more of your forces. As part of this, you must be able to get your forces where they can be mutually supportive. Isolated units are simply victims. Do not isolate your forces.  Synchronize your actions, be they attacks, fire, or counter attacks. Do not throw troops away one at a time. The principle of mass allows you to dictate the outcome of the battle.

4. Economy of Force. Employ all combat power available in the most effective way possible; allocate minimum combat power to secondary efforts
This means donít beat a dead horse. Always apply your army to be its most effective.  Have high rate of fire weapons (such as heavy bolters) shoot at large groups. Have good AP weapons fire at good armor saves. Shoot Genestealers; donít get into melee with them. Think about what each unit is capable of and where they will need to be to make it happen. Never have a unit doing nothing (sitting on an objective is not nothing--they are following Principle One). 

Sometimes you have no choice here. Imagine you have a squad of Marines: the missile launcher needs to kill the incoming Chaos Rhino, but you know the bolters will be ineffective; if it fits your objective, itís OK: do it. 

5. Maneuver. Place the enemy in a position of disadvantage through the flexible application of combat power
This is the 40K game in a nutshell. If you can maneuver you can force your opponent to react to your moves. If you canít, you are simply reacting to his. And remember Principle Two (Offensive: Seize, retain and exploit the initiative)! Maneuver elements can even take the initiative from the opponent in the middle of his best game ever. This principle is the most critical and often overlooked facet of the game. 

Maneuvering does not have to be fast. Even the Imperial Guard can be quick, especially if the opponent disdains the IG player's Movement phase. 

Maneuvering does not have to be to get into close combat. Use it to shift your fire lanes or use it to force your opponent to move, or use it to get away from your opponent (this last one, however, is bad--it means you are reacting to him). Remember to keep all of your units working towards your objective.

6. Unity of Command. For each objective, seek unity of command and unity of effort 
This applies mostly to multi-player games. Generals need to know beforehand what is expected of them and their forces. You must not argue with your co-commander. Other than that, you as a single commander have all the unity of command you need. This principle also touches on Combined Arms doctrine--using different arms of your force to achieve the same goal. Anti-tank elements destroy enemy transports so your assault element can destroy his troopers in close combat. This meshes with Economy of Force (Principle 4).

7. Security. Never permit the enemy to acquire an unexpected advantage
If you keep your eyes open for what your opponent is planning he will always be less successful in his plans. Just like if he watches yours. Security here means, ďTalk trash, but donít talk tactics.Ē Let him puzzle out your Master Planô. But never feed it to him. You can do that over a Coke after the game! 

8. Surprise. Strike the enemy at a time or place or in a manner for which he is unprepared
This one is pretty tough to apply to most games of 40K.  Each player generally brings a similar-sized force and knows what the other does, so it is hard to surprise the opponent. ďWell, Bob plays Orks, so Iíll bring lots of heavy bolters and flamers.ÖĒ See what I mean? 

However, if you have a new plan, donít tell your opponent about it until it is sprung--advantage: you. This includes how you build your army. You need to look for ways to surprise your opponent. For example, if you always field Wave Serpents with your Eldar, try a game without! If your opponent knows you, he will be dumbfounded that his 10 lascannons are going to be much less effective this time.

9. Simplicity. Prepare clear, uncomplicated plans and concise orders to ensure thorough understanding 
As applied to 40K, this means donít have too many layers to your plan. Simple is better. Think about how you will defeat your opponent, not about how each of your units will defeat each of his units. Plan in enough detail where, when, and who will move, but do not worry about writing the whole thing down with footnotes in a journal. Get a clear idea of what you want and make it happen. 

One of my favorite acronyms is KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid!  Donít overplan. If you are the leader in a multi-player game, let your subordinates know what you want to have happen and why--it keeps it clear in their minds when they know what you are up to!

As an astute reader noticed, there is a lot of overlap with these principles.  That is true and that is good. Be familiar with these ideas and put them to work for you. 

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© Copyright Paul Hill, March 2001. Used with permission.


Fighting Tigers:
Codex <> Tactics <> Gallery <> Allies and Enemies <> Tales of the Tigers

Other Pages:
Main <> What's New <> Site Index <> The Tiger Roars <> Themed Army Ideas
Events and Battle Reports <> Campaigns <> Terrain <> FAQ <> Beyond the Jungle