Deployment For Dumbasses (Like Me): “Heavy Support” (Shooty) Units

THIS SERIES is for idiots like me who suck at deployment, and would like some general advice (learned the hard way) on how to do better. You can find the introduction here. This series was initially written for 40K, but is relevant, methinks, to similar games, such as Grimdark Future.

Even though I no longer play 40K, I am aware that 10th Edition 40K has done away with the Force Organization Charts that it used in previous editions. The FOC charts divided units into certain categories–HQ; Troops; Elites; Fast Attack; and Heavy Support–and even though those designations no longer exist, it’s still helpful to use them for deployment. Think of them as functions for the various units.

Accordingly, then, we’ll use “Heavy Support” to delineate a unit of usually a few models (usually 3-10 infantry), or a single large model (such as a vehicle or monster), that often (but not always) wields long-range and/or high-Strength weaponry to knock out enemy units from a distance. 

Examples of infantry include squads of: Space Marine Devastators, Chaos Space Marine Havocs, Eldar Dark Reapers, Tau Broadside Suits, Ork Flash Gitz, etc.  

Examples of vehicles are: Space Marine Predators, Whirlwinds, Land Raiders and Vindicators; Chaos Space Marines Forgefiends and Defilers; T’au Hammerheads; Astra Militarum Leman Russ tanks (and variants), as well as Griffons, Manticores, Basilisks, etc.; Ork Gorkanauts; Dark Eldar Ravagers; and so on.

Because these units tend to use lots of heavy weapons, they usually move only a little, if at all. Thus, when you are deploying them, you want to place them where they will spend most, if not all, of the game.

Back in the 3rd and 4th Editions of Warhammer 40K, Heavy Support units were almost always required to be deployed first, so we’ll start this series by discussing them. And even though you are no longer forced to deploy Heavy Support first, it’s not a bad practice, as often, they are the lynchpin of one’s army.

To Reserve, or Not to Reserve? 

Usually, you’ll want to have your shooty Heavy Support units on the table at the beginning of the game, so that they can hopefully fire each turn. Unless the mission you’re running makes you keep Heavy Support units off the board, you probably don’t want to put them in Reserve. 

You want consider making an exception if you’re able to Deep Strike a vehicle that has weapons with a relatively short range. Or if your opponent likes to keep his tanks way back in his deployment zone, out of reach of most of your weaponry; in which case, you could put Space Marine Devastators with multi-meltas in a Drop Pod and land them right behind the tanks, to attack their rear armor. Or if you want your Ravagers behind the enemy lines to befuddle your opponent (does he stop his advance to turn and deal with them?  Does he redirect his heavy weapon fire?  Does he ignore them?). 

But those are special cases. Almost always, you’ll want to start your shooty Heavy Support on the board.

How to Deploy Shooty Heavy Support Units

Let’s get down to details.  When placing these units, follow the guidelines below:

Place them first, before other units. As I mentioned earlier, these units are often integral to your battle plan, so make sure they get the prime real estate in your deployment zone. 

Place them where they have line of sight. You need to be able to see a target if you want to kill it. Unless you’re playing with no terrain, there will be some spots that your guns can’t get to, but minimize that number by putting your units where they can see most of the board. An easy example of this is putting infantry units up high, atop hills and buildings, so that they can shoot over intervening units and terrain. 

I usually prefer to put my HS units in the center of my deployment zone, but sometimes, the board will have a lot of terrain in the middle that blocks line of sight. One workaround is to put Heavy Support units off center, or even in corners, so as to be able to shoot past the terrain. This almost always cuts down on how much firepower you can throw at certain targets, but having a few shots is better than none at all.

Place them where they have range. Most shooty HS units have plenty of range anyway, because of their weapons, and/or (especially if they are vehicles) can move fairly swiftly to get in. You want your unit’s guns to have range to most of the board, if not the whole thing. 

A few heavy weapons have a relatively short range, which you’ll want to bear in mind. In that case, you’ll want to put them closer up in your deployment zone so that they can start targeting the enemy in Turn 1 or (at the latest) Turn 2.

If your opponent is playing an army (Orks) that you know will advance towards yours, it’s not crucial that your Heavy Support units be in range at the start of the game, particularly if he has the first turn and his army will have moved into range when you start yours. But it’s still better to be in range from the get-go.

Place them in cover, if you can. Heavy Support units draw quite a bit of enemy attention, so if you are able to, find them some cover. However, it’s more important that your Big Guns have line of sight and range: they’re usually fairly expensive, so they need to be able to do stuff.

If there’s no scenery where you want to place a particular Heavy Support unit, you can always put another, less expensive unit in front of them to act as cover. So, your Devastators could be screened by a Tactical Squad, or your Predator could be shielded by a Rhino (just make sure in the latter case that the Rhino doesn’t block any of the Pred’s guns). 

Place them towards the middle or rear of your deployment zone, if you can. Unless a unit has issues with range, there’s usually little need to place them up front, where they’re in range of enemy heavy- or special weapons, or can be more easily reached by assault forces. But make sure that they still have line of sight (most important) and range (second-most important). 

Leave room for other units. On the off chance that you have lots of Heavy Support models (such as, for example, squadrons of Leman Russ tanks) or that they’re very big (Monoliths), make sure you leave space for other units, such as those screening Troops or Transports that I alluded to, that can back up your Heavy Support units.    

Some Pretty (and Some Not-So-Pretty) Pictures

Having read this far, you might be thinking, “This is all well and good, but how about something I can look at?” Submitted then, are visual examples of good and poor deployment of shooty Heavy Support units.

Yes, the crappy paint jobs are also a problem, but we’re not going to get into that right now

Let’s start with the bad: here’s a deployment shot from a campaign in 2014. At the top of the photo, you see two orange Space Marine tanks and a yellow one: a Predator, a Vindicator, and a Stalker. So what’s wrong with this picture?

The three tanks do not have line of sight. Because I deployed first, my opponent simply set up his forces in one corner of his deployment zone, completely out of sight. On my turn, my tanks had to advance and turn to have any targets.

The Vindicator does not have range. Its demolisher cannon was only 24″, and even after I moved up, I still had no targets until Turn 2. I lost a turn of firing with a S10 Large Blast weapon because of poor deployment.

Cover? What cover? I thought I was protecting my tanks by setting up in the ruins, and by using the Predator and the Vindicator to screen the more vulnerable Stalker. But seeing as how I had to move out of the area terrain just to have line of sight to any targets, I lost cover saves for my two orange lead tanks.

Predator (“Tyger Tyger”) and Vindicator moving out of cover just to get line of sight on something… ANYthing. And again, we’re not going to speak of the paint jobs, other than to say that I painted them before some of you were even born

The tanks are on a flank. Given its short range, the Vindicator at the least should be in the middle of the board, where it could cover much more territory, and give my opponent second thoughts about marching his large infantry units towards my side of the table. The others would have also benefitted by being in the center, as they would be able to engage more worthwhile targets.

The tanks are unsupported. My opponent Deep Struck a Raptor squad with two melta guns behind my tanks, and they nuked two of three from behind—and the only reason why they didn’t get the Predator was because the game ended before they had the chance. Because my tanks were so far away from the rest of my army, there was nothing I could do about it.  

Now let’s look at an example of better deployment. This photo is from the next battle of the same campaign. What you’re looking at is a Land Raider (in the foreground) and two Whirlwinds (one of them a proxied model) in the background. Why is this set-up good?

Also, cell phone cameras weren’t that good in 2014. Cut me some slack here.

The tanks have line of sight. No terrain blocks any of the vehicles. I could have set up the Whirlwinds behind that bunker in the center, totally out of sight, but doing so would have made their Barrage fire inaccurate. Better, I reasoned, to be able to hit the horde of Tyranids arrayed against my Space Marines.

The tanks have range. The shortest-ranged weapon that any of these vehicles has are the twin-linked heavy bolters of the Land Raider, with a *mere* 36″. What’s not to like?

The tanks are in cover. Oh, hell yes they are. The walls (which are merely terrain pieces, not purchased Aegis Defense Lines) provide cover for the Marines, who screen the Razorbacks, who screen the Land Raider. On the other side, the Marines screen the Whirlwinds. Combined with the Night Fighting at the beginning of the game, my tanks had a 2+ cover save on Turn 1.

The tanks are not in the middle, but it doesn’t matter. The middle was taken up with a central bunker that was providing a 3+ cover save to my units up there. The tanks are on the flanks, but are close to the center, and in this battle, it wasn’t an issue because we were playing diagonally across the table, and because my opponent had a lot of infantry figures. It was, as we like to say, a “target-rich environment.”

The tanks are towards the back of the deployment zone. There’s no such thing as a Tyranid army that doesn’t move towards its enemy, if only to give its short-ranged guns (of which most of them are) a chance. All of my guns, however, had fairly long range, so there was no point in positioning myself close to the oncoming Bugs.

The tanks have left room for other units, and are supported. The very-expensive Land Raider has not one, not two, but SEVEN units supporting it: two Tactical Squads, two Razorbacks, and three squadrons of Attack Bikes. On the other side, the much less-expensive Whirlwinds are supported by a large Tactical Squad. Nids, as they are want to do, charged my lines, but none of them assaulted any of my vehicles. All three HS tanks survived the battle.


So there you have it: the first—but certainly not the last!—installment of Deployment for Dumbasses (Like Me). I hope it’s been valuable, and that you’ve learned something: at the very least, you should know what NOT to do. Next time out, we’ll discuss non-shooty “Heavy Support” units.

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